08 – 12 February 2016 Events of Interest

This is a roundup of maritime security and national security events by  that our readers and members might find interesting. Inclusion does not equal endorsement, all descriptions are the events’ own. Think of one we should inclcalendarude?  Email Emil at operations@cimsec.org.


Upcoming CIMSEC Events

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, DC – February CIMSEC DC Meet-up with a discussion on Distributed Lethality

24 Mar 2016 – Washington, DC – 2nd Annual CIMSEC Forum for Authors and Readers (CFAR)


08 – 12 February 2016 Events of Interest

08 Feb 2016 – New York City, NY – Maverick PAC – “An Evening with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham”

09 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – DEF – DEF DC Agora Monthly Meet-up (6:30 pm @ Eastern Foundry in Crystal City)

10 Feb 2016 – Webinar – Bloomberg Gov – “Rapid Response Budget Analysis”

09 Feb 2016 – London, UK – IISS – “The Military Balance 2016: Press Launch”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – Atlantic Council – “The United States Marine Corps in the Twenty-First Century”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CAP – “Sunnylands II: Previewing the U.S.-ASEAN Summit”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CNAS – “Book Event Invitation: In Europe’s Shadow”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – SASC – “National Commission on the Future of the United States Army”

12 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – AEI – “A Navy in Balance? A conversation with CNO ADM John Richardson”


Long-range Events

17-19 Feb 2016 – San Diego, CA – USNI/AFCEA – “WEST 2016: How do We Make the Strategy Work?”

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, DC – February CIMSEC DC Meet-up with a discussion on Distributed Lethality

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – ASNE – “The Athena Project – Harnessing Deckplate Innovation”

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – JHU APL – “Rethinking Security Seminar: Rethinking Cyber Warfare” with Colonel Michael H. Brown, USMC (ret)

20 Feb 2016 – Williamsburg, VA – DEF – “DEF[x]William & Mary” (ft. CIMCECians Scott Cheney-Peter and Matt Hipple)

23 Feb 2016 – Norfolk, VA – ODU – “Collaboration in Space for International Global Maritime Awareness”

01 March 2016 – “European Union Visitors Program” (Applications due March 1st)

01 March 2016 – Lome, Togo – AU – “AU Regional Conference: Maritime Security and Development in Africa”

05 Mar 2016 – Medford, MA – The Fletcher School – “Managing Political Risk”

22 March 2016 – New York City, NY – 92Y – “US Foreign Policy and the 2016 Election”

21-23 March 2016 – Norfolk, VA – HSOutlook – “Maritime Security East 2016”

28 March 2016 – New York City, NY – UN – “UNCLOS Treaty for Marine Biodiversity Preparatory Committee Meeting”

01 April 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CAP – “Setting Priorities for Nuclear Modernization”

06-08 April 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA – NDIA – “NDIA 2016 National Conference”

14-17 April 2016 – Ottawa, Canada – 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History 

01-04 May 2016 – Beverly Hills, California – 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference (Applications for Military Leadership Circle due 01 March)

11-15 May 2016 – Portland, Maine – “Maritime History Conference” 

21 June 2016 – Kiel, Germany – “Maritime Security Challenges and the High North” 

25-28 Sep 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – International Sociological Association – “Transformations of the Military Profession”

Farsi Island and Matters of Honor

By LT Robert “Jake” Bebber USN

The recent incident of two U.S. Navy riverine boats crossing into Iranian territorial waters around Farsi Island and the subsequent arrest and detention of their crews has sparked a debate on a number of related issues, including the behavior of the officers and crew to the larger geopolitical issue of America’s relationship with Iran and the recently concluded nuclear “deal”. CAPT Steven Horrell has suggested that much of this debate is really “partisan vitriol” and “a litmus test of opposing camps of foreign policy.” He argues that the OIC submitting to a video recording of his “apology” was “quite possibly his best course of action.” He rightly counsels that we do not yet know all of the relevant facts regarding this incident, and one hopes the Department of Defense investigation is swiftly conducted and made public. While he acknowledges that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) was wrong in its “initial treatment of the crew and propagandizing of the apology video,” he argues that the time for debate or calls to action are “not when the personnel are still on foreign soil …” He suggests that this may have been an attempt by the IRGC to “seize an opportunity” to use this incident to bolster their domestic political standing in Iran. At the end, however, CAPT Horrell seems more concerned about the “behaviors of our polarized body politic” than the long-term consequences to American power, prestige and yes, honor.

There is a persistent myth that Americans have historically avoided partisanship when it comes to national security or international crises. A cursory review of our past shows otherwise.  The War of 1812 was perhaps America’s most divisive conflict (even when compared to Vietnam), with vigorous opposition and “partisan vitriol” coming from within President Madison’s own party, led by John Randolph of Virginia. More recently, Americans were lectured that “we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration” on matters of national security. Indeed American political leaders of the opposing party have summarily declared wars “lost” in the middle of the fighting. On the recent Iran nuclear deal, the President himself declared that those opposed to him were “making common cause” with Iranian hardliners like the IRGC and that they were supporting war with Iran. The fact that candidates for the Presidency have “politicized” the incident, using it as a way to contrast their vision with that of their opponents during an election year should come as no surprise, and indeed seems to follow our traditional historical pattern.

Why might scenes of Navy Sailors on their knees, hands on their heads, surrendering to IRGCN forces and later apologizing on camera cause such a visceral reaction among Americans? The answer may be found in antiquity, and was best articulated by Thucydides. More than 2,500 years ago, he identified “three of the strongest motives” that explained relations between states were “fear, honor and self-interest.” While he is considered the “father” of the “realist” school of international relations, his point about notions of honor and prestige are often overlooked. The eminent Yale historian and classicist, Donald Kagan, carefully articulates why, despite being considered antiquated  by some academics and elites, “the notion that the only thing rational or real in the conduct of nations is the search for economic benefits or physical security is itself a prejudice of our time, a product of the attempt to treat the world of human events as though it were an inanimate, motiveless physical universe. Such an approach is no more adequate to explain behavior today than it ever was.” From this vantage point, Americans perceive that the systematic humiliation of American Sailors was a blow to our honor and prestige. Historically, Kagan notes, “when the prestige of a state wanes, so, too, does its power — even if materially … that power appears to remain unaffected.” Perhaps this is why, even coming on the heels of the Vietnam War, the Ford Administration reacted so assertively to the Cambodian seizure of the U.S.-flagged merchant vessel Mayaguez, as noted by retired Navy Captain and professor Jerry Hendrix. Even at a point in U.S. history where American power seemed at its weakest, the Khmer Rouge thought twice about taking on a superpower. The Farsi Island incident today seems to suggest that despite being a much stronger power than in 1975, the U.S. engenders much less fear, let alone respect, from its adversaries.

Patrol boats employed by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.
Patrol boats employed by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

CAPT Harrell and others consider the capture and release of American Sailors a “larger diplomatic success.” He specifically notes that the release was “due almost wholly to the existing relationships between Presidents Obama and Rouhani and Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif. This, in turn, is due to having achieved their nuclear agreement.” He suggests that when an incident occurs between two potential adversaries, “the first phone conversation better not be after the crisis has started.” This implies that prior to the current administration, there were no mechanisms for direct or indirect communication. However, the previous administration held 28 separate meetings with Iranian officials of ambassadorial rank, including 15 direct U.S.-Iran meetings. Clearly, there was someone to have a conversation with prior to President Obama taking office, and the U.S. and Iran had open diplomatic channels, if a cool relationship. Whether the release was due to an “existing relationship” or simply because the Iranians got what they wanted (a taped apology, propaganda videos and pictures of American military personnel surrendering) is hard to say. The Middle East Media Research Institute suggests it is more likely that Tehran did not want to delay the lifting of economic sanctions and to ameliorate the negative impression left from the burning of the Saudi Arabian embassy and consulate. In any case, focusing on the release of the Sailors ignores the larger question – what emboldened the IRGCN to feel like they could capture two U.S. Navy vessels in the first place? There seemed to be no reticence on the part of the Iranians to risk a confrontation, and therefore they could act with impunity – at least that is how it appears.

While we can all be thankful for the Sailors safe release, many have a much less sanguine view. This incident seems to embody a recent, growing perception of American weakness and decline. That belief is held here in America and around the world – especially among our adversaries. The fact that American honor is so easily besmirched and violated without fear of retribution only exacerbates this view. This is more than just “partisan vitriol” in my opinion, but a real and growing problem that should concern us all, regardless of party, as Americans.

LT Robert “Jake” Bebber is an Information Warfare officer assigned to U.S. Cyber Command. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Cyber Command or the Department of the Navy. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.

CIMSEC January Recap


January’s CIMSEC Topic Week: The Littoral Arena by Dmitry Filipoff

Coming Soon: Information Dissemination’s Jon Solomon Crossposting Series by Sally DeBoer
Invite – Jan 20 – CIMSEC’s January DC Meet-up with Natalie Sambhi by Scott Cheney Peters

Events of Interest Feb. 1-Feb. 5 by Emil Maine

Member Round Up
December Member Round Up by Sam Cohen

Littoral Topic Week
Army’s Apaches Bring Fight to Maritime and Littoral Operations by Aaron Jensen

A Century On: The Littoral Mine Warfare Challenge by Timothy Choi

Sea Control
Sea Control North America: Arctic Circle hosted by Matthew Merighi

Sea Control 106: Diver Tough and #Submariner Life hosted by Natalie Sambhi
Sea Control 107: Capt. Sean Heritage and Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command hosted by Matt Hipple
Real Time Strategy 4: Command and Conquer: Generals hosted by Matt Hipple

History and the Sea: Interview with Sarah Ward, Marine Archaeologist by Alex Calvo

Naval Affairs
Distributed Lethality and Concepts of Future War by Dmitry Filipoff

That Sinking Feeling: Inflation and the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy by Ryan Dean
crossposted from the Conference for Defense Associations Institute
Four Carrier Crises but Yet No Funeral for the Large Flattop by Steven Wills

Naval Cryptology and the Cuban Missile Crisis by David T. Spalding
crossposted from Station Hypo
Would Britain Really Be Back as a Traditional Carrier Air Power? By Ben Ho Wan Bang
crossposted from RealClearDefense

Series: U.S. Department of State Seeks to Clarify Meaning of China’s Nine Dash Line Claim by Alex Calvo

Part One
Part Two
Series: South China Sea Arbitration: Beijing Puts Forward Her Own Views by Alex Calvo
Part One (Dec)
Part Two (Dec)
Part Three

Common Public Good at Sea: Evolving Architecture in the Indo-Pacific Region by Captain Gurpreet Khurana
crossposted from the National Maritime Foundation
Chinese Thinking on Nuclear Weapons by Li Bin

crossposted from Arms Control Today

Western Hemisphere
Neither Side Appears Ready for War: Falklands/Malvinas Analysis by W. Alejandro Sanchez

Canadian Intelligence Accountability by Kurt Jensen
crossposted from Conference of Defense Associations Institute

Book and Paper Reviews
Andrew Gordon’s The Rules of the Game by Capt. Dale Rielage

The Republic of Korea Navy: Blue Water Bound? by Paul Pryce

Platforms and Payloads
Textron’s Airland Scorpion: A Smart Gamble by David J. Van Dyk

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas. Home of the NextWar Blog