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Monday Linkage

[ 72 ] December 23, 2013 |

Stuff for the eve of your Christmas Eve…

Foreign Entanglements: “And That Means Crushing the Spirit of Every Child in America”

[ 4 ] December 23, 2013 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Kelsey Atherton and I work through the strategic, operational, and tactical aspects of the War on Christmas:

Revising the Future of Flight

[ 23 ] December 20, 2013 |

I have an article up at Foreign Affairs (subscription):

The United States needs air power, but it does not need an air force.

In fact, it never really did. The U.S. Air Force, founded in 1947, was the product of a decades-long campaign by aviation enthusiasts inside the U.S. Army. These advocates argued that air power could not achieve its promise under the leadership of ground commanders. With memories of the great bombing campaigns of World War II still fresh and a possible confrontation with the Soviets looming, the nation’s would-be cold warriors determined that the age of air power was upon them. But it wasn’t. Advocates of an independent air force had misinterpreted the lessons of World War II to draw faulty conclusions about air power’s future.

In other news, read this:

The Air Force has just released its official report on its investigation into Maj. Gen. Michael Carey’s July trip to Moscow, which got him fired in October. Carey oversaw three wings of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, with 450 ICBMs in all. At the time, the dismissal was reportedly over personal misconduct during the official trip. But “misconduct,” it turns out, does not even come close.

The 42-page report is a doozy. It describes Carey as drinking heavily, spending an awful lot of time with two foreign women (a possible security risk), skipping meetings, complaining, offending the Russian hosts, at one point trying to perform with a band at a Moscow bar called La Cantina and generally acting a bit like a college kid on a semester abroad. The drinking got so bad that, according to the report, “one witness was concerned that Maj Gen Carey needed assistance standing.”


DC, Where the Bourbon Flows Like Bourbon

[ 138 ] December 19, 2013 |

Well, this is a shiny little piece of dreck:

I came home this fall to the state where I was born, raised and somewhat educated. My apartment is three times the size of my last one and half the cost, and it’s a little more than a block from Rupp Arena, home to the winningest college basketball team of all time and where I’d have my ashes spread if I weren’t worried a player would slip on them…

Much of my time in Washington was one hell of a party, an endless and decadent blowout bash more suited to VH1’s Behind the Music than working in the nation’s capital.

The first couple years, I spent almost every night downing bourbon—and sometimes indulging in harder substances—at Capitol Lounge before walking back to my studio apartment in Eastern Market, occasionally with some female congressional staffer whose name I was almost always too drunk to remember. (I later sought out and apologized to as many of those women as I could. To the ones I missed: I’m profoundly sorry for my behavior.)

I suppose part of my disillusionment had to do with my breakup with bourbon, after a real-life, devastating romantic breakup that was followed by a downward spiral. When I returned from my 28 days in rehab, in January 2010, it was harder to ignore the near criminal disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country.

Mr. Youngman has now returned to Kentucky, where bourbon and women of loose morals are never to be found. Of course, professional contrarian Matt Yglesias has a predictably #slatepitchy take:

Remarkably enough, I was able to do some empirical work on just this question last night. I determined that one could, in fact, find people willing to sell bourbon of many different varieties in the very shadow of hallowed Rupp Arena. At one establishment, I was referred to as “that hot Irish man at the end of the bar” by an obviously inebriated young woman. Fortunately, I maintained my virtue. The entire experience, however, made me wonder whether the problem wasn’t “This Town,” but rather “Mr. Sam Youngman.”

“You Shall Not Crucify Mankind Upon a Dragon of Gold”

[ 148 ] December 17, 2013 |

Liked the second Hobbit movie better than the first, and while I didn’t hate the first, I wouldn’t say that it’s improved upon subsequent viewings. The Desolation of Smaug probably has the fewest “coming of age” moments in the entire Jackson-Tolkien cycle, and since I find the iteration of these moments pointless and exhausting (I mean seriously, how many times does Sam have to realize his own worth?), the story could take center-stage. I also found the Tauriel character mildly less annoying than I expected, although I expected to be extremely annoyed.

With respect to Matt’s point, I think that the in-universe answer would run as follows; the death of Smaug leads to the restoration of the Kingdom Under the Mountain, the Kingdom of Dale, and the dominion of the Beornings. It also helped open access to Mirkwood by making Thranduil less paranoid. These developments substantially increased the opportunities for trade in the north, while also (in combination with the destruction of goblin strength in the Battle of Five Armies) helping to create reliable expectation of future stability. Trade increases, investment increases, and the massive supply of gold (literally) pouring out of the Lonely Mountain provides the monetary foundation for a strong, bustling northern economy.

The four allied dominions prove to be a pillar of Western strength during the War of Ring, requiring significant diversion of Sauron’s allied forces. And so really, the Hobbit is mostly about Gandalf attempting to generate economic growth by loosening monetary policy.

Monday Linkage

[ 14 ] December 16, 2013 |

Even as we speak, Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Loomis are engaged in a brutal, down to the last minute fantasy football playoff fight. For the less committed among us:

And remember the LGM Bowl Mania league:
League name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Erik–Thanks to the Ravens inability to put the ball in the end zone, I win.

Foreign Entanglements: Precarious Commitments

[ 0 ] December 15, 2013 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Meir Javedanfar speaks with Emily Landau about Iran and the commitment problem:

What Communists Say to One Another When No One Is Listening

[ 34 ] December 14, 2013 |

I’m plowing through Hang Nguyen’s Hanoi’s War, a history of the war from the view of North Vietnam’s elite, and ran across this:

On 13 April, the Chinese leader argued that there was a causal link between DRV’s 3 April announcement and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on 4 April: “Had your statement been issued one or two days later, the murder might have been stopped.”

Context: The Chinese were deeply unhappy that Le Duan had agreed to negotiations with the Johnson administration, mostly because the Soviets were pushing hard for the opening of talks, and the Chinese saw the North Vietnamese capitulation on this point as evidence that Hanoi was moving into the Soviet sphere of influence. Le Duan was just as unhappy about the prospect of talks as Zhou Enlai, but Johnson’s public offer of talks left him boxed in.

And this leads Communist leaders to say hurtful things to one another. The fascinating moving parts:

  1. The apparent belief of Zhou Enlai that the MLK assassination was orchestrated by the U.S. government.
  2. The notion that accepting the idea of peace talks gave the U.S. government the leeway it needed to carry out the assassination.
  3. The notion that, even if this were true, Le Duan would care enough about MLK one way or the other to change policy.

1 is, from the point of view of Beijing in 1968, not altogether absurd. 2 is considerably more outlandish, and 3 is just weird.

The rest of the book is also quite good; will review when finished.  The chapter on the reasoning behind the Tet Offensive is particularly interesting, as neither of Hanoi’s patrons thought that it was a good idea.  The Russians were strongly in favor of de-escalation and negotiations, while the Chinese hated the idea of direct attacks on South Vietnamese cities.

The Red… Er, I Guess Everything in North Korea is Red

[ 40 ] December 12, 2013 |

Trying to figure out who Tywin Lannister is in this story:

An uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been executed for trying to overthrow the government, the Korean Central News Agency reported early Friday.

“Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed” blared the headline posted by the state-run news agency about the man who, until recently, had been regarded as the nation’s second-most powerful figure.

The story said that a special military tribunal had been held Thursday against the “traitor for all ages,” who was accused of trying to overthrow the state “by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods.”

It added, “All the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him.”

Once his guilt was established, Jang was immediately executed, it said.

As Dan Drezner notes, the florid descriptions of Jang’s perfidy don’t seem to reflect particularly well on the surviving family members, but then it has always been thus in Communist purges.  More here.

Have a Holly Jolly Whatever

[ 19 ] December 11, 2013 |

Need a Christmas gift, but can’t imagine what your good-for-nothing friends and ne’er do well relatives might want or need? For the person who wants for and/or deserves nothing, I cannot recommend the Lawyers, Guns and Money CafePress store highly enough. The implements of alcoholism are well regarded, most notably the LGM flask (pictured right).

But what if you hate the holidays, and in fact count yourself as a soldier in the War on Christmas?  Then I must strongly recommend a book that is a) about war and b) will arrive far too late for Christmas.  I am, of course, talking about Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force. Consider: “Santa Claus” operates a high speed aircraft capable of delivering precision ordnance all over the world in a remarkably short period of time.  He is apparently immune to interception, ground fire, and the most sophisticated surface to air missile networks, and apparently does not require fighter escort. Can there be any doubt that Santa is, in fact, a devotee of the works of Giulio Douhet? If we are to win the War on Christmas, we must make careful appraisal of the worldview and tactics of our foes. Grounded is the book that every anti-Christmas crusader needs on his or her shelf.

After Zero

[ 10 ] December 10, 2013 |

Over at the Diplomat, I express some optimism about post-”zero option” Afghanistan:

Nevertheless, all is not grim. We shouldn’t forget that the Republic of Afghanistan, under Najibullah survived for nearly four years after the Soviet withdrawal, despite enjoying very little support from any state other than the flagging USSR.  The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan may be less robust, although it’s hard to see why that would be the case, but it is almost certain that it will enjoy considerably greater international support than its unfortunate predecessor.

Indeed, the focus on Afghanistan itself tells only part of the story, because the region and the world are much different now than in 1992.  When Najibullah fell, the Soviet Union was in the process of full-scale collapse. China and India had yet to develop the military and economic tools to influence events well beyond their borders.  The United States found itself distracted by events associated with the collapse of the USSR, as did Western Europe. Iran was recovering from the Iran-Iraq War, and still sorting through its revolution.


LGM College Bowl Mania

[ 1 ] December 10, 2013 |

The LGM College Bowl Mania league is ready to go.  For those who participated last year, ESPN now includes a helpful “rejoin” option.  For new players:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

This is a confidence league, which means that you’ll need to rank the games by how confident you are of the victory.  High numbers indicate high confidence, low numbers the opposite.  As always, winner collects a prize of his or her choice from the LGM store.

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