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Mediocre Carriers Can Be Good Enough

[ 13 ] May 10, 2014 |

My latest at WiB talks about Australia’s new amphibs:

So turning the Canberras into carriers is tough. But it’s possible. Flat-deck amphibs are flexible ships. In the 2011 Libya conflict, for example, British and French amphibs launched attack helicopters to strike enemy ground forces ashore—a mission no one envisioned just a few years ago.

There’s no question that the Canberras could launch and recover F-35Bs for short missions. The question is, would the stealthy jump jets actually be useful to Australia, given the ships’ limitations?

 The Canberras wouldn’t make great carriers or even good carriers. But in the right circumstances, Australia might only need a mediocre carrier.

 

The New Face of Canada

[ 109 ] May 9, 2014 |

Rob Ford, America thanks you.

Ford is behind the wheel and hammered. One constituent he

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calls that night recalls Ford slurring his words.
The Star has heard audio of Ford and Bellissimo talking and both are slurring. (The Star has interviewed people who say it is nothing for Ford to down a 40-ouncer of vodka. The man who recorded the audio of Ford at Sully Gorman’s bar two weeks ago told the Star Ford’s ability to drink shots of tequila is “incredible.”)

Ford has two ways of communicating as he drives — his cellular phone and his Onstar device, a General Motors product that acts as a cellphone. During one call as he drives that night, Ford is recorded as saying the following about Jews, blacks and Italians:

“Nobody sticks up for people like I do, every f—ing k–e, n—-r, f—ing w-p, d-go, whatever the race. Nobody does. I’m the most racist guy around. I’m the mayor of Toronto.”

Foreign Entanglements: Interests Conflicted

[ 1 ] May 9, 2014 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt speaks with Gissou Nia about the intersection of Iran’s nuclear program and human rights record:

Innovation!

[ 2 ] May 8, 2014 |

In this week’s Diplomat column, I touch on some of the questions associated with my latest academic project:

But whether, with respect to the defense industry, small firms play a large role, a small role, or a significant role in alliance with large firms, their presence in the broader civilian economy produces different expectations for differently structured defense-industrial bases. The Soviet defense-industrial base never took advantage of small firms, which did not exist in context of Soviet defense procurement. This hardly meant that Soviet industry couldn’t innovate, or that it couldn’t effectively serve its military customers. It does, however, suggest that innovation will take more incremental, capital-intensive forms than in systems (relatively) more friendly to small-firm input.

The Chinese system has developed in a much different manner than the Soviet one, at least since the 1980s. There are plenty of small, innovative Chinese technology firms. However, granting the opacity of the Chinese defense industrial system, there is little to suggest that the PLA relies on small firms for innovation. Rather, the PLA seems to utilize a combination of time worn and novel forms of espionage to remain abreast of the latest military innovations in the United States and elsewhere.

On “Putz”

[ 27 ] May 7, 2014 |

My former students write essays:

My very first class in graduate school was Dip 600: National Security Policy with Dr. Robert Farley. It was the core course in my focus area and I couldn’t have been more nervous.

I’d just met my 42 colleagues at orientation and they were an impressive bunch—two Army Captains, a Marine, someone with a PhD, two people who spoke Chinese, and a significant number of impressive young minds. My greatest fear was being the dumbest kid in class and for the first time, it felt like a distinct possibility.

When Dr. Farley got to my name in the list he looked up.

“Are you related to J.J.?” he asked.

Capital in Translation

[ 3 ] May 7, 2014 |

It’s not Foreign Entanglements, but this is a pretty interesting discussion between Mike Konczal and Art Goldhammer on translating Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

LGM Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

[ 392 ] May 6, 2014 |

Let it be known that “Does it ever occur to you guys that your commenters are objectively despicable people?” has now entered the LGM Hall of Fame, and has been ensconced among the rotating quotations in the header.

Congratulations, you ugly, awful people.

[Erik]….Meanwhile, Freddie is very upset that you are enjoying television. Hating TV is the only true left position. Liking television and–god forbid–talking about television is objectively despicable.

A Case for Habsburg Airpower

[ 115 ] May 5, 2014 |

This, from Christopher Clarke’s Sleepwalkers, is an interesting passage:

Mobilization schedules, political dissension, the progress of the Sarajevo police enquiry, the need to secure German support – these were excellent reasons for delaying a military action against Serbia. Not even Conrad was able to offer a credible alternative to his civilian colleagues. And yet, throughout the July Crisis the Austrians would be haunted by the suspicion that it might actually have been better simply to strike at Belgrade without full mobilization and without a declaration of war, in what would universally have been seen as a reflex response to a grave provocation. Why didn’t Austria-Hungary simply attack Serbia straight away and be done with it, asked Prime Minister Ion Brătianu of Romania on 24 July, as the crisis entered its critical phase.

The practice of punishing recalcitrant states through direct naval action was common in the nineteenth century. Don’t pay your debts? Get ready for a Royal Navy gunboat lobbing a few shells at the government buildings in your capitol city. States generally understood such operations (along with raids, their land/amphibious equivalent) to fall short of war, even if they killed people and involved extra-territorial use of force.

Naval punishment was not possible in the Serbo-Austrian relationship, and a raid launched without full mobilization was too risky (Serbia remained partially mobilized from the Balkan Wars, making a poorly prepared Austrian invasion a perilous prospect). Austria needed to mobilize in order to punish, and mobilization changed the calculi of the rest of the European great powers. In effect, it was difficult for Austria to punish Serbia without also threatening the existence of Serbia, which would have upset the Balkan balance-of-power.

But imagine if the assassination had taken place a decade later, when (perhaps) Austria-Hungary might have operated a few squadrons of Gotha bombers. Could Vienna have undertaken appropriate “punishment” of Belgrade without triggering a systemic war? There’s surely an argument here that airpower could have provided Austrian policymakers with flexible options for dealing with the crisis. Assuming that Austria’s intent was simply to punish and not to unilaterally introduce a new Balkan order, a series of airstrikes combined with economic pressure and marginal territorial moves might have sufficed to satisfy Habsburg honor, without forcing Russian intervention.

But then again, we have more than a few examples of air campaigns that escalated well beyond the control of their planners.  It’s quite possible that even such a measured response would have irrevocably committed Austria to a path that led to war with Russia, which would have triggered the broader conflict.

Thoughts?

Damn You, Autocorrect!

[ 25 ] May 4, 2014 |

Mildy amusing:

 

Submarines!

[ 5 ] May 4, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat thinks through the implications of the deal to purchase 10 new Virginia class subs.

The USN has maintained a consistent nuclear attack submarine capability since the 1950s. Initially focused on anti-shipping missions, over time the SSN force has developed critical anti-submarine warfare (ASW), recon, land attack, and even Special Operations Forces (SOF) roles. More so than aircraft carriers or even manned aircraft, we can expect that the USN will continue to need modern subs to manage these missions over the lifespan of these boats. The fleet has proven so successful over the past decades that attack subs are likely to acquire more missions, not fewer.

Derby!

[ 29 ] May 3, 2014 |

Amateurs have Derby parties; the serious-minded among us attended Oaks parties last night. Nevertheless, if you must bet, I recommend the following:

1. Wicked Strong
2. General a rod
3. California Chrome

Also much bourbon, and perhaps one of these:

Bridging the Gap

[ 4 ] May 1, 2014 |

On Tuesday, I participated in the Fletcher School’s “Bridging the Gap” idea fest.  Organized by Dan Drezner, the concept involved drawing scholars from a wide range of experiences into a conversation about the size, relevance, and tractability of the divide between policy practitioners and the academy.  We debated whether the “gap” was growing or shrinking, how graduate education could mend relations, how scholars could approach practitioner concerns, and whether the emerging structure of the academy (in terms of graduate preparation, hiring, and promotion) was sustainable.

Storify record is available here (thanks @caidid !) , other materials here. My own contribution addressed the role of social media in bridging the gap.  I argued, from the experience of my book, that social media and other forms of online engagement broadened and deepened peer review, resulting in more rigorous work while also making that work more accessible and more widely known.

Best part was getting to meet Sarah Kendzior, Michael Horowitz, and Erin Simpson, as well as to reconnect with old friends such as Drezner, Mira Sucharov, and Mike Desch.

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