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Thursday Links

[ 20 ] April 13, 2017 |
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Apache Helicopter Takes off from HMS Ocean During Operation Ellamy

How many of these can you name?

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Cycles

[ 6 ] April 10, 2017 |
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T-26 Prototype during testing.

Some thinking about uneven cycles of naval modernization at the Diplomat:

But military power also depends on a constant cycle of technological modernization, for both new and existing platforms. This cycle may not match completely with procurement and training schedules, leaving a force with a host of obsolete platforms or personnel poorly trained to carry out their missions. For example, in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Red Army, in part because of an acute sense of vulnerability, engaged in a wide-ranging modernization project. Especially in aircraft and tanks, heavy state investment helped create a defense industrial base capable of competing with any world contemporary. The Soviet system made judicious but effective use of injections of foreign technology, having acquired numerous examples of tanks and aircraft from Western countries. Western legal systems had not yet developed a strong set of export controls, meaning that the Soviets could purchase parts, hire experts, and buy licenses for production of certain critical components.

“In on the Joke”

[ 231 ] April 10, 2017 |

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The following is a guest post. 

I’m a white woman, married to a Japanese man, and living in a blue, blue Northeastern state. Last week he had to have fairly serious eye surgery. At the hospital a nice nurse checked him in, having identified him in the waiting room by calling out “Dr. X’s patient” because she was afraid of saying my husband’s name wrong. He went in for surgery and I had to wait around for what turned out to be considerably longer than expected. By hour three, I was kind of freaking out and worried—what had gone wrong? Would my husband lose sight in that eye? So I went back to the waiting room, where that same nurse struck up a very friendly, smiling conversation with me. Shecorrectly guessed from my accent that I’m not from around here, and we talked about how old my kids are, and what I do for a living, and it was all very nice until things took this peculiar turn:

Nurse: How interesting that you work on Chinese stuff and your husband is Japanese. That reminds me of that rhyme from when I was a kid. Do you remember?

Me: Oh, no, please don’t. [Really. I said this out loud, I didn’t just think it]

Nurse: Gosh, what was it? My mother is Chinese?

Me: No, let’s not. No, please don’t. [Once again, I really said this, out loud]

Nurse: Oh yeah! [pulling up left eye] my mother’s Chinese, [pulling down right eye] my father’s Japanese, and look what happened to me! [big smile and laugh]

Me: [……] Oh, look, there’s Dr. X. Gotta run!

So this exchange left me thinking, WTF, fellow white people? Can we not put shit like that to rest yet? Seriously. What part of “do not say racist shit to me” do you not understand?

It’s not that I’m surprised or shocked. This kind of thing has of course happened to me before. There was the time when I called to let a merchant know about my newly hyphenated last name, and he said “Ching chang chong!” very happily. There was the time when I called a second merchant, and he said, “[slashing sounds] Kung fu fighting!” in a very friendly voice. Get your racist slurs straight, dumbasses. It’s a Japanese name, not a Chinese name.

Some white people feel free to say racist things in front of other white people because they just know they won’t be offended. This instance pissed me off even more than usual because I told her, repeatedly, that I didn’t want to hear it.

What my fellow white people might not know is this: people of color get this kind of crap to their faces ALL THE TIME, but most white people won’t say it to them in front of you because they know it’s wrong. For instance, the nurse would never have said what she did to my husband in front of me.

Why don’t they say it? Because they don’t want YOU, a white person, to judge them and think they are racist. But if it’s just between us white people, then it’s OK, because we are in on the joke together.

I am mad at myself for not calling her out on it right there. In retrospect, I have thought of a million things I should have said: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you please explain that to me?” or, “Wow, I had forgotten how racist that ‘joke’ from fifty years ago is. Thanks for reminding me. The hand gestures were especially helpful,” or, “Gosh, I wonder why you’d say that to me?” or even, “Gee, that’s a really racist thing to say.” But, I was totally freaked out and hoping my husband wasn’t going to lose his sight, so I walked away. Sadly, people do not always wait until you are prepared and girded for battle before they lay shit on you.

Some people will say this kind of petty stuff doesn’t matter, that there are way worse violently racist things going on in this country right now, and that I’m a snowflake for being offended. Well, you’re right that more serious racist things are going on, but still, fuck you. Institutional racism is real. But the words also matter. I see my bi-racial kids dying a death by a thousand cuts as these comments pile up over their lifetimes, telling them that they are weird or ugly or don’t belong in this country. I see how it takes it out of my husband every time someone looks through him because he’s a short Asian guy, or when he comes home with a new story about something someone shouted at him. If you’re white and you are skeptical, just ask any person of color for their stories. It’ll unleash a torrent of things that you simply can’t believe because you’ve never heard any white person say them yourself.

And you won’t ever hear them, probably, if you are white, because the nurse, who really doesn’t mean anything by it and doesn’t have a racist bone in her body, is just making a lighthearted joke. We know it’s a harmless joke that we are in on together, because after all we are white people. In a blue, blue state, where we would never do or say anything racist because we are good people here. Not like all those other places. People there are really racist. But not us.

The Art of the Syrian Deal

[ 87 ] April 7, 2017 |
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USS Ross (DDG-71) By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg. – Source, Public Domain.

Fifty-nine cruise missiles hit the Syrian airbase responsible for last week’s nerve gas attack.  Russian personnel were present at the airbase, and Russia was notified ahead of time about the strike.  This means that Syria was also notified ahead of time.  According to HR McMaster, the US intentionally avoided targeting buildings suspected of holding gas stockpiles. Syrian casualties have apparently been minimal. Here’s a discussion of satellite imagery post attack.  The Russian response has been fairly muted, although Russia now claims it will cease all deconfliction procedures (communications that prevent US and Russian planes from operating in the same airspace). As of the moment, the operation appears to have ended.

Some implications:

  • The direct military impact of the attack is trivial. The next big question is how Syrian actors will respond; will the Assad government moderate its tactics, at least insofar as chemical weapons are concerned?  Will rebel groups take heart, and increase their tempo of operations?
  • If Russian personnel were present at the airbase that launched the chemical attacks, then there are some really big questions about how much they knew about Syrian government plans, and when they knew it.  I doubt Assad would have informed the Russians in advance of the attack, but handling procedures for chemical munitions differ considerably from those for dumb bombs; it’s hard to believe that the Russians wouldn’t have noticed something.
  • The Israelis are claiming that they have evidence that Assad ordered the attacks personally.  Take or leave that as you will; for my part, this does not seem to be something that the Israelis would go out of their way to lie about.  Bibi has made every effort to cultivate Putin over the last few years, and it’s not as if the Israelis were ever that enthusiastic about the replacement of Assad.
  • If I’m ISIS I’m very happy today.  The net effect of all of this is less cooperation and more conflict between all of the partners fighting against ISIS.  Whether it will be enough to stave off the offensive on Raqqa is a different question.
  • Good discussions at Lawfare on legality; see here, here, and here.
  • The idea that the Chinese will be intimidated by this does not seem… sound.  The US just conducted a strike that eliminated virtually zero extant Syrian military capability, and that endangered no Americans.  This is not the stuff that strong reputations for toughness, resolve, and credibility are made of.
  • It’s not at all obvious what message the Syrian government is supposed to be taking from this.  Bombing civilians is okay, but chemical agents are a step too far?  Assad is probably fine with that, on balance.  Regime change is back on the table?  Hopefully there’s some backchannel communication designed to clarify US expectations for Moscow and Damascus.

Overall, we’re in the least worst case right now; stuff got blowed up, but the impact seems relatively small.  This could certainly change in the future, especially if the Trump administration decides to follow up with additional kinetic measures.

With respect to the domestic debate in the US…  My views on this strike are clear; it was a bad idea.  Along the historic continuum of bad ideas from Little Big Horn to Operation Barbarrosa, it could be a lot worse; if there’s no escalation, then it’s not a huge disaster.  I certainly share Paul’s distaste for pundits who appear to be thirsty for bombing, ANY bombing, and who aren’t sufficiently sated by the five other bombing campaigns that the US is currently conducting.  And I am utterly flummoxed that anyone would trust Trump to manage this competently, even if they believed the initial strike was a good idea.  At the same time, the claim that the Democrats somehow drove Trump to bomb Syria by criticizing him over his Russia ties would be fraudulent if it weren’t too flatly idiotic to constitute fraud.

See also Marc Lynch.

 

Bombing Syria Open Thread

[ 353 ] April 6, 2017 |

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So this is happening.

The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government target in retaliation for their chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week.

On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.

Discuss amongst yourselves. I’m going to bed.

Syria?

[ 213 ] April 6, 2017 |
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Syrian Arab Army BMP-1 By Abkhazian Network News Agency – Освобождение Башуру сирийскими войсками at 6:01., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In brief, why not:

  • It is a struggle to understand a way in which an attack on Syria is legal, barring an act of Congress.
  • It seems unlikely that airstrikes alone will be sufficient to unseat the Assad government.
  • The Assad government has sufficiently strengthened its position in the last year such that it seems unlikely that airstrikes will tip the balance in favor of Syrian rebels.
  • There is no reason to believe that President Trump has sufficient self-control to manage a limited air campaign that fails to destroy the Syrian government.
  • There is no reason to believe that a strong constituency exists in Syria for a prolonged American ground occupation.
  • The Syrian rebels are deeply factionalized, and have become increasingly radicalized; it is not obvious that the Assad government would be replaced by a central government at all, or that such a government would be meaningfully preferable to Assad.
  • While Russia is unlikely to directly oppose US strikes, the risks of accidental escalation are nevertheless present.

These are all issues that the Obama administration wrestled with for five years, to no particularly good resolution. They are issues that Hillary Clinton had no particularly good answer for.  They have not changed for the better since Trump’s inauguration.

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes!

[ 83 ] April 6, 2017 |

1034939693Last week:

The Trump administration doubled down Thursday on prioritizing the fight against ISIS over ending the Syrian civil war and getting rid of its main protagonist, President Bashar al-Assad — a suggestion that was swiftly criticized by hawks on the Hill.

Indicating a possible shift in US policy on the war in Syria from the days of the Obama administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on a trip to Turkey that the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

And in New York, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was even stronger about the Trump administration’s decision not to push for Assad’s departure. “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out,” Haley told wire reporters Thursday, according to AFP.

Today:

Russia should reconsider its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in light of the apparent chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people and “horrified us all,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday.

Asked at a press conference whether the U.S. would lead an international coalition to oust the Syrian leader, Tillerson replied that “those steps are underway.” He said there’s no role for Assad in Syria’s future and reiterated his contention that “information supports” the U.S. claim that the Syrian military was responsible for Tuesday’s bloody attack.

This would be one of those “when the facts change, I change my mind” sort of situations, if the latest CW attack had represented anything more of a shift than “Assad drops CW on his own people even when Trump is in office.” In any case, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s good that Hillary the Hawk isn’t bombing Syria or threatening Russia.

And let’s be clear; to my view, bombing the Assad regime was a bad idea when Obama didn’t do it, and would be a bad idea if Trump does do it.

…via comments:

Never Held ME Back

[ 98 ] April 2, 2017 |

landscape-1490303342-whiteWashington Post op-ed by Mary Vought is a classic of the unwitting “but some of my best friends are black!” genre.   But the best part is here:

I engaged in senior staff meetings and strategy sessions side-by-side with the congressman and my colleagues, and I never felt sidelined because of my gender. My proposals and suggestions were always valued as equal with those of my male counterparts.

As time went on, I was able to prove that I could handle increased responsibilities, and so more responsibilities were provided to me. My gender never factored into how my work was evaluated, or whether my responsibilities were expanded. In fact, the congressman would sometimes send me to GOP leadership communication meetings to represent his voice —and more often than not, I was the only woman in the room. My work product determined my success — not private dinners with the congressman. When looking back on my time in the office of the man who is now vice president, I don’t consider it to be a period of missed opportunities.

Look, Mike Pence’s professional conduct towards his female employees may be exemplary; despite his decisions about dinner companions, he may take meaningful steps to ensure that those employees enjoy professional opportunities that they would otherwise be excluded from.  But the overall impact of the exclusion of women from one of the primary means of professional networking and socialization is obvious from the above; there’s only one woman in the room.  Vought thinks this is about Pence, and in trying to defend him she renders a crushing verdict on how the Party of the Patriarchy approaches women’s participation in politics.

First They Nuked Santa Fe, and I Said Nothing, Because I Don’t Like Dream Catchers

[ 165 ] March 29, 2017 |
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A tragedy for America’s arts and crafts community.

It takes talent to write a column suggesting a North Korean EMP will kill 90% of Americans, and not have that be the most ridiculous point.  But I give you Mr. James Woolsey, former DCI:

Even if it were true that North Korea does not yet have nuclear missiles, their “Dear Leader” could deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk.

As some of you may have heard, Santa Fe, NM is a low density city of 69000 people. If you drop a 15kt nuke on it, you kill…. 13000 people. If you groundburst that motherfucker, you kill…. 9000 people, and spread radioactive fallout over one of the least densely populated swaths of America.

But what would the United States do without its critical supplies of turquoise?

Final Four!

[ 15 ] March 28, 2017 |
Jordan Bell. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Jordan Bell. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

So I think that I’ve worked out all the scenarios for the LGM Tourney Challenge:

  • If Gonzaga or South Carolina beats North Carolina: Aintthatpretty
  • If Gonzaga or South Carolina beats Oregon: pandaphil
  • If UNC beats Gonzaga: RNC
  • If UNC beats South Carolina: Gingerdreamsofducks
  • If Oregon beats either Gonzaga or South Carolina: Firsttimelongtime

Let me know if I did my math wrong. In particular, I may have missed if someone has South Carolina in the final game.

Monday Links

[ 35 ] March 27, 2017 |
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Saab Gripen. Via Hushkit.

Some links for your reading pleasure:

And some more battleships:

 

 

 

Treaties

[ 12 ] March 27, 2017 |
A large ship anchored and at rest near a shoreline.

HIJMS Tosa. By Shizuo Fukui – Kure Maritime Museum, (edited by Kazushige Todaka), Japanese Naval Warship Photo Album: Battleships and Battle Cruisers

Some thoughts on the possibility of arms control in the Indo-Pac:

In the National Interest, Thomas Mitchell proposes a new Washington Naval Treaty to arrest the arms race in and around the South China Sea. Mitchell argues that a carefully calibrated treaty could reduce tensions across the region by eliminating security dilemma dynamics (the security of one state breeds vulnerability in others) and by guaranteeing a sphere of influence for each major partner. Although I believe that the Washington Naval Treaty system was more successful than is commonly understood, I have serious reservations about any contemporary conference.

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