One thing is for certain; the X-32 was a ridiculously ugly aircraft. It looked like nothing so much as the spawn of an A-7 Corsair and a hideously deformed manatee. The F-35 is no prize from an aesthetic point of view, lacking the sleek, dangerous lines of the F-22, but the X-32 made the F-35 look positively sexy by comparison. How much should this matter? Not a bit. How much did it matter? Good question. Fighter pilots don’t like to fly aircraft that look like they could be run over by Florida speed boat.
Buzzwords exist because they have utility and cease to exist when they are no longer of use to anyone. They are a form of the specialized vocabulary found in any profession, although the imprecision of the “national security analyst” community necessarily makes defense buzzwords less precise than they might be. The fuzziness of the community (and the associated buzzwords) stems from the fact that it extends across a wide range of organizations and specializations, from the military to the academy to the think tank family to the halls of Congress.
In the early years of World War II, it looked as if Germany might have the luxury to spend its time developing a new generation of super-weapons. The Nazis haphazardly pursued the idea of building an atomic bomb, with an eye toward eventual conflict with the United States. However, the immediate demands of war, combined with Western Allied sabotage, undercut the program, leaving it at the basic research stage by war’s end.
But what if the Germans had devoted more attention to the program, or had lucked into more substantial breakthroughs? What could the Nazis have done with an atomic weapon?
By Official Navy Page from United States of America MC3 Alex R. Forster/U.S. Navy – A helicopter approaches USS Nitze to land., Public Domain,
For those not really paying attention, this morning the destroyer USS Nitze hit three coastal radar installations in Houthi-controlled portions of Yemen. The strikes were in response to land-based cruise missile attacks against USS Mason, another USN destroyer operating in the area. The Mason came under attack on Sunday, and again yesterday, from two missile salvos (believed to be C-802s), and defended itself with SM-2 Standard and ESSM Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles. At this point it remains unclear whether the counter-measures were effective, or whether the cruise missiles simply crashed into the sea of their own accord.
Word is that the initial Houthi attacks are meant as a response to the big Saudi strike that killed a large number of people at a funeral last week. The Houthi may have gotten the missiles from Iran, although other suppliers are possible. The strikes on the coastal radar installations are intended to blind the missile launchers; without radar to identify targets, sending off a cruise missile is a pretty hopeless endeavor.
Escalation? Sure, but fairly measured at this point. The US attacks aren’t intended to send a “message,” but rather to cut out a critical part of the recon-strike complex. If the Houthi continue to launch such attacks on US or neutral shipping, or if they undertake other kinds of attacks (the small boat swarm that took out the former HSV-2) then the USN might pursue less limited options.
The broader context is ongoing US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which is predicated almost entirely upon the need to not make the Saudis feel sad and lonely after the Iran nuclear deal. I can understand the strategic logic of this support, but there really should be limits to how many people we’ll let the Saudis kill just so that they continue to feel loved.
Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov with reset button. By U.S. State Department.
A few observations, followed by a few thoughts:
Russia is governed by a right-wing, quasi-authoritarian petro-state which has increasingly taken an assertive approach to managing perceived threats, including militarizing disputes with neighbors, aggressively supporting clients, and using intelligence assets to disrupt political and social developments in perceived adversaries.
Russia media and intelligence services seem to be actively supporting a right-wing, quasi-authoritarian, human-equivalent-of-a-petro-state in the US Presidential election. Thus far this support has been ineffectual, and perhaps even counter-productive, although it probably has had the marginal effect of delegitimizing the election in the eyes of some Americans.
Pointing out either or both of the above does not constitute either “McCarthyism,” or an effort to start “a New Cold War.”
It’s worth ruminating for a bit just how odd of a situation we find ourselves in. The Democrats are unquestionably to the right of the Republicans on the Russian question in 2016, something which has arguably only happened one other time (1960) since the beginning of the Cold War. This is a dramatic shift from recent elections; the GOP was somewhat to the right of the Democrats on Russia in 2008, and was far to the right of the Democrats in 2012.
What makes it all the more remarkable is that, as of one year ago, the GOP gave every indication that it would try to get even farther to the right of the Democrats on Russia than it was in 2012. Not without some justification, the Republicans were prepared to claim that events had vindicated Mitt Romney’s appraisal of Russia in 2012, and that the Obama (and by extension, Clinton) efforts to reset relations with Russia had failed utterly. Of the several dozen individuals to compete in the 2016 GOP Presidential primary, all but two (Donald Trump and perhaps Rand Paul) would have pursued an aggressive strategy of linking Clinton to Obama’s Russia policy. This would undoubtedly have included ads featuring Clinton’s 2009 meeting with Sergei Lavrov playing on a continuous loop in swing states.
To be sure, Russia has some particular reasons to dislike Hillary Clinton. The Russian political establishment is probably correct to believe that Clinton will pursue a more hawkish foreign policy than Obama, although she was likely to pursue a less aggressive Russia policy than any GOP candidates other than Trump or Paul. Reportedly, Putin remains resentful of Clinton’s decision to (accurately) point out fraud in the 2011 Russian legislative elections. And it’s surely worth noting that the United States and Russia have real foreign policy disagreements, including most notably the long-term nature of the governments in Damascus and Kiev, as well as the extent of security guarantees to former Soviet bloc states in Central and Eastern Europe.
Nonetheless, as of mid-2015, it looked very much like the Russia issue would play out in the 2016 election very much in the way it had played out in 2012, only more so. The Republican candidate would aggressively challenge Clinton on the failure of Obama’s policy of “appeasement,” and would link her directly to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and intervention in Syria. Clinton would respond by a) distancing herself from Obama, and b) claiming that an aggressive response to Russia would be irresponsible, notwithstanding Moscow’s provocations. On balance, this would work less well for Democrats in 2016 than it did in 2012. Mike Pence essentially played out this script in the VP debate.
And then Trump happened, and suddenly a massive vulnerability of the Democratic candidate became a significant asset. Just as suddenly, the Russian state suddenly had an ideologically sympathetic candidate to support. Crazy. To all appearances, this opportunity seems to have just dropped into Russia’s lap; to my mind, there’s little plausible evidence to indicate that Russia played any significant role in inspiring Trump to run, or in helping him prevail in the GOP primary. But given such an opportunity, the Russian intelligence services are running with it. Allies such as Wikileaks (I still think it’s wrong to refer to Assange as a Russian proxy; he has his own reasons, personal and ideological, for disliking Clinton) have actively supported this effort.
As an aside, it’s worth discussing against this backdrop the still-puzzling affinity that some leftish outfits (the Nation, obviously, but others) still have for Russian state propaganda. The reluctance in these quarters to grant that Russia has preferences regarding the 2016 US presidential election, and that it is actively pursuing those preferences, is genuinely odd. Part of this (paging Stephen Cohen) can be ascribed to the long-term habits of the Cold War, and a failure to notice that Russia had ceased to be even a rump revolutionary state, and had become an activist reactionary power. Some undoubtedly results from the fact that Putin was, indeed, on the correct side of the Iraq War debate, and that Russian media outlets in the United States (RT most notably) actively took an antagonistic stance towards the Bush administration. Some surely stems from residual gratitude for Russia’s role in promoting Julian Assange and harboring Edward Snowden, even as it has become apparent that Assange, at least, is more reactionary crank than progressive force. And related to this, there seems to be an implicit, undercurrent belief in some quarters that any political actor capable of resisting US foreign policy, even one which has become as actively pernicious and anti-progressive as Russia, is worth offering at least measured support. In any case, it sure would be nice if one of the flagship magazines of the American left was capable of noticing what the Russian state has become.
In any case, at this point it looks as if Russia’s effort to disrupt the 2016 US will fail utterly. Unless the polls change dramatically, Trump is going to get crushed. Clinton will undoubtedly remember Russia’s stance on the election, making it unlikely that we’ll see yet another “reset” effort with Moscow. A significant portion of the US electorate will believe that the election is illegitimate, but that’s hardly new. The really interesting developments will come in 2020; will the next GOP candidate pursue a traditional anti-Russian stance, or will the reactionary ideological affinity on display in this election have a long-term impact on the foreign policy debate in the US?
In recent years, defense analysts have increasingly turned their attention to the development of hypersonic weapons, a class of systems intended to strike fast, at range, and evade most existing defenses. Generally speaking, a hypersonic weapon is a system in which the kill vehicle (carrying the warhead) travels in excess of Mach 5 in its terminal phase, just prior to striking its target.
Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, World War I. By LT. RALPH ESTEP – Original source: http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=530758 This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration
Newly available testimony from the Korean War has shed some light on why the war remained limited, and on how the Americans viewed the extent of their commitment to the peninsula. Testimony in the investigation of the firing of General Douglas MacArthur indicate how the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood the military situation in early 1951, as MacArthur called for the U.S. Air Force to escalate the conflict by bombing China directly.
2016 has not been kind to Oregon football. It began with one of the worst defeats in the history of the program. That defeat exposed major problems with the Ducks, primarily the inability of the defense to matchup against a barely competent offense, and the inability of the offense to move when it had anyone but Vernon Adams under center. The offseason brought some hope; Prukop looked as good or better than Adams on paper, and arrived in Eugene much earlier. The Ducks hired Brady Hoke as defensive coordinator, apparently under the theory that the defense couldn’t get any worse, and that Hoke would help if he could be kept away from concussion-prone players. The offense had legitimate weapons, although there were big questions about the line.
Nothing has really worked out. Prukop has apparently peaked at adequate-but-uninspired, and still looks periodically lost in the offense. The line hasn’t been good. A questionable decision to use Olympian Devon Allen as gunner on punt coverage predictably led to a season-ending knee injury. The run game, at least, has been fine. It turns out, however, that a terrible defense that loses a first round draft pick on the line can, in fact, get worse. The Ducks lost close at Nebraska, close at home against Colorado, and not-so-close in Pullman against the Cougs.
The broader news about the program hasn’t been much better. The whole “crazy uniform thing” seems about played out. Recruiting has suffered. NFL success has been uneven; Vernon Adams, despite enthusiastic recommendations by some analysts, was not drafted. He found a home in Montreal, but did not play extensively in his first year. Chip Kelly has a job, I suppose, and to his credit he’s handled the Kaepernick controversy well. The 49ers are awful, though, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that they plan to get better in the near future. Marcus Mariota, uneven but promising in his rookie year, has not played well this season. The Titans combine terrible coaching with terrible offensive personnel, but even given those constraints Mariota hasn’t looked good. LaMichael James’ professional career appears to be over.
There are some bright spots; Armstead and Buckner have developed (despite injuries), and Kenjon Barner has found a role in Philadelphia. Kiko Alonso is playing well in Miami. Hopefully Dion Jordan will work his way back into football shape.
And today we get the Huskies, unbeaten, fifth ranked, and angry. The twelve game winning streak has been the centerpiece of the Late Bellotti-Kelly-Helfrich era. Few of the games in this streak have been close. Some 25% of the world’s population has never had to endure a Husky victory in this series. But this game… it’s not looking good. The current line is Ducks +10, and as your Responsible Gambling Advisor, I’m not going to tell you to bet on Oregon. Oregon may start QB Justin Herbert, true freshman, for the first time. If the Ducks lose, and especially if they lose by anything close to the margin of the UW-Stanford game, it’s going to get very ugly for Mark Helfrich. To be honest, it’s not hard to see this team go 3-9.
But hey, that’s just reality talking. Farley the Duck Fan believes that the Ducks are better than this, that either Prukop or Herbert will have enough weapons available to open up the passing game, and that Royce Freeman will run roughshod. Farley the Duck Fan expects the admittedly excellent Huskies to choke under the pressure of breaking a program-defining losing streak. And most importantly, Farley the Duck Fan believes in the Spirit of Kenny Wheaton: