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Happy Thanksgiving!

[ 2 ] November 27, 2014 |

Have a wonderful holiday.  Stay safe on the roads.  Ignore the vicious anti-turkey propaganda emitting from the darker recesses of this blog.

Guest Post: “Riots” is Racist

[ 65 ] November 26, 2014 |

This is a guest post from Meredith Heller (The Saucy Scholar)

The term “riots” is racist.  Yes, this is about Ferguson.

Last night, our fair-and-just judicial system decided that a White police officer shooting an unarmed Black teen in a town smothered in racism does not warrant a trial. In a community where the major perpetrator of racist violence and injustice are the police, in a community where the legal system doesn’t see this as a big enough issue to even have a trial, the community has little other option than to enact public protest. That protest can get violent, surely. But calling this form of public and sometimes violent disobedience a “riot” is racist. Riot is the term we use for Black protests and the aftermath of drunken sports victories or losses. When White people protest oppressive institutions, we call it revolution. The words we use matter.

I’m not condoning violence. Of course I’m not, that should (but can’t) go without saying. And if you think this is a rant about police, you don’t know me at all. I like the police. Why wouldn’t I? They generally treat me with deference and respect. Also, I’m a White, femme woman with the letters Ph.D. after her name. By the way, that Ph.D. cache didn’t work so well for Arizona State University Professor Ersula Ore. Lucky for me, I also White and femme. But the majority of the community in Ferguson can’t say the same. And when they go out and publicly protest this legal injustice, this is what they will encounter:


A heavily armed, militarized police force trying to suppress Black folk as they protest about police brutality against Black folk. Wait, didn’t I already see how this played out in The Hunger Games?

For Black people to do this, to leave their homes and to publically protest, is scary and brave, because they shoot unarmed Black people in Ferguson. And it doesn’t even warrant a trial. And we call this rioting.

I had the great fortune of working for Dr. Ingrid Banks. In Intro to Black Studies, Dr. Banks shows this picture:


Photo from Black California Dreamin’: The Crises of California’s African-American Communities, Ed. Clyde Woods

It’s a picture of the Southern California Library near Inglewood standing intact during the 1992 L.A. “riots.” Next to it, a liquor store has been burned to the ground. This picture is living proof that riots are not necessarily blindly destructive, that they are not just about hurting people and looting and malicious anarchy. In this particular case, many, many people made conscious choices about how to direct their public anger. What happened in L.A. and what’s happening in Ferguson is clear and directed public protest. Calling it a riot is cultural racism because it maintains sincere fictions that Black people are dangerous, irrational, and violent (they riot) rather than brave or just (they revolt). So lets call what’s happening a revolt against oppressive ruling systems, and a revolt that responds to violence and destruction with violence and destruction. We don’t have to condone it, but we don’t have to dismiss it as a riot either.

It’s important to accurately context this type of disobedience—use words that clearly and directly speak to what’s going down—because, to quote Battlestar Galactica, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.  Know how I know?


Oh, also #BlackLivesMatter

China’s Perspective on the Gulf War

[ 4 ] November 24, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest:

In 1991, Chinese military officers watched as the United States dismantled the Iraqi Army, a force with more battle experience and somewhat greater technical sophistication than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Americans won with casualties that were trivial by historical standards.

This led to some soul searching. The PLA hadn’t quite been on autopilot in the 1980s, but the pace of reform in the military sector had not matched that of social and economic life in China. Given the grim performance of the PLA in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, something was bound to change. The Gulf War provided a catalyst and direction for that change.


Sunday Linkage

[ 35 ] November 23, 2014 |

Some random Sunday evening thoughts:





On Realignment

[ 135 ] November 22, 2014 |

It’s not wrong to suggest that the Tyrion of Game of Thrones is different than the Tyrion of Song of Ice and Fire, or even that these differences are not all for the better. But this is surely problematic:

The problem, however, with making Shae love Tyrion is that it trivializes his story. He is no longer a tragic character — he is loved. In the context of the show this is believable, since Peter Dinklage is a handsome man, and his subsequent scarring in battle could be considered sexy. (It’s absurd that Sansa is so repulsed by the idea of sex with him, in this context — sure, he’s not the man of her dreams, but after the traumas she’s experienced, you would think her fantasies could realign to accommodate a difference in height.)

Emphasis added. The claim being made here is that, in context of the traumas that Sansa has experienced, including most notably the butchery of her father, mother, and brother at the hands of Tyrion’s immediate family, it’s unreasonable to think that Sansa’s fantasies could not “realign to accommodate a difference in height.”

Frankly, I don’t think that’s the problem. And to its credit, the televised version doesn’t ever, to my recollection, imply that Sansa’s revulsion towards Tyrion is even remotely physical.


[ 3 ] November 21, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat looks at the results of a recent simulation at the Patterson School:

Last weekend, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, in conjunction with the Army War College, conducted a negotiation simulation on crisis resolution in the South China Sea. The simulation began shortly after an incident between Chinese and Filipino ships resulted in the deaths of five Indians and 95 Filipinos.

The South China Sea simulation is the third simulation developed by the Army War College. The first two, on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and the Cyprus conflict, have become regular features at foreign policy schools around the country. The AWC regularly conducts these exercises in collaboration with several different schools across the country, as well as with students at the AWC.

On Point

[ 51 ] November 20, 2014 |

“People forget, the Irish were oppressed, too.”


[ 155 ] November 19, 2014 |

Depressingly, there’s nothing about this article that’s particularly surprising.  There’s also nothing that’s not horrible.

Their other two friends, however, weren’t convinced. “Is that such a good idea?” she recalls Cindy asking. “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.” Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

I have to confess that my first reaction is frustration and anger with the attitude of the student community. Administrative foot-dragging on campus rape is something that we’ve come to expect. The blase student attitude (granting the unrepresentative snapshot) seems like something that, if not unique to UVA, does vary from school to school.

Well, That’s Troubling

[ 59 ] November 18, 2014 |

If you’re anything like me, you grew up with a debilitating, Bloom County-induced terror of being eaten by a walrus.

It has become clear that, if anything, Opus wildly understated the problem.

Control Your Arms!

[ 2 ] November 18, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest listicles up the history of arms control:

We’ve been taught to expect that nations will seek to defend themselves through every measure available to them. International law has rarely offered significant protection to the weak, and multilateral efforts at controlling how states develop, spread and amass weapons have regularly been met with scorn and derision.

But sometimes states come together, and for one reason or another agree to give up their rights to unilaterally build up arms. Many arms-control arrangements have failed; some have succeeded, and in many cases the story is mixed. This article takes a look at the five most important arms-control agreements of the 20th and 21st centuries, with a focus on how they changed the behavior of governments and the conduct of war.


[ 5 ] November 16, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat looks at the limited export potential of China’s J-31 stealth fighter:

Some have billed the J-31 as China’s answer to the F-35, as if that represented some sort of compliment. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest Pakistan would be a major customer, and perhaps Egypt as well.  Beyond that?  The United States can offer the F-35 to a wide range of European and Asian countries, all of which have strong economies, big defense budgets, an appetite for high tech, and an interest in cementing the long-term technological and political relationship with the United States.

Beijing doesn’t have the kind of friends that would do it the favor of buying something like the F-35. If the sanctions on Iran ease up in the wake of a successful nuclear deal, Tehran will be looking to buy advanced fighters.  If the Assad government ever manages to win its civil war, it too will need new fighters, but probably won’t be able to afford anything like the J-31.  The Gulf monarchies buy weapons in order to create political ties, and are unlikely to shift their attention from Washington to Beijing unless the international system changes in immense and unforeseen ways.

Larson RIP

[ 30 ] November 15, 2014 |

Loomis and I first met in 1992, when we were both assigned to work at the Instructional Media Center at the University of Oregon. Home to famously indifferent student employees, the IMC was helmed by man of legendary drinking habits and even more legendary perversities. Most of our days were wasted listening to his old “war” stories, trying (mostly successfully) to avoid work, and watching Magnum PI.

Rest in peace, Glen A. Larson.

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