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The Conspiratorial Turn, and Links for the Day

[ 158 ] August 10, 2016 |

Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Charles de Gaulle (R91). By USN – U.S. Navy VFA-146 official website [1] photo [2], Public Domain,

For your pleasure:



The Impossible and the Unlikely

[ 209 ] August 9, 2016 |

aptopix-campaign-2016-trumpI really have to wonder what the Clinton campaign is doing right now:

If you were Clinton, how much time and money would you be spending prepping for the fight against Donald, and how much would you devote to the (unlikely though it may be) eventuality that Donald will drop out and be replaced by a real candidate? I ask not because I think that the latter is terribly likely, but because I really can’t see any other eventuality in which the GOP seriously challenges Clinton.

GOP Theater of the Absurd Becomes Mildly More Absurd

[ 140 ] August 8, 2016 |

Turbo_Hank_Hill_propane_DerpBREAKING BREAKING BREAKING: GOP #NeverTrumpers back MAJOR, WELL KNOWN independent candidate against Trump!

Key players in GOP’s anti-Trump movement are preparing to launch an independent presidential campaign for Evan McMullin — a CIA veteran and the chief policy director of the House Republican conference — sources close to the effort told BuzzFeed News.

Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based media consultant and outspoken Trump critic, is expected to be involved in McMullin’s campaign. Sources said Wilson was in Washington on Sunday meeting with members of McMullin’s prospective campaign — which includes some who were involved in a group called Better for America, which has been pushing an independent presidential bid.

Jesus, these assholes can’t do anything right.

Road to Moscow

[ 30 ] August 4, 2016 |
Faina and Chiang Ching-kuo in 1935.jpg

Chiang Ching-kuo and Faina Chiang, Soviet Union, 1935. By Unknown –, Public Domain,

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the late 1960s correspondence between Taipei and Moscow:

A recent article in the journal of Cold War History shed light on the 1960s-era relationship between Taipei and Moscow, a relationship that both sides kept quiet for the duration of the Cold War.

The article, by Xiang Zhai and Ruping Xiao, dug into some archival material on the Taiwanese side of the relationship. It revealed that the government of Chiang Kai-shek made secret approaches to the Soviet Union through intermediaries, and that talks between the two sides continued for several years.



Do Your Bombers Know the Way to San Jose?

[ 16 ] August 3, 2016 |

Dionne Warwick tells me that I’m all turned around on this Air Force issue:

But this is the one that really hurts:

Pete was probably just fulfilling the requirements of some sort of plea deal to avoid felony conviction, right?

Moving Past the Post-Cold War

[ 14 ] August 3, 2016 |

Ropucha Class Landing Craft. By PH3 DAWN SCHMELHAUN – Still Asset Details for DNSC9102263, Public Domain,

Latest at the National Interest has some thoughts on Russian military procurement and reform priorities:

As the Cold War ticked to its end, the USSR lost the ability to compete with the United States in many key areas. The collapse of the Soviet military-industrial complex after the fall of the Soviet Union only exacerbated this problem. Today, even though the Russian military remains formidable, it continues to have key deficiencies relative to the United States. Here are five areas in which Russia would like to have the capabilities that the United States now enjoys.


Turkey Shoot

[ 24 ] August 2, 2016 |
Japanese aircraft carrier Taihou.jpg

HIJMS Taiho. By 不明。 – 呉市海事歴史科学館所蔵品。, Public Domain,

At the Diplomat, we’re having a bit of a conversation about the Battle of Philippine Sea…

Ben Ho Wan Beng’s excellent recap in The Diplomat of 1944’s Battle of Philippine Sea holds some interesting lessons for how we think about military power and how learning affects the prospects of victory in battle. Ben ably works through the tactical details and dilemmas of the battle, leaving space for working through some of the broader strategic and institutional lessons. In this context, what’s really interesting about the Battle of Philippine Sea is how key factors in the balance between U.S. and Japanese forces changed between 1942 and 1944

Sunday Book Review: Bismarck: 24 Hours to Doom

[ 20 ] July 31, 2016 |

Iain Ballantyne has followed up Killing the Bismarck (review here) with Bismarck: 24 Hours to Doom. The action focuses only on Bismarck’s last day; Ballantyne includes allusions to the rest of the war when necessary, but keeps his attention squarely on the mission to catch and kill the Germans. Ballantyne tells the story through the stories of individuals who participated in the battle; he includes a number of interviews conducted in the last four years of personnel (on both sides) who experienced the destruction of Bismarck first hand.

The narrow focus is also helpful insofar as it allows Ballantyne to avoid bigger questions about Bismarck’s role in World War II.  The battleship Bismarck surely posed a significant threat to the Royal Navy, and had she made it back to France would have proved an annoyance for years to come. But victory in World War II did not depend on the destruction of Bismarck in late May of 1941; had the ship survived, she would have contributed in marginal, non-decisive ways to the war.  By concentrating on the lived experiences, Ballantyne is able to frame the chase in terms of what it meant to the men who conducted it (and it surely meant a great deal, especially given the loss of the Hood a few days before), sparing us the overstatement that books like this sometimes fall into.

Ballantyne works from both new interviews and published works, and his subjects include  rating on the destroyer HMS Cossack; a marine and a midshipman on HMS Rodney; a Canadian Swordfish pilot on HMS Ark Royal; a sailor on HMS Dorsetshire; a gunnery officer on Bismarck herself. As expected, these account humanized the chase, from the rage felt by the Royal Navy upon news of the destruction of HMS Hood, to the terror experienced on the cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo bombers that pursued Bismarck, to the collapse in morale upon the German battleship as it became clear that she could not escape.

He doesn’t dwell on one of the central arguments of the last book; that some sailors on Bismarck were trying to surrender the ship after it came under assault from the Royal Navy.  This book includes the testimony from one British sailor about witnessing what looked like German attempts to strike the colors, but the tone of the remarks makes clear that everyone understood the necessity of destroying Bismarck, notwithstanding the possible desire of some within the German battleship to give up.

Nothing in this book is particularly shocking; Bismarck is damaged, caught, and destroyed, just as in hundreds of other accounts of her pursuit.  Still, Ballantyne has as good an understanding as anyone of how to approach veterans, and of what questions to ask.  He structures the narrative in what he himself has termed “cinematic” fashion, giving the narrative a gripping immediacy. As I’ve argued before, the technology now exists to do justice to a variety of World War I and World War II battles on film; we just need to wait for Hollywood to trend back towards historical war films. More importantly, as the number of veterans of the major actions of World War II dwindle, works like this will become increasingly valuable. Fortunately, many good historians and journalists appear to be doing just this; making stories concrete before we lose them forever.


[ 22 ] July 30, 2016 |

IMG_3152One of the upsides of writing for a magazine that focuses on the Asia Pacific is that I occasionally get to write about baseball…

Ichiro Suzuki, known to baseball fans simply as “Ichiro!”, will likely exceed 3,000 Major League Baseball (MLB) hits sometime this week. Ichiro currently sits at 2996, the product of a fantastic age 42 season in which the veteran outfielder is hitting .339.

Dr. Jill Stein Has a New Biggest Fan!

[ 38 ] July 29, 2016 |


Screenshot 2016-07-29 11.59.53

Hey It Could Happen…

[ 60 ] July 28, 2016 |
USS Wisconson collision.jpg

By Source – enWiki, first uploaded by Ahseaton, Public Domain,

Just gonna leave this here…

Let us not tarry on the question of how the 2020 edition of USS Zumwalt would encounter and engage the 1991 version of USS Wisconsin.


[ 143 ] July 27, 2016 |

Kids, don’t say stuff like this if you hope to work for (or, you know, run) government some day:

Also, just the kind of guy you want in control of your missiles:

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