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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

Japan-Gazer Poem of the Week

This week’s poem:

Department of Motor Vehicles

Never underestimate
The ability of bureaucrats
To dither and obfuscate

{ https://carllafong.blogspot.jp }

Copyright Carl LaFong

‘Tis the Season

(Charlie Brown Tree with magnificent decoration)

The ‘net has been alive this morning. I put up the artificial tree this year in an attempt to get with the holiday spirit. Put some lights on the bushes outside to go with the cheesy shiny wreath on the outside door.

It is nice in the evening, and should be merry against the snow that is supposed to come in around the time I am due at a command performance company Christmas party at 1930 out in the wilds of cold, dark Fairfax. I don’t want to go. For goodness sake, that hour is nearing my bed-time these days!

We all have small groups of correspondents- I maintain connections with others out of habit from DoD and spook days. One of them goes further back and includes three other guys from high school and college. That blew up this morning when our resident Marxist started reciting the talking points about Flynn being turned and that the Logan Act was going to bring Mr. Trump to justice.

One of the other ones- a college prof, college room-mate and relatively recent convert to Trumpism- fired back with a caustic critique of the recycled ’60s Marxist clap-trap.

I did not want to jump into that, fearing ill-feelings with guys I have liked for a long time. The Trumpist was still agitated and called me on the phone to blow off steam. He doesn’t know how things work down here in the Swamp, and I walked him through what I thought about how this happened- the Sally Yates Logan Act justification for the FISA Warrant (along with the ill-famed Steele dossier which might have been partly funded by the FBI in addition to the DNC and Clinton Campaign).

Sleazy Strzok may have signed the request to surveil the incoming President Elect’s team. Samantha Powers at the UN may have signed the request for unmasking of the Trump team’s names so a vast number of Swamp-dwellers could leak them. The hit team used the fruit of the surveillance pounce on Flynn in an ambush interview just four days after taking office (without benefit of counsel) and provide his recollections of his talk with the Russian Ambassador. since they already had the transcripts, it was easy to find discrepancies.

There may also have been some sensitivity on Flynn’s relations on behalf of the Turks, sans the paperwork identifying him as a lobbyist for a foreign power. Flynn should have known better, but maybe he didn’t really understand how things really work now in Washington. He might not have understood that he had been well-and-truly swizzled by a corrupt and out-of-control Special Counsel and a legal pit-bull named Andrew Weissman. You know, the one who directed the pre-dawn raid on non-violent offender Paul Manafort’s home.

Voila! A felony inditement offense! Proof for sure of a process offense even if there was no actual crime. Amazing what a nascent STASI can accomplish!

We then wandered through the assorted regional contingencies around the world that we dealt with most of our professional lives, and it left me a little unsettled. I heard General Keene, former Deputy Army Chief of staff echo my opinion that we are seeing the beginning of a confrontation between Shia Iran and a Sunni coalition that includes Isreal.

This has always been a high-elbows town, but of late, with all the Agencies weaponized to serve the agendas of the Swamp- and the Progressives who largely populate it- we appear to now have the determination to start any political discussion with the complete destruction of your opponent. It seems- well, a little unseemly.

It has been a remarkable journey we have taken from the Civics we were taught back in High School (They don’t do that any more, do they?) to seeing what is going on around us now. Throw in a looming war between Sunni and Shia and that malevolent fat kid with the bad haircut and nukes, it is enough to make one positively dyspeptic. I have a suspicion this is not going to end well for anyone.

I was so tempted to put this in a Socotra, but I think I will keep my public powder dry for the moment. ‘Tis the season,’ after all, and we are all doing a certain amount of self-censorship. Plus, the rot here is very deep indeed- and it being dry rot, it could go up in a roar of flames.

Oh, the LA fires? They used the term “man caused” this morning in relation to the fires- not lightning. We have become conditioned to using euphemisms like Janet Napolitano (another famously corrupt official now in academia) “Man caused disaster” for the never-to-be-said “act of terror.”


Air Raid Pearl

(“Ground Zero,” a print by artist Don Kloetzke).

It is seventy-six years and a world away now, the great surprise.

I used to think about it a lot when we were young sailors in the Great Patriotic War against the Commies. In that year we were assigned to the staff of the Theater Anti-submarine Warfare Commander, a three star Admiral named Don Jones who also commanded the THIRD Fleet. We worked in a vault in a white headquarters building on Ford Island, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Ford Island was a tranquil spot in those days, accessible only by a slow harbor ferry from the mainland of O’ahu. The air was always redolent with the scent of the plumaria, and there was a mango tree in our yard in the Navy housing cantonment at McGrew Point. When we were not working, life was sweet.

Times being what they were, the staff worked around the clock, since the Pacific Ocean is a big place. Sometimes, going in on a Sunday to stand watch, I would be inclined to complain that the war could wait until Monday. Then the ferry would slide silently past the graceful white arch of the memorial, and the thick wide oil-can of the number three turret that projected from the placid waters of the harbor.


”Air Raid Pearl!” was the frantic call on the radio. It was a Sunday morning when the sailors of the USS Arizona woke to alarm bells, roaring engines, explosion, panic, and death.

Over 1,300 of her sailors and her Admiral are still there within her silent bulkheads. There is a persistent sheen of diesel fuel-marine spreading from the memorial. She bled then, and still bleeds, since when she died she was topped off for action, but there was not much happening at 0700 on that morning, except preparations for holy services under the awning rigged on the afterdeck.

Seeing her every day, I am always drawn to the notion of Intelligence shortfalls and inadequacies. We have beat the Pearl Harbor surprise to death. There certainly was evidence that something was going to happen. MacArthur said in an interview long ago that he was comfortable with the warning he had received from Washington; he just thought the attack was going to happen closer to his headquarters in Manila.

The list of missed clues is long. Matson Liner Lurline reported some unusual manual Morse traffic while inbound to Aloha Tower. Perhaps the code-breakers could have been more aggressive in decrypting the diplomatic traffic, though in their defense, the fruit of their labor was so highly valued and so vulnerable to loss that the transcripts were restricted to only the most senior members of the government.

The famous “East Wind Rain” intercept only informed the Japanese Legation of the fact of the attack. But we had warning, even Admiral Stark in Washington thought that the President should know first, and the President was indisposed. When the warning went to Pearl, it arrived as a telegram, after the attack had begun and the Arizona sailors were already dead.

The system was not rigged to provide alertment to decision making. The intelligence support to the National Command Authority of the day was fractured, the Army and Navy alternating support to Mr. Roosevelt in a rotation of intractable service jealousy. Within the Navy was the struggle about the very role of intelligence itself, and whether it should be an independent arbiter or just another tool in the operational tool-belt.

Even if you discount the tantalizing bits of information that could have been integrated to reveal the Japanese plan, including requests for the precise location of the American ships to the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu, the system knew that an attack was inevitable. But the intelligence assessment was accepted in the context of the policy. Policy assumed that action would start in the Far East, and that supporting action could be carried out by saboteurs in the Hawaiian Islands.

Better Human Intelligence would have helped. Navy was uncharacteristically good on that score, sending a handful of gifted young officers to learn a bit of the Japanese language and culture in the 1930s. But Japan was the hard target of the day, a tough one that would have required resources and determination to penetrate. It also would have needed spies who did not look as though they were from the Princeton Class of 1930.

The Japanese did the same thing. A young Lieutenant Isoruku Yamamoto, IJN, studied in the US, and he knew better than the warlords that it was lunacy to sneak-attack the Americans. The Westerners had a prodigious industrial machine, coupled with a righteous streak that would make the war a disaster for Japan. But he was a good officer, and he did what he was told, and he planned well, even if was a brilliant stroke on the road to Hell. Yamamoto commanded the Combined Fleet through the first sixteen months of triumph.

It was a measure of his worth that the most precious intelligence- a decrypt of his itinerary- was used to conduct a tactical intercept to shoot down his airplane. If the Japanese had realized how the Americans came to know his whereabouts, they might have changed their codes and the source would be lost. But they didn’t.

One of the reasons the attack on Pearl was a secret was that there were no spies in Tokyo to provide a clue to intent. All Washington had had was a glimmer of capability, and they had much of that wrong as well. The Japanese aircraft were nimble and maneuverable and the torpedoes worked well at much longer ranges than we thought. Accordingly, the aircraft were parked close together at Hickham Field, to make the defensive perimeter smaller. And it was the Army that was responsible for force protection in the islands, after all, and they were only in the process of acquiring long-range aircraft to patrol the sea frontiers, if the Navy was prepared to share the duty, that is.

Policy said we were going to war. We were already flying surveillance missions in support of the Royal Navy in the Atlantic. The Lend-Lease effort had been a great controversy, and Mr. Roosevelt had to deal with the new Know-Nothings like Lone Eagle Lindbergh, who thought the Germans had a point.

Pearl Harbor solved that problem for the policy. I like the old joke that went “in order to confuse Tojo, our first response to the debacle of Pearl Harbor was to land troops in North Africa.”

But it is completely appropriate that it is on the anniversary of that day that We appear to be sleep-walking into another surprise, as profound as that long-ago air raid. We are going to have to shut down the Government if the Congress cannot figure out some alternative of authorizing and appropriating cash. Of course,we only go through the motions of funding the President’s Budget; we have lived with endless number of Continuing Resolutions (with special rules) that have hamstrung military readiness.

On this day, with war looming on the Korean Peninsula and Shia rebels in Yemen shooting cruise missiles into Sunni Saudi Arabia, we need to remember.

The Air Force is flying bombers that are eligible for Social Security. The newer B-1 Lancer fleet is half grounded for parts and maintenance- one of two had to abort the Demonstration of Resolve mission along the Korean DMZ yesterday. This isn’t an Air Force problem- it is pervasive across the joint Force. Half the Navy F-18 Hornet fleet is grounded for lack of parts and maintenance, and the numbers are worse for the Marines. And that is just the aviation community. The problems are across the board, from platforms to munitions.

So, beyond just remembering a day of infamy and courage. We should resolve to honor them and act to fix this so nothing like it happens again.

Of course, it will. On this solemn day we need to remember that, too.


Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Post Card from the Swamp #25

(World’s worst Christmas Tree is up. I got it for a buck at the Methodist Church yard sale a few years ago. Even Charlie Brown would have a hard time loving it, but it suits my mood.)

Yeah, I know. The first sentence literally writes itself: how could things get any stranger than last week? We keep managing to top it. Honestly.

Why don’t we take a look at the Empty Quarter, where Iranian-backed Houthi Rebels have fired another rocket at a target near the UAE. Not just any rocket, mind you, and not just any target- a nuclear reactor. It was not a Scud this time, but rather a cruise missile based on a Russian design (KH-55, or in NATO parlance, the AS-15 KENT). I used to worry about those when I sailed the seas within range of Soviet Long Range Aviation. I worried because they were air launched, but that is the funny thing about counter-proliferation. Apparently the Iranians stole or bought one and modified the design. Now it comes in two flavors: the Soumar and the Meshkat, modified to launch from ground, sea or air. Of course you would actually have to have an Air Force to do the latter. The nasty things can reach out a couple thousand clicks. Given the turmoil in the Kingdom of late, it is easy to see why everyone is a little rattled.

The Houthis had a pretty good week. They killed the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, punishing him for switching sides and seeking peace with Saudi Arabia. Pictures of Saleh’s corpse appeared on Houthi-run television after the militia said it had killed him as he fled for safety in Saudi Arabia.

North Korea is just as irritating as they were last week, and that situation has not improved.

Here at home we have a very strange election in Alabama, where a win could be a loss. Then there is a new tax bill that may actually land on the President’s desk by Christmas. Meanwhile, the debt ceiling is back and the Congress has jumped into their clown cars to fight about it.

Perhaps the most distressing turn of events in the Swamp is the revelation that the FBI has been weaponized to go after political opponents. We knew much of this already. We knew the acting AG, Sally Yates, disliked the new Administration- nothing wrong with that, mind you- but the Swamp Creatures were determined to mire the incoming Whiz Kids with a crisis on Day One. Apparently the Logan Act was cited as justification for getting a FISA warrant to surveil members of the transition team. That is kind of a scary prospect.

Say, if you decided that a broken down arthritic old spook was blogging intemperately, you could pay someone to write a paper about what I did the last time I was in Moscow. It was fun, BTW. But imagine if that paper was based on lies provided by a foreign intelligence entity, and then it was used to get a warrant to tap my phones and internet communication, ambush interview me without benefit of counsel, and then get me to plead guilty to a felony. People have been lying to the FBI for a long time, and I have no idea why General Flynn though he would get a pass like all the others. But of course, no one has ever been prosecuted for a Logan Act violation, and this smells to high heaven.

I don’t even have to mention that slimy special agent Peter Strzok, who according to press reports “was considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators.”

Apparently not. He is now working in the Bureau’s HR department after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found out about his intemperate blogging with his FBI mistress. I am not making this stuff up. Strzok in the middle of the missing e-mail “matter,” and the initial part of the Russia investigation. The Feds have been shielding him from testimony, which is curious thing. I can’t find even one mention of the FBI in the Constitution, but there must be some secret annex out there that says they are an independent power. Efrem Zimbalist must be rolling over in his grave.

And amid all that, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor is tomorrow- so to get a jump on it, I mention it now. If I get bombed later, it will be my own choice. There are consequences to ignoring things. Really big ones, sometimes.



Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

By the Light (of the Silvery Moon)

(Image copyright Frank Langben)

It was a special weekend down in the Country- and I hate to think it may be the nicest left in the year. The sky was a delightful cloudless blue; temperatures were temperate enough to go jacket-less, and there was the prospect that the Super Moon would present itself out over the pastures, emerging from the trees to sail serenely through the heavens in a dramatic arc that delivered the intense silvery light through the window of my bedroom on the first floor. I have not been upstairs since the arthritis kicked in, but I imagine the view was pretty good up there, too.

Waiting for moon-rise, I was startled to see that the original posse of Edgar and Edwina the Turkey Buzzards has been joined by no less than thirteen others. They seem to like to hang out in a large tree to the north of my property line. I suspect it might be so they can see the chickens and turkeys the Russians are raising. I would be more concerned about the infestation, but the buzzards are not birds of prey, but rather the trash disposal service that Mother Nature provides. So long as they do not make a practice of roosting on my deck and pooping all over everything, I am prepared to live and let live.

I confess it was eerie seeing the remarkably large black silhouettes of the creatures high-lit by the astonishing brightness of the lunar orb as it floated up in the sky.

Good time for an adult beverage, I thought. It had become cool enough to put on the puffy coat and get a cushion for the captain’s chair at the end of the steel dining table. It was a magnificent sight as it rose through the birds and took flight itself into the inky blackness. The sun’s reflected light was bright enough to make the green metal roofs of the barn and garage glow with energy. I wanted to take my own picture of the phenominon, but of course I did not have the proper lens to do the scene justice, and decided to borrow the two images displayed here.

This one, taken by astrophotographer Gowrishakhar Lakshminarayanan, captured the December 3rd Supermoon and a normal one from July and put them side-by-side to show the difference. I suppose it is not that impressive, but it certainly was striking on that magnificent Sunday night.


Some may say that 15% larger is no big deal, and just the demonstration of the closest fly-by to Mother Earth this year in the dance of orbital mechanics. I liked the show, though, and so did the buzzards. At least, they were all facing that way from what I could divine in the shadows.

AndI have to say with all the other things we have been considering likely to fall on us from the heavens, courtesy of the Hermit Kingdom, the slivery light suited me just fine. The cheery orange glow of the fire that much more pleasant when I finally wandered back to the Great Room to contemplate Life, Birth, Death and infinity. I couldn’t really get my brain wrapped around the last one of those topics- seeing the magnificence of the universe displayed really was a thing of infinite delight.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Arrias on Politics: Korean Rockets- Once again

Editor’s Note: Arrias continues some cogent analysis of developments in the North Korean weapons program. I too am alarmed. I have participated in the effort to cool the Pakistan-India nuclear confrontation. To say that the nuclear club of nations is a constant concern is a fact of life. The older members- the US, Russia, France, Britain and China- represent relative stability and deterrence. The newer members- Israel, Pakistan and India among them- appear to be preparing to settle old scores that have little to do with my house. Only the latest aspirants to the club- North Korea and Iran- seem to be seeking that capability.

In other events, 15 Turkey Buzzards sighted on their roosts between Refuge Farm and the Dacha next door this morning.

– Vic

Korean Rockets – Once Again

There are all sorts of news this week: tax reform; sexual misconduct (from boorish behavior to rape); an immigration policy “screaming” for reform; a Chinese president who considers himself Emperor in everything but name (maybe more, his picture now replacing Crucifixes in many homes across China), ongoing counter-terror and counter-insurgency efforts across the Middle East and North Africa, etc.

But North Korea’s newest rocket is the most serious issue; here’s why:

– The missile flew for roughly 53 minutes, traveling 2,800 miles into space, (moving down range only 600 miles). This is called a “lofted” trajectory, the rocketry equivalent of a high “pop-fly.” But, a 53-minute time-of-flight means the rocket has adequate thrust that, if fired in a more routine trajectory, it could reach the entire United States.

– The missile is large; the pictures provided showed a very large rocket on the back of a truck; bigger missile means bigger payloads, all other things being equal.

– The missile is apparently mobile, carried on a huge, 9-axle truck (a truck probably built in China) making counter-targeting much harder.

Some speculated the rocket carried no payload in order to achieve the observed flight. This speculation allows them to believe North Korea has yet to make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a rocket that could reach the US, and therefore the threat is still several years away.

But, we’ve miss-calculated on virtually every facet of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile program; they’ve conducted a series of weapons tests, concluding, several months ago, with a 240 kiloton detonation, and they’ve conducted a series of missile launches that have now demonstrated a complete family of missiles capable of reaching every target North Korea might want to attack.

So, now what?

It’s been said that North Korea would soon have the capability to strike the US with nuclear weapons. That should read: North Korea has the capability to strike the US. Done. Now, we’ll watch their inventory grow in size.

Second, calls to “talk to them,” are misguided. As Joshua Stanton of “Free Korea” points out, we’ve been talking for more than two decades. We talk, we offer them “carrots,” and the North keeps working on missiles and nuclear weapons. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry strategy of “strategic patience” – which included lots of talking, not only allowed these programs to advance, their strategy did nothing meaningful when Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011 and put these programs into high gear.

Third, Kim’s actions demonstrate he has zero intention of giving up any weapons. And our “friends” in Beijing recently said this nuclear crisis is a US–North Korea crisis – equally, and that they (Beijing) can offer no more help. This tells you all you need to know about how much real support to expect from the country with the closest relations to Kim. China does suggests the US suspend military exercises in South Korea in exchange for the North suspending weapons development tests; a nice ploy, if you forget that US – Republic of Korea exercises are defensive, training our combined forces to react to any North Korean aggression.

Where does that leave us?

First, North Korea is nuclear capable. We must assume they have a small, but growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, with the means to deliver them. Wishing otherwise and kicking the can down the road is a dangerous delusion.

Second, they won’t give up those weapons or the capability to manufacture them.

Third, these weapons are valuable. North Korea needs hard currency to continue buying and smuggling things past various sanctions regimes. There are some who’d like to own such weapons, and could afford the probable asking price; Iran tops the list.

Fourth, Counter-proliferation has failed. And the Korea (and China) strategies of the last three presidents have failed. We need new strategies and we need them now.

Finally, the strategy with Iran is almost certainly equally flawed. We need to develop a new Iran strategy – now, not in 20 years when we fill face an even worse problem.

We could accept the assessment they really aren’t nuclear capable “yet,” that we should be patient, wait them out. What do you think? Go with the obvious answer or trust the “experts” who got us here?

Hugh Keough observed that: “the race isn’t always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

When it comes to North Korea, which way do you want to bet?

Copyright 2017 Arrias

Japan-Gazer Update

– – – – –

= This week’s poem:

School Of Hard Knocks

A fact of life,
That’s hard but true:
Tough times don’t last,
But tough people do.

Enduring, they see things
Through to their end,
And deal with whatever
The future may send.

Too busy to stop,
To tired to fear,
The tough people
Simply persevere…

{ https://carllafong.blogspot.jp }

– – – – –

= 5 Things Going On Lately:

(1) The Japanese government will soon consider steps to enhance control over all privately owned land on remote islands to bolster national security and protect resources within Japan’s territorial waters, a government source said on Saturday (25 NOV). The government plans to set up a panel of experts in the financial year starting next April to discuss land registration by owners who have neglected to do so, and imposing restrictions on land sales to foreigners in such areas. The government is concerned that leaving land out of reach of government control could raise security concerns or other problems, such as foreigners setting up bases from which to engage in fish poaching. According to the Cabinet Office, there are about 480 remote islands around Japan’s borders, excluding the South Korean-controlled Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan and the Russian-held Kuril Islands off Hokkaido — known in Japan as the Northern Territories. Of those 480 islands, the government plans to look early next financial year at 98 islands with privately-owned land, to clarify how many lots have unknown ownersd. The acquisition of land on remote islands by foreigners is also a concern for the Japanese government. In 2013, ruling party lawmakers were irked when a South Korean company bought land near a Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) facility on Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture. Tsushima Island is just 50 km from the coast of South Korea. (South China Post)

* COMMENT: It was in 2012, when Tokyo Governor Ishihara started to collect money to buy the Senkaku Islands — Why? — Well, because they were the private property of a family living in Saitama, north of Tokyo; and due to some financial problems, the family was looking to sell their islands, and, supposedly had been approached by Chinese-related investors —- then the Government of Japan (led by the Democratic Party, not LDP) stepped-in and took over the Senkakus —- so, I think that helps explain what is described above…
– – – – –

(2) The United States’ relocation of carrier-borne aircraft from Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture to Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, part of a planned U.S. military realignment in Japan, is progressing. As part of the plan, a total of 15 aircraft, including F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, arrived at the Iwakuni base on Tuesday (28 NOV). U.S. forces in Japan plan to relocate a total of 61 carrier-borne aircraft to the Iwakuni base. The carrier-borne aircraft unit, including the command of the carrier air wing to which the aircraft unit belongs, will relocate to the Iwakuni base by around May next year. The relocation of the F/A-18 jets, among the loudest sources of noise around U.S. bases in Japan, will also help reduce noise pollution around the Atsugi base, which is located in a densely populated area. In 2014, a unit of KC-130 aerial refueling planes was transferred from Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the Iwakuni base. F-35B stealth fighters, one of the newest U.S. military aircraft models, are also deployed to the base. Upon completion of the relocation of F/A-18 jets and other aircraft, Iwakuni Air Station will be one of the U.S. military’s largest aircraft hubs in the Far East, where a total of about 120 military aircraft will be stationed. Following completion of the relocation, U.S. forces will focus on securing sites for takeoff and landing drills for carrier-borne aircraft. For the time being, U.S. forces will also continue to hold drills on Iwo-To (Iwo Jima), a remote Pacific island that is administratively part of Tokyo. However, they have asked the Japanese government to quickly select an alternative site. The Japanese government has been in negotiations to purchase Mageshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture, but there is no clear timeline for relocating the drill site. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

* COMMENT: Good news for the Japanese communities located around Atsugi Air Base, who have been living with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps tactical jet noise since the switch from propeller-driven aircraft in the 1950s. On the other hand, what lies ahead for soon-to-be very crowded airfield at Iwakuni? — Also, when will GOJ be able to honor its promise to find/provide a field carrier landing practice (FCLP) site to replace the “temporary solution” at distant/risky Iwo-To (which has been used by USN carrier aviation since 1991.)
– – – – –

(3) The Japanese Fisheries Agency (JFA) plans to launch by March 2019 a wireless system to automatically inform operating fishing boats of missile launches, in response to a spate of test firing of ballistic missiles by North Korea into the seas around Japan, according to agency officials. In the wake of a missile launch, the Cabinet Secretariat emails related information to the agency, which in turn transmits it to about 580 fishery radio stations run by local governments and fisheries cooperatives across the country. Currently, staff at those radio stations vocally convey the missile information to fishing boats under operation. But missile firing in the early morning and late evening as well as on holidays can hardly be known to the boats because the stations are usually empty. Urged by local governments and fishers to take measures to prevent such a situation, the agency decided to introduce a system that will automatically read out emailed messages, the JFA officials said. (Jiji Press)

* COMMENT: A practical and common-sense measure, as ships and fishing vessels at-sea are the ones really at-risk from being hit by a falling North Korean missile. Granted, under the “big ocean, small boat” theory, the odds must be a million-to-one against that happening, but you just never know…
– – – – –

(4) SAREX-2017 exercises between Russia and Japan are being held for the 17th time to develop cooperation between the fleets and increase the level of joint counteraction to threats to security at sea. According to the press office of the Russian Pacific Fleet, Japan’s destroyer, HS HAMAGIRI, arrived on Monday (20 NOV) in the Russian port city of Vladivostok to take part “in the naval search and rescue exercises SAREX-2017.” The SAREX drills are slated to take place November 25 in the Peter the Great Gulf. According to the statement, a number of meetings concerning the details of the drills will be carried out while the vessel is docked. During the stay of a foreign ship in the Russian port, a number of general events are planned, including joint football and basketball matches. Earlier, from October 14 to 18, Vladivostok was visited by a detachment of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships including the destroyer JS HARUSAME and the training ship JS KASHIMA. (Sputnik)

* COMMENT: Japan continues to pursue a dogged and long-term/marathon-like engagement process to try to convince Russia to return the illegally-seized Southern Kuril Islands (which Tokyo calls its “northern Territories”) — and JMSDF’s continued execution of SAR-EX’s with the Russian Pacific Fleet is one of the pieces of the diplomatic puzzle…

– – – – –

(5) Japan and Britain are considering beginning talks next year to conclude a visiting forces agreement (VFA), which would foster smooth activities of the Self-Defense Forces and the British military when they are visiting either nation. At the so-called two-plus-two meeting between Japanese and British foreign and defense ministers in London scheduled for Dec. 14, the two countries are expected to confirm the reinforcement of joint exercises. The Japanese government intends to prepare for the possible deterioration of situations in the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, by expanding the scope of defense cooperation with Britain, which Tokyo has positioned as a “quasi-ally.” If talks about a VFA are realized, they will be the second following talks with Australia. Japan and Australia began discussions in 2014, and an agreement is expected to be reached soon. VFAs establish the legal status of foreign forces temporarily visiting a nation’s territory for joint exercises, disaster-relief missions, and other activities. Under the current system, when staying in Japan on a temporary basis, the British military has to undergo procedures such as applying for customs exemptions for items they carry, and obtaining permission to bring arms and ammunition. Even for the purpose of disaster-relief missions, the same procedures are required to exempt them from liability for compensation in the event of property damage during their lifesaving activities. It is assumed that a VFA would make these procedures unnecessary or simplify the process. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

* COMMENT: These types of agreements may seem legalistic or mundane, but can become very important when dealing with problems which can arise from a military’s actual/day-to-day operations and activities in a hosting country. Another small step forward for Japan in building its strategic “maritime alliance network.” And, how about the UK/Royal Navy getting involved in East Asia again, after all these years…

Commentary and verse Copyright Carl LaFong 2017

Seeing People You Know on TV

(Senator Sam Irvine)

I am not reeling this morning- actually had a pleasant evening with some decent sleep afterward. Rose early, read and scanned email and fell asleep again.

Some parts of the old-age thing are OK, if you don’t spontaneously fall asleep driving to some recently-developed place out near Dulles International Airport. I actually consider that territory to be closer to West Virginia than to my little hovel in Arlington, but oh well. There was a lot of money floating around when the development happened. And fear, of course, of the collapse of home-rule in the District. That is old time and past history.

This morning it was the wild chaos on the Hill about tax reform, which is supposed to be about lightening the burden on the Middle Class. Or bailing out the 1% and the Big Evil Corporations if you look at it that way. Since the top 25% of taxpayers pay almost 70% of the tax revenue, how could they not benefit proportionally more than taxpayers who don’t?

I guess we will see.

I had no interest in the Affordable Care Act when it got jammed our throats, thinking it did not apply to me. I actually was foolish enough to think it would not wind up ultimately hitting me in the wallet. We can talk about that some other time. I had the only conference call I enjoy this morning and it got me out of bed. I was sitting in the brown chair and turned on the flat-screen to decompress and was slammed by the images of a guy I had previously respected being dragged into the E. Barrett Pettyman Federal Courthouse down on Duke Street in Alexandria to plead guilty to the Federal charge of lying to the FBI.

It seems these days that everyone is, and should the Bureau be interested, they can come over and I will cheerfully lie that everything is fine.

The man of the moment has been closely surveilled by the media for a year. The expert analysis on the television was that he was pleading guilty only to one count, which is to say, the former leader in the Intelligence Community was copping a deal with the FBI, which was led by the guys who originally helped orchestrate this horror show of abuse of power.

I am shocked that I am now old enough to know some of the people being slimed in all this. It took me back a long way to seeing him emerge from the armored SUV, just like Scooter Libby to hustle to the court room and beg forgiveness to behaving exactly how everyone does here in the Swamp.

In the days of the long-ago Watergate hearings, my exposure (after JFK and Oswalds’ moment) was to the riots and soon-to-be ubiquitous television coverage of the War public scandal.

I watched the courtly Senator Sam Ervine (D-NC) drag Mr. Nixon’s special operators through the mud and extract justice. I watched with the grandfather of one of may best pals, whose family had paradoxically moved back to Detroit from the suburbs after the ’67 Riot. After graduating from college I got a job on the express provision that I exit Ann Arbor and maintained a decorous life-style.

It was a good place to live, since really nice places from the Glory Days were going for a song. It was Burton Abstract and Title place, located just in Detroit, inside 8 Mile and just off Woodward Avenue. I had the maid’s quarters, a work -at-home schedule, and would come over to the Big House in the afternoon to join Pop and watch the festivities when there was a Senate hearing.

I marveled that these things happened in the Constitutional Republic in which I was raised. This was not at all what I was taught in Civics, though I found it entertaining, and thankful that nothing like that could happen to people like us.

Then I became part of the Swamp. And now I can see my former colleagues doing the perp walk on national television. Is this a great system, or what?

I am very happy to be retired. And that thing that happened in 2002? I have absolutely no knowledge of it or who thought it up in the begining. I swear. Or will take a plea on advice of Counsel.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Japan-gazer Special — JSDF’s Legal Basis, Or, Reason For Existence?


COMMENT: So, should Japan’s Constitution be revised in order to remove the “legal doubt” about whether the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) should exist? I mean, is it such a big deal — either pro or con? In recent years, JSDF has become well-accepted and respected by most Japanese people due to its continued superb execution of domestic humanitarian assistence and disaster relief operations (remember the massive Joint Task Force mission following the 3-11/Fukushima mega-disaster.) However, my sense is that some Japanese are less comfortable with JSDF operating outside of the country, especially in situations/scenarios which could possibly involve fighting, killing — i.e., “combat.” And, will changing JSDF’s name & legal validity, crack-open a Pandora’s Box that would inevitably lead to kinetic operations overseas and resultant bloodshed…? This, I suppose, is the “issue behind the issue” for the Japanese to face and decide.
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== Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday (21 NOV) that a proposed constitutional amendment to add a provision about the JSDF will not cause any change to JSDF duties or authority. “Only 20 pct of constitutional scholars declare without reservation that the JSDF is constitutional, and many textbooks say there is room for argument about the JSDF’s constitutionality,” Abe told a plenary session of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament. “It’s irresponsible to tell JSDF members, ‘You may be unconstitutional, but please risk your lives for the country if anything happens,'” said Abe, who advocates adding a provision to the war-renouncing Article 9 to recognize JSDF. Abe said it is a duty of his generation to eliminate any room for argument about the JSDF’s constitutionality, Abe said in response to a question from Kohei Otsuka, president of the opposition Democratic Party. (Jiji Press)
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== GSDF colonel recalls bullets flying over camp during South Sudan PKO

(November 17, 2017; Mainichi Shimbun)

Bullets flew over the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) camp in South Sudan’s capital Juba during clashes in July last year (2016), the former commanding officer of Japan’s contingent in the U.N. peacekeeping mission there has told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Colonel Osamu Churiki, 49, chief of staff of the JGSDF Northern Army 11th Brigade based in Sapporo, headed the 10th JGSDF unit sent to South Sudan between May and December 2016. In his first exclusive media interview since his return to Japan in December last year, Churiki recalled the time when combat erupted between government forces and insurgents on July 8 through 11 last year in Juba, where the Japanese engineering unit was stationed.

According to Churiki and the unit’s daily activity logs from that time, a small-scale clash occurred on the night of July 7, 2016, leading the JGSDF unit to cancel scheduled work at a U.N. facility the following morning, and forcing the Japanese troops to stand by in the encampment. While the fighting had initially erupted in a different area in the city, insurgent forces holed up in a building right next to the encampment.

On the morning of July 10, government forces began evacuating local residents, and a gun battle broke out at around 11 a.m. and lasted for a full two days.

“Although I can’t elaborate on the details, it is true that some of the rifle and machine gun bullets passed over our camp,” Churiki said. He also recounted hearing the sound of government tank shells exploding. Holes apparently made by stray bullets were also found in encampment structures. Upon Churiki’s instructions, JGSDF troops put on bulletproof jackets and helmets and took shelter in a safer facility within the camp.

“We had conducted drills for contingencies both in Japan and South Sudan. Because it was not us who were being targeted, our unit members acted calmly,” Churiki recalled. However, he also revealed, “I was wondering what I should tell the families of my unit members (if anything happened to them).”

None of the troops subsequently complained of psychological problems, nor did any of them have to be replaced before their scheduled return to Japan, according to Churiki.

Regarding the daily reports’ references to “combat” to describe the July 2016 clashes, he said the term was used “under the general definition of the word.”

Opposition parties grilled the government in the Diet over the term “combat” recorded in the logs, arguing that it ran counter to five preconditions for Japanese participation in peacekeeping operations, including a ceasefire agreement between warring parties.

However, “the term (combat) didn’t carry a legal meaning,” in that it did not refer to fighting between countries or equivalent organizations, Churiki said. “We needed to report accurate information to our senior officers, and we felt no sense of discomfort at the time,” he continued, adding, “I have also checked the daily activity logs. Basically, I was responsible for them.”

Looking back on the time in South Sudan, Churiki stated, “Local people were thankful for our activities. It was good that we went there.” On Japan’s involvement in future peacekeeping missions, he commented, “That’s for the government to decide. I’m not in a position to answer that question.”

LINK: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171117/p2a/00m/0na/009000c
Commentary comment copyright Japan Gazer 2017
Body article copyright 2017 Mianichi Shimbun

Arrias: Navy Readiness: A Leadership Crisis

We all like to think that we’re living in new times, thinking new thoughts, seeing things no one ever saw before. That is, at best, a dangerous naiveté, and leads to ignoring history; and the lessons of history are ignored with great peril.

One of the more important lessons is that power corrupts. Give anyone power and there is a near certainty that he or she will abuse that power. And even small amounts of power are corrosive. The tale of the small-town sheriff who abuses his power is so often replayed it’s a cliché. Politicians, businessmen, soldiers, priests, teachers, tinkers, tailors – anyone and everyone; the abuse of power is literally as old as history itself. No one is immune; neither sex, no group, no age, no nation, no religion, no era is immune.

Call it what you will: our nature, the fall, or simply the imperfectability of man, the fact is power is corrosive to our morals and our behavior. If there’s anything to be concerned about today it’s that so many people appear to be aghast to learn that power corrupts, that people abuse power, whether it’s movie producers abusing young women (the phrase “casting couch” is so familiar it needs no explanation), or politicians abusing the public trust, etc.

And if you want to understand it: taking advantage of young women, selling vital assets to nations that wish us ill, making money off political position, you really need to look to “new” thinkers.

Like Aristotle.

Aristotle was concerned with limits of power, telling us that not even a wise man could be completely trusted with power, that most power had to remain with the citizenry. No one, not even the wisest and most virtuous, can be completely trusted with power and therefore the power given to any one man must be limited. Of course, few people are really wise, fewer are virtuous, and even fewer are both wise and virtuous. Ergo, people should be trusted with less rather than more power, and government should be trusted with as little power as necessary for it to accomplish assigned tasks.

Which leads to a new story line that’s ricocheted around over the past week or so, following another incident in the Western Pacific, the loss of an aircraft and the death of 3 sailors: the US Navy has been stretched thin.

I feel like Inspector Renault: ‘I’m shocked, shocked, to learn the fleet is stretched thin.’

For perhaps a decade admirals have testified to Congress that the fleet is on the verge of “breaking.” Such testimony has been regular and frequent. Yet fleet readiness has continued to decline. How can that be?

Because for a decade every time some event has led a call for Navy assets to perform some task, the Admirals nodded, demonstrated their “can-do” spirit, and followed orders. The Admirals understood how such tasks further erode readiness or manning or training. But none was willing to stand up and say: “We can do what you want, but to do so we are no longer going to do X, Y and Z.”

Why? Because the “flip side of the coin” of the corrosive effects of power is a parallel erosion of moral courage, as those who have power seek to hold onto that power. The vast majority of people with power want most of all to hold onto that power. If the option is to either stand up and say “no, we can’t” and risk taking a loss of power, or ordering a ship to go to sea whether ready or not, whether properly manned and trained or not, the average admiral will not risk his stars.

This isn’t to say these admirals are evil folks; they aren’t. But they’ve been corrupted by power. But how do we identify and promote officers who are willing to stand up to their bosses and state that a plan won’t work, who will say that they can’t safely respond to an order because readiness is eroding, who demand that money spent on “good ideas” from Washington needs to be redirected to fundamentals?

There’s no simple answer. In every age and organization promotions reflect the people managing the promotions. But the erosion of readiness is a leadership failure. If we are to ‘fix’ readiness, we must first begin with fixing leadership. And that means we need leaders with real moral courage. That is where we must start.

Copyright 2017 Arrias