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"We burn the Poles"

[ 0 ] November 29, 2005 |

One of my few moments that I have truly enjoyed myself at a political science conference came during the late 1990s on a panel somewhere in Southern California. The topic of the panel was nuclear proliferation, and I seem to recall that I was giving some paper on the effect of Sino-American rapproachment on the Pakistani nuclear program. The chair of the panel took it upon himself to explain pre-emption to the audience (one young scholar gave a very bad paper trying to describe nuclear warfare as a game of Chicken) and got onto the topic of the use of nuclear weapons in Europe in the context of a NATO-Warsaw Pact general war. “In this scenario” he said, with a deep German accent, “we burn the Poles, the Hungarians, and the Germans; well, maybe not the Germans, and they burn the Belgians and the French, and hopefully we do not burn each other.” It occured to me at the time to think about how bizarre this truly was; we were thinking about using American nuclear weapons not just against Russian civilians, who, of course, could hardly be blamed for the behavior of their government, but also against Polish civilians whose only crime had been to be enslaved by the Russians. And the use of the word “burn” really brought the point home. Ethics and nuclear war don’t go well together.

This article reminded me of that panel. It seems that the Polish Defense Minister, irritated in some fashion by the Russians, has gone and decided to publish various Warsaw Pact plans for war against NATO. One plan in particular involved a Russian nuclear attack on Western Europe either in response to or in expectation of a Western nuclear attack on Poland. According to the article, this is supposed to embarass the Russians and cause a further rift in Russo-Polish relations.

I’ll confess that I don’t really see what the fuss is. Of course the Soviets contemplated war plans that would result in the destruction of their allies; so did we. Also, it’s hardly news that the Russians had somewhat less regard for and trust of their Eastern European allies than we did of out Western European friends. Nevertheless, it’s a mildly interesting bit of news, although really a lot less interesting than the revelation a few years ago that the central task of Polish forces in a general war would be the “liberation” of Denmark.


[ 0 ] November 29, 2005 |

We can’t let the terrorists know that we’re incompetent. Letting that little secret out could lead to disaster.

Cope India 2006

[ 0 ] November 28, 2005 |

F-16s flying against Su-30s? My heart beats faster…

Cope India 2002 focused on airlift operations. The 2004 joint exercise involved F-15s and a variety of Indian aircraft, including SU-30s. The surprising this about Cope India 2004 was that the Indians won; it has been remarked that they won because the USAF threw the game in order to provide a better case for the F-22. Indeed, the 2004 exercise was clearly cooked in favor of the Indians, who were able to fly with superior numbers and more tactical flexibility.

Now they’ve played again, and it looks as if the Indians have won again. The IAF is flying some pretty advanced aircraft, including the Su-30, which some argue is the most advanced aircraft in the world outside of the F-22. However, the Indians are also flying refurbished Mig-21s, which are probably somewhat more advanced than a F-4. You can continue to color me skeptical about the actual effectiveness of the IAF against the USAF. The most important thing to remember is that the USAF has an incentive to lose with both its F-16s and F-15s; it wants new aircraft, and it does not want to showcase its best tactics in an arena accessible to potential foes. Now, whether those considerations outweigh concerns about institutional pride and, frankly, fighter jock arrogance remains unclear.

Still, such exercises can only please the PLAAF, which has an undetermined but growing stable of Su-30 fighters, as well as many older models.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Michigan

[ 0 ] November 27, 2005 |

Dreadnought was the first modern battleship completed, but not the first designed. That honor went to a pair of American battleships, South Carolina and Michigan. Larger only than the Espana class dreadnoughts, Michigan minimally, if efficiently, fulfilled the requirements of a dreadnought battleship. Congress limited the size of Michigan to more or less the same as that of the Connecticut class pre-dreadnought battleships, about 16000 tons, or 2500 tons smaller than Dreadnought. Onto that small frame the architects managed to pack 8 12″ guns in four twin turrets. The most advanced element of the design was turret distribution. While most other navies played with wing turrents (gun turrets set off the center line, and thus incapable of firing a broadside in either direction), Michigan was built with superfiring turrets, where the second turret on each side of the ship was elevated above the first. This allowed all of the guns to fire in a broadside in either direction. This arrangement was maintained in the rest of the US battleship fleet, and eventually spread to the rest of the world’s navies.

Unfortunately, because of her small size Michigan lacked the machinery to make more than 18 knots. Dreadnought, on the other hand, could make 21 knots. The next class of American battleships (and all that followed them) could also make 21 knots, which had the effect of rendering South Carolina and Michigan obsolete shortly after their completion. Unable to keep up with the main US battle squadron, Michigan would best have been employed as reinforcement for a squadron of pre-dreadnoughts. In any case, Michigan never saw combat outside of the action off Vera Cruz in 1914, when Woodrow Wilson unleashed most of the firepower of the US Navy against a small Mexican city. Michigan was taken out of service shortly after World War I, and was scrapped as per the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty.

Michigan and South Carolina were also notable for being the first US battleships constructed with cage masts. Earlier US ships had been built with more conventional masts, although by 1910 most had been refitted with cage masts. Cage masts distinguished American ships from those of any other navy in the world. They were extremely fire resistant (shells simply passed through them), but tended to restrict angles of fire for anti-aircraft guns, although this was not an important consideration in 1908. Every battleship up until West Virginia (completed in 1922) carried cage masts. The experience of Michigan also, indirectly, helped lead to the end of the cage mast era. In 1918, gale force winds bent the forward mast of Michigan all the way down to the deck. US battleships modernized during the interwar period lost their cage masts, although four of the ships at Pearl Harbor (California, Tennessee, Maryland, and West Virginia) still had theirs on the day of the attack. Two ships (Maryland and Colorado) would retain their cage masts all the way until their disposal dates in 1959.

What do you mean "Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic" doesn’t fill my social science requirement?

[ 0 ] November 25, 2005 |

Urgh. Fortunately, I missed this.

The suit, scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 12 in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, says many of Calvary’s best students are at a disadvantage when they apply to the university because admissions officials have refused to certify several of the school’s courses on literature, history, social studies and science that use curriculums and textbooks with a Christian viewpoint.

The lawyer for the school, Robert Tyler, said reviewing and approving the course content was an intrusion into private education that amounted to government censorship. “They are trying to secularize private Christian schools,” Mr. Tyler said. “They have taken God out of public schools. Now they want to do it at Christian schools.”


A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity’s Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers.

The suggestion that refusing to recognize as legitimate quasi-courses built around Christianity constitutes unfair discrimination is rather new to me. As far as I’m concerned, Christians should feel free to educate their children in any manner they see fit, and if their courses fail to measure up to collegiate standards, then too bad. This is what happens when you decide to wage war on secular knowledge and general education standards. The price of demanding absolute ideological conformity from your kids is idiot children.

I’m certainly not looking forward to that first student who asks why I haven’t included any texts on the special place of the American Republic in God’s plan in my American Foreign Policy class. Since I predominantly teach graduate and professional students, hopefully it will be quite a while.

Via Jaundice James.

[ 0 ] November 25, 2005 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Bud

New Look

[ 1 ] November 23, 2005 |

We have a new look. If you notice any serious problems (causes seizures, can’t read the font, won’t load up or looks really weird on a particular browser), please advise in comments.

Aesthetic comments are also welcome.

UPDATE: And thanks very much to Shakes’ Sis for the nifty new logo!

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ 0 ] November 23, 2005 |

Happy Turkey Day, all. Expect light posting until Sunday or Monday.

Two Level Game?

[ 0 ] November 22, 2005 |


Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration.

A subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices. It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Mass Energy Consumer Alliance.

The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez’s government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.


I wonder what Chavez’ angle on this is. I suppose that one could hope that supplying poor Americans with oil would lead to constraints on US diplomatic aggressiveness. On the other hand, it seems like this could just piss Bush and the wingnuts off beyond all reason. Think about it; what move could be more calculated to make a wingnut’s head explode than the prospect of an alliance between Venezuela and Massachusetts?

Kentucky Kernel

[ 0 ] November 21, 2005 |

With this mention in the Kentucky Kernel, I’d like to think that my reputation as a public intellectual is secured. Look out, Christopher Hitchens.

For the record, I seem to recall my statements being more coherent than what the paper indicated. Damn, dirty MSM.

Chinese Missiles

[ 0 ] November 21, 2005 |

Budding Sinologist has put together an excellent post on Chinese ballistic missiles and their presumed effect on Taiwanese resistance. Long story short, it is extremely unlikely that China could defeat Taiwan through a ballistic missile attack alone.

Simply put, the combined warhead capacity of 467 CSS-6 and CSS-7 SRBMs (1,100 pounds each) is the equivalent of only 9.5 Vietnam era B-52 sorties (54,000 pounds each). Even if all 700 SRBMs were used and all reached their targets, it would only equal 14 sorties. To look at it another way, the 700 SRBMs would only total 385 tons of high explosives, compared with the hundreds of thousands of tons dropped on Vietnam, for example.

One implication of this is that it makes little sense for Taiwan to spend its defense money on ballistic missile defenses, since the expected return would appear to be minimal.

I do have a couple caveats. First, I’m curious about the hardness of the targets that China would be attacking. It goes to reason that an attack on Taiwan would focus on political, military, and perhaps commercial centers. I would expect that buildings of the first two types will be resistant to high explosive warheads, and thus that damage may be less significant than what the Chinese hope. If the Chinese focus on commercial or symbolic targets they probably need to be a little bit less worried about target resilience, but they’ve also given up just about any hope of victory. Terror bombing never wins wars.

My second question involves the use of ballistic missiles in conjunction with an invasion of Taiwan. My guess is that in the event of an invasion China will focus its ballistic missile resources on the destruction of Taiwanese command and control. I would really like to know how disruptive such an attack might be, but it is, unfortunately, a very hard question to answer.

Phosphorous and Uranium

[ 0 ] November 21, 2005 |

Armchair Generalist has had an outstanding series of posts on the use of white phosporous munitions in Iraq. I tend to concur that this isn’t much of a story; WP munitions are not WMD by any definition, and while their use may be unwise, it’s certainly not illegal. AG has gives a nice discussion of the use of depleted uranium in munitions, which I view as another non-story.

Falluja, and the rest of the war, is bad enough without having distracting conversations about the use of particular chemicals in combat. Really, it doesn’t matter that much whether someone gets torn apart by lead or incinerated in a building. The problem has another source.

UPDATE: Good discussion of white phosphorous here. Also, forgive me for posting this cool picture.

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