Category Archives: The Lighter Side

Maritime and naval stories with a dash of comedy.

Ulysses S. Grant at Endor

Written by Matthew Merighi for Movie Re-Fights Week

The Battle of Endor was the ultimate confrontation in the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a two-pronged battle both in space and on the surface of Endor. Each was a desperate race against time; the Rebel Fleet desperate holding out against the Imperial Fleet backed by a fully armed and operational Death Star laser while a strike team battled a full Imperial Legion defending the Death Star shield generator. We all know how the story ends: the plucky Rebels manage to overcome the Legion through successful use of indigenous forces and coalition warfare, allowing the Rebel Fleet to destroy the Death Star from the inside. The Death Star explodes, the evil Emperor dies, and the galaxy is finally free of tyranny. The end.

Donate to CIMSEC!

While this makes for good cinematography, it makes for poor understanding of military strategy. As the television show Robot Chicken points out, there is no reason why the Rebels should have won that battle even once the Death Star was destroyed. The Imperial Fleet was still very much intact, though down a Super Destroyer, and could have prevailed in a protracted conventional engagement. Moreover, the Emperor’s initial strategy to hold the Imperial Fleet in reserve in order to demonstrate the Death Star’s power and fuel Skywalker’s despair in his fall to the Dark Side was clumsy at best. Palpatine demonstrated what happens if you do not pay attention during strategy classes.

In crafting a better strategy at Endor, the Empire could have turned to a figure from American military history: Ulysses S. Grant. For our historically impaired audience, General Grant was the commander of Union forces during the American Civil War who distinguished himself through quasi-Soviet strategy of using superior manpower to slowly grind down the Confederacy until it surrendered. He is one of the best examples of a successful attrition-based approach to strategy and tactics. He followed the dictum that “quantity has a quality of its own.”

If Emperor Palpatine isn’t going to use his Fleet, I’d like to borrow it for a time. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
If Emperor Palpatine isn’t going to use his Fleet, I’d like to borrow it for a time. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Union’s Grand Army of the Republic (double entendre intended) exhibited the same characteristic as the Imperial Fleet: it was larger and better outfitted but less ably manned and led than its Rebel counterpart. This did the Union no favors in the early phase of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln fired Grant’s predecessor, George McClellan, for failing to act aggressively with the Union’s numeric advantage. “If General McClellan isn’t going to use his army,” Lincoln fumed, “then I would like to borrow it for a time.”

If Grant was directing operations at Endor, he would immediately engage the Rebel Fleet. He had enough numbers to overwhelm the Rebel Fleet early while they were still processing the trap the Empire laid. He also had optimal field position. The Rebel Fleet was trapped on three sides by the Death Star, Endor, and the Imperial Fleet. The Rebels were also strung out in a long column while the Imperial Fleet was in a broad line. Imperial Star Destroyers, with their superior armaments and optimization for firing at targets to their front, “crossed the T” and pummeled the ships in the Rebel vanguard before the heavy cruisers in the rear could get into good firing range.

An example of “crossing the T.” (Image from Wikipedia)
An example of “crossing the T.” (Image from Wikipedia)

Grant’s approach does have a downside: the risk of a Pyrrhic victory. The Imperial Fleet is not just a warfighting tool; it is also a tool of domestic policing. The Empire is held together through fear of the Imperial Fleet, so conventional losses at Endor could have been a political disaster when coupled with Emperor Palpatine’s death. Grant would have accepted those risks and proceeded with his strategy. He would have reasoned that, despite the short-term challenges of replacing losses, the Rebels would have much more difficulty recovering from such a slugfest than the Empire would. Grant might also have reasoned that it would be much easier to bind together a government by NOT being a pro-human racist or building giant planet-killing superweapons that would ruin the galactic economy but that is neither here nor there.

Remember strategists: focus on your most important objectives, use your advantages wisely, and don’t be afraid to take risks. If you do, you too might defeat the Rebel Fleet one day.

Matthew Merighi is CIMSEC’s Director of Publications. He is a Masters of Arts candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also a proud Star Wars nerd.

Donate to CIMSEC!

CALL FOR ARTICLES: Movie Re-Fights (Dec 14-20)

As Star Wars: The Force Awakens approaches, people are already arguing over what the nature of the new Empire, or how the Rebellion has evolved. Many are debating the nuance of how these fictional sides even fight their wars to begin with, a question that remains delightfully open ended for most fictional war movies. So, we decided to use opening week as an excuse to throw down the gauntlet!

For any film – Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, Aliens, Independence Day, Top Gun, Rambo II-IV, Battleship, Tears of the Sun, the Great Escape, Failsafe, Master & Commander  – we are looking for articles answering the time-old cinema debate: How would you have done things differently, and why? How would you have fought the battles, the firefights, executed the operations, or set your rules of engagement? How would you have negotiated the treaties or… betrayed them? Maybe you wouldn’t have done anything differently – which is another fine argument to make. Perhaps, like the insanely plausible idea that Jar-Jar is a sith lord, you have a conspiracy theory to share… no worries, we’re not picky.

There was a recent article that suggested Star Wars could “prove” an operational concept couldn’t work, but movies can’t “prove” anything. We can, however, use them as a proxy by wish to discuss our ideas on strategy, politics, and military operations.

Week Dates: 14-20 Dec 15
Articles Due: 6 Dec 15
Article Length: 500-1500 Words
Submit to: nextwar(at)cimsec(dot)org

Navy Introduces Innovation Qualification Pin

[Editor’s Note: This is satire.]

Secretary Ray Mabus discusses the new Innovation Qualification Pin in Akron, Ohio.
Secretary Ray Mabus discusses the new Innovation Qualification Pin in Akron, Ohio.

(AP Wire) At an InVenture Place event in Akron, Ohio – Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has announced the upcoming development of a Navy Innovation Qualification (IQ) Pin. The pin is intended to embrace a force-wide implementation of innovative culture and ensure navyinnovation meets the highest standard of excellence. Mabus said during his speech that, “innovation is one of the most powerful forces in the world, and it is only right that the most powerful navy seeks to harness it.” “With the necessary safety and oversight, of course,” added an aide.

In preparation for the IQ pin, Mabus has released a memo on assessing workplace innovation by fiscal year 2016. Plans are for standards of innovation to be codified by Chief of Naval Operations and Headquarters Marine Corps. The joint Navy and Marine-Corps effort to develop these standards, and ultimately the criteria for the IQ pin, is being called the “Innovation Bridling Squadron” (IBS). IBS’s charter is to develop force-wide qualification standards integrating lessons learned, operational risk management concerns, and DoD acquisition.

IBS is led by CAPT Wallace Binghamton from OPNAV N84, who was available for comment at the InVenture Center event. “Without oversight, innovation can often lead to the foregoing of regulations or unpredictable results,” said Binghamton, “integration of a fleet-wide standard will allow experienced leaders to mitigate risks, and ensure innovation does not stray too far from the safe and proven path. Those who eventually earn their IQ pin will be fully certified in the navy way of innovation.”

Binghamton assured us that IBS would be very disruptive, stating their inspiration will be DoD acquisitions. “Let’s be serious here – the US military knows innovation. We have everything from the F-35 to the Army’s Future Combat System,” said Binghamton, “We can design and field a new landing craft in the time it takes to fight only two world wars. We know innovation – we just need to get the word out.”

The IQ development committee consists of this dumpster grease fire behind the Chili's.
The monthly IQ development committee consists of this dumpster grease fire behind the Chili’s.

Binghamton then described his team’s vision for the IQ certification process. “When I was earning my Surface Warfare pin, it was a long and painful process. It is critical that equal rigor be put into our innovation process. We have a mock-up Personal Qualification Standard (PQS) form of about 70 pages at the moment – but that’s only a skeleton, of course.”

When told IBS’s current plans, and asked for comment, Mabus’ grunted and grabbed his stomach, growling a, “no comment,” before storming off, “to go talk to someone about IBS.”

The roll-out of IBS’s study on the timeline for developing the IQ pin is scheduled for 2020. The first Navy and Marine Corps InnovationQualified officers are scheduled roughly for 2030 in anticipation of China’s global hegemony and America’s ignominious retreat before communism’s iron boot. The physical pin design will be complete by 2035.

#CARRIERDEBATE: Bearcraft are the Answer

[Editor’s Note: The following more appropriately fits in our annual International Maritime Satire Week, but Matt couldn’t wait]

Friday night,  Naval Academy History Museum and USNI hosted a debate on the viability of Aircraft Carriers as a future naval asset. Bryan McGrath, the affirmation, and Jerry Hendrix, the negation, wrestled over the value-for-return and vulnerability of a carrier to enemy weapon systems. There were, however, three particular points of agreement – that there are concerning issues about the range and ability of the modern-day carrier air wing, that unmanned aviation is the future… and Grizzly Bears are terrifying.

In that light, it seems that a mutually-acceptable solution for the investment security and return sought by Jerry Hendrix and the flexibility and potential sought by Bryan McGrath would be using our greatest fear to solve our mutual problem. Even as we speak, the CNO’s office for naval aviation, N98, is testing the B3AR5: unmanned bearcraft. With the terrifying visage and endurance of a grizzly bear, with the flexibility and precision of an aircraft, the B3AR5 propels US naval security, and the bearcraft carrirer, into another 60 years of dominance.

ABHC Connor Stark coaxes a baseline B3AR5 out of it's bear trap for upgrade s and work-ups.
ABHC Connor Stark coaxes a baseline B3AR5 out of it’s bear trap for upgrade s and work-ups.

 

A confused B3AR5 during basic work-ups and training.
A B3AR5 is startled during advanced training.

 

Lockheed Martin's bid for the new B3AR5 data link architecture to act as a force-multiplier to the deadly lethality of flying bears.
Lockheed Martin’s bid for the new B3AR5 data link architecture, enabling swarm attacks to act as a force-multiplier to the deadly lethality of flying bears. Also synergy.

 

Prototype B3AR5 conducting flight-deck tests during sea trial.
Prototype B3AR5 in idle during flight-deck tests during sea trial.

 

AT1 Billie Sanders conducting pre-flight checks on a B3AR5
AT1 Billie Sanders conducting pre-flight checks on a B3AR5

 

The first B3AR5 catapault launch w/ F-18 flight lead off the USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVN-1)
The first B3AR5 catapault launch w/ F-18 flight lead off the USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVN-1)

 

 

B3AR5 overflight of USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVN-1)
B3AR5 overflight of USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVN-1)

 

Naughty B3AR5 hits the sound barrier during a unauthorized flyby of the USS GERALD R FORD during sea trials.
Naughty B3AR5 hits the sound barrier during a unauthorized flyby of the USS GERALD R FORD during sea trials.

 

The first flight of Carrier Bear Wing, BVW-1, off the USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVW-1).
The first flight of Carrier Bear Wing, BVW-1, off the USS LEEROY JENKINS (BVW-1).

 

For the Army's new Coastal Artillery project, intended to give the US it's own ground-based A2AD capabilities, General Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, has commissioned tests of a ground-based version of the B3AR5.
For the Army’s new Coastal Artillery project, intended to give the US it’s own ground-based A2AD capabilities, General Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, has commissioned tests of a ground-based version of the B3AR5.