Author Page for Robert Farley
Your World War I graphic of the day:
A couple thoughts:
- The Western Front and the Isonzo Front give an incomplete understanding of the static nature of World War I warfare; there was considerably more movement in the east than in the west.
- Nevertheless, the ability of a country like Serbia to hold its own for as long as it did does suggest important differences in military tactics and technology between 1914 and 1940.
- It’s easy to appreciate the potentially decisive impact of the Ludendorff Offensive, especially in the wake of successful Central Power offensives in 1917.
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For this week’s listicle, I bring the Jeter:
“Overrated” is a challenging concept. In sports, a player can be “great” and “overrated” at the same time. Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, for example, is quite clearly a “great” player, well deserving of the first ballot invitation he will likely receive. However, as virtually all statistically minded aficionados of the game have noted, he is highly overrated (especially on defense) by the baseball press. Similarly, no one doubts that Kobe Bryant is an outstanding basketball player. However, many doubt that he is quite as good as his fans (or the NBA commentariat) seem to believe.
The five weapons of war listed below are “overrated” in the sense that they occupy a larger space in the defense-security conversation than they really deserve. Some of them are fantastic, effective systems, while others are not. All of them take up more ink than they should, and (often) distract from more important issues of warfighting and defense contracting.
Some thoughts at the Diplomat on the future of Russian arms exports to SE Asia:
Malaysia is a significant customer of Russian hardware. Su-20MKM Flankers, and MiG-29 Fulcrums make up the bulk of its fighter fleet, along with F/A-18 Hornets. Malaysia also purchases air-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, and similar ordnance from Russia. Indonesia buys a broader array of equipment from Russia, including helicopters and anti-ship missiles. However, both Malaysia and Indonesia have displayed considerable willingness to purchase weapons from other partners, making their relationship with Russia strictly arms-length.
The survival of these relationships depends, to some extent, on how deftly Russia plays the diplomatic game over the next few weeks. Thus far, it doesn’t look too promising. Russia’s quandary is to maintain a stance of studied belligerence towards Ukraine and the United States, moderate indignation towards Europe, and civilized behavior to the rest of the world. The downing of the Malaysian airliner puts these into tension. Russia has proposed a frankly incomprehensible theory about how a Ukrainian Su-25 might have shot down the Malaysian jet.
My latest at WiB looks at a proposal to ditch the Air Force from 1982:
In 1982 John Byron—then a Navy commander and submarine skipper—argued that the United States should reorganize its military around three branches, eliminating the Air Force and creating a new Strategic Deterrent Force.
“Reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces” was the first strategic study co-published by the National War College and the National Defense University Press. It made the rounds among defense analysts at the time. It attracted some attention from the defense reform community and an audience in some of the professional defense journals, including Proceedings and Early Bird, the much-beloved Pentagon news roundup that ceased publication in 2013.
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Many of you may have noticed the subtle changes to the header over the past couple of days. LGM is proud to announce that Steven Attewell and Katie Surrence have agreed to join the site as contributing editors. They can both speak for themselves, so I won’t take up any of your time with lengthy introductions. I have adjusted past guest posts to reflect their authorship.
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…[Erik]: Some registration tips from comments, thanks to Stepped Pyramids
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My latest at the National Interest takes a look at how we might fill (or finesse) the gap created by cancelling the F-35:
With the recent engine fire that grounded the entire F-35 fleet (and mostly destroyed one of the few Lightnings in service), critics of the Joint Strike Fighter have renewed calls for a serious review of the program. And yet the F-35 appears unkillable. The only winning move, it seems, was not to play, but we’ve been playing for a while, and we’re well beyond easy answers. The F-35 program, with tentacles across America and in many of the United States’ closest allies, probably cannot be cancelled. The industrial and diplomatic challenges might well dwarf the problems with combat fleet shortfalls.
If it could, however, what would follow? The following five options are not mutually exclusive, and any strategy for replacing the F-35 would need to borrow liberally from several.
In this week’s Diplomat column I think a bit about how to approach Thucydides:
If we start by acknowledging that the parts we’re taking are all archetypes, then literal fidelity to the narrative record becomes less important. And from this starting point, we can take a few important lessons; the dangers of power transition, the potentially dire effects of war on a democratic polity, the folly of strategic escalation, and the critical role that the whims of fate and human frailty play in geopolitics.
However, this approach also opens the question of why we should rely on Thucydides, rather than other available narratives. For East Asia, we have ready-made accounts that can provide the same kind of archetypes, mostly coming from ancient Chinese history. The Records of the Grand Historian detail conflicts, betrayals, and power shifts every bit as legendary in their complexity as those Thucydides describes. And perhaps we could productively understand China’s emerging A2/AD system-of-systems in the context of Mohist concepts of defensive “just war.” Such an examination might, at the least, give us a better appreciation of how policymakers themselves approach these complexities.