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The George Pataki Story

[ 27 ] September 25, 2015 |

“USS Iowa” by Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute Photographic Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

This is a great line, on the next “contenders” likely to drop out of the GOP race:

“There comes a point when his irrelevance becomes crystal clear even to him”

Beside Pataki, the Iowa GOP insiders picked Jindal and Paul. The former is interesting because Five Thirty Eighty just published a piece that was relatively bullish on his Iowa prospects. The idea that a hard right conservative could still come back and take Iowa is worth taking seriously, although at the moment Cruz looks like a better bet to me.

With respect to Paul, the big issue is his Kentucky Senate race. Old Man Paul was fond of taking these things to the bitter end, but Rand has yet to demonstrate much gumption. He’s also made enough concessions to political professionalism that you imagine he probably wants to continue being Senator.


Diplomatic Normalcy

[ 4 ] September 24, 2015 |
A span-high Napoleon stands on the outstretched hand of a full-size George III, who peers at him through a spy-glass.

“James Gillray The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver.–Vide. Swift’s Gulliver- Voyage to Brobdingnag The Metropolitan Museum of Art edit” by James Gillray – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection: entry 391822. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

A few thoughts inspired, believe it or not, by the Hamilton Broadway musical…

In 1793, the Qianlong Emperor penned (or ordered composed) a now legendary letter to King George III, in which he attempted to frame relations between the Qing Dynasty and Great Britain into a traditional Chinese diplomatic framework. Over the centuries, the letter has been taken as evidence of the overbearing arrogance of the Chinese Imperial establishment in the face of the oncoming threat of the West.

More recent interpretations have suggested that the letter includes far more strategic thought than is commonly understood, but there is little question that it remains an artifact of a different era in global diplomacy.

Air, Space, and What Not

[ 13 ] September 24, 2015 |

I have a new interview up at Air and Space Magazine. Take a gander.

And major props to Major Kong for stepping up in a vicious Facebook comment war…

Foreign Entanglements: Australian Foreign Policy

[ 3 ] September 23, 2015 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Natalie speaks with Conley Tyler on the topic of Australian foreign policy:

Foreign Entanglements: China’s Foreign Policy Goals

[ 0 ] September 22, 2015 |

On last week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, we welcome new co-host Natalie Sambhi, speaking with Merriden Varrall on Chinese foreign policy:


[ 3 ] September 22, 2015 |

My latest at the Diplomat:

But the difficulty of long-range forecasting also weighs in favor of over-emphasizing the short term. Evaluating short-term decisions without appreciating how policymakers understand long-range trends almost invariably leads to misunderstanding. Policymakers, however, rarely make clear how they think about long-term trends, which works to insulate their decisions from analysis and scrutiny.

In this context, it’s helpful to think about the tools that policymakers and analysts have for forecasting long-range trends in international politics. In a recent book for MIT Press, Evan Hillebrand and Stacy Closson (two colleagues of mine at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School) outlined eight potential futures, based on three dichotomous variables: low/high energy prices, low/high economic growth, and geopolitical harmony/disharmony.

B-52s and MOPs!

[ 23 ] September 22, 2015 |

A year ago I wrote this:

It would be dumb for Washington to offer B-52s. But it’s unlikely the Israelis would be dumb enough to actually accept them.

And a couple weeks ago I wrote this:

Fortunately, the Israelis are much smarter than their friends in the United States. The Israeli air force has no history of flying or maintaining large strategic bombers (the last dedicated bomber operated by the IDF was the B-17, retired in the late 1950s). The learning curve to get a fleet of B-1B crews operational and effective would be steep. The larger the Bone force that the IDF would need to take on, the larger the problems it would cause for the rest of the force.

And now we have some confirmation:

“This idea is irrelevant for Israel,” a senior Israeli officer told Al-Monitor. “It is way beyond our means [and] not worth the means, money and effort. We are not capable of maintaining and sustaining it.”

Israeli military experts and former officials are equally skeptical.

They point out that Israel does not possess the heavy bombers — B-2s or B-52s — required to deliver the 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or GBU-57. And they say only one air base, Nevatim, has runways that could conceivably be upgraded to handle such flights.

Israeli experts also warn that the tiny country would have to invest a fortune in related infrastructure — simulators, training, facilities, mechanical systems and experts — to handle such weapons.

They managed to track down one former IDF chief of staff who thought it was doable (I really, really wonder if it was Dan Halutz, the Israeli air force general who planned and led the disastrous air campaign against Hezbollah), but the consensus seems best summarized as “raw idiocy.”

I don’t really blame politicians (Cardin, Booker, or even the array of GOP pols who have gotten behind this idea) for advocating stupid policy. It’s the job of a politician to manage and assuage the concerns of a variety of different constituencies, and these constituencies often demand contradictory or impossible things. Ideally, politicians would take the time to explain to these constituencies why certain proposals are asinine, but there are stark limits on how far such tactics can work in practice.

I have far more contempt for the retired military personnel, such as David Petraeus and David Deptula, who put their names on such bullshit.  In brief, these retired generals are lending their names (and consequently, the weight of their experience, expertise, and knowledge) to proposals that they are obviously too smart to believe in.


We Failed Ourselves Today

[ 103 ] September 21, 2015 |

Nagasakibomb.jpgSome people look at the end of the Walker candidacy and say “This man failed.” It’s truer to say that we, as Americans, failed Scott Walker.  By extension, we failed America, Israel, and every man, woman, and child in the world who depends on the iron resolve of the President of the United States to keep them safe at night.

If you don’t believe me, please revisit the sage words of Mike Doran and Matt Kroenig:

Some pundits argue that if Governor Walker were to terminate the Iran deal on day one, the Iranians would respond by kicking out the inspectors and sprinting for the bomb. That, too, is a misreading of how the world works. If the Iranians see that the new president is resolute and prepared to follow through on his threats, fear of consequences will make them less rather than more aggressive.

We have seen this before. In 1980, the American people elected a president with a reputation for resolve and on day one of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, literally as he took the oath of office, the Iranians released the hostages that they had been holding prisoner for 444 days. The time to show leadership on Iran is now, not after one gets settled into the position.

As Governor Walker said in a press gaggle this weekend in Iowa, “I believe that a president shouldn’t wait to act until they put a cabinet together or for a certain period of time… I’m going to be prepared to be president on day one.”

Indeed.  We could have been led by a man who promised to use lessons learned fighting unions in Wisconsin to crush the Islamic State. We could have been led by a man who, armed only with cheap talk, could have struck terror in the heart of the Ayatollah.  We could have been led by a man who would have out-wrestled not only Putin, but Putin’s Siberian Tiger. We could have been led by a man who could dissolve artificial Chinese islands merely by pissing on them.

Now, we’re likely to be stuck with a President who’ll give it a couple days thought before making decisions critical to the future of America, and the world. That hesitation and lack of resolve could be will be disastrous catastrophic. When America is subjected to a mushroom cloud of thoughtfulness and deliberation, we’ll have no one but ourselves to blame.

Not Decline So Much as Regression to the Mean

[ 18 ] September 21, 2015 |

USS Colorado (BB-45) New York 1932.jpg

“USS Colorado (BB-45) New York 1932” by U.S. Navy[2] – U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 2004.042.052 [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My latest at the National Interest builds on some thinking that I’ve been doing, for a while, on the relative decline of US military power:

Last week, Air Force General Frank Gorenc argued that the airpower advantage the United States has enjoyed over Russia and China is shrinking. This warning comes as part of a deluge of commentary on the waning international position of the United States. The U.S. military, it would seem, is at risk of no longer being able to go where it wants, and do what it wants to whomever it wants. Diplomatically, the United States has struggled, as of late, to assemble “coalitions of the willing” interested in following Washington into the maw of every waiting crisis.

Does this mean that U.S. global power in on the wane? If so, should we blame this decline on specific policy decisions made by this administration, or the previous administration? As Dan Drezner has argued with respect to who is “winning” the Ukraine crisis, the answer depends crucially on the starting point.

“Possibly wanted to be arrested?”

[ 317 ] September 20, 2015 |

I’m old enough to remember when Richard Dawkins wasn’t widely viewed as an embarrassing crank.

For someone who seems to be deeply serious about not believing invisible or imaginary things, there’s a whole lot of magical thinking going on…

Spam! Italian Spam!

[ 10 ] September 19, 2015 |

4d799ce06b6e74ae97a1cc59ccc80a22As a few of you have noted, there’s currently a low-key problem with the Facebook feed.  Someone has figured out a way to convince our automated posting service to pick up some Italian advertising spam in the conversion from RSS to Facebook.  We’re working on it.

Stuff and Sorts

[ 18 ] September 16, 2015 |

Stuff from around the intertubes:

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