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Hey a Book!

[ 2 ] March 11, 2014 |

Grounded, now available in hardcover from Amazon.  Also at your local bookstore, if you happen to be incredibly fortunate.

Will be ratcheting down the non-stop book PR over the next few days, although will continue to update this page. Also recall the FDL Book Salon this Saturday, 5pm.

Christ, Farley, Please Start Work on a Different Book…

[ 32 ] March 10, 2014 |

This Saturday, Firedoglake will hold one of its Book Salons for Grounded. I hope that a significant percentage of the LGM commentariat will show up for an enjoyable evening with the commenters from FDL.

As part of the promo for the event, I have some thoughts on the political implications of independent air forces up at War is Boring:

Foreign policy comes from the collection of organizations that make up the national security state. If you change the constellation of organizations, you change the foreign policy output. Creating the U.S. Air Force amplified a voice within government for fighting short, cheap, decisive wars from the air.

As independent but related bureaucracies, the three military services naturally compete with each other for funding, roles and influence. In a crisis, the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff contribute advice regarding military options. However, through formal, informal and sometimes public channels, the services also make their preferences known.

Air Force officers not only tend to believe in the decisiveness of air power, they have very good professional and institutional reasons for arguing in favor of air power as a strategic catalyst. Service-oriented viewpoints produce parochialism, the idea that the good of the service and the good of the country are the same.

Demonstrating that air power can, on its own, decisively defeat an adversary and create a favorable political outcome flatters not only the preconceptions of air power advocates, but also promises to generate greater resources, autonomy and influence.


[Erik] To make the joining of our two commentariats even more enjoyable, I am hosting Sunday’s FDL book salon, on When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level. Rumors of the two sites merging may not be correct.

Radio Bits

[ 0 ] March 9, 2014 |

Here’s the Midrats episode:

Check Out Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

And here’s the NPR: Weekend Edition bit.

“I’m smart! Not like everybody says…”

[ 101 ] March 8, 2014 |

Classic whine from St. Ralph about how nobody loves him and Bernie Sanders isn’t a real progressive.  Choice bit:

For example, in the past year I have called you many times at your Washington office.Your staff dutifully takes my messages, forwards them to you and you do not call back. Never.During your famous marathon address on the Senate floor in 2010, I called to congratulate youand suggest that your cogent arguments be reproduced in a small book. Your staff took themessage to you. No return call.



[ 8 ] March 8, 2014 |

Tomorrow afternoon at 5pm EDT I’ll be chatting with Sal and Eagle One on Midrats about Grounded. The conversations run for about an hour, and both Cdr Salamander and EagleOne are extremely knowledgeable about military and maritime affairs. Highly recommended. Also, tomorrow morning you might be able to catch my interview with Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition, which is supposed to drop at about 815am in most markets.

Archives Onward!

[ 42 ] March 7, 2014 |

The February 2005 LGM archive has now been fully reconstructed.  Some highlights:

Does the Brazilian Navy need a Mistral?

[ 55 ] March 6, 2014 |

Two things.  First, my latest at the Diplomat noodles on about precedent in international politics:

What precedent does the Russian invasion of Crimea set for the settlement of territorial disputes in East Asia?  We should begin with the major differences: East Asia lacks institutions similar to the European Union or NATO.  The situation of Russia, which continues to support multiple irredentist communities around its near abroad, has no easy parallel in Asia. East Asia enjoys its share of difficult, complex national relationships, but none of these are quite like those between Russia and its neighbors. We should also note that there’s a gulf between claiming that a particular act (say, the NATO led air campaign against Kosovo) caused some other event, and suggesting that the actions of a major power establish “rules of the road” that other states tend to follow.

Second, I have some thoughts about the prospect of suspending the delivery of Vladivostok and Sevastopol, a pair of amphibious assault ships the French are building for Russia:

The French are committed economically to the deal, which has supported French shipbuilding. However, as the first ship is nearly complete and the second well under way, some of the French stakeholders (primarily labor)have already been appeased. With the recent displays of Franco-US friendship, and of Franco-US cooperation in Africa, I have to wonder whether the French could be convinced to delay or suspend delivery as a response to the Russian conquest of Crimea. And especially given that the second ship is named Sevastopol, the optics of transferring LHAs to the Russian Navy right now are genuinely terrible.



Flight 007 Near-Redux

[ 26 ] March 5, 2014 |

This is alarming:

According to the South Korean government, on Tuesday a South China Airlines plane carrying 220 civilians narrowly missed being hit by a North Korean missile after it flew into the missile’s trajectory. The missile and plane crossed the same path just seven short minutes apart. No one was harmed. The plane had been flying to Shenyang, China from Narita airport in Japan.

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson told Bloomberg News: “The rocket could have hit the plane on its way down. North Korea had not given any warning [of the missile launch]. It was an unexpected and immoral act that goes against international norms.” The same spokesperson confirmed that Seoul had passed along information about the near miss to its allies in Beijing. Neither the airline nor China has responded to inquiries or acknowledged the near collision yet.

The chance of a ballistic missile accidentally hitting an airliner in flight is, to put it mildly, extraordinarily small.  Nevertheless, you kind of wish Kim Jong Eun hadn’t shot all of the people who believed that informing neighboring countries of impending missile launches might be a good idea.

Foreign Entanglements: Entangling Crimea

[ 0 ] March 4, 2014 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements I speak with Dmitry Gorenburg about the invasion of Crimea:

The Resolve Fairy and the Precedent Fairy

[ 139 ] March 2, 2014 |

I mention it below, but it’s worth reiterating how facile the “resolve” argument is with respect to Russia’s incursion into Crimea.  The causal argument runs thus: Putin believed, because of Obama’s unwillingness to launch military strikes on Syria, that the United States would not interfere with Russia’s seizure of Crimea. Because the United States had refrained from using military force in a case where Obama had made a (relatively) clear commitment to the use of force, the US would not use force to defend an area it had no (serious) legal obligation to defend.

Phrased in these terms, the argument is very nearly self-refuting.  Essentially, partisans of the Resolve Fairy are demanding that Obama create in Putin’s mind the belief that a Russian invasion will be met with US military force, despite the fact that there is nearly zero chance that any administration, in a similar position, would use force.  Say what you will about Vladimir Putin, but he is not a stupid man.  If the most hawkish administration in recent history failed to counter a Russian invasion of a US client in 2008, what are the chances that the United States will do so now?  Any threat to use force in defense of Crimea (or Georgia, for that matter), is a bluff, and not a particularly strong one. The notion that even a wildly successful military campaign against Assad would have convinced Putin that the US would intervene in Crimea is very nearly absurd.

And it gets worse, of course.  Let’s imagine a world in which cruise missiles, a no fly zone, and a few airstrikes had managed to topple Assad (just work with me).  It is widely believed that the destruction of a Russian client in Libya at the hands of NATO added to Putin’s conviction to support Syria at all costs. There’s every reason to believe that the US induced collapse of the Assad regime would have made Putin more, not less, risk acceptant; prospect theory is a thing.  The same people whining about Obama’s “indecisiveness” about Syria would, in this case, have drawn a clear line between the Russian setback in the Middle East and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

And while we’re here, a moment about the Precedent Fairy.  Partisans of the Precedent Fairy (generally associated with either the realist school or the left), argue for the causal power of US precedent on Russian behavior.  The most common argument runs thus; because the United States intervened on behalf of an ethnic enclave in the Kosovo War, the Russians feel secure in making similar interventions on behalf of their own preferred enclaves.  It’s worth emphasizing that the Precedent Fairy isn’t as wrong as the Resolve Fairy, or as dangerous; international society is a complex ideational system of laws, norms, and understandings, and the behavior of major powers does often affect how other states interpret the parameters of the possible. But it’s almost certainly wrong, in this case, to try to draw a direct line between Kosovo and South Ossetia, or Kosovo and Crimea.  For one, Russia began intervening on behalf of favored enclaves before the Soviet Union formally collapsed, so precedent wasn’t particularly necessary.  For another, Russia cares a lot more about Crimea than the US will ever care about Kosovo.  It would have ample reason to intervene even without the precedent set by NATO.

What partisans of the Resolve Fairy and the Precedent Fairy do share is a substantial over-estimation of the importance of US behavior in Russian decision-making.  The US is big and important, but stuff happens in the world that doesn’t have much to do with the attitudes or behavior of the United States. Russia has a rich foreign policy history to draw on, and assuming that Russia’s behavior depends on the last three things that Obama said is almost always going to be wrong.

Crazy Crimea Crisis Continues

[ 101 ] March 2, 2014 |

Some links:


Crimea Links

[ 58 ] February 28, 2014 |

Stuff on Ukraine… Chris Lofting

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