I had the chance to speak with Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times about airstrikes, and why they sometimes go awry:
A few thoughts on the Eurofighter Typhoon over at the National Interest:
The Eurofighter Typhoon has joined the Dassault Rafale, the Saab Gripen, andthe Sukhoi “Flanker” in pursuit of a growing niche in the international fighter market. These aircraft offer capabilities beyond the Generation 4 platforms developed in the 1970s, but don’t carry the costs and complications of stealth. While the Eurofighter has enjoyed outstanding technical success thus far, the market niche may not be large enough to sustain production over time.
My last two pieces at the Diplomat have delved into what it means to establish and defend an international “rules based order.” Part I:
The steps that the United States and its partners take in the South China Sea (and elsewhere) to build multilateral understandings of, and expertise in, appropriate maritime procedures help constitute the thing that many refer to as “the rules based order.” Indeed, the usefulness of establishing multilateral maritime norms in Southeast Asia depends, to great extent, on whether there’s any value at all to constructing this “rules based order.”
And part II:
Generally speaking, the idea of a rules based order goes beyond these minimal injunctions, and tries to describe appropriate rules of state behavior. This includes appropriate forms of competition; prohibitions that states will face censure if they break. Such orders are invariably value-laden, reflecting the interests and nature of the states that establish them. And it is in these more complex versions that the most interesting debates over the existence of mutually-agreed orders happen.
We have a name for the USAF’s new bomber:
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) September 19, 2016
To open your week…
Last week I wrote a pair of pieces for the National Interest on decision-making early in World War II. First, on the French decision to surrender:
But what if key figures (such as Marshal Philippe Petain) had viewed the situation differently? If the French government had decided to go into exile in the Empire, rather than re-establish itself in the German protectorate at Vichy, then the rest of World War II might have gone very differently.
Second, on the German decision to declare war on the United States:
Scholars and analysts have long wondered whether this represented one of the great “what-ifs” of World War II; could the Germans have kept the United States out of the war, or at least undercut popular support for fighting in the European Theater, by declining to join the Japanese offensive?
I quite enjoyed this long oral history of Air Force One on 9/11; it clarified quite a few questions regarding what seemed to be the slow response of the group immediately around George W. Bush to the attacks, and the confusion that ensued across the rest of the day. Long story short, the people around the President performed as if they were in a crisis that they had only imperfectly anticipated and prepared for. Aspects of the response (concern that Al Qaeda could track Air Force One, or even the electronics carried by the Secret Service team) sound absurd in retrospect, but at the time seemed within the realm of plausibility. In particular, the account suggests that two of the most common critiques of the GWB team’s performance on 9/11- that they were slow to respond to the initial reports in Florida, and that they were slow to return to DC- aren’t entirely fair. With respect to the former, the short delay in the elementary school had absolutely no impact on the broader response, and with regard to the latter there was considerable disagreement on Air Force One as to where the plane should be headed. One exchange that reflects the confusion:
Maj. Scott Crogg: It was very somber [at the air base]. We got these cryptic messages from Southeast Air Defense Sector. We knew we’re on the hook now—it might not be for Air Force One, but for anything. Houston’s the fifth-largest metro region, it’s got all this oil and gas infrastructure. I asked maintenance to put live missiles and arm up the guns. Two heat-seeking missiles and rounds from a 20-mm gun isn’t a lot to take on a hijacked plane, but it was the best we could do.
Andy Card: Then we hear that Flight 93’s gone down. We’re all wondering, Did we do that? It wasn’t a big deal on the plane. It lingered deepest in the president’s conscience. Most people on the plane hadn’t been privy to that conversation.
Col. Mark Tillman: All of us thought, we assumed we shot it down.
Another interesting tidbit; limitations on communications technology in 2001 meant that the people on Air Force One knew less about what was going on than people watching at home in their living rooms. The aircraft had pretty good contact with the relevant military and civil authorities around the country, but those authorities had very little idea what was going on; they were all watching CNN, trying to piece bits together. This resulted in a President and immediate staff that was less well-informed than your typical viewer at home.
Oh Sweet Jeebus do I have to watch this?
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for the first time in 2016 presidential election campaign, will take the same stage on the same night as NBC News holds a Town Hall event that will stream live from New York City Wednesday — a Town Hall that will air 19 days ahead of the first official presidential debate, and will focus squarely on issues related to the military.
Because the event is a network-sponsored Town Hall, however, and not a formal debate, Clinton and Trump will never appear on stage together during the NBC broadcast as they field questions from “an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members,” according to the veteran’s advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which will co-sponsor the Town Hall.
There is nothing even faintly interesting to me about the national security “conversation” between Clinton and Trump. The only way they could get me to watch is by putting this thing on an aircraft carrier or a battleship…
The Town Hall will stream live from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum — a military museum aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid, on the Hudson River in New York, New York. Airtime is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 5 p.m. Pacific. The television broadcast can be seen simultaneously on the NBC network, as well as on the affiliated cable news outlet MSNBC.
The last of my three columns on the Biddle-Oelrich International Security article:
A recent International Security article by Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich (summarized here, here, and here) foresees an East Asian military landscape in which states use land-based cruise, ballistic, and surface-to-air missiles to develop anti-access/area denial bubbles. Skeptical of the prospects for breaking such a system, Biddle and Oelrich predict a future in which the military balance decidedly favors the defense.
LGM reader asks:
Can someone please explain what we should do to help with down ballot races? If I have $100 to give, who or what should I give to? This advice is curiously absent in all the discussions of how we need to concentrate on flipping the Senate and House given that Hillary looks to be far ahead.
I’m going to throw this out to the crowd, see what kinds of arguments people come up with. I do think it’s a danger to assume a Clinton victory (notwithstanding the current lead and Trump’s ongoing problems), but a lead is a lead and it should affect calculations on appropriate action.
Here at the LGM home offices we receive a bewildering array of offers for infographics and guest posts from an equally bewildering array of NGOs, companies, and other organizations. We almost never use them, but this one is kind of interesting. The broader story being told here seems to be about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and state capacity, with the upshot that the use of UAVs tends to increase state capacity in ways that we don’t like, but also in ways that we like. In any case, curious about y’all’s thoughts…