Tag Archives: United States

Support Our Diplomats

The events occurring throughout North Africa and elsewhere have sparked invective between many opposing sides on many issues. Any comment I could make on the strategic or policy implications of the tragic past 48 hours wouldn’t rise above the din of voices clamoring to control the narrative of the assaults on our embassies in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere. Public dignity should move us to memorialize those who have given their lives in the line of duty, and Rear Admiral Foggo does a better job than I could ever do over at the USNI Blog. If any immediate lesson should be drawn from our collective loss, it’s that we need to move beyond supporting the troops and re-think our approach to celebrating public service.

America has become used to supporting the military over this past decade of war. Many Americans quietly give time, money, and other services to support servicemembers who are wounded, in dire financial straits, or just because they wear the cloth of the nation. This is a good thing – it speaks to a culture of dignity, humility, and generosity that forms an important, but oft-ignored, part of American character.

But when I go to the movies and receive a military discount, or when I get head-of-the-line privileges in an airport security line, or when I’m in uniform and someone picks up a bar tab for me, I wonder why we don’t accord the same benefits to other public servants. Retired Army Colonel Paul Yingling expressed a similar thought in a Washginton Post op-ed late last year:

The iconic, life-preserving figures of the post-9/11 era — soldiers, police officers, firefighters — certainly deserve the adulation they receive. However, security is merely instrumental; peace and freedom make a good life possible but not inevitable. Especially in a democracy, we ought to respect most those who foster the character traits that make self-government attainable — parents and teachers, coaches and ministers, poets and protesters. When I hear the Army motto, “This We’ll Defend,” it’s them I have in mind.

Yes, supporting members of the armed forces is important. But there are many, many Americans in dangerous or difficult postings across the globe, and their lives are often a great risk. The Libya case proves this clearly. I’ve worked with many Foreign Service Officers during my career and greatly respect their professionalism as they fulfill important duties with little thanks. The most recent issue of Proceedings discusses ways that Foreign Service Officers and the Navy can work together more closely. Secretary Gates repeatedly made calls to increase State Department funding during his time in office. Diplomats make important sacrifices for the United States, so why is the military one of the few groups that recognizes this? I don’t think the public wants to ignore this kind of public service. Is it because that, unlike the armed forces, there are no political constituencies that support the State Department? Since they wear a coat and tie, is that why they’re unlikely to have a bar tab paid by a philanthropic stranger?

My message is simple: Support our Diplomats. The professionals in the foreign service components of the Departments of State, Agriculture, and Commerce routinely sacrifice – and too often make the ultimate sacrifice – to support our nation. Service is service. To citizens who value the armed forces: think about ways you can support other kinds of public service in your community and across the globe.

LT Kurt Albaugh, USN is President of the Center for International Maritime Security, a Surface Warfare Officer and Instructor in the U.S. Naval Academy’s English Department. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Ice-basing the Arctic

So the trappings of life under the thumb of your home country have finally forced you to the seas. Why not strike out to the pristine, untouched mineral-rich reaches of the Arctic? Climate change in the far north may soon open the long-sought Northwest Passage which will allow ships summer time passage from Europe to Asia a fraction of the travel time. Oil exploration is booming with all the big oil companies vying for their slice of the pie. Increased shipping capacity could mean a black gold mine for your tiny floating kingdom, if you can find a place to put it.

This map shows just how complicated the Arctic seascape really is.  Russia has already planted their flag at the North Pole sealed in a titanium capsule.  They are still working out the particulars on the definition of their continental shelf, which may validate their claim of the pole and a huge swath of the frozen north.  But don’t forget, once clear of Russian claims you still have to contend with Danish, Norwegian, Canadian, U.S. and Icelandic territory.  A sea-based nation could benefit from partnership with any of these nations for security and export potential, assuming any of them would be interested in having a little neighbor to the north. 

An Arctic sea-base would mean a harsh existence for its inhabitants. Long periods of cold and darkness would require advanced climate control. Keeping the whole thing afloat on or amid constantly shifting polar ice and occasional liquid water would require clever flotation systems.  Yet all the expense of setting up this sea-base will be worth it.  Others have made significant investment with seemingly impractical logistical hurdles but still continue to make the far north work, there is such a huge economic incentive to do so.  

Creating a sea based nation in the Arctic could provide a tiny floating country with vast mineral wealth and, if the climate models pan out, an easy way of getting it to market. And as of this writing, the Somali pirate threat to the Arctic is pretty much non-existent, good news for security. 

Why the U.S. Should Embrace Seasteading

In search of the pioneer spirit and a Compact of Free Association

Sea-based Nations (SBNs) are only a small manifestation of much larger trends in the post-Westphalian world.  Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and panarchists have long discussed different options – from colonizing the sea or space to simply creating non-territorial nations – as alternatives to the current nation-state system.

 

These aspirations found a home amongst Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires, with Peter Thiel, one of the co-founders of Paypal, at the forefront.  Peter initially built Paypal to be a new, international currency similar to Bitcoin, but was hindered by legislation.  Nonetheless, the aspiration to create non-state options remains – and more importantly, those pursuing such this vision seem to have both the brainpower and the money to bring it to fruition.

 

Hence, operating on the assumption that new states will at some point appear in one shape or another, it’s in the interests of the U.S. to embrace them rather than alienate them.  And, we have a golden opportunity to do so through the seasteading movement.  Even though Peter Thiel & Co are libertarians seeking to escape the grips of the government, they’re also U.S. citizens and affluent, having contributed a great deal to the U.S. economy and its corporate leverage around the world.  As Ian Sundstrom pointed out in his post on the subject, “Who would benefit most from Seasteading?” every ocean-going vessel must fly the flag of an existing nation.  It would be tempting for libertarians to choose a country with basically no law – let’s say Somalia – but if the U.S. Government offers some degree of legislative autonomy in combination with a security pact, that’s likely to be a more tempting option.

 

Experiments of this sort have been continuing in the U.S. for hundreds of years, the best-known example being the Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous Native Tribal territory occupying parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.  The Navajo Nation has its own constitution and laws, but the United States still asserts plenary power.  Likewise the U.S. and many small Pacific maritime entities have entered into various forms of Compacts of Free Association, providing near-autonomy and legal and foreign defense in exchange for relatively small set of prescribed laws and limitations on their actions.  Somaliland is another interesting experiment of semi-autonomous semi-anarchism that works, in the regional context, surprisingly well.  To be sure, there are plenty of areas of potential conflict between the U.S. Government and new SBNs in addition to the host of other problems previous CIMSEC bloggers duly pointed out – including security, international competition etc.  However, there are also many benefits.  It’s easy to see the pragmatic possibilities of expansion in the seas for overcrowded nations or those threatened by rising sea levels, as well as the worth of strategic outposts for others.  But the core benefit for America is vastly different in my opinion…

 

Corporations are people…and nation-states too?

America is a pioneering nation, which was built on the virtue of individual entrepreneurs innovating and exploring.  Now these individual have taken that spirit of innovation and seek to apply it to new forms of governance.  As Randy Hencken, the Director of the Seasteading Institute, mentioned in his CIMSEC interview earlier this week, seasteads might provide the ideal opportunity to test new governance models.  The traditional form of the nation-state is slowly losing its momentum due to globalization, which helps humans bypass the controls of and necessities for states, we want to be on the leading edge of what comes next – however the post-Westphalian transition happens.  It may be seasteading, or it may be other forms of governments – and in whatever shape or color they come, they’ll still need to work with, and to a degree rely on, current nation states.  The seasteading movement is in its very early, shaky phase, and now is the ideal time for the U.S. Government to lend it a hand, work to form coherent legislation, and help the movement to influence international conventions.  Just like the pioneers once discovered America, it’s now time to discover other forms of governance.

 

Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof (CEO, Shabakat Corporation and President, SIC Group) is a Swedish research and communications entrepreneur.  She began a strategic communication company carrying out campaigns for the U.S. Military in Afghanistan, Wise Strategic Communication (WSC), and started a second company in Libya and Egypt, Shabakat Corporation, during the Arab Spring. 

Divers Find Sunken WWII German U-boat off Nantucket

Side-scan sonar image of U-550 from GK Consulting & AWS Expeditions.

Divers using side-scan sonar on Monday found the wreck of U-550This discovery is a reminder that the oceans that flank America, and have often shielded the nation from the direct wrath of enemies, are not impregnable. 

NBC news provides an account of the naval action that sent the U-boat to the bottom:

On April 16, 1944, the U-550 torpedoed the gasoline tanker SS Pan Pennsylvania, which had lagged behind its protective convoy as it set out with 140,000 barrels of gasoline for Great Britain, according to the U.S. Coast Guard website and research by Mazraani.

 

The U-boat slipped under the doomed tanker to hide. But one of the tanker’s three escorts, the USS Joyce, saw it on sonar and severely damaged it by dropping depth charges.

 

The Germans, forced to surface, manned their deck guns while another escort vessel, the USS Gandy, returned fire and rammed the U-boat. The third escort, the USS Peterson, then hit the U-boat with two more depth charges. The crew abandoned the submarine, but not before setting off explosions to scuttle it. The submarine hadn’t been seen again until Monday.

Crew of the U-550 abandon ship.

The American ships were destroyer escorts (DEs) of Escort Division 22 and manned by Coast Guard crews plus the Gandy, a Navy DE. The surviving German crew were taken to Great Britain.