Monday, April 8, 2013

No Win Situation

You may recall an incident in July of last year in which a Navy oiler fired on an apparent fishing vessel approaching at high speed.  The fishermen were killed and the incident caused severe diplomatic problems.  Navy Times website has a writeup, here, that I encourage you to read.  This is a classic no win situation.  If the Navy ship doesn't shoot, it risks becoming the next USS Cole.  If it shoots, it risks becoming the next USS Vincennes which is exactly what happended, albeit on a smaller scale. 

I have no insight to offer other than the sad recognition of the conditions that terrorists have forced upon the world. 


  1. What's your take on lasers on ships?

    Probably a long way of before it's effective.


    PS Couldn't see another way to contact you, so leaving a comment on a recent post.

    1. You just answered the question yourself. A good ways off before it's effective. If you look at the videos, the laser is focused on the target for some time before anything happens. It's not an instant "zap" like in Star Wars. If a real world target wants to obligingly move in a straight line for an extended period then the laser will be effective. Otherwise, the laser is ineffective. Also, the Navy's demo laser is massively huge and consumes giant amounts of electricity. All that said, it's a step on the developmental path. I have no doubts that lasers will be effective (for some types of engagements) sometime in the future. My guess is that we're 10-20 years from anything that even remotely resembles a Star Wars weapon.


  2. When I was deployed over there I heard about a situation in Iraq in April 2003 that fits this post.

    At a checkpoint American soldiers had set up protective measures in response to the beginning of the IED attacks and suicide bombers and car bombs. Several American servicemen had died from a car bomb the day before.

    Staggered jersey barriers that any vehicle had to weave between slowly to reach the manned position. There were signs in Arabic and other languages way out front stating that any vehicle not authorized to approach the checkpoint would be stopped with deadly force.

    A mini or micro van came to the checkpoint. Without any authorization from the soldiers manning the position it began working its way between the barriers. The soldiers had a translator with a megaphone say in Arabic they needed to stop. The soldiers fired warning shots, which they had been expressly forbidden to do, yet they did so regardless.

    They finally opened fire when the van kept coming. It of course was stopped in its tracks.

    There was no bomb or IED. Instead it was filled with women and children. Thirteen were killed, the rest injured.

    When the incident was discussed at the CentCom daily briefing with the media the next day, a reporter from the US asked the officer "wasn't there something more the soldiers could have done before firing?"


  3. Oh come on. The US fleet is serving no useful purpose in the Persian Gulf and instead increases the chance of tragic events like this, or worse (Gulf of Tonkin comes to mind).

  4. Except for the fact that all countries south of Iran feel safer with the USN there.

  5. The countries south of Iran are despotic kingdoms, so who knows.

  6. Also, Iran has never attacked another country and hasn't threatened to. Iran has friendly relations with all the Gulf countries, although there are territorial issues -- not uncommon in the world.

    Anyhow that's a fresh perspective. I had never heard that the Fifth Fleet was there to protect the Gulf countries against Iran, especially considering the vast amount of military assistance the US has given and sold to Saudi Arabia. I hope they're grateful to US taxpayers. I'm sure they are.

    1. Don, so is it your contention that if the U.S. vacated the area, that Iran would not threaten shipping, oil shipments through the strait, step up support for terrorist groups, threaten Israel even more so, or otherwise engage in mischief?

    2. ComNavOps
      First, I hope I didn't come off as rude to you. I enjoy your columns, they are well-thought-out and intelligent. I say that as a ground guy, not even an amphib. I look forward to more 'cuz I enjoy Navy matters, I think they are more worldly than Army ones. You do a fine job, as good now as information dissemination used to be. :-)

      So, to answer you, YES. I think Iran is a responsible nation in its foreign relations and this has been demonstrated by their collegial attitude with Navy captains in reference to behavior in the confined area of the Gulf. I've read what they say, and it's complimentary. Iran has been active in anti-piracy.

      As a country, Iran has lots of friends in its area and heads the Non-Aligned Movement, 125 nations. Not too shabby.

      CNO, there's a lot of stuff that's been published that isn't true. This includes that Iran might arbitrarily close the Strait and that Iran has threatened Israel.

      An Iran naval officer has said that, if attacked (which the U.S. and Israel keep threatening to do), the Strait could be closed. Iran has not threatened "to wipe Israel off the map" -- that is a provable lie, a purposeful mistranslation.

      Back to the subject: I assume you're familiar with the relatively narrow shipping channels in the Gulf Strait, I mean what the world calls the Persian Gulf but what the Navy calls the Arabian Gulf (petty wordplay meant to irk the Persians).

      I believe that putting heavily armed Naval ships for no good reason in those busy peacetime commercial shipping channels, even if it wasn't in the Strait, then shooting at closing small boats and killing people there, and then blaming the tragedy on terrorists is -- a stretch. The act itself is not responsible. A tragedy for the victim(s), for the guy who was told to pull the trigger and has to live with it, for the credibility of the Navy, and a tragedy for the country caused by forces that have no reasonable mission there. That's what I believe.

      Footnote: Regarding the Naval ships, especially carrier(s), being there to scare Iran -- it hasn't worked. And now we know, from an interview with a CVN skipper, that the carrier(s) are primarily there to support OEF in Afghanistan, and not to do anything vs. Iran. That part is simply wrong.

    3. Don, I'm glad you enjoy the blog and I thank you for the kind words. This is not a political blog so I won't comment further on your view of Iran.

    4. Yea.....probably a good idea there. Hopeless case.


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