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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.

On National Resistance and Inevitability

[ 0 ] November 21, 2005 |

jonst poses a good question, one that echoes other arguments made about the Iraqi insurgency:

I would argue there is nothing in Iraq’s history…at least since the fall of Ottoman Empire, that indicates occupation by outside (non-belivers at that)forces it will be met by anything other than resistance.

There’s something to be said for this, but I think it’s wrong. Given that I sat on a panel on the future of the Iraq War put on by the College Democrats and UK Leftist Student Union (who knew?) on Friday, it’s probably worth working through why.

First, I’m suspicious of any argument about inevitability. I think that there was more cause to view widespread Afghani resistance to occupation as likely or inevitable than Iraqi resistance. However serious the conflict in Afghanistan remains, we have not seen a widespread anti-US insurgency. The elements fighting against the central government in Afghanistan would be fighting regardless of the presence of American and European troops. Indeed, the relatively wide acceptance of US and European occupation in Afghanistan has been the (only?) pleasant surprise of the War on Terror. It’s very hard to argue that national resistance was more likely in Iraq than Afghanistan.

More importantly, we simply haven’t seen a national resistance movement in Iraq. It’s possible that, if the United States remains there for ten years, wide swaths of Shiite and Kurdish opinion will turn against the occupation and people will begin to take risks to force it out. However, with the exception of some flare ups in Shiite areas, this hasn’t happen. Shiites may not like the occupation, but by and large they seem willing to tolerate it, especially as it is consistent with their own political goals. Now, I think that the United States could do a lot of things that would result in Shiite opposition, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, in answer to jonst’s point, the occupation already has been met by reaction other than resistance.

Right now the war is not between the United States and Iraq. It is between the United States, US allies in Shiite and Kurdish regions, and a Sunni insurgency. That’s not national resistance; it has the character of a civil war with an ethnic/religious component with control of the Iraqi state as the spoils. In this context, tactics and operations matter. We’re not fighting all Iraqis. The Iraqis we are fighting are popular with some elements of the Iraqi population and not popular with others. It’s possible for the US Army and Marine Corps to adopt and execute tactics that will be more likely to defeat elements of the insurgency.

None of this means that withdrawal from Iraq isn’t the best option. I think that it probably is. Counter-insurgent forces will be weaker without direct US support (although I believe that, in any case, the United States will continue military support for Shiite and Kurdish factions), but insurgent forces may also be considerably weaker. The Sunnis cannot win in the long term, if winning means taking back control of the Iraqi state. Without the occupation to inflame Sunni (and Shiite) opinion, some form of reconciliation may be possible. Moreover, a continued long term occupation may (and I think will) test the tolerance of the Shiite population of Iraq. Its goals are currently similar to our goals, but that situation may not hold if we give no indication of a willingness to leave.

The panel Friday went well. The speakers included two anti-Iraq War liberal hawks and two scholars whose views could be characterized as more dovish. My biggest applause line was, oddly enough, a stirring defense of Canada’s record in the two world wars. Who knew that Canada had so many friends in Lexington?

We Need a New Word for "Hack"

[ 0 ] November 20, 2005 |

Mickey went for a few days without saying anything staggeringly stupid. Then he decided he needed to make up for it:

Murtha has now established exactly the worst context for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. By making his (understandable) teary concern about the injuries to our soldiers his central motiviation, he makes it seem, if we pull out now, that the Sunni/Zarqawi strategy has worked–that we’ve been run out of Iraq because we couldn’t tolerate the casualties the insurgents were inflicting. That will encourage Al Qaeda operatives around the globe. Isn’t it a lot better if we start to withdraw, after a successful Iraqi election, while plausibly claiming that we’ve done our job? That’s why Hastert’s stunt yesterday to put down Murtha’s proposal was amply justified. It makes it easier to withdraw if it doesn’t seem to be a response to Murtha’s cry of pain. … 2:06 P.M.

Argh. Everything that’s wrong with Kaus as a blogger can be distilled through this paragraph. First, we’ve got the utter inability to view politics and political events through anyone’s eyes but his own. It doesn’t even occur to him that people might interpret the same event in different ways. Second, we have the desperate need to seem clever by interpreting an event in double-back fashion. Victory for the Democrats is actually defeat; what seems to be one way is actually another. Finally, and most infuriating, the complete unseriousness of it all, the treatment of politics as if it were no more than a game, and no more important than the internal workings of a Hollywood studio.

In response to this particular abomination, Mickey needs to be reminded that, if insurgents or terrorists still exist in Iraq after we leave, they will declare victory regardless of the status of various House resolutions. They are, I suspect, utterly indifferent to machinations of Murtha, Hastert, and everyone else in the US House of Representatives. Moreover, if they’re smart and well informed enough to care a lot about how John Murtha thinks, then they’re certainly smart enough to see through an effort as transparent as Hastert’s.

The implication of Kaus’ argument, of course, is that SAYING that the troops should be withdrawn MEANS that it will take longer for them to leave. It’s unclear, given this, how Mickey thinks that one should express a preference for troop withdrawal, especially given that he seems to agree it might be a good idea. The best way to criticize George W. Bush, it seems, would be to embrace him. That will really teach the terrorists…


[ 0 ] November 20, 2005 |

Kudos to the Fresno State Bulldogs, who fought one hell of a fight against USC. They went in to the lair of the finest team in college football and very nearly won. They have no reason to hang their heads.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Prince of Wales

[ 0 ] November 20, 2005 |

Gun caliber was a big deal in battleship construction. A ship carrying 8 16″ guns may have the same weight of broadside as one carrying 12 14″ guns, but the larger guns have a longer range and more penetrating power than the smaller calibers. Increasing gun calibers during and after World War I, therefore, were a matter of considerable attention. The best British battleships carried 15″ guns, as did the most advanced German vessels. American and Japanese ships carried 14″ guns. Near the end of the war, both the Americans and Japanese laid down ships with 16″ guns. After the war, the Royal Navy planned to trump the IJN and the USN by arming a new class of battleships with 18″ guns.

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 ended that dream, and limited gun caliber to 16″. The Royal Navy was granted special dispensation to build two ships with 16″ guns, in order to match the USN and the IJN. The 1930 London Naval Treaty reduced the number of capital ships allocated to each navy, but did not change the gun caliber limitations. The treaties allowed older vessels to be replaced after a certain time, and in the mid 1930s Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom began to plan for a new generation of battleships. The British, suffering from severe financial constraints, wanted to limit the size and expense of the new battleships as much as possible. Accordingly, the British proposed that all new battleships would be limited to 14″ guns. In a bout of wishful thinking, the Royal Navy designed its newest class of battleships around the 14″ weapon. The 1936 London Naval Treaty established a 14″ limit, but contained a clause that lifted the limit to 16″ if any one of the original signatories did not sign. Japan opted out of the treaty (and began building battleships with 18″ guns), and the United States took advantage of this clause by designing its new ships to carry the 16″ gun.

This left the Royal Navy at a disadvantage. The naval architects tried to solve the problem by equipping the new class of warships with 12 14″ guns in three quadruple turrets. Unfortunately, this led to a top heavy design, and the “B” turret on the design had to be reduced to a twin. Thus, while the new American battleships carried 9 16″ guns and the new Japanese ships 9 18″ guns, the British ships carried only 10 14″ guns. The King George V class had other design flaws, including a very poor turning circle. Their armor scheme was not particularly effective, being worse than any modern battleship other than the German Bismarck. The underwater protection of these ships was also very bad by modern standards. All in all, these were not fine ships, which is surprising given the experience of the Royal Navy and the quality of RN naval architecture at the end of World War I. King George V and her sisters displaced 42000 tons and could make 28 knots.

Prince of Wales was the third unit of the class. While still under construction, she suffered bomb hit that led to severe flooding. Her commissioning was hurried due to the threat posed by the German battleships Bismarck. When Bismarck and Prinz Eugen broke for the Atlantic, Prince of Wales was put to sea before fully working out in trials, and civilian engineers remained on the ship. Prince of Wales accompanied Hood, the best known warship of the Royal Navy at the time. The two battleships, accompanied by several destroyers, steamed north in an attempt to intercept the German ships in the Denmark Straits.

Hood and Prince of Wales were successful, and the battle was joined on the night of May 24, 1941. Hood was struck by a salvo from the Bismarck and, like any good British battlecruiser, promptly exploded and sank. Prince of Wales, although still facing some teething troubles, gave a good account of herself against the German battleship. Although she suffered seven hits (plus several dud shots), she managed to hit Bismarck three times, causing a fuel leak and limiting Bismarck’s speed. Her main armament no longer operative, Prince of Wales broke off the action and began to shadow Bismarck. Because of low fuel, however, Prince of Wales was forced to break off the chase, and played no role in the final destruction of Bismarck.

After six weeks of repairs, Prince of Wales was tasked with transporting Winston Churchill to Newfoundland, where he met with Franklin Roosevelt and helped hammer out the naval strategy of the Western Allies. In October, Prince of Wales was dispatched to Singapore in order to counter the increasing Japanese threat to British possessions. She and the battlecruiser Repulse formed the nucleus of the British Far Eastern Fleet.

The Japanese were well aware the presence and threat that Prince of Wales and Repulse posed to their offensive plans. They detailed the battlecruisers Kongo and Haruna (the former itself built in a British yard) to meet the two Royal Navy ships and protect the invasion fleets. There was no need. The Royal Navy admiral did not believe that Pearl Harbor conclusively demonstrated the lethality of air power against battleships. The Pearl Harbor attack was a surprise; the American ships were at anchor and could not maneuver. Unspoken, perhaps, was the belief that while American ships might be vulnerable to such attacks, British ships certainly were not. On December 8, Admiral Phillips sortied his two ships in an effort to intercept and destroy the Japanese fleets attacking Malaya.

On December 10, Prince of Wales and Repulse were caught in the open sea by 87 Japanese aircraft. Repulse suffered 5 torpedo hits, Prince of Wales 6. Both ships sank, although most of the crews of each were saved. The attacking Japanese planes were, by all accounts, exceptionally polite. They made no effort to attack British destroyers during rescue operations, and it is held that the Japanese squadron leader flew low and waggled his wings above the surviving British ships as Prince of Wales sank. Admiral Phillips gallantly decided to go down with the ship. Winston Churchill felt that the destruction of Prince of Wales and Repulse was a greater blow to Allied seapower than the Pearl Harbor attack. Certainly, it demonstrated that battleships could not hope to survive without support from aircraft, either from carriers or land bases.


[ 0 ] November 19, 2005 |

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the delivery of the Gettysburg Address.


[ 0 ] November 19, 2005 |

I concur with OJ; the system is unfair. You murder your wife, you go to trial, and you get acquitted. That should be it, right? But no, someone then drags you back into court and takes all your money. Clearly unfair. Probably the fault of the trial lawyers. And maybe the Democrats.

”I still don’t get how anyone can be found not guilty of a murder and then be found responsible for it in any way shape or form,” Simpson said in a phone interview from his Florida home. ”… If you’re found not guilty, how can you be found responsible? I’d love to hear how that’s not double jeopardy.”

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