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A Hearty Thanks…

[ 0 ] May 18, 2006 |

… to our commenters. As Akirlu reminds us, you guys are super. Hell, even our trolls are often informative.

The Elite

[ 0 ] May 18, 2006 |

Speaking of idiotic arguments, Yglesias points to this little gem by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer on the DLC website. The argument is ostensibly aimed at a bipartisan “elite”, but it becomes clear that the authors definition of that term is roughly similar to that of John Gibson and Bill O’Reilly; namely, a wealthy, left-wing, East Coast academic class centered on Ivy League institutions. It is the “anti-military” attitude of these types that prevents the inculcation of discipline in our youth and a greater appreciation of military service in society at large. Witness:

In short, an anti-military college culture that may once have had political roots in the Vietnam era has now deteriorated into plain elitism and a set of fossilized, unchallenged anti-military assumptions. In 2005, Harvard Law School prosecuted a suit to allow it to ban the military from recruiting its graduates on campus, while still keeping the federal funding that the Solomon Amendment requires the school to forgo in such circumstances.

Also, see if you identify the problems with this passage:

The faculty members of many top universities seem to believe that their students are entitled not to be bothered with something like military service. We are reminded of one woman’s comment: “Military service isn’t for our kind of people. … You should aim to work at the cabinet level … if you want to serve your country, work to develop real leadership, to make a real difference.”

“Faculty” at top universities seems to believe some thing. Evidence? “One woman” made a comment. Is this comment representative? Indeed, is this person even faculty at a top university? Maybe so, but we’ll never know. Easier just to insinuate that faculty, who we all know are raging anti-military left-wing pacifists, also evaluate students based primarily on class and wealth.

There is a kernel of truth in the critique implied here. I’ve heard a fair number of anecdotes about anti-military behavior and attitudes in social science departments, and I know that it’s exceptionally difficult, for example, for a military historian to get a job anymore if s/he doesn’t also do something else. I don’t agree with Harvard’s policy regarding military recruiters. But it would be nice, when writing for what is supposed to be a Democratic Party organ, if the authors actually took care not to play into a Gibsonian vision of what the American “elite” consists of. The elite, believe it or not, is not best described as consisting of leftist university professors who don’t like the military. The elite, as George W. Bush once pointed out in a rare moment of honesty, is the most important base of the Republican Party.

It would also be nice if the authors had discussed the plethora of right-wing critiques of military service, including the contempt that Pentagon civilians seem to have for military officers, the disregard that right-wing intellectuals have for the idea that generals have anything interesting to say about war, and the general disavowal of anything that smacks of actual practical policy expertise. But then, this is the DLC, and it’s far more important to level the cannons at the left wing of the Democratic Party than it is to challenge the Republican Party…

Happy Belated Birthday

[ 0 ] May 16, 2006 |

On the event of wishing Ezra Klein a belated 22nd birthday, let me sink to my knees and abase myself before any deity or deities that may exist in thanks for the fact that I didn’t have a blog when I was 22, much less 19. I remember enough of my thoughts and my politics at age 22 to be extraordinarily happy that no public record exists of them today.

Fortunately, Ezra is a much more sensible lad than I ever was.

Think Nuclear?

[ 0 ] May 16, 2006 |

Again from Defense News:

With the cost of oil near $75 a barrel and rising, nuclear propulsion is now cheaper than oil for some of the Navy’s larger ships, Bartlett said.

Nuclear power, already used for aircraft carriers and submarines, became economical for large amphibious ships when oil prices increased to more than $60 a barrel, Bartlett said. When oil costs $200 a barrel, nuclear energy will be cheaper for all but the smallest vessels, he said.

I wonder if that includes construction costs, which, as I understand it, are much higher for nuclear ships than for conventional ones. Perhaps the Navy’s decision to decommission all of its nuclear cruisers in the 1990s, even the relatively new ones, was a bit premature.

It would be kind of funny if future naval vessels returned to coal propulsion…

War of Attritition

[ 0 ] May 16, 2006 |

Really interesting article in Defense News (sadly, subscription required) about Iranian and US naval plans in case of war. The Iranians seem to be gaming a guerilla at sea approach, focusing on small boat attacks against US warships and neutral shipping. It’s pretty unlikely that these could do much damage to a US Navy warship, but they could make life uncomfortable for some of the big tankers. It’s unlikely that Iranian attacks could sink one of the supertankers, but they might threaten enough damage to close off, at least temporarily, oil transit by sea in the Gulf.

The Iranian goal is to threaten to drive the price of oil so high that the US will reconsider an attack. The plan, however, isn’t simply deterrent, as executing it in the course of a war would hurt the US and would bring world pressure for a cease fire. I expect that any conflict between the US and Iran would last for some time, and the Iranians will rely on the hope that extremely high oil prices will force the US to desist.

The Iranians are quite likely to execute these plans for another reason. The US is well aware of the threat that small Iranian gunboats pose to Gulf shipping, and will take every step possible to neutralize the problem in short order. It’s no small task to destroy 400+ small gunboats and the rest of the Iranian Navy, but the USN and USAF can do a lot of damage to port facilities, command and control facilities, and anything that spends time at sea. If the Iranians don’t go on the offensive immediately, they’re unlikely to have much of a navy by the second week. Expect the Iranians also to engage in a minelaying campaign, using both naval and air assets for as long as they have them.

The biggest threat to the USN would come from the Iranian super-fast torpedos, which bear a remarkable similarity to the Russian Shkval. This torpedo travels at an incredibly fast speed (200 knots or so) but has a very short range. I suspect that it could kill anything it hits short of an aircraft carrier. On the upside, the short range is a serious detriment when the USN has absolute control of the seas. The torpedo may also have poor guidance systems. I think that the Iranians would need to get very lucky to put down a US warship. Iranian surface-to-surface missiles wouldn’t be such a problem for USN ships, but they could pose a threat to neutral, unarmed tankers.

Battle Fatigue

[ 0 ] May 16, 2006 |

Insty links, in characteristically laconic style, to this comment:

The Roman Legion was organized to fight in lines, averaging maybe 6 to 8 men deep. In battle the man at the front would fight for about 8 minutes, then move to the back of the line and the person behind him would take his place at the front. After another interval he too would then move to the back and the person behind him would take the front position. Organized in this way each man fought for about 8 minutes out of every 48 to 64. The enemies of the Romans often succomed to fatigue long before the Legionaires did.

It’s ok to get fatigued, and it’s ok to take a step back. There is a person behind you who will fill the gap. And when you are refreshed you can rejoin the battle.

They’re talking here not so much about actually fighting the War on Terror, but about how hard it is to be a warblogger. Let that sink in for a minute. Neo-neocon, who apparently has never encountered the concept of self-parody, even invokes Churchill in support of the weary, put upon warblogger. In the real world, 44 Americans have died in Iraq so far this month. They don’t, so much, have the luxury of warblogger fatigue.

Hard to imagine a more self-absorbed bunch, really. Belle has more.

Incidentally, I’m not even sure that the practice related in the above comment is historically accurate. I’ve read a number of accounts of Roman warfare, and I don’t recall seeing that particular description before. Imagine how difficult it would be for the man at the front of the line to disengage and move to the back, all the while keeping the integrity of the unit intact.

UPDATE: Chuckle.


[ 0 ] May 15, 2006 |

Jonathan Korman has a wonderful post on Michael Moore. He also has a great discussion of precisely why Out of Sight is so much better of a film than Magnolia. Check it out.

One of These is Not Like the Other

[ 0 ] May 15, 2006 |

Read Rodger and Matt on the absurdity of including Libya, a country with long-standing and substantial ties to terrorism, as a friend in the War on Terror, and considering Venezuela, which doesn’t so much have any of those ties, as an enemy.

Love the moral clarity.

Fundamental Contradictions

[ 0 ] May 15, 2006 |

It’s no surprise that the Republicans are crashing on the rocks of immigration, but I never expected to see it this soon. I figured that the general loathing of the Other that the Republican Party has built its public identity around would be a big problem in the future, eventually pushing an ever larger Hispanic American population into the Democratic fold. The relatively solid showing that the Republicans made in 2000 and 2004 appears to have been a hiccup in this process, but a hiccup with consequences. The desire to do passably well among Latino voters, combined with the need to serve big money, the real constituency of the Republican Party, has brought the contradictions into the open. Seems like a fair amount of the voting base just doesn’t care to share a country with brown people. Who knew? Greenwald is cataloguing the implosion.

The notion of putting the National Guard on the border, especially as a “temporary” measure, is obviously too stupid for words. The “temporary” clause really gives away the show, as no one has contended that the border problem has become particularly acute in the last few months. It’s a pathetic sop; a fascinating-to-watch exercise in “How dumb do they think we are” vs. “How dumb are we, really?”

Reds Swept

[ 0 ] May 14, 2006 |

In an improbable 2-1, 12 inning loss to the Phillies. Bad weather and various logistical difficulties have limited my appearances at Great American Ballpark, but today’s game was pretty solid. Brandon Claussen pitched remarkably well for a guy who’s not really all that good, facing a solid offensive team in a hitters ballpark.

Claussen cruised through 7 2/3 shutout innings, but to be fair was assisted by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who started Alex Gonzalez at first base. The question of which Alex Gonzalez is the “good” Alex Gonzalez has become almost as moot as the question of who was the “good” Brian Hunter, and in any case neither ever belonged anywhere near first base. With two outs in the top of the eigth, Manuel corrected this problem by pinch-hitting with Ryan Howard, who promptly tied the game with a monstrous home run. Howard walked in his next at bat, then crushed another monster homer for the go-ahead run in the twelfth. The Reds probably had six warning track shots between them, any one of which would have won the game.

The Reds are certainly overperforming, but they just might come in at .500 for the year. I don’t think that Arroyo can be relied upon, but the return of Griffey should help. Much depends on how Brandon Phillips turns out. He started hot, but has tailed off. If he regains his touch, this is an incredible offensive team.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Lion

[ 0 ] May 14, 2006 |

This is the second of a four part series commemmorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.

Part I: SMS Lutzow

HMS Lion was the first of the Big Cats (also known as the “Splendid Cats”), and the sixth battlecruiser constructed for the Royal Navy. The Big Cats were supposed to be a leap ahead in battlecruiser construction, designed with centerline turrets in order to take advantage of a full broadside, and were nearly a third larger than the New Zealand. The name referred to the fact that three of the five ships authorized bore the names of large cats; Lion, Tiger, and Leopard. Tiger, however, was completed to an alternative design after the construction of the Japanese Kongo, and Leopard was never completed. The other two ships in the class were Princess Royal and Queen Mary, neither having particularly notable feline connotations.

Lion displaced 27000 tons, carried 8 13.5″ guns in four twin turrets (two forward superfiring, one amidships, and one rear), and could make 27 knots. Her armor protection was poor, although slightly better than that of the Indefatigable class. Lion became the flagship of David Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron, intended to counter and destroy the German battlecruiser squadron. While the Grand Fleet battleships were based at Scapa Flow, Beatty’s battlecruisers were stationed out of Rosyth, from whence they would be the first to intercept any movement by the High Seas Fleet.

The early part of the war was characterized by various German schemes to lure out and trap part of the Royal Navy in an engagement against the whole of the High Seas Fleet. None of these plans worked particularly well. In December 1914, Admiral Franz Hipper dispatched his battlecruisers to bombard several English towns. The operation, which came off successfully, deeply irritated the British public, which wondered what, if not to protect England, the purpose of all the battlecruisers and battleships of the Royal Navy was. Hipper decided to launch a second raid in January 1915, but British intelligence caught wind of the operation, and the Royal Navy battlecruisers were ready. Lion led a group of five British battlecruisers against Hipper’s force of the three battlecruisers and one armored cruiser. In spite of their numerical superiority, the British managed to sink only the Blucher, a German armored cruiser, and damage the remaining ships. Lion, at the head of the British line, was severely damaged, but managed to score a near-critical hit on the German battlecruiser Seydlitz. Only luck saved Seydlitz from a magazine explosion, although the Germans learned from the experience that battlecruiser magazines were vulnerable and had a tendency to explode.

Sixteen months later Lion would serve as Beatty’s flagship at the Battle of Jutland. Although the Grand Fleet had been alerted to the German sortie, Beatty and his squadron were the first to intercept the Germans. Beatty’s Rosyth squadron was supposed to consist of fifteen ships, including ten battlecruisers and the five Queen Elizabeth class fast battleships. However, HMAS Australia was under repair, Queen Elizabeth was in refit, three older Invincible class battlecruisers had been dispatched to Scapa Flow for gunnery practice. Thus, Beatty only had six battlecruisers and four battleships available for the scrum. Beatty’s questionable disposition of forces and poor British signalling meant that only the six battlecruisers would be involved in the opening skirmish with the Germans; the four fast battleships had received an incorrect signal and turned in the wrong direction.

Unaccountably, the British ships did not take advantage of their larger and longer ranged guns to engage the Germans at distance, and the two fleets began to fire simultaeneously. More poor British signalling left the order of fire confused and one of the German ships unmolested. Lion suffered the first major wound of the battle, as a 12″ shell hit her amidships (or “Q) turret. The hit peeled back the roof of the turret, and very nearly started a magazine fire. Major Francis Harvey, who had lost both legs to the explosion, managed to order the magazine flooded before dying, a move that saved the ship (and condemned many of his men to drowning). Harvey received a posthumous Victoria Cross. Had Lion exploded, things might have gone poorly for the British. Two of Beatty’s other battlecruisers would soon suffer magazine explosions, and the loss of the flagship would have left the British line in disarray. German fire would have been concentrated on fewer ships, and I suspect that the British would have lost at least one more battlecruiser (probably either New Zealand or Princess Royal) in addition to Lion.

Barham, Warspite, Malaya, and Valiant arrived to save Beatty and his ships from the Germans, and Lion was able to limp away. Another incidence of poor signalling prevented Beatty from reporting the size, position, and course of the German fleet to Admiral Jellicoe, a factor in the eventual escape of the High Seas Fleet. Lion continued to fire on German ships, although her role would never be as critical as in those first few minutes of the battle. After Jutland, David Beatty was promoted to command of the Grand Fleet. Much attention was paid to the failure of the British battlecruisers at Jutland, and future designs (including that of HMS Hood) were reworked to incorporate more armor. Regarding the battlecruiser concept, however, it is important to note that the German battlecruisers performed exceptionally well under fire, and that the battlecruisers that would survive into World War II would all be useful ships when employed carefully.

Lion, badly damaged, saw no further action in World War I. Along with her remaining sister, she was scrapped in accordance with the Washington Naval Treay of 1922. Beatty would later turn the surrender of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow from a somber affair into a humiliating one. He died in 1936.

Trivia: If you had to name your flagship after a German monarch, which one would you choose?


[ 0 ] May 12, 2006 |

Ack. Looks like the end for Deadwood. Either that or they’ll be killing off a bunch of characters this year.

I’ve never held to the notion that Deadwood deserves to be considered on the same level as the best of the HBO dramas, Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Especially in the second season, though, it has become a strong series. It’s better than Rome, although I’m glad that the latter has begun shooting its second season.

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