Going back a bit:

During the American Revolutionary War when British military forces were marching into Boston, the announcement signal of what to expect, and, how to respond to that incursion has echoed down through our history. Hence the title of this article. Then, at the singular flash of light, the British Army came by land. The light came from the belfry of the Old North Church. The structure remains standing.

Now, in our time, the second lantern signal has issued its warning. The trouble is, the signal has been sent a number of times in the past few years. It does not appear, however, to have resonated down to the American people of just how critical this Maritime threat is to our national security.

In the 21st century we find ourselves with the perplexing dilemma of being attacked by sea, but not by the British this time because they have become our brothers-in-arms, our closest allies since hostilities subsided.

The Triple Threat Environment may not be a thing of the past. What the Triple Threat Environment was geared towards was destroying your enemy by over-whelming his defenses in a multi-dimensional environment. A US Aircraft-Carrier (CV) for instance would be subjected by attack by SSN type submarine(s), surface ship missile attack and aerial assault. A skill Russian naval bombers are good at.

Just taking this one step further, please hold the triple threat environment thought. What we have in the making now is a viable surface detonated nuclear weapons threat, coordinated precision attacks to our critical infrastructures via the internet and other attack Modus Operandi and assaults to our ability to retain maritime supremacy.

Something the Chinese are paying close attention to. How to overwhelm us! And it will all come at us at near once?

Before proceeding further along, let us take a look at some other historical maritime security issues from our own history. Back in the days of sail, a combined British Navy and Army operations Task Force sailed up both the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers to attack Washington, D.C. The attack was successful, key buildings were destroyed, the city was burned. The British launched this attack from Bermuda, sailed straight into the rivers and disgorged British Army forces to attack our nation’s capital. Very bold move. It was their last show of strength before that war, which costs both sides much, came to a mutually agreed to closing. Both sides saved what face they could. We were starting to mature.

Another facet of the war of 1812 which has escaped notice generally is the Battle of New Orleans.

After the War of Independence, the United States was in a terrible struggle to gain its place in the world. George Washington knew better than anyone that the US could not afford another war, with anyone.

The country was as yet (still) struggling with itself to emerge the Crucible of Revolution to a unified nation, knowing its place in the world. Which is to say we were not quite gyro-stabilized enough to fight anybody. The Continental Army was all but disbanded, the nation was deeply in debt, the states were still fighting each other over their own self-interests and Washington’s dream of westward expansion was going slower than he would have wished.

What the Brits did was look at the map, and study it verrry carefully and methodically. Picture if you will a map of the US back then. Heavily marked with topographic features. Those terrain features stood out predominantly. They were navigational way-points men looked for when traveling. The outline of the country, in its entire natural splendor, must have appealed to merchants, legislators, military campaigner, frontiersman and land-shark alike. The Mississippi River so dominated the picture. All rivers from east and west and north poured into this mighty river. And where did it all flow to they asked themselves. Looks like New Orleans m’ Lord! Yes, yes, quite right old chap.

Picture men gathered round the table coming to conclusions, ‘That, gentlemen, is what we must attack and hold. Our gaining of New Orleans will give us the strangle hold on the American economy we must have; and, we shall then have our franchise back.” Then someone could chime in: ‘You’ll be knighted for this m’ Lord”.

Enter Stonewall Jackson. The old general wisely figured this out. No, he was not alone. There were many minds at work on this problem. Jackson, however, was the officer the nation counted upon to retain the City and its environs in American hands.

The war of 1812 was largely financed by the Rothschild’s Bank, which should indicate the importance many in Great Britain placed upon capturing New Orleans. There was much at stake here. Ownership of New Orleans meant trade. Trade brings national prosperity. And it all goes by ships sailing upon every sea. The Battle of New Orleans saved our most critical port. New Orleans remains our most critical port to this day.

Most of our citizens pay little attention to such issues as critical ports. New Orleans to most people simply means Mardi Gras, great spicy food, wonderful French influenced architecture and now a city devastated by natural forces more extensively than the Brits did.

All true. What is also true is that most of our oil imports flow into this sunken basin. Most of our grain exports flow from there as well. A large percentage of our refining goes on there as well. To lose this port due natural disasters, such as the recent Hurricane Katrina, or through the use of nuclear weapons or through simple maintenance negligence, will seriously imperil the entire country. We cannot afford to allow this. The City itself may not be precisely attacked. A well planned attack on what keeps the city afloat, potable water supplies and the destruction of road arteries would mount a terrible toll in lives and property.

Lets also consider the impact of rivers upon us in the overall maritime picture. I’m using a river other than the Mississippi to broaden out thoughts into the situation as it exists globally. In South America for instance, there are over 500,000 kilometers of rivers:

The CIA says that any body of water 12 feet or greater in depth is considered ‘navigable’. Rivers basically break down into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary bodies of water. Although I hasten to add there are some exceptions to the perfect world scenario wherein one goes gradually from larger to progressively smaller bodies of water.

For instance, when one paddles or drifts along the current of the Bene River in Bolivia one can go from the main river straight to a tertiary stream. The entrance to this particular stream was camouflaged.

In truth, the only reason I found this entrance is: we stopped to conduct surveillance on the river to ascertain just how much traffic was moving on this river both day and night. While answering nature's call and looking down at the water I noticed a small piece of plastic wrapped around the base of a plant, very close to the ground. It was knotted round the base of the tree. This told me it was placed there with deliberation and was not drifting flotsam. When I looked further inward the canal I found a cable tied off exactly at its base and leading straight back along this tributary going back for some miles directly to a processing camp/lab complex.

The stream measured about 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Plenty of water for flat bottom boats hauling illegal product to greater vessels on the main river. There were no trails associated with this tertiary river. A quick reconnaissance of the first 100 meters either side of this little tributary, proved that. The water was still. Nothing but triple canopy jungle on both sides of the canal and animals that can kill and eat you.

I knew then, the Bolivian Military never came anywhere near these places. They would have been cut to pieces. Also, we discovered that the maps at that time were 40-60 miles in error running east-west. That situation has now been resolved. Rivers connecting to the sea require serious consideration.

Our next Battleground is Africa. It has already begun. The sheer size of that continent’s coastline, immense river systems, jurisdiction problems, AIDS, economics and natural resources. The key to Africa in my view is WATER. Once potable drinking water is brought to much of this landscape blighted by war, famine and disease, the incentives for our adversaries to seek refuge in these places will begin to dwindle. Again, this takes time. Our national patience needs strengthening if our children are to cope with what awaits them.

No one appreciates high tech more than me. However; our emphasis on the total reliance of highly technical means of surveillance could probably be balanced somewhat with more ‘ men on the ground’ type surveillance.

The simple act of using a grappling hook to secure my small patrol boat – a 17-ft Boston Whaler- on a main river in Bolivia and again in Colombia, Panama and parts of Honduras, reinforced the notion of the value of human surveillance.

Systems don’t have judgment, only people do. I also believe that such would impact upon a very lucrative portion of the economy as many are on board the federal blizzard of contracts for every idea someone in the Federal bureaucracy comes up with regarding Homeland Defense.

If we are not careful, we can lose our way. It has become obvious to me over the years that distracting us – meaning the US – is not all that difficult. More than one Muslim in Iraq has told me that during this past year.

The wise blending of highly technical means to secure ourselves by surveillance of large areas of ocean, river, port complex, is welcome indeed. One area ripe for innovation is sub-surface detection. I have seen recent side-scan sonar pictures of a man and a California sea lion passing thru the scope of surveillance under water.

No mistaking man from beast. This particular system had a 180 degree arch. The battery is replaced semi-annually. The system can be tiered to a base station. A live human monitors the screens. Sub-surface pipelines, other key sub surface installations can now be seen 24/7. We appear to be on our way of considering the sub-surface environment defense.

Reconning a aircraft carrier in Hamton Roads

I want to equip you with a Navy SEAL perspective on things. When swimming under an Aircraft Carrier it is both exciting and humbling. This particular ship was at what is known as Whiskey-50 anchorage in Hampton Roads. Good time for us to train. The weather is bad, the sea state is choppy and the current is running up-river. The current carried me to the bow of this giant ship. One senses his own self against such girth of steel. From the surface of the water it is difficult to see anything.

Even swells of 1 foot make the work of satisfying that nagging underwater question: Where am I? What’s the situation, in my immediate vicinity: and on the surface, very difficult. We plan by time and distance on combat swims. It is the same with every Frogman unit in the world. That’s one perspective.

Now enter the port from Boston Whaler to say Fishing Vessel height. Then graduate that sense on up to Carriers, ULCC, VLCC and Cruise Ships. One sees remarkably different things from each of these aforementioned perspectives. Also I have the propensity of looking out to sea from shore, as well as looking to shore from sea, and, getting the over-all look down-shoot down vertical photo of what it is we’re considering here.

Our understanding is that most people do not think of the whole range of maritime as multi-dimensional. What goes on under the water is either friend or foe. Very little neutrality in that sphere, as any SSN Captain will tell you. Those guys live three dimensionally every waking minute that boat is underway.

In closing I should like to stress some points from my fighting position: We have not yet made our adversaries cautious. They are being careful and methodical, truly. However, when men become cautious, they slow down. Caution is not simply the evolving Modus Operandi of our enemies’ actions; true caution will exist, when the very thinking of our adversaries becomes cautious.

We have not; yet, put real fear into the hearts of those who would destroy us. One can make the argument that those willing to die are not afraid of much else. That is true. What they fear is failure. Pressure upon them must be relentless and global. We learned in Vietnam, in close-in jungle fighting, that striking from anywhere, at any time, hit them hard, every time,…give them no pause or rest.

Deny the enemy his sleep, a sanctuary where he can catch his breath, and in simultaneous and coordinated fashion, target where he lives. He will eventually sink to his knees, much like our Army is now, from sheer exhaustion.

Our young military people are beyond breaking point now. Some of these youngsters I met told me they were on their third deployment. I could see the stresses on their faces clearly in Baghdad. Another aspect of this kind of fear we’re discussing is when men are resting from patrolling or on a surveillance outpost, they don’t really rest, they remain watchful, somewhat leery, and cautious. Even when drinking from his canteen a frightened man will look over the rim of his canteen cup as he drinks water, ready to bolt at a moments notice. He is now simply trying to survive. Survival experiences can run pretty much polar opposites.

One either comes thru it OK, or one seems to have difficulty with it. Speaking candidly, our survival as a nation IS at stake. We cannot afford to lose this conflict. Our very place in the world will be shaken, possibly irreparably. We would no longer be the worlds’ country.

On a separate but related point: Deniability is as big a killer as is the enemy. Both will test you. Should we weaken and cave in to denying any fact of our own short-comings, our enemies will exploit this to the greatest psychological advantage.

We are not the only ones good at that game. Our adversaries perceive us as fragmented in our approach. They also detect we are not truly united in this effort. For us to be a force to be reckoned with, and feared, our internal agendas must be satisfied and finally an agreed upon consensus achieved. Should we overlook the thought processes of our enemies, we are most un-wise. Again, we must not let agenda obstruct ration nor conviction for doubt. We’re not dealing with linear thinkers here.

We also have that ‘book ‘em Danno’ mentality. It is not a bad thing in conventional crime fighting. It is a good basic tenant we all understand: Catch the bad-guys. However, in the terrorism realm that civil finality, where one is arrested, handcuffed, and brought before a magistrate will be denied us, most of the time.

They will use our own legal system to slow us down, build sympathy for their cause from the left and others less wise in the ways of the world. We shall not have the luxury of a pre-agreed upon outcome.

This is a total DO or DIE struggle going on here. The people we’re fighting do not suffer the burden of Code, respect for life or conscience of guilt. I have seen the face of this savage man. He is purposeful, deliberate and completely un-repentant. His view of the world is ‘He is justified’. We cannot afford to equivocate and grant quarter. They wait for our mistakes on the one hand and snicker at our ethos on the other.

At a very basic but crucial level this writer learned early on: “When fighting man-to-man and hand-to-hand one is not just fighting the other man. You are fighting what that man believes in,…and the strength of that belief.” If we don’t believe in ourselves, our young serving people will sense it.

Believe we must ask ourselves of our focus – is it correct? Do we see what is ahead of us on the threat scenario or do we see what we wish to see? It is one thing to look, quite another to see!

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