Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for December, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging (Belated Monday Edition)

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

Henry, 12/21/08, 6:40 p.m.:


And five minutes later:

’tis the season….

First Loss…

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

My first thought was “Toyota suffered a loss in 1937?” But no; turns out that the automotive spinoff of Toyota Industries was founded in 1937. Impressive that they managed a profit in 1945 and 1946; apparently the surrender saved the major Toyota factories from bombing by a couple of days.

Blags

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

Sam Rockwell as Rod Blagojevich. I can see that working…

Brazilian Military Blogging

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

I think we can all agree that the progressive blogosphere has been pathetically remiss in the field of analysis of Brazilian military restructuring. Mr. Trend gets us off to a good start here:

However, I find Lula’s efforts to actually enforce military conscription for everybody to be quite a fascinating aspect. Although the military is technically and legally supposed to conscript from all Brazilian sectors regardless of class, race, etc., the reality is Brazil’s military ranks are composed overwhelmingly of the poor and marginalized who do not have recourse to get out of such service and who often accept it because they need the money. For decades and even generations (dating back to at least the Paraguayan War) there has been an unspoken understanding that elites and (more recently) the middle classes were “above” military service. So in one sense, any effort to break through this mold to prove that “mandatory conscription” applies to all Brazilian citizens, and not just those who don’t have an economic/cultural/political way to avoide it.

What strikes me as interesting about the article is that the motivating concept seems to be territorial defense and consolidation, with defense of the Sao Paulo oil fields being included under that rubric. This is all well and good, and would be expected of a second rank power in, say, 1930 or 1960. Today, however, most military organizations in Europe and Asia seem to be remodeling themselves around an expeditionary mission. This is as true of North Europe as North Asia; the dreadnought of the day, so to speak, is the amphib, and modular, deployable ground units are the new black. This doesn’t, however, seem to be the direction that the Brazilians are headed, which is curious for a country interested in promoting its benevolent image on the world stage. If you’re looking for international prestige, amphibs are a much better way to go than nuclear submarines; they show the flag, facilitate participation in a variety of different multilateral operations, and are sometimes even actually useful for executing policy (disaster relief, protection of locals in dangerous situations, etc.).

But not, apparently, the direction Brazil wants to go.

From Colony to Superpower VII: Pacific Dreams

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

Chapter VII of From Colony to Superpower covers the period between 1877 and 1893. Erik talks about missionaries, trade wars, and the generally expansionary US policy in the Pacific. I wish that Herring had dealt in more depth with the tremendous military gap between the United States and the European powers during this period. The United States had a larger population than any European state other than Russia in 1877, and experienced higher population and economic growth than anywhere in Europe between then and 1893. The US industrial base was competitive with that of the UK, and larger than any other European country. Yet US military power was comparatively miniscule. To give a sense of the gap, check this out (average 1877-1893, COW):

Country Military Expenditure/Person % in Uniform
UK $ 0.76 0.73
France $ 0.93 1.47
Spain $ 0.40 0.85
Germany $ 1.02 0.53
Italy $ 0.43 0.72
United States $ 0.22 0.07

That’s a pretty substantial gap, especially given that US GDP, total population, and steel production were all at or near the top of the list during this period. Some of this can be explained by the geographic situation of the United States; France needed more troops because it was next to Germany, for example. This only takes us so far; territorial threat can’t explain why the US retained huge standing military forces post-1945, and in any case the US was certainly developing global interests during this period. Rather, I think there was simply a different understanding of the utility of military force in Europe than in the United States. It would be wrong to say that the US was a pacifist country (as witnessed by the ongoing conquest of the West), but Americans certainly don’t seem to have seen the point of large standing military establishments. To put it another way, the US was economically and demographically capable, even at this early date, of competing for hegemony with Britain and Germany. Americans chose not to. The US didn’t even build a world class Navy, as it would during the 1920s and 1930s.

Apart from the post-war experiences of Germany and Japan (which are obviously dependent on much different factors) I’m not sure there’s another example of a potential hegemon that simply chose not to compete. There are various unsatisfactory explanations for this (Fareed Zakaria’s terrible book comes to mind) but Herring, unfortunately, does not venture much of an effort. In part, this may be because the book’s central thesis is that the United States has never been an isolationist power; this argument is certainly correct to some extent, but there has to be some explanation for the tiny US military profile in the late nineteenth century.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom Bleg

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

Anybody read T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom? I haven’t, but I’m assigning it next term; if you have any thoughts re: boiling down the 700 or so pages down to a digestible chunk for a graduate strategy course, leave them in comments…

…recommendations on editions will also be entertained.

107

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

This is groovy, in a suicidal kind of way:

Via DR.

Colony to Superpower: 6.2

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

Erik writes a bit more about the utility of including the Civil War among the 19th century wars of national unification:

Herring argues that the Civil War was part of the nation-building conflicts around the world during the mid-19th century. It’s an interesting idea, though I’m not sure that I agree exactly. Had the North actively tried to limit slavery during the 1840s and 1850s, I think this would be a stronger argument. But the South wasn’t responding to increasingly northern pressure on their peculiar institution. Rather, the North caved on nearly every issue in the 1850s and yet the South still wasn’t satisfied.

However, the result of the Civil War was a much stronger and more centralized United States. Increased control over the west, a more centralized currency system, and a much greater industrial capacity all resulted from the war, and the United States certainly left the war much stronger than it began it. The late nineteenth century is a story of amazing growth in the nation. While this is a story mostly for next week’s discussion of the Gilded Age, there’s no question that the Civil War spurred this amazing period.

I think that this is right. I’m reluctant to concede American exceptionalism, but while the outcome of the Civil War bears some resemblance to the other wars of unification, its cause really didn’t stem from differences of opinion about the strength of central institutions. The South was happy to strengthen the central government, when it believed that a more powerful center was to its advantage. Also, while geographic differences were more pronounced then than today, similarity in language, culture, and institutions was greater in the case of the United States than in Italy or Germany.

Paul goes into a bit more depth on the inadequacy of Confederate diplomacy:

The most striking part of this, for me, is the sketch of the boorish incompetence of the Confederate diplomatic mission. Granted they had a difficult mission (it was an offense to the United States for responsible ministers even to talk to Confederate emissaries), but their greatest success was not even of their doing: Capt. Wilkes, USN, took two of them off the British steamer Trent without any of the appropriate formalities; the British dusted off the American objections to this sort of high-handedness from the War of 1812, and the resulting quarrel might actually have led to British recognition of the Confederacy.

But when Mason was released, and got to Britain, his speeches in favor of slavery and his bad aim with tobacco juice got him nowhere; Slidell did not understand how the French Government operated, or what the ministers wanted; the Confederate emissary to Saint Petersburgh never got there; and the star of the show, John Pickett of Kentucky, sent to Juarez in Mexico, managed to get arrested for brawling on the streets of Mexico City, offended and insulted the Mexican ministers, and eventually had Juarez intercepting his messages home and passing them on to Washington.

Herring describes this as provincialism and extreme cultural insensitivity…

Herring notes, but doesn’t really develop, the idea that because the professional diplomatic corps was tiny, the real diplomatic expertise lay in the backbench of the national political parties. The US had no ambassadors, and chief representatives were invariably political appointees, meaning that most foreign diplomatic representation revolved as the Presidency changed hands between parties. The Republicans largely inherited the Whig diplomatic corps, but apparently the Democratic corps was concentrated among Northern Democrats, who largely remained loyal to the Union. Thus, the Confederacy was forced to learn diplomacy very quickly, and the technological limitations of the time (slow communications, no wikipedia) made getting up to speed very difficult. Thus, I’m willing to excuse just a bit of the Confederate provincialism, although Paul also notes that Cassius Clay had little diplomatic experience but performed fabulously in Russia.

Tomorrow to chapter seven…

Pravda as a Jouralistic Standard

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

Shorter Weekly Standard: If American journalism wants to restore its reputation, the only acceptable form covering Dick Cheney is the fellatio cool objectivity of Stephen Hayes.

Almost any part of this review could be a “verbatim,” but I think this was my favorite passage:

There is the cherry-picking of evidence. Much is made, for example, of an Australian intelligence report debunking the purchase by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of electronic maps of the United States and of the doubts regarding aluminum tubing suspected of being useful in making centrifuges for a nuclear bomb. Angler reflects almost none of the fairly consistent foreign intelligence agreement that Saddam had, or was close to having, weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, clearly the fact that Hussein might have been “close to having” some “weapons of mass destruction” that posed no threat whatsoever to American civilians provides evidence that he was close to having nuclear weapons, and debunking straightforward lies made by administration officials is “cherry picking evidence.” Now that’s journamalism that I can get behind.

Speaking of 1000 Ship Navy…

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

The Iranians have joined the anti-piracy brigade:

Iranian state radio says Iran has sent a warship to the coast of Somalia to protect its cargo ships against piracy.

The Saturday report says the ship arrived in Somali waters.

The Iranian ship would join vessels from the U.S., Denmark, Italy, Russia and other countries in patrolling the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Suez Canal and is the quickest route from Asia to Europe and the Americas.

Two observations:

  • There probably is a legitimate Iranian state interest in having their own ships in the Somalia area; were I Iran, I don’t believe I’d trust the US and its allies with the protection of Iranian maritime interests.
  • Joining the fight against piracy is becoming shorthand for “acting like a responsible world citizen”. This appears to be true whether or not the warships in question actually fight against pirates. Appearing to be part of the fight is a shortcut to legitimacy.

Bowl Mania Reminder

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

As of this moment, you have about 2 hours to fill out an entry and join the LGM Bowl Mania Challenge:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Sorry for the late reminder…

Failed Purge?

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

The coup that was probably a purge now turns out maybe to have been a failed purge:

Iraq’s interior minister said all 24 of his officers who had been arrested in a security crackdown this week would be released. And in a bold gesture of defiance, he publicly condemned his own government’s investigation, calling the accusations false and motivated purely by politics.

The minister, Jawad al-Bolani, in a series of interviews and at a news conference on Friday, insisted on the innocence of the officials detained on charges of aiding terrorism and having inappropriate ties with political parties, including Al Awda, an illegal party that is a descendant of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

“It’s because of the competition of the provincial elections,” Mr. Bolani, who arrived in the country on Friday after a week away, said of the arrests in an interview. “It’s just electoral propaganda, and that’s playing with fire.”

Regarding my earlier backhanded praise of Maliki’s authoritarian instincts, it doesn’t bode well for him that either a)the coup plotters, or b)the purge victims are now on the street with the apparent full support of the Interior Minister.

Page 5 of 14« First...3456710...Last »
  • Switch to our mobile site