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5 NatSec Things - 11 Apr 2018

Today's things: Somebody shot up Syria; Japan gets Marines; Navy's got an airplane problem; Navy's go
April 11 · Issue #46 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: Somebody shot up Syria; Japan gets Marines; Navy’s got an airplane problem; Navy’s got a race problem; India’s got a navy.

Quote of the Day
“Not only is almost every Navy fighter pilot a white guy, they all have brown hair. I’m blonde, and I feel like an outsider.” – Navy Lt. Steven Shaw who is not, in fact, having more fun
Syria, Russia: Israel did it. Israel: Probably. Your point?
We are very sneaky, sir
“A large part of Israeli army activity does not find its way on to (Israeli newspapers and websites) … and that is good. It’s just not right to say that we don’t act.” – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman
What happens in Jerusalem probably affects Damascus
This week the Syrian government allegedly attacked its own people with chemical weapons (again). I’m using “allegedly” here because there’s some confusion over what happened. However, reports out of Syria were good enough for the Israeli government to launch missiles at a Syrian airbase in response.
Was it them? Or us?
As of right now, the Americans haven’t responded militarily to the initial attack. There has been a flurry of tweets, though, which should fix it. 
The Israelis are doing what Israel does a lot of: neither confirming nor denying that the missiles that came from their general direction were actually launched by them in the first place.
When are the Americans going to do anything?
As soon as Trump’s generals figure out a response that will appease the Great Orange One. And will be a severe enough answer to chemical attacks on the Syrian people that the international community will be OK with it.
Problem is a lot of legal things, like whether we can actually launch missiles at Syrian targets in the first place. Which seems like a thing that could be done, but maybe there are other options. 
No, I don’t know what those options are. This is why I’m not a president, just some dude with a newsletter.
Shot of the Day
Today's period of instruction: the awkward hug.
Japan discovers it's an island, gets its own Marines
I mean, it has been a few years
“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate.“ – Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister
Not since World War II
There was a time when the Japanese were a small island nation with dreams of empire. Those dreams got cut short when the Americans decided Japan was a fine place to drop nuclear weapons. Ever since, the Japanese have only had self defense forces, which the US has been more than happy to supply with weapons and training. 
Now the country’s concerned with China’s uptick in doing stuff with islands. Japan is a bunch of islands. So they’re less cool with not having a maritime military force. Now they’ve got Marines.
Marines that eat sushi
The current force has been trained by US partners, and has raised concerns by some in Japan that is a first step toward developing offensive capabilities that could be directed at other countries.
That’s cute, though
This is more than just a smaller country mimicking big brother’s approach to force projection. As a nation, you don’t make this kind of shift in your military posture unless you’re really worried about your neighbors. Or, neighbor. Because China’s got everyone’s attention, not just He Who Likes All The Trade Wars.
Navy leads the way in aircraft accidents
Change can be a bad thing
“Change is the mother of all risk. When you do not have predictability in your funding, your training, your manning, that will cause change within a particular squadron. The more you change, you can correlate that you will probably have an increased mishap rate.” – Capt. John Fischer, head of naval aviation safety
The sequester did a bad thing
If it seems like there are more military aircraft accidents than usual, that’s because there are. That’s part of the findings in the Military Times multi-article look at aircraft mishaps and incidents for the last several years. The navy’s having the worst time of it, with incidents up 82% since 2013. Which is when the sequester started jacking up things like spare parts, maintainers, and ops tempos.
Do more with less and try not to kill anybody
Even though funding never shut off, the uncertainty around funding for keeping airplanes in the air started five years ago with issues around budgets thanks to the sequester. That meant things like spare parts weren’t as readily available, so to compensate parts were being pulled from other aircraft to keep planes in the air.
Add to that an increased ops tempo, which included more carrier deployments to combat zones, and you had a recipe for aviation disaster. And now they’ve got it. Because launching and recovering planes in humid operations environments puts a lot more stress on them than stateside short hops.
With the new budgets, things should be fine
Like the spate of fatal collisions involving navy ships, this isn’t just about the money. It’s about enough commanders and senior enlisted telling higher ups that they’re not ready to do the joy they’ve been asked to do. And rethink how those kinds of jobs get done. There’s always the risk of dying when one enlists. It just shouldn’t happen by accident.
Seems like naval aviation's got a bit of a race problem
Black like me? Not in the Navy
“I never thought about flying fighters, because people that look like me don’t fly fighter jets.” – Courtland Savage, who has the best name ever
It’s almost like it’s not 2018
Courtland Savage barely scored high enough to qualify for fighter jet training, and ended up getting slotted to fly FA-18 Hornets. A year later, he’d washed out of the training pipeline, struggling to put together what might be left of his career in the US Navy. Not the most remarkable of stories, since a lot of people have this happen to them: being a jet fighter pilot is not for everyone. 
Here’s the thing: Courtland Savage is black. A lot of his fellow students and instructors? Not black. He felt like he was discriminated against because, well, he’s not white.
Look who’s dropping all the race cards
The story takes an odd turn with one Lt. Shaw, a navy flight instructor, who points out that as a white pilot with blonde hair, he too is in the minority in the navy’s fighter community. His point, though, appears valid: navy fighter pilots think white dude with brown hair when they think of other navy pilots. Courtland Savage, and his fellow black trainees, has the brown hair, but not the right color of skin.
Did none of you watch Red Tails?
Do put this one in the “read later” pile, because I, for one, thought we were done with this: white students (based on the outstanding reporting done for the story) get the benefit of the doubt in the often-subjective world of military pilot training.
Non-white (mostly black) students in the same situations do not. While it doesn’t appear to be much in the way of overt racism involved, there is definitely a lack of cultural understanding and a definite bias toward non-white students in terms of letting them get to the next level.
Snark aside: this kills me as a veteran, that we’re still treating minorities of any persuasion as anything less than equals. Maybe Savage shouldn’t be a fighter pilot. But he at least deserves the same chances to prove otherwise as everyone else.
Turns out India's kinda badass in the naval department
But who’s going to carry my water?
“By the livin’ Gawd that made you, You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!” – Rudyard Kipling
It’s called the Indian Ocean for a reason
This isn’t a news story, and I tend to steer away from other people’s analysis in this thing because well, that’s my bag, but when someone’s talking about how another military power might project force on the big blue wet stuff, I’m intrigued. 
New Delhi has the funding and expertise to kit out more than one aircraft carrier. And that puts them firmly in play as a world power that can project military might on an ocean at some point. Particularly the Indian one.
Let’s stay friends
India’s come a long way from the days when the Brits thought “subcontinent” also meant “subspecies.” And as a viable economic force in the region, it’s courted by a lot of other world powers that would like to stay on New Delhi’s good side. Because when the Big One comes, you want India on your team.
Aircraft carriers are still a big deal
Even if the silly things are filled with drones, being able to put land based targets within range of fighter bombers via the big floaty thing means that you’re a force to be reckoned with beyond your borders. That’s a good thing (for India and its allies). It’s a worrying thing (for everyone else).
I Wrote A Thing
If Sahar Spoke, She’d Probably Ask, “What’s Up With This Picture?” If Sahar Spoke, She’d Probably Ask, “What’s Up With This Picture?”
At some point this newsletter is going to lead into other things, like a website. Some of you may know me from previous work on the Sunny In Kabul blog - I’ve shuttered that in favor of 5 NatSec Things, and this is something I did for that. 
The site in question has since updated the photo, and they were gracious in doing so. However - they’re still using NATO/US forces photos. Which is fine (hey, I do it all the time), but it would be kinda cool if, you know, they reached out to actual folks doing the kind of work Sahar Speaks does?
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