Katrina After Action Report (1)

September 15, 2005

The first question I’ve been analyzing for the AAR is why the levees broke – as opposed to being overtopped. Mark In Mexico has done the hard work here – read the whole piece – you may not agree with his political analysis (although I do), but his engineering research is perfect.

Overtopping was predictable under a set of circumstances that was not met. Levee failures – breaching, whatever – was not predicted except in cases where overtopping was so severe that scouring of the levee base would occur from the inside of the levee causing its collapse. That did not happen.



September 15, 2005

The WSJ yesterday reported (subscription) which nations Americans consider to be close allies.

The order isn’t surprising, but the numbers are – here are the results for the NATO nations the US is pledged to defend, plus Israel and Australia. An Anglosphere/Israel alliance has appeared and NATO is gone. The EU needs to get its army in place fast.

Nation Rated Close Ally
UK 74
Canada 48
Australia 44
Israel 41
Japan 30
Italy 26
Germany 24
Spain 22
Holland 21
Norway 18
France 17
Greece 16

The UN Dance of Death

September 15, 2005

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair yesterday shone lights on the corruption and human rights abuses of the UN, and implored the member states to reform it. This will not happen because the UN truly represents its members, including those that sanction murder of civilians. The US and UK should walk away from this cesspit and stop giving aid to sponsors of terror.

Here’s the president addressing the UN General Assembly yesterday:

“When this great institution’s member states choose notorious abusers of human rights to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, they discredit a noble effort and undermine the credibility of the whole organization. If member countries want the United Nations to be respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect.”

And the Prime Minister urging the UN to fight terrorism:

“Terrorism won’t be defeated until our determination is as complete as theirs; our defence of freedom as absolute as their fanaticism, our passion for democracy as great as their passion for tyranny,” he said.

“They want us to believe that somehow it is our fault, that their extremism is somehow our responsibility. They play on our divisions. They exploit our hesitation: this is our weakness and they know it, and we must unite against this ghastly game with our conscience.”

“Either hope will spread or violence will spread and we must take the side of hope. As we fight, the terrorists must know that the world stands united against them.”

Sadly, the Muslim part of the world actively sponsors terror:

… a group of Muslim countries including Pakistan, Egypt and Syria blocked the West’s attempts to get a universal condemnation of terrorism.

The group rejected a draft statement that terrorism amounted to the “deliberate and unlawful targeting and killing” of civilians and could not be “justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance”.

The Muslim states said that this could be used against national liberations movements struggling against foreign occupation. Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians are widely seen as legitimate in the Muslim world.

The Muslim nations, driven by their lust to destroy the Jewish people, have chosen the path of blood and taken the UN with them. Our nations should have no part in this barbarism. And we should sanction nations that sponsor terror – cutting off aid to Egypt would be a great start.

R J Mitchell

September 15, 2005

I’m delighted that an American is memorializing R J Mitchell, the creator of the Spitfire to which we Brits owe our liberty. Mitchell epitomizes the Brit strength of design creativity.

Asked by Hermann Goering, his supreme commander, what he needed to win the Battle of Britain, Adolf Galland, the Luftwaffe’s leading ace, replied: “Spitfires”.

We should also remember the Rolls Royce design team that created the Merlin engine that powered the Spitfire and its cousin the P-51 Mustang, which later hosed the Luftwaffe out of German skies.

The Spitfire and Merlin highlight the different Brit and German strengths. Correlli Barnett in his The Audit of War describes how the Brits began WW2 with a much inferior industrial base to Germany – the Merlin was only manufactured with interchangeable parts after its wartime manufacture was subcontracted to Ford, with its American manufacturing ethos.

Barnett explains that the elliptical wings of the Spitfire made it more costly to manufacture than German opponents, the Me 109 and later FW 190.

Mitchell and the Merlin team of course knew of the manufacturing limitations, so they substituted design genius, getting substantially better performance than the German opposition, and, crucially, building in huge design stretch. Building in stretchability is very hard to do, since the designer has to envision the unpredictable future. However its worth it – a stretchable design minimizes future development costs and allows manufacturing to optimize on long production runs.

So the Brits pitted their superior design creativity against Germany’s industrial creativity. A succession of ever-better Spitfires hammered the Germans throughout WW2 and in spite of their lower individual production costs, the Germans lost more planes and pilots and had much higher development costs since they had to produce a succession of planes and engines to fight the Spitfire. Barnett isn’t an engineer, so he missed this.

My favorite book on the engineering is Alfred Price’s The Spitfire Story – it includes tactical trial reports for all versions, and a fascinating fly-off between a Spitfire and a P-51. An excellent book on the Spitfire and the Brits, Canadians, Americans, Australians, South Africans, Poles, French and New Zealanders that flew it is George Beurling’s Malta Spitfire. He describes the lengths the Germans had to go to to protect their bombers towards the end of the siege of Malta:

As (the single Spitfire squadron) got there we spotted the enemy in half light – fifteen bombers and at least eighty fighters.

That’s over six times numerical superiority for the attackers – and they still lost. Design creativity wins.