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Hersh Thoughts

[ 145 ] May 13, 2015 |

US One Cent Obv.pngCall me guilty of gliding past “He’s an insane crank,” and moving directly to “And we already knew all of this stuff anyway,” but I suppose my biggest beef with the now-infamous Hersh piece is the small stakes.  Hersh has a theory about a conspiracy (which is not, it bears mention, the same as a conspiracy theory) among a large number of Pakistani and US government officials to mislead their publics about a) the nature of Osama bin Laden’s relationship with Pakistani intelligence services, b) the role that those services played in his death, c) the nature of his death, and d) the disposal of his body.

C) and d) do not, to me, seem like the sort of things that government officials would take much time out of their days to lie extensively about, especially given that the lies themselves (because of the number of people who actively witnessed both incidents) would be far more risky than simply telling the truth. The number of people (and especially of American voters) who care about whether bin Laden actively resisted in Abbottabad, or how precisely his remains were disposed of, approaches zero, and quite possibly might be smaller than the number of people who witnessed either event. Government officials lie, but generally they like to have a good reason to tell risky lies, and it’s hard for me to see the reasoning here.

A) and b) are more interesting, but also a bit more narrow.  Plenty of Americans suspected that the ISI had some kind of relationship with bin Laden (whether as his jailer or protector, or both) prior to the  Abbottabad operation, and the course of the operation did nothing to dissuade this concern. The description of the “walk-in” Pakistani source isn’t exactly new, and does not, in and of itself, contradict the mainstream account of the operation. Neither revelation would be faintly embarrassing to the United States, or the Obama administration. More significant are Hersh’s revelations, if we believe them to be accurate, that the ISI worked directly to facilitate the operation, and that the US and Pakistan had planned a cover story about a drone strike in Afghanistan.

I suppose that’s something. It’s not wholly implausible, obviously, that the White House would have adopted a story in order to attempt to protect the Pakistani government from embarrassment.  It’s odd, though, that the chosen cover story looks on its face to be even more embarrassing to Pakistan, with the Pakistani security services unable to find bin Laden as he was living right under their collective nose, and unable to stop the United States from carrying out a significant raid in Pakistani territory.

And so I’m struggling with how to make sense of the story.  And that says nothing about the bigger question of how we should view a story that is sourced almost entirely on anonymous, retired members of the IC, especially when lots of non-anonymous, retired and not-retired people are willing to go on the record saying Hersh is wrong.

Raptor Raptor Everywhere!

[ 17 ] May 13, 2015 |
Aerial port view of two aircraft in flight, one on top of the other. The bottom aircraft is a four-engined propeller-driven aircraft, which is escorted by a jet fighter.

“Raptor and TU-95″ by U.S. Air Force photo – http://www.elmendorf.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/071122-f-1234X-001.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What if the US hadn’t refused to export the F-22?

In 1997, the United States government determined that the Raptor, America’s most advanced air superiority fighter, could not be exported to any foreign government, even those of close allies. The unstated reason for this ban was suspicion that Israel would, if it gained access to the F-22, transfer technology associated with the aircraft to Russia or China. The United States cannot, as a political matter of course, single out Israel for a ban on the sale of advanced technology, and so the F-22 export ban covered all potential buyers.

On the upside, this left the United States as the sole operator of what is probably the world’s most effective air superiority aircraft. On the downside, it forced U.S. allies (not to mention Lockheed Martin) to rely heavily on the success of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as legacy platforms.

Great Moments in Headline Writing

[ 35 ] May 10, 2015 |

Because we all understand the real tragedy of African-American mortality rates in the US…
Screenshot 2015-05-10 15.30.21

Explainers Should Explain Things

[ 13 ] May 9, 2015 |
Emperor Tiberius Denarius - Tribute Penny.jpg

“Emperor Tiberius Denarius – Tribute Penny” by DrusMAX – Photograph Previously published: Web. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m the last person to complain about a good listicle, but an explainer and a listicle are not the same thing. This Vox piece purports to be the former, but is actually the latter, trying to explain the institution of the Imperator through a discussion of the characteristics of a few of its most colorful holders. And it’s too bad, because the explanation is really pretty simple. The Roman elite was exhausted by the civil wars of the first century BC, and in general had come to grips with the idea that the structures of the Roman Republic were insufficient to governance of the empire. It was simply too easy for a provincial governor to act as an independent warlord, amassing wealth, engaging in conquest, and developing a powerful army, then turn that wealth and power on the Senate. The institution of the Imperator as central, permanent military figure didn’t solve this problem entirely, but it helped quite a bit by making the provincial governors accountable to central authority. The tolerance of bad emperors was part of the cost of limiting the extent and frequency of civil wars. In other words, ending the Republic was the price of maintaining the Empire, and it was a price the Roman elite was, largely speaking, willing to pay.

There’s obviously some question regarding the degree to which the Roman elite consciously bought into this reasoning, but I’m generally of the view that people aren’t idiots, and that they understand the logics of their own governance.  It’s also worth noting that the Empire preserved many of the norms of Republican governance (and of elite privilege, even against the Emperor), until at least Diocletian.

On This Day…

[ 15 ] May 7, 2015 |
Sinking of the Lusitania London Illus News.jpg

“Sinking of the Lusitania London Illus News” by Norman Wilkinson – The Illustrated London News, May 15, 1915. P. 631.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m generally reluctant to jump aboard “On this day” posts, but May 7 has some pretty good ones:

Norman Podhoretz: The Alan Thicke of Neoconservatism

[ 55 ] May 6, 2015 |

Norman Podhoretz has always been classy. Classy enough, in the not-too-distant-past, to earn publication in Harpers:

Podhoretz penned a meandering essay in Harper’s in 1977 titled “The Culture of Appeasement” which likened antiwar sentiment in post-Vietnam America to the wariness of war in Britain after World War I, and then linked the latter to a homosexual yearning for relations with all the young men who perished in the Great War. In Podhoretz’s view, “the best people looked to other men for sex and romance,” and as a result, didn’t much like them being killed by the score on the Continent. “Anyone familiar with homosexual apologetics today will recognize these attitudes.”

Tying things back into the 1970s, Podhoretz pointed to the “parallels with England in 1937″ and warned that “this revival of the culture of appeasement ought to be troubling our sleep.” (A correspondent in a subsequent issue of Harper’s would admit that he “had not previously realized that Winston Churchill fought the Battle of Britain almost singlehandedly while England’s ubiquitous faggotry sneered and jeered from below.”)

Read the rest, in which Logan details more broadly the obsession with Churchill and the Munich Analogy.

Monroe?

[ 8 ] May 4, 2015 |
Yu Zhengsheng (R), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), meets with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 23, 2013. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

Yu Zhengsheng (R), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), meets with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 23, 2013. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

As some of you know, I moonlight as an analyst at Wikistrat, a crowd-sourcing strategy firm. The idea is to take advantage of a wide range of vantage points on a particular problem, and the technical solution (a wiki that allows anyone to propose ideas and edit) is pretty nifty. This is one of our latest products:

Does the growth of Chinese economic relations with Latin America have the potential to erode U.S. leadership in the region? With some Latin American countries chafing under American hegemony, China could make political and military inroads. Indeed, its growing economic and military strength could provide the biggest challenge to the Monroe Doctrine in two centuries, leading to the question: will the U.S. respond. And if so, how?

In this report, Wikistrat Senior Analyst Dr. Robert Farley synthesizes the insights from a crowdsourced simulation that probed potential Chinese and U.S. strategies for competition in Latin America.

Analysts examined China’s best possible strategies for increasing its regional influence, and the range of potential U.S. responses, before evaluating the impact of competition on the region. The analysts concluded that China cannot pose a significant threat to U.S. pre-eminence in Latin America, and that any U.S. over-reaction to Chinese influence could result in substantial harm to the region.

Derby

[ 24 ] May 2, 2015 |
Mint Julep im Silberbecher.jpg

“Mint Julep im Silberbecher” by Marler – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Derby is for amateurs; sophisticates devote their precious sobriety and attention to the Oaks. Nevertheless, as it’s clear what sort of audience this blog caters to, here are my Derby picks*:

  1. Firing Line
  2. Carpe Diem
  3. American Pharoah

*Any relationship between picks and actual order of finish is entirely coincidental.

The Provision of Common Goods

[ 11 ] May 1, 2015 |
USS Theodore Roosevelt - BigStick.jpg

U.S. Navy photo by Photograher’s Mate 2nd Class (AW) Robert R. McRill . – Official U.S. Navy photograph no. 990915-N-5526M-001 Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I have a few thoughts up at the Diplomat on the fracas between Iran, the Marshall Islands, and the United States:

Much remains murky about Tuesday’s Iranian stoppage and seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship in international waters. The seizure comes on the heels of a successful effort by the United States Navy to interdict an Iranian supply convoy destined for Yemen.

Most Iraqis Have Never Heard of Guns

[ 35 ] April 29, 2015 |

Yep.

Carson said that people in cities need guns to defend against Big Government gun confiscations and potential attacks, even going so far as to suggest that ISIS wouldn’t have made such advances in Iraq if there were more firearms in the country.

He also claimed that Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher and “Leviathan” author, knew that tyranny “would never occur in America because American citizens have guns and they won’t let it happen.” Hobbes, of course died in 1679, a century before the U.S. was established.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the days in which America could send Heritage Foundation interns to create the financial system of a new country, and then I remember that I only need to wait until the next GOP administration…

Winning the Rafale!

[ 2 ] April 29, 2015 |

Rafale Theodore Roosevelt.jpg

“Rafale Theodore Roosevelt” by Matthew DeWitt – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My Diplomat contribution from last week took a look at what the Rafale deal might mean for the future of India’s carrier program:

In the fallout of the Rafale deal, can the Indian naval air arm be saved?  More to the point, could French-built Rafale fighters still, eventually, fly from Indian aircraft carriers?

As the Diplomat has detailed, one of the fruits of India’s relationship with the United States should be the EMALS catapult system. Catapult launched (CATOBAR) aircraft differ from their conventional and Short Take Off (STOBAR) cousins in several ways, primarily with respect to their ability to endure the stress involved in the catapult system. Although INS Vikramaditya currently operates MiG-29Ks from her STOBAR deck, no one has yet made clear which fighter will fly from India’s catapult-capable carriers.

Mobile Agonies

[ 2 ] April 27, 2015 |

The mobile site is once again having problems. Working on it, and working on preventing future occurrences.

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