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Escovedo-YMSB-Murdoch-Stanley-DBT

[ 0 ] May 21, 2006 |

The show last night in Louisville was, as expected, outstanding. The timing was very tight, as each band had only abot 45 minutes to play. We missed one or two Escovedo songs because he apparently started right at 7. There were a couple of technical problems, including a bad guitar amp in the Escovedo set, and some feedback problems with Stanley. That’s probably to be expected at a show that includes five acts in a short period of time.

All of the acts were outstanding. I had not previously heard YMSB, but I was pleased with their set. Aleksi Murdoch was fine, I suppose. Dr. Stanley only participated in about half the songs that his band played, but he’s 79, so I’m inclined to cut him a break. One other thing about Ralph Stanley; he’s an extremely short man.

The Drive By Truckers went on last, and played a short but exceptional set. Three songs each, if I recall correctly, from Decoration Day, Dirty South, and A Blessing and a Curse. I was particularly impressed with the live versions of the last, which made me more appreciative of their latest album.

Rodger Payne has more. This was my first real visit to Louisville, which has a nice little downtown walking area, nicer than Lexington, anyway.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: SMS Friedrich Der Grosse

[ 0 ] May 21, 2006 |

Part III of a four part series to commemmorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.

Part I: SMS Lutzow
Part II: HMS Lion

The first eight German dreadnoughts followed the naming convention previously adopted for pre-dreadnoughts. Like in the US Navy, battleships were named after states. This changed with the construction of the Kaisers, the third class of German dreadnoughts. They, and their successors the Konigs, were named after general or specific monarchs. After nine ships the German Navy reverted to the practice of naming battleships after states with Baden and Bayern. Although one might suspect that the decision to name battleships after monarchs was designed to please William II, he had always been an ardent supporter of the naval program, and no such flattery was necessary.

Friedrich Der Grosse
was the second of the Kaiser class, commissioned in October 1912. Friedrich Der Grosse carried 10 12″ guns, displaced 25000 tons, and could make 22 knots. Her design included a couple of interesting points. The Germans abandoned the wasteful hexagonal turret distribution that they had used in the Nassau and Helgoland classes, instead carrying one twin turret forward, two turrets rear, and two wing turrets. Theoretically, the wing turrets could fire on either broadside, but such use put enormous strain on the hull and the superstructure. The arrangement was mildly better than that of her predecessors, but the Germans wouldn’t achieve a truly efficient turret arrangement until the completion of the Konig class. At one point during the war, Austrian naval engineers visited Kiel and discussed the relative merits of different turret designs. The Austrians, correctly, argued that the German turret distribution was wasteful. The Germans insisted that the triple turrets preferred by the Austrians could never work. The Austrians had a much better case; Szent Istvan could easily outgun Friedrich Der Grosse, despite being 20% smaller. The Kaisers were also the first class of German dreadnoughts to use turbines.

Friedrich der Grosse became flagship of the High Seas Fleet from roughly the date of her commissioning, and carried the flag of Admiral Reinhard Scheer at the Battle of Jutland. The German plan was to lure part of the Grand Fleet into a conflict with the whole of the High Seas Fleet. Pre-positioned U-boats would delay and weaken the Grand Fleet. On May 31, 1916, it seemed that this plan had worked. Six British battlecruisers and four battleships had been lured out of Rosyth to do battle with the German battlecruisers. Admiral Hipper, commanding from Lutzow, led David Beatty and Lion toward the oncoming German fleet, consisting of sixteen dreadnoughts. Upon sighting the High Seas Fleet, the battered British ships turned north and were relieved by the Fifth Battle Squadron, which exchanged fire for a while with the German battlecruisers and with the forward elements of the High Seas Fleet. Unbeknownst to Scheer, however, the Grand Fleet had been neither delayed nor weakened, and was in a position, with fully twenty-four dreadnoughts and three battlecruisers, to intercept Scheer’s fleet.

The High Seas Fleet continued to plug north in pursuit of Beatty’s ships, and briefly savaged a squadron of British armored cruisers that found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The crew of the cruiser Warrior was saved by a mechanical problem on board Warspite. Her rudder damaged, Warspite made two full turns in front of the German Navy, taking fifteen hits in the process but eventually limping away. As Warspite sped out of reach, however, Scheer became aware of the presence of the Grand Fleet, which was in the process of crossing the German “T”, the most advantageous possible tactical position.

Scheer knew that he couldn’t fight the Grand Fleet, and did the sensible thing. He ordered the High Seas Fleet to make a 180 degree turn in line; a very difficult maneuver that required a great deal of practice. Essentially, each ship turned at roughly the same time, rather than in formation. At the end of the turn, the trailing ship was in the lead, and Scheer’s fleet was moving to the southwest, away from the British fleet but also away from the German bases. In a move that has still not been fully explained, Scheer then ordered his fleet to execute a second 180 degree turn, back toward the British line. The Grand Fleet was in a perfect position to intercept this, and began hammering the head of the German line. Finally, Scheer ordered a third 180 degree turn to escape from the British. To cover the German escape, he ordered the destroyers and battlecruisers to launch an attack against the Grand Fleet, hoping that this would save the German battlefleet.

This still left the Germans on the wrong side of the British fleet. It was getting late in the day, however, and the Germans managed to avoid further combat before nightfall. During the night the High Seas Fleet took advantage of poor British communications to cross the British line and escape towards Germany. Although many of the German dreadnoughts had been heavily damaged (Friedrich Der Grosse had not suffered much damage), none were sunk.

The rest of Friedrich Der Grosse’s career was uneventful. She operated in the Baltic against the Russian Navy, and was interned by the Allies at Scapa Flow. On June 21, 1919 she was scuttled along with the rest of the High Seas Fleet. In 1937 the hulk was raised and scrapped by a British entrepreneur.

In 1928, Admiral Jellicoe invited Admiral Scheer to Great Britain for a visit. Sadly, Scheer died before he could travel to the UK.

Trivia: What British battleship was de-militarized in accordance with the London Naval Treaty of 1930?

UPDATE, 12/3/06: Out of curiosity, why the sudden interest in this post? Have received a bunch of hits from the UK on this post in the last hour…

Venezuela’s Retort, or The Only Suspected Terrorist that Bush Won’t Torture

[ 0 ] May 19, 2006 |

Interesting stuff. Via Helmut:

Just as the Bush administration is ignoring our efforts in the war on terror, it is also thwarting attempts to bring notorious terrorists to justice, and it is doing so for political reasons. The State Department has ignored repeated requests from the Venezuelan government to either try or extradite three known Venezuelan terrorists currently taking refuge on U.S. soil. The most infamous of these, Luis Posada Carriles, is known as the “Osama bin Laden of Latin America” and is widely believed to have masterminded the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that left 73 innocent civilians dead. Despite repeated requests, the Bush administration has refused to honor the extradition treaty it signed with Venezuela in 1922.

Here is the Wiki on Carriles. And here is a BBC article.

One man, terrorist, freedom fighter. And all that. The official US reason for not deporting Carriles is that he might face torture in Venezuela. Ponder that for a few minutes.

Sigh.

That’s it, Crooked Timber is off the blogroll…

[ 0 ] May 19, 2006 |

Chris Bertram:

And I’ve enjoyed all of them, with the possible exception of The Drive-By Truckers who struck me as over-loud Skynyrd wannabees

Ack. Responding to a statement like that would lend it more dignity that it deserves. Here’s a more sensible perspective on the Truckers:

On the other hand, the Drive-by Truckers kicked much ass. I was fully rocked. This is just such a great band. The songs are spectacular. They have 3 songwriters much superior to Jay Farrar. They had fun. They sang like they gave a fuck. Their guitar solos had meaning. And think about that. Every band uses guitar. But how many bands actually do something with it? How many bands make it worth a damn? How many bands today come up with a riff that you remember? And Drive-by Truckers do this with every song they write.

One of the great things about Drive-by Truckers is how they are rehabilitating one of the most underrated forms of American rock and roll–Southern Rock. They are firmly within that tradition but are taking it new places. Can you ask more of a band than that? And when was the last time a band really made a statement in that genre? The Black Crowes in 1991 or so maybe? Early Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers albums?

I’ve seen them 3 times in the last three years, and have been impressed every time. Tomorrow night they play in Louisville with Ralph Stanley, YMSB, and Alejandro Escovedo. I’ll be attending with the distinguished Dr. Payne of Duck of Minerva.

[ 0 ] May 19, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

Effects Based Operations?

[ 0 ] May 19, 2006 |

Kingdaddy has some useful commentary on “Effects Based Operations“, a term which apparently refers to operations directed against enemy strategic targets rather than military forces. Such targets include morale, industry, infrastructure, and communications (although the last two certainly have operational military elements). Kingdaddy points out that while advocates of EBO operations have made grand claims about their ability to win wars, these claims have never been reflected in reality.

For example, on the question of what Giulio Douhet, founding theorist of strategic bombing, believed, let’s ask Lt. Colonel Richard Estes, USAF:

Douhet believed that, with the advent of technology, the army and navy had become “organs of indirect attrition of national resistance.” The air arm, on the other hand, could act directly to break national resistance at the very source. But not just any air force would do. Douhet rejected the idea of an auxiliary air arm of the army or navy or a collection of “knights-errant” flying fighters. Rather, he called for a fleet of massive, self-defending bombers that would dominate not only the enemy, but also the military budget of Italy–or any other country that would listen to his ideas. He wanted an air force that could win not just air battles but total command of the air. This command of the air would have a debilitating effect on the capability of land and sea forces, which would be relegated to a secondary role in future conflicts. The army and navy would remain part of an “indivisible whole” of the three armed services but would no longer be a significant factor in successfully resolving a war. With the ascendance of the air force, “the history of the war … presents no more interest.”

It can be fairly said that this prediction failed to manifest in World War II. The strategic bombing campaign against Germany did damage German industry and did use German resources. This result was deeply disappointing to many on the Allied side of the war. Arthur Harris, for example believed that the destruction of German morale would be the key to Allied victory. He resented any shifting of resources to attacks on German industry, German communications infrastructure, and German tactical assets. To their credit, American commanders were more skeptical of these kinds of arguments, and attempted to focus their bombing on the destruction of specific industrial assets. Americans Army Air Force officers were, it should be noted, willing to push Harris’ arguments in an effort to win independence for their service.

The author of the initial post is reduced to defending EBO as part of a tapestry of military operations. This defense is reasonable, were it not for the grandiose claims made by the proponents of EBO. Unfortunately, the author falls into a similar claim with this:

9/11 was an EBO; we are still feeling the effects long after the smoke cleared, the rubble was collected and the bodies were buried. The damage extended far beyond thephysical targets.

Regarding “Shock and Awe”: Is Saddam in power right now? Shock and awe was succesful in meeting its intended effect: depose the Saddam regime. “Shock and awe” was never meant to address the reconstruction and insurgency.

The term “Shock and Awe” is generally used to describe the effect of the precision bombing raids in the opening days of the war, an operation launched in the hope of compelling Saddam’s regime into submission without a fight. I have never heard it used otherwise before now. Saddam is out of power because Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities were conquered and occupied by the US Army and the US Marine Corps, a very traditional method of fighting war. It should also be noted that the effect of 9/11 on the United States is hardly a recommendation for EBO…

Mmm… Pork

[ 0 ] May 18, 2006 |

I’m going to outsource the discussion of Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers to Redbeard at Vague Nihilism. What’s notable about this isn’t the evident, obvious corruption, but rather that this is the kind of behavior that is almost certain to get you re-elected in the United States. Say what you will, but Rogers is doing a bang-up job for his constituents.

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.

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