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This is from our archives, the 2012 reflection on D-Day.

Today’s military is an urgent place. Exclamation marks, capitalization, asterisks, and all sorts of extra accoutrements of PowerPoint panic or Outlook outrage are used to signal that yes, the supplementary quarterly alcohol awareness training is critical to ship’s readiness. As we have turned inward in a time of relative maritime peace, trading many of our helmets for hardhats, terms such as I(Insurv)-minus 400 have replaced the likes of D-Day and H-Hour. However, many approach these administrative and maintenance challenges with greater trepidation and anxiety than any young GI waiting in the landing craft with his rifle.

Today let us remember that exactly 70 years ago roughly 500,000 teenagers stormed through the bloody foam of a pounding surf into the mouth of German guns and likely death. The urgency was real, as men traded their lives for liberty in the most gruesome of ways. On this day, men were blown apart in their own landing craft before the shore. Soldiers drowned under the weight of their own packs in water shallower than a public pool. Waves of dedicated men lost everything they had before even setting foot on the continent they had resolved to save. With a mixture of fear and resolution, an entire generation of boys became old men in a matter of hours.


It is well that Memorial Day, Midway, and D-Day come within such close proximity to one another; In our fast-paced world where agitation and consternation can be transmitted at the speed of an email or a cellphone call, it’s a concentrated reminder of the young man huddled behind an anti-tank caltrop. Surrounded by the dead and halfway there, he has no radio, no phone, and no way to communicate his fears; he concentrates on his shipmates, solutions, and survival. He -knows- for what cause he wears his uniform. There is no room for complaint, as enough whining is being done by the bullets, bombs, and mortar rounds falling all around. However, he does take a moment to throw up a prayer, SUBJ: Re:URGENT.

PTP Response: Levels of Interaction, the Historical Approach and the Public Mind

This post was provided by Dr. John T. Kuehn in response to the series on CIMSEC and The Bridge, Personal Theories of Power. Dr. Kuehn is a member of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College faculty and the author of Agents of Innovation: The General Board and the Design of the Fleet that Defeated the Japanese Navy and A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century.

It is just here that the Institute might render important service to the profession by enlightening the public mind of the Navy on this subject, through the medium of essays and frequent discussions. — Admiral Stephen B. Luce, 1888, annual address as President of the U.S. Naval Institute

My personal theory of power, at least for the moment, has two parts. The first part comes from an idea broached by Mark Mandeles known as “levels of analysis.” The second part has to do with my own approach to exercising such power in ethical and, hopefully, altruistic ways in my own life through education, specifically educating minds to include the historical perspective. In other words, the theory followed by its application and execution in my own case.

Levels of Power — An Analysis

First, levels of analysis describe human interactions in terms of relationships. Generally, these levels fall into three groups: the individual, organizational, and institutional. Institutions are near the very top of social hierarchies and, in the words of Douglass North are, “society’s rules of the game.”[i] Translating this to a personal level, each human interaction occurs within these sorts of contexts and, therefore, for each of us, each interaction—as an individual, as a member of an organization or small cohesive team, and as a member of a larger institution—is pregnant with both possibility and limitation, occasionally leading to brilliant success or utter catastrophe. We influence others, wield our power as it were, in these situations and in different ways. Most interactions are at the personal level, but within teams and organizations, we behave a bit differently based, again, on the possibilities and limitations of our personal influence in that particular context. For example, parents exercise individual level power all the time with their children. At the organizational level we often think of our team, unit, or organization associated with employment. As one’s responsibility increases, so does the level of interaction and the ability to exercise personal power at the organizational level. However, for the audience that is probably reading this, we have folks who occasionally (or more often) exercise their power within institutional settings, as leaders of powerful institutions—for example Admiral Jonathan Greenert exercising his influence and authority as the US Navy service chief or David Petraeus when he was director of the CIA.

Education of the Historical Perspective

Back in the turbulent 20th Century an American historian named Thomas Bailey wrote A Diplomatic History of the American People. Bailey argued that the American people, through the power of public opinion, have always (one might say traditionally) exerted a profound influence on the foreign policy of the United States.[ii] This raises the issue of how does one influence the public opinion of the American people? N.A.M. Rodger dealt extensively with how the public mind is influenced by historical narratives and myths. He found that, contrary to perhaps conventional wisdom, Americans do use history to inform their public thinking, but that most of this history is flawed, wrong, or obscures what might have value coming to grips with the human past.[iii] I contend that the historical approach to influencing the public mind is not something that needs doing, rather it is something that needs doing correctly.

For Clausewitz and Mahan theory literally was study.

Minds as different and culturally divergent at Carl von Clausewitz, A.T. Mahan, and Mao Zedong all shared one trait in common when it came to military theory—theory should include study and when it came to war that study should be military history. For Clausewitz and Mahan theory literally was study.[iv] It is all well and good for the military professional to create his or her own theory by doing this (precisely what this series of articles is doing, after all), but how does this translate in power and influence? One means is through education, and not just military professionals or governmental elites, but the public. They get a vote.

For me it involves teaching, engaging if you will, with history as a means to educate the public mind—with individuals, groups, and in larger settings, at all levels. And so I teach primarily military and political history—at Fort Leavenworth, for Norwich University, at University of Kansas, for the Naval War College fleet seminar program, and frankly at any opportunity I get.

A theory is useless unless one employs it in a practical and daily manner.

[i] Friedman, Mandeles, and Hone, American and British Aircraft Carrier Development, 5-6. These authors cite Nobel Laureate Douglass C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (New York, 1993.) More recently, Mandeles acknowledges the role of Jean de Bloch’s pioneering analyses in The Future of War: Organizations as Weapons (Washington, DC, 2005) as contributing to his inspiration for the “levels of analysis” approach.

[ii] Thomas Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, Tenth Edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980).

[iii] N.A.M. Rodger, “The Perils of History,” Hattendorf Prize Lecture, Naval War College Review (October 2011): 8-15

[iv] Carl von Clausewitz said this literally in Book 2 on military theory of On War, trans. Peter Paret and Michael Howard (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 141-142; Jon T. Sumida emphasizes this aspect of both Mahan’s and Clausewitz’s theoretical approaches in Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1997) and Decoding Clausewitz (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2008), especially chapter 1. For Mao see John Shy and Thomas Collier, “Revolutionary War” in Makers of Modern Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986): 815-862.

Autonomous Submarine Drones: Cheap, Endless Patrolling

The US Navy recently announced that it will make more use of submarine drones, contracting with marine technology developer Teledyne Benthos to re-purpose the Slocum Glider as an instrument used for military activity. The contract is worth $203.7M.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, here is what the Slocum Glider is: a 5 foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle capable of moving to specific locations and descending to depths of 4,000 feet. It is driven by variable buoyancy, and it can move both horizontally and vertically.

The Slocum Glider can be programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, collecting data on its environment, surfacing to transmit to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals.

Compared to traditional methods, the drones have a relative small cost: the need for personnel and infrastructure is reduced to its minimum and the vehicle is able to work around the clock and around the calendar. It works very well: in November 2012, an autonomous glider set a Guinness World Record by traveling over 14,000 kilometers on an autonomous journey of just over one year duration!

Many Navies and ocean research organizations already use a wide variety of gliders, which cost around $100,000. But the US Navy now plans to increase the number of those drones from 65 to 150 by 2015. In its 2015 budget request, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency even claimed for $19 million to develop drones “that can provide non-lethal effects or situational awareness over large maritime areas.” This represents a spending increase of nearly 60 percent over 2014!

The good news for us is that these submarine drones, unlike the majority of airborne drones, won’t use environmentally unfriendly fuel. Instead, the glider is propelled by the thermocline, which is thermal energy found between the upper and lower mixed layers of sea water. The upper surface has a near atmospheric temperature while the deep water ocean has a temperature situated between 2 and 4 °C.

Those new submarine drones can be used to predict the weather by collecting an enormous amount of data at various spots in the ocean. In 2011, a US Government Accountability Office report warned that without improvements to their earth-monitoring capabilities, the USA would “not be able to provide key environmental data that are important for sustaining climate and space weather measurements”; data for warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods would then be less accurate and timely. This led the US Navy to make a deal to share the Navy Ocean Forecast System software with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.

But that’s not all: another autonomous submarine drone, the Bluefin-21, created by the American company Bluefin Robotics, has scanned just over 300 square kilometers of Indian Ocean seabed searching for the wreckage of the lost Malaysian plane, whichdisappeared from radar screens on 8th March. The drone was launched from the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield.

Bluefin-21 is an autonomous underwater vehicle, 4.93 meters long and 53 centimeters in diameter, specially designed for detection, recognition and statements in the seabed.It is capable of carrying various sensors and payloads. This technology, called side-scan sonar, builds a picture of the seabed at a 4500 meters depth.

This drone also has a significant autonomy, 25 hours at 3 knots average, which allows it to achieve extended underwater missions.It weighs 750pounds, which makes it easily transportable by a wide range of boats.

From all this, it is clear that submarine drones will become an important part of the navies’ equipment!

Alix Willimez

A Reflection on the “Personal Theories of Power”

This is the final post in the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint BridgeCIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

When Rich Ganske first mentioned the idea of writing about personal theories of power, I wasn’t immediately on board. I viewed it as a lot of work for a few posts, mostly done by friends who would provide content out of loyalty. I could not have been more wrong. With Rich heading the concept, we quickly sketched out some possible topics people could cover. Air power and land power, of course…we could each cover those. We then started thinking about others that tended to inhabit the blogosphere and might be willing to produce some interesting ideas. We knew more than a few eloquent navalists, so sea power would be covered. They also provided us with a valuable link to another great blogging organization, the Center for International Maritime Security, which agreed to cross-post the articles, opening up another avenue to a well-informed audience. With the domains largely addressed, we then took a different tact; we came up with writers first, allowing them to develop their own topics…ending up with 16 possible posts. We expected to actually deliver 4-5 by the short deadline provided. Fourteen arrived for publication, including:

And for those that are counting, Rich Ganske did provide 3 posts for this series (including his opening)…he was that committed. While the quantity of the posts was truly unexpected, the quality was what impressed me. The authors truly took the time to think through their desired topics and addressed their views on them. It probably didn’t hurt that the authors were either in the midst of studying the topic or immersed in it from day to day.

What really made this project a success, at least in my mind, was the obvious enthusiasm and professionalism the participants displayed. How many people do you know would volunteer time out of their already busy schedules to study, write, edit, and format a piece on theory? How many people do you know would find not only value in such a pursuit, but be excited about it? Are these people you already know? Could you call them out of the blue and make such a request?

Leveraging relationships, and even loose ties, is not new when it comes to accomplishing intellectual tasks. Last year an organization, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, was created to leverage just such relationships to benefit our military services and those that serve in them. In a post-event article, a few of the founding members addressed the topic of informal networks and their worth:

One solution [to the obstacles of creating] is to form informal networks outside formal organizational structures in which innovative thinking can occur. That can be as simple as a few friends drawing sketches on bar napkins or trying new tactics, techniques, and procedures on the training range. Over time, these ad hoc networks can push ideas back into formal channels. Military journals provide formalized but still peripheral networks in which innovators can inject fresh thinking into the mainstream.

Sometimes these ad hoc networks take on a life of their own, relentlessly pushing new thinking on a stale organization. In some cases, the organization eventually recognizes their value and draws them in. Such was the case with the German General Gerhard von Scharnhorst, who was eventually entrusted with reforming the Prussian military after the disastrous battle at Jena. In addition to creating the professional military staff, Scharnhorst and his network acquainted the world with a promising Prussian officer named Carl von Clausewitz. In other cases, these networks of “Young Turks” are less welcome. Billy Mitchell was ultimately court-martialed for his intemperate advocacy of airpower in the interwar years. Fortunately for his fellow airmen, the development of airpower theory was able to continue through the 1930s in the Air Corps Tactical School, a formal structure that nonetheless had enough autonomy to stay under the radar. Although airpower still faced a painful learning curve in World War II, the pre-war activities of these loyal dissidents laid the groundwork for airpower to develop into a finely honed instrument of war.

The same is true of our personal theories; others may have previously addressed all of the topics we published in this series…and in far greater detail than the 1,500 words with which I constrained our authors. However, the value of each of us delving into our own personal views is that it starts a conversation…and by doing so, it creates more relationships to sharpen the theory, improve the argument, and hopefully strengthen the ability for application.

Based on the feedback I’ve received so far for many of the posts, that conversation is happening. Relationships are being built. Others are being encouraged to write their own theories, or reactions to those they’ve read. In the coming days you’ll see a few of those posts; I hope they continue to drive the conversation and build even more relationships.

In addition to the great output provided by the authors, The Bridge was lucky to not only have the intellectual drive provided by Rich Ganske for this project, but the encouragement and advice of Mikhail Grinberg, as well as the technical copy editing skills of Tim Wolfe. Without the work of many people, this series could not have occurred. If you’d like to join us on The Bridge, we’re simply a note away.