Category Archives: Book Review

Reviews of recent and upcoming foreign policy and maritime books of merit.

Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Southeast Asia

Richard A. Mobley and Edward J. Marolda, Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Southeast AsiaNaval History and Heritage Command, 2016, 102 pp.

By LCDR Mark Munson, USN

Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Asia by Richard A. Mobley and Edward J. Marolda is the seventh book in the Naval History and Heritage Command’s The U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War series, and addresses the role of U.S. Navy intelligence in the Vietnam War. It serves as useful reference for both students of the Vietnam War and Navy intelligence, illuminating both the drastic technological changes that have taken place over the last 50 years, as well as the unchanging nature of core intelligence principles. Determining what information commanders need, and figuring out how to get them that finished intelligence at the right time and in the right format remains the essence of how to do intelligence right.

Many of the ways in which the U.S. Navy conducted intelligence operations during Vietnam would be familiar to practitioners today, with the Integrated Operational Intelligence Center (IOIC) onboard a Vietnam-era carrier the direct ancestor of today’s Carrier Intelligence Center (CVIC), spaces in which intelligence from a variety of sources, including data from national, theater, and carrier air wing (CVW) sensors and feeds are fused to provide what the Navy calls “Operational Intelligence.”

Demonstrating the continuity of all-source intelligence analysis between then and now, the all-source techniques Vietnam-era analysts used to track illicit civilian shipping had originally been perfected during the Second World War. During Operation Market Time, the U.S. Navy’s interdiction campaign in the South China Sea against trawlers smuggling weapons from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, naval intelligence used what Mobley and Marolda describe as a “sophisticated analytical and interpretive process” and techniques like “pattern analysis,” to achieve “a comprehensive understanding of what routes the infiltrating ships would take and what sites on the coast of South Vietnam they would attempt to reach.”

During Vietnam the Navy experimented both with methods where imagery collected during airborne reconnaissance missions was exploited onboard the carrier in the IOIC, as well as what is now called “reachback,” with analysts at the Fleet Intelligence Center Pacific Facility (FICPAC) in Hawaii exploiting imagery during Operation Rolling Thunder early in the war, or at the Fleet Intelligence Center Pacific Facility (FICPACFAC) at Cubi Point in the Philippines later during the bombing of North Vietnam during 1972’s Operation Linebacker. Teams of FICPACFAC imagery analysts “operated around the clock processing raw intelligence photography, interpreting it, and using it to prepare targeting lists” during Linebacker. Navy support to targeting efforts during Linebacker played a vital role to operations such as the air campaign that stopped North Vietnam’s conventional invasion of the South, and the mining of Haiphong Harbor.

Unlike today, however, when reachback is enabled by robust wireless and satellite communications, the state of technology at that time meant that unexploited imagery had to be physically couriered from the various sites afloat and ashore in Southeast Asia to Hawaii and back, demonstrating the old intelligence truism that even the best intelligence collection has no impact if cannot get to an analyst who can exploit and then disseminate it to the right decision-maker in a timely and usable form. This dilemma was demonstrated most acutely during Rolling Thunder, which featured rules-of-engagement requiring the Joint Staff at the Pentagon to approve strikes, meaning that wet film of targets like Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites would have to be flown back to the carrier, recovered from the plane, exploited by imagery analysts, transmitted to Washington, and then approved as targets. This lumbering process often allowed the enemy to move their SAM batteries well before an attack was mounted. In this instance the combination of technological limitations and cumbersome command-and-control processes limited the effectiveness of U.S. airpower. It also serves as a reminder for how the current reliance on wireless communications presents vulnerabilities that can be exploited by savvy adversaries that challenge U.S. use of the electromagnetic spectrum by degrading dissemination of intelligence from the analyst to the consumer.

The employment of manned airborne reconnaissance platforms from even before the start of the war demonstrates the desire for better intelligence by both commanders in theater and national leaders during Vietnam, with carrier-based aircraft conducting what is now called Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions being suffering casualties over Laos as early as June 1964. 32 planes from the Navy’s photo-reconnaissance squadrons were eventually shot down during war, with seven pilots killed and five captured. These comparatively heavy losses are possibly the biggest human difference between ISR in Vietnam and the current set of wars prosecuted by the U.S. in the twenty-first century. The extreme risks that North Vietnam’s advanced Soviet air defense network posed to aviators flying manned reconnaissance platforms then contrasts greatly with the virtually threat-free environment that today’s aerial reconnaissance platforms enjoy as they operate with impunity in the skies above places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just like today, signals intelligence (SIGINT) can be collected both in the air and afloat, with support during Vietnam from Naval Security Group cryptologists embarked in Navy ships off the coast, and airborne SIGINT collection conducted from P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft during Operation Market Time.

Navy collectors of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) in Vietnam included Naval Intelligence Liaison Officers (NILO) serving as part of Naval Intelligence Field Organization (NIFO) in Vietnam’s coastal and riverine zones. Perhaps the most impressive HUMINT success took place in 1969 when Navy collection was able to prove that North Vietnam was moving weapons and personnel into the South via Cambodia. This was a victory against both the enemy as well as the national intelligence bureaucracy. Previous technical collection had failed to prove the existence of a Cambodian transshipment node, and strongly-held assessments by CIA, DIA, and the State Department had rejected suspicions that support to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong was being funneled through Cambodia.

Perhaps some of the most insightful observations made in Knowing the Enemy is when it recounts how the desire for better intelligence on the intentions of the North Vietnamese, Chinese, and Soviet rivals of the U.S. ended up driving both military operations and political events, instead of the reverse. Although the U.S. had been involved in the fight in Southeast Asia since the French had been forced out of its former Indochinese colony in the mid-1950s, the main trigger for the “official” start of the war was actually caused by the push for more aggressive intelligence collection.

By the early sixties, U.S. Navy destroyers were regularly conducting intelligence collection missions called “DESOTO patrols,” typically off the coast but outside the territorial waters of the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. By 1964 U.S. leaders were pushing for more aggressive DESOTO patrols in order to support South Vietnam’s “Operation 34A” commando raids against North Vietnamese coastal targets. Admiral Harry D. Felt, then serving as Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), stated that the “lack of adequate intelligence is a prime factor in the failure of maritime operations,” concluding that Operation 34A needed better U.S. Navy afloat collection to be successful.

The pressure to improve collection by operating U.S. Navy ships closer to the North Vietnamese coast, sometime inside of territorial waters, led directly to the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident in which the destroyers Maddox (DD-731) and Turner Joy (DD-951), were purportedly attacked by the North Vietnamese Navy, providing the justification for the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the closest thing to an actual “start” of the Vietnam War. The authors briefly discuss the controversy over exactly what happened in August 1964, and how intelligence reporting and analysis of those events at the time were used by the Johnson administration to justify a greatly expanded role in Vietnam, noting that “it is now clear that North Vietnamese naval units did not attack Maddox and Turner Joy on 4 August 1964.”

Knowing the Enemy highlights heroes such as Jack Graf, a decorated NILO who, after being shot down during his second tour in Vietnam, escaped from captivity but ultimately went missing; Lieutenant Charles F. Klusmann, a reconnaissance pilot who was shot down over Laos in 1964 but was able to escape; and Captain Earl F. “Rex” Rectanus, the Intelligence Officer for Naval Forces Vietnam (NAVFORV) who stood up to CIA and DIA in 1969, proving that enemy forces were being resupplied via Cambodia. It also includes sections discussing more prosaic challenges like those faced by cryptologists located ashore at bases like Danang who underwent frequent rocket attacks from Viet Cong rebels.

Knowing the Enemy provides a rich resource for those interested in U.S. Naval intelligence efforts in Vietnam, covering the war both chronologically and thematically in terms of how intelligence supported Navy operations off the coast, in the air, on the ground, and in the rivers of southeast Asia. It can be downloaded for free from the Naval History and Heritage Command’ website.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a naval officer assigned to Coastal Riverine Group TWO. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Featured Image: Ben Cat, South Vietnam, Sept. 25, 1965 by french photographer Henry Huet. The soldiers in the photo are paratroopers of the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade. (Colorized by Wayne Degan)

Hunter Killer: The War with China – The Battle for the Central Pacific

Poyer, David. Hunter Killer: The War with China – The Battle for the Central Pacific. New York City, St. Martin’s Press, 2017, 320 pp. $27.99.

By Michael DeBoer

In Hunter Killer, David Poyer adds a volume to his most famous series, the Tales of the Modern Navy, following his signature character, Daniel Lenson, through intense combat in the Western Pacific. The work, 310 pages in all, is organized into chapters of roughly fifteen pages, each following one of four characters; Lenson, now an admiral commanding a Task Force; SOCM Oberg, a prisoner in Western China; Hector, an immigrant Marine recruit pressed into service in exchange for citizenship; and Lenson’s wife Blair – a policymaker in the Defense Department. The book flows quickly and returns most of the major characters of the Poyer’s previous novel in this series, Onslaught.

Whereas Onslaught, contrary to its name, featured more of a slow-burn run up to major combat, Hunter Killer, contrasting the image of a cerebral and vicious combatant, forwards the beginning of the cataclysm. This takes the form of a Western Pacific where men and units are fed into the maw of combat between two great powers of a poorly-led United States and a militant and expansionist China. The major unit of action is Lenson’s Task Force 76. Like his namesake, a good man in crisis, the story begins with Lenson’s temporary flag promotion to command the amphibious/sea control task force centered on an LHA reconfigured for ASW. Lenson’s command is sent into a central-Pacific hornet’s nest of PRC submarines in a desperate attempt to open sea lanes to the U.S. West Coast and solidify the faltering American logistical train. Inside the engagement envelopes of the Chinese attack-boats, TF-76 (included in it Lenson’s former command Savo Island) fights for life against submarine-launched torpedoes and missiles while trying to maintain the cohesion of the far-flung task force.

Meanwhile, SOCM Oberg begins a horrific trek across the Tan Shian mountains, hauling a rag tag group of escapees and a horribly crippled leg away from a Chinese forced labor camp. Simultaneously, a new character, a Marine recruit named Hector, conducts infantry training with his newfound friends in the Southern California desert prior to shipping out on a risky attack at a vulnerable point in China’s fortress. All this while Lenson’s wife struggles to produce cogent policy against a backdrop of cognitively poor general and flag officers and divisive policy makers. The story is in many ways visceral, the combat fast and furious, and the objectives almost impossible.

One of the most enjoyable portions of Poyer’s work is his strong sense of history. Poyer is clearly well-read, and one can see many of  influences in his work. First, the author is practically begging his readers to pick up James Hornfischer’s Neptune’s Inferno, and both Onslaught and Hunter-Killer feature imagery and emotions of the nouveau-classic. Oberg’s trek through the mountains is reminiscent of Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato, although devoid of the magical realism of the seminal Vietnam-era work. Finally, Lenson’s experiences are vaguely familiar to his namesake’s. Nelson, like Lenson, found himself in increasingly more difficult situations, ending famously at Trafalgar, where it appears the series is headed, in a massive firestorm. Moreover, Nelson and Lenson, in their early careers, were aggressive commanders who lived by the axiom “no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.” Like Nelson, Lenson’s thinking has evolved. He thinks more efficiently, more cerebrally as he makes difficult tactical decisions. Poyer does an excellent job of describing the burdens of command, operating with incomplete information while gambling with subordinates’ lives while attempting to accomplish almost impossible tasks with inadequate resources through the opaque lens of exhaustion.

Finally, Poyer’s volume is a warning.  Through the authenticity of his writing, he reminds the reader that in great power war, technical prowess is not guaranteed, logistics drive operational necessity, at least in a war fought in the Pacific’s vast expanse, that such a war will require the entirety of national effort in a way that this nation has largely forgotten and may be incapable of waging, and that such a war may be closer than many think.  If you liked Ghost Fleet, you’ll love this book, but unlike August Cole and Peter Singer’s work that introduces technical issues through the prism of a story, Poyer approaches war from a historian’s perspective: as the ultimate test of human will regardless of era or technology. 

Michael DeBoer is a Naval Officer and frequent book reviewer for CIMSEC.

Featured Image: Artwork for Battlefield 4. 

Plaster The Ship With Paint – Dazzle & Deception in War

James Taylor, Dazzle: Disguise and Deception in War and Art. Naval Institute Press, 2016. 128 pages, $38.00/hardcover.

By Christopher Nelson

There is a fun little ditty in the last page of James Taylor’s book, Dazzle: Disguise and Deception in War and Art. It goes like this:

Captain Schmidt at his periscope,
You need not fall and faint,
For it’s not the vision of drug or dope,
But only the dazzle-paint.
And you’re done, you’re done, my pretty Hun.
You’re done in the big blue eye,
By painter-men with a sense of fun,
And their work has just gone by.
Cheero! A convoy safely by.

British composer George Frederic Norton wrote the tune for a close friend and fellow artist. The friend? His name was Norman Wilkinson. And more than anyone, he was responsible for one of the most iconic painting schemes on ships at sea. Known simply as “Dazzle,” or “Dazzle paint,”  it was a mixture of different shapes and colors covering the hull and superstructure of merchants and combatants, primarily in World War I, intended to deceive German submarine captains about a ship’s heading and speed.     

Yet years before World War I, Wilkinson established himself as a talented artist. Born into a large family in the late 19th century, in Cambridge, England, he moved to the southern part of the country as a young boy. It was there, in Southsea, England, that his artistic talents flourished. And like many artists, he benefited from the good graces of a well-connected benefactor. In Wilkinson’s case, it was his doctor. But not just any doctor. His doctor was the creator of  Sherlock Holmes –Arthur Conan Doyle. The famous author and physician introduced Wilkinson to the publisher of The Idler, a popular British magazine at the time. Wilkinson would go on to create some illustrations for The Idler and Today magazine. These illustrations were the first of many commissioned paintings, drawings, and posters to come. Landscapes, maritime themes, planes and trains, Norman Wilkinson would end up painting them all.

Author and Physician, Sherlock Holmes supported Norman Wilkinson’s early entry into English periodicals

In fact, military naval enthusiasts – and more than a few naval intelligence officers – might be surprised to learn that Wilkinson was later responsible for the World War II poster that depicted a sinking ship with the disclaimer: “A few careless words may end in this.” The poster is obviously a close cousin to the popular American military idiom, “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships,” a piece of operations security art by Seymour R. Goff (who had the interesting nom de guerre “Ess-ar-gee”) that was created for the American War Advertising Council in World War II. Prints of Goff’s work still cover the walls and passageways of U.S. naval shore facilities and ships today.

A Few Careless Words May End in This, by Norman Wilkinson/Wikipedia

When World War I began, Wilkinson, like thousands of British men, wanted to join up and, as the saying goes, “do his bit.” Eventually, he was assigned as a naval pay clerk and deployed to the Mediterranean theater in 1915. But by 1917 he was back in Britain, and Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare. It was around this time that Wilkinson had an idea to protect merchant shipping. And as with so many great ideas, often hatched during the quiet, daily moments of life, Dazzle was born, not in a boardroom or on a chalkboard, but in a “cold carriage” following a fishing trip in southern England.  

Here Taylor quotes Wilkinson:

“On my way back to Devonport in the early morning, in an extremely cold carriage, I suddenly got the idea that since it was impossible to paint a ship so that she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer – in other words, to paint her, not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as to the course which she was heading.”

A few months later, with support from the Royal Academy of Arts, a friend in the Ministry of Shipping, and a few others, the “Dazzle Section” was created. Staffed with artists and modelers (many of them women), they were responsible for paint schemes that covered over 4,000 merchant ships and 400 combatants by the end of the war.  

Taylor does a fantastic job at detailing the personalities and the process that got Dazzle from Wilkinson’s mind onto the hulls of so many ships. Taylor discusses the numerous other artists that helped bring Wilkinson’s idea to fruition, the introduction of Dazzle to the U.S. Navy, and its brief return in World War II. He also highlights the dispute between Wilkinson and Sir John Graham Kerr, a professor of zoology at the University of Glasgow who for years claimed that he, not Wilkinson, should deserve credit for the creation of the dazzle concept. Taylor notes that Kerr “relentlessly campaigned to advance his claim that his scheme was in principle one and the same as Wilkinsons.”   

Camouflage pattern for Benson class destroyer in WWII/Wikipedia

Taylor’s Dazzle, besides succeeding in substance, also succeeds in style. About the size of a composition notebook, Dazzle is large enough to show illustrations of the paint scheme on merchant ships and combatants in clear detail, while it also includes photographs of the artists in the Dazzle sections at work. Hunched over large tables holding small models in their hands, artists carefully painted various Dazzle schemes on each model. Once the model ship was painted they placed it in what they called the “theatre.” This was no more than a room with a table and periscope. The model was placed a circular table and rotated, while another person looked through a periscope that was about seven feet away. “In this way, one could judge the maximum distortion one was trying to achieve in order to upset a submarine Commander’s idea on which the ship was moving.”  The colors that covered the model were then meticulously copied onto a color chart that was provided to the contractors who covered the ships in dazzle designs.

Yet the question still remains: Did Dazzle paint work? Did it deceive U-boat commanders? A small painted model in a theatre is one thing, but out at sea is something entirely different. 

Unfortunately, as Taylor says, we really don’t know. Dazzle painting was introduced late in the war. Naval critic Archibald Hurd noted that there was not “enough evidence” to determine its “efficiency.” Nor, as Taylor notes, did any captured German submarine captains say that Dazzle confounded their targeting of enemy vessels. A single sentence in a submarine log or captain’s diary –Verdammt die Tarnfarbe! – would be an indictment, but if it exists, it has yet to be discovered by naval historians.

Dazzle was intended to deceive U-boats about the ship’s speed and course/U.S. Navy File Image

Taylor, the former curator of paintings, drawings, prints and exhibition organizer at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, has written a book that does justice to Wilkinson’s work. The talented Dazzle artists would probably be amazed to see how far his paint scheme has come – as Taylor includes an entire chapter about Dazzle painting’s influence on modern art and how the big blocks of paint now cover cars and even Nike footwear.

My only critique is a request really, that the publishers make this book available in an e-book format for people who prefer the work on an electronic reader.

Regardless, Taylor’s detailed account of Dazzle, his careful selection of photographs, illustrations, and paintings, all printed and bound in a beautiful book is essential for anyone interested in the history of naval deception, World War I navies, or the rare but respected breed who enjoys the intersection of war and art. 

Lieutenant Commander Christopher Nelson, USN, is stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Navy’s operational planning school, the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, Rhode Island. He is a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The opinions here are his own.

Featured Image: Aquitania in Dazzle Paint/Wikipedia Commons

Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans

Admiral James Stavridis (ret.), Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans. New York City: Columbia University Press, 2017, 384 pages. $18.00/hardcover.

By Chad Pillai

Since the dawn of civilization, the seas have been a part of the human story. It has shaped commerce, the spread of ideas, and even wars. When someone thinks of geography, they usually associate it with features on land and its impact on mankind. However, the seas and by extension the oceans have played a bigger role since they are nature’s super highways that have and continue to connect far flung landmasses and people together. Where the oceans have met the land, especially areas that present an opportunity to constrict movement, represent key terrain known as chokepoints for people and nations to control and benefit while denying others such privilege.

The private intelligence company known as Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) recently published a report titled “The Geopolitics of Maritime Chokepoints” that states, “Area where geography constrict movement by land or water, known as chokepoints, has been fought over time immemorial…for most of history, commerce and military ambition were limited to small localities and confined regions. In these contexts, contested chokepoints usually meant points where roads or rivers narrowed enough to allow disruption by hostile actors…while land and riverine chokepoints are still relevant to business and military planners, maritime chokepoints have taken center stage in power politics.” This precise explanation on the importance of maritime chokepoints fits well with Admiral (Retired) James Stavridis’s new book, Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans. While many cite Harold Mackinder, the twentieth century British geographer who coined the term “World Island” for Eurasia (and updated recently by Robert Kaplan as Afro-Eurasia) and the warnings associated with its dominance, the real maximum should be the nation that controls the seas and the chokepoints dominates the world. Since the end of WWII, the U.S. has been that nation.

Before I discuss Sea Power, I recommend all readers enjoy the book with a glass of scotch, or whatever libation suites them, a cigar, and a map of the world to visualize the geography and its associated history. Sea Power is part biography of Admiral Stavridis’s career in the Navy, part history of the world’s oceans influence on mankind, and part modern geopolitical analysis impacting foreign relations, global economics, and military strategy. In his opening chapter, Admiral Stravridis states his central thesis when he writes that “Some observers may not be interested in the geopolitics of the oceans, but they will haunt our policy and our choices in this turbulent twenty-first century. The oceans will matter deeply to every aspect of human endeavor.” Along those lines, George Friedman, the founder of STRATFOR and GEOPOLITICAL FUTURES, and Jacob Shapiro, wrote that “Geopolitics is the supposition that all international relationships are based on the interaction between geography and power.” The oceans as geopolitical entities has shaped mankind’s quest for power and glory throughout the ages because they have served as the highways that have linked distant civilizations and made commerce both possible and profitable between them, which caused competition and friction that have led to war. To highlight the history and geopolitics of the oceans, Admiral Stavridis takes the reader on an oceanic voyage across the world by focusing the chapters on four oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic) and three seas (Mediterranean, South China Sea, and Caribbean).

The advantage the United States has, according to Admiral Stavridis, is that it can look at the oceans from a strategic sense by elaborating that “while the essence of sea power is the connective power of the unity of the oceans into a single global commons, there are historical, cultural, political, economic, and military reasons to think about each from a strategic perspective.” The United States grapples with an increasingly complex security environment described as contested norms and persistent disorder according to the Joint Operating Environment. It is being challenged to develop a strategy to maintain the world order it established post-WWII. Admiral Stavridis provides the reader with a chapter proposing “A Naval Strategy for the Twenty-First Century.” The central premise of the strategy is that the United States, the “World Island,” enjoys a geopolitical competitive advantage over challengers such as China and Russia. Their persistent vulnerabilities from lack of warm-water ports to being enclosed by island chains and chokepoints allows the U.S. and its allies and partners to, “contain powerful nations that have concentrated their use of forces ashore, ignoring the sea out of lack of interests, or an inability to see the force of the sea power argument, or simply because the lack the geography, character, and political will to exploit the oceans.”

The Russians and the Chinese are not standing idle though when it comes to sea power as both nations have increased their investment in their naval capabilities. As I wrote previously for CIMSEC, with China opening its first overseas base in Djibouti, the critical chokepoint at the mouth of the Red Sea and Russia’s active military engagement in Syria, both are setting the conditions to potentially counter U.S. influence in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf Region. As the Joint Force continues to develop the Multi-Domain Battle Concept, there is potential to utilize maritime geography to our advantage. This ranges from employing long-range land-based surface-to-sea missiles to hold Russian and Chinese naval forces at risk (a reversal of their A2/AD concepts), exploiting vulnerabilities in undersea cables, practicing “hybrid warfare—disruption and degradation with little overt engagement,” to the employment and aggregation of land forces from multiple locations to create complex dilemmas. Admiral Stavridis states that we should follow “Mahan’s advice to keep a weather eye on the rising power of both of these potential competitors at sea and maintain the ability to defeat both.”

The author had the privilege of attending a meeting between Admiral (Retired) James Stavridis, then the Supreme Allied Commander – Europe (SACEUR) and the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (CJCS) General Joseph Dunford, then Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2013. He also had the humorous privilege of being present at NATO HQ in Brussels when former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called the Stavridis as General Stavridis while doing his best to not look shocked or surprise. (Photo courtesy of Chad Pillai)

Throughout the book and especially in his final chapter on a twenty-first century naval strategy, Admiral Stavridis balances his approach by highlighting both the dangers and opportunities for the U.S. due to its unique geographical location and how its economic, military, and political might give it the means and opportunity to shape and influence the development of regional powers across the globe. The geopolitics of the oceans, its “supposition on geography and power” stated by George Friedman and Jacob Shapiro, ensure that the oceans will play a critical role in the national security decision-making of the U.S. and other global powers. Tim Marshall in his book Prisoners of Geography succulently reinforces this proposition when he wrote that, “as the twenty-first century progresses, the geographical factors that have shaped our history will mostly continue to determine our future.”

As an Army Strategist who studies the nature of war and character of war, I have a profound appreciation of the world’s oceans and their geopolitical significance. And while I may not root for Navy during Army-Navy football games, I know full well that America’s Army cannot win without America’s Navy.

Lieutenant Colonel Chad M. Pillai is an Army Strategist stationed at Macdill Air Force Base who has previously contributed to CIMSEC with the following articles: “Counter Influence Activities to U.S. posture in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf,” “India as the Pivotal Power of the 21st Century Security Order,” and “Bear, Dragon & Eagle: Russian, Chinese & U.S. Military Strategies.” He holds a Masters in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advance International Studies (SAIS).

These views are presented in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of any government agency.

Featured Image: NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly captured this nighttime image of the Persian Gulf and Nile River, which empties into the Mediterranean amid the bright lights of Cairo and the Nile Delta. (Credit: NASA)