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75ft_Coast_Guard_Patrol_Boat

Post-Prohibition Rum Running

The following is a dissertation sample provided as part of Border Control week.
The case of American Prohibition is often deployed in the rancorous debates that surround counter-narcotics policy.  Unfortunately, it is generally deployed (to my thought, abused) without an adequate understanding of what Prohibition actually looked like.  This is especially true of rum-running, which is generally retold something along these lines:

Phase 1)  Bill McCoy founds Rum Row.
Phase 2)  ?
Phase 3)  Repeal! (and rum smuggling magically ends.)

The actual Rum War at Sea was a story of two dueling adaptive networks.  Until 1924, the Prohibition Bureau ran their own ‘Dry Navy’ of a handful of sub-chasers – this whole enterprise was entirely a disaster, due to poor personnel polices, wholly inadequate imagination, and total ineptitude at sea.  In 1924, the Coast Guard (somewhat unhappily) took on the task.  They managed to field a substantial, aggressive, and most importantly highly adaptive force built of everything from speedboats to destroyers.  Within a few months, they shuttered Rum Row.  Soon after, they chased the rum-running networks down to Florida (1925-1927) and then across to the Great Lakes (1928-1930.)  The Coast Guard fought the remnants of the rum-fleet to a stalemate through the early thirties, even after their budgets were cut.  The rum trade came back in force one year after repeal, and a recapitalized Coast Guard fleet ended organized alcohol smuggling in 1936.

In the course of this chase, Captain Charles Root founded US Coast Guard Intelligence, established HUMINT networks in Canada, Cuba, and a score of other rum ports, hired the legendary codebreaker Elisebeth Friedman, designed and fielded the first American SIGINT trawler.  The Coast Guard chief engineer Hunnewell filled the coasts with two hundred patrol ships within less than a year, and then proceeded to reverse engineer the fastest of the rum-runners and field them too.  Commandant Billard founded interagency and international task forces, which ultimately resulted in full tactical integration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including positive hand-offs and radio intelligence cross-cue.  By the end of the case, the Coast Guard could fix a rum-runner by their radio transmission, send a patrol aircraft along the bearing line, visually acquire the craft and orbit overhead until the a boarding ship could make the intercept.

The Rum War built the Coast Guard, founded only a few years prior from the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service.  It also advanced technologies critical to the Second World War – small craft (PT Boats – basically rum-runners with torpedoes, Higgins Boats – crewed by both Coastguardsmen and ex-rumrunners), codebreaking (Friedman’s USCG cell broke the Japanese merchant codes prior to the war) and radio direction finding.  This case deserves more study, both as a maritime border control campaign, but also as a contest between two highly adaptive flat network.  The Coast Guard achieved an enviable victory over bureaucracy at the outset, which allowed them to keep pace with their well-funded adversaries.

As a teaser, I submit the following account of the post-repeal suppression campaign, excerpted from my forthcoming dissertation.
I also include two animated infographics of capture records and intel reports, respectively.  I hope that it will challenge standard conceptions of the Rum War, and entice the reader to read further.  For further reading, I recommend the standard Coast Guard account, Rum War at Sea, by CDR Malcolm Willoughby.

All Captures GIS – Medium

New Animation – Medium

Repeal, 1933.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected on a platform that included the repeal of that act.  He delivered on this promise in the early part of 1933 – the 18th Amendment prohibited ‘intoxicating liquors,’ while the Volstead Act defined ‘intoxicating liquors’ as anything 0.5% Alcohol by Volume.  As the 21st Amendment worked its way through the system, the Cullen-Harrison Act reset the Volstead definition to 3.2% ABV and thereby legalized light beers.  This saw a brief drop in liquor traffic, though the trade rebounded quickly.  Rum-running had almost returned to 1932 levels, at least off of New York, when the 21st Amendment drove rum-running to an absolute low during the case.  This lasted for about six months.

An period newspaper article entitled “Rum Runners Want Repeal, U.S. Informed,”[2] explains the rumrunners’ optimism toward their post-repeal prospects.  Both Canada and Finland attempted their own forms of Prohibition, and both experienced major smuggling problems following repeal.  Rumrunners expected the same to be true of the United States, due to a combination of high expected liquor taxes, reduced enforcement expenditures and diminished legal leverage following repeal.

The country would want a ‘peace dividend,’ which meant less money going to the Coast Guard.  Additionally, the Coast Guard would now need to establish the origin of alcohol, rather than just its presence, in order to arrest a rumrunner in US waters.  Once the liquor was ashore, it now became far easier to transport.  Therefore, that rum-runners no longer needed to concentrate at urban centers close to the point of demand, and the Coast Guard would need a “less concentrated and more wide-flung patrol of the coasts.”[3]  These reduced the opportunity cost of smuggling, and so long as there was enough of a margin in the liquor taxes to make money, there was no reason to stop running.

The Coast Guard attempted to calculate this margin.  Shortly following repeal, Gorman estimated that imported liquor in the New England area cost $9.90/gal, $9.30 of which was composed of State, Internal Revenue and Customs taxes.[4]  The smuggler, paying the same price for liquor, could land liquor for $1.10/gal.  The price they would expect to receive on the beach was $1.90/gal in Maine, $2.50/gal in Massachusetts, and $3.25/gal in New York.  This yields a margin of more than two dollars per gallon.  A September 1934 calculation found legal liquor selling for $8/gal, with bootleg at $6/gal.  Even with this premium for licit drink, the rumrunner still had margin of about one and a half dollars per gallon.[5]

Profits were lower than during Prohibition, but the risk was lower as well due to diminished enforcement leverage.  Making matters worse, Americans thirsted for aged whiskey, and none would be available domestically for quite some time.  Since the rumrunner bases at St. Pierre had a great deal of capital tied up in smuggling, there was no sense in dismantling the industry quite yet.

‘Peace Dividend.’  Even before repeal, the Intelligence Office noted in 1933 that:

Vessels formerly in the rum running traffic, which had been laid up for months and in some cases years, are now being outfitted and rushed back into the illicit traffic.  Recent official reports from Canadian sources indicate during the past month a resumption of activity comparable only to the situation which existed several years ago before the Coast Guard was organized to effectively combat smuggling.  International rum syndicates are quite evidently under the impression that law enforcement will be more lax than formerly; that penalties meted out for violations of the Customs laws will be much lighter and that in general there will be less risk and more profit in liquor running…

It therefore appears to this office from a study of smuggling conditions in foreign countries and from knowledge of the present activities of the rum-smuggling rings, that there can be no curtailment of Coast Guard anti-smuggling operations until the international smuggling organizations now operating are put out of existence, and it can be said almost with certainty that this will not occur within the next two years.[6]

Institutional militaries try to minimize the inevitable drawdown that follows the end of a war, and these gloomy predictions must have sounded like that familiar chord.  Policy analysts from early think tanks broadly agreed, estimating $50 Million per year lost per year to liquor smuggling.[7]  This was more than 10% of the expected alcohol excise tax income.  Still, increasing enforcement of liquor laws during the Depression in the immediate wake of Prohibition was too politically difficult.  From a 1934 account, “repeated requests of the Coast Guard for funds, necessary to carry out its duties, particularly to control smuggling, and to protect the revenue of the Government, have been denied.”[8]  The Coast Guard would draw down.

Destroyers departed the force entirely, with the last of them returned to the Navy by 1934.  The ‘six-bitters’ took a major hit, dropping from 58 in 1934 from 203 in 1931.[9]  The cruising cutters, and larger patrol boats retained most of their force.  Picket boats were halved from 195 to 109.  The number of lifesaving stations remained stable, but the suppression-oriented section bases fell from nineteen to three.  Aircraft inventory and the number of 165-foot patrol boats continued to grow through July 1934.  These two types of craft partially offset the patrolling vacuum left by the destroyers.  The patrol craft and bases were not offset at all.

The manning situation was worse.  According to a 1934 memo, “Not only has the Coast Guard felt these losses of men and units, but the drastic, quick retrenchment occasioned thereby, has been a serious blow to the morale and, therefore, the efficiency of the remaining force… funds for the payment of enlisted personnel for the current year are inadequate, and unless the situation is relieved, it will be necessary to discharge or disrate, or furlough without pay, additional men.”[10]  The memo’s author, likely the Commandant, asserts “such a step would be a serious reflection upon the Federal Government in breaking faith with men of long and faithful service to their country… a breach of implied contract on the part of the Government.”[11]  This was a disheartening time for the service.

In some cold solace, the dour predictions of resurgent smuggling proved correct.  By the summer of 1934, there were as many boats hovering off of New York as in 1928 and climbing fast.  An estimated $30 Million of revenue was lost in 1934, and if unchecked, 1935 promised to double that number at least.  Since the Canadians had been losing something in the range of $30-45 Million per year under similar conditions, this should not have been a surprise.[12] The form of this smuggling was familiar – the trade picked up where it left off with the same radio-linked swift stealth ships.

Rebuilding.  Given that the Coast Guard ‘peace dividend’ was only $10 Million per year, the government began to see the reduction in forces as a bad investment.  The half-sized, demoralized force could be swarmed and defeated, especially without its scouting destroyers or an adequate number of replacements.  The second half of 1934 saw a reversal of the decline and a re-capitalization of Coast Guard forces.  This buildup registered primarily in the new large patrol boats and in Aviation, and it allowed the Coast Guard to complete a restructuring it began in 1930.

Admiral Billard launched a service reorganization project during his last year as Commandant.[13]  Admiral Hamlet carried it through to completion as the drawdown set in, doing away with the various overlapping lifesaving, patrol and cruising forces and consolidating regional divisions under single commanders.  Henry Morgenthau, the new Secretary of the Treasury, asked Coast Guard to take the lead of all Treasury organizations in these districts – having one clear commander who curated diverse capabilities aided interagency coordination.

The divisional structure also worked well with the growing intelligence and aviation capacities, provided the relationships within these divisions were as flat as the Commandant’s guidance intended.  Notably, when these organizations were run hierarchically, these special units did not do as well.  Commanders that directed actions from the top, yet lacked the technical knowledge to grasp these capabilities, failed to make effective use of these cells.  Case in point – Wheeler and the aforementioned breakdown with his Intelligence Lieutenant in the California Division.[14]  In general, though, this structure allowed the diverse technical capabilities developed over the course of the campaign to be smoothly brought to bear at the front lines.

The return of funding put substance on the divisional framework.  By the beginning of 1935, 18 Thetis-class 165’ patrol ships were operational.  This was up from nine half a year prior, and six as of 1932.  These were Wheeler’s replacement for the Destroyers – six knots faster than the ‘buck-and-a-quarters’ and designed with a tight turning radius, they could stay with the new generation of fast rum ships at a fraction the cost of a Destroyer.  They performed this task well, and along with the still-new Lake-class fast cutters, the remaining half of the patrol fleet, and the still-rapidly-advancing SIGINT capabilities.

The Secretary of the Treasury built a seven-fold plan for the renewed campaign.  From a 1935 memo recounting the strategy, “the measures undertaken included:

a)           Provision of funds to permit of increased activity by the Coast Guard and stimulation of effort on its part as the marine patrol agency.  [NB: Support.]

b)          Determination of the sources of supply of contraband and negotiations to obtain the assistance of other governments in checking the illicit traffic.  [Diplomacy.]

c)           Coordination of the efforts of all Treasury Department law-enforcement agencies having any connection with the problem by means of regional coordinators and the establishment of a ‘law-enforcement’ council or committee at Washington, composed of representatives of the various agencies.  Frequent conferences at Washington and in the field contributed to this coordination.  [Interagency Fusion.]

d)          A study of the legal deficiencies hampering effective efforts against the smugglers and the drafting of a bill strengthening enforcement powers, for presentation to Congress.  [Legal, Anti-Smuggling Act of 1935.]

e)           Stimulation of sources of information to permit of intelligent action being taken.  [Intelligence.]

f)            Vigorous prosecutions where cases could be made.  [Courts, a major prior deficiency.]

g)           Close cooperation with agencies of the Canadian Government, which has a problem of like character.  [NB: International Fusion.][15]

These were all the result of costly lessons learned.  With this strategy in place, the last major campaign began.

 

 

The combination of a recapitalized patrol fleet, robust intelligence capabilities, and a burgeoning air fleet formed the final model of the rum war.  The Commandant explained this fusion of sea, air and intelligence in a 1934 tactics bulletin:

The Intelligence boat (or any unit suitably equipped) detects black radio traffic and obtains a radio bearing.  The air station of plane (standing by) is notified of the bearing of the “black.”  The plane takes the air and flies to the position of the patrol boat and passes over her on the course (corrected navigationally) corresponding to the bearing.  Upon reaching the black the radio-equipped plane circles overhead and calls for radio bearings from all direction-finder units… The bearings are transmitted by units taking them together with the latter’s positions to a designated patrol unit, and the plot places of the position of the “black” which can then be sought and trailed.

If the rumrunners abandoned their radios, the aircraft could still search for them.  There was no way to outrun or hide from an aircraft, other than inclement weather.  And the circling aircraft could call a cutter at its convenience.  This rumrunner-hunting model offered no ready counter.

Remarkably, this model parallels the “Find-Fix-Finish” approach of counter-terror fame.[1]  In order to beat this approach, the rumrunners would have had to re-boot their entire business model.  This would have been costly.  Social support had begun to turn against them following repeal – no longer romantic outlaws, legal alcohol had made the rumrunners just outlaws.  From an intelligence memo in 1935:

Unmentioned previously herein is the effect of a changed public attitude following Repeal.  This has been very helpful in contributing to control.  Many who were hostile to enforcement efforts during Prohibition are today either indifferent or openly favorable.[2]

Therefore, they could no longer recoup losses or recapitalize the way they once had.  A reboot was impossible, and the end of the large-scale illicit liquor trade was just a matter of time.

Only $6.5 Million was lost from the treasury due to liquor smuggling in 1935, around 20% of the 1934 number.  The last spike of the rum trade was in the early summer of 1935, and it fell precipitously from there.  From the same 1935 report:

As a result of the cumulative effect of the efforts expended by the Government the organizations and individuals promoting smuggling have suffered a severe blow.  Efforts are being exerted by them to develop new methods of supply such as chartering vessels to transport cargoes from Europe for delivery on the high seas to smaller vessels or to run directly into large ports where maritime traffic is great and there is the possibility of slipping in as a legitimate vessel not subject to routine inspection.  This is an effort on the part of those to whom ‘easy money’ has been the fondest recollection of the heyday of the smuggling traffic.  There will always be smuggling in some form and amount but liquor and alcohol smuggling as evidenced during the last fiscal year is declining as a major problem under the pressure exerted by the Government.[3]

What little of the trade remained had fizzled out by 1936, with the liquor ships melting back into the Nova Scotia fishing fleet, or in a few cases, hardening into opium or migrant smugglers.  Coast Guard Intelligence ceased tracking suspected Rumrunners entirely on account of irrelevance by 1939.  Operational life returned to traditional lifesaving missions and routine law-enforcement by 1936 with the end of organized rum-running.

 

[1] Charles Faint and Michael Harris, “F3EAD: Ops/Intel Fusion ‘Feeds’ The SOF Targeting Process,” Small Wars Journal, 2012, http://smallwarsjournal.com/author/charles-faint-and-michael-harris.

[2] Parker (?) memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[3] Ibid. 

 

[1] Bruce Yandle, “Bootleggers and Baptists-The Education of a Regulatory Economists,” Regulation 7 (1983): 12.

[2] Unidentified Clipping.  RG 26, NARA.

[3] Gorman Memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[4] Cost Calculation Memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Intelligence Memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[7] Newspaper Clippings.  RG 26, NARA.

[8] Memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Lawlor, Rum-Running.  93.  ‘The customs revenue went down between $70 and $90M in two years’ – it is unclear whether this is per year or total, but I assumed the former.  Since the 1930 US Dollar was 2.07 Canadian dollars, dividing by two accounts for the currency conversion.  Depending on the estimate, this could be cut in half once more if the $75-90M was an aggregate number.  Either way, there was some non-trivial sum of smuggling losses.

[13] Billard Memo.  RG 26, NARA.

[14] Wheeler CA memo, 1934 (?).  RG 26, NARA.

[15] Parker(?) 1935 Memo.  Reflected verbatim in Waesche 1938 Memo. RG 26, NARA.

Coast Guard, sheriff's office work hand-in-hand

Border Control Behind the Scenes: Maritime Operational Threat Response Plan

By Guest Author LCDR Craig Allen Jr., USCG for our “Border Control Week”

Border security presently headlines national policy discussions following the influx of child and teenage immigrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, the outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, and warnings from the commander of U.S. Southern Command, General John Kelly, that the activities of transnational criminal organizations operating in the Western hemisphere pose an existential threat to the United States. The confluence of events has reinvigorated scrutiny of our border control programs, including the effectiveness of our deterrence and interdiction capability and the balance between humanitarian, law enforcement and national security interests at stake.

 

Although the 2,000 mile land border with Mexico garners much of the recent attention, identifying, tracking and interdicting threats along more than 12,000 miles of coast line that comprises America’s maritime border poses an even more challenging endeavor. Adding to the complexity is the fact that responsibility for maritime border security is shared by several US Government federal agencies with separate, overlapping, and occasionally competing authorities, capabilities and priorities.

 

The sword designed to cut through the Gordian knot of interagency friction in the maritime domain is the Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) Plan. MOTR seeks to integrate the capabilities and expertise of all USG agencies that have a role in responding to a given maritime threat to achieve a unity of effort through a process of “compelled coordination.” Although perfect synergy often proves elusive, MOTR provides an effective forum to align efforts and facilitate early resolution of interagency conflicts. The Global MOTR Coordination Center (GMCC) located in Washington, DC, serves as the nucleus by providing relevant information and connecting all concerned agencies together when an event triggers the MOTR process.

 

This photograph of Simas Kudirka was taken from his Soviet Identification card. 1972 LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
This photograph of Simas Kudirka was taken from his Soviet Identification card. 1972 LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

Like many cross-cutting federal policies, the impetus to improve interagency coordination that led to the present MOTR plan began with a high profile disaster. Most Coast Guardsmen are familiar with the Simas Kudirka debacle, in which a Lithuanian radio operator attempted to defect to the United States by leaping from a Soviet fishing vessel onto a Coast Guard cutter off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in 1970. The inability of Federal agencies to agree on an appropriate response in time (and poor tactical-level decision making) resulted in Kudirka being severely beaten and forcibly removed from the cutter by the Soviets. The resulting outrage at the stain on American prestige led to several Congressional hearings, a movie, and Presidential Directive 27 (PD-27) “Procedures for Dealing with Non-military Incidents.” PD-27 required several federal departments to maintain a 24-hour watch and coordinate a USG response to non-military incidents that could have an adverse impact on the conduct of US foreign relations. The PD-27 process significantly improved interagency coordination, but the reinvigorated focus on coordinated USG response to the elevated terrorist threat after 9/11 identified a need for further refinement.

 

The MOTR Plan, approved in 2006, expanded upon PD-27 by directing a whole-of-government response to threats in the maritime domain. The MOTR process address a wide spectrum of maritime threats, including terrorism, piracy, drug and migrant interdiction, piracy, and fisheries incursions. Interestingly, there is no command and control relationship within its structure. It requires coordination and cooperation, but no agency has the ability to compel another to do its bidding. Despite its coalition nature, sometimes described as “used by all, owned by none,” MOTR has proven successful. Since its inception, it has been an effective mechanism for responding to thousands of incidents, including high-profile events such as the Somali pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama.

 

To illustrate the value of the MOTR process, consider the following fictional but plausible scenario- an overloaded vessel departs from Haiti and appears headed for the United States. So far, nothing out of the ordinary, the Coast Guard responds to similar events all the time. But suppose recently there have been reports of Ebola in Haiti and reports indicate that several possible Ebola victims are fleeing Haiti hoping to seek treatment in the US. Add to that reports from a maritime patrol aircraft that it appears that there are several children onboard the vessel. Now the interest of other agencies is piqued, including (among others) Department of State, Health and Human Services, and Center for Disease Control. From all of the interests involved must emerge a single “desired national outcome” to guide the response. Depending on where the vessel was initially located, its stability and on-scene weather, and many other factors, the timeline for coordinating and carrying out the response might range from days to hours.

 

Maritime border security is a Herculean endeavor that continues to evolve in its complexity. Threats in the maritime domain range from primitive vessels: “sail freighters” from Haiti, “chugs” and “rusticas” from Cuba, and “yolas” from the Dominican Republic- to submarines manufactured in Andean jungles that can transit from Ecuador to Los Angles while thirty feet below the surface. The nature of the threat varies widely as well- terrorism, pandemic, narcotics, humanitarian crisis, etc. MOTR is an important evolutionary lead towards enhancing the US ability to respond to these threats more quickly and efficiently.

summer-reading

A Beginner’s Naval Intelligence Reading List

summer-readingWhile the very topic of naval intelligence may seem to imply secrecy, there is a substantial literature on the topic available to the general reader. While many of the books below may be well known to many in the field, they remain a useful start for the uninitiated:

Patrick Beesley’s two books about British efforts to collect, analyze, and use intelligence, particularly in support of the fight against German submarine warfare, are the best places to start for anyone interested in the practical application of intelligence at sea. Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945 discusses the Second World War, while Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 covers the First World War. In both books Beesley contrasts the performance of these organizations during the two wars (the sharing and use of intelligence was much better during the Second World War). The discussion of British Naval Intelligence’s involvement in the famous Zimmermann Telegram and the subsequent U.S. entry into the First World War is fascinating.

The recommendation of John Keegan’s Intelligence in War may seem a little too obvious and on the nose, but his chapters on intelligence during the age of sail, the First World War, and the Battles of the Atlantic and Midway during the Second World War are one of the best summations of how wireless communications largely created what naval intelligence practitioners call OPINTEL (operational intelligence). Before wireless communications navies conducted “scouting” and “reconnaissance,” but intelligence as we understand it today largely results from the wireless revolution.

Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg’s The Admiral’s Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War is a flawed book, in large part because this slim volume uses the excuse of many of its sources still being classified to justify the general lack of detail and substance devoted to its subject. Having said that, it’s virtually the only source available to a general audience that explains the post-Second World War history of U.S. Navy intelligence. Among the more interesting claims it makes is that the U.S. Navy’s famous Maritime Strategy of the 1980s was directly informed by a detailed understanding of Soviet naval doctrine by American intelligence analysts.

Colonel John Hughes-Wilson’s Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups features regularly in military and academic courses on intelligence. Discussion of Indications and Warning failures include chapters on Pearl Harbor, the 1973 October/Yom Kippur/Ramadan War, and the Falklands.

“Eddie” Layton and “Joe” Rochefort are two figures considered among the founding heroes of the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence and Information Warfare communities, respectively. Layton (he retired as a Rear Admiral) was the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer during the Second World War (both during the Pearl Harbor disaster and the later American victories in the Pacific) while Rochefort led the codebreaking effort that enabled the American victory at Midway. Layton’s autobiography And I was There as well as the recently published biography, Joe Rochefort’s War, offer insight into how a few surface line officers in the inter-war period began to specialize in intelligence-related duties. Of note, both Layton and Rochefort participated in a program that sent them to Japan for several years to learn the language and culture first-hand, an investment that seems to have paid off.

U.S. Naval Intelligence has been one of the many elements of the intelligence community supporting the various aspects of what used to be called the Global War on Terrorism. Mark Bowden is probably the most well-known author covering the special operations world over the fifteen years. While Black Hawk Down is his most famous book, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw offers another look at the formative years of the current U.S. Special Operations complex and how intelligence is collected and used to target individuals. He’s also written articles for the Atlantic on the 2006 killing of Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq, American Special Operations in the Philippines, and counter-drug operations in Colombia.

For those interested in film treatments of intelligence in support of counter-terrorism the obvious choice is probably Zero Dark Thirty. My choice, however, is John Malkovich’s adaptation of Nicholas Shakespeare’s the Dancer Upstairs, a fictionalized depiction of the hunt for Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Peru’s Marxist Sendoro Luminoso Maoist guerrillas in the 1980s and 90s (both the book and film are excellent).

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2). 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 US Government.

The Mighty Moo, USS Cowpens, maneuvering with the deftness of its heifer namesake.

The “Mighty Moo” Maneuvers Around Trouble

The Mighty Moo, USS Cowpens, maneuvering with the deftness of its heifer namesake.
The Mighty Moo, USS Cowpens (GG-63), maneuvering with the deftness of its heifer namesake.

The recent near-collision of a PLA Navy tank landing ship and the missile-guided cruiser USS Cowpens in the South China Sea represents yet another incident in a long line of instances of Chinese gamesmanship with the US Navy extending back to the March 2009 harassment of the USNS Impeccable and the 2001 downing of an EP-3. In each of these cases, the Chinese took issue with the United State conducting surveillance of Chinese military targets at sea or on the Chinese mainland (in this case, the Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the PLAN aircraft carrier Liaoning, which was for the first time conducting exercises in the South China Sea).

All three occurred in the South China Sea, although it is not currently clear from media reports where exactly the most recent confrontation took place. This could prove to be an important distinction. Previously, Beijing justified its escalatory responses to US actions by saying that they interpreted U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to mean that military activities within the Chinese exclusive economic zone (EEZ) were prohibited without the consent of China. The EP-3 and Impeccable incidents both occurred near Hainan Island, inside the Chinese EEZ. If this most recent escalatory move occurred outside the EEZ, it will be particularly interesting to see how China justifies itself. Are they expanding their legal interpretation further by claiming that all military activities conducted in waters within the so-called “nine-dash line” must receive Chinese approval? This of course is conjecture—especially given that as of this writing it also appears from a cursory glance of Chinese-language news websites that neither the PLA nor the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet made a statement. At that point this issue will require the analysis of individuals better trained in the vagaries of Chinese territorial legal disputes than I.

Also pertinent to this debate is the recent admission at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue (by a Chinese military officer no less!) that the PLAN was itself already conducting surveillance of U.S. military installations on Guam and Hawaii within U.S. EEZs around those islands. As Rory Medcalf points out, this clearly contradicts the Chinese legal position on the matter. At what point will this hypocrisy actually catch up with the PLA and necessitate a change in China’s legal position?

Last week at an event at the Wilson Center, Oriana Skylar Mastro suggested that China’s recent announcement of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) fits into a pattern of Chinese “coercive diplomacy,” in which China manipulates risk and intentionally raises the risk of an accident, a view echoed by other analysts in an approach known as salami tactics. In this way, China stops just short of further escalation, and achieves its objectives of slowly chipping away at opposing territorial positions and international legal norms. This analysis is clearly simpatico with her earlier published work regarding the Impeccable incident and the most recent confrontation involving the USS Cowpens. In her paper, Dr. Mastro identified a coordinated Chinese media campaign and legal challenge that accompanied the PLA’s military provocation. She also recommended that in order to prevent further Chinese attempts at escalation, the United States should publicize these events, directly challenge the Chinese legal position, and maintain a strong presence in the area, all things which the United States is now doing (specifically in the Cowpens case, the Department of Defense broke the story).

These are sound responses to Chinese attempts to delegitimize lawful operations in international waters. What should the United States not do? In an article published by the Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz quotes a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, Rick Fisher, who suggests that China in this incident is intentionally “looking for a fight” that will “cow the Americans,” and that the United States and Japan should heavily fortify the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in response. Aside from the fact that China certainly is not “looking for a fight,” fortifying the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands would be a terrible idea. The U.S. government does not even take an official position on the islands’ sovereignty! The U.S. response should certainly be firm in insisting that surveillance within foreign EEZs is completely legitimate and lawful; but turning this issue into about something other than surveillance in international waters would be blowing it out of all proportion. The United States should, in contrast to the ways in which China’s behavior is perceived, proceed carefully but resolutely and stick to its guns.

William Yale is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He has lived in China for two years, and worked at the Naval War College and the U.S. State Department. He tweets @wayale and blogs at williamyale.com.

Events Week of 12-18 November 2013

Events Week of 12 – 18 November 2013

 A roundup of events we think our readers may find interesting. Inclusion does not equal calendarendorsement, all descriptions are the events’ own. Think of one we should include? Email Grant at operations@cimsec.org.

12 November 2013 – Washington, DC – The Atlantic Council“NATO’s Deterrence and Collective Defense”

13 November 2013 – Washington, DC – 10th Annual Disruptive Thinkers Technologies Conference

14 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“International Conference on Future Challenges in Earth Sciences for Energy and Mineral Resources”.

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Foundation for Innovation and Discovery - “Implementing Innovation”.

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Brookings Institute“Israel’s Economy and Security in a Changing Middle East”.

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Carnegie“China’s Views on Prompt Global Strike”

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – SAIS-JHU“History, Sovereignty, and International Law: China’s East China Sea and South China Sea Territorial Disputes and Implications for Taiwan”

15 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Atlantic Council“Cyber Conflict and War: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

16 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“Global Maritime International Conference”.

18 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Hudson Institute“Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding”.

Longer-Term

20 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Brookings Institute CIMSEC’s DC Chapter Monthly Informal Meet-up at Bluejacket Brewery

20 November 2013 – Brisbane, Australia – Royal United Services Institute of Australia“Veils, Boots, and Bullets – Australian Military Nurses”

21 November 2013 – Sydney, Australia – Lowy Institute for International Policy“The Future of American Policy in the Asia Pacific Region

21 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Hudson Institute“Taiwan and the US: Shared Strategic Interests”

25 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Cato Institute“Rethinking U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy”.

25 November 2013 – London – King’s College“Russia and the Caspian Sea: Projecting Power or Competing for Influence?”

26 November 2013 – Canberra, Australia – Kokoda Foundation“Researching Australia’s Future Security Challenges”

03 December 2013 – Washington, DC – CSIS“World Energy Outlook”

10 December 2013 – Washington, DC – USNI2013 Defense Forum Washington: Shaping the New Maritime Strategy and Navigating the Budget Gap Reality.

17-18 December 2013 – Washington, DC – Center for Strategic and International StudiesPONI Series: The PONI Conference Series, now in its tenth year, offers an opportunity for rising experts in the field to present findings from their research in order to advance the broader discussion on nuclear weapons issues. It also seeks to provide a venue for interaction among people from different sectors and for mid-career and senior members of the community to mentor their junior counterparts.

14-16 January 2014 – Washington, DC – Maritime Administration“National Maritime Strategy Symposium: Cargo Opportunities and Sealift Capacity”.

Typhoon Haiyan – 48 Hours After

PAF C-130s and a Sokol helicopter (background) at the battered Tacloban City Airport. Image Credit: Reuters
PAF C-130s and a Sokol helicopter (background) at the battered Tacloban City Airport. Image Credit: Reuters

Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Central Visayas area of the Philippines, not only leveling Tacloban City where she made first landfall, but ripped through the islands of Samar and Leyte, Northern Cebu and the Panay provinces and swiped Busuanga Island, on her way out to the Western Philippine Sea. One apt description of Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) was “easily a Category 4 Hurricane, but combined with a tornado having a hundred-mile wide damage path .”

The impacted area is about the size of West Virginia, but with the added complication of being scattered islands and archipelagos, relying on key transit points including airports, seaports and vital roads and bridges that are mostly inoperable. Thanks to a storm surge of up to 24 feet, much of the infrastructure may remain closed or damaged for months. Reports of casualties vary, but victim narratives backed by initial media coverage and official government tallies seem to confirm that at least over one hundred people lost their lives in the storm. That number is likely to rise as contact is re-established with the harder-hit outlying areas. As of the time of this article’s publication, the storm made landfalls over 5 islands, displacing over 600,000 people, destroying or damaging at least 20,000 homes and structures.

The Philippine Government had sufficient warning and heeding past incidents, pre-positioned relief supplies and began mandatory evacuations of residents into emergency shelters such as stadiums and other sturdy structures. No one was prepared however, for the immense damage wrought by winds close to 190 miles per hour with gusts exceeding that figure, along with flash flooding and storm surges that easily came to rooftop levels in most locations. Possibly the only saving grace is the speed of the storm that wrought those winds also made a quick transit of the Visayas region.

With Haiyan now well off-shore and threatening the Vietnamese coast, damage assessment efforts have begun. A generous outpouring of international aid both near and far, and deployment of US Navy units out of Japan will bolster current government operations to bring immediate relief. The challenge is that the entire area is dark, literally. A complete power and communications blackout has hampered efforts to reach both major population centers and the the more isolated townships and villages. Tacloban City airport was devastated, but some reports indicate that the runway is mostly intact. Initial sorties by the Philippine Air Force were focused on delivering electrical generators and sufficient communications gear to replace what was lost on the ground and re-establish links to unaffected areas of the country. Based on media photos, a few PAF C-130s and Sokol utility helicopters were seen on the battered and congested ramp, but the lack of electrical power, damage to the control tower and fueling areas will severely limit the number of flights the airport can handle in the coming days. Sealift support by the Philippine Navy includes up to 20 vessels, most notably the hard-working Bacolod City-class Logistical Landing Craft, a familiar sight from recent crises such as the Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga City uprising. Overall, the government committed a goodly portion of it’s military and civilian assets and personnel prior to Haiyan’s arrival, to quickly deal with the aftermath. This comprehensive effort is being managed through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the equivalent to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Perhaps the only benefit of this natural disaster was the temporary cessation of the standoff at Ayungin Shoals – the Philippine Marines aboard the grounded BRP Sierra Madre safely rode out the storms, as did many other of the small, isolated detachments in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) or as the contested Spratleys are known. The Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships quickly moved out ahead of the oncoming tempest for safer harbor.

As with any major Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Recovery (HA/DR) operation, the bulk of relief supplies will have to be sent via ship or ground. Most roads remain blocked by fallen trees and other debris, with the critical San Juanico bridge linking Leyte, where Tacloban City is located, with it’s Northern neighbor Samar, currently under safety evaluation. This vital road link between the two islands is the only way road-bound supplies can reach the impact zone. Tacloban Seaport is blocked, mostly by debris and ships wrecked and washed ashore by the typhoon’s powerful waves. The San Juanico strait is barely navigable, and the bottom which is littered with World War II shipwrecks are now further cluttered by new victims. Assuming the port can be cleared, this will force relief vessels to either pass north through the San Bernardino Straits and swing around Samar or south through the Surigao Straits into Leyte Gulf, adding miles to an already long voyage.

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the days following Hurricane Katrina, lawlessness and looting have broken out in the major population centers, with President Benigno Aquino III resisting calls to impose martial law, despite some local governments ceding effective control and operations back to Manila due to manpower shortages. Government forces are starting to arrive to deliver both aid and establish law and order. The coming weeks will be the critical time, as efforts to rebuild, restore power, establish potable water sources and housing will be racing the clock against starvation, disease and exposure to the elements.

How to help:

NBC Summary Page of Relief Operations
CNN Summary Page of Relief Operations

Juramentado is the pseudonym for Armando J. Heredia, a civilian observer of naval affairs. He is an IT Risk and Information Security practitioner, with a background in the defense and financial services industries. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, any particular nation’s government or related agency.

Events: Week of 28 October

Events Week of 28 October – 02 November 2013

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Disruptive Thinkers.  Execution is the new innovation.  All of our innovative ideas won’t amount to much if we can’t find a way to implement them.  And this month we get a chance to hear from Rob Holzer, someone who knows how to do just that.

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Heritage Foundation“Examining US – Burma Military-to-Military Relations”.  The Obama Administration has frequently expressed interest in closer military-to-military relations with Burma – despite the Burmese army’s horrendous record of human rights abuses and close relationship with rogue regime North Korea. The Administration appears reluctant, however, to share its plans publicly. Join as we try to understand the state of American military engagement with Burma and the implications for broader foreign policy objectives.

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Atlantic Council“Regional Cooperation: An Imperative for Transatlantic Defense”.  Please join the Atlantic Council for an address by, and discussion with, Finnish Minister of Defense Carl Haglund, who will detail the importance of regional cooperation for transatlantic security.

Building on the successes of Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO), Minister Haglund will make a case for NATO member and partner countries to follow a similar framework to sustain present-day interoperability levels and enhance military capabilities. NORDEFCO’s five members states—Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—use regional networking to increase their interoperability via cross-border cooperation, build-up and maintain necessary military capabilities, and provide cost-effective contributions to international efforts.

29 October 2013 - Washington, DC – AEI – “American Strategy in the Asia-Pacific: Rep. Randy Forbes on the Need for a Congressional Rebalance”.  Despite White House assurances to the contrary, the rhetoric of the Asia pivot is increasingly overshadowed by grim budgetary realities in Washington. Looming sequestration cuts over the next decade have already forced the Obama administration to scale back its economic, diplomatic, and military investments in the Asia-Pacific, exacerbating fears of disrupted trade and rising tensions in the region.

Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) is spearheading a bipartisan House Armed Services Committee effort to educate congressional members and the public about the important shifting security dynamics in the region and to identify resource and readiness shortfalls. Join us at AEI to hear Rep. Forbes elaborate on the congressional responsibility to define a US role in Asia that convinces US allies that the pivot is more than empty sloganeering.

30 October 2013 – Washington, DC – CIMSECMonthly Gathering.  CIMSEC’s DC chapter will be heading to Maddy’s Bar and Grille, near the Dupont Circle Metro stop, for our informal October meet-up next Wednesday the 30th.  We hope you’ll join us to meet some interesting people and discuss all things maritime.

30 October 2013 – London – King’s College“Geographic Information Systems and the Geographies of War”.

30 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Foreign Policy Association“Georgetown Conference: Iran and the South Caucasus”.

31 October 2013 – London – King’s College“Terror Attacks on Energy Infrastructure – A Growing Threat?”.  The European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) cordially invites you to the fifth and final roundtable discussion in a series on Resilient Energy Infrastructure co-hosted by acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering, Germany and the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in London, in partnership with KPMG.

31 October 2013 – Carlisle, PA – CNA“Asia’s Looming Hotspot”.  Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, U.S. Navy (Ret.) will discuss the increasingly contentious dispute between China and Japan concerning sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea and the implications this dispute has for U.S. foreign policy. This talk is one of a series on “Hidden Dangers: Emerging Global Issues of the 21st Century” sponsored with the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. – See more at: http://www.cna.org/news/events/2013-10-31#sthash.cBXbR5bq.dpuf

01 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Atlantic Council“Tackling India’s Cyber Threat”.  India is becoming the second-largest victim of cyberattacks after the United States and earlier this year released its first national Cyber Security Policy. The purpose of this framework document is to ensure a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses, and the government.

In particular, the policy aims to strengthen the role of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in coordination with crisis management efforts and awareness-raising activities on cybersecurity. Alongside protecting the country’s cyber infrastructure, the policy strengthens the significant role IT has played in transforming India’s image to that of a global player in providing IT solutions of the highest standards.

Long-Term

11 November 2013 – London – King’s College“New Nuclear Initiatives in Arms Control and Nonproliferation – Likelihood of Success?”.  President Obama’s renewed commitment to ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ along with ongoing challenges over Iran, North Korea, and within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have given rise to numerous new initiatives in arms control and nonproliferation. A panel will discuss four such initiatives, including the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons initiative, the ‘P5 process’ with the five NPT-recognized Nuclear Weapon States, US-Russia arms control, and developments in Chinese nuclear policy.

12 November 2013 – Washington, DC – The Atlantic Council“NATO’s Deterrence and Collective Defense”.  This event is part of the Atlantic Council and IFS project on NATO in an Era of Global Competition. This eighteen-month project examines new ways of thinking strategically about NATO’s future role in the context of emerging security challenges, global power shifts, and disruptive technologies. The first conference in this series, NATO in a New Security Landscape, which took place in June, covered emerging trends in the global security environment and identified key challenges that NATO must confront to maintain strategic relevance in the future.

13 November 2013 – Washington, DC – 10th Annual Disruptive Thinkers Technologies Conference

14 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“International Conference on Future Challenges in Earth Sciences for Energy and Mineral Resources”.

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Foundation for Innovation and Discovery - “Implementing Innovation”.  This is the inaugural event for the Foundation for Innovation and Discovery (FINND), a non-profit whose center of gravity is the connection between mission users in the USG and innovators, technologists, industry providers and academics who follow those communities.

The event will showcase a FINND Talk and Mission Forum (see invite). It will also describe the Discovery Summits that the FINND will hold for the USG in 2014 and explain how the IT backbone of the FINND will serve as a resource for the USG and the FINND’s members.

Registration is required and space is limited, so please sign up per the invite (and feel free to forward this invitation to those you believe may have an interest). 

16 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“Global Maritime International Conference”.

10 December 2013 – Washington, DC – USNI2013 Defense Forum Washington: Shaping the New Maritime Strategy and Navigating the Budget Gap Reality.

17-18 December 2013 – Washington, DC – Center for Strategic and International Studies – PONI Series: The PONI Conference Series, now in its tenth year, offers an opportunity for rising experts in the field to present findings from their research in order to advance the broader discussion on nuclear weapons issues. It also seeks to provide a venue for interaction among people from different sectors and for mid-career and senior members of the community to mentor their junior counterparts.