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[ 0 ] September 27, 2006 |

Yglesias on Peretz on France:

French dovishness comes down to one war — Iraq, part deux — that France didn’t want to fight, and that France was right not to want to fight.

France’s “rep” for weakness and appeasement comes, of course, from World War II. But in 1938, France was the non-axis country most eager to fight Germany. Going to war without the support of England, the USSR, or the United States would have been a horrible policy. Once their British ally was on board, they fought. They lost, of course, but the contrast between France, the UK, and the USA in this regard is that France was located adjacent to Germany without a convenient stretch of ocean to block the Nazi advance.

It should also be noted that the Soviet Union survived the German invasion by giving up several France sized chunks of its territory and a number of dead equal to about half of France’s entire population. The supposed “dovishness” of France is a topic I invariably mention in lecture, usually while citing the following statistic:

French military deaths, August 1914-November 1918: 1,375,800
US military deaths, April 1775-present: 1,012,000



[ 0 ] September 27, 2006 |

Bob Bergen of the CDFAI (Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute) is irritated:

The left wing in Canada has been doing its level best to equate Canadian foreign and defence policyunder Prime Minister Stephen Harper with American President George Bush for some time now. But a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) making headlines across Canada has broken shameless new ground implying that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are little more cannon fodder.

Bergen is referring to a report by Stephen Staples and Bill Robinson that purports to show that Canadian troops are more likely than any other nationality (adjusted for size of deployment) to be killed or wounded in Afghanistan, and thus are disproportionately at risk. Bergen’s basic point is sound; Staples and Robinson draw conclusions from a sample that is really too small to support the contentions that they’re trying to make. They then use those conclusions to make political arguments relying on the implication that Canadian soldiers are being used by US and NATO commanders in particularly dangerous situations, a contention that again isn’t sufficiently supported by the statistical evidence or by a qualitative assessment (the latter regarding US forces, at least; Canadians may in fact be engaging in more dangerous Afghani missions than other NATO allies).

Bergen undercuts himself by analogizing to World War II, however. Apparently, the desperate need to link any given conflict to the struggle against fascism in World War II is not limited to wingnuts in the United States. Bergen writes:

Just one historical will demonstrate what is wrong with such an analysis. On August 19, 1942, 4,963 Canadians were sent to attack the beach at Dieppe, France, in the first major Canadian action of the Second World War. Of them, 907 were killed and 1,946 remained hostage.To compare that death rate on the very worst day of the war to American casualties or to calculate that,based on that experience, Canada would lose an extrapolated number soldiers over the war’s duration if the rate were to remain unchanged would be pure folly.

Here’s a tip; if you’re trying to make the argument that Canadian forces aren’t being used as cannon fodder, it’s best not to bring up Dieppe. The Dieppe raid of August 19 was planned and staged by Lord Mountbatten in an effort to convince the Russians that the Western Allies were serious about a Second Front, to draw Axis attention away from North Africa, and hopefully to draw either the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine into battle. The attack used primarily Canadian soldiers and was an unmitigated disaster, as the Germans slaughtered many and captured more. Over half the Canadian participants were lost. Incidentally, I would also rate the defense of Hong Kong (2000 Canadian troops were deployed in October and November of 1941 to a hopeless position) as the first major Canadian action of World War II.

In any case, it’s my understanding the the spectacularly inept planning and execution of the Dieppe Raid has long been controversial in Canada, precisely because of the concern the Canadian soldiers were being used as cannon fodder.


[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

The interview isn’t really playing to Stewart’s strengths (he’s invariably docile when faced with authority), but I’m fascinated that it’s happening at all; the President of Pakistan (who took power in a military coup) is chatting with an American comedian about Pakistan’s realpolitik calculus following 9/11, including a consideration of the possibility of military conflict with the United States.

We live in interesting times.


[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

I have been preparing to write a post-mortem for the Reds, but it seems that, somehow, they’re only three games back pending the outcome of tonight’s St. Louis-San Diego game. It would be unseemly to write the post-mortem, then see them win the Central. I will say, though, that it sure would have been great to have Felipe Lopez’ .282/.362/.361 instead of Royce Clayton’s .234/.288/.326, not to mention Austin Kearns’ .251/.382/.431 instead of the rogue’s gallery that they’ve put in the outfield.


[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked to a story at Strategy Page that, if I may summarize, said that things are going great in Iraq and our troops are “mystified” that the media reports otherwise. Setting aside any effort to evaluate that claim, I had to wonder how many times, in the last three years, that Reynolds has linked to a story that was in all essentials identical to this one. I’m not masochistic enough to dig through his archives, but a quick glance at my memory seems to indicate “hundreds of times”. I wonder, are there bloggers on the right who do nothing but say “things are fine, and the troops wonder why the media says differently” in new and exciting ways in the hopes of an Instalaunch?

Forgotten American Blogging

[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

Philip Vera Cruz.

Revised Idiocy of the Day (Farley Edition)

[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

Robert Kagan:

I would worry about an American foreign policy driven only by fear of how our actions might inspire anger, radicalism and violence in others. As in the past, that should be only one calculation in our judgment of what does and does not make us, and the world, safer.

How hard is it, really, to grasp the fact that these two concerns are inextricably linked? If American foreign policy inspires anger, radicalism, and violence in others then it obviously makes us and the world less safe. This effect may in balance be less significant than whatever other objectives our foreign policy has, but it’s incontestable that inspiring anger and violence ought to be part of the “safety” calculation.

Via Drum.

…as Jackdaw points out in comments, I have obviously misinterpreted even the selection that I quoted from Kagan’s article. Apologies on this point are owed to Dr. Kagan. This is why we should always read things twice before posting them.

Mercy Killing

[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

David Corn euthanizes Christopher Hitchens.

For more than two decades, I have seen Hitchens weave facts and assertions into stylistically brilliant copy as he attempts to intuit great truths. But when he comes to believe that he can outthink the facts, he ends up enwrapped in creative conspiratorial fantasies. This past February, I participated in a radio debate with him on whether the Bush administration had misguided the nation into war. Hitchens largely avoided the question at hand and instead argued the necessity of the invasion. When he did address the issue of the absent WMDs in Iraq, he took a strange turn. “Doesn’t anything ever strike you as odd,” he said, “about the figure of zero for [WMD] deposits found in Iraq? … Isn’t it odd that none after all this? None? Doesn’t that suggest a crime scene that has been pretty well dusted in advance, the fingerprints wiped? Well, it does to me.” Read that quote carefully. It is revealing. Hitchens was saying that the fact that no weapons had been uncovered in Iraq (after nearly three years of searching) was evidence that there had been weapons. How can one argue with a person of such intellectual prowess that he can turn absence into presence by mere deduction?

Hitchens responds (appropriately, I think):

Incidentally, I begin to tire of this sickly idea that I used to be a great guy until I became fed up with excuses for dictators and psychopathic murderers (let alone for mediocre CIA fantasists). Alexander Cockburn is surely nearer the mark when he says that I was a complete shit and traitor all along.

I’ve been of the opinion that Hitchens was a complete shit all along, even if he did manage the occasional catchy phrase, but he’s surely correct that guys like Corn shouldn’t waste time mooning over what he once was and crying about what he’s now become, which is an apologist for torturers and psychopathic warlords (let alone for mediocre blogging fantasists).

Can’t We Reach Out?

[ 0 ] September 25, 2006 |

Mel Gibson’s anti-semitic tirade wasn’t quite enough to drive away Michael Medved, who wrote at the time:

Rather than driving this tormented, self-destructive, deeply disturbed but vastly talented artist into the arms of active Jew-haters (like his father), wouldn’t it make more sense to try to reach out to him at a moment of vulnerability and disgrace? The Jewish community need not approach the tarnished star with a message of “poor baby, all is forgiven” but it makes sense to offer at least some ladder to help him crawl out of the dank pit he has dug for himself.

I wonder, what could Mel say that would drive Medved irrevocably from his side? Hmm…

Mr. Gibson’s antiwar remarks immediately raised a red flag for conservative fans of his “The Passion of the Christ.”

In a phone interview today, the conservative radio talk show host and columnist Michael Medved said: “If these antiwar comments are the beginning of an ill-considered, organized campaign to get back into the good graces of the Hollywood establishment that gave him the Oscar for ‘Braveheart,’ so he can show he’s not different from them and march arm-in-arm with Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, there will be a great deal of disgust from the people who have enjoyed Mel’s movies in the past.”

“Hack” doesn’t quite cover it. Nor do “insipid”, or “intellectually dishonest”, or “mindblowingly moronic”.


[ 0 ] September 25, 2006 |

Chock full o’ futuriness (via Defense News, subscription required):

China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory in what experts see as a test of Chinese ability to blind the spacecraft, according to sources. It remains unclear how many times a ground-based laser was tested against U.S. spacecraft or whether it was successful.

But the combination of China’s efforts and advances in Russian satellite-jamming capabilities that illustrate vulnerabilities to the U.S. space network are driving U.S. Air Force plans to develop new space architectures and highly classified systems, according to sources.

This is interesting not just from a military point of view (the PRC is obviously testing its capacity to nullify US technological advantages, just as Russia has done in the past and just as, in a very different way, Iraqi insurgents are doing in Iraq today), but also from a sociological perspective. When facing a profound disadvantage in one area or another of military capability, states often fall victim to the temptation to narrow the inequality through mirroring procurement decisions. For example, the US and the USSR most often responded to each others developments in military science by creating capabilities that mirrored their opponent. This wasn’t always the case, but it happened a lot. Similarly, the Anglo-German naval race of 1900-1914 was essentially a “mirror” effort, as the Germans tried to equal the Royal Navy battlefleet rather than finding ways to nullify it. The same thing happened in South America, as each of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil acquired expensive battleships when smaller, less costly vessels might have proven sufficient. There is certainly a sociological imperative to engage in this kind of behavior, as possession of the most modern types of weapons conveys, both internationally and domestically, prestige and a sense of what might be termed “modern state-hood”.

China’s defense procurement, by and large, does not seem driven by this logic. Instead, China seems to be actively thinking about and planning for a war with the United States over Taiwan, a project which, among other things, must be regarded as quite sensible from the Chinese point of view. Instead of trying to equal US naval capabilities, the PLAN is working hard to develop the means to kill US carriers, thus largely nullifying the US naval advantage. In response to “network-centric” warfare that relies heavily on satellite communications, the Chinese are thinking about how to break the US system, rather than how to replicate it.

I find this deeply fascinating. Chinese procurement seems driven, more than anything else, by the need to create the operational capacity to seize Taiwan and fend off US intervention. This hardly seems a devastating insight, but it’s interesting given how little a US-PRC war over Taiwan, or even a PRC seizure of Taiwan, seems to make sense. There are a dozen reasons why fighting over Taiwan would be a terrible idea from the Chinese point of view, but the PRC nevertheless is procuring weapons and developing capabilities oriented around just such a war. Indeed, the Chinese seem to be focusing on this problem at the expense of the other reason to acquire big ticket, expensive weaponry, which is international and domestic prestige. This is why, although I concur that there are many reasons we shouldn’t expect a war over Taiwan, I can’t be as sanguine as some about its probability.

Good Line

[ 0 ] September 24, 2006 |


When, on CNN, Alexander M. Haig Jr., the former secretary of state for President Ronald Reagan, belittled the report as the product of liberal journalists, Richard C. Holbrooke, the United Nations ambassador under Mr. Clinton, said it was an astonishing thought that the nation’s entire intelligence apparatus might be doing the bidding of Democrats.

Of the various cartoonish absurdities that we’ve had to endure over the past six years, the idea (cherished among wingnuts and their political representatives) that the CIA, FBI, and the other major intelligence organizations of the United States government are shot through with raving left-wing Chomskyites must rank among the most unlikely. Haig and others would have us believe that the Central Intelligence Agency has been operating, essentially, as an arm of the Democratic Party for the last six years, except maybe during the brief period in which the CIA inflated the WMD estimates, and even that can perhaps be written off as originating from the Lieberman faction. That the CIA, banned from some of the more liberal college campuses in America, recruits right of center candidates by both structure and inclination can conveniently be ignored. Reality cannot run counter to the claims of the Republican Party, whether that reality is reported by the CIA or by CNN. Any evidence of divergence is due solely to bias, ill will, and anti-Americanism.

Remember, the facts are biased.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HIJMS Hyuga

[ 0 ] September 24, 2006 |

The Imperial Japanese Navy was not completely satisfied with its first effort at super-dreadnoughts, the Fuso class. Japanese naval architects slightly modified the design to include more protection and a higher speed, resulting in the battleships Hyuga and Ise. Completed in September 1918, Hyuga carried 12 14″ guns in six twin turrets, displaced about 33000 tons, and could make 23.5 knots. The IJN preferred the six twin mounts to the four triple mounts typical to American ships because the former allowed a longer, narrower hull and thus a higher speed. Unfortunately, it also resulted in less extensive protection (armor spread across a larger area) and in an inefficient distribution of magazines and machinery. Nevertheless, Hyuga was an effective ship, carrying a heavier armament than Queen Elizabeth and faster than her American counterparts. Like most Japanese battleships, Hyuga led an uneventful interwar career, with the exception of a reconstruction between 1934 and 1937 that improved her protection and increased her speed to 25 knots.

In spite of her relatively high speed for an old battleship, Hyuga was not employed during the initial Japanese offensive of 1941 and 1942. Hyuga’s first action came in April 1942. An American carrier task force, led by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and including the USS Enterprise and the USS Hornet, launched 16 B-25 medium bombers in an operation intended to bring the war to the Japanese home islands. Hyuga, Ise, Fuso, and Yamashiro were detailed to intercept the American task force, but found only a Russian freighter travelling from San Francisco to Vladivostok. Disappointed, the Japanese ships returned to port. A month later Hyuga suffered an explosion during gunnery practice that killed 51 sailors and nearly resulted in the loss of the ship. Hyuga’s #5 turret, now inoperable, was removed and replaced with anti-aircraft guns. In June, again in concert with her sister Ise, Hyuga participated in the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Unfortunately for the IJN, the concurrent operation to invade Midway Island resulted in disaster and the loss of four aircraft carriers.

The devastating losses at Midway left the IJN searching for ideas to increase carrier deck space. The first plans envisioned a full conversion of the older battleships, leaving no main armament and a deck capable of operating 54 conventional aircraft. The IJN decided that this would take too long, and instead opted for a half-measure in which the aft two turrets of Hyuga and Ise would be removed and replaced with a flight deck, hangar, and catapults. While Hyuga and Ise could not equal a fleet or even a light carrier, and were not expected to carry the most modern aircraft, it was hoped that they would ease the load of the surviving carriers, especially in regards to recon aircraft. Because the flight deck was short, the 22 aircraft that Hyuga could launch would need to land on either a normal carrier or a land base. The Japanese also converted the incomplete Yamato class battleship Shinano into an aircraft carrier support vessel, designed to carry only about 50 aircraft but with enough space for fuel, ammunition, and machine shops to support a full carrier task force. Hyuga began her conversion in late 1942 and completed in in late 1943. Heavy concrete was added to the flight deck in order to compensate for the loss of weight and to increase structural stability.

Although Hyuga launched aircraft in various tests, in practice there were simply not enough trained pilots to fill the deck space of the existing Japanese carriers. Thus, the flight deck was not used as intended during operations. Instead, rockets and additional anti-aircraft weapons were installed. In October 1944, Hyuga, her sister Ise, and four remaining Japanese carriers were deployed, under the command of Admiral Ozawa, as a decoy force intended to draw Halsey’s Third Fleet away from Leyte Island and allow Admiral Kurita’s surface force to destroy the American transports. The first part of this operation was more or less successful, as American aircraft attacked Ozawa’s force, destroying the four carriers and lightly damaging Hyuga. Hyuga retired, avoiding attacks from at least four different USN submarines along the way.

Following Leyte Gulf, Hyuga was deployed to Southeast Asia. In February 1945, narrowly avoiding multiple air and submarine attacks, she and her sister Ise returned to Japan. No fuel and no ammunition meant that Hyuga would not play an active role in the rest of the war. On July 24, 1945 American aircraft attacked Hyuga and sank her in shallow water. She was scrapped over the course of the next two years.

Trivia: What was the first battleship to be armed with guided missiles?

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