FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 18th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Everyone is the son of his own works. – Cervantes

FOD Trivia Question

In 1851, what did Elias Howe, Walter Hunt and Isaac Merritt Singer all invent simultaneously, each in a different part to the US?

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

From what country do Brazil nuts usually come from?  Answer – Bolivia


Russia’s Strategy, ISIS’ Future And Countering China

General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stays out of the limelight.  His views are insightful and reflect a sound understanding of the present world situation.  Breaking Defense is reporting Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff, spoke last week with a small group of traveling reporters after attending a conference of NATO Military Chiefs in Warsaw, including Breaking Defense contributor James Kitfield. Dunford described Russia’s strategy for pulling NATO apart and reiterated that Moscow poses the single greatest global threat to the UnIted States. Edited excerpts of that interview follow.

Q: How would you describe Moscow’s strategy?

Dunford: Russia has studied the United States since 1991 [at the end of the Cold War], and they know that the source of our strategic strength is the network of allies and partners that we have built over 70 years, and that operationally our strength is the ability to project military power. So I think Russia’s strategy is pretty simple: They want to undermine the credibility of the United States in terms of meeting its alliance commitments, and thus erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance. They also want to field capabilities to challenge our ability to project power into Europe. That’s why they’ve taken this small slice of land in Kaliningrad [on the Baltic Sea] and deployed anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and air defense systems there. It’s an anti-access, aerial denial strategy aimed at challenging the Euro-Atlantic link.

Q: Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine, NATO launched the European Deterrence Initiative; deployed four “Battle Groups” to frontline states in the Baltics and Poland; announced two new commands for reinforcing NATO forces in the event of an actual conflict; and adopted in principle Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ readiness goal of having 30 battalions, 30 warships, and 30 squadrons of aircraft ready to deploy in 30 days. Is it fair to say that NATO has awakened from its post-Cold War slumber?

Dunford: I will tell you that [last week’s Military Chiefs] meeting was one of the most productive ever for this reason: three years ago there was not the appreciation we see today of the challenge posed by Russia and the threat of violent extremism. As a military leader it’s very easy now because we don’t have to debate those threats any more. We now have a very clear mandate to adapt NATO’s to confront those challenges. NATO is first and foremost about deterrence, and collective defense in the event that deterrence fails. All of our activities – our exercises, our training, and changes in our force posture – are designed to send a message, especially to Russia, that NATO has effective deterrence and collective defense capabilities.

Q: Do you see similarities between Russia’s actions in the Baltic Sea and China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building artificial islands, militarizing them, and then claiming zones of exclusive sovereignty?

Dunford: There are clear similarities, because what Russia is trying to do vis-à-vis our allies and ability to project power, China is also trying to do. China is a rising power in the Pacific, and they have a fundamentally different form of government and some protectionist economic policies that have created friction in our relationship. I would broaden it even beyond the South China Sea, and tell you we’re seeing an erosion in the rules-based international order in the region. Along with our Pacific partners we share a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international rules, norms and standards.

Q: How do you enforce those rules and norms in light of China’s actions?

Dunford: The military dimension is Freedom of Navigation operations that we conduct, along with 22 other nations. These are normal activities designed to demonstrate that the United States [military] will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. We’re not going to allow illicit claims to become de factoreality. That’s what (FON operations) are all about. Having said that, if you look at the stakes involved for both the United States and China, that argues for these issues being dealt with peacefully. There is absolutely no upside for either country in a major conflict.

Q: You mentioned the terrorism threat earlier. Do you believe the ISIS’ [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] caliphate is all but defeated?

Dunford: If you look at the terrain they hold, the resources they command and the media capabilities they have today versus two years ago, it’s fair to say that ISIS is on their heels a bit. It’s also fair to say that we have had other extremist groups at this same stage, only to see them adapt and find other ways to try and advance their agendas. So we know the job is not completed yet.

Q: What is the next stage in the fight?

Dunford: I think ISIS will start to organize itself into a guerilla insurgency, rather than a more conventional force that tried to hold ground. They’ll look for opportunities to launch high-profile attacks, but probably focused more locally, because the pressure ISIS has been under over the last two years has disrupted its ability to conduct external operations. It’s just hard for its fighters to move around right now. In the meantime, the greatest challenge we face today is probably from individuals and homegrown violent extremists who are inspired by ISIS’ ideology.

Q: How important was it that Congress passed a bipartisan, $674 billion defense spending bill on time, without a continuing resolution or sequester caps kicking in?

Dunford: That was the first time that has happened in my 41-year career! (laughs) I think that reflects a commitment from the executive and legislative branches to give us the wherewithal to do our job. Now that we have a sufficient level of funding, my message to our legislative leadership is that the most important thing going forward is a sustained level of funding. Because it took us years to get into this fix where we couldn’t spend money efficiently, or be good stewards of our budget, because we lurched from year to year with fluctuating levels of spending. That didn’t allow us to be effective partners with the defense industry, for instance, because they need predictability in order to deliver [equipment and materiel] on time and at projected cost. No matter how big the defense budget is, every year we have to make choices. And we can make much better choices and prioritize better if we’re looking ahead three-to-five years informed by predictable funding levels.”

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 18th through 21st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 10th through 17th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

You can only protect the liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom.  You are only be free if I am free.  Clarence Darrow 

FOD Trivia Question

From what country do Brazil nuts usually come from?

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What US President was the first to survive being shot while in office?  Answer: Ronald Reagan


Beijing Defends Warship Confrontation in South China Sea Plus SECDEF to Visit Viet Nam

In the 02 through 04 October edition of FOD I covered the unsafe and unprofessional actions of the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea where the People’s Republic of China destroyer Luyang pursued a series of ever increasing aggressive maneuvers in the close proximity to the destroyer USS Decatur near Gaven Reefs while the US vessel was conducting a routine freedom-of-navigation operations.  The USS Decatur was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision between the two ships.  This is an increase in the level of confrontation between the two navies in these disputed waters.  Now the Chinese are defending their actions.  According to Navy Times China’s ambassador to the United States has defended the Chinese navy’s action in a close encounter with a U.S. guided-missile destroyer in the South China Sea, saying America’s warships are “on the offensive” near Chinese territory.  The U.S. Pacific Fleet said a Chinese destroyer came aggressively close to a U.S. Navy ship in the incident late last month, forcing it to maneuver to prevent a collision.  Ambassador Cui Tiankai said on Fox News Sunday that the confrontation took place “on China’s doorstep.”  “It’s not Chinese warships that are going to the coast of California, or to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s so close to the Chinese islands and it’s so close to the Chinese coast. So who is on the offensive? Who is on the defensive? This is very clear,” Cui said.  U.S. Pacific Fleet Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said the Chinese warship approached the destroyer Decatur in an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver” near Gaven Reefs in the South China Sea.  The reefs lie about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of China’s southernmost province of Hainan in the Spratly Island group and are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.  Gorman said the Chinese destroyer approached within 45 yards of the Decatur’s bow, forcing it to maneuver. China said the Luoyang, a Chinese missile destroyer, was immediately deployed to identify the U.S. warship and drive it away.  China claims most of the strategic waterway and has built islands on reefs and equipped them with military facilities such as airstrips, radar domes and missile systems.  U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is planning to make his second visit of the year to Vietnam, signaling how vigorously the Trump administration is trying to counter China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea by building up relations with smaller nations in the region.  The visit beginning Tuesday also shows the distance U.S.-Vietnamese relations have advanced since the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War.  Mattis, a retired general who entered the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War but did not serve there, visited Hanoi in January.  Three months later, an U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, made a port call at Da Nang. It was the first such visit since the war and a reminder to China that the U.S. is intent on strengthening partnerships in the region as a counterweight to China’s growing military might.  The Trump administration has sharply criticized China for deploying surface-to-air missiles and other weapons on some of its island outposts. In June, Mattis said the placement of these weapons is “tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”  The Mattis trip originally was to include a visit to Beijing, but that stop was canceled amid rising tensions over trade and defense issues. China recently rejected a request for a Hong Kong port visit by an American warship, and over the summer Mattis disinvited China from a major maritime exercise in the Pacific. China in September withdrew its navy chief from a Pentagon visit and demanded that Washington cancel an arms sale to Taiwan. (Fireball note: both events previously covered in FOD).  The Philippine president and Vietnam’s prime minister have discussed delineating their countries’ maritime boundaries in the South China Sea, in what Beijing will likely perceive as another challenge to its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway.  President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday that he told Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in a meeting in Indonesia that such boundary talks may take longer because the Philippines is still establishing its continental shelf limit — the country’s outermost boundary.  Vietnam initiated the on-and-off talks several years ago.  “Vietnam is our ASEAN brother and they have been supporting us in many ways and we have been supporting them,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  Vietnam claims features that fall inside the Philippines’ declared exclusive economic zone, the stretch of waters in which a coastal state enjoys internationally recognized rights to exclusively fish and extract oil and gas in the seabed.  Efforts by the two Southeast Asian nations to define their maritime boundaries are significant because ASEAN and China are negotiating a regional code to prevent clashes arising from overlapping claims. China, however, has not clearly defined its sweeping claims.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 10th through 17th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 8th through 9th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

In the Presidency it is character that counts above all. – David McCullough 

FOD Trivia Question

What US President was the first to survive being shot while in office?

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

A molecule of linked amino acids is a _________________.  Answer: Protein


Fireball Opinion

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice has been but the latest contentious episode in our nation’s history. He was officially and privately sworn in to the Supreme Court on Saturday after the Senate narrowly confirmed his nomination.  What I find objectionable is the rhetoric during and after Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation.  President Trump insisted upon another ceremonial swearing in on 08 October, in which he offered an unusual apology to the judge and his family.  He said the confirmation process was based on “lies and deception.” “You, sir, under historical scrutiny, were proven innocent.”  There was no conclusion as to Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence in regard to any of the sexual misconduct allegations made against him and the FBI, in their supplemental background investigation was not tasked with providing and determination as to his culpability.  Hours later our President called the claims against Kavanaugh “totally untrue and were brought about by people who are evil.”  I find Mr. Trump’s comments disrespectful to the confirmation process, the Senate and to the nation.  Is this one of the great crises of all time?  Perhaps not, but it’s the tone of the argument that is disturbing.  Some greater crises must include: Lincoln entering office on the eve of the Civil War during which 600,000 Americans perished; Teddy Roosevelt dealing with a conflict between rich and poor so contentious, talk of revolution was in the air; Franklin Roosevelt entering office when the Great Depression had paralyzed the economy and spirit of the American people; and Lyndon Johnson taking office in the wake of the JFK assassination when the Civil Rights Bill was stalled in Congress and racial divide spawned riots in the streets for years afterwards.  Each of these events saw a great leader come forward, but it also saw ordinary people from all aspects of society support the common good of all our citizens.  The anti-slavery movement, the progressive movement and the civil rights movements were not the work of an individual leader, but rather the product of many citizens seeking discussion and the greater good.  I’ll paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt  (‘cause I couldn’t find the exact quote): ‘The rock on which democracy will founder will be when regions, classes, races and parties begin to regard each as the other, rather than as fellow citizens marked by feelings banded together for the best interests of the country.’  Each of us must seek to be more positive and more inclusive.  We must select leaders who are inclusive.  In closing, I’ll paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (again because I couldn’t find the exact quote): ‘We must engage together in calm and in large consideration ranging far above personal and partisan politics.’  Your comments sought and appreciated.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 8th through 9th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 5th through 7th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty six different kinds of cheese?  – Charles de Gaulle 

FOD Trivia Question – It’s A Science Question

A molecule of linked amino acids is a _________________.

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What vaccine was developed in 1955 while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States?  Hint – It’s been covered in FOD  Answer:  The Polio Vaccine also known as the Salk Vaccine


Leadership of Fear

Air Force Times is reporting Col. David Owens was fired from command of the 317th Airlift Wing at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas after an investigation outlined a repeated pattern of berating and ridiculing airmen under his command and toxic leadershipA commander-directed investigation, dated April 4 and obtained by Air Force Times through the Freedom of Information Act, found that at times, Owens’ anger and intimidation of his airmen rose to the level of inflicting “psychological abuse that degraded or insulted members of his command.”  The investigation also substantiated allegations that Owens had “failed to establish and maintain a healthy command climate” at the 317th by “displaying unreasonable anger of physical aggression … upon receiving unexpected or unwelcome news from subordinates” and “regularly subjecting … commanders and senior enlisted personnel to public ridicule at weekly leadership meetings for perceived shortcomings or failures to perform.”  Owens once even “became visibly angry” after birds defecated on his personal vehicle, the report said.  (Fireball note:  Well that’s totally understandable.)  In a related story President Trump is considering firing U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson after the midterm elections due to her perceived slow-rolling of his order to create a separate Space Force, according to a report from Foreign Policy.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense May 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

In an article posted online Thursday afternoon, Foreign Policy reported that Trump and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan are “angered … with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort” by Wilson. Citing three unnamed sources, Foreign Policy reported that Trump has not made a final decision on firing Wilson, but that potential replacements, including Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., are being considered.  When asked to comment by Air Force Times, the service referred any questions to the White House.  Wilson was previously a critic of proposals to create a sixth separate branch of the military to handle space operations, and told Congress that taking space operations out of the Air Force would jeopardize its efforts to integrate space with other war-fighting operations.  But at the Defense News Conference last month, Wilson said she was in “complete alignment” with Trump’s order to create a Space Force.  “If we’re going to do this, let’s propose to do it right,” Wilson said. “Let’s have this debate, support the president’s proposal and put it forward — and make sure that we don’t do this with half measures.”  Wilson incurred Trump’s wrath this summer, when the White House deemed the Air Force’s first draft of a plan to stand up a Space Force inadequate and rejected it.  In a Sept. 14 memo signed by Wilson, the Air Force estimated that creating a Space Force would cost $13 billion over five years. Some experts, such as Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that estimate was grossly inflated. (Fireball note:  This is the Air Force.  They will want to build a golf course and then consider a Space Command, but likely this is a conservative estimate.)  Harrison suggested the Air Force’s estimate may be an effort to “sabotage the idea by making it seem much broader and more expensive than it really would be.”  But skeptical lawmakers, including such Republicans as Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, felt the projected price tag reinforced their concern that creating a new Space Force would be an expensive, unnecessary boondoggle.  And then there is the current Attorney General of the UnitedStates Jeff Sessions.  Does anyone see a common thread?






Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 5th through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 2nd through 4th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

(Prince Feisal to Lawrence after Lawrence of Arabia has taken Damascus with his Arab army)  There’s nothing further here for a warrior.  We drive bargains.  Old men’s work.  Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men.  Courage and hope for the future.  Then old men make the peace.  And the vices of peace are the vices of old men.  Mistrust and caution.  It must be so.  – Prince Feisal


FOD Trivia Question

What vaccine was developed in 1955 while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States?  Hint – It’s been covered in FOD


Previous FOD Trivia Answer

As we gaze at the stars on a clear night, they seem to flash or twinkle.  What causes this? Answer: Uneven heat distribution in the Earth’s atmosphere.


Yankees, With A Convincing Wild Card Win Advance to Face Red Sox

There will be more historical Yankees – Red Sox games this season.  Wild Card games are exciting in that they are a winner take all.  It doesn’t seem quite far that your entire season comes down to one game, but that’s the current format.  I’m not in favor of more games that go on to dilute the overall play however.  Of course it’s much easier to accept the current situation when your team wins. This party started early on.  Aaron Judge staked starter Luis Severino to an early lead, belting a two-run home run on a rope to left field off of Athletics “opener” Liam Hendriks. Lou Trevino handled the next three innings for the A’s and pitched admirably, holding the Yankees scoreless. Shawn Kelley did likewise in the fifth.  In the sixth, the Yankees opened the floodgates. Facing veteran Fernando Rodney to open the frame, Aarons Judge and Hicks each doubled to plate a run. Rodney then uncorked a wild pitch while facing Giancarlo Stanton, allowing Hicks to move to third base. That prompted manager Bob Melvin to bring in Blake Treinen. Treinen finished off the at-bat by walking Stanton, who then stole second base. Treinen served up a two-run triple to Luke Voit (his first MLB triple), making the score 5-0. Voit was promptly brought home on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius.  Severino wound up going four scoreless innings for the Yankees, yielding a pair of hits and four walks while striking out seven on 87 pitches. Dellin Betances pitched immaculately, facing the minimum over two innings with three strikeouts. He was great tonight.  David Robertson worked a scoreless seventh. Zach Britton allowed the A’s to get on the board in the eighth, serving up a two-run home run to the opposite field to Khris Davis. Giancarlo Stanton immediately got back one of those runs for the Yankees, smashing a solo home run down the left field line in the bottom of the eighth off of Treinen to make it 7-2.  Aroldis Chapman took over in the top of the ninth, tasked with protecting a five-run lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Marcus Semien, but rebounded to strike out Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Canha before getting Matt Chapman to ground out to end the game.  It’s a sad end for the A’s, who won 97 games during the regular season and are now out after losing one postseason game. Well not that sad.  One wonders what might have been in store for them had they been in the AL Central rather than the AL West. Meanwhile, the 100-win Yankees will gear up for a match-up with the 108-win Red Sox. It will be the first postseason meeting between the Yankees and Red Sox since the 2004 ALCS.  As usual the post game interview with Aaron Judge congratulated the A’s on their season, acknowledged the historic season of the Red Sox, pointed out the great play of his teammates and now it’s on to Boston.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 2nd through 4th 2018”