Book Reviews

The central maxim of submarining is: "Keep the number of surfacings equal to the number of dives." The history of the Canadian Submarine Service is replete with instances when it was going down, while its chances for surfacing were in doubt. Today, with cuts in Canada's naval budget, no clear naval policy, an antiquated NATO commitment, and with only a few years left of life in its three old Oberon -class submarines, the service may be going down for the last time.

Julie H. Ferguson's fascinating book documents the troubled history of Canadian submarining. The story begins in 1914 when, faced with German cruisers patrolling the Pacific coast of North America, the Premier of British Columbia purchased two small diesel submarines—with neither the Canadian government's nor the British Admiralty's approval. Having been built for the Chilean Navy by the Electric Boat Company, the two boats languished in a Seattle shipyard, not accepted because of serious defects. Spiriting the two boats out of the Seattle yard and U.S. waters just hours before the United States declared neutrality, the provincial Premier risked his career and reputation to provide a modicum of defense for his province.

Although the two boats never saw action, their service in World War I provides a good case study with regard to the value and the huge challenges of a national submarine program. Without a doubt, these boats contributed to the war effort by training submariners who later served with distinction in the British Navy. Their antisubmarine warfare training proved to be a critical contribution to the war effort.

Despite its contributions, the fledgling Canadian submarine service was plagued by controversy. Ferguson describes overcharging by unscrupulous contractors, the unique material challenges posed by a submarine program, and the toll that unrealistic requirements and inadequate resources took on the crews. The parallels with modern U.S. submarine programs are uncanny.

One significant drawback to a book that is obviously meant to influence current Canadian naval policy is the lack of background on the decision making early in the 20th century. Although Ferguson usually accounts for reasons for program decisions in the early parts of her book, they are sometimes superficial. The conflict and bureaucratic infighting that are central to the development of naval policy in Canada are not well documented—that is, not until 1983, when interest in the latest Canadian submarine acquisition began to stir.

Still, the paucity of historical naval policy debate more or less reflects Canadian political-military reality. Domestic politics—e.g., where ships and their components will be built—in both the United States and the United Kingdom always play a big part in naval building, but Canadian naval policy is unique in its levels of political backroom deal-making. In such an environment, Canadian naval officers often are left out of the final programmatic decisions.

Ferguson excels in her descriptions of modern-era Cabinet-naval intrigue. She tells the story well of Canada's 1987 announcement to the world of its decision to acquire nuclear submarines. The Canadian government lobbied unrelentingly for U.S. acquiescence and got it—despite opposition from the U.S. Naval Reactors directorate. It also initiated a competition between the British Trafalgar and the French Amerhyste submarine programs, and then—without explanation—the government canceled the whole effort. Having tried unsuccessfully for a suitable replacement submarine program for the past 14 years, the Canadian submarine service is in serious jeopardy. Ferguson attributes the failure to find a submarine replacement to a lack of sound naval policy. The difficulties that Canadian submarine programs have faced since 1983 should be a lesson to U.S. submariners. It also is a story that American naval decision makers-particularly those who do not fully understand the balance between the submarine service and naval policy-should pay heed.

So far, Department of Defense industrial policy, not naval policy, has maintained the U.S. submarine-building program. But with the last of the Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class finished, with the Seawolf (SSN-21)-class cut by 90%, and with the best threat estimates calling for fewer than 12 New Attack Submarines—the need for a new submarine policy for the U.S. Navy is evident. Common sense alone argues for more submarines, but common sense is not naval policy.

Meanwhile, the current U.S. policy of scrapping perfectly sound Los Angeles -class submarines offers a potential solution to Canada's submarine shortage. Each scrapping of a $1 billion nuclear submarine costs the U.S. Navy more than $30 million. Yet, these same boats can be operated for only about $7 million a year. Instead of scrapping these modern, capable, nuclear submarines, and incurring the associated decommissioning costs, why not lease them to Canada?

Commander Caldwell is a Washington, D.C.-area commentator on naval affairs. He is the author of Arctic Leverage: Canadian Sovereignty and Security (Praeger, 1990).

 

Flight of the Lavi: Inside a U.S.-Israeli Crisis

Dov S. Zakheim, Washington: Brassey's 1996. 277 pp. Notes. $25.95 ($23.35).

Reviewed by Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Time and again it has been demonstrated that dependence upon foreign support can be a serious weakness in a nation's ability to conduct sustained combat. When that nation is surrounded by enemies and lies a long pipeline away from its most reliable ally, the weakness can be critical. Israel recognized that situation early on, and embarked upon a program to make itself as militarily self-sufficient as possible.

Smaller weapons were no real problem. Israeli industry, among the most technically competent in the world in many areas, readily met the challenge. The Merkava tank was, and is, a shining example of their capability. So was the Kfir fighter, as well as several missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. But when it came to larger ships, submarines, and higher-performance aircraft, there was another story.

Flight of the Lavi is that story. Well written by Dov Zakheim and well edited, it is an easy-to-read (and understand) narrative of a development and acquisition effort gone awry on the shoals of patriotic optimism and technical and financial arrogance. It also is the personal story of the author, an Orthodox Jewish Department of Defense official required to unravel the intricacies of Israeli-American politics in order to protect the U.S. taxpayers and, at the same time, to protect the ability of this important ally of the United States to defend itself.

Although indeed a factual description of events, the book reads like a novel. The main plot centers on the efforts of Israeli Aircraft Industries top management, a shifting cast of Israeli cabinet members, Israeli Air Force leadership, media, and union people as they champion the Lavi as the fulfillment of the very real Israeli requirement for an upgraded fighter force. Supporting them in their efforts are a number of U.S. congressmen and some American-Jewish organizations. Other American-Jewish organizations are ambivalent, as are most of the Congress and many Israelis. Most of the Israeli economic ministry, the Israeli Army and Navy and even a few in the Air Force are against the program, but it is difficult for them to speak out, in contrast to the blatant chutzpah of some Lavi supporters who demand and expect free access to the most sensitive U.S. technology and unlimited financial support—while at the same time expecting to export that very technology to other nations for a profit.

The Washington Post described it best in its "Story of the Stone Soup."

A man offers a stone to cook soup to a gullible stranger. He then requests water, carrots, onions, meat and seasoning. Soon the soup has become a beef stew at the stranger's expense.

Despite backroom intrigue, rumor-mongering, and personal attacks, Dov Zakheim, with the help of a few dedicated U.S. Air Force analysts and the backing of Fred Ikle, Caspar Weinberger, and later, George Shultz paints the Lavi effort for what it is: an unaffordable drain on the Israeli treasury and U.S. taxpayers for an aircraft that never could be bought in the quantities necessary for defense of Israel. Of course, Lavi proponents disputed this but, as Dr. Zakheim had predicted, cost and weight skyrocketed and the schedule slipped. A prototype eventually did fly, but soon after that, largely because of unaffordability, the Knesset terminated the program.

While all that was going on, Dov Zakheim and his small group—with the help of U.S. aerospace companies—demonstrated for Israel how they indeed could satisfy their fighter requirement without bankrupting their treasury, causing massive Israeli unemployment, and overstressing their special relationship with the United States: by procuring F-16s under the "Peace Marble" program. This was the final course taken and, in the end, everyone was satisfied, albeit wistful—except for the most strident of the original Lavi supporters.

Woven in and around the major plot is a subplot involving the problems of acquisition of submarines and Sa'ar patrol boats for the Israeli Navy, providing all the money did not go to the Lavi. Another subplot centers on the special circumstances faced by this loyal American, but Orthodox Jew, while working such an emotional issue in a Christian-oriented culture on a program involving his historic, religious homeland.

In the end, this small book tells an interesting story and packs in numerous lessons learned. The only problem for the American reader is keeping all the many players with Hebrew names sorted out. A table of characters would have been helpful, but that's only minor.

Flight of the Lavi is an excellent work on many levels—well researched and well documented. It is a highly recommended read for anyone involved in government acquisition, foreign sales, or dealings with Israel.

Vice Admiral Dunn is a former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare.

 

The Next War

Caspar Weinberger & Peter Schweizer. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996. 470 pp. Bib. Maps. App. Ind. $27.50 ($24.75).

Reviewed by William H. Gregory

Here is a policy book disguised as a thriller. Apply virtual reality and special effects. Wrap these around international political villains, cyber and bacterial warfare, ballistic missile defense, organized terrorism, death, destruction, and nuclear Armageddon. Jurassic Park —move over!

Weinberger's vision of the future cannot be dismissed lightly, of course, given his tenure as Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration—not to mention a generous send-off in the introduction by Lady Margaret Thatcher. He and his co-author, an Oxford graduate and visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, essentially have strung together a series of war games set from 1998 to 2008.

These are populated with the characters, dialogue, and scenery of a novel. There is even a pompous Secretary of State whose description bears a passing resemblance to Weinberger's one-time rival, then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz. There is a U.S. President who sometimes stands tall, and sometimes plays windsock.

First comes a covert, then open invasion of South Korea by the North, augmented by China. Then Iran invades the Gulf states and attacks Saudi Arabia, covered by the threat of a nuclear-missile strike on a European city, and terrorist bombings in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans next swarm over the U.S. border, fleeing a drug-cartel-corrupted regime. The United States invades to get the emigrants back home, in what is perhaps the book's most absorbing whiff of future social-service warfare.

In the meantime, Russia elects a born-again Tsarist who rebuilds its tank forces under the shield of an impregnable ballistic missile defense system developed from the pre-anti-ballistic-missile treaty Galosh system.

Before Russia moves, Japan rebels at protectionist U.S. trade policy and carries out an electronic strike on America's essential computer infrastructure, gaining hegemony over Asia. A beleaguered United States buys a couple years of time by ceding Western Europe to the Russians, in order to launch its own ballistic missile defense system, based on Brilliant Pebbles. The two superpowers face each other down, each ready to pull the nuclear trigger. Fadeout. Whew!

Not many policy books are likely to raise the heart rate as this one does. The Next War is fascinating in terms of big-power politics, combat narrative, and in authentic-sounding bits on how national leaders live, eat, dress, talk, travel, think, act, and blunder.

How prescient a policy vision it is depends on validity of the assumptions. Would the United States let its defenses continue to run down after a tripwire strike in Korea or the threat of a nuclear Iran? Could Russia rise from economic chaos in less than a decade to overrun Western Europe? This has happened before, of course; Germany arose from the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s.

Any of these scenarios thus could become reality. Could they all, in just ten years? Civilians chide the military for preparing to fight the last war. Yet chunks of this book refight the Cold War, from reenactment of the Korean War of the 1950s to preparations for massive tank battles in Central Europe.

Policy themes of the book are classic Weinberger—and Ronald Reagan: readiness (declining), spare parts (in short supply), military budgets (too low), Mutual Assured Destruction (bankrupt), defense advocacy (missing), Strategic Defense Initiative (needed now). Above all, it warns of unilateral disarmament in the shadow of a cloud of new evil empires.

This certainly is a plausible vision, and it deserves a hearing. But there also is a flavor of trouble, born in the 1980s. Then, Weinberger represented the military before Congress as a lawyer might, but he was no innovator or mold-maker in the Pentagon. When the size of the pie was a given, that may have been fine. Go for the last dollar, he told his aides, or some other agency would get it. but borrowing to get that last dollar has left a horrendous hangover of debt.

Now the pie's size is no longer a given, economics and information technology are competing with tanks as weapons, and a strong defense depends on clever ideas as well as money. Effective as they were in bankrupting the Soviet Union, the doctrines of the 1980s, unmodified, may not apply to the next century so well.

William H. Gregory was a naval aviator in World War II and former editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology . He is editor-at-large with Armed Forces Journal International .

 

Covert Warrior

Warner Smith. Presidio Press, Novato, CA: 1996. 256 pp. Ind. Maps. $24.95 ($22.95).

Reviewed by Captain Larry W. Bailey, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Of all the "wannabe" accounts of the Vietnam war, Covert Warrior is by far the most self-promoting; it also is the most clever. The author, Warner Smith, is a former U.S. Naval Reserve officer who claims to have been a member of FRAM-16, a unit of Navy junior officers assembled and trained by the CIA to conduct operations in areas outside of South Vietnam. The problem is that FRAM-16 never existed.

According to Smith, FRAM-16 consisted of 16 Navy junior officers recruited by the CIA at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, in July 1964, where he was awaiting training in an unnamed intelligence specialty. According to his military records, however, he actually was awaiting flight training when he disenrolled at his own request. He then was assigned to Naval Air Station Sangley Point, the Philippines, where he was treasurer of the Officers Mess for 21 months prior to returning to the United States for separation.

Of course, Smith does what any good "wannabe" author does: he covers his tracks by claiming that his DD-214 was doctored by the Navy to cover up his real history. Similarly, he says that 14 of his FRAM-16 buddies were killed in action and that the 15th is incapable of communication. He thus becomes the last man standing. This is convenient, but unsuccessful, because scores of factual errors turn up in the most cursory review of his accounts—the most notable of which told how FRAM-16 rescued more than a dozen U.S. prisoners from a North Vietnamese prisoner of war (POW) camp in Cambodia in 1965.

Of all the exploits Smith could have dreamed up to discredit himself, this one stands (or lies) at the top of the list. In addition to his obvious ignorance of what was going on in Indochina at the time, he is unaware of the simple-fact that not a single U.S. POW was rescued during the entire Indochina conflict. That error alone puts the lie to the entire book. Nevertheless, several others are worth reviewing for their amusement.

  • Smith claims that SEALs were not in Vietnam in 1965 (the first detachment deployed in 1963).
  • He says that the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) were conducting combat operations in the Mekong Delta in 1965. Although the UDTs later conducted numerous operations throughout the rest of the country, they never were in the Delta.
  • He discusses the problems SEALs were having with the M-16 rifle and its attached grenade launcher during 1965. The M-16 did not come into SEAL inventories until 1966, nor did the XM-203 grenade launchers.
  • Smith distinguishes between 5.56 mm and .223 caliber rounds; they are one and the same.
  • He claims to have been on board a PBR when its crew ambushed a troop-- carrying sampan on the Bassac River and killed at least 35 of the enemy. PBR crews were extremely lucky when they found more than two or three enemy on a single craft.

The dumbest story in this collection of tall tales is Smith's account of his one-man mission into southern China to learn whether the SAM-2 missiles being shipped to North Vietnam were of Russian or Chinese origin. Parachuting solo into his area of operations, he spent the next several days hiding and maneuvering into position before killing a couple of truck drivers and observing Cyrillic writing on the SAMs they were transporting. Mission accomplished! Then there was the problem of getting home. Suffice it to say that Smith's extraction from China by an in-flight CIA aircraft employing some sort of Rube Goldberg recovery system—not the Fulton Recovery System—beggars belief.

Captain Bailey was commissioned through Officer Candidate School in 1962 and served as a SEAL for more than 27 years, including a tour as commanding officer, Naval Special Warfare Center, Coronado, California. 

 

 
 

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