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Category: Robert Farley

The A2/AD Challenge

[ 5 ] August 25, 2016 |
US Navy 080621-N-8467N-001 Pre-commissioning Unit New Hampshire (SSN 778) sits moored to the pier at General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard moments before her christening ceremony commenced.jpg

USS New Hampshire. By U.S. Navy photo by John Narewski – Public Domain,

Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich recently wrote an important article about the balance of military technology in the Western Pacific. This is the first of what will likely amount to three commentaries:

In a recent article in International Security, Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich have developed a formidable analysis of how the balance of power and technology in the Asia-Pacific may shift over the next three decades. The argument, discussed earlier by Steven Stashwick, suggests that technology may push the United States and China into a rough stalemate in the middle part of the 21st century.

Biddle, longtime scholarly analyst of military affairs and the author of numerous books and articles on land warfare (both its conventional and counterinsurgency variants), and Oelrich undertake an uncharacteristically technology-heavy analysis, concentrating on the physical limitations of extant and speculative strike and surveillance systems. The authors frame their analysis around a Chinese effort to coerce regional powers (most notably Taiwan) into submission through means of a bombing campaign, a blockade, or an invasion.


Elvis: The Dead Years

[ 202 ] August 23, 2016 |
A mutton-chopped Presley, wearing a long velour jacket and a giant buckle like that of a boxing championship belt, shakes hands with a balding man wearing a suit and tie. They are facing camera and smiling. Five flags hang from poles directly behind them.

By Ollie Atkins, chief White House photographer at the time. See ARC record. – White House photograph by Ollie Atkins via, Public Domain,

So I was drinking beers with the gents last week, and someone remarked that it was the 49th39th anniversary of the King’s death.  The gentleman suggested that, with a wiser mix of alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and peanut and banana sandwiches, Presley might have enjoyed several more productive decades.  This claim was met by a range of responses that ran from beer-spitting disbelief to respectful silence; the consensus view in this group seemed to be that Presley’s creative years were behind him at least several years before his untimely demise, and that there probably wasn’t much of any interest left in the tank.

It occurred to me later that the picture could be much more complicated than this.  Johnny Cash is perhaps the most interesting comp; he had a two decade or so fallow period before doing some of his most interesting work with Rick Rubin.  The case for the prosecution could rest on Frank Sinatra, who gave up not only on interesting music but also on demanding acting in the latter part of his career.

Thoughts from those more familiar than I with Presley’s career?  Was there any prospect for him to produce something of interest in the 1980s or 1990s? Directions that he might have gone, people he might have worked with?



[ 17 ] August 22, 2016 |

Artists rendition of Soviet Tblisi class aircraft carrier. Courtesy of FAS.

Elaborating a bit on my previous column about the potential sale of a Russian nuclear aircraft carrier to India:

Early this year, a Russian group proposed to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for India. The notional carrier would rival the supercarriers of the U.S. Navy in size and capability. Why did the Russians make such an offer, and what might the Indians make of the deal?

Sunday Book Review: I Don’t Know How She Does It

[ 21 ] August 21, 2016 |

By Evan-Amos – Own work, CC0,

The following is a guest post by frequent commenter bianca steele:

“Home is where the good mother is, baking for her children.”

If you watch the trailer for the new movie, Bad Moms, there’s a scene where the main character, played by Mila Kunis, dares to serve store-bought baked goods at a school fund-raising event.  The trailer suggests that this act is the culmination of a mini-breakdown that either has, or will soon, eventuate in mom-on-mom action and jello shots (it’s from the creators of The Hangover).  Before the character can get to this awful place, she has to suffer a series of distressing occurrences that include a sick dog that makes her late for work, coffee spilled all over her outfit after she’s startled by scary fellow mom Christina Applegate, a missed client conference, spaghetti spilled all over her outfit after she tries to eat lunch in her car, and being knocked flat on her back by a small child at sports practice, all culminating with an “emergency PTA meeting” at which she’s presented with a ridiculously long list of forbidden treat ingredients that only starts with nuts and gluten.  The movie is 1 hour 41 minutes long, and I’d estimate this series of events, onscreen, must take at a minimum fifteen minutes, probably at least twenty.  One might guess that they wouldn’t dare show that character behaving so horrifically with any less build-up.

The book I Don’t Know How She Does It lets us see its heroine serve store-bought treats without the apologies, though with at least as many guilty feelings.

Read more…

Things I Learned from John McLaughlin

[ 122 ] August 16, 2016 |

John McLaughlin has passed. A troubling presence in many ways, he nevertheless played a critical role in how much of a generation conceived of political space.   I started watching McLaughlin Group in about 1986, when the most common configuration was Buchanan-Germond-Barnes-Kondracke, with healthy doses of Novak and Clift. Some things that I learned from watching:

  • Smart people disagree about politics.

Say what you will about Pat Buchanan, he’s smart, and even insightful.  He grasped the political opportunity in the collapse of white privilege at least two decades before Trump, even if he couldn’t turn it into a viable political campaign.  Jack Germond was obviously also smart, and yet they disagreed about everything. The idea that ideology could be only tangentially connected to intelligence was a revelation; the enemy was not simply “stupid,” but clearly had something else wrong with him/her.

  • Facts are flexible.

An insight that can surely be taken too far.  Nevertheless, the McLaughlin Group demonstrated that the cards don’t read; one cannot win an argument simply by the description of a series of facts.  Every fact is subject to spin, and every advocate has to have an understanding of which facts to mobilize when, and how to manage the more inconvenient bits of truth. Debates on McLaughlin occasionally devolved to direct disputes of fact, but more often they involved different ways of understanding particular realities.

  • Mort Kondracke is a douchebag.

I mean, c’mon.  I was a Republican in my early teens, and it was obvious even to me that Mort was an entirely useless advocate for left-of-center ideas.

  • Talking politics is fun.

This was the entire point of McLaughlin; political argument could be entertaining. It was fun to watch them spar with one another, and McLaughlin himself had a strong sense of how to heighten the contradictions, and get the best out of his panelists.  He also appreciated that the entire project was an exercise in entertainment, which is how he created such an entertaining persona. There are surely unproductive implications of this, and much of our current politics suffers from a fixation on entertainment at the expense of insight.  Still, so very many of us track politics because we enjoy it, in addition to its more tangible implications; McLaughlin made politics fun.

  • The range of respectable political opinion is narrow.

Politics was almost exclusively the purview of old white guys, with a range of opinion that ended at Jack Germond on one pole and Pat Buchanan on the other.  The downsides of this lesson are obvious; in addition to mainstreaming Buchanan and Fred Barnes, it also cut off/made crazy/marginalized a range of left/labor/feminist/intersectional perspectives. Unproductive when you took it seriously; productive when you came to understand the show as an artifact of a particular constellation of political power.

Axis BB Throwdown!

[ 37 ] August 15, 2016 |

Sketch of Tsingtao, 1906.  From a photo taken by pratyeka at the Qingdao Beer Musem, 2004-10-03., Public Domain,

Because at some point in every boy’s life, a guy asks you to write clickbait about which of Bismarck and Yamato would win in a fight:

Can we imagine a scenario in which two titans of World War II, the German battleship Bismarck and the Japanese battleship Yamato, would come into conflict? Difficult, but not impossible.


BB Book Review

[ 25 ] August 13, 2016 |

Another review for the Battleship Book, by Commander Mark R. Condeno, Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary:

From the Pre- dreadnought HMS Victoria to the Post World War Two USS Guam, the Battleship Book is a highly useful account of about 62 Battleships/Battlecruisers of 9 navies that possess them. The author Robert Farley, a teacher of national security courses at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky and an avid enthusiast of Maritime History, Airpower Theory and National Security issues is to be commended for this impressive tome. He is also the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.

Beginning with an introduction in which he covers battleship history emerging from the Steel Battleship types of the late 19th Century to the advent of HMS Dreadnought in 1905 and until the demise of these Castles of Steel after the Second World War. He then present’s his thesis for coming up with the book and on why he has written it, its purpose and objective.

The book is divided into three chapters covering the era of the Pre-Dreadnought, World War One and World War Two. As each for the three chapters, each particular entry is typical providing basic ships information, its history from commissioning, actions involved to decommissioning as well as its impact on warfare and technology. He also provides comparisons to other battleships of each particular period. Apart from the individual ship entries which is the books strength were in the readers would gain knowledge of both old and new, interlude chapters on battles are provided in which these vessel engaged such as the Battle of Jutland (1916)- which celebrates the Battles Centenary this year, the Naval Treaties prior to World War Two and Pearl Harbor. Subsequently, 8 sidebars of various pages provide information on relative subjects like battleship aviation, turrets, guns, and even movies featuring these ships.

In assessment Mr. Farley, has done an outstanding job in adding another volume on Battleship History. The book is exciting and informative, and how it is arrayed is another gem, even with only one photograph per entry which is understandable, the history is of more importance. A four page conclusion, further reading section and photo credits supplement’s the book.

The Battleship Book is a valuable account for Naval Officers specially those on the Academy and Service School positions, Historians, Students and Enthusiasts. The book is highly recommended.

CDR Mark R Condeno

Yamato hit by bomb.jpg

HIJMS Yamato hit by bomb during Battle of Sibuyan Sea. By Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives., Public Domain,



[ 37 ] August 12, 2016 |
Republic F-105 Thunderchief - Vietnam War 1966.jpg

Republic F-105 “Thud.” By United States Air Force – United States Air Force via, Public Domain,


Latest at the Diplomat highlights some interesting new research on the impact of bombing on South Vietnam:

new survey on the use of aerial bombing during the Vietnam War has seemingly confirmed what many suspected: the systematic bombing of South Vietnam detracted from, rather than furthered, U.S. war aims. The study uses a U.S.-generated system of classifying individual Vietnamese hamlets to demonstrate that similarly positioned villages, subjected to different inputs (bombing), reacted differently.


[ 215 ] August 11, 2016 |


Of course, if SC is that close in November, then it’s an afterthought anyway.


[ 11 ] August 11, 2016 |

Albanian Air Force Chengdu F-7A. By Chris Lofting –—Air/Chengdu-F-7A/1052628/L/, GFDL 1.2,

Latest at the National Interest involves a look at some of the US and Russian military systems that China has stolen borrowed been inspired by:

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged from war and revolution in 1949, it became apparent that the Chinese economy lacked the capacity to compete with the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. in the production of advanced military technology.  Transfers from the Soviet Union helped remedy the gap in the 1950s, as did transfers from the United States and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Still,the Cultural Revolution stifled technology and scientific research, leaving the Chinese even farther behind.

Thus, China has long supplemented legitimate transfers and domestic innovation with industrial espionage.  In short, the PRC has a well-established habit of pilfering weapons technology from Russia and the United States.  As the years have gone by, Beijing’s spies have become ever more skillful and flexible in their approach. Here are five systems that the Chinese have stolen or copied, in whole or in part:

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.

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