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A Blessing and a Curse

[ 0 ] October 10, 2006 |

Two Fridays ago the Kentucky Canadian Roundtable treated myself and about forty other scholars and students to a day long seminar on Canadian foreign policy. In attendance were Liberal Party MP Dr. Keith Martin and Dennis Moore, Public Affairs Officer from the Detroit Consulate.

The program was put together by the Canadian Consulate in Detroit, and is apparently intended to serve as a reminder of Canada’s importance to the economy and social life of Kentucky. Did you know that Canada represents 34% of Kentucky’s exports, or that Kentucky has a $.6 billion trade surplus with Canada? Apparently, 280000 Canadians visited Kentucky last year, while only 70000 Kentuckans visited Canada; odd, that. Also, no fewer than two Canadian horses have won the Kentucky Derby. Anyway, it occurred to me while in attendance that programs like this are an important component of modern foreign policy; direct appeals to the population of the target country, bypassing government-to-government interaction. I suppose that the whole thing would have felt more sinister if the country sponsoring the event were Israel, France, China, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela.

One of the breakout sessions concerned Canada’s status as a second tier power. A consideration of Canada’s position has to include, I think, not just the observation that Canada is a second tier military and economic power, but also that Canada stands in an almost unique position even among second tier states. For most of its existence, the problem of territorial integrity has largely been off the table, the responsibility of a much more powerful patron. This is not to say that Canada has somehow escaped the dangers of the international system, just that the critical questions of Canadian national survival have been answered in London and Washington rather than in Ottawa. Since Canada historically has broadly shared the values of its two imperial patrons, its position as world actor has essentially been as adjunct to empire. This is not to minimize Canada’s ability to affect the world, as having influence over Washington and London gives Ottawa a non-trivial capability to pursue its foreign policy values. Indeed, when one of the members of our roundtable asked “What is Canada’s greatest foreign policy resource?”, the answer seemed to me clearly to be its ability to influence United States foreign policy, even if that capacity sometimes seems limited.

Listening to Martin, who is the official Foreign Affairs Opposition Critic, I got the sense that the question of Canada’s relationship with the United States is more one of tactics than strategy. Liberals agree that maintaining a close relationship is critical, but differ with Harper regarding what this means for the relationship with the Bush administration and with the United Nations. Cleaving close to the United States does not mean going down with the sinking ship that is the Bush administration. From an outside point of view, it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which Canada will break more cleanly from the direction of US foreign policy than it already has. I’d be very surprised, for example, if Canada scaled back its presence in Afghanistan, even in response to heavy casualties.

In any case, it was a useful workshop.


SOB of the Day

[ 0 ] October 9, 2006 |

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter (which, I’ll allow, is a cool name).

On the TeeVee

[ 0 ] October 9, 2006 |

Today, thanks to Kim Jong Il, I got to be on the TV. I talked about North Korea on the 12:30pm (27 Newsfirst), and on the 5:30pm (36 Action News). Each station interviewed me for about two minutes, asking similar but not identical questions. The situation had developed across the day (in particular in reference to the possible failure of the test), so the answers were a bit different, too.

The experience, certainly, was kind of cool. Of course, that North Korean bastard decided to blow up a bomb on the day that I wasn’t exactly dressed for success, so I had to run home, unrumple my jacket, and put on a tie. Both station crews had the kind of casual professionalism that I really like, regardless of the profession. It’s weird; I was of course paranoid about saying or doing something stupid (picking my noise or launching into an obscenity laden tirade against Mickey Kaus, for example), yet they do this every single day, and don’t seem to worry about it at all. In one of the newsrooms, a discussion of Anchorman broke out during the station break. It was fascinating just watching how the newsroom operated; how the weatherman, for example, wandered across the room chatting while the satellite photo was up. The funniest parts of both interviews were the segment segues; in the first, they went from discussing a rogue state with nukes to “Why can’t men and women just get along when it comes to watching football?”, while the second followed up with a bit on the house from A Christmas Story. Nevertheless, both interviews were enjoyable.

In between I talked for about half and hour on the radio, a discussion which was obviously a lot more detailed and, to me, interesting. Talk radio catches a lot of flak, but done correctly it can convey quite a bit of information. Of course, fewer people listen than watch, fewer still read the newspaper, and very few indeed read the relevant books and blogs, so we have to start somewhere.


[ 0 ] October 9, 2006 |

I suppose I should make some substantive comment…

I don’t think that the North Korean test is significant in military terms. We knew (or suspected so strongly that we had to plan as if we knew) that the North Koreans had built atomic bombs. That they would test one is completely rational, given that they probably weren’t quite sure that the device would work. The detonation of the bomb changes nothing, absolutely nothing, about the current deterrent relationship between the United States and North Korea. If the US were going to attack NK over its nuclear program, we would have started bombing four years ago, or ten years ago. Moreover, if North Korea wanted to commit national suicide by launching an attack against South Korea or Japan or the United States, it could have done so last with with nukes and at any other point in its history with conventional forces.

Diplomatically things are a little bit more interesting. The North Korean test will substantially strengthen the hand of Shinzo Abe and others who have argued for a more assertive Japanese foreign policy. Even if we don’t see Article 9 go away, it will certainly be reinterpreted such that it could allow offensive military action against North Korea. There’s also going to be some pressure on South Korea to develop its own weapon, and I don’t really have a sense of how that’s going to play out. As long as South Korea is under the US deterrent umbrella, nukes don’t really do it that much good, although they might reinforce the deterrent relationship, just as French and British nukes did in the 1960s. The situation that could become really problematic is that between Taiwan and the PRC; if Taiwan decided that this was the time to try to go nuclear (and there’s no evidence that they’re thinking along those lines), then things could get ugly really quick.

Any diplomatic effort to get North Korea to give up its nukes depends almost entirely on the stances of South Korea, Russia, and China. None of the three, as Matt has pointed out, have much interest in seeing North Korea collapse. I’m skeptical that they’ll be willing to put much effort into a diplomatic effort when the military situation hasn’t substantially changed, especially given that a collapse of North Korea is probably the most dangerous turn that this situation could take in the short term. We will see more careful monitoring of North Korean land and maritime trade, in an effort to ensure that nuclear material and technology don’t leave the hermit kingdom.

In other news, Wretchard of Belmont Club is an idiot. He writes:

Now all the folks who wanted 400,000 troops in Iraq and thought the transformational initiative which emphasized technology and precision weapons were a crock may grudgingly conclude that maybe Donald Rumsfeld did have a point. The US requires a full-spectrum fighting force able to engage the AQ and North Korea. A world power like America needs to think of more than one theater of operations, always. Also critics may now remember how, unremarked, the administration pulled US troops back from the DMZ, which if they were still there would make them sitting ducks. As it is, they far enough back to give them a chance. Also, the unnoticed development of facilities at Guam have given the US a capability it now needs. Not everything, but something. That plus BMD defense. Maybe I’m looking for silver linings where none are to be found. But just maybe not everyone was asleep.

There’s so much wrong here that it would take WAY too long to deal with it all, but briefly I’ll note a) that few people argued against the transformational initiative, while a lot of people argued that trying to occupy a country like Iraq while simultaeneously making that transformation was a really, really terrible idea, b) that “thinking about more than one theater of operations” significantly predates Rumsfeld’s tenure, and c) that the discussion of US troop disposition in North Korea is a non-sequitur; I can recall no one arguing that moving the troops was a bad idea (it was certainly publicized at the time), and it won’t have the slightest effect on the crisis unless the US decides to start bombing, an eventuality that I find extremely unlikely for the reasons outlined above.

Keep searching for the silver lining, Wretchard; I’ll allow that it’s no easy task.


[ 0 ] October 8, 2006 |

It looks as if the test has been conducted.

As far as I can tell, the world hasn’t ended. North Korea has one fewer nuke than it had yesterday.

You Say Terrorist, I Say… Friendly Terrorist

[ 0 ] October 8, 2006 |

Be sure to read the tale of Luis Posada Carriles, the one terrorist suspect that the Bush administration refuses to send to Cuba. The reason? Posada murdered 73 Cubans by blowing them up with a toothpaste tube full of plastic explosives, and has close and long standing ties with the CIA. Terrorists and freedom fighters, indeed.

Hussein…er, Steinbrenner Reacts to Defeat by Shooting his Generals

[ 0 ] October 8, 2006 |

Watching (briefly) the Ducks getting the stuffing stomped out of them led me to seek refuge in thoughts of 1994, when Oregon went to its first Rose Bowl in thirty years. Success wasn’t confined to the field; “Fullback into the line” Rich Brooks, longtime Oregon coach, abandoned Eugene for failure in the NFL, followed by failure in Lexington, Kentucky. This was a glorious thing, as it ushered in the Age of Bellotti, and the longest period of sustained success that the Ducks have ever experienced.

I am experiencing a similar joy today, as, in the wake of what must be regarded as a timeless victory by the Detroit Tigers (how often is Detroit on the side of Good?) , the Yankees have reportedly decided to fire Torre and hire “Sweet” Lou Piniella, who has a long history of leading teams with multiple Hall of Fame caliber players to 86 win seasons. Oh glorious day…

If the Yankees dump A-Rod they’ll need to pay a significant chunk of his salary, and some team somewhere is going to find themselves with a Hall of Fame shortstop for less cash than the Yanks are paying Jeter.

Tall Stacks

[ 0 ] October 8, 2006 |

I’ve been at Tall Stacks, a semi-annual music and steamboat festival in Cincinnati, for two of the last three days. Saw Peter Rowan, Junior Brown, Del McCoury, Rhett Miller and the Believers, and Wilco. Good times.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: Admiral Scheer

[ 0 ] October 8, 2006 |

The Treaty of Versailles limited the German navy to vessels of 10000 tons or less. The intention was to prevent Germany from constructing any ships larger than coastal defense vessels, although the letter of the Treaty allowed Germany to build ships as large as Washington Treaty heavy cruisers. Using the most advanced construction techniques possible, the Germans decided to circumvent the Treaty by building capital ships within the legal limits.

Germany had used surface commerce raiders to good effect in World War I, and decided that purpose-built ships might do an even better job. Given the Treaty limitations, Germany could not hope to equal the Royal Navy in any case, so commerce raiding was a natural option. Admiral Scheer, the second Panzerschiff, displaced about 12000 tons while carrying 6 11″ guns in two triple turrets, and could make 28.5 knots. Scheer used diesel engines to provide for greater range. The Germans saved weight through the use of welding and a relatively light armor scheme. The German hope was that Admiral Scheer and his (Admiral Scheer is one of a very few ships referred to in the masculine) sisters could outrun any foe that they could not outgun. It’s unclear whether Scheer could have been expected to defeat a standard Washington Treaty cruiser, as such cruiser had more guns that fired more rapidly, and the armor scheme of Panzerschiff was not sufficient to protect from 8″ shells. In any case, Scheer was clearly outclassed by the three British battlecruisers. The construction of Dunkerque and Strasbourg by France cemented the obsolescence of the Panzerschiff type, and the last two ships were cancelled.

Obsolescence has never stood in the way of employment during war. Admiral Scheer was used by the Nazis to aid the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, firing on Republican positions and escorting Nationalist convoys. He underwent an overhaul and refit at the beginning of the war, and did not participate in the invasion of Norway. In October 1940 Scheer set out on a raiding cruise that lasted nearly eight months and took him into the Indian Ocean. On the cruise Scheer managed to sink sixteen ships with a total displacement of over 100000 tons. Although the raid was a success, it didn’t compare all that favorably in cost-effectiveness to U-boats or even to converted merchant cruiser raiders. In August 1942 Admiral Scheer sortied against Arctic convoy PQ-17, which was scattered in response with extremely heavy loss to submarines and Luftwaffe aircraft. In August he sortied again, shelling a Soviet weather station and sinking a Soviet icebreaker. Hitler became disillusioned with the surface fleet after 1942, and Scheer rarely left port for the next two years.

In late 1944 the German situation in the Baltic began to rapidly deteriorate. Scheer escorted escaping ships and supplied artillery support for retreating German forces. He returned to Kiel in April, 1945 and was sunk by an RAF attack. The wreck was partially broken up after the war, and the area in which the hull lay filled in with rubble and covered to serve as a parking lot.

Trivia: What Royal Navy dreadnought did not participate in either World War I or World War II?

UPDATE: In comments, Martin asks why Scheer was known as a “he”. Discussion here; all other examples of masculine ships are Kriegsmarine vessels named after men, which tells me that it has something to do with the Nazi construction of masculinity. The captain of Bismarck, apparently, ordered his crew to use the masculine because of Bismarck’s great power.

While researching the question, I found that the crewmen of Yamato commonly referred to her as “more beautiful than any woman,” which is kind of sweet.

That’s Gotta be Tough, Dude

[ 0 ] October 7, 2006 |

Brian Bennett, gay Republican political consultant, on why he stays with the Party:

When asked why he remains in the party, Mr. Bennett gave an answer common to gay Republicans: he said he remained fundamentally in sync with the small government principles of the party and was committed to changing what he considers its antigay attitudes.

Heh. It’s funny because it’s sad…

Regarding gay Republicans, it’s tough for me to have a lot of sympathy for people who are willing to let gay activists fight the most important battles for civil rights while themselves remaining within the comfortable embrace of a Party whose membership finds them loathsome and which has fought tooth and nail against virtually every effort to improve life for gay Americans over the past forty years. Certainly there’s no contradiction between being gay and supporting small government or a strong defense (although one might observe that there’s a significant contradiction between being a Republican and supporting those things), but gay Republicans seem happy to enjoy the benefits that gay activists have struggled for without being bothered to life a finger in support of those efforts.

Cylons and Suicide Attacks

[ 0 ] October 7, 2006 |

I don’t think it gives too much away to note that the Cylons become particularly perturbed at the Colonial insurgents for launching suicide attacks. A couple of observations on that:

  • The traditional defense of suicide bombing is the one Colonel Tigh gives, pointing out that he has often given orders to Viper pilots to engage in near-suicidal missions, and that the distinction between a suicide attack and a attack virtually certain to result in death is minimal. I’ve always found this argument fairly compelling.
  • We know that the Cylons have, in the past, engaged in suicide-like tactics. Recall that one of the “Doral” models blew himself up on Galactica in an effort to assassinate Adama. The Cylon response to a Colonial critique of this tactic might go something like “Yes, but we knew that we were coming back, so the attack wasn’t really suicidal.” This would strike me as unsatisfying from a Colonial point of view; the attack is legitimate because its perpetrator is unlikely to suffer permanent harm?

Any thoughts?


[ 0 ] October 7, 2006 |

If you ever had the faintest amount of respect for Bill Kristol (and I really haven’t), reading Glenn Greenwald should help dispel the notion that Kristol has a shred of human dignity. Kristol:

Well, Democrats care about the children, Brit, and so I think they should pressure states to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18 so that it’s clearly illegal for people like Mark Foley to hit on 17-year- old pages. . . . They could certainly pass a resolution supporting the Boy Scouts in their effort to keep people like Mark Foley from becoming scout masters, I think the Democrats could really do a lot of good for our children.

It’s not quite right to say that the above statement would be excusable if it had been uttered by an evangelical conservative Christian, but at least it would have been understandable. Kristol knows better, and yet has no apparent qualms about playing upon the basest prejudices of the Republican base.

What a piece of garbage.

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