Naval officer punished for speaking honestly about China?

November 13, 2014
"A short, sharp war?"

“A short, sharp war?”

(Photo credit: AP)

This seems more like a chain-of-command discipline or “speaking out of turn” issue (in other words, don’t publicly contradict your bosses), but it is worrisome to think that Captain James Fannell may have been punished for holding an unpopular view of the threat from China:

A senior Navy intelligence leader whose provocative comments this year about Chinese bellicosity stirred an international controversy has been shelved in the wake of an investigation into his conduct, Navy Times has learned.

Capt. James Fanell, the director of intelligence and information operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, has been removed from that position by PACFLT boss Adm. Harry Harris and reassigned within the command, Navy officials confirmed.

What did Captain Fannell say that landed him in hot water? Speaking at a naval conference earlier this year, he voiced his opinion that China was preparing for “a short, sharp war with Japan,” one that  would inevitably involve us:

“[We believe] the [People’s Liberation Army] has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected [as] a seizure of the Senkakus or even southern Ryukyu [islands],” Fanell was quoted as saying.

Fanell has also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.

“I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors,” the Financial Times reported.

Fanell’s views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell’s articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

Trouble is, this time his remarks placed senior officers on the spot with China, at a time when the US Navy is trying to build better relations with its Chinese counterparts, part of the Obama administration’s Asia policy. Army Chief of Staff General Odierno, for example, was peppered with questions from journalists in China and had to disavow Fannell’s remarks. I’m sure he wasn’t happy. One hopes this is a case of an officer being reprimanded for a lack of command discipline, rather than for speaking uncomfortable but honest opinions his superiors don’t wish to hear.

That doesn’t mean he was wrong, however. Even if Captain Fannell overstates Chinese intentions, the thrust of their rearmament, including their naval buildup, is clear: they want to displace the United States as the preeminent power in the Western Pacific and bring the nations to its east and south, including its old foe Japan, into Beijing’s sphere of influence. Whether this involves a shooting war to seize the Senkakus and even the southern Ryukyus, or simply aggressive diplomacy meant to take advantage of a declining America, the point is that China is a powerful strategic competitor to the United States: the risk of conflict is real and we cannot afford to blind ourselves to it in pursuit of “building bridges.”

Especially when the other side may have an interest in blowing them up, someday.

via The Daily Caller


Some day, I hope, this won’t be a big deal

December 22, 2011

Two US Navy sailors shared a kiss at the docks the other day, celebrating the return of one from overseas duty. As you look at the picture, you might notice something unusual:

Yes, they’re both women. They met and started dating while at training school, where they kept their relationship quiet under the then-current “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Now that it’s been repealed, they can openly share their joy at reunion.

And I’m glad for them. Some people, to be sure, have problems with homosexuals serving openly in the military, or problems with homosexuality in the first place. As I said in a comment at Pirate’s Cove, where I first learned of this story,

…I couldn’t give a rat’s rear end whether a couple is gay or straight. In a world in which love and kindness are in such short supply, what I applaud is the happiness they’ve found with each other. What matters far more than their sexual preferences is the fact that both are in the military and both are willing to risk their lives for their country. I hope they have many wonderful years together.

And let me emphasize the point about their military service:

  • Both are non-commissioned officers in the United States Navy;
  • Both have sworn an oath to obey the lawful orders of their superiors;
  • Both have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States;
  • Both are fire-control officers, meaning they’re trained for combat;
  • And both are willing to risk injury and even death in their nation’s service.

So, if they want to share a kiss to rejoice in a safe return, more power to them.

Petty Officers Gaeta and Snell, carry on.

PS: Some folks wondered if this was staged. Nope, Gaeta and Snell each bought raffle tickets for the privilege of having the official first kiss. The money goes to throw a Christmas party for Navy kids.

PPS: And just to get the obvious locker-room stuff out of the way, yes, they’re both very cute. NCO Gaeta, to be honest, is hot. But I would say the same things I wrote above about any gay couple in this situation; it’s their service, their dedication, and their character that counts, not their plumbing.

RELATED: More from Ace.


China’s big challenge to the US Navy

January 4, 2011

For the last 70 years, the centerpiece of US naval strategy –and, indeed, essential for the projection of American power around the globe– has been the aircraft carrier. Born of necessity after the disaster at Pearl Harbor decimated our battleships, the carrier battle group has been an effective tool of hard power for American presidents of both parties when the time came to show a foe we were serious. They provide the United States with a flexible and rapidly deployed instrument, and any plans to challenge us must find a way to neutralize them.

Something the Chinese may be on the verge of doing:

The Chinese have made significant progress on a missile system designed to sink a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 2,000 miles away, according to the top U.S. commander in the Pacific.

China’s anti-ship missile system has reached the rough equivalent of what the U.S. military terms as “initial operational capability,” Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi newspaper Tuesday.

At the heart of the system is the Dong Feng 21D, a mobile, land-based missile that is projected to strike a carrier from between 1,200 and 1,800 miles, depending on its payload and other factors.

Willard said that the “component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested,” according to Asahi.

The missile has not yet been flight-tested over water, Willard acknowledged.

A report at Fox News relays opinions from experts that the Chinese are a decade away from developing the guidance systems need to give the Dong Feng 21D the needed accuracy, but we all know how perceptive outside observers were about developments in the Indian nuclear program. (Hint: we were caught completely by surprise.) We shouldn’t rest easy.

What makes a weapon like this all the more threatening is that, being land-based and mobile, they can be very hard to find and put out of action. Our experience hunting missile launchers firing at Israel in Gulf War I bears witness to that.

The possibility of deployed Dong Feng 21Ds will have to factor into any actions we take during periods of tension or crisis in East Asia. Both Korea and Taiwan are potential flash-points for conflict, as are Chinese claims to international waters. Whenever there has been friction with China involving any of these, we have deployed carriers to the area to demonstrate our resolve. The new Chinese missile threatens to make that a much riskier proposition.

Of course, military technology is a game of call-and-raise. Whenever someone has developed a new offensive weapon, the other guy has found a way to counteract it — and vice-versa. Sword met shield, armor met gun, and radar met stealth. One can bet that the US Navy is looking for ways to parry the Dong Feng 21D before it’s even deployed.

We’d better hope they find them.

RELATED: A very interesting article at The Diplomat on China’s risky bet against history, with a comparison to Germany prior to World War I.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Dumb Crooks of the Month, international edition

April 1, 2010

An important safety tip for all would-be pirates: it is perhaps not conducive to your long-term (or even short term) career success and personal well-being to shoot at a US Navy warship when you’re in a skiff.

Compare and contrast.

American Navy frigate USS Nicholas:

Representative Somali pirates in skiff:

We used to call this “evolution in action.”

(via The Jawa Report)