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Archive for June, 2009

Ricci and Sotomayor

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

Attempts to use Ricci to derail Sotomayor’s nomination won’t work, but (as Paul also said earlier today) they do show how silly the whole “empathy” criticism is.


Senator Al

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

Finally. And, while perhaps this overstates his rationality, now that Coleman has conceded it’s hard to imagine Pawlenty making the courts issue a writ to force him to act.

Getting Out

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |


It’s a “carnival” in Baghdad, according to the Post‘s Ernesto Londono, filled with Iraqi troops grinning as they take their lives into their own hands and graffitti writers further south demanding, “Pull your troops from our Basra, we are its sons and want its sovereignty.” Don’t tell them tomorrow is just another day. These are the people in whose name the U.S. justified six years of a blunder. Like any rational people enduring a foreign military occupation, they light candles and wave banners and sing patriotic songs when the occupier pulls away.

Occupier — what a nauseating word to hear; what an enfeebling thing to be; what a distorting condition to bear. Remember when Zell Miller told us that nothing made that Marine madder than to hear U.S. troops described as occupiers and not liberators? His complaint should have been registered with the man who made them into such a thing, not with those who wouldn’t speak euphemistically or patronizingly about it. What U.S. troops have endured they have endured heroically, in a manner that those who haven’t served can’t comprehend. I consider it more heroic that they’ve done it in spite of the war’s maculate conception.

Spencer puts his finger on something that I’ve never quite understood about Tom Ricks’ “unraveling” series; elite and popular Iraqi opinion (with the partial exception of Kurdistan) is united around the idea of the United States leaving. Whether or not the precarious peace created in part by the Surge holds is pretty much irrelevant to that point. The Iraqi preference for an American withdrawal has held steady pretty much from the day the Americans arrived (public opinion in Afghanistan has always been different, although the gap is closing). Any talk of staying on to “finish the job” or “hold things together” is just so much nonsense in the face of this strong, consistent Iraqi preference. Iraq may unravel, and it will in some important sense have been our responsibility, but by the Iraqis’ own account it’s not our job to prevent that from happening.

See also Stephen Walt.

Have you ever looked at the lyrics of Rush songs really closely?

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

That was the question a young man who stopped by my office a few months ago had for me. He had read something I’d written, and was so impressed by my powers of perception regarding what’s really going on that he felt he could share with me certain recondite truths, including but not limited to

(1) The rock band Rush controls most of the world’s economy. The members of the band hold controlling voting shares of stock in Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, Intel, and several other of the world’s largest corporations.

(2) They use their power of international commerce in the service of Satan.

(3) They used their powers a few days earlier to have him arrested by local law enforcement.

(4) All this and much more is practically self-evident to anyone who makes a close examination of the lyrics of their albums. It’s all right there if you’re just willing to look.

It was an interesting conversation, but one thing I didn’t do was argue with the guy about potential flaws in his theory.

I was reminded of that conversation by this Thomas Sowell column, replete as it is with barking paranoia of the most unhinged sort. I don’t want to argue with Sowell either. I mean what would be the point? He’s a crazy person.

(h/t Yglesias)

Ricci, Sotomayor, Scalia & Empathy

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

The new hit album.

Giving Away The Show

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

I’ll have more tomorrow, but like Publius I was amazed to come home and read Alito’s remarkable-and-not-in-a-good-way concurrence focusing on the Scary Black Guy who allegedly caused New Haven to jettison its testing process for promotions. As Adam also points out, Ginsburg was devastating in noting that Alito’s stories were strikingly unencumbered by any evidence that Kimber actually had any influence at all on the politically insulated commission that reached the decision, let alone more influence than the other interests that strongly supported the lawsuit. Indeed, not only is there no evidence, there isn’t even a plausible chain of causation; it’s just wingnut innuendo all the way down.

At any rate, I’m sure Alito’s excessively candid sharing of beside-the-point race-baiting Republican talking points should provide some comic relief when Republican Senators claim that Sotomayor is insufficiently impartial, what with her “empathy” and all.

Question the timing

[ 0 ] June 30, 2009 |

Erik Loomis happened to be in Honduras the other day, just as Kermit Roosevelt happened to be in Iran during the summer of 1953.

Israel Ditches the LCS

[ 0 ] June 29, 2009 |

It appears that the Israelis have ditched plans to purchase the Littoral Combat Ship:

In a radical revamp of its surface fleet modernization program, the Israel Navy has shelved long-held plans to purchase Lockheed Martin-produced Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), as well as a fallback option involving corvetees built by Northrop Grumman.

Instead, sources say, the Navy is pushing to establish a combat shipbuilding industry through customized, locally built versions of a German corvette design.

The German option is a longer, larger version of the A-100 corvette. This is interesting, because there are multiple potential Israeli motivations.

The central tasks of the Israeli Navy are to prevent infiltration into Israel, prevent smuggling into Gaza, and support IDF land operations in Lebanon and Gaza. There’s good reason to think that the LCS would do all three of these jobs better than the A-100. As Galrahn has pointed out repeatedly, the LCS is best understood as a mothership for small boats and UAVs, and not as a surface combatant. These capabilities give it the capability to monitor and act in a substantial portion of Israel’s sea space, and also to contribute to operations on land. The LCS was originally envisioned as the Navy’s contribution to network-centric warfare, extending surveillance and fire capability across the littoral (which includes both the sea and the coast). This fits in well with the IDF’s vision of how war ought to be fought. The LCS was also conceived in response to the threat presented by swarms of small, fast boats, which is exactly the problem that Hezbollah and Hamas might pose in the maritime sphere. The LCS is also some 16 knots faster than the A-100, giving it the ability to respond more quickly to problems, and to evacuate itself more quickly from dangerous situations. Although it’s unclear that the Israelis would have much use for the LCS’ modular nature, it’s fair to say that the LCS is a *much* more capable platform than even a modified A-100.

That said, there are good reasons why the Israelis would prefer the A-100. First, the technology is much more mature, and the design is operationally tested. The first littoral combat ships remain in trials, and won’t be used operationally for some time. They might not achieve full operational capacity for quite a while. Second, the cost of the LCS is much higher than the A-100. To this day, no one quite knows how much a fully operational LCS will cost. For a state more focused on its land frontiers than its littoral, the less expensive corvette makes some sense. Third, the LCS isn’t necessarily a street fighter. No modern warships can be expected to have a lot of staying power, but the LCS is particularly vulnerable because of its light construction. The LCS also costs more per unit, which means that more Israeli treasure is bound up in a specific ship. This matters, because people occasionally fire surface-to-surface missiles at Israeli ships, and also sometimes blow up small boats next to Israeli vessels. Finally, it appears that the modified A-100s will be built in Israel, and job-creating defense projects are always popular with politicians.

The wild card is this; while the Israeli decision to quit the LCS can be explained purely through military and economic factors, you have to wonder whether there’s also a political motivation. Given recent assertions about Israel’s capacity to “go it alone,” and mildly increasing tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu over settlements, it’s possible to read this as a message to US defense contractors (and perhaps more importantly, to US congress-critters) that Israel can say no, and that there are potential economic consequences for playing hardball. Now, just because an action can be read as a message doesn’t mean that a message is being sent, and I may well be over-interpreting the Israeli decision on this point.

See also Galrahn.

*Blech* Twitter

[ 0 ] June 29, 2009 |

We now have *shudder* a Twitter feed. Adjust your behavior accordingly. We expect that the feed will include not only self-serving links to LGM posts, but also unique examples of the quality socio-political commentary you’ve come to expect from LGM, distilled down to 140 characters.

On Old Soldiers Refusing to Fade Away

[ 0 ] June 29, 2009 |

I’ve had Vo Nguyen Giap on my death list for four years running. This year in History of Strategic Thought, we read People’s War People’s Army; while the first half is pretty much standard Marxist agitprop, his account of the siege and reduction of Dien Bien Phu is a beautiful thing to behold. A couple of the students were astounded to hear that the old man is still alive. It turns out that not only is he still breathing, but he’s still kicking:

Vietnam’s great war hero, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, has stood up to defend his country once again, this time against what he says would be a huge mistake by the government — a vast mining operation run by a Chinese company.

Now 97, the commander who led his country to victory over both France and the United States has emerged as the most prominent voice in a broad popular protest that is challenging the secretive workings of the country’s Communist leaders.

In an unusual step, the government has taken note of the criticisms in recent weeks and appears to be making at least gestures of response, saying it will review the project’s environmental impact and slow its full implementation…

… The government might well have brushed off its critics if General Giap had not spoken up, first in January and twice afterward, saying the project “will cause serious consequences to the environment, society and national defense.”

The old campaigner now appeared to be rallying public opinion against the country’s leadership, calling on scientists, managers and social activists to “suggest to the party and the state to have a sound policy on the bauxite projects in the Central Highlands.”

Pre-Emptive Ricci Post

[ 0 ] June 29, 2009 |

I will be in a car returning from a graduation party most of the day. So if, as expected, the Court hands down its decision in Ricci today and reverses the Second Circuit, let me say that this in no way shows that Sotomayor was “wrong” on the law. First, because the Supreme Court can create new law in way that Circuit Courts can’t. And, second, because cases interesting enough to make it to the Supreme Court generally admit to multiple reasonable interpretations, and New Haven’s belief that civil rights law did not allow it to use a test that would disproportionately promote white people unless it could show a much stronger relationship between the test and job performance was certainly plausible, and a legal position that obtains 3 or 4 Supreme Court votes in particular cannot usefully be said to be “wrong.”

Giving Morons the Beating They Deserve

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

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