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Yamato!

[ 76 ] June 12, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat examines the legacy of HIJMS Yamato:

For American audiences of a certain age, the most evocative depiction of Yamato came in the form of the animated television show “Star Blazers,” in which the Earth repurposed the hulk of Yamato to fight a series of galactic wars.  Star Blazers was an edited and redubbed version of the Japanese “Space Battleship Yamato,” which made explicit reference to the lost battleship. In a pointed reference to Japan’s wartime experience, the first alien attack comes in the form of a radioactive bombardment that leaves the surface of the earth poisonous and desolate.  Most of this escaped the notice of the American audience at the time, however.

Mosul

[ 82 ] June 11, 2014 |

Very briefly on this nonsense…

The argument that the United States could have prevented the collapse of Iraqi control over Mosul and other areas is predicated on the belief that a relatively small (certainly no larger than 10000) contingent of US troops, supported by US air forces, could either defeat rebel groups or sufficiently stiffen the Iraqi Army such that it could defeat those groups.  There is no evidence that this is the case, however; prior to the Surge, much larger US forces were unable to maintain order in Iraq.

This is to say nothing of the fact that leaving a larger contingent was virtually impossible given political reality in both Iraq and the United States in 2011.  The “Maliki would have fought for a larger force” is pure hand-waving, and the idea of leaving even 2000 was deeply unpopular in the US.  Moreover, had we left a larger force (at any plausible level, which is to say much lower than 130000), it would require significant reinforcement in order to handle problems like this, which would itself prove politically unpalatable in both countries.

Long story short, the central takeaway of the WSJ piece is the effort to pass off the continued disaster of Iraq to Barack Obama, one of the only people in US politics who bears virtually no responsibility for the disaster in Iraq.

 

World War I Centennial

[ 13 ] June 11, 2014 |

In my latest at War is Boring I talk up the National World War I Museum in Kansas City:

The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, is gearing up for the centennial of the Great War.

I just visited. You should, too. It’s a good experience despite the institution’s flaws.

In preparation for the first months of the centennial, the museum has opened the new exhibitions On the Brink—covering the pre-war July Crisis—and Over By Christmas which highlights the world’s growing realization that the war would last longer than a few months.

The new exhibits are a mixed bag, but the overall museum experience is a rich one.

Light Carriers!

[ 16 ] June 10, 2014 |

Latest entry in the endless debate over aircraft carrier classification:

The “aircraft carrier” designation has become a bit of a joke among defense commentators on Twitter, with one Popular Science writer deciding to avoid controversy by referring to everything from the Japanese Izumo to the USS Nimitz as a “floaty movey flyer holder.” The definitional becomes more significant when we range beyond the relatively small community of defense and aviation specialists, and try to explain to the laity why a 45,000-ton ship that carries supersonic jet fighters is not, in fact, an “aircraft carrier.”

A War to Avoid

[ 89 ] June 9, 2014 |

I have a longish piece at the National Interest on how a war between China and the United States might play out.  It concentrates more on the strategic details surrounding the opening and conclusion of any conflict than on the tactical details themselves:

How does the unthinkable happen? As we wind our way to the 100thanniversary of the events that culminated in World War I, the question of unexpected wars looms large. What series of events could lead to war in East Asia, and how would that war play out?

The United States and China are inextricably locked in the Pacific Rim’s system of international trade. Some argue that this makes war impossible, but then while some believed World War I inevitable, but others similarly thought it impossible.

In this article I concentrate less on the operational and tactical details of a US-China war, and more on the strategic objectives of the major combatants before, during, and after the conflict. A war between the United States and China would transform some aspects of the geopolitics of East Asia, but would also leave many crucial factors unchanged. Tragically, a conflict between China and the US might be remembered only as “The First Sino-American War.”

What the Hell is Wrong With People?

[ 371 ] June 8, 2014 |

The occasions under which rape threats are appropriate are: Not ever. The contexts under which it is appropriate to mock or make light of rape threats are: None.

This has been another edition of Things People Should Know Without Being Told.

To Kansas City!

[ 33 ] June 7, 2014 |

Tomorrow morning I leave for Kansas City for the 2014 Comparative Government AP reading.  This will be our last year in KC; next year we’ll shift to Salt Lake.  Accordingly, I’m going to try to do as many KC things as I can in my last year, including another visit to the World War I Museum,dinner at Arthur Bryant’s (which is just better than Oklahoma Joe’s, and has fewer hipsters), and a visit to the Negro League Baseball Museum.

Work, tragically, will continue to be work.  The time when one could shirk duties on the excuse “I’m not even in the state!” has, sadly, passed.

Viagra: Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

[ 26 ] June 6, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat:

Does the United States suffer from erectile dysfunction?

In a recent interview following a speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, PLA General Zhu Chenghu, dean of China’s National Defense University, argued that the United States was simultaneously engaging in the dangerous escalation of disputes in the South and East China Seas, and also that it lacked the gumption to follow through on its commitments. Zhu argued “We can see from the situation in Ukraine this kind of ED [extended deployment] has become the male type of ED problem: erectile dysfunction.”

At the same time, Zhu emphasized the threatening nature of U.S. commitments: “If you look at what the U.S. is doing on China’s periphery — things such as reconnaissance, exercises, massive deployments, strengthening military alliances, taking sides on territorial disputes — these things are not good at all.”

 

Movin’ On Up

[ 8 ] June 4, 2014 |

Deep congratulations to Matt Duss on his new gig!

Matthew Duss has been appointed as the new President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, effective August 1, 2014. He replaces Ambassador (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox, Jr. who is retiring after thirteen years at the Foundation.

Duss has been with the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC since 2008. A widely published journalist and policy analyst, he holds a BA and an MA in Middle East Studies from the University of Washington. He is an expert in Middle East affairs and has traveled extensively in the region, including in Israel and Palestine.

Matt, friend of LGM since (before) the beginning, also submitted a late entry to the self-celebratory anniversary wankfest:

I’m getting this in just under wire. Okay not really, it’s just late. But am really glad to have been asked to help mark LGM’s ten year anniversary. Rob and I met at the University of Washington in the early part of the 21st Century, I was taking his course on military interventions, and I knew we would were going to be good friends when he explained to the class that re-doing World War II as a social science experiment would be problematic because it would be too expensive. In a conversation after class I made reference to something I’d read at Talking Points Memo, and we ended up discussing these things called blogs. Not long after, LGM appeared. I was instantly hooked, and I’m pleased to have been one of its first readers, commenters, and fans.

I need to say this too: Beyond the great writing, LGM has also been a great and loyal friend. In troubled times, LGM has just been there for me. That time I decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo for an entire month, who bailed me out? LGM. That time my car broke down near Stevens Pass in two feet of snow, who came to pick me up? LGM. That time I was thinking of calling with a low gut shot straight, who convinced otherwise? LGM. That time I was thinking that Kevin Smith’s films might deserve another look, who talked me down? That was LGM. LGM did that.

God bless you, Lawyers Guns and Money. God bless you.

In a World Very Much Like Ours, Part I

[ 47 ] June 3, 2014 |

A companion to this piece appears at Information Dissemination.

Did Obama push Russia into invading Ukraine?

As disorder continues in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, and as Russian forces remain (despite President Vladimir Putin’s comments) deployed in threatening fashion along Ukraine’s border, finger-pointing has begun in Washington.

In particular, some analysts say, the collapse of the Assad regime in the wake of the brief US bombing campaign backed Putin into a corner.  Moscow bitterly denounced the campaign as “intervention run amok,” but political support and last minute arms shipments could not prevent the military coup that left Assad dead and the regime headless.

While administration spokesmen continue to argue that Syria and Ukraine are unrelated, more than a few analysts have laid responsibility squarely on the Obama administration.

“This is the fruit of Obama’s distraction with the Middle East.  Putin is playing real power politics; when he’s pushed, he pushes back.  It doesn’t seem that many on Obama’s foreign policy team understand this,” said one senior affiliate at a Washington think tank.

The resultant chaos in Syria may provide Moscow a degree of emotional comfort, but chances for a restoration of Russian power appear low.  The collapse of the regime effectively left Russia without a Mediterranean base, especially after rebel groups stormed and destroyed Russian installations at Tartus.

The US “victory” in Syria posed a major setback for Russia, but several sources alleged that it drew US attention away from the developing situation in Ukraine. “While Obama was doing a victory lap on Syria, Putin caught him flat-footed in Ukraine,” said an advisor to a senior Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Could Obama have seen the Russian move coming? In the wake of the collapse of the Libyan and Syrian governments, the loss of the Yanukovych government in Ukraine seemed eerily reminiscent of the serial collapse of Soviet satellite states in the early 1990s, a memory which remains bitter for much of the Russian leadership. “Would Putin have moved so aggressively if he didn’t feel weak and cornered? I doubt it,” said one senior Bush administration official.

Several foreign policy analysts also voiced concern over the future of Russia’s relationship with China, suggesting that the bombing of Syria might irrevocably have pushed Moscow into Beijing’s arms. “The geopolitical implications of this are gruesome.  We’ve basically traded Damascus for Kiev, which doesn’t make any sense.  We’ve also cemented the Russia-China axis we’ve always feared.”

Indeed, some analysts suggested that the campaign against Syria could prove fatal the Obama’s “Asian Pivot,” intended to redistribute American military and diplomatic effort towards Asia.  “The lesson that Beijing learns from this is that the US can be easily distracted by the Middle East, and doesn’t have its heart in maintaining an anti-Beijing alliance system in East Asia.  It doesn’t help that China now has Moscow in its corner,” said one scholar of Sino-American relations.

What could the Obama administration have done to prevent this? The President’s declaration of a “red line” on Syrian chemical weapons usage locked the United States into intervention after the determination that the Syrian military had used such weapons on civilians.  Analysts interviewed for this report were nearly unanimous that stepping back after making such a declaration would have been a major blow to US credibility and reputation.

There is little doubt that the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ended the “honeymoon” provided by the relatively successful operations in Syria and Libya.  However, few of the analysts interviewed for this article suggested any easy answers for the crisis in Ukraine.  At this point, military and political reality seems to leave the United States deeply constrained with respect to recovering Crimea, or to preventing further incursions into other border provinces.

Ground the RAF!

[ 15 ] June 2, 2014 |

My latest at War is Boring:

Could the campaign to eliminate independent air forces succeed with the world’s first independent air force? Some air-power critics associated with the Royal Navy are lobbying the U.K. government to disband the Royal Air Force.

“Air power as a joint concept cannot, and is not, best delivered from an independent service,” retired Royal Navy commanders Graham Edmonds and Paul Fisher wrote in Warships International Fleet Review.

This naval assault on an air force might surprise some Americans. With a few big exceptions, the U.S. military services have avoided open warfare with one another since the 1950s. Even retired officers hesitate before throwing rhetorical punches at their comrades in the other branches.

Compared to the U.S. armed forces, the U.K. military branches have sharp elbows. Mostly, this results from differences in how the American and British governments approach military appropriation.

Also see a couple of good reviews of Grounded. First, Dr. Stephen Wright has a negative but thoughtful review at AFRI. Second, Jeong Lee has a good review at Offiziere.ch.

Blog of the Week, and Possibly Decade

[ 22 ] May 31, 2014 |

This is a guest post by Lance Mannion.

Over the last ten years I’ve read many great blogs that have been informative, many that have been entertaining, many that have riled me up and set me to work. There have been blogs that have made me think, blogs that challenged my thinking, some that have regularly changed my mind. There have been blogs that have made me feel smart for reading them.

There have been few that have made me smarter, very few that have done it while doing all the above. One of those very few, maybe chief among those, has been Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A decade ago today, when LG&M started, the liberal side of the bandwidth was crowding itself with blogs dedicated to proving that the legacy media was wrong about Iraq and George W. Bush, a worthy and necessary endeavor. Passionate and creative opinionizing and invective spewing ruled the day. But Rob, Scott, and Dave gave themselves the additional job of being right…about whatever subject they posted on, and their subjects were from the beginning, varied and wide-ranging. They made sure they knew what they were talking about before they started talking and they showed their readers where and how they’d got to know what they knew.

When they didn’t know, they were careful not to let opinions and speculations pass as knowledge. They made it clear they were still working things out, and they made that work interesting, fun, and enlightening. They were thinking out loud and made that both an entertainment and a lesson in how it should be done.

They were practicing the almost lost of art of being public intellectuals.

In the years since, the team has expanded, contracted, and expanded again, but each new member has blogged by that standard. Whatever their individual area of expertise, whatever their personal style and approach, they have all been careful to know what they’re talking about and to separate what they know from what they are working towards knowing. They know their stuff and they know lots of stuff about lots of other stuff, and the result has been that their thinking out loud has been an ongoing lesson in how to think about, well, everything really, politics, history, baseball, hockey, movies, teaching, art, dinosaurs, and, of course, law, military and foreign policy, and economics.

And they have one of the rare comment sections that are not just worth reading and contain real discussions but that actually enhance and expand the posts being commented on. So congratulations to Rob and Scott and the gang for putting that community together and congratulations to that community for all they do for LG&M.

Oh, one more great thing, at least in my opinion.

No cats.

Thanks for that, gang, and thanks for ten great years.

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