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China’s Perspective on the Gulf War

[ 2 ] November 24, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest:

In 1991, Chinese military officers watched as the United States dismantled the Iraqi Army, a force with more battle experience and somewhat greater technical sophistication than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Americans won with casualties that were trivial by historical standards.

This led to some soul searching. The PLA hadn’t quite been on autopilot in the 1980s, but the pace of reform in the military sector had not matched that of social and economic life in China. Given the grim performance of the PLA in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, something was bound to change. The Gulf War provided a catalyst and direction for that change.

 

Sunday Linkage

[ 30 ] November 23, 2014 |

Some random Sunday evening thoughts:

 

 

 

 

On Realignment

[ 132 ] November 22, 2014 |

It’s not wrong to suggest that the Tyrion of Game of Thrones is different than the Tyrion of Song of Ice and Fire, or even that these differences are not all for the better. But this is surely problematic:

The problem, however, with making Shae love Tyrion is that it trivializes his story. He is no longer a tragic character — he is loved. In the context of the show this is believable, since Peter Dinklage is a handsome man, and his subsequent scarring in battle could be considered sexy. (It’s absurd that Sansa is so repulsed by the idea of sex with him, in this context — sure, he’s not the man of her dreams, but after the traumas she’s experienced, you would think her fantasies could realign to accommodate a difference in height.)

Emphasis added. The claim being made here is that, in context of the traumas that Sansa has experienced, including most notably the butchery of her father, mother, and brother at the hands of Tyrion’s immediate family, it’s unreasonable to think that Sansa’s fantasies could not “realign to accommodate a difference in height.”

Frankly, I don’t think that’s the problem. And to its credit, the televised version doesn’t ever, to my recollection, imply that Sansa’s revulsion towards Tyrion is even remotely physical.

Games!

[ 3 ] November 21, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat looks at the results of a recent simulation at the Patterson School:

Last weekend, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, in conjunction with the Army War College, conducted a negotiation simulation on crisis resolution in the South China Sea. The simulation began shortly after an incident between Chinese and Filipino ships resulted in the deaths of five Indians and 95 Filipinos.

The South China Sea simulation is the third simulation developed by the Army War College. The first two, on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and the Cyprus conflict, have become regular features at foreign policy schools around the country. The AWC regularly conducts these exercises in collaboration with several different schools across the country, as well as with students at the AWC.

On Point

[ 51 ] November 20, 2014 |

“People forget, the Irish were oppressed, too.”

UVA

[ 155 ] November 19, 2014 |

Depressingly, there’s nothing about this article that’s particularly surprising.  There’s also nothing that’s not horrible.

Their other two friends, however, weren’t convinced. “Is that such a good idea?” she recalls Cindy asking. “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.” Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

I have to confess that my first reaction is frustration and anger with the attitude of the student community. Administrative foot-dragging on campus rape is something that we’ve come to expect. The blase student attitude (granting the unrepresentative snapshot) seems like something that, if not unique to UVA, does vary from school to school.

Well, That’s Troubling

[ 59 ] November 18, 2014 |

If you’re anything like me, you grew up with a debilitating, Bloom County-induced terror of being eaten by a walrus.

It has become clear that, if anything, Opus wildly understated the problem.

Control Your Arms!

[ 2 ] November 18, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest listicles up the history of arms control:

We’ve been taught to expect that nations will seek to defend themselves through every measure available to them. International law has rarely offered significant protection to the weak, and multilateral efforts at controlling how states develop, spread and amass weapons have regularly been met with scorn and derision.

But sometimes states come together, and for one reason or another agree to give up their rights to unilaterally build up arms. Many arms-control arrangements have failed; some have succeeded, and in many cases the story is mixed. This article takes a look at the five most important arms-control agreements of the 20th and 21st centuries, with a focus on how they changed the behavior of governments and the conduct of war.

Export!

[ 5 ] November 16, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat looks at the limited export potential of China’s J-31 stealth fighter:

Some have billed the J-31 as China’s answer to the F-35, as if that represented some sort of compliment. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest Pakistan would be a major customer, and perhaps Egypt as well.  Beyond that?  The United States can offer the F-35 to a wide range of European and Asian countries, all of which have strong economies, big defense budgets, an appetite for high tech, and an interest in cementing the long-term technological and political relationship with the United States.

Beijing doesn’t have the kind of friends that would do it the favor of buying something like the F-35. If the sanctions on Iran ease up in the wake of a successful nuclear deal, Tehran will be looking to buy advanced fighters.  If the Assad government ever manages to win its civil war, it too will need new fighters, but probably won’t be able to afford anything like the J-31.  The Gulf monarchies buy weapons in order to create political ties, and are unlikely to shift their attention from Washington to Beijing unless the international system changes in immense and unforeseen ways.

Larson RIP

[ 30 ] November 15, 2014 |

Loomis and I first met in 1992, when we were both assigned to work at the Instructional Media Center at the University of Oregon. Home to famously indifferent student employees, the IMC was helmed by man of legendary drinking habits and even more legendary perversities. Most of our days were wasted listening to his old “war” stories, trying (mostly successfully) to avoid work, and watching Magnum PI.

Rest in peace, Glen A. Larson.

Listicle of Victory!

[ 41 ] November 13, 2014 |

My take on the five biggest American military victories:

 This article examines five great American victories, spanning from 1780 until 1944. We’re looking for neither technically impressive victories (although most of these are), nor predictable thrashings. With one major exception, these battles did not turn on chance or on the need for remarkable heroism (although such heroism was always present). Instead, these successes came at the end of well-conceived and executed campaigns, designed to integrate the elements of national power into a strategic victory. We’re looking at how the United States built a series of advantages that led inexorably to victory, even if the outcome sometimes remained in doubt until the final play.

Foundation

[ 169 ] November 13, 2014 |

Well, this is hell of a thing.

“I read it with mounting uneasiness,” Asimov wrote the next year. “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversation. No action. No physical suspense.”

Asimov’s self-deprecating description of his own series sounds as inviting as a synopsis of Season 1 of The Leftovers. And soon, it might be available for the same subscription price: According to a report at The Wrap earlier this week, Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher, and cowriter ofInterstellar) is writing and producing an HBO/Warner Bros. TV series based on The Foundation Trilogy.1

I wonder if we can avoid Ben Kingsley as Hari Seldon? And let me be the first to put in a vote for Robin Lord Taylor as the Mule.

There’s nothing I’d like better than a well-executed television version of the Foundation trilogy (we’ll set aside, for the moment, the prequels and sequels).  And there’s no one more capable of doing this well than HBO.  But having read the entire trilogy a dozen times, I struggle to come up with the names of more than a handful of characters, most of whom don’t appear until the Mule cycle of stories.  It’s going to be tough.

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