Well done. The graphics tell the story. It's not a good one if you're an American.

Expand full comment
May 31, 2023·edited May 31, 2023

Once again, history rhymes:

Stalin was reportedly sceptical — he is reported as asking,

“What fools would sell us their secrets?”

In 1946 the British Government approved the Soviet purchase of 10 Derwent and 10 Nene jet engines.

Expand full comment

The problem as stated many times. The US has a 4-8 year vision of the world, The Chinese a 50+ year outlook. As seen in the current debt limit kerfuffle, they are only pushing the can down the road another 2 years, not providing a real solution.

Expand full comment

What you are missing is the dependance of China on trade. Without a global system of trade China cannot survive. The global system depends on maritime traffic, and in our lifetime the guarantor of safe traffic over the oceans of the world has been the United States Navy.

Now, put yourself in a leadership position in China. Your nation cannot survive without access to worldwide markets. But, the nation who kept open the sea lanes, has shown that it is unable to continue to build and maintain a Navy sufficient to throttle nation-state interference with trade, to bat down pirates, and discourage privateers. What would you do?

The answer is what China is doing. They see that we are not serious people. Our navy to too small, too poorly designed, and too inefficient to guarantee the free passage of merchant ships over the waterways of the world. A nation dependent on trade has to have a navy capable of insuring freedom of the seas. Now that the U.S. Navy is declining, the Chinese are simply filling a vacuum.

Expand full comment

Fat and stupid, also known as hubris, is not a good plan. The U.S. has been suffering from a lack of “come to Jesus” events, similar to the Imperial Japanese Navy “victory disease” of early 1942. I hate to think what it will take to get the Potomac Fleet off its collective derrière. I phrase it that way because at present there is no visible indication that Big Navy actually understands the swamp it blithely sits in. The last time I looked, we had more flag officers than ships. That is really sad. Lean and mean might actually get more done for the country as a whole, and the Navy specifically.

Expand full comment

Difficult point to drive home when the the likes of Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang shouts "without China all is lost"and Jamie Dimon going to China to strongly endorse "no decoupling". China saw an opening in South America when the good ole US of A provided nothing to the countries of South America during the Covid "pandemic" while China dumped masks, ventilators, gloves, and hazmat suits. In Kenya the saying is "when Chinese come we get hospital, when English come we get stern lecture about the Chinese". Doesn't take rocket science to realize that business drives improvement in people's lives, NOT the guvmint political "best and brightest" (that's sarcasm)..

And the graphs cannot be denied, great job.

Expand full comment

What the charts scream to me are SSNs and a method to cut the belt/road play. We need the ability to counter the CCP stranglehold on key sectors of the US economy and we need the tools to threaten their trade routes. CBG's won't survive to do that. SSNs and unsinkable Islands (think Malta) will. Indonesia and Australia are key

Expand full comment

At the time, Dick and Hank were thinking 100 Soviet divisions not pointed at Western Europe.

They also thought the Chinese would act like good liberal internationalists.

Expand full comment

Beyond the military/economic context, this country is suffering serious societal rot all across the spectrum.

More and more people are going to question whether its all even worth fighting for...


Expand full comment

Nicely done. Clear, compelling and sobering. Time to rethink some basic concepts for our future.

Expand full comment

The last graphic double counts the EU by having the individual countries as well. China is clearing the decks to prepare for war. This includes clearing forest to increase their grain production and arresting a retired non-warmongering general and expunging his printed works. The Ukraine War has gone on longer than they expected and they likely now realise that they will be starving if their war goes on as long. China imports 41% of the plant protein in their agricultural system. Indonesia is an interesting question. If China pisses off the Indonesians, how to they get to the Indian Ocean? They likely just lost 30 million tonnes of the annual wheat crop due to heavy rains at harvest in Henan Province. Electronics has improved a lot in the last 20 years and that has favored the defense. You see your enemy from hundreds of kilometres away now. And in China's war, the US and allies start with all the islands in the Western Pacific. Be more like the Marines who have parked up everything that is a target and switched to missiles fired from islands. In fact the Ukraine War has vindicated Berger's restructure. You don't need a big navy to sink the enemy's navy. The most cost-effective way of doing that is air-launched missiles.

Expand full comment

Obama Administration? The alarm was rung on April 1, 2001.

Expand full comment

Sal I emailed you this in Feb 2021. No response. Maybe I'm SPAM. If I'm classified crazy, please block me.

Hello Sal

Thanks for your insightful writing and the guests you manage to get on Midrats. It's my favourite podcast. I write to ask about a specific approach to naval tactics that occurs to me out of my work background.

I'm not from a nav/mil background but I write analytics models for a large (non-defence) (redacted country) government agency on very large datasets. I have to adapt a lot of different approaches to automatically deliver thousands of decisions every day in that information-imperfect context. There are tolerances for 'how much error can we afford?' etc. From what I read about carrier groups and the challenges they face (where to place each vessel in the context of the imprecisely-known location of enemy platforms (esp anti-ship missiles and subs)) in decision-making, one particular method occurs to me.


With computing having become so cheap, it is feasible to take information that is known and very rapidly mix that with thousands of possible variables to generate billions of scenarios that are within the realm of possibility. Having done that, we can score or rate hundreds (or thousands) of potential decisions we might take and automatically score each of those choices according to the results it would produce in each scenario. The potential decision that scores best is, in many cases, the best. I find you can only sustain a handful of goals (3-4 is ideal) for such a scoring system.

Adaption to naval tactics

Inputs to the crunch would be:

1. Geo/hydrographic grid,

2. The known/suspected/unknown location of enemy platforms and their reach (each platform is a variable - where numbers are not precisely known, we simply put enough platforms in the game to meet the estimate),

3. Each platform needs a speed, endurance cycle point attached to it (or randomised for each scenario, where this is unknown), acknowledging some platforms have complex variables - particularly optical satellites which would be an important ingredient on the Chinese side,

4. Numerically quantified goals for the score - which could include:

a. reducing uncertainty by detecting enemy assets in a given area,

b. avoiding detection by or engagement with particular platforms,

c. or engaging particular platforms on favourable terms.

I acknowledge that even with a good chunk of known values, a crunch would generate trillions of scenarios, and that the level of complexity is governed by the grain of the timescale and how many steps into the future you crunch. However, the neat thing about modern computing is we can generate this in seconds and we don't need humans to personally comprehend each scenario - we can score the potential decisions and summarise and sample some of the scenarios or outcomes (if we like).

Much like any well-trained and tested model, where this would come in really handy is operationally: the 30-60 minute decision cycle (assuming that to be an appropriate cycle) when a fleet is actually sailing. Where do we best put the frigates, or the ASW assets? Which direction and speed to take now, in 15 minutes? Where do we put AWACS or patrols? What could allied assets do of most value to the goals?

At a very basic level: it's card counting in a casino on a scale that humans can't do.

Maybe all of this already exists. I have no idea. However, I have had a peek into the analytics use of quite a few non-defence organisations (including private sector) and there is nothing about the Western defence establishment that, from the outside, hints anything like this exists.

If I was the PLAN, this is exactly what I'd be working on, especially given my superior numbers and my relative lack of tactical and combat experience. It's the sort of trick that could turn a novice chess player into one that, although not a grand master, could inflict serious damage. The West should be working on this if only as an exploratory exercise into how the PLAN would seek to secure a clear advantage despite their inexperience.

Thanks for reading and if you are aware of any machine learning or statistical (the above being the later) in this area I'd be grateful to receive any pointers.

Kind regards

Expand full comment

Seriously I don't think the US can regain what it had.

The enemy is inside the wire and they are us.

Expand full comment

Effective use of “Implications Wheel” graphics showing issues/barriers/challenges …


Expand full comment