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Category: Robert Farley

Discipline in the ICBM Force

[ 18 ] January 16, 2014 |

Four days ago I wrote this:

In approaching these reforms, it’s undoubtedly best to take a fresh look, especially given that the Triad was as much a result of service in-fighting as a rational strategic choice.

Such a review is particularly necessary given that it has become apparent, over the last decade, that the Air Force itself has lost interest in its nuclear arsenal; a long series of incidents, from a nuclear weapon-laden B-52 taking off from Minot to the recent set of revelations about unpreparedness and unprofessionalism amongst missile crews.

A cynic, or a recently retired Secretary of Defense, might suggest that the USAF no longer sees its nuclear assets as a serious bureaucratic bargaining chip.

And so, given that the Air Force itself no longer seems to take its nuclear responsibilities very seriously, it might behoove us all to rethink how the United States ought to approach nuclear deterrence, especially in context of a threat environment radically different than the one that existed in 1963.

And now this:

The Air Force said on Wednesday that 34 officers responsible for launching the nation’s nuclear missiles had been suspended, and their security clearances revoked, for cheating on monthly proficiency tests that assess their knowledge of how to operate the warheads.

At a news conference, Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, said the officers, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, either knew about or took part in texting answers to the routine monthly tests.

Eleven Air Force officers — including two accused in the Malmstrom cheating scandal, as well as one other nuclear missile officer — have also been the focus of suspicion in an illegal drugs investigation, defense officials said.

Although the Air Force has been plagued in recent years by scandals, the current revelations are particularly alarming because they involve America’s nuclear arsenal, where errors could be catastrophic.

It’s difficult to maintain discipline when no one in the command believes that they’ll ever have to actually perform their central duty.  The three service system isn’t the only reason why it’s difficult to engage in serious reform (the nuclear labs themselves are influential), but it’s certainly part of the problem; the allocation of resources to modernization becomes a push-pull fight between the Air Force and the Navy instead of a sensible accounting of which Triad legs are most important and most survivable.

A Plea for Better USAF Arguments

[ 36 ] January 15, 2014 |

I think of this mainly as an effort to improve the quality of arguments in favor of the independent USAF. To my mind, such a case must grant that the following priors are at least contestable:

  1. The strategic bombing arguments made in favor of the founding of the USAF were empirically and theoretically problematic.
  2. The performance of the USAF in the first half of the Cold War demonstrated serious organizational deficiencies.
  3. Airpower and the Air Force are not the same thing.

That may sound restrictive, but there are a universe of arguments in favor of independence that can nevertheless satisfy all three.  For example, technological change has remedied the (admittedly problematic) strategic bombing theories of the interwar period; the shift of the USAF in a tactical direction after Vietnam has remedied the (admittedly significant) problems of the early Cold War; and while having an independent USAF is not the only way to maintain American airpower, it’s likely the optimal institutional constellation.

I don’t believe those arguments, but I can take them seriously.


On the Market?

[ 16 ] January 14, 2014 |

Megan MacKenzie has a good, long post on the ethics of casual teaching contracts:

For the last few years in particular, there has been a marked increase in the number of sessional, casual, teaching-only, adjunct, fixed term, temporary job ‘opportunities’ listed and circulated in the usual IR job venues. These various titles and categories point to one reality: precarious labor is a permanent reality within academia. The trend has been quantified and well documented: in US in the last 30 years the percentage of positions held by tenured or tenure-track faculty members fell from 56.8% to 35.1%. In an excellent post in the Chronicle, Peter Conn declares “Full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities are endangered by half a dozen trends, most of them long-term.” The trend is not new; however, as the race to the bottom with regard to casual labor hits a new low, what is missing from the discussion is (1) the ways that permanent staff reproduce/support casual labor and (2)the myths associated with the ‘opportunity’ of casual labor for PhD students and unemployed academics.

On a related point, I appreciate that the economics and politics associated with the academic job market are complex, but it does seem that unless you can conceive of a viable political means to expand opportunities for newly minted Ph.Ds, you ought hold off on increasing the size of existing programs.

During the Previews?!?!

[ 195 ] January 13, 2014 |

Good lord.

A moviegoer lost his life inside a Pasco County theater Monday afternoon after a dispute over texting with a retired police officer.

According to the sheriff’s office, the dispute happened before the 1:20 showing of ‘Lone Survivor’ had even gotten underway at the Cobb CineBistro at Grove 16 complex on Wesley Grove Blvd…

Charles Cummings told FOX 13 he heard the victim say he was texting his 3-year-old daughter before Reeves pulled out a pistol.

“Their voices start going up, there seems to be a confrontation, somebody throws popcorn, then bang, he was shot,” said Cummings, who was there to celebrate his birthday. “I heard the victim say, ‘I can’t believe…,’ then he fell on us.

Also, great use of the phrase “lost;” apparently he just misplaced his life, rather than having it taken from him by an angry old man who put a bullet through his chest. I’m reminded of Brockington’s very depressing argument; “if Newtown foments change in the direction opposite to good policy, I’m not sure what can be done.”

Sometimes Impostor Syndrome Isn’t Just a Syndrome

[ 50 ] January 13, 2014 |

Meet Clark, the Chicago Cubs first official mascot. He looks like a first year graduate student who’s pretty damn sure that he’s in way, way over his head. This is altogether appropriate.

Foreign Entanglements: Kerry Kerry Kerry

[ 3 ] January 13, 2014 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt speaks with Yousef Munayyer about John Kerry’s ongoing attempts to restart the Middle East peace process.

Sissy Boy Syndrome?

[ 189 ] January 12, 2014 |

Read this and be legitimately appalled, but also note that the writers and contributors almost certainly viewed it as a progressive contribution:

In many cases parents either overtly or subtly encouraged the feminine behavior. But when parents actively discouraged it and took other steps to enhance a male self-concept, homosexual tendencies of the feminine boys were lessened, although not necessarily reversed. Neither did professional counseling divert a tendency toward homosexuality, although it resulted in more conventional masculine behavior and enhanced the boys’ social and pyschological adjustment and comfort with being male.

The study was conducted by Dr. Richard Green, a noted sex researcher who is professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles and director of its Program in Psychiatry, Law and Human Sexuality. Details of the findings and implications are described in Dr. Green’s new book, ”The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality,” to be published in February by Yale University Press.

Although the study examined extreme cases of boyhood effeminacy, Dr. Green believes the findings may have relevance to lesser degrees of feminine behavior in boys. Such boys, who may, for example, be athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks, often have difficulty making friends with other boys and identifying with typically male activities. Dr. Green suggested that to help the boys think of themselves as male, parents might assist them in finding boy friends who are similarly unaggressive and that the fathers might share in activities the boys enjoy, such as going to the zoo or a concert, rather than insist on taking the boys to athletic events. Counseling to guide such parents and enhance the child’s masculine self-image may also be helpful, Dr. Green said.

The study did not examine the development of homosexuality in boys whose childhoods are typically masculine. About one-third of homosexual men recall such masculine boyhoods. Nor does the study suggest that all boys with the sissy-boy syndrome are destined for homosexuality. Indeed, one-fourth of the extremely feminine boys followed to maturity developed as heterosexuals.

The “athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks” line inevitably reminded me of this:

Flight of the Flying Coffin

[ 83 ] January 11, 2014 |

I’m digging this listicle game:

And thus the difference between a great fighter and a terrible fighter can be remarkably small.As with the previous list, the critical work is in determining the criteria. Fighters are national strategic assets, and must be evaluated as such:

  • Did this aircraft fail at the tactical tasks that it was given? Did it perform poorly against its direct contemporaries?
  • Did the fighter show up, or was it in the hangar when it was needed? Was it more of a danger to its pilots than to enemy fighters?
  • Did it represent a misappropriation of national assets?

So what are the worst fighter aircraft of all time? For these purposes, we’ll be concentrating on fighters that enjoyed production runs of 500 or more aircraft (listed in parentheses); curiosities such as the XF-84H “Thunderscreech” need not apply.


Certainly an Example of Something…

[ 129 ] January 10, 2014 |

Is it just my imagination, or does this anecdote not convey quite the impression its author intends?

But military leaders favored an independent air force because of what they had learned from the North African campaign: When ground commanders controlled aircraft, the results were disastrous. As Colonel F. Randall Starbuck writes in Air Power in North Africa, 1942–43: “One example, relayed by General Doolittle, was the incident where a ground commander asked him to provide a fighter to cover a Jeep that was going out to repair a broken telephone line. He refused. The plane that would have wasted its time on that mission shot down two German Me-109s.”

Did anyone even bother to wonder whether the guys sent to repair the phone line died?

A Soaring Expense

[ 22 ] January 10, 2014 |

Some thoughts on why fighter aircraft continue to increase in price, and what the implications of that increase might be:

The question has long vexed defense analysts, as the projected costs of fighters seem to expand even faster than those of other military hardware. Some of the reasons include the ever-increasing gulf between civilian and military technology, a gulf that demands extra specialization on the part of engineers, equipment, and workforce. Also, fighters (as opposed to interceptors, bombers, or attack aircraft) are literally designed to fight one another, making escalatory cycles particularly likely. Moreover, since modern fighters are generally expected to fulfill multiple roles (air superiority, plus attack, strategic bombing, and interception) packing mission capabilities into a single airframe naturally metastasizes costs.


[ 14 ] January 10, 2014 |

Looks like we’re getting some pushback.  First, from Robert Spalding III at Foreign Affairs (subscription):

Robert Farley (“Ground the Air Force,” December 19, 2013) is so far wide of the mark that he brings to mind the difference between the miss-by-a-mile bombs of World War II and the precision-guided bombs of today that fly through windows. The defense establishment is certainly in need of new ideas. But getting rid of the U.S. Air Force will do nothing to make the Pentagon more efficient or effective. In fact, such a move would do grave damage to our national security.


And from Robert Killebrew at War on the Rocks:

There might be some merit in reducing the Department structure, since the offices of the civilian secretaries tend, like all bureaucracies, to grow.  Yet the civilian secretaries, of independent service branches, play a role in the civilian-military connection.  In our post-WWII history there has been a constant sort of Brownian motion between the civilians and the uniforms in DoD, and that’s not liable to stop, no matter how the deck chairs get rearranged.  For the political cost of making major changes, and the disruption of a distinctively American unified service culture, it seems to me that it would be a lot of smoke for not much steam.

I should have a full response to the Spalding piece up by Monday or Tuesday.

Bowl Mania Winner!

[ 8 ] January 8, 2014 |

The SEC’s reign of terror has ended, and so has the 2013-4 edition of LGM Bowl Mania.


1 Infamous Heel-Filcher ADyrer 424 98
2 Ichi(1)Ni(2)San(3)ofsoundmind11 418 97.2
3 coke bearcoyote56 410 95.7
4 Bowling AloneAaron Veenstra 401 93.4
5 Chippy Gawthom0909 400 93.1
6 Sweet Picksjohnrauchman 393 90.7
7 Aintthatprettyracobeen 392 90.3
8 jmackin220 1jmackin220 389 89
9 Wyrm2 1Wyrm2 388 88.6
10 Rhode Island Grafteloomis121 387 88.2


ADyrer should e-mail me (contact info on far right sidebar) for prize info.  Congrats!

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