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Let’s Think About Not Having a Strategy

[ 6 ] February 6, 2014 |

The gist of my latest at the Diplomat:

In the shadow of Iraq, “muddling through,” “retrenchment,” or “restraint” all look a bit more attractive. Arecent post by Xavier Marquez gives some historical heft to the argument for strategic inscrutability by examining the career of Francisco Franco. Marquez suggests that Franco survived for such a long time because of the coalition he represented was “inherently contradictory, yet could only act through him.” Inscrutability, the capacity not to make a decision, or even to hint at what he really wanted, allowed Franco to manage internal divisions and external opponents.

Marquez’ point emphasizes the “strategic” part of grand strategy.  Strategic decision-making is, by definition, part of a game that includes more than one player.  While some games favor the player who chooses first (and thus defines the terms under which the other players decide), not all do.  Not deciding, but rather of waiting until the other players have revealed their intentions and committed themselves to particular courses of action, maximizes flexibility and maintains strategic options.

And of course:

Book Review: The China Choice

[ 2 ] February 5, 2014 |

I reviewed Hugh White’s The China Choice for H-Net:

In The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power, Hugh White argues that competition between the United States and China is inevitable, but that the nature of that competition depends on choices made in Washington and Beijing. China’s growth as a military and economic power will inevitably create friction with the United States and with other regional powers. This competition can play out with more or less conflict, depending on whether the United States acknowledges a Chinese sphere of exclusive interest.

Spoiler: Didn’t love it.

Wednesday Linkage

[ 7 ] February 5, 2014 |

Some links for your pleasure:


Shameless Book Plug XXVIII

[ 10 ] February 4, 2014 |

For those who have been asking about a Kindle edition of Grounded, pre-order is now available. Note, however, that the University Press of Kentucky has an e-book loyalty program, meaning that anyone who purchases a suitable-for-autographing-if-you-can-find-me paper copy also receives an e-copy.

January 2005

[ 10 ] February 3, 2014 |

Continuing our slow burn through the LGM deep archive… January 2005 was characterized by dropping traffic and reduced productivity. By the end of the month, if I recall correctly, we were getting about 200 visits/day. Nevertheless, there was some good stuff coming online:




Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP

[ 109 ] February 2, 2014 |

This is horrible news.

Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday afternoon in his New York City apartment, a law-enforcement official said.

Foreign Entanglements: Hanoi’s War

[ 0 ] February 2, 2014 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, I speak with Dr. Lien-Hang T. Nguyen about her book, Hanoi’s War:

It’s a great book; check it out.

WWI Analogies

[ 38 ] February 1, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat thinks about experience, war, and learning:

How do we know how the next war will be fought, and why does it matter?  As the centenary of World War I approaches, several commentators have argued that the emerging multipolar power structure of East Asia is coming to resemble that of Europe prior to 1914.  Setting aside the wisdom of the political comparison for a moment, there is one way in which the comparison is apt. Just as real knowledge of modern, high intensity warfare was limited in 1914, the emerging great powers of Asia have little experience with the forms of warfare they are planning to use.

Although most of the European powers had experience with colonial wars, they did not have the space or time to work out the implications of the technologies that would eventually characterize World War I (the machine gun, the dreadnought, the submarine, and the airplane).  The degree to which military commanders of 1914 were surprised by these technologies has been wildly overstated, but the armies and navies had not developed the tactic, hands-get-dirty experience of how to fight in a new technological environment.


Assertive Use of the Bully Pulpit

[ 132 ] January 31, 2014 |

Chris Christie is about to have a Jack moment:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.

“His teammates just wanted to stand there and watch, that’s all.”

[ 36 ] January 31, 2014 |

I just fell apart while reading this. Wife thought I was having a heart attack.

Also this: “There is in fact no bowl.”

“Think Tanks and Cocktail Conversations”

[ 64 ] January 29, 2014 |

Well now this is interesting…

Now, even the Air Force’s basic mission is uncertain, as a once-unthinkable question has been put on the table in Washington: Does the United States even need a separate Air Force? Privately, Air Force officials nervously scoff at the suggestion. But nobody’s suggesting the U.S. could make do without the Army, Navy or Marine Corps. That the question is even making rounds amid think tanks and cocktail conversations is a telling sign that the Air Force needs to define its post-war purpose, and soon.

The legendary Beltway cocktail circuit!

System Failure

[ 38 ] January 28, 2014 |

You know that the mental health maintenance system of the country is messed up when Creigh Deeds’ son can’t find a bed at the local hospital:

Deeds immediately sought and obtained an emergency custody order. As his son played the banjo in the family’s den, sheriff’s deputies showed up to enforce the order. Gus was not happy.

“He was surprised. He was frustrated,” Deeds said, but he had “no reason to believe there would be any violence.”

However, as the day wore on, Deeds said his son grew more upset.

Mental health professionals at the Community Services Board evaluated Gus Deed and determined that the boy was not suicidal, and Gus was released. Deeds says he was told there were no psychiatric beds in the area and that an individual could only be forcibly held for up to six hours under state law.

“I just had this sinking feeling Gus was going home with me, that they weren’t going to find a bed for him,” Deeds recalled, ominously.

Space was then found for Gus at a halfway house in Charlottesville, Virginia, but the troubled young man was still sent home for the night where it was thought he would get some rest and be more stable in the morning, Deeds recalled professionals telling him.

Creigh Deeds was alone with his son and worried, but he says he was focused more on getting his son help, despite pleadings from his family and from Gus’ mom who texted her ex-husband, “Get out of that house. Go to Lexington tonight.”



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