Does this force structure really work if the Filipinos won’t let you in, the Taiwanese can’t let you in, and the Japanese will try as hard as they can to concentrate you in a few locations?

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

The USMC is smack-dab in the middle of a transformational institutional revolution, where it has decided to redefine itself as anti-China force, but China-hawk T. Greer is not gung-ho about this new self-conception. He presents three questions Congress should be thinking through as they evaluate the USMC plan:

  1. Was this plan developed in consultation with America’s Indo-Pacific allies or with the other branches of the U.S. military, all of whose cooperation is needed for its success?
  2. Is the Marine Corps optimizing itself for the range of possible conflicts with China, or just the one it most wants to fight?
  3. What if the Marine Corps’s predictions for the future are wrong?
  4. He asks, “Does this force structure really work if the Filipinos won’t let you in, the Taiwanese can’t let you in, and the Japanese will try as hard as they can to concentrate you in a few locations?”

Most damning is this parting shot:

There will be some who claim all of these issues have been addressed at the classified level. I do not believe this. Why? I wrote this piece after talking to several Marine Corps officers inside the system who extremely frustrated with the way these reforms are unrolling. Many of the ideas I raise in the essay are not my own, but come originally from these officers, whose objections and questions have been sidelined in the rush to make these changes stick. None of them wished any credit for the ideas they gave me; rather, they feared that being cited would damage their careers. That should worry you! A Marine Corps whose officers are unable to raise very basic questions about the diplomatic and political conditions of their new operating environment is not in a healthy place.

Soviet strategy has always been devious where American has been direct

Friday, July 17th, 2020

At the time, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), it wasn’t clear what was happening in Korea:

Now, on 25 June and later, Washington could never be sure that Korea was not merely a smokescreen, to divert American attention and troops while an assault against Europe was being prepared. For this reason, even after it had committed itself to the defense of Korea, the United States Government was reluctant to throw any major portion of its strength into the peninsula.

Only gradually did American planners realize that the Soviets might attempt to achieve their ends by bits and pieces rather than in the traditional American way, with one fell swoop. Soviet strategy, like Soviet thinking, has always been devious where American has been direct.

[...]

The various intelligence agencies poured a vast amount of information into Washington; they knew the numbers of divisions, guns, tanks, and naval craft of potential enemies. But this intelligence could not be evaluated because Washington had not even one pipeline into official circles of enemy capitals; they could not even estimate what the potential aggressor was thinking or might do.

This was no change from the past. In December 1941, American Intelligence knew that strong carrier task forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy had left port. But not understanding official Japanese thinking, the fact had meant nothing to Washington.

The situation in 1950 was no change from the past, and there would be little change in the future.

The desire to fight tanks barehanded began to leave the survivors

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but they were brave:

Korean soldiers were as brave as any, but they soon found they had no weapons to halt the Russian-built T-34 tanks. The 2.36-inch rocket launchers furnished them by the U.S. Army could not be counted on to penetrate the Russian armor, and they were very weak in artillery.

[...]

ROK soldiers, seeing all else fail, seized packets of high explosive and threw themselves under tank treads, trying to disable the steel monsters. Others ran at the advancing tanks with satchel charges, or charges fixed to long poles. Still others leaped upon tank decks, and desperately attempted to pry open the turret hatches with iron bars and hooks, so that they might drop hand grenades inside. In open terrain, and against tanks deployed in number, such tactics were suicide. A tank or two slued aside or blew up, but the ROK soldiers died.

They died chopped down by the tank machine guns, or shot by the supporting NKPA infantry. They died shrieking under the tank treads. When almost a hundred had been killed in this manner, the desire to fight tanks barehanded began to leave the survivors.

There were only two centers of power in the world, and the United Nations was neither of them

Monday, July 13th, 2020

The lessons America learned from World War 2 might not have been the right lessons, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

At the end of World War II, American military policy, digesting the Japanese lessons in China, was to control air and sea lanes throughout the East but never to engage in ground hostilities on the Asian mainland.

[...]

The only war that military planners could envision was a big one between the United States and the Soviet Union.

[...]

The military continued to plan for the only kind of war they had been told to plan for: worldwide, atomic holocaust.

[...]

They knew that military considerations, as they foresaw them, required the removal of troops from the Korean periphery, but also that the “rat leaving the sinking ship syndrome” was very prevalent in Asia.

[...]

The pragmatists in the high echelons of foreign policy could accomplish many things by fiat or executive agreement, but they could not raise troops or money against the popular will. This was a basic weakness to the policy of containment inherent in any parliamentary democracy, and as it proved in Asia, an insurmountable one, that would recur again and again, in China, in Korea, and finally in Vietnam.

[...]

There were only two centers of power in the world, and the United Nations was neither of them.

Stalin, who had asked how many divisions the Pope had, knew exactly how many divisions the U.N. maintained: none.

Every historic decision of the Truman Cabinet was debated by Congress only after it had been made irreversible

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the political situation in America after World War 2:

During the war, some members of the government had made an incalculable mistake: they had propagandized the Russians as heroic brothers-in-arms, indicated to the public that Stalin and associates were democrats at heart, and led the people to believe that Russia had fought the war from motives as pure as America’s own.

[...]

The problem was that America had fought the war — as she had most of her wars — as a crusade, while Russia had fought first for survival, then for power. Crusades are usually inconclusive; it was no accident that Russia won the peace.

[...]

The great decisions — the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine — that gave the earth a hope of eventual order were not instantly popular with the American people. There was no great attempt to sell them — it was significant that every historic decision of the Truman Cabinet was debated by Congress only after it had been made irreversible.

[...]

They began, knowingly and cunningly, to contain the spread of Communism through whatever policy, short of war, might be required. This containment was vital to American interests, but it must always be remembered that the mere mention of such a policy would have sent millions of patriotic, well-meaning American liberals into convulsions. Liberal thought, which had scented Hitler early, seemingly remained tragically blind to Communist tyranny.

Before any attack on the morality of the men who formulated the policy of Communist containment may be made, several things should be recalled: these men had no designs on the world. They had no nationalist or imperialist policies to foist on anyone; they wanted to keep order and, so far as possible, the status quo, in an era when the Soviet Government clearly desired the opposite.

[...]

Truman’s own tragedy remained that the people on whom he depended for domestic support would simply not support his foreign policy. For the policy that evolved in the 1940s was new to American thought. It was not underprivileged Democratic, nor was it business Republican. It was orderly, world-seeing, pragmatic, and conservative — but conservative in the British or ancient Roman sense, not in the American sense.

[...]

Wherever there is rule by consent of the ruled, the rulers must always be salesmen, however difficult the task.

[...]

It would be the first war to bring down a government, to oust a party in power, not because of the actions that party had taken, but because the policy makers were never able adequately to explain those actions to a troubled and increasingly hostile public.

[...]

They are hard to justify unless it is admitted that power, not idealism, is the dominant factor in the world, and that idealism must be backed by power.

[...]

It was hard for a nation and a people who had never accepted the idea of power, not as something immoral in itself, but as a tool to whatever ends they sought, to fight and die for limited goals. In short, it was hard to grow up.

Finland’s air force is quietly dropping the swastika

Friday, July 10th, 2020

Finland’s air force has been using a swastika ever since it was founded in 1918, shortly after the country became an independent nation and before the Nazis adopted the ancient symbol and rose to power:

Until 1945 its planes bore a blue swastika on a white background — and this was not intended to show allegiance to Nazi Germany, though the two nations were aligned.

While the symbol was left off planes after World War Two, a swastika still featured in some Air Force unit emblems, unit flags and decorations — including on uniforms, a spokesperson for the Finnish air force told the BBC.

Finnish Air Force Swastika

The Romantic painter went on to use a swastika as part of his designs for the insignia of the Order of the Cross of Liberty. He used a cross with much smaller hooks, so the visual similarity to Nazi symbolism is much less pronounced. It also features on the official flag of the Finnish president.

Finnish Flag with Swastika

But the swastika became associated with the Finnish air force via a very different man – a Swedish nobleman called Count Eric von Rosen.

The count used the swastika as a personal good luck charm. When he gifted a plane to the nascent air force of Sweden’s newly independent neighbour in 1918 he had had a blue swastika painted on it. This Thulin Typ D was the first aircraft of the Finnish air force and subsequent planes all had his blue swastika symbol too, until 1945.

Supporters of a continued use of the symbol point out that there were no Nazis in 1918 so the air force’s use of the swastika has nothing to do with Nazism.

However, while Eric von Rosen had no Nazi associations at the time of his 1918 gift, he did subsequently become a leading figure in Sweden’s own national socialist movement in the 1930s. He was also a brother-in-law of senior German Nazi Herman Göring, and, according to Prof Teivainen, a personal friend of Hitler.

They became adept at losing company property

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

In 1946, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the newly split Korea was struggling:

At his desk one day, Fletcher heard that there was trouble in Samch’ok, on the east coast. He left his office in Seoul to investigate. At a company iron-ore mine, he found agitators were encouraging idle workers to carry away company property. He had the Korean Special Police arrest the agitators, and beat hell out of them.

Back at Seoul, there was some criticism — but nobody had a better idea.

The policy now became one of giving Korean nationals control of the company. The new executives learned some things quickly. They became adept at losing company property, mostly into their own pockets.

Meanwhile, a crisis developed with the Russians just across the border from Seoul Province. The waters that irrigated company rice paddies flowed down from the north, and suddenly the Russians dammed them off. The company agricultural adviser, PFC Peavey, was sent up north to investigate.

The Russians were not offended by negotiating with a PFC. They had political officers masquerading in low ranks in their own forces; they understood perfectly Gospodin Peavey’s desire not to appear conspicuous. They sat down with Peavey and informed him they wanted a portion of the company’s rice harvest in return for the water. Peavey argued awhile. Finally, getting nowhere, he figured, what the hell? He was due to rotate out any day and become a civilian. He agreed to everything. He returned to Seoul, and soon the water flowed south. When asked how he had outwitted the Ivans, Peavey would only smile gently. A few weeks later, he sailed for the States.

When fall came, the Russians asked for their rice. Military Government, of course, with some confusion, explained why they couldn’t have it. Next summer, the New Korea Company had a hell of a time getting water.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

After World War 2 ended, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Doolittle Board tried to prevent future abuses of power in the service:

In making an Army of eight million men, the United States had commissioned many thousands of men who should never have risen above PFC. Some lousy things happened, particularly in the Service Forces. Officers and noncommissioned officers, in some cases, did abuse their powers.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service. One was to overhaul the officer procurement system, make damned certain that no merely average man could ever be commissioned, and have fewer officers, but better ones. The other way was to reduce the power to abuse anybody.

The Doolittle Board, probably thinking of a long period of pleasant peacetime coming up, in early 1946 chose to recommend the second.

It was a good idea, but it wouldn’t work. The company commanders in Korea watched the girls run in and out of the barracks, had men talk back to them, and didn’t know what to do about it. In fact, they weren’t sure but what the American thing to do was to ignore it, and get a girl of their own. Which many did.

What the hell, the war was over. Anybody who said a new one was brewing was definitely a goddam Fascist, or something.

Besides, contracting a venereal disease was no longer a court-martial offense. That kind of thinking had gone out with the horse, with saluting except on duty, with the idea that you should respect a sergeant.

Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Roland G. Fryer Jr. summarizes what the data say about police:

There are large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force. My research team analyzed nearly five million police encounters from New York City. We found that when police reported the incidents, they were 53% more likely to use physical force on a black civilian than a white one. In a separate, nationally representative dataset asking civilians about their experiences with police, we found the use of physical force on blacks to be 350% as likely. This is true of every level of nonlethal force, from officers putting their hands on civilians to striking them with batons. We controlled for every variable available in myriad ways. That reduced the racial disparities by 66%, but blacks were still significantly more likely to endure police force.

Compliance by civilians doesn’t eliminate racial differences in police use of force. Black civilians who were recorded as compliant by police were 21% more likely to suffer police aggression than compliant whites. We also found that the benefits of compliance differed significantly by race. This was perhaps our most upsetting result, for two reasons: The inequity in spite of compliance clashed with the notion that the difference in police treatment of blacks and whites was a rational response to danger. And it complicates what we tell our kids: Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down — but the benefit is larger if you are white.

[...]

We didn’t find racial differences in officer-involved shootings. Our data come from localities in California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Washington state and contain accounts of 1,399 police shootings at civilians between 2000 and 2015. In addition, from Houston only in those same years, we had reports describing situations in which gunfire might have been justified by department guidelines but the cops didn’t shoot. This is a key piece of data that popular online databases don’t include.

[...]

Investigating police departments can have unintended consequences. Following the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991, the U.S. attorney general was given the power to investigate and litigate cases involving a “pattern or practice” of conduct by law-enforcement officers that violates the Constitution or federal rights. Many argue that the answer to police reform in America must include more of these types of investigations.

We conducted the first empirical examination of pattern-or-practice investigations. We found that investigations not preceded by viral incidents of deadly force, on average, reduced homicides and total felony crime. But for the five investigations that were preceded by a viral incident of deadly force, there was a stark increase in crime — 893 more homicides and 33,472 more felonies than would have been expected with no investigation. The increases in crime coincide with an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago alone after the killing of Laquan McDonald, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by 90% in the month the investigation was announced.

Importantly, in the eight cities that had a viral incident but no investigation, there was no subsequent increase in crime. Investigations are crucial, but we need to find ways of holding police accountable without sacrificing more black lives.

Outside, the fresh air was worse

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

After VJ-Day, American soldiers wanted to go home, and Americans wanted them to come home. This left Colonel Jones in Korea in an awkward situation, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

Colonel Jones received replacements, of course. He got officers from the Quartermaster Corps and the Infantry, and plenty of basic riflemen from the eighteen-year-olds just drafted, who didn’t have Skill One, even for basic riflemen. Engineers he didn’t get. Engineers, like most professional men, serve in the military only when the draft moves them.

With a Group HQ that didn’t know a crowbar from a wrecking iron, and who thought a balk was part of baseball, Colonel Jones, as part of “Blacklist Forty” (code name for Korea), reported to General Hodge in Korea.

[...]

These were days and weeks to break a career officer’s heart. The United States Army, which had been the most powerful in the world, did not melt away in an orderly fashion. It disintegrated into a disorganized mob, clamoring to go home.

[...]

Fortunately for Jones, the Jap soldiers in Korea waiting to be sent home were willing workers.

[...]

The Japs, now that the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was gone, were affable, smiling, professional, and entirely helpful. Jones put them to work.

[...]

Eventually, though, all the Japs had to be repatriated. They took with them, when they left, every military officer, every professional man, every engineer, bank teller, and executive in the Pusan area. They left behind a hell of a mess.

Like most Americans, Colonel Jones was not prepared to take Chosun. The appalling poverty, the dust, dirt, filth, and eternal clamor of Pusan repelled any man accustomed to the West. Orphan children, with running sores, lay in the streets. Society, with the iron Japanese hand gone, was in dissolution. Money was worthless, since the Japanese had printed billions of yen prior to the surrender and passed it out to all who wanted it. Almost all responsible Koreans, particularly the educated were — rightly — tarred with the collaborationist brush.

[...]

He never got used to the stink. Inside the city, the odors were of decaying fish, woodsmoke, garbage, and unwashed humanity. Outside, the fresh air was worse. Koreans, like most Orientals, use human fertilizer. Their fields and paddies, their whole country smells somewhat like the bathroom of a fraternity house on Sunday morning.

[...]

Clothing washed in their rivers turns a sickly brown.

[...]

In Korea, there were no trained administrators for either government or business, regardless of their politics.

[...]

As an engineer, he became responsible for fire fighting in Pusan, and he noticed a great number of fires were breaking out. He asked a Korean fireman about this.

“Oh, it is the different factions, setting each other’s houses afire,” the Korean answered cheerfully.

He soon learned to use Korean guards for U.S. military stores. The Koreans were desperately poor, and would steal anything, even if nailed down — nails had commercial value — but American sentries would not willingly shoot down women and boys carrying off gas cans and water buckets. Not after they had killed two or three, anyway — they lost all heart for it. But Korean guards would shoot or beat hell out of the thieves, if they caught them.

[...]

The summers were hot and dusty, or hot and rainy, with hundred-degree temperatures. The winters were Siberian. The country literally stank, except for the few months during which the ground stayed frozen.

Happy Secession Day!

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

I almost forgot to wish everyone a happy Secession Day:

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

More than a million Koreans fled their homeland when the Japanese took over, T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

One refugee in the States, a Dr. Syngman Rhee, embarrassed the government. He had entered on an old Korean passport at the time of the takeover, and now in 1919 he requested a visa to visit the League of Nations, to make a protest over the treatment of his countrymen. Washington emphatically told him no, since he had no valid Japanese passport, and Washington did not want to offend its late ally, Japan. Generously, however, since Dr. Rhee had influential friends, he was allowed to remain in the United States.

In 1919, and later, the Japanese rulers of Chosun never quite dared expel the Western missionaries, probably not realizing in how little repute these emissaries were held in the Western capitals. For years the only contact the Korean people had with outside was through these missionaries. In Chosun, no anti-Western bias ever developed.

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms, and it can be black or brown or yellow, as well as white. Koreans would never afterward feel any sentimental racial cohesiveness with the rest of Asia. The Japanese occupation and policy of extirpation took care of that.

Army halts SERE course after 90 soldiers test positive for coronavirus

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Out of the 110 students participating in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 82 — along with eight instructors — tested positive for COVID-19:

The course was terminated and all 110 soldiers are being quarantined for 14 days, Burton said.

It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War, why there were multiple Korean wars before the Korean War:

Korea, or Chosun, is a peninsula, 575 miles in length, averaging 150 miles across. It resembles in outline the state of Florida, though bigger. Along its eastern coast a giant chain of mountains thrusts violently upward; the west coast is flat and muddy, marked by estuaries and indentations. Inland the country is a series of hills, broad valleys, lowlands, and terraced rice paddies. Its rivers run south and west, and they are broad and deep.

It is a country of hills and valleys, and few roads. Most of Korea is, and always has been, remote from the world.

Chosun is a poor country, exporting only a little rice. But its population density is exceeded in Asia only by parts of India.

[...]

Neither China, nor Russia, nor whatever power is dominant in the Islands of the Rising Sun, dares ignore Korea. It is, has been, and will always be either a bridge to the Asian continent, or a stepping-stone to the islands, depending on where power is ascendant.

[...]

Manchuria is the richest area in all East Asia, with iron ores, coal, water power, food, and timber, and whoever owns Manchuria, to be secure, must also own Chosun.

[...]

It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising. Japan defeated Russia with the moral and material aid of Great Britain and America, who had watched the Russian advance to the Pacific with unconcealed dread. Japan, with far greater ambitions than the rotting Empire of the Bear had ever entertained, now was the dominant power in East Asia, and America and Britain applauded.

They did not sense that, in time, Japan would overthrow the old order completely.

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Time had said the Republic of Korea Army was the best outside the States, and what Time printed was not only true, but official. Only it wasn’t true, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains in This Kind of War:

The ROK’s had eight divisions. Except those fighting guerrillas in the South, they were armed with American M-1 rifles. The guerrilla fighters had to make do with old Jap Model 99’s. The ROK’s had machine guns, of course, and some mortars, mostly small. They had five battalions of field artillery to back up the infantry divisions, all with the old, short-range Model M-3 105mm howitzer, which the United States had junked.

[...]

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks, no medium artillery, no 4.2-inch mortars, no recoilless rifles. They had no spare parts for their transport. They had not even one combat aircraft.

They didn’t have any of those things because the American Embassy didn’t want them to have them.

[...]

Ambassador John J. Muccio had been instructed to take no chances of the South Koreans attacking the Communists to the north.

[...]

Lynn Roberts had told Time that while the troops were excellent, the Korean officers’ corps was not so hot. After all, in only eleven months staffs and commanders could not be made and trained, starting from scratch. Lynn Roberts, a professional soldier, also knew that soldiers are only as good as their officers make them. But that kind of attitude sounded un-American and was not popular in Washington, and there was no point in playing it up.

Having no tanks is one thing. Having no anti-tank weapons is another.