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2013 in review

December 31, 2013

It wasn’t the most prolific year ever, but we’re still here… Happy New Year!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My 2011 Master’s Thesis Now Available: Looking at China’s A2/AD Capabilities and U.S. Perceptions of the Challenge

April 24, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally been cleared to post my 2011 master’s thesis, entitled “AMERICAN PERCEPTIONS OF CHINA‘S ANTI-ACCESS AND AREA-DENIAL CAPABILITIES: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC.” I completed the research on it in May 2011, defended it in June in front of a thesis committee featuring a pair of highly-regarded defense and security experts in Taiwan (Dr. Wen-cheng Lin of National Sun Yat-sen University, who served as my thesis advisor, and Dr. Andrew N. D. Yang, Taiwan’s currently serving Deputy Minister of National Defense), and then made my post-defense revisions throughout the summer, finally completing the work in September. It’s basically been in various states of review for release since then. I suppose it is only fitting that I am finally able to release it on the occasion of the joint Chinese and Russian naval drills taking place in the Yellow Sea and the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Enjoy!


The post-Cold War world has created a number of important new challenges to the United States‘ power projection capabilities. The worldwide network of bases and stations that enabled the U.S. to contain the Soviet Union have, in many cases, been made into liabilities. U.S. dependence on fixed, vulnerable ports and airfields for the buildup of combat power, as seen in the 1990-91 Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War, have shown potential foes like China and Iran that it doesn‘t pay to allow penalty-free access and freedom of action in maritime, air, and space commons. In the Western Pacific, China has pursued an anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, developing capabilities designed to deny U.S. freedom of movement in the region.

This study examines U.S. perceptions of China‘s growing A2/AD capabilities and their implications for U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific through the analysis of authoritative official and unofficial U.S. documents and studies. This work establishes a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of Chinese A2/AD capabilities through American eyes, updating previous comprehensive works in key areas such as the status of China‘s anti-ship ballistic missile, conventional ballistic and cruise missile capabilities and their implications for key U.S. facilities in the region, and new technology and platforms like China‘s first aircraft carrier and stealth aircraft.

The thesis concludes that the U.S. has been slow in reacting to Chinese A2/AD developments and that it is unlikely that continued Chinese military modernization (including the refinement and development of additional A2/AD capabilities) will end in the near future. For the U.S., this means that development and implementation of a truly joint concept for counter-A2/AD operations, as well as the right mix of military capabilities to carry out such operations, cannot be delayed any longer.

View this document on Scribd

2012 U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC 2012), 10- 12 April

April 8, 2012

I’m going to be participating in this year’s midshipman-run foreign affairs conference at the U.S, Naval Academy from 10-12 April as a senior advisor to the “Cultural Landscapes” roundtable. I’m excited to visit Annapolis, as that I’ve never actually been to the Academy. I am quite certain that the midshipmen and civilian delegates there will live up to the high standard set by their Air Force brethren at the Academy Assembly last fall (see my previous post for more details on that).

Beyond that, there are some serious heavy-hitters in the foreign policy arena making appearances at NAFAC this year, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. The academic lineup is none too shabby either, featuring Robert Kagan, G. John Ikenberry, and John Nagl. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Ambassador Paula Dobrianski will also make appearances during the proceedings.

I’ll have more here about the conference after it actually happens, but in the meantime, check out the conference website at

Leathernecks Australia-bound

November 18, 2011

I bet there will be no shortage of Marine volunteers for duty Down Under! I’ve been to Darwin; I’d go back if the opportunity came up.

Ben Packham, “2500 US marines on Australian soil to increase defense ties,” The Australian, November 17, 2011

UP to 2500 US Marines will be stationed in Australia for six months of every year under a new bilateral defence deal sealed today by Julia Gillard and Barack Obama today.

The agreement will also allow more US ships and military aircraft – including B52 bombers – to operate from Australian bases.

President Obama said the agreement, coming at the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS alliance, reflected the United States’ determination to safeguard security in the Asia-Pacific.

”Because of these initiatives that are the result of our countries working very closely together as partners, we are going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the security of both our nations and this region,” Mr Obama said after private talks with Ms Gillard today.

”This deepening of our alliance sends a clear message of our commitment to this region – a commitment that is enduring and un-wavering.”

Mr Obama said President Obama said the US welcomed the rise of China but “it’s important for them to play by the rules of the road”.

“We will send a clear message to them that we think they may need to be on track, in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities of being a world power.”

Putting 2,500 U.S. Marines in the Darwin area is significant. It’s farther afield from China than is Guam, but still close enough to be “in the neighborhood.” Think of this as a “diversification” of the American defense portfolio in the region. While 2,500 Marines might not sound like a whole heck of a lot, numbers-wise, it is roughly equivalent to the number of Marines found in a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which are employed to such great effect off of U.S. Navy amphibious shipping assets around the globe. I would imagine that if these Marines based in Australia were to be employed operationally in the region, it would be in a MEU-like capacity, meaning that the modular expansion to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) would also be possible based on the size of the contingency.

Smart move.

Defending the Fleet From China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: Naval Deception’s Roles in Sea-Based Missile Defense

June 4, 2011

Jonathan F. Solomon, Defending the Fleet From China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: Naval Deception’s Roles in Sea-Based Missile Defense, Georgetown University M.A. thesis, April 15, 2011.


This thesis project tests the hypothesis that U.S. Navy active missile defenses’ utility against China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) reconnaissance-strike system can be significantly increased when paired with emerging Electronic Warfare (EW) technologies and novel tactical deception concepts. Qualitative open source-based technical, tactical, and doctrinal analyses of China’s ocean surveillance, reconnaissance, and ASBM strike systems are conducted to outline their likely capabilities and limitations. Qualitative process-tracing is next used within a historical case study of how the U.S. Navy employed EW and tactical deception during the Cold War to defend aircraft carrier battle groups against Soviet ocean surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike systems. The case study’s data and conclusions are then used to qualitatively infer the ASBM concept’s inherent technical, tactical, and doctrinal vulnerabilities. Following this, emerging EW technologies are identified that have the theoretical potential to exploit Chinese radars, electro-optical and infrared sensors, radiofrequency direction-finding/Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) systems, satellite communication networks, and decision-making systems. EW’s theoretical influence on a naval surface force’s active missile defenses’ effectiveness against ASBMs is also qualitatively assessed. The case study’s conclusions and the analysis of emerging EW technologies are additionally used to derive potential U.S. Navy tactical deception concepts as well as recognize the prerequisites for their effective use. Lastly, EW and tactical deception’s implications for U.S. maritime strategy and conventional deterrence against Chinese aggression in East Asia are assessed.


December 20, 2010

I was in Taipei this weekend and couldn’t help but notice the advertisements for the new “Tron: Legacy” movie everywhere.  I think they said that the movie will be released this Friday (December 24) here in Taiwan.  I also saw that the movie topped the box office in the U.S. over the weekend, where it was released on December 17.  It made me think about my nickname, Tron.  If you thought perhaps it came from the 1982 movie of the same name (prequel to the new Tron movie, or so I have read), good guess, but actually not correct.

Going behind the “Great Firewall of China”

July 19, 2010

I am out and about traveling in East Asia with my family as a part of the cultural immersion portion of my studies in Taiwan. Soon I will be heading behind the so-called Great Firewall of China (the internet filter that the People’s Republic of China uses to restrict its citizens access to many parts of the internet), and I am very interested to see whether or not I will be able to access the places on the interwebs that I normally frequent. I am prepared – I have purchased and installed a VPN on my equipment, so I think that the effect will probably be negligible. Nonetheless, it will be a first for me – my first trip to the PRC.

As a funny aside, today when we went to the China visa application office, we had inadvertently written R.O.C (Republic of China) on some of our application paperwork as a part of our address in Taiwan, and this did not get past the visa clerk. She said, "You must cross out R.O.C. – never say it!" I thought it was kind of funny, but my wife was wondering why they were so upset, it’s just part of our address, right? Yes, but well, there’s some baggage attached…I explained as we rode the train back to our hotel.

Asahi Shimbun interview with former U.S. Pacific Command commander

April 23, 2010
ADM Keating

ADM Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.)

The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, today ran a long and long-ranging interview with retired Admiral Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Navy, the former commander of the United States Pacific Command.

Keating’s remarks ran the gamut of topics this blog likes to deal with, from China – U.S. relation, U.S – Japan relations, the U.S. military buildup on Guam, Taiwan Strait security, the situation on Okinawa related to the relocation of the Futenma Marine air station, and more.  It’s worth reading in its entirety, reproduced for you here in whole after the jump.  But first, a few highlights:

  • On China’s naval modernization:  “They’ll never get better than we are. We’re going to work hard to ensure that that’s the case.”
  • Why it is preferable to have U.S. Marines forward-deployed in Okinawa: “Because they’re there now. And neither one of our countries can afford to, in my opinion, undertake the cost attendant to moving those 18,000 Marines from Okinawa to some other location in Japan.”
  • On a “rising China” as a strategic threat to the U.S. and American allies in the Asia-Pacific: “I’d be careful focusing entirely on China. There have been a couple of opportunities, in similar engagements today, where folks tried to concentrate the conversation on the growing Chinese threat and the likelihood of fighting China. I don’t see it that way.  We have to remain strong, the alliance, the forces of our two countries, and those of our two allies and partners in the region. It is not exclusively to counter Chinese military growth.  If China is less forthcoming than we want them to be, if they develop tactics, techniques, procedures or capabilities that could threaten access or deny area access, then we would have to be prepared to respond. But I do not see a situation in the near term that would require specific focus on China.


Sino-US military exchanges delayed

February 25, 2010

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Sino-US military exchanges delayed

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-25 07:33

Experts say Beijing is taking long-term view to US relations

Beijing has delayed some high-level military visits to the US in retaliation for Washington’s proposed arms deal with Taiwan, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday.

The officials, whose names were not cited, told Reuters that China has postponed planned visits to the US by its chief of the General Staff of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chen Bingde, as well as by one of its top regional commanders.

Related readings:
Sino-US military exchanges delayed US arms sale to Taiwan reveals ignorance, disrespect
Sino-US military exchanges delayed Chinese media quiz US ambassador over arms deal
Sino-US military exchanges delayed China may sanction arms-selling companies with options
Sino-US military exchanges delayed China urges US companies stop arms sales to Taiwan

A planned visit to China by the commander of the US Pacific Command has also been postponed, they said.

“There are other, as yet unscheduled, events the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is not considering for the time being,” a Pentagon official was quoted as saying.

In its toughest response in three decades to a US arms sale to Taiwan, Beijing announced earlier this month that it would curtail military exchanges with Washington, and sanction US companies involved in the deal, and warned of the severe harm the sale would cause bilateral ties.

The Pentagon has attached great importance to military exchanges with China as it is one of the few ways for it to get really close to China’s PLA which they deem mysterious.

The officials, however, said Beijing has been quite restrained. So far no visits from China are formally cancelled, while China has not imposed sanctions on any US firms involved in the arms deal as it threatened.


Out of Office AutoReply

January 18, 2010


I’m going to be on the road for the next couple weeks, so “posting will be light.”  Ha ha – like it has been heavy thus far!  I always wanted to write that, though.  I am now done with my first semester of graduate school, so I should have extra time to post things here – except that I will be conducting “TouristOps” for most of the semester break. (Classes resume after the Chinese New Year.)

Like some of the other bloggers I aim to emulate, I am going to leave some reading suggestions for you.  Here’s what I am going to have on the plane to Tokyo with me:

  1. David Finkel’s book The Good Soldiers.  It has been hailed in multiple places as one of the best on the Iraq War, so I am to see for myself.  I’ve read other acclaimed accounts like Craig Mullaney’s The Unforgiving Minute and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War (if you haven’t read these two, you should), and I want to see if Finkel’s book measures up.
  2. The report “Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network” from The Information Warfare Monitor and the U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission’s report  on Chinese cyberwarfare.  The recent big kerfluffle with China and Google is a neat window into the spooky world of computer network operations, and in fact is an area of research that I am very interested in.  There’s a lot of breathless, overheated stuff in the day-to-day media about cyberwarfare, but reports like these (both published last year) are a lot more objective.
  3. Earlier this month, CSIS released a new report on Taiwan Strait security called “Building Trust Across the Taiwan Strait: A Role for Military Confidence-building Measures.”  Taiwan Strait security is another one of my research interests, so this one ought to be good to.  (If you missed CNAS’s China-Taiwan report last month, then you should go ahead and fix yourself right now and read it.)
  4. If that’s not enough, then I’ll finish myself off with the latest edition of the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Asian Policy.  It’s got an interesting-looking “roundtable” piece devoted to training the next generation of Asia experts.

I can’t help but “pile on” here – if you are reading this and haven’t yet read CNAS’s other new report about fixing the intelligence effort in Afghanistan, just stop and go read it.  Excellent stuff.

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