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[Another LONG post…  You’ve been warned!  (LoL)    —    KMAB]
The Third World War:  August 1985  (1978©)   —   book review
This review is for the fictional portrayal (as a “future history”) of a “realistic” invasion of NATO allied European countries by the Warsaw Pact in August of 1985.  The book was “written” primarily (et al) by (Ret.) British General John W. Hackett in consultation with a number of experts gathered to discuss how such an invasion might occur, what might lead up to it and what might be the end-of-war results.  The “advisors” were listed as:  John Barraclough (Air Chief Marshal), Kenneth Hunt (Brigadier), Ian McGeoch (Vice-Admiral), Norman Macrae (a deputy editor at “The Economist“), John Strawson (Major-General), and, Bernard Burrows (British Diplomatic Service).
The book was a best-seller in England back in 1978.  It was published in the U.S. in early 1979 as a hardback and then released as a paperback in 1980.  I initially read the paperback version.  I believe it was shortly after I was released from the Active Reserves, but my memory isn’t that precise anymore.  In any case, this review is of a re-reading of the book after my reading of “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” earlier this year.  (review here:  A Novel War).  The author of that book, (ret) Admiral James Stavridis, cited this book as a primary inspiration for his work.  This prompted my re-interest in the original…
During my (almost) two years in the Reserves I was assigned to a unit which tested and evaluated the readiness of National Guard units from California, Arizona and New Mexico.  The officers would establish “war-game” scenarios for the Guard officers and I (as an NCO) would embed with the line units to evaluate actual field performance.  We were artillery evaluators, so I watched Guard batteries fire cannons / howitzers, but I gained an understanding of scenario development and large scale tactical war-gaming.  This led to a post-service interest in military style board games which carried on for most of the ’80s.  I lost interest when gaming shifted to computers and became “mostly” shoot-em-up’s instead of (IMHO) about strategy.
Basically, the plot of this book is the leaders of the USSR feel their position as a superpower is being threatened by political and economic factors which are worsening (for them).  They feel there has been a significant / progressive decrease in NATO’s readiness over the last decade and this may be their last / best opportunity to remove a potential military threat (NATO) and further subjugate the buffer countries of Eastern Europe who are members of the Warsaw Pact.  The plan is a crushing invasion of Western Europe (West Germany and the low-lands) which leaves the USSR in command up to the border of France.  The invasion fails because in the years between the book’s publishing (1978) and the date of the “future-history” event (August 1985), Europe (specifically Great Britain) comes to its senses and reverses the general military decline of the late ’60s to ’70s.  The NATO forces are able to slow the advance of invasion (without the use of tactical nuclear weapons) and allows reinforcements to arrive from the U.S. just in the nick of time.
In a striking foreboding of the current (2022) invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the invasion portrayed fails because of (in no particular order of importance):
1)  an inability to dominate the air despite superior numerical assets;
2)  a failure of logistics (fuel and ammunition) by the Warsaw Pact, (it is believed the invasion will take less than two weeks AND there will not be enough time for the U.S. to resupply NATO forces);
3)  resistance by the native forces (in this case, the West German army / reserves) is surprisingly effective;  and,
4)  the centralized command and control characteristic of authoritarian political systems, does not promote the flexibility / initiative of junior officers (and NCOs) to seize military opportunities when they arise, so opportunities for significant breakouts are lost.
When the war quickly (the “war” lasts weeks) devolves into a war of attrition, failure is viewed as inevitable and hard-liners in the Politburo decide to consolidate their gains for future armistice negotiations by the use of a limited (against only one city) nuclear strike.  The result, however, is not fear and negotiation, but instead, fury and retaliation via a similar limited nuclear strike by Great Britain and the U.S. against a Russian city;  (and like falling dominoes) the Warsaw Pact allies turn on the USSR to avoid nuclear annihilation;  the Soviet military / security services stage a coup, over-throw the hardliners, and cease further combat;  the non-Russian border states (the “-stans”) declare independence from the USSR;  and, the rest of the world struggles with the effects of a new world order.  The “war” is barely a month old before it is over.  Because the book is written as a “recent” history of past events, it does not attempt to forecast / describe long term results of the war except to relate the world has to deal with unaccounted for Soviet nuclear weapons / warheads and large stocks of conventional weapons scattered around the global (mainly Africa).
Is this a “good” book?  Is it realistic as a predictor of future conflict (lethality, if not participants)?  Is it entertaining or interesting?  Do I recommend this book?  With the exception of the final question, the answer to all of these is (are):  yes to so-so…
The book is not a “good” novel.  There are no specified individual characters driving the action, so you cannot (as a reader) identify and grow with anyone.  In this sense, although fictional, the book is written with more of an academic or journalistic feel.  It is very much an military style “after-action” report.  If you are comfortable with this writing style, you will enjoy the writing / book.  If you are not, you will not.  I did.  Was the book able to realistically describe combat and the results (devastation) of war?  Yes!  Although, saying this, there was an obvious Western bias of vivid description of the destruction of the British city and virtually nothing about the similar (or much worse) destruction of the Russian city.  (Very much:  “Yeah, we took out one of theirs as payback…”)  Is the book entertaining or interesting?  This is the toughest question because every reader’s tastes varies so much… I was not “entertained”;  but, I did find the book interesting.  I particularly “enjoyed” the parts the authors get terribly wrong, because as a reader I (we) have 40+ years of hind-sight.  There is no China – Japan alliance;  the Shah is no longer in charge of Iran (or, rather, wasn’t in 1985);  South Africa did not fall to external forces;  and, East Germany did not resist consolidation with West Germany after the fall of the USSR.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  I think most veterans (particularly my age group) will find this book relatable.  I think most civilian “military” readers / historians – and quite a few regular historians – will, too.  For political science readers, the “states” interests, goals, and stances will seem Machiavellian / Kissinger-ian (is that a real word?).  Yet, they ring true – even 40 years later.  It is entirely obvious why this book could seem as an inspiration for a future – updated version (a la “2034“), and I believe (I read) this book served as a similar inspiration for several of Tom Clancy’s works which followed.  At any rate, I do remember “enjoying” the initial read from “way-back-when”, and don’t feel the re-read was less so.  My reaction to “2034” was reinforced:  this version is much better than the more recent book.  If you have read “2034“, I recommend you read “WW3:1985” for the comparison value, if nothing else.
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price (for an old / used book) and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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NATO has long played a key role in Trump’s narrative that the U.S. foots the bill for the rest of the world at the expense of its own citizens.  He once again lambasted NATO allies’ contributions during a speech on June 25 [2018] in South Carolina by falsely claiming that the U.S. was responsible for 90% of spending.  In fact, the U.S. provides 22% of the NATO alliance’s common funding — which covers NATO’s running costs, the military budget and some capabilities like aerial surveillance.
European leaders are now punching back at the U.S. French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We don’t mind being G-6, if needs be,” while the E.U. retaliated on June 22 [2018] with its own tariffs on U.S. goods.  “The initial idea of playing nice with Donald Trump has been demonstrably proven to yield no benefits,” says Anthony Gardner, who served as U.S. ambassador to the E.U. from 2014 to ’17.
     —    Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
From her editorial / opinion article:  “Is NATO Trump’s next target?
Appearing in:  Time Magazine;  dtd:  9 July 2018
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Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned today (20 December 2018) – effective 28 February 2019, to allow time for a replacement confirmation.   Secretary Mattis (Retired Marine Corps General) resigned due to differences with the policies of President Trump.  Below is Secretary Mattis’ resignation letter (and transcript below that).
Page 1 of Sec. Mattis Resignation Letter
Page 2 of Sec. Mattis Resignation Letter
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance.  Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.  While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.  Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world.  Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances.  NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America.  The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours.  It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.  That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.  We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.  The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February.  Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
[Whenever a high-ranking military officer disagrees so fundamentally with the policy, course of action or directions being given by the President (Commander-In_Chief), it is their duty to resign from their position and bring their objections to the American public.  This is an “honorable” resignation.
In our nation’s history, there have been senior officers objecting to their political commander who have acted contrary to lawful policy and direction (both Democratic and Republican) and who have stayed in post and attempted to ameliorate policy / directions they objected to.  Only historians can judge whether these officers acted with honor (or not).
President Assad rules Syria and wishes us to leave so he can continue to crush his opposition and remain in power indefinitely.  Putin wants us to leave Syria to increase Russian influence in the area and to gain access to “warm-water” ports in Syria.  Iran wants us to leave Syria in order to establish an arc of influence through Iraq to Syria (and the Mediterranean).  Turkey wants us to leave in order to crush the Syrian Kurds (and along with them, the Turkish Kurds).  The Turkish Kurds assisted us in Iraq and are now doing the same in Syria.  They want us to stay.  The Syrian Kurds want our help and want us to stay.  Israel and Saudi Arabia foolishly support President Trump because they feel he will support them.  Between Israel and Russia, Trump will support Russia.  Saudi Arabia is the enemy of Iran because Iran is not Arab and because Iran believes in the Shiite version of Islam while the Saudi’s believe in the Sunni version.  Trump supports Saudi Arabia over Iran (in theory), but he doesn’t seem to realize the long term effect of increasing Iranian influence in Syria will be to the detriment of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.
As for ISIS / ISIL, they are one of the factions seeking to over-throw Assad.  They are Muslim and Assad is Ba’ath.  Assad seeks to destroy ISIL because that’s what he does to all of his enemies.
If the U.S. abandons Syria and the Kurds, we will pay for this policy failure for decades and generations ALL around the world – not just in the Middle East.
I happen to agree with President Trump, that we should get our troops out of Afghanistan and reduce our military footprint in the Middle East – not just Syria.  In Afghanistan, as soon as possible.  In Syria, only after we have secured land for the Syrian Kurds and, after that, for as long as the Kurds need our protection from Russia, Turkey and Iran – and, of course, from Assad.  Unfortunately, this may mean decades…
Israel and Saudi Arabia will pay for supporting President Trump.  Sooner or later he will turn on them, too.   After all, Trump is a snake, they know he is a snake, and to quote candidate Trump’s campaign speech:  “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
Just sayin’…     —    KMAB]
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