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Category: Robert Farley

Giant Tanks that Died in Utero

[ 11 ] June 29, 2014 |

I have a new listicle at the National Interest on abortive Soviet wonder weapons:

For nearly seven decades, the defense-industrial complex of the Soviet Union went toe-to-toe with the best firms that the West had to offer.  In some cases, it surprised the West with cheap, innovative, effective systems.  In others, it could barely manage to put together aircraft that could remain in the air, and ships that could stay at sea.

No single weapon could have saved the Soviet Union, but several might have shifted the contours of its collapse. The relationship between technology and the “human” elements of war, including doctrine and organization, is complex.  Decisions about isolated systems can have far reaching implications for how a nation defends itself.

“Died in France”

[ 23 ] June 29, 2014 |

This is a truly remarkable graphic on Commonwealth deaths in the Great War. I remember wandering the Pioneer Cemetery in Eugene, just off the University of Oregon campus, and occasionally finding a “Died in France” headstone, with a 1917 or 1918 date.  The linked graphic serves to remind that most of those who died in France remain there.


Princip, Terrorism, and Criminal Justice

[ 69 ] June 28, 2014 |

100 years ago today, Gavrilo Princip (a member of a Serbian terrorist organization) shot and killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the thrones of Austria-Hungary.  Princip also killed the Archduke’s wife, Sophie.

After his arrest (which was, according to onlookers, brutal), Gavrilo Princip and his co-conspirators were given a trial in a civilian court, with access to defense counsel.  The trial began less than four months after the assassination, and lasted two weeks. As he was a minor (just short of 20) at the time of the assassination, Princip was sentenced to the maximum allowable punishment, 20 years at hard labor. Five of his older co-conspirators were sentenced to death, with three of the five eventually executed by hanging.

Reputedly, the conspirators were subjected to solitary confinement once per year, on June 28.  Princip himself contracted tuberculosis in prison, and died in April 1918.

Too Soon?

[ 171 ] June 27, 2014 |

C’mon, guys:

Marking the eve of the centennial of the beginning of World War I in their own way, Bosnian Serbs on Friday unveiled a monument in their part of Sarajevo to the man who ignited the war by assassinating the Austro-Hungarian crown prince on June 28, 1914.

Kinda making Christopher Clark’s “It’s mostly the Serbs fault” point for him…

Latin America on the Pacific

[ 3 ] June 27, 2014 |

Latest at the Diplomat involves a brief tour of the fleets of Latin America:

Nevertheless, Latin American navies face the same problems as many other global navies: protection of legitimate commerce, management of drug and human trafficking, and even occasional piracy. Were U.S. naval hegemony to wane, the Latin American navies might have to take up a greater part of the maritime burden. Some signs suggest that the Pacific coast navies have become increasingly integrated into the Pacific maritime system. Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico participated in the 2012 RIMPAC exercises, and each of the four is expected to participate again in 2014.

A Different Perspective on Third Parties

[ 143 ] June 25, 2014 |

I would like to point out that Erik and Scott couldn’t be more wrong about the potential effectiveness of a third party effort in American politics.

Lastly, ham-headed Sean Hannity asks her if she is going to make good on her threat to go third party with the Tea Party which is apparently a wholly owned subsidiary of Granny Grifter Bump-It Wholesaling Enterprises , LLC:

“Well if Republicans are going to act like Democrats, then what’s the use in getting all gung-ho about getting more Republicans in there? We need people who understand the beauty of…. the value of … allowing  free market to thrive. Otherwise our country is going to be continued to be over-regulated, driving industry away, driving jobs away. We’re going to be a bankrupt, fundamentally transformed country unless those who know what they’re doing, and aren’t going along just to get along with those in power, it being today the Democrats. That does no good. So yeah if Republicans aren’t going to stand strong on the planks in our platform then it does no good to get all enthused about them anymore.”


I, for one, strongly believe in the political efficacy of third party movements, and heartily encourage Mrs. Palin to pursue this opportunity to transform the very structure of American politics.


The Weapons that Never Were

[ 35 ] June 23, 2014 |

In my latest at the National Interest I talk about five potentially revolutionary weapon systems that never came to be:

Weapons die for all kinds of different reasons.  Sometimes they happen at the wrong time, either in the midst of defense austerity, or with the wrong constellation of personnel.  Sometimes they fall victim to the byzantine bureaucracy of the Pentagon, or to turf fights between the services.  And sometimes they die because they were a bad idea in the first place.  For the same reasons, bad defense systems can often survive the most inept management if they fill a particular niche well enough.

This article concentrates on five systems that died, but that might have had transformative effects if they had survived.  These transformations would only rarely have changed the course of wars (countries win and lose wars for many reasons besides technology), but rather would have had ripple effects across the entire defense industrial base, altering how our military organizations approached warfighting and procurement. Not all the changes would have been for the best; sometimes programs are canceled for sound reasons.

“Portugal Is Like Brazil’s Distant, Abusive Daddy”

[ 93 ] June 22, 2014 |

Open thread for the Portugal-US match.

[SL] I think it’s in the bag, since the US has never lost a World Cup game with Teddy Roosevelt in attendance:


Admittedly, if Lyndon Johnson rather than Teddy Roosevelt was at the game today, the US would be up 7-1. Unfortunately, they would lose to Vietnam in the next round.

Sunday Linkage

[ 53 ] June 22, 2014 |

For your reading pleasure:

Over the next few days we’re going to be playing with the advertising zones a bit.  Our intent is to avoid particularly annoying ads while nevertheless improving revenue streams.  Comments appreciated.

Capturing the Spoils of World War I

[ 70 ] June 20, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat discusses how the course of World War I in Asia helped set the board for World War II:

However, the events of 1914 were watched closely in East Asia, where many believed that the war held the key to the future of the continent. Japan, in particular, saw the war as an opportunity to improve its position at the expense of Germany, which Tokyo quickly appreciated would not be able to defend its Pacific positions. On August 7, 1914, the British government asked for Japan’s assistance with securing Pacific sealanes. On August 23, Japan declared war against Germany, and began operations against German territorial possessions in the Pacific.

Japan quickly seized this opportunity by laying siege to the German Concession at Tsingtao (Qingdao). The primary German forces in the area consisted of a cruiser squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, but when the war began, Spee and his cruisers were touring German island possessions. Seeing the writing on the wall, Spee determined to avoid the Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, and started a long set of adventures that would end in the Falkland Islands.

If you really dig arguments between Japanese and Chinese nationalists, you will LOVE the comment thread on this one.


[ 114 ] June 19, 2014 |

I’d comment at more length on the Ann Marie Slaughter op-ed, but Daniel Larison is killing it.

For my part, it’s the operational aspect of the demand for the use of airpower that’s so puzzling. One of the reasons (I presume) that the Obama administration was so reluctant to bomb Syria was that it was difficult to sort out how a brief, or even moderate, bombing campaign might bring the conflict to a close. As we discovered in Libya, it’s impossible to bomb for humanitarian purposes; if you’re going to engage, you need to decide who you want to win and push for it. In Syria, the state was considerably more robust, the opposition more fractured, and the nastiest elements of the resistance more powerful than in Libya, meaning that it would be harder to win and the fruits of victory would be more ambiguous. I suppose this is why Slaughter has determined to rely on the Credibility Fairy, suggesting that bombing would have resolved everything from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea to Jose Fernandez’ Tommy John surgery.

Strangely enough, the operational case for limited use of airpower in Iraq is a lot stronger than in Syria, precisely because we presumably wouldn’t be bombing for “humanitarian” reasons. The intention would be to support the efforts of Iraqi forces to identify, fix, and defeat ISIS fighters, then recover and control actual territorial objectives. These, not atmospheric nonsense such as “resolve” and “messaging,” are objectives that airpower can actually contribute to.

Note that “operational” is a different thing than “strategic.” At this point, to the extent that the US prefers the current Iraqi government to an ISIS-controlled government, I think it’s sufficient to help out with intelligence assistance that will allow the Iraqi Army to use its vastly superior firepower to track and defeat the insurgents/fighters/whatever. Iraq isn’t fighting the PAVN; it should be able to use its overwhelming superiority in just about everything to push back. The fundamental problems remain with Iraq’s political settlement, and airpower is singularly incapable of resolving those issues.


[ 10 ] June 17, 2014 |

I think Roger Sterling may have come up with this:

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