Glenn Reynolds reports a comment from Regime Change Iran:
ARE THINGS INVOLVING SYRIA coming to a head? Here’s a report that there are 3 carrier groups heading for the region.
Well, if things in Syria are coming to a head, it’s not supported by the information presented by Regime Change Iran.
Here’s my last rant on this–it warns to not extrapolate a curve from one data point.
Here’s the irritating point. The Regime Change guys and Chester may have a good conclusion–but the data they use to get there ain’t sufficient.
Here are some questions to think about when you hear this kind of report.
- Has the person reporting the movement thought about these movements before? Would they know what a truly anomalous ship movement would be?
- How does this movement fit over time? Could there be turnover of strike groups?
- Ships move all over a theater. What is really interesting is when deployment dates change–a strike group changing theaters for a long time, leaving home early, or staying longer than the magical 180 days. These would mean that someone has actually thought of something rather than a random sampling of force laydown.
A few months back, someone who never knew the Navy was deployed a lot got several blogs in a tizzy because A HUGE PERCENTAGE OF THE NAVY WAS DEPLOYED!!!!11!
Guess what–they always are. Look at the trends over time to see the changes before you speculate. Ships deploy for about six months, usually, and regions have a certain level of presence that includes time to turn over to the new guy.
One great example–when China threatened Taiwan with a big ol’ missile exercise back in 1996, the Navy response was swift and in a short time there were a lot of naval assets parked off Taiwan. This is an example of a short term theater response to a crisis.
So what would you have seen in that case?
- Carrier battle groups converging on spots they normally didn’t.
- Port visits cancelled (that’s an international negotiation, so there’s a cost).
- Ship crews getting liberty cancelled.
- Reports of ships going places they normally don’t, or many more in one spot than usual.
- If you’re an intel weenie, increased chatter and activity. It’s like Domino’s pizza orders going to the White House–stuff like that may indicate something’s going on.
If I were the theater commander I would probably think about moving my assets closer to a hot spot, especially if the civilian leadership would like to Send A Message.
But a simple report of “carriers converging”, by itself, means nothing–it’s noise. It needs other data to give you information you can then use to speculate.
Perhaps the good Professor could use this the next time he links to an Exciting Report.
Update: The 1996 Taiwan case is especially good because it was short term and merely vectored some of what was in theater to a single spot. The tsunami response is similar–that’s why we deploy, because over time we have interesting things happen in the world that could use some Navy-Marine Corps presence. You’d see even more anomalous data pop up if we were massing military assets for Something Big.
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