Sunday, June 22, 2014

Maritime Security: Make the right choice

Published in Maritime Security Review June 11, 2014

Rene Toomse, CEO, Aburgus Risk Management

An Aburgus team, having recently returned from a mission, told me a story. They were providing security from Galle to Richards Bay, their first time on this large bulk carrier. The Captain was happy with all the settings and told them about a previous security team from another security company. The team leader was from the UK and other team members were an Indian, Sri Lankan and Filipino. A true multinational team one could cheer about but the reality was far from happiness, not to mention effectiveness. 

The bored and somewhat frustrated team leader made his days go by harassing the Asian guards. Pointless orders, deprivation of rest, unreasonable dangerous assignments, like manning the monkey bridge in a storm and so on, were causing a lot of bad mood out there. Of course, the guards did not complain but their true ability to guard was offline most of the time – such was the impression of the Captain. So in case they had to encounter an attack by pirates, he was doubtful whether they could organize and fight with the integrity needed.

This is not a isolated story concerning the issues with mixed teams. There are known problems with some guards’ paperwork. It is not a rare occasion when a man’s CV states years of experience in Naval Special Forces and yet he holds a rifle like for the first time in his life. Very often “excellent English” means barely basic understanding of simple commands. But imagine now if a vessel with such a team comes under a serious attack by a bit more willing pirates, the famous slogan that “no ship carrying armed security has yet been hijacked” would easily end up in the trash.

Another dangerous trend is undermanned teams. Two guard teams are no longer rare. One vessel owner told me that charterer, who was responsible for security arrangements, once offered only one guard. “One is more than enough” – were the exact words according to him. He was smart enough not to agree to it.

There are always options for the vessel owner – to do it right or hire a replica of security. ‘Right’ means a team of the same nationals or at least from the same military culture (like NATO), a minimum three for short transits but certainly four guards for longer transits and larger vessels. It will cost a bit more but they are the most effective in real protection of the vessel and crew that is eventually the point of having a security team onboard. Here are some arguments to support the previous:

- Teams of the same nationality can communicate much better in stress situations. There are fewer chances for errors and misunderstandings. Different nationalities will have more possibilities for messing up that in stress situations can turn to disaster very quickly;

- Same nationality teams have had more options to learn and practice their actions; they share the same standards, cultural discipline and integrity. This will make them sounder on decisions and tactics. Mixed teams tend to meet and do quick familiarization on the vessel. There is no cultural bond, trust and same standard performance. This again will be a significant vulnerability in stress situations;

- One or two man teams are worthless from the point of view of security, no matter who they are. One man cannot stay alert 24/7, two men will lack tactical reserve as a backup. Imagine two guards repelling pirates who attack from both sides of the vessel. If one of the guards gets shot then another cannot cover the other side and the pirates will board. Once they have boarded, they will overpower the single guard very easy. The third guard is an absolute must have to avoid this type of situations. The fourth will come handy to take care of the crew mustering into the citadel and then backing up the rest of the team in a fight. The prime example of the grave violation of the same rule was the fatal incident with SP Brussels near Nigeria on 29 April.

There are some rules of thumb on maritime security to make it work. If they are broken, either by vessel owner or security company, it puts people and property at grave risk. There is also a reason why the security guards are usually required to have at least 5 years of military experience. It is a correct presumption that experienced men can act properly in case of an attack. Meanwhile, the militaries are not the same in most cases. Largely, one can say that NATO countries embrace the same principles that often are not the same with most of the other militaries. So assembling a team of mixed nationals will make the individual experiences, and summa summarum the team’s ability to use them effectively, worthless.

Protection of a vessel against armed attacks is a team effort and unavoidably needs to have a team of adequate size and with the similar experiences to withstand hostile fire and be effective enough to repel the attackers. Anything less than that is a hazardous game played with people’s lives. I hope evidence of this does not have to come via painful experiences, although we can already see them happening.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Officer Corps That Can’t Score

William S. Lind in The American Conservative

The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How the Weak Win Wars? A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict

Ivan Arreguín-Toft

No one had given Muhammad Ali a chance against George Foreman in the World heavyweight Championship fight of October 30, 1974. Foreman, none of whose opponents had lasted more than three rounds in the ring, was the strongest, hardest hitting boxer of his generation. Ali, though not as powerful as Foreman, had a slightly faster punch and was lighter on his feet. In the weeks leading up to the fight, however, Foreman had practiced against nimble sparring partners. He was ready. But when the bell rang just after 4:00 a.m. in Kinshasa, something completely unexpected happened. In round two, instead of moving into the ring to meet Foreman, Ali appeared to cower against the ropes. Foreman, now confident of victory, pounded him again and again, while Ali whispered hoarse taunts: George, youre not hittin, George, you disappoint me.”  Foreman lost his temper, and his punches became a furious blur. To spectators, unaware that the elastic ring ropes were absorbing much of the force of Foreman’s blows, it looked as if Ali would surely fall. By the fifth round, however, Foreman was worn out. And in round eight, as stunned commentators and a delirious crowd looked on, Muhammad Ali knocked George Foreman to the canvas, and the fight was over.
This fight illustrates an important yet relatively unexplored feature of interstate conflict: how a weak actor’s strategy can make a strong actor’s power irrelevant. If power implies victory in war, then weak actors should almost never win against stronger opponents, especially when the gap in relative power is very large. Yet history suggests otherwise: Weak actors sometimes do win. The question is how.

Read more: How the Weak Win Wars? A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why the Army should fire generals and promote captains

By Adrian Bonenberger, Published: February 21

As Army leadership ponders who and what to cut from its budget, the first groups in the crosshairs are the junior and mid-level officers. This is a logical step: To wage counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army expanded its fighting force, and now it’s time to draw down. What isn’t logical is that other ranks will largely get a free pass.
The Army, and the military overall, would be better served by retiring some of the generals, colonels and senior lieutenant colonels, and promoting the best captains, majors and junior lieutenant colonels into those roles.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Army stood at 480,000 soldiers. Over the next decade, it ballooned to 565,000 soldiers in 2011 and has since shrunk back to 528,000. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last summer that the Army needed to reduce its numbers to as few as 380,000, the lowest since before World War II. It seems likely that the Pentagon will adopt this number as its target for 2020. These cuts will overwhelmingly fall where the recent growth occurred: younger soldiers and officers, nearly all of whom joined to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Unconventional Deterrence Strategy

Mindaugas Rekasius
Naval Postgraduate School 
June 2005

This thesis examines a largely unexplored area of deterrence theory – unconventional deterrence. Unconventional deterrence is defined herein as “persuading the opponent not to attack, via threats of unconventional warfare, such as guerrilla resistance and terrorism.” It treats terrorism as a punishment strategy, through which the one deterring threatens to punish the aggressor’s population. Guerrilla warfare is a denial strategy, through which the one deterring threatens to protract a war and deny the aggressor his political objectives. This study questions the underlying hypothesis of deterrence theory which says that the balance of the opponents’ military capabilities is the basic determinant of successful deterrence. Rather, the hypothesis here is that the deterrer may deter the aggressor from attacking by adopting a strategy that makes the aggressor’s military superiority irrelevant. The present thesis focuses primarily on relatively weak states. Unconventional deterrence is explored as a means for a weaker state to deter a considerably stronger opponent.
This thesis discusses the requirements for successful deterrence, and the peculiarities of unconventional deterrence. As well, the dynamics of small wars are explored in order to unfold a paradoxical phenomenon: the possibility of an underdog’s victory in war.  Two  case  studies:  (1) the  Vietnam  War  of  1964-73 and (2)  the Afghanistan War of 1979-89 are explored as examples of the weak denying the strong their objectives.

Read more: PDF

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Knowing the Enemy

How to cope with global jihad

The conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan and the global Islamist insurgency have revealed that Western democracies and their political and military leaders do not fully comprehend the multifaceted threats represented by radical Muslim nonstate actors. In this, they violate the most famous dictum of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategic genius of2,500 years ago: “If you know yourself and understand your opponent you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict.”
The broad support that al Qaeda jihadis and radical Islamist militias such as Hamas and Hezbollah enjoy in the Muslim world and in the global Muslim diaspora, as well as among non-Muslim anti-American political forces around the world demonstrates that describing the global Islamic insurgency as a fringe or minority phenomenon is unrealistic and self-defeating. Since 9/11, democracies have fought three wars against nonstate Islamist actors. The West needs to draw important lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the clash between Israel and Hezbollah to address these strategic deficits. Lack of clarity in defining the enemy and delays in formulating political and information strategy severely endanger U.S. national interests and the security of the West.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Peeter Kukk, PhD, Kaitseväe Ühendatud Õppeasutused

Artiklis analüüsitakse, kuidas on erinevatel ajajärkudel muutunud sõjaväelaste kirjaoskus selle sõna laiemas tähenduses. Kirjaoskus hõlmab seejuures nii väljaõpet kui ka teenistuse korraldust koos otsustusõiguse ulatuse ja vastutuse määraga. Artikli esmaste lugejatena nähakse Kaitseväe Ühendatud Õppeasutustes (KVÜÕA) õpinguid alustavaid põhi- ja keskastmekursuse õppureid.

Rene kommentaar: Tegemist on väga hea ülevaatega ülesandekeskse juhtimise filosoofia arengust ja mõjutustest. Pealkiri võib jätta esmapilgul eksitava mulje (mulle jättis), nagu tuleks juttu sõjaväelaste kirjutamise oskusest. Sellest see artikkel siiski ei ole. Väärt lugemine.

Artikkel siin:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An elusive command philosophy and a different command culture

By Jörg Muth
2011 in Foreign Policy
Best Defense department of Auftragstaktik affairs

Auftragstaktik. The word sounds cool even when mangled by an American tongue. What it means, however, has always been elusive to Americans. The problematic translation of that core German military word into "mission type orders" completely distorts its meaning. Auftragstaktik does not denote a certain style of giving orders or a certain way of phrasing them; it is a whole command philosophy.

The idea originates with Frederick the Great, who complained after more than one battle that his highly experienced regimental commanders would not dare take action on their own but too often ask back for orders and thus waste precious time.

Nearly one hundred years later the military genius Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was the first to formulate the concept of Auftragstaktik. Moltke was a diligent student of Frederick's campaigns, of military history in general and philosophy. At a time when he was not yet famous and, not yet the victor of three wars, he observed the annual General Staff war games in 1858. The paperwork and the detailed orders appalled him because he knew that in war there was no time for such nonsense. During the war game critique he decreed that "as a rule an order should contain only what the subordinate for the achievement of his goals cannot determine on his own." Everything else was to be left to the commander on the spot.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

War—Continuity in Change, and Change in Continuity


War can only be understood holistically. If one focuses on continuity in change, one is near certain to undervalue the change in continuity. One has to be bifocal. Carl von Clausewitz is uncompromising on this matter:
But in war more than in any other subject we must begin by looking at the nature of the whole; for here more than elsewhere the part and the whole must always be thought of together.
The subject of most interest here is future war, all of it. Future war will include both change and continuity from the past. Many people have difficulty understanding the relationship between continuity and change; this article will try to provide some useful guidance. Similarly, satisfactory comprehension of the connection between theory and practice is frequently missing.
These deficiencies in intellectual grasp can be important and damaging to national security.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wake-up call

Julian Borger
The Guardian, Friday 6 September 2002 

If the US and Iraq do go to war, there can only be one winner, can't there? Maybe not. This summer, in a huge rehearsal of just such a conflict - and with retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper playing Saddam - the US lost. Julian Borger asks the former marine how he did it.

At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator. 

What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.