What year is it?

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What year is it?

This week I had the chance to visit the USS YORK­TOWN museum, docked at Patriot’s Point in sunny Charleston, SC. The crew at Patriot’s Point have done a fan­tas­tic job fix­ing the YORK­TOWN, and one of the new exhibits I hadn’t seen before was called the Com­bat Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter (CIC) expe­ri­ence. So, I walked in to check it out.

The revamped CIC at Patri­ots Point. The “peo­ple” are actu­ally pro­jec­tions. Image cour­tesy of Patri­ots Point.

The “offi­cer” in CIC talked about track­ing a Russ­ian Tu-​95 bomber that was prepar­ing to over­fly the Navy ves­sels in for­ma­tion. Then he had to deal with a quiet Russ­ian sub­ma­rine. The CIC expe­ri­ence walked through the how the Navy tracked and dealt with each of these cir­cum­stances in the Mediterranean.


Russ­ian TU-​95 bomber , with US escort in the back­ground. DoD Image.

I was struck at how much things haven’t changed. We’re still deal­ing with Tu-​95 over­flights and Russ­ian sub­marines, and we’re still in the Mediter­ranean. Stu­dents of his­tory will likely chime in “His­tory repeats itself.” But I don’t think that’s the full story. What amazed me as I walked around this World War II era ship is how sim­i­lar things are to cur­rent ships. While we have nicer equip­ment, the equip­ment is essen­tially cov­er­ing the same func­tions as it did 60 years ago. Even weirder, I read a few of the old ship “Plan of the Day” and some diary entries, and the issues they dealt with were very sim­i­lar to what we still have now.

I don’t think his­tory repeats itself. Rather, I think peo­ple haven’t changed much, and they tend to attack prob­lems in the same man­ner they have been for gen­er­a­tions. The only time his­tory changes is when some­one steps out­side of that box. Look at World War II Ger­many. Pre­vi­ous Euro­pean wars had not changed the map very much. Ger­many shifted to mas­sively dif­fer­ent tac­tics (Blitzkrieg) and won sur­pris­ing vic­to­ries. Even­tu­ally we copied that idea, and we haven’t changed much since.

Rus­sia real­ized this after los­ing the Cold War and has com­pletely shifted tac­tics. That’s why we’re see­ing Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, cyber attacks, and a much more sub­tle Rus­sia, fol­lowed by low level con­flict to gain ter­ri­tory. But even this isn’t new…it sounds strangely sim­i­lar to Ger­many in the 1930s. Our sanc­tions response is doing noth­ing because it hurts reg­u­lar Rus­sians, who blame the US for their prob­lems instead of Pres­i­dent Putin.

If we want to stop watch­ing his­tory fol­low pre­dictable human behav­ior, we have to do some­thing new, and stop attack­ing today’s prob­lems with yesterday’s solutions.


This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and not the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, or any other fed­eral agency.

Please check out my blog and donate to Da Tip Jar!

This week I had the chance to visit the USS YORKTOWN museum, docked at Patriot’s Point in sunny Charleston, SC.  The crew at Patriot’s Point have done a fantastic job fixing the YORKTOWN, and one of the new exhibits I hadn’t seen before was called the Combat Information Center (CIC) experience.  So, I walked in to check it out.

The revamped CIC at Patriots Point. The “people” are actually projections. Image courtesy of Patriots Point.

The “officer” in CIC talked about tracking a Russian Tu-95 bomber that was preparing to overfly the Navy vessels in formation.  Then he had to deal with a quiet Russian submarine.  The CIC experience walked through the how the Navy tracked and dealt with each of these circumstances in the Mediterranean.


Russian TU-95 bomber , with US escort in the background. DoD Image.

I was struck at how much things haven’t changed.  We’re still dealing with Tu-95 overflights and Russian submarines, and we’re still in the Mediterranean.  Students of history will likely chime in “History repeats itself.”  But I don’t think that’s the full story.  What amazed me as I walked around this World War II era ship is how similar things are to current ships.  While we have nicer equipment, the equipment is essentially covering the same functions as it did 60 years ago.  Even weirder, I read a few of the old ship “Plan of the Day” and some diary entries, and the issues they dealt with were very similar to what we still have now.

I don’t think history repeats itself.  Rather, I think people haven’t changed much, and they tend to attack problems in the same manner they have been for generations.  The only time history changes is when someone steps outside of that box.  Look at World War II Germany.  Previous European wars had not changed the map very much.  Germany shifted to massively different tactics (Blitzkrieg) and won surprising victories.  Eventually we copied that idea, and we haven’t changed much since.

Russia realized this after losing the Cold War and has completely shifted tactics.  That’s why we’re seeing Russian disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, and a much more subtle Russia, followed by low level conflict to gain territory.  But even this isn’t new…it sounds strangely similar to Germany in the 1930s.  Our sanctions response is doing nothing because it hurts regular Russians, who blame the US for their problems instead of President Putin.

If we want to stop watching history follow predictable human behavior, we have to do something new, and stop attacking today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.


This post represents the views of the author and not the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.

Please check out my blog and donate to Da Tip Jar!