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The More Things Change, the More They Change

[ 85 ] March 26, 2014 |

This week’s column at the Diplomat takes at how the relative expense of different weapon systems has changed over time, and tries to draw out some operational and strategic implications of those changes.

In 1944, the relative costs of fighters, bombers, and aircraft carriers ran very roughly as follows:

F6F Hellcat: $35,000

B-29 Superfortress: $700,000

Essex-class aircraft carrier $70,000,000

An aircraft carrier was worth 100 heavy bombers, each of which cost roughly as much as 20 carrier-borne fighters. These are (roughly) the expected cost numbers for the next generation of fighter, bomber, and aircraft carrier for the United States

F-35: $150 million

LRS-B: $810 million

CVN-78: $12.8 billion

The ordinal relationship remains the same, but the ratios have changed; an aircraft carrier costs 15.8 bombers, while a bomber cost 5.4 fighters.


BREAKING: Laettner Endorses Mitch!

[ 13 ] March 25, 2014 |

Well, this is just embarrassing:

A new ad for Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign hit YouTube today, and it features one of the most egregious errors that a politician can make in the state of Kentucky: glorifying Duke basketball.

For about a second, the new ad shows Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas embracing after winning the 2010 National Championship. If you remember, that’s when Duke knocked off the number 8-seeded Butler.

As you might imagine, Kentucky takes its basketball seriously.  But on the upside, at least Mitch took this misstep at a time when no one in the Commonwealth is really paying any attention…

Twitter Fight Club 2014

[ 0 ] March 24, 2014 |

Twitter Fight Club has begun. Here’s a helpful FAQ.

My opponent in the first round is @drunkenpredator, a hilariously inebriated killer robot. Follow the “action” here. This graphic hardly understates the magnitude of today’s decision:

Vote early. Vote often.

Foreign Entanglements: Independent Airpower

[ 5 ] March 23, 2014 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, I debate independent air forces with Adam Lowther:

Why Do Air Force Movies Suck?

[ 123 ] March 20, 2014 |

This is the question I ask in my latest at War is Boring:

Air power should, and occasionally does, sell at the box office. But Officer and a GentlemanTop GunFlight of the Intruder and Rescue Dawn all depicted Navy pilots. In Independence Day, Marine aviator Will Smith saves the world, alternating between a Marine Corps F/A-18 and an alien snubfighter.

The Air Force gets Iron Eagle, in which a teenager with a tape recorder fills in for Maverick and Goose. More recently, Red Tails flopped with audiences and critics. Only Pearl Harbor stands as partial exception. Hated by critics, historians and all right-thinking people, director Michael Bay’s depiction of Army Air Force aviators challenging the Japanese grossed $197 million domestically.

My answer: Part bad luck, part inability to convey a strategic concept for the service. Read the whole thing, lemme know what you think. We’ll have to have another Airpower Movie of the Week sometime soon…

Also, buy my book.

“Third Way” Apparently Means “I Can’t Read”

[ 49 ] March 20, 2014 |

Well, this is an abjectly stupid misreading of Markos:

If Markos Moulitsas had his way there’d be no Affordable Care Act, no Dodd-Frank, no economic stimulus package. That’s the price when purity tests are applied to Democrats.

In a remarkable post yesterday, Moulitsas, founder and publisher of the progressive community site DailyKos, celebrates the departure from the Senate of 10 moderate Democrats over the last decade, and makes clear his hope that Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) lose their tough reelection battles this year. He doesn’t name some other moderates in tight races, like Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), but his logic suggests that he’d be only too happy to say goodbye to them as well.

Here is what Markos actually wrote:

Ten years ago, in 2004, we had a 51-49 Republican Senate. But the fact that Republican Bill Frist ran the joint wasn’t the worst of it. Because look at this motley crew on our side of the aisle: Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, John Breaux, Tom Daschle, Fritz Hollings, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Zell Miller, and Mark Pryor.

Ugh. What a pile of suck. And those were just the worst offenders. Of that crowd, Baucus recently announced his retirement, leaving only Landrieu and Pryor—and Pryor will lose his re-election battle. Maybe Landrieu will, too. Daschle was in charge of the Democratic caucus, horrifyingly enough.

On the progressive end we had Barbara Boxer, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold and Barbara Mikulski. Maybe a handful more. Not too bad, but a minority within the party.

Today, we still have Boxer and Mikulski, but they’ve been reinforced by Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Martin Heinrich, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Furthermore, our middle-of-the-road senators are people like Jeanne Shaheen, not Bob Graham. And our conservative faction is a shell of its former self, with only Joe Manchin left at the level of our 2004 gallery of rogues. The caucus has shifted significantly to the left.

And so the relatively sensible and uncontroversial proposition that the Democratic Senate caucus has a) moved substantially to the left, and b) grown larger since 2004 becomes, in the mind of the Third Way apparatchiks, a witch hunt for moderates.

I wonder how GOP “moderates” are managing?

Last Chance: LGM Tourney Challenge

[ 4 ] March 20, 2014 |

Last chance, LGM Tourney Challenge:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

I fear that I have allowed my

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heart, rather than my head, to make my bracket decisions this year…

Governor DuBois?

[ 42 ] March 19, 2014 |

Some twenty-eight years ago, I missed the final episode of Benson.  I had been devoted to the series up to that point, and was excited to see who would win the governor’s race between Lieutentant Governor Benson DuBois, Governor Eugene Gatling, and Senator Tyler.  For reasons I cannot recall, I was unable to catch the episode, and thus never knew who won the race.  This was well prior to the advent of easily retrievable episode guides, and not a lot of folks in the age 12 demographic watched Benson regularly.  Re-runs were a crapshoot.

My state of existential ambiguity lasted for fully fourteen years, until an incoming graduate student (and erstwhile Memphis resident) at the University of Washington informed me that the finale had ended on a freeze frame of DuBois and Gatling watching election returns.  It was not my policy, of course, to ask everyone I met “How did Benson end?” but somehow the topic  came up in conversation.  For some reason, I found this deeply satisfying; my frustration with my own failure was no longer special.  Indeed, I had lived the past fourteen years believing that there was an end, which put me in a more emotionally tenable state than those who knew that there wasn’t an end.

And then this morning I read this:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way; ABC cancelled the show without allowing the writers to prepare a proper series finale. The show’s writers had planned for the cliffhanger to lead into a new season, though they didn’t know what that season would depict. Indeed, the show filmed three potential resolutions for an eighth season, said Gary Brown, who directed the finale, along with 20 other episodes of “Benson”; the writers would choose one over the summer and have their first scene already in the can.

“There was a three-way race in whatever state it was. The governor was running, Benson as lieutenant governor was running and another character, Senator Tyler [played by showrunner Bob Fraser], kind of a heavy, was running. It was a three way race. Benson and the governor were neck and neck. There were the two of them in the kitchen, that’s the end of the show — it’s a cliff hanger, a freeze-frame. We shot three endings. In one, the governor won. In one, Benson won. And in one, and they were really playing with using this one, it was a tie.”

I’m still digesting.

Let’s Invade Something, Just for Fun

[ 19 ] March 18, 2014 |

Shorter Bill Kristol:

H/t Matt Duss.

Scratch Two Flattops?

[ 48 ] March 18, 2014 |

More on the Mistral question at The Diplomat:

Over the next two years, the Russian Pacific Fleet is expected to receive two new Mistral class amphibious assault ships, fresh from French naval yards.  These flattops would have joined the burgeoning family of flat-decked aircraft carrying ships in the Pacific, including the Liaoning, the Korean Dokdos, the Australian Canberras, and the Japanese Izumo class.

That sale is now in considerable doubt.  Because of Russia’s invasion and presumed annexation of Crimea, the European Union is considering a variety of sanctions against Moscow.  The biggest stick, in military terms, may be the Mistrals, a pair of 21,000 ton warships capable of carrying over a dozen helicopters, in addition to a well-deck for amphibious landing craft.  That the Russians chose to name the second ship Sevastopol, after a city not in Russian possession until after the recent invasion, only makes the sale so much uglier from the European point of view.




[ 91 ] March 17, 2014 |

Bit of a struggle to envision a way in which this turns around:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a decree late Monday night formally recognizing Ukraine’s Crimea region as a “sovereign and independent state,” defying the United States and Europe just hours after they imposed their first financial sanctions since the crisis began and laying the groundwork for possible annexation.

Mr. Putin’s decree came after the breakaway republic formally declared its independence and asked Russia to annex it in keeping with the results of a referendum conducted Sunday under the watch of Russian troops. The Kremlin announced that Mr. Putin would address both houses of the Russian Parliament on Tuesday, when many expect him to endorse annexation.

Putin has committed his prestige and the prestige of his government to the annexation of Crimea. This makes it unlikely that he’s interested in finding a way out. I also suspect that the other military moves along the Ukrainian border are part of an intimidation campaign, rather than preparation for an invasion.

All that said, I still struggle to see the long-term positive outcome for Russia. If Putin had waited, the “revolutionary” government would have dithered for a couple of years before collapse. Now he has certainty; clear control over Crimea, but virtual certainty that Ukraine will be hostile for the foreseeable future.

Oh and look, Fareed Zakaria cites Jon Mercer and Daryl Press (hat tip djw):

Kentucky Has a Kansas Problem. No, Not That One.

[ 26 ] March 16, 2014 |

I draw considerable inspiration in those moments when my alma mater outseeds my employer in the NCAA Tournament Bracket.  Remember the LGM Tournament Challenge:

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

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