Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Robert Farley

rss feed

Tales of the Sea: Goeben, Part VII

[ 0 ] July 23, 2006 |

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

TCG Yavuz resumed her duty as the flagship of the Turkish Navy in 1930. Much had changed since she was last operational, however. The German Empire had vanished, and the High Seas Fleet lay at the bottom in the British naval base of Scapa Flow. Yavuz was the last remaining German-built capital ship. Technology had also moved forward, as the newest battleships operated by Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom displaced nearly twice the tonnage of Yavuz and carried 16″ guns. The disastrous British experience at Jutland had brought the entire concept of the battlecruiser into question, leaving Yavuz a bit of an anachronism.

In order to forestall a new naval race, the great powers had signed the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922. This treaty limited the fleets of the world, and mandated the destruction of many older battleships. The Royal Navy alone scrapped over twenty older battleships. No new construction battleship construction (with a couple of exceptions) was to be allowed for 10 years, and replacement of old capital ships was allowed after 20 years of service. The great fleets envisioned by Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom remained on the drawing board, and the taxpayers of the world breathed a sigh of relief. The impact of the Treaty has been much debated, with naval enthusiasts and arms control opponents sneering at its failure to prevent the Second World War. On the other hand, the Treaty surely limited the size of the major navies, saving a lot of money that would have been spent on soon-to-be obsolete battleships. A second Treaty in 1930 further reduced the size of the great navies, leaving the USN and RN with 15 battleships, and the IJN with 9.

None of this particularly affected the status of Yavuz. The Greek Navy operated Kilkis and Lemnos, two old American pre-dreadnoughts, that were no match for the Turkish battlecruiser either alone or in tandem. Yavuz could not claim similar superiority over the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, as the battleship Parizhya Kommuna had arrived in early 1930. Nevertheless, Yavuz gave the Turks rough equality with the Russians. In 1936 Yavuz led a Turkish naval squadron to Malta, an event that helped re-inagurate Anglo-Turkish friendship. This meant that the Turks had little to fear from the far larger Italian Navy.

Yavuz’ obsolencence was confirmed in May 1937 with the commissioning of the French battleship Dunkerque. Dunkerque was the first fast battleship, a new type which closed the space between battleship and battlecruiser. Advances in propulsion and hull technology had allowed naval architects to largely solve the speed vs. armor dilemma. Dunkerque could make 31 knots, faster than any battlecruiser in the world, but had as much armor as a World War I super-dreadnought and a respectable armament. Dunkerque and her kin, under construction in Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, were fast enough to catch Yavuz and powerful enough to kill her.

At 9:05am on November 10, 1938, Ataturk died of cirrhosis of the liver. General stress and a lifetime of heavy drinking had taken their toll. TCG Yavuz bore Ataturk’s body to its final resting place. One of Ataturk’s legacies was a preference for a modest foreign policy, and suspicion of the fascist movements in Italy and Germany. Nevertheless, Turkey remained neutral during World War II until February 1945. Even then, the declaration of war against Germany and Japan had no effect other than to secure Turkey’s position in the United Nations. Bulgaria and Rumania had already left the war, securing the Black Sea, and the rump fascist Italian state no longer possessed a navy in the Mediterranean. TCG Yavuz thus engaged in no combat missions during World War II.

At the end of World War II, most of the navies of the world decommissioned their old battleships. The oldest Royal Navy ships were sent to the scrapyard by 1949. The United States either sank or scrapped its most elderly ships. Yavuz became part of an odd sorority of ancient battleships possessed by second rate navies. Yavuz’ new “sisters” included the Soviet Novorossiysk, the Argentine Rivadavia, the Brazilian Sao Paulo, and the Chilean Almirante Latorre. Even among these Yavuz was an anachronism, as she was the only one to have coal propulsion rather than oil. Nevertheless, Yavuz would remain the flagship of the Turkish Navy as Turkey joined the NATO alliance in 1952.

To be continued…

Kristol Destroys the Resolve Argument

[ 0 ] July 22, 2006 |

Unwittingly:

WALLACE: But isn’t that the result of what’s happened in Iraq?

KRISTOL: No, it’s a result of our deducing from the situation in Iraq that we can’t stand up to Iran. I mean, when we stand up over and over and say Iran is shipping Improvised Explosive Devices into Iraq and killing U.S. soldiers, and Syria’s providing a line for terrorists to come into Iraq and kill U.S. soldiers, and that’s unacceptable. That’s not helpful. And then we do nothing about it. When Ahmadinejad says provocative things, continues to ship arms to Hezbollah, and we say, okay, maybe now we’ll give you direct talks. That, unfortunately, that weakness has been provocative. Ahmadinejad feels emboldened. Now we need to show him, and I think the administration has done a good job the last couple of days of showing him, that he miscalculated. And indeed, this is a great opportunity. I think our weakness, unfortunately, invited this aggression, but this aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups.

What? We invade Iraq, and it invites more aggression? Who could have predicted? Kristol’s point (his lassez faire attitude about the facts notwithstanding) should serve to destroy any notion that aggressive activity can create a reputation for “resolve”. In this case, we have attacked and destroyed the regime in between Syria and Iran. This action, according to Kristol, has resulted in a reputation for weakness on the part of the United States. Why? Because follow-through has been insufficiently aggressive. What Kristol fails to grapple with is we CANNOT control how countries like Iran and Syria view us; they assume that we are weak, and interpret the available evidence accordingly. Wars like Iraq don’t lend themselves to a singular interpretation, as different actors take away different interpretations. It should hardly surprise us that Iran and Syria interpret the attack differently than we do. But it’s nice to see that the premier neocon is admitting that the invasion of Iraq has failed utterly to give the US a reputation for resolve or strength.

The lesson should not be lost on Israel, either. Many have argued that the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 allowed Hezbollah and the Palestinians to conclude that Israel was weak. This is a strange lesson to learn, when you think about it; an eighteen year occupation ends, with relatively low casualties for the occupying power in spite of extremely high casualties for the occupied, and this is supposed to indicate that Israel is weak? More about this later. The question of the day is “what will Hezbollah learn from the current Israeli attacks?” There is zero chance that the bombing will destroy Hezbollah, and an invasion doesn’t stand a much better hope. At some point the Israeli strikes will end, and there will undoubtedly be elements within Hezbollah that say “Look; the Israelis are weak. They bombed us, but then gave up. They invaded, but then went home. This indicates that they have weak resolve”. This is simply not a game that Israel (or the US) can win; you cannot convince an opponent that you have resolve. You can convince someone that you have capability (there’s lots of evidence that Iran toned itself down after 1991, noting how easily the US destroyed the Iraqi Army), but you can’t convince them that you’re tough.

The insistence of a commentator that “resolve” is key is a good indicator of a shallow and amateurish approach to foreign policy.

Death Row, Japan Style

[ 0 ] July 22, 2006 |

Icky.

Prisoners are executed by hanging—a process known to produce “gruesome scenes of slow strangulation and even decapitation.” And prisoners sitting on death row don’t even know when they’ll actually die. No one gives them a date. Prisoners aren’t told “this day will be your last” until the actual morning of their execution, which can come at any time—days or months or decades after their appeals process is exhausted. Their families aren’t notified until after they’re dead. Everyone involved lives under the strain of uncertainty.

Thoughts on Shyamalan…

[ 0 ] July 22, 2006 |

Three observations on the Douhat’s preference of Shyamalan over Nolan, Raimi, and Singer:

1. It’s not reasonable to dismiss films about comic book characters. Spiderman and Batman have as rich a literary heritage as virtually any fictional characters available to us. Directors and actors have much to draw on when creating and rethinking those characters, and can, at the best of times, put together complex, nuanced, three dimensional portrayals. Spiderman 2 is probably the best of the lot; Maguire and Molina in particular do outstanding work giving their characters depth and nuance. That the characters are named Spiderman and Dr. Octopus shouldn’t obscure that fact. The universes are also complex; Batman Begins could have been written by Edmund Burke, and the most powerful moment of Spiderman 2 comes not from any webslinging, but as Peter Parker sits down to eat cake with his next door neighbor. In short, it simply won’t do to give credit to Shyamalan because he “pursues his own vision”; Raimi and Nolan also pursue their visions, and make better movies in the process.

2. The “artist with a singular vision” trope should have been left back in the freshman dorm where it was born. Great art is about both vision and discipline, and for every Magnificent Ambersons (which the studio destroyed) there’s a King Kong or Heaven’s Gate (both cases in which reigning the director in would have resulted in a better movie). I have no sympathy for the idea that directors should be given free reign to do whatever they want, especially after seeing all of the awful scenes that Coppola wanted to include in Apocalypse Now. It’s not even as if Shyamalan is some sort of maverick; he makes movies with big budget actors that drip with sentimentality. He’s not exactly on the cutting edge, making small movies for tiny art house audiences.

3. That said, Shyamalan has his strong points. Watching both Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, you get the sense a) that there’s some real talent here, and b) that this guy has some pretty awful movies in him. Shyamalan does a great job with actors; Willis is very good in the first two, Gibson is supposed to be good in signs, and almost everyone has agreed that Giamatti turns in a fine performance in the latest. A bit of the shine has worn off of Haley Joel Osment, but he was genuinely outstanding in the first film. Shyamalan can also create great set pieces; several scenes in Sixth Sense are terrifying, but there are some even better scenes that manage to convey the inner life of characters without dialogue. That’s some good filmmaking. My favorite Shyamalan (and I really can’t emphasize enough how much I love these scenes) is the first fifteen minutes of Unbreakable. The pathetic effort of Bruce Willis to pick up on the young woman sitting next to him on the train, including his own slow realization of how creepy he’s coming off as, is one of the great uncomfortable moments of American cinema. Shyamalan gives Willis a young child as an audience, so that he knows someone is watching him make a fool of himself. The follow up scene, in which Willis and his family walk into the lobby full of victims’ families, is also very good.

But you also kind of knew that Shyamalan was going to turn in some disastrous efforts. He’s way to fond of using children to convey plot turns, which comes off as both clumsy and sentimental. Even his best sentiment-laden scenes border on dreck; the tearful reconciliation between mother and son at the end of Sixth Sense could have been done much better. Since he depends so much on thick plotting to move his films forward, clumsy and jury-rigged plot elements become particularly evident and glaring, and can really shut the suspension-of-disbelief down when done poorly.

Anyway, I’m not planning to see Lady in the Water, but I’ll be one of the first in line to see Spiderman III.

[ 0 ] July 21, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Stromboli

Gaping in Dumbfounded Awe at the Audacity…

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

Shorter United States Army LTC Ralph Kauzlarich: Pat Tillman’s parents are only unhappy about the death of their son and the subsequent Army coverup of that event because they aren’t Christian.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: “When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more- that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans’ religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, “I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.”

Yeah. Because of their lack of religious faith, the Tillman’s don’t trust the system. Pat, who was also an atheist, clearly didn’t believe in anything. He gave up a lucrative NFL career to go fight in Afghanistan for… some reason.

Read the rest. Mike Fish and ESPN have done a good job; Fish conveys very well the life of a Ranger platoon in Afghanistan. The Army is clearly at fault here, not because Tillman died (these things, sadly, happen) but because of the subsequent efforts at covering its own ass.

Via Bloodless Coup. More from Attaturk.

Weisberg Should Take a Vacation

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

Jacob Weisberg has decided that the most critical journalistic task surrounding the Israel-Lebanon War is the absolving of George W. Bush:

We do know enough, however, to divide responsibility for the current war among these players: Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. This has not stopped many analysts in Europe and the United States from laying blame for the violence squarely at a less obvious doorstep—that of the Bush administration.

I’m not sure why Israel escapes all blame, either, especially as the many analysts blaming Bush are also blaming Israel, but that’s not the key point. After all the idiocy being deployed on the Right in the last few days (is this World War III, or World War IV, etc.), and with all the productive commentary that could be made about the crisis, Weisberg thinks that his bandwidth is best spent defending George Bush from his leftist critics. As it happens, I don’t even wholly disagree; it’s hard to draw a clear line of responsibility to the Bush White House, and some have probably been too ready to make connections. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see what Weisberg thinks an important contribution really is.

Via Mrs. Coulter, via Dan.

Clarification: To be sure, Weisberg can write anything he wants, and I bristle when people suggest, for example, that LGM should be covering some issue or another. But this is part of a pattern with Weisberg; regardless of the issue, he seems to find a way to attack liberals, rather than bother with conservatives who are making egregious and unsupportable claims.

The Czechs are Scaring Me

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

I’m sure that everyone recalls this recruitment video for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (you just can’t watch it enough, really). At the apparently resurrected Defense Statecraft, Macgyver has assembled recruiting videos for the Czech Army, the Irish Army, and the Philippine Marine Corps.

The Czech Army looks badass…

Sink or Scrap?

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

In April 2005 the USN sank USS America, a Kitty Hawk class supercarrier, off Virginia in order to determine how resilient US carriers were to particular kinds of attacks. In May of this year USS Oriskany was sunk to create an artificial reef. According to Defense News, USS Belleau Wood (an amphibious assault ship) and USS Forrestal (the first supercarrier) will be sunk within the next year. Why the sudden interest in sinking aircraft carriers?

Apparently, the cost of scrap metal has crashed to the point that it is now cheaper to sink old ships than to scrap them (Forrestal would cost $65 million to scrap, and only $25 million to sink). 19 old Spruance class destroyers, for example, have been sunk while only five have been scrapped. Scrapping older ships also raises certain environmental concerns; French efforts to scrap the old carrier Clemenceau have run into all kinds of obstacles. Initially, Turkey refused to scrap the ship. After France sold the carrier to an Indian company for scrapping, Greenpeace lodged a series of protests regarding the ship’s transit through the Suez Canal and eventual dismantling. Clemenceau made it through the Canal, only to be refused by the Indians and sent back to France, where it currently rusts.

Defense News indicates that USN procedures for decontaminating old ships have improved to the degree that disposal at sea doesn’t pose a hazard. I’m a little bit suspicious of this; the bulk of the sinkings seem to have taken place since 2001, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that either EPA standards had been gutted or enforcement has become lax. What Rumsfeld wants, Rumsfeld gets, especially when environmental concerns are the only obstacle.

Still, kind of an interesting phenomenon. The French are apparently asking for advice about how to dispose of their old ships, as are the British. I suppose that an end at sea is a little bit more poetic than the final trip to the scrapping yard.

3149 Dead Iraqi Civilians

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

…in June alone.

Predicted wingnut reactions:

1. Still better than Saddam (which is true, if you wildly inflate estimate of the death toll under Saddam).
2. It’s the fault of Iran (these are the wingnuts who remain optimistic).
3. It’s the fault of the Iraqis (these are the wingnuts who are ready to move on to “Exterminate the Bastards”).
4. It’s the fault of the Democrats, except Joe Lieberman (all wingnuts will hew to this one).
5. Lies. All lies.

… in comments, FMGuru adds:

6. It still compares favorably to living in Detroit/Washington DC/some other city.
7. The spike in the death numbers shows just how desperate the terrorist resistance has become, and is a measure of [how] close President Bush’s strategy is to total victory.
8. Something something BILL CLINTON something.
9. Look! Over there! Two homos are fixin’ to get married!
10. What are we still talking about Iraq? That’s so last year. Now, about this mexicofascist reconquista…
11. You’re ugly and your butt smells and you like to smell your own butt.
12. Someone said something outre in a comment section somewhere! WHY WON’T LIBERAL BLOGS TAKE A STAND ON THIS?!??

… more substantively, it’s beginning to look as if Iraqi death rates are increasing while American casualty rates are stabilizing. This leads me to believe that (as Max Boot has suggested) American forces are becoming increasingly disconnected from the actual fighting in Iraq. The characteristics of the recent attacks (on either side) make this look a lot more like a civil war than a fight against terrorists or a traditional insurgency.

Seeking Answers to Stupid Questions

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

The way in which Google Ads changes to reflect page content is always kind of fun to follow. The last couple days, presumably in response to several Israel-centric posts, we seem to be getting large numbers of ads for dating sites featuring “Single Jewish Women”. This makes me wonder if I’m missing some stereotypes, especially given that I’m not at all convinced that there are indeed large numbers of single Jewish women “in my area”.

1. Is there a large, untapped reservoir of single Jewish women?
2. Is there, conversely, a shortage of single Jewish men?
3. Are there lots of gentile men especially seeking Jewish women?
4. Are Jewish women big in lesbian circles?
5. Is there something about LGM that makes the engine believe that its more likely to be read by Jewish men, or gentile men seeking Jewish women, than by Jewish women?

UPDATE: An authority on the subject seems to think that 1,2, and 5 are true for a variety of reasons.

Craptastic Memorial

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

On a subject completely unrelated to Israel and Lebanon…

I didn’t care for the National World War II Memorial, and I’m a big fan of World War II. One commenter suggested that it looks kind of like something that Albert Speer would have designed, but I don’t think that’s quite right. Albert Speer would, at least, have come up with something comprehensible and impressive. The World War II Memorial is neither.

The first problem is that the design is virtually incomprehensible. The gold stars are apparently representative of American war dead, 100 for each star, but the symbolic connection between a gold star and a hundred dead soliders is counter-intuitive and strikes me as inappropriate. Gold stars have several different meanings in American culture, and previous to the WWII Memorial I don’t believe any of them had anything to do with war dead.

The basic layout is a little bit better, as I can understand the reasoning behind the division between the European and Pacific theaters of operation. The citadels on either side include inscriptions commemorating major battles in each theater, which reminded me of the Arc De Triomphe. Unfortunately, the inscriptions don’t tell us anything important about the major battles, and give little sense (either concrete or abstract) as to how the campaigns played out, and why the particular battles were meaningful.

The worst part of the design is its most noticeable element, the 56 pillars around the plaza. Each pillar represents a state or territory. The official reason given for the erection of the pillars is to “celebrate the unprecedented unity of the nation during WWII”. This doesn’t make a bloody bit of sense, and I almost have to wonder if the architect was some sort of states’ rights fanatic. The states played virtually no independent role in the war; mobilization was carried out on a national scale, no state (other than Oregon) was attacked, and the major units had no particular connection to individual states (other than through the naming of battleships). Nevertheless, the most immediately apparent part of the design is this tribute to the individual states, as if World War II had been conducted in 1845 instead of 1945. Especially in the context of an increasingly mobile population (my grandparents lived in four different states during the war alone, and training was conducted on a national, not state, basis) the kind of connection that this memorial tries to evoke is simply artificial. No one fought and died in World War II out of loyalty to Utah, or New Hampshire, or Arkansas. The centrality of the state memorials to the design is an anachronism; it makes sense in the context of a Civil War memorial, but not a World War II Memorial. Moreover, the placement of the state markers isn’t even done well. Alaska and the Philippines are, for some reason, on the ETO half of the memorial. The markers are placed in order of entry to the Union which, while defensible in the abstract, has nothing whatsoever to do with American participation in the Second World War.

On to the second big weakness of the design, its genuinely unimpressive character. I understand why no one wanted to build something big and imposing on the site of the Memorial. A triumphal arch wouldn’t have been such a bad idea somewhere else, but a 160′ monument in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument would have been unpopular with a lot of people. I’m actually think that a triumphal arch would have been fine even where the World War II Memorial currently stands (you could have recessed it into the ground a bit), but that’s probably a minority view. Given that, and given the importance of World War II both in US history (it marks the global ascendance of the US) and world history, I think it would have been appropriate to build an impressive monument somewhere else. On the other hand, the sole virtue that the World War II Memorial seems to have is that it doesn’t disrupt the Mall. But, if that’s the only thing you’re looking for in a monument, then you really oughtn’t to build one; good monuments are very bad at being inconspicuous.

Anyway, I thought it was terrible. Maybe I’m just really into triumphal arches, but I think that a well-designed one would have been fine between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Another alternative would have been two arches, one representing the PTO and one the ETO, on the north and south flanks of the Reflecting Pool. Or maybe not. But there had to be something out there better than what was eventually decided upon.

UPDATE: Apparently there is an established relationship between gold stars and World War II war dead. My bad…

Page 363 of 471« First...102030...361362363364365...370380390...Last »