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“Very Big, Very Complicated, and Very Interconnected”

[ 36 ] November 25, 2013 |

Look, math is really complicated. Sometimes it’s difficult to see whether one half of the equation matches up with the other half, or something. There may, or may not, be alleged injustices, whatever they may be, but it’s important to note that you have no responsibility for them, and what’s really important is that you don’t take sides, by which I mean that you should take my side.

Aztec Legitimacy

[ 76 ] November 24, 2013 |

Interesting stuff from Xavier Marquez:

Consider this passage Clendinnen quotes from the Florentine Codex (one of the main sources for pre-conquest Mexica thought and culture), coming after the speech with which the Mexica greeted a newtlatoani (ruler; literally, the “Great Speaker”) and exhorted him to good behaviour:

Those early and anxious exhortations to benevolent behaviour were necessary, ‘for it was said when we replaced one, when we selected someone … he was already our lord, our executioner and our enemy.’ (p. 80; the quote is from Book 6, chapter 10, in Dibble and Anderson’s translation from the Nahuatl).

It’s an arresting thought: “he was already our lord, our executioner, and our enemy.” (Clendinnen comments on the “desolate cadence” of these words). The ruler is not understood by the Mexica as normally benevolent though potentially dangerous; he is the enemy, and yet as the enemy he is indispensable. There is something profoundly alien in this thought, with its unsettling understanding of “legitimacy,” something I do not find anywhere in the classical Western tradition of political thought. (Indeed, as longtime readers may guess, I think the political thought of the Mexica is further evidence of how impoverished and irrelevant our ideas about legitimacy are in the vast majority of historical cases).

Read the rest.  I’m not sure whether to think about the Mexica political vision as anti-Hobbesian, hyper-Hobbesian, or post-Hobbesian, but as Marquez notes it’s certainly a challenge to how Western political theory tends to treat political community and legitimacy.  I’m curious about how this vision of legitimacy would fit into Scott’s conception of the “exit option;” I suppose that the theatrical state replaces the protection racket state, at least in terms of emphasis.


[ 219 ] November 23, 2013 |

And so this happened. Fact sheet here. Whatever the results, almost certainly better than a) nothing and b) bombing.

And this, of course:


[ 3 ] November 23, 2013 |

My latest at the Diplomat evaluates some friction with offshore balancing:

Last week, James Holmes described the ongoing difficulties involved with establishing forward U.S. bases in the Philippines. Despite the evident threat that the PLAN poses to Philippine territory in the South China Sea, the process of balancing has moved slowly, largely because of domestic concerns in Manila about a military U.S. presence.

The lesson Dr. Holmes describes is that international threat, especially at incipient levels, does not automatically transform into the sort of domestic flexibility that offshore balancing demands. Friction, whether generated by organizational dynamics, concerns about sovereignty, or historical grievance, can slow the balancing machinery. It’s difficult to solve the problem of friction in alliance politics, especially if key procedures haven’t been worked out in advance.  Yet, eliminating friction requires building relationships over the long term, usually involving the kind of commitments (at least implicit) that Offshore Balancers tend to resist.



[ 61 ] November 23, 2013 |

Well, this was gruesome. Fortunately, I missed the entire game; by the time my plane landed, it was already into the third quarter. The problem of generating high expectations for a football team is that a two loss season (and the way the Ducks played today, I’m not confident about beating the Beavers) feels like a disaster.

The only redeeming point I can think of is that if the Ducks had beaten Stanford and then lost like this, I would be considerably more distraught.

On the Road

[ 61 ] November 20, 2013 |

Leaving early this morning to visit the United States Military Academy.  First time at West Point, very excited to see the grounds and meet the students.

On Thursday, I’ll be making my way to New York City to take in the ancien regime before the arrival of New Socialist Reality. Long story short, posting will be lighter than usual until Saturday.

India Gets Its Carrier

[ 29 ] November 19, 2013 |

Another of my annual predictions turns up bust:

On November 16, the Indian Navy finally took delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Adm. Gorshkov, at Sevmash Shipyard in northern Russia’s Severodvinsk town. The acquisition marks a new phase in India’s quest to become a true blue-water navy.

The handover ceremony of the 44,570-tonne carrier is sure to have generated more than a passing interest within the PLA Navy and across the rest of the continent, since India will be the only country in Asia to have two aircraft carriers in its fleet. Admittedly, the 55-year old INS Viraat is “long in the tooth” as India’s Navy Chief Admiral D. K. Joshi himself described it in a recent interview, but it will continue to operate until India’s locally built carrier INS Vikrant becomes operational by 2017.

I’ve discussed my concerns about India’s naval aviation project before, but it’s good that they’re finally getting the carrier they expected to take possession of in 2008.  I’m kind of curious as to the long-term plans that the Soviet Navy had for the Kiev class, whether they were planning on keeping them around in their current form, or updating them once better carrier aircraft came available.  I suppose it depends to some extent on how the Yak-141 would have worked out:

“Hall of Fame Season”

[ 60 ] November 17, 2013 |

Quiz time: Without looking it up, how many times have position players who were not eventually elected to the Hall of Fame  (or who are not named “Bonds, “Sosa,” “Rodriguez,” or “Trout”) recorded a 10+ WAR season?  Which player(s)?

Data here.

Foreign Entanglements: Talking About the Talks

[ 0 ] November 15, 2013 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt speaks with Meir Javedanfar about the progress made in Geneva:

Friday Linkage

[ 6 ] November 15, 2013 |

From around the inter-tubes:

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Guns

[ 12 ] November 13, 2013 |

My latest at the Diplomat:

recent article in the New York Times highlighted China’s rise as a major arms exporter. The mainstream discovery of China’s growing weight in the international arms trade won’t surprise many close observers, but it’s nevertheless worthwhile to study the trends in some detail.

According to SIPRI, China is the fastest growing arms major arms exporter in the past decade. Also, Chinese arms exports have moved beyond small arms and into heavier equipment, such as aircraft and warships.



Have Fun Paying Off that $450 Million

[ 117 ] November 11, 2013 |

Turner Field is 17 years old:

The Atlanta Braves announced Monday they will leave Turner Field for a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown Atlanta in 2017. It’s not clear how much the proposed ballpark will cost taxpayers.

Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the team decided not to seek another lease at 17-year-old Turner Field and began talks with the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority in July.

Looks like $450 million in public funds:

(Although Schiller initially declined to say how much the county would be paying, this story says that Cobb County will be on the hook for $450 million, with the Braves paying roughly $200 million.)

In case you’re wondering, Cobb County falls mostly in Newt Gingrich’s old district, which consists of people who hate big government except when it transfers extraordinary amounts of money to incredibly wealthy people. I wonder how they’ll manage to shift the burden from the county to the state and federal government; I don’t doubt that the effort will involve some altogether ingenious accounting, combined with a concerted effort to screw over the poor.