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LGM Tournament Challenge

[ 0 ] March 13, 2006 |

(Bumped to reflect availability of brackets)

I’ve created an NCAA Tournament Challenge group at ESPN.

Group Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Washington

[ 0 ] March 12, 2006 |

The London Naval Treaty of 1936 was intended to preserve the battleship size limitation at 35000 tons and to restrict the size of battleship gun size to 14″. In retrospect, it’s hard to see how the latter mattered; as long as the 35000 ton frame was observed, there was only so much advantage to be had by installing larger guns. The United States designed its first post treaty battleships, the North Carolina class, to carry 12 14″ guns in three quadruple turrets. However, the London Naval Treaty had an escape clause. If any one of the original three signatories failed to ratify, then the gun calibre limitation was raised to 16″. Japan did not sign the treaty (her representatives would have been assassinated if she had), so the 14″ limitation did not apply. The Royal Navy, in a fit of wild hope, had already begun construction of the 14″ weapons for its King George V class, and could not alter their design. The design of North Carolina and Washington, however, allowed the use of either 14″ or 16″ weapons. Accordingly, the Americans quickly substituted the heavier guns.

USS Washington and her sister, North Carolina, were the first American battleships built since 1921. They carried 9 16″ guns in three triple turrets, displaced 35000 tons standard (45000 full load), and could make 28 knots. Their armour was somewhat less extensive than that of foreign contemporaries, but their anti-aircraft armaments were very strong, making them extremely effective as aircraft carrier escorts.

Washington was commissioned in May 1941. Being the first of a new generation of ships, Washington suffered from considerable teething troubles, and required an extensive period of trials and training. This kept Washington in the Atlantic, where she was, incidentally, closer to the war in Europe. It is fortunate that Washington and North Carolina were not deployed with the Pacific Fleet. Although they would have had a better chance at surviving than the older battleships at Pearl Harbor, their loss or even damage would have been a severe handicap for the US Navy. Washington deployed to the United Kingdom for service with the Home Fleet in March 1942. Washington helped guard convoys to Murmansk, and it is conceivable that she could have met Tirpitz or Scharnhorst in action. Such a battle would almost certainly have favored Washington; her armament and armor were superior to that of Tirpitz, and she had much better fire control. In September, after a refit, she entered the Pacific, where she would remain for most of the war.

In late September Washington was deployed to the Solomon Islands. The battle of Guadalcanal centered around the control and operation of Henderson Airfield. Japanese forces had been pushed back on the island of Guadalcanal, but still held
considerable ground. Japanese naval units resupplied the Army forces at night, and heavy Japanese units bombarded Henderson Field on a regular basis. The US Navy’s job was to prevent this from happening. On November 13, 1942 Washington was positioned, along with the battleship South Dakota and four destroyers, to intercept a Japanese task force steaming toward Henderson Field. The Japanese fleet included the Kirishima, one of four Kongo class battlecruisers. On paper, the US force was quite superior, but the Japanese had considerable skill a night-fighting and had better torpedos. In a confused night action, all four US destroyers were crippled or sunk, and South Dakota managed to wander into the searchlights of most of the Japanese force. The Japanese lacked radar, however, and didn’t notice the approach of Washington. Washington did exactly what a modern battleship should have done to a thirty year old battlecruiser, and reduced Kirishima to sinking condition in about ten minutes. The rest of the Japanese force retired shortly afterward. Washington suffered no damage.

The rest of the war was spent largely in carrier escort by Washington. Her closest brush with disaster came in February 1944, when she rammed the battleship Indiana. Indiana received the brunt of the damage, but Washington was still forced to retire to Puget Sound Naval Yard for a refit. Later, Washington would serve as an escort at the Battle of Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Washington would also deliver shore bombardment at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Washington was taken out of commission in June 1947. The US Navy went through three major cycles of battleship disposal in the twentieth century. The first came in 1922-23, when most of the pre-dreadnoughts and older dreadnougts were scrapped in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty. Between 1946 and 1948, all of the pre-war battleships, with the exception of the Big Five and Mississippi, were either scrapped or sunk as targets. The last cycle came in the late 1950s, when the Big Five (Colorado, Maryland, West Virginia, California, and Tennessee) and six of the ten fast battleships were disposed of, either through scrapping or through donation. Alabama, Massachusetts, and North Carolina were all adopted by their respective states. Washington was not, probably because, given the existence of a major naval reserve yard in the Puget Sound, it didn’t seem to make sense to keep another old battleship around.

Trivia Question: What do the battlecruiser Hood and Rear Admiral Horace Hood have in common, other than the name?

Why Pinochet?

[ 0 ] March 11, 2006 |

This is something I’ve wondered ever since, long, long ago, I was on the other side of the political fence. Why is it that Augusto Pinochet gets lefties into such a lather?

I mean this question in all seriousness, and I’m looking for serious answers. Pinochet has always struck me as a kind of middling dictator, not worthy of the hatred that the left holds for him. From what I understand, Chile under Pinochet was somewhat less bloody than the Philippines under Marcos and Argentina under its military junta. He certainly didn’t approach the level of brutality found in Guatemala, El Salvador, or the Dominican Republic under Trujillo. Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and the various leaders of China make him look like a rank amateur in the tyranny game. Yet, the invocation of Pinochet lets loose the rage. I don’t understand.

I suppose that Castro is a good comparison. Both Pinochet and Castro evoke particular emotions from the right and the left, emotions that seem to me all out of line with their actual crimes. Some lefties defend Castro for what he has done, which is create a passably decent social welfare system. Righties defend Pinochet in virtually the same way, excusing his brutality by referrring to Chile’s economy. Neither of these positions makes all that much sense to me, but whatever.

Anyway, I look forward to some responses.

The Enemy Within

[ 0 ] March 11, 2006 |

Really interesting article in the NYT about Saddam Hussein and Iraqi military strategy in the second Gulf War. To put it lightly, Saddam was not an ideal military leader.

As American warplanes streaked overhead two weeks after the invasion began, Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani drove to Baghdad for a crucial meeting with Iraqi leaders. He pleaded for reinforcements to stiffen the capital’s defenses and permission to blow up the Euphrates River bridge south of the city to block the American advance.

But Saddam Hussein and his small circle of aides had their own ideas of how to fight the war. Convinced that the main danger to his government came from within, Mr. Hussein had sought to keep Iraq’s bridges intact so he could rush troops south if the Shiites got out of line.

This demonstrates a fundamental mis-understanding of the military situation. It was obvious at the time that the question of maintaining control over the south would be irrelevant if the Americans took control of Baghdad. Hussein hopelessly misjudged the situation.

Other interesting revelations include this:

Taking a page out of the Russian playbook, Iraqi officers suggested a new strategy to defend the homeland. Just as Russia yielded territory to defeat Napoleon and later Hitler’s invading army, Iraq would resist an invading army by conducting a fighting retreat. Well-armed Iraqi tribes would be like the Russian partisans. Armored formations, including the Republican Guard, would assume a more modest role.

Mr. Hussein rejected the recommendation. Arming local tribes was too risky for a government that lived in fear of a popular uprising.

Which suggests that Hussein probably made the American job a bit easier than it otherwise might have been. Of course, as Hussein undoubtedly noted, there was no assurance that the southern tribes would use these weapons against the invader, rather than against the Iraqi state.

And this:

In December 2002, he told his top commanders that Iraq did not possess unconventional arms, like nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force established by the C.I.A. to investigate what happened to Iraq’s weapons programs. Mr. Hussein wanted his officers to know they could not rely on poison gas or germ weapons if war broke out. The disclosure that the cupboard was bare, Mr. Aziz said, sent morale plummeting.

which we really should have known at the time. If the Iraq military commanders knew that Iraq possessed no WMD capability, then it’s a travesty that the US didn’t have the information.

The article is very interesting, so read the whole thing. The upshot is that Iraq was in a state of staggering military weakness in March of 2003. Iraqi capabilities were far, far lower than they had been even in 1991. This has a couple of implications. First, the suggestion that Iraq was somehow a threat to its neighbors is obviously nonsense. While it may have had the capacity to briefly overrun Kuwait or part of Saudi Arabia (and this is quite a stretch) it would have suffered almost immediate military collapse in any war. The second implication is one that has been derived previously by Stephen Biddle, and suggests that the Iraq War is in fact not a meaningful test of US military power. Iraq may have been one of the least militarily capable states in the world in 2003, and it’s not surprising that the US mopped the floor with the Iraqi Army. This is not to say that the US military isn’t better than any potential competitor, but rather to suggest that Gulf War II may provide a misleading indicator of the extent of US military dominance.

Brief Thoughts on Slobodan

[ 0 ] March 11, 2006 |

It’s too bad he died before the trial could be completed, not so much because he needed to be punished more severely (although he did), but because he was an interesting test case for international justice.

I did not support (and still do not support) the prosecution of Augusto Pinochet in a European court. It seems to me that some incentive must be left for dictators to peacefully and safely leave power, and as long as Pinochet isn’t dictator of Chile, I really don’t care all that much about him. Much worse, in my view, would be setting a precedent under which a dictator peacefully steps down, with agreement for his own security in place, and then is prosecuted anyway. The question, for me, is simply not a moral one. That is, I’m not terribly interested in the question of what dictators deserve. I’m much more interested in the problem of removing dictators from power without bloodshed, and if we begin prosecuting guys like Pinochet, we’re likely to see dictators more reluctant to step down. Fidel Castro is a bad guy, but if he were willing to take a billion dollars to step down and move to France tomorrow, I think it would be a good policy outcome.

But, as I recall, this really doesn’t apply to Milosevic. His regime collapsed, and his home state sent him to The Hague. A fair trial (to both Milosevic and to the prosecution) could not be had in Serbia. There should be some international mechanism to deal with situations like this, and it’s a pity that the mechanism didn’t get fully tested in this case.

Kat has more.

UPDATE: In comments, Randy asks

Then another dictator takes power and wants an immunity agreement. Where do you draw the line?

My first response is that I think this is a nonsensical question. I may be wrong regarding the personalities of authoritarian rulers, but I’d be pretty surprised to find that any of them thought very much, while attaining power, about whether they would be prosecuted if they fell. I don’t think that there’s any moral hazard here; allowing dictators who establish specific immunity agreements before stepping down to avoid prosecution is not, in my view, going to create an incentive for some huge number of potential dictators to seize power and start shooting people. There is already plenty of incentive for seizing authoritarian power; a misguided sense of patriotism, a desire for power, a desire for wealth, whatever. Also, given the number of dictators who fall prey to violent ends or to imprisonment at the hands of successor authoritarian regimes (and this tends to happen more often than the replacement by democratic regimes), you can color me enormously skeptical regarding this portion of the argument.

Second, I’m inclined to say “Who cares?” Aleksandr Lukashenko, Fidel Castro, Islam Karimov, Emomali Rahmonov, and Saparat Niyazov are all dictators with varying degrees of nastiness. I would not hesitate to grant them singly or as a group an amnesty based on a surrender of power to a democratic government. I really can’t see how this would further the ends of authoritarian rulers in the world; I think it’s much, much more likely that, if promised security in their persons and their property (and this doesn’t mean that they keep everything; obviously such solutions can be negotiated), that these leaders would, in situations where they otherwise faced pressure, be more likely to surrender power than to attempt to hold on to it through brutal and repressive means. Note further that this does not involve some kind of blanket amnesty for authoritarian rulers, which is how some seem to be interpreting it. Authoritarians who allow a transition minimizing bloodshed get credit; those who don’t can be prosecuted to our heart’s delight.

Go Ducks!!!

[ 0 ] March 10, 2006 |

I have been remiss in failing to congratulate my Ducks for beating the living snot out of 13th ranked Washington Thursday in the Pac-10 tournament. The Ducks have to win two more games (against Cal and either UCLA or Stanford) for a bid, and that’s unlikely to happen. But, beating the Huskies was also unlikely.

Go Ducks!!!!

[ 0 ] March 10, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

Season 6

[ 0 ] March 9, 2006 |

Like other civilized people, I’m breathlessly awaiting the beginning of season six of the Sopranos on Sunday. I’ve just re-watched Long Term Parking:

I want your promise it will be quick.

I’m not going to lie to you, Tony; I don’t have to. Phil is going to do it, and he’ll do it his way.

John. This is me now. Come on.

Anything else?

No. You know what, John? I’ll give you undignified. Go fuck yourself.

And this is after Adriana… best show ever.

Brief WBC Scenario…

[ 0 ] March 9, 2006 |

So, my understanding of the US pool. Assuming that the US beats South Africa…

If Canada beats Mexico, US and Canada go.

If Mexico beats Canada, then there’ll be a 2-1/2-1/2-1 tie. Tiebreaker is runs given up; Canada has thus far given up 14, the US 10, and Mexico 6. I have to assume that the US will give up less than four runs to South Africa. If Mexico wins, then Canada is out, because Canada cannot make up the run differential.

So, for all intents and purposes, the winner of the Mexico-Canada game will join the US in advancing. The only thing that could change this is if the US loses to South Africa, or gives up a number of runs to South Africa=5+Mexican runs in the Mexico-Canada game.

Stunned Disbelief

[ 0 ] March 8, 2006 |

Myself and the lads are currently enduring another episode of ESPN’s chronic ineptitude regarding its fantasy baseball responsibilities. Long story short, we are now eight days behind the promised target date for setting our fantasy league draft, and no relief is in sight.

Given this context, you can imagine my surprise that ESPN2 has decided to stick with the excellent (6-6 in the 11th inning) Cuba-Panama game, and pre-empt “Jim Rome is Burning” and “Pardon the Interruption” by moving the US-Canada game (which Canada now leads 3-0) onto the main ESPN network.

Probably Gay, Pro-Abortion Terrorists

[ 0 ] March 8, 2006 |

Or maybe not.

Three college students from the prosperous suburbs south of Birmingham, two of them 19 and one 20, were arrested today in the burning of nine Baptist churches in rural Alabama last month that federal officials say was a prank that spun out of control.

Benjamin N. Moseley and Russell L. DeBusk Jr., both 19 and students at Birmingham Southern College, were arrested after admitting their involvement in the fires to federal agents who had been led to them by tire tracks left behind at several of the burned churches, officials said.

Arrested a few hours later was Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20, a student at the nearby University of Alabama-Birmingham whose mother was the owner of the 2000 Toyota 4Runner that had left the tracks, federal agents said in an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint against the three men.

The identities of the accused came as a surprise to investigators, who had speculated that the arsons were the work of people intimately familiar with the remote rural roads where the fires were set, not products of Birmingham’s upper-middle class, one the son of a doctor and another of a county constable.


Mr. DeBusk, who was interviewed and arrested a short time later, also admitted behind present at the five arsons on Feb. 3, as well as kicking in the doors of two of the churches. He said the three had been out shooting deer in Mr. Cloyd’s S.U.V. prior to the fires.

Chris Matthews must be disappointed.

Championship Week

[ 0 ] March 8, 2006 |

Does anyone else find Championship Week more exciting than the first week of the NCAA tournament? I love watching all the little regional tournaments, with dozens of teams I’ve never heard of, or know only from the 1993 tournament, or know only from applying to for a job on several occasions, play desperately hard for a 14 seed. When else do you get to see these teams? There’s also a certain chaos and disorder about the system that appeals to me.

The Loyola Marymount-Gonzaga game in particular was great this year. LM hasn’t made the tourney since 1990, and given that their run was one of the most exciting tournament stories I’ve seen, I was pulling for them. Didn’t work out, and Gonzaga doesn’t even need the automatic bid.

The consensus feeling here seems to be that the Wildcats are destined for a eight seed.