Monday, January 18, 2016

Fight or Flight

I am hugely disappointed by the recent boat seizure affair in which Iran seized two of our boats and their crews.  I can't comment on the specifics because we haven't heard the real story, yet.  The various cover stories that have been put forth are obviously false.  However, this affair highlights several things that I've been harping on.

1. What were these boats doing operating without immediately available backup?  We've seen this in the loss of our EP-3 to the Chinese, the loss of the Pueblo to the NKs, and numerous instances of harassment.  We're sending our troops into harm's way without backup.  This is a leadership failing, pure and simple, and demonstrates a compete lack of attention to detail, planning, and preparation.  It also demonstrates a fantasy view of the world to think that unfriendly countries won't engage in unfriendly acts.  Our leaders are violating the trust of the troops, ignoring the lessons of history, and failing to execute basic operational planning.

2. What kind of Rules of Engagement (ROE) were these people operating under?  Is there any ROE that justifies surrendering two boats and their crews without firing a shot?

3. I hope that these crew members are not treated as heroes and given medals as we've done with so many other people who have done nothing but become prisoners.  The Jessica Lynch incident is a good example of this.  These people did nothing right.  At best, they followed a bad set of ROEs by not fighting back.  At worst, they allowed an unfriendly foreign country to seize two of our assets without firing a shot.  As a military, we've begun rewarding victimhood instead of heroism.  The crews should be dismissed from the military and their leaders should be court-martialed and terminated.  Somewhere, Bull Halsey is crying.

4.  Why are we there?  If we won't fight even for ourselves, what are we doing in the Mid East?  You can't protect anything if you're not willing to fight for it.  This simply encourages and paves the way for the next incident.

5. I've long pointed out that the Navy has lost its combat mentality.  Clearly, these crew and their leadership did not have a combat mentality.  They were mentally unprepared for a warfighting situation.

Unprepared for Combat

We don't need more ships or planes or weapons.  Those won't make our military stronger.  We need an attitude adjustment.  We need to remember what a military is for.  We need to re-instill a healthy respect (fear) for our military among potential enemies.  We need to abandon the social engineering that so dominates our military and return to warfighting focus.  CNO Richardson, you have your main task clearly laid out for you.  Nothing is more important than returning the Navy to a combat force.

This incident was an embarrassment, yes, but it was also a microcosm of so much that is wrong with the military.

This is the age old instinct of fight or flight being played out in the Navy.  If we won't fight then we should leave.


  1. hear hear.
    Absurd circumstances. Allowing troops to fall into enemy hands under any circumstances is reprehensible, but to be used under the auspices of political gamesmanship is even worse.
    The whole situation makes no sense, as you say, if local troops aren't even capable of protecting themselves, what are they doing there in an expeditionary engagement?
    For Iran to behave like this, as well as those recently kidnapped american citizens, concurrently with Kerry stating that US is achieving peace... Somewhere in Iran the political leadership is telling its citizens that they have met with their adversaries and they are worms.

    1. Having an armed response for a minor incident like this doesnt make in sense, especially in a place like the Gulf. This is not Custers last Stand for goodness sake. Id imagine the rules of engagment in this area are to not fire a shot without Ok from higher up.
      The US navy which is many places around the world is ultimately the beneficairy to a non confrontation resolution of these sort of incidents, the US military isnt like some street gang, ready to take offence and shoot up the neighbourhood.
      Its my guess these vessels are used for harbour patrol and arent really set up for a conflict, either that or it was a covert operation that wasnt approved by the local command- that would explain why they didnt contact back to their destination Bahrain immediately

    2. Ztev, you need to apply a little logic. Every incident like this, where we don't respond, simply encourages further ill behavior. We saw that our red lines in Syria that meant nothing only encouraged Russia and China to act more aggressively.

      Your misguided belief that all the world is a peace loving paradise, if only we would not respond to provocations, is pure fantasy bordering on appeasement and history has shown us how successful that tact is.

    3. Look up a similar incident that happened to UK troops in the region in 2007. They surrendered without a shot and were made a public spectacle for a couple of weeks.
      The UK tabloids tore them up. They sighted an even earlier example of a similar attempt on Australian forces, again, same region, and there the Australians, using bluster and 'colourful' language dissuaded the Iranians from trying anything too outrageous.
      And they were right.
      Theres a huge loss of prestige, or, 'face' with the abduction of your troops.
      Don't forget who the opposition is here. These aren't modern western armies that you're facing. A loss of prestige is often seen as a sign of weakness, to be exploited.
      Ceaser Caligula had the measure of these people. Let them hate so long as they fear. Once they stop fearing....

    4. "We saw that our red lines in Syria that meant nothing only encouraged Russia and China ...???
      Not sure what China is up to in Syria, but the red line led directly to Assad giving up his chemical weapons, this is ALLWAYS forgotten.
      Is it prefect deal ?, but then the US doesnt have have much say over some empty forests in Oregon either, I imagine that would be seen as weakness in ME as well?

    5. The red line led directly to nothing. The red line warning was issued in Aug 2012. In Aug 2013, Syria used Sarin gas in Damascus. The US had no response. Eventually, Russia stepped in and brokered a deal with Syria to remove chemical weapons. Since then, reports have continued to occasionally surface concerning chemical attacks.

      Please be sure your comments are factual.

  2. Nothing about this incident passes the smell test.

    On a trip from Kuwait to Bahrain you go out into the middle of the Gulf where there is an Iranian Island?

    Then BOTH boats have breakdowns and drift into Iranian waters? (1st explanation)

    Both ran out of fuel? Are you kidding me? Who planned that transit? A Marine? (2nd Explanation)

    And no covering ship/Aircraft to respond to an international distress frequency call?

    They issued no international frequency distress calls, after whatever happened? This would make seizure completely unsupportable in the eyes of international law.

    Right after the Iranians were firing rockets near a carrier?

    With a pending contentious international agreement on the table?

    Commander Fifth Fleet better start working on his resume or else his publishing skills to get the true story out.

    Even I could come up with a better cover story for some covert operation (if that is what this was).

    1. I'm with you. We have not heard the real story yet.

    2. And what was really sad was the only thing the Republicans could take away from this was the pictures of the sailors with their hands up.

      How do you think we would respond if Iranian boats drifted, with no warning, into, or even near, the Fifth Fleet harborage? Think they would have had their hands up after the USS Cole bombing?

      Not one candidate said we have to get to the bottom of this and find out why this happened. Wars have been started over this kind of mistake. And they are ready to be CinC?

  3. This may have been an attempt by an Admiral or Admirals to damage new relations with Iran. The Pentagon is desperate for enemies since their budget growth has slowed. I suspect they were ordered to perform close recon of the island, but if caught they were to surrender without firing a shot.

    This is exactly what happened, very similar to the equally odd USS Pueblo whose captain stated "he followed orders" incident and the USS Vincennes incident where it charged into Iranian waters shooting at everything. But the recent plan didn’t work as no shots were fired and the American intruders were promptly released. Admirals hoped for dead American sailors and dreamed of retaliatory air strikes.

    This is the only explanation. The Pentagon backed off the broke down story since they cruised home. These boats are also faster than the Iranian boats, that didn't fire a shot.

    As for the released American prisoners. Does our CIA spy on Iran? Do we have spies in Iran? I hope so. Were these spies, probably? When a former US Marine and retired FBI agent get arrested during a long "visit", what else might one think?

    1. About those US Citizens who were arrested and now released , it has connotations they were part of covert activities, but of course that will never be admitted.
      Even the the timeline of what happened is part truth and part mystery for all sorts of reasons, but it does seem hard to accept that communications were so inadequate that it took some time before onshore knew what happened and it wasnt in middle of night there.

    2. This incident is inextricably linked to politics so I don't mind the political comment. I don't even mind the conspiracy theory. I do, however, wish you would challenge yourself to come up with a more believable theory. As you, yourself, pointed out, the possibilities for failure of this conspiracy operation were numerous which makes it an unlikely candidate for conspiracy. There are much better ways to provoke a response from Iran. We could have flown UAVs over Iranian bases. That would have provoked a response we could have used to escalate tensions. We could have sailed a carrier just outside Iranian territorial waters. We could have fired warning shots at the Iranian boats that fired rockets a few days ago. We could even have "accidentally" hit one of their boats. And so on.

      Feel free to offer a conspiracy theory but put some time and thought into it. A good conspiracy theory needs to be believable.

    3. Given the actions of the US military industrial complex, I think that this is possible, but we'll need further proof to draw any conclusions.

      At the moment, this is looking like a provocative act from the US side that was performed incompetently.

      At least we can say that the captured are now released.

    4. Maybe you should take off your tin foil hat - your conspiracy theories are ridiculous. Anyone who has observed the senior leadership of the United States Military during the Obama Administration should find it laughable that there would be a conspiracy among the military leadership - no one would risk their pension and lucrative post military career crossing this administration; let alone violating 240 years of precedent of military deference to civilian leadership.

    5. For those unfamiliar with U.S. History, especially in regards to Iran, the true story of the Vincennes incident is still on-line:

      It was authored by a retired USMC LtCol, for all those who blame uncomfortable facts on "liberal" media.

    6. Lawrence, you make a very good point about the motivations of our senior leadership. You also indirectly make a point about military leadership's competency - or lack thereof. They can't effectively run our normal military operations so it seems unlikely that they have enough brainpower to cobble together an effective conspiracy plot!

    7. "... story of the Vincennes incident is still on-line:"

      What point are you making?

  4. Iran did, to its credit, release the sailors relatively quickly and if the news is accurate, they were not harmed.

    I don't want to cast judgement until we have the full details:

    This article says:
    “It was a mistake; that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake,” the sailor said. “My navigation system showed I was in Iranian waters but I made a mistake and entered.”

    If this is true, then this appears to be a pretty serious mistake. Training is definitely needed, and a detailed post-mortem analysis.

    For what it's worth I think that good diplomacy did play a role here as well.

    1. This was a total disgrace, American Sailors surrendering and being filmed while on their knees. Anyone who doesn't have a problem with this has no familiarity with our history and the sacrifices our servicemen have made. The men and women did on the Bataan Peninsula in 1942 did not surrender until they no longer had the means to resist. Whether this was cowardice on the part of the boat's commander or more likely their chain of command - this is a shameful episode which will make the world a more dangerous place for all Americans and our allies.

  5. As much as the Obama administration likes or wants us to believe, Iran are not the good guys here. Good guys wouldn't put on the nightly news the capture of the crew and the interview of our sailors admitting they made a mistake. At the same time, I can't imagine any plausible scenario where our boats just drifted into Iranian waters. These transits are carefully planned and coordinated.

    Others have suggested we would have responded the same way if Iranian boats drifted into Kings Bay or Norfolk. I like to think the Navy would have a track on everything in the air, on the surface, and under the sea within a couple of hundred miles or more of our bases. And, that intruders would be intercepted at far greater distances than 3 miles from base. While the Navy would videotape any potential boarding, it wouldn't be splashed on CNN or ABC, to embarrass the "offending" country.

    I'm sure the Iranians keep tabs on who is in their neighborhood. Personally, I believe our boats were intercepted on their transit to Bahrain and escorted to Farsi Island. Just like firing a rocket near the Truman a couple of weeks ago, this is another attempt by Iran to embarrass the United States.

    1. Do you believe this story as much as the first couple of cover stories?

      If it is true then it simply proves what I've been saying all along about the state of our training and readiness.

      If it's not true, then it was a poorly planned, horribly botched operation.

      Either way, where was the immediate support for units in proximity to unfriendly nations and where is the "don't give up the ship" mentality?

      This is an embarrassment no matter what the real story is.

    2. Aside from the first couple of cover stories being wrong and the endless litany of Navy "spins" on a host of issues over the years, no, I guess I have no reason to disbelieve the latest version. On the other hand, given that the first couple of stories were wrong and the endless litany of "spins" the Navy has concocted about various issues over the years, I also have no reason to believe this version.

      Under no circumstance (meaning even if we were in the wrong) would I allow US boats and crews to fall into unfriendly hands. If we "drifted" into Iranian waters, the Iranians could have simply monitored our rescue efforts until such time as the boats left their waters. They had no need to seize the boats and take the crews prisoner. We would not have done so if the positions were reversed. We would have simply kept the boats at sea, rendered assistance, and monitored rescue operations until they left.

      You might also address my points about lack of backup when operating near unfriendly countries, lack of training, poor planning, and lack of combat mentality.

      The crews allowed themselves to be taken prisoner. Given Iran's history of lengthy and unpleasant treatment of prisoners, that could have turned out quite badly. The crews were lucky it didn't. They showed remarkably poor judgment.

    3. Read what I wrote. I said that the first couple of stories were wrong, not spin. I also said that given that history and the Navy's tendency in general to "spin" (lie), that I have no reason to believe this version, either. Can you admit that it's possible that these stories are covers (lies)? Or, in your mind, would this be the first time the govt/military ever made up a story?

      The story (the latest version) could be true. It could be false. I have no reason to believe it's true.

      You could not be more wrong about a far worse result. Every time we capitulate or fail to act we simply encourage more aggressive behavior. There's a direct link between our failures in Syria and elsewhere to stand behind our threats and red lines and the increasingly aggressive behavior of Russia, China, and NK. Each incident proves to them that they have nothing to fear and can engage in more and more aggressive behavior.

      Failing to act is a far worse result down the road.

      Similarly, our extreme fear of collateral damage just ensures more civilian casualties down the road by the terrorists we don't kill. Iran preaches genocide and you're happy to be able to work with them?

    4. Of course it's possible that this story is the true version. History simply suggest it's not and there is no evidence that it is.

      I'm sure the families are happy. I'm also sure that the families of the next sailors that are seized and not released will wish that we hadn't encouraged such actions.

      You really need to read. Where did I say we shouldn't apologize if in the wrong? I have no problem with that. I have a problem with turning over American boats and crew to unfriendly countries. This is the Iran that chants "Death to America" on a routine basis. The odds were far greater that those crew would be held hostage and poorly treated than released as they were. After we made clear that no one was going to board our boats or take our crews prisoner, I would have gladly apologized, if warranted.

      If a carrier strayed into Iranian waters would you advocate turning it over to the Iranians? If not, what size ship would you be willing to fight for? The principle is the same. Or, in your mind, does size of the ship trump principle?

    5. I prefer to base my actions on principles that don't change with the size of the ship or the number of sailors that I'm willing to allow to be taken prisoner just to avoid a confrontation. My principles don't change based on the merits of the situation. My moral compass points due north all the time, not just when the merits favor it.

      The kind of thinking that you're espousing is a major part of what's wrong with America today.

    6. The principles that should govern the world and individuals are black and white. There's nothing ambiguous about right and wrong. The Ten Commandments don't have qualifiers that depend on the merits of the situation.

      Moral certitude is what builds a good civilization. Moral ambiguity is what leads to what we have today. Our Forefathers knew this. We've lost it.

  6. Very Strange.

    Would those types of boats normally be used to transit in this way? I wouldn’t think so.

    Almost impossible both boats disabled simultaneously at exactly the point in time where tide and winds take them into Iranian territorial waters whilst on a 40kn transit.

    Much more likely they were there on purpose.
    The cited locations of 2 carrier groups virtually within sight of the island can’t be coincidence. Possible these boats were running interference not simply transiting.

    And I think the reason they gave it up so easily will be related to this.

    Iran’s apparent cooperation in this process is also highly unlikely given what the UK had to go through to get a few marines back just a couple of years ago.

    I suggest a state department pay-off in this case. Which again tends to suggest those boats “shouldn’t have been there” in some way.

    1. I think Iran's response was a result of the US giving Iran everything they wanted in the nuke deal.

    2. Well they really wanted some ICBM's and the manuals on how to use them.

      But lets not quibble about small change. Yes, I think your probably right.

      Seems very suspect. I doubt we will find out much more about this, but ill keep an ear out.

    3. Not really.

      Iran wanted to be able to continue their nuclear program, which they have been forced to partially dismantle.

  7. For one thing the US was ONE of the counterparties, including UN permanent 5 + Germany + EU HQ.
    Maybe its like the Washington naval treaty of 1922, which the US immediately broke constructing Lexington/Saratoga ( ie they were in excess of tonnage allowed for battleship to carrier conversion)

    1. That doesnt sound right. From memory, they were both kept to 22,000ish tons, in order to do exactly what you stated they didn't, not contravene the treaty. US didn't start building 27,000ton carriers until 37 when the treaty was dead and buried.
      Where did you get the info about the treaty being broken?

    2. Ztev, if you want to continue to comment, please check your statements for accuracy. Read Wiki on the Lexington class for a description of how the Lex/Sara were converted within the bounds of the treaty.

      Nate, you're also incorrect though closer. Please check Wiki.

    3. Heres the wording of the treaty: not more than two aircraft carriers, each of a tonnage of not more than 33,000 tons (33,528 metric tons) standard displacement, and in order to effect economy any of the Contracting Powers may use for this purpose any two of their ships, whether constructed or in course of construction, which would otherwise be scrapped under the provisions of Article II.

      This is of course the special requirement inserted at the US request to allow conversion of its two battlecruisers to carriers. So its written in language that the US wanted ( and Japan did the same conversion)

      While the loohole that the US claimed allowed an increase is displacement says this:

      No retained capital ships or aircraft carriers shall be reconstructed except for the purpose of providing means of defense against air and submarine attack, and subject to the following rules: The Contracting Powers may, for that purpose, equip existing tonnage with bulge or blister or anti-air attack deck protection, providing the increase of displacement thus effected does not exceed 3,000 tons (3,048 metric tons) displacement for each ship.

      They were not 'reconstructed with bulge's or 'increased deck protection' is an obvious problem. The hull was unchanged. In fact a anti torpedo blister wasnt fitted until 1942.

      Others views are that the 36,000 'official number' was a fiction as well.

      As a result, while listed "officially" at 33,000 tons, Lexington and Saratoga carried weight in excess of the treaty limit, even after sacrificing some of their cruiser armor. Saratoga "officially" displaced 33,000 standard tons in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty. The vessel actually displaced (full combat load) 43,500 tons -- later alluded to by "official" tonnage upgrades to 36,000, later increased to 40,000, tons. The ship's trial displacement was 38,957 tons.

      Other countries at the time considered the US 'cheated' and of course they fudged numbers as well. But within a short time the US, after getting what they wanted, decided to find a way of getting some more and even then had to fudge the numbers.

    4. Register of Ships of US navy lists original Lexington class (CC) as 43,500t with a 7" belt and 2" deck
      and then later as a CV as 33,000t with same armour.
      So no 'increase in deck armour or bulges' from these numbers.
      'Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants', by Bauer & Roberts

  8. My initial thoughts on this was an Iranian EW system being used to spoof the GPS units on the Nav systems on these boats. Call it an operational test on assets that dont really matter.
    Enticing the SatNav to send the boats off course into territorial waters. I dont know how plausible that is. I know they pulled it off against a drone a few years back, but was under the impression these were modern boats with safe guards against such.
    If this turns out to be what happened, then Iranian EW is much further along than we suspect.

    Also, authors correct, when such incidents pan out with Western countries, aid is rendered at sea, and the incident isn't splashed on the nightly news, certainly not with images of foreign troops held at gun point with hands in the air. Thats how criminals are treated, not POW's.

    None of the stories we've heard so far carry even a modicum of truth about them, so far, all lies, and the worst part is, obvious and stupid ones. Even as cover stories go, these ones are pretty woeful.

    1. Allow me to summarize facts for all those who choose to embrace the incompetence theory. First, those boats exist to protect the carrier group, they would not "transit" to distant Kuwait just for fun while a carrier was in the Gulf needing someone to fend off small civilian boats that might approach.

      The Iranians did not catch the boats; they didn't have a big net or star trek tractor beam. Even if both boats drifted into Iranian waters and found smaller, slower, lesser armed Iranian boats in pursuit, they only needed to turn and dash away. The Iranians never opened fire, and wouldn't dare with a carrier nearby.

      So they intentionally entered Iranian waters and surrendered. That is the fact, and the Pentagon refuses to say why. Something sinister was attempted by someone for some reason, and it failed. And like the AC-130 slaughter at Kunduz, no one will ever explain why.

  9. 1) The official explanation about navigation errors and mechanical problems are hard to believe. The boats has dual drivetrains and waterjets, and has multiple fuel tanks. Even if one of the boats were rendered inoperational, both crews could have simply sailed away on the other.

    2) The CB90 is a fast and powerful vessel, it cannot simply be 'intercepted' without anyone firing a shot.

    3) The most plausible explanation (to me) is that the boats deliberately entered iranian waters on an intelligence gathering mission and were caught red handed.

    Why didn't they simply sail away: Maybe sensitive equpment had to be destroyed, or perhaps divers or people ashore had to be retrieved?

    In that case it seems sensible to simply surrender with a story of own incompetence and poor navigation, rather than to leave someone behind to be caught as a spy. Surrendering and saying 'oops' gave the US plausible deniability and the iranians an alibi for a very quick release of the prisoners.

    4) Iran is in some ways an unfriendly country, but as awkward as it is, Iran has also become an important ally in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda. I think that the Iranians acted very properly in this situation.


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