Bergdahl, The Military, and Capital Punishment

SGT Bowe Bergdahl* has been charged with Desertion (Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) , and Misbehavior Before the Enemy (Article 99 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

News reports such as this from the Washington Post tell us that if convicted, Bergdahl faces the possibility of life in prison. Without having seen the actual charge sheet, I’ll admit that this confuses me somewhat, as theoretically, both articles, and especially Article 99, provide for the death penalty.

Since 1942, the services have executed 160 service members. Of these, three were Air Force personnel, and the remainder were all Army personnel. The vast majority were during World War II. The last person executed under the UCMJ was John A. Bennett, in 1961, for the rape and attempted murder of a young girl in Austria.

The only execution not for murder or rape was that of Eddie Slovik, famously the only American soldier executed for Desertion during World War II.

There are currently six servicemembers facing the death penalty for convictions under the UCMJ. Four are, for want of a better term, rather garden variety spree murders. Two are rather more imfamous, Hasan K. Akbar and Nidal Hasan, both cases of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome,” if you will.

The military, while arguing against appeals in the above cases, does not currently seem to be pressing forward toward actually executing any of the above. Every death sentence under the UCMJ must be personally affirmed by the President.


*Here is an interesting aside. SGT Bergdahl was a Private First Class when he was alleged to have deserted. His promotions were automatic, under the presumption of satisfactory service, as is the norm with POW/MIA personnel. The Army now alleges that his performance was not satisfactory. Would the reduction from Sergeant to PFC be administrative, or would a conviction under the charges listed be required for reduction? Any JAG officers around?



The Royal Canadian Navy

Just a nifty little hooah video from our friends up north, showing operations well to east.

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CDR Salamander: What if we gave a war and everyone came

The future? At best, we cull the herd and let the scavengers fight over the remains of the Islamic State. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, thousands of radicalized young fighters who survive will return home to France, Germany, Britain, Australia and the USA. They will not come home in peace.

via CDR Salamander: What if we gave a war and everyone came.

For myself, in the short term, I see the defeat of ISIS as a pressing matter. In the  rather more long term, the containment of Iran is, I think, more important to our long term security.

Having said that, the bolded part of that piece from CDR Salamander will almost certainly haunt us for years to come.

Western societies are, by their nature, quite open. That inherently makes them vulnerable to some level of terrorist attack, be it as simple as driving a car into a crowd, or something rather more sophisticated.

We will have to deal with these radicalized people. But we also have to do so without losing the soul of what it means to be a free society. We’ve not done well on that front to date. We’ve already seen the reaction by Boston PD to what was, really, a rather small incident, essentially placing a major metropolitan region under house arrest.



Saudis contest Iran’s hegemony – and might just win | Asia Times

Saudi diplomacy in preparation for yesterday’s air strikes in Yemen is impressive. The Kingdom is reaching out to the Sunni world with apparent success: Pakistan, which only last week rejected any role in Yemen, is now considering a role in the Saudi-led operation against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Pakistan is by far the largest Sunni state with a strong military and air force, and its alignment with the Saudi-led coalition is of decisive importance. Egypt has sent four warships to the Gulf of Aden to secure the southern approach to the Suez Canal, and may have deterred an Iranian naval presence. The Israel news service Aretz Sheva reports, “Senior editor of Saudi online paper Arab News, Siraj Wahab, has just tweeted that Egyptian ships forced Iranian retreat from Bab Al-Mandab strait near the Port of Aden.”

via Saudis contest Iran’s hegemony – and might just win | Asia Times.

At this point, I think the best we can hope for from our current administration is to shut up and stay away from the grown-ups at the table.



Hezbollah’s gains in Syria have triggered concerns in Israel | Public Radio International

And that’s ringing alarm bells among Israelis.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite group, an old enemy of Israel, which came out openly in support of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad almost two years ago. Both Assad and Hezbollah are allies of Iran, another Israeli enemy.

Hezbollah is “fighting on multiple fronts,” explains Nicholas Blanford, Beirut correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and author of ‘Warriors of God,’ a military history of Hezbollah. But he says Israel’s concern is focussed on one particular area — “the region [of Syria] adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

“The Iranians and Hezbollah, and various other Iranian allies — Shia paramilitary groups from Iraq and even Afghanistan — are waging an offensive in southern Syria against the rebel forces there. But that’s going to put them face-to-face with Israeli troops on the Golan, which is a prospect that has filled the Israelis with some alarm.”

via Hezbollah’s gains in Syria have triggered concerns in Israel | Public Radio International.

The Golan Heights are THE dominant terrain feature in Israel. It’s unlikely Hezbollah can force them, but on the other hand, they can make continued possession of them expensive and painful. Israel cannot strategically afford to abandon them. Israel will find itself either having to absorb casualties from Hezbollah attacks, or launch an attack from the Heights against well prepared defensive positions to push Hezbollah back. Neither is a particularly attractive prospect.

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JS Izumo joins the fleet.

The largest Japanese naval vessel since World War II, the JS Izumo, has joined the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.

An undated photo of JS Izumo (DDH-183) underway. The ship commissioned on March 25, 2015. JMSDF Photo

Sam LaGrone, as always, brings us the news.

A 24,000-ton helicopter carrier has formally entered the fleet of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) on Wednesday making the ship the largest warship Japan has fielded since the close of World War II.

The commissioning ceremony JS Izumo (DDH-183) — the first of two for the JMSDF — was held in Yokohama and attended by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

Billed by the Japanese as a platform to assist in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations, the ship has flared regional tensions in neighbors— China especially — who view the ship as a power projection platform with a historically aggressive name.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for Izumo and her sister ship to serve as power projection platforms, but they’re certainly not optimized for it.

The ships really are configured as anti-submarine helicopter carriers (though for political reasons, they’re designated Helicopter Destroyers).

This is the second class of helicopter carriers the Japanese have built in recent years. The earlier, slightly smaller class of two Hyugas weighed in at around 19,000 tons full load. Interestingly, the Hyugas carry a more robust self defense fire control system and weapon suite. The Izumo appears to carry only the most basic self defense systems. Both classes carry impressive sonar systems.

Of course, large ships like this aren’t intended to operate independently. Instead, they form the centerpiece of an escort group with other surface ships, destroyers and frigates, to provide a “bubble” of ocean that is denied to enemy submarines, surface ships, and air assets. The Japanese actually built a class of destroyers specifically to provide escort to these larger helicopter destroyers.  Add in one of their formidable Kongo or Atago class Aegis destroyers, and a couple of conventional destroyers or frigates, and you have a very potent surface force.  But it is a sea control force, one that can deny an enemy use of a particular portion of the sea. The JMSDF lacks the ability to project power ashore and influence the enemy there. And that is, of course, by design, and in accordance with the Japanese constitution drawn up by MacArthur after World War II.


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And so it begins- Saudi Arabia begins operations in Yemen.

Earlier today we told you that Iran was fighting a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Now it appears that Saudi Arabia has begun operations to roll back the Iranian supported Houthi rebels.

SANAA, Yemen — Saudi officials on Wednesday announced they had launched a military operation in neighboring Yemen, after Shiite rebels believed backed by Iran swept toward that country’s second-largest city and forced the president to flee.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, made the announcement on Wednesday evening.

Some parts of Aden remained held by forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who abandoned his refuge in the seaside city. But the troops appeared initially overwhelmed by the rebel blitz, suggesting the insurgents were close to taking control of their latest major battlefield prize, witnesses said.

It’s unclear just how far Saudi Arabia might want to push. They certainly wish to minimize their entanglement in historically messy Yemen, but still wish to address the threat to their southern border, and critically, ensure the strategic waterways in the area remain open.

Notably, there appears to be no US involvement in what just yesterday the White House defended as a success story in Yemen.

H/T to DKE for the news.


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