Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Idiocy In The Blogosphere

Updated below
I never read the "Great Orange Satan," mostly because I dislike demagoguery as much when it is used in the liberal cause as I do when it is used in a conservative one. It also contains some of the most ignorant posting in the universe, witness one to which I was directed regarding the Israeli attack on the Gaza relief convoy.

The poster contends that the commando landing on the ship was not needed, that they could have used other means, and cites as the source of his expert credentials that he was alive when we blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis in 1962. Well, so was I; in fact I was on board a U. S. Navy ship. Unlike the poster, I knew how to read and/or was paying attention.

After Kennedy's speech to the nation, Robert Mcnamara, Secretary of Defense, went before the journalists to answer questions about the blockade and he explained how the U.S. would engage in this blockade and turn around all ships bound for Cuba. He explained that if a Soviet ship in the high seas does not stop and refuse to be inspected by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Navy was given the order to disable the ship by firing on its propeller and rudder in order to disable it. Once the ship is disabled, the U.S. Navy would tow the boat to a secure area, inspect it and turn it around.

This option was available to Israel. Why didn't chose it? I will answer it later.

At no moment did the U.S. armed forces engaged in hostile action (though it was technically hostile to stop a ship in the high seas and inspect it) or landed with guns blazing on the decks of any ship bound to Cuba. They knew that this kind of actions would lead to a certain military engagement with the USSR and the consequences of that engagement are unthinkable. The world was on a hair trigger and we ALL felt it. The fact that i am talking about it some 50 years later tells you how deeply i was and we were all impacted by those 14 days.

Actually it was, famously, thirteen days and, being aboard a submarine which was armed with nothing other than torpedoes and a few M-1 Garands and wondering how the Navy expected us to stop a ship without sinking it, I'll bet I was a bit more "impacted" than the poster was. And to suggest that firing naval artillery at a Soviet ship would have been seen as less hostile than landing an inspection party on its decks is utterly ignorant and absurd.

We would have, in any case, felt really silly demanding that any ship "stop and refuse to be inspected," as such a demand would be confusing in the extreme. We would been confused issuing such a command, and would not have known exactly how to carry it out.

If, however, we demanded that a ship "stop and agree to be inspected" and they complied, guess what we would have needed to do. We would have needed to board the ship; i.e. put a landing party onto its decks. How else would we inspect its cargo, some kind of extra sensory perception?

Suppose that a ship did not stop and that we did still have our 1945 deck gun, how do we "disable the ship by firing on its propeller and rudder" exactly? The propeller is quite deep underwater and so is most of the rudder. If the ship is heavily laden, the rudder is pretty much entirely underwater. I was an electrician, not a gunner, but I can tell you, hitting things underwater is really hard. More like impossible. We could hit the propeller with a torpedo, of course, but that would most likely sink the ship.

The post writer is trying for something "less provocative" than the boarding process that the Israelis used, so I suspect sinking the ship is not what he had in mind.

Assuming that, magically, we did shoot off its propeller and tow it in for inspection. The poster then says that we could "turn it around" and, presumably, send it home. How is it going to go home without a propeller?

The poster says that we did not board any ships in 1962 by rappelling onto them from helicopters. Actually, we did not board any ships at all in 1962, but if we had we would have not done it by rappelling onto them from helicopters because we had not yet developed that technique. But we would have boarded them before firing any naval artillery, that's for damned sure.

Update: Tuesday, 11:30am
From a couple of comments it seems I need to update my post, because my point was not so much about the "rightness" of either the Israeli or the flotilla's action, as about the idiotic idea that firing at the ship's propeller and rudder would have been a better course of action than landing troops on the deck. First, firing on a ship would be a far more drastic course of action. Second, how in the hell do you hit a ship's propeller with deck guns?

And, to further invalidate the concept that blowing off the propeller is a better idea, and as Joe Markowitz pointed out, we actually did land a boarding party on a Soviet foreign ship in 1962. (My bad.)


  1. I have been reading Michael Dobbs's recent history of the Cuba missile crisis, and was also struck by the differences between how that situation was handled compared to the blockade-runners to Gaza. From what I have been reading, the Navy did board one freighter bound for Cuba, the Marcula. But the Navy officers and sailors boarded in dress uniforms to appear less threatening. Some other freighters were allowed to pass through to Cuba without inspection. And Russian ships for the most part turned back without incident. I am not sure whether I agree more with your point of view or the Daily Kos post. But clearly this incident was not handled with the restraint and tact that was shown in 1962.


  2. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Best approach is to entangle the ship's propeller with a rope (carbon fiber, chain or other very durable rope). A mesh type rope/netting could be used as well.

    No explosives planted or other fired.

    Floating a hard object into the propeller might work as well although this would need to be guided.

    Rope would need to be guided as well.

  3. Sorry to have to correct you again, because I am finding your blog very interesting. The Navy did not board any Soviet ships in 1962. They boarded one foreign freighter with a Greek crew I believe. The point was to show that we were enforcing the blockade without getting into any confrontations with the Soviets at all if possible.