Mobilization schedules, political dissension, the progress of the Sarajevo police enquiry, the need to secure German support – these were excellent reasons for delaying a military action against Serbia. Not even Conrad was able to offer a credible alternative to his civilian colleagues. And yet, throughout the July Crisis the Austrians would be haunted by the suspicion that it might actually have been better simply to strike at Belgrade without full mobilization and without a declaration of war, in what would universally have been seen as a reflex response to a grave provocation. Why didn’t Austria-Hungary simply attack Serbia straight away and be done with it, asked Prime Minister Ion Brătianu of Romania on 24 July, as the crisis entered its critical phase.
The practice of punishing recalcitrant states through direct naval action was common in the nineteenth century. Don’t pay your debts? Get ready for a Royal Navy gunboat lobbing a few shells at the government buildings in your capitol city. States generally understood such operations (along with raids, their land/amphibious equivalent) to fall short of war, even if they killed people and involved extra-territorial use of force.
Naval punishment was not possible in the Serbo-Austrian relationship, and a raid launched without full mobilization was too risky (Serbia remained partially mobilized from the Balkan Wars, making a poorly prepared Austrian invasion a perilous prospect). Austria needed to mobilize in order to punish, and mobilization changed the calculi of the rest of the European great powers. In effect, it was difficult for Austria to punish Serbia without also threatening the existence of Serbia, which would have upset the Balkan balance-of-power.
But imagine if the assassination had taken place a decade later, when (perhaps) Austria-Hungary might have operated a few squadrons of Gotha bombers. Could Vienna have undertaken appropriate “punishment” of Belgrade without triggering a systemic war? There’s surely an argument here that airpower could have provided Austrian policymakers with flexible options for dealing with the crisis. Assuming that Austria’s intent was simply to punish and not to unilaterally introduce a new Balkan order, a series of airstrikes combined with economic pressure and marginal territorial moves might have sufficed to satisfy Habsburg honor, without forcing Russian intervention.
But then again, we have more than a few examples of air campaigns that escalated well beyond the control of their planners. It’s quite possible that even such a measured response would have irrevocably committed Austria to a path that led to war with Russia, which would have triggered the broader conflict.
The USN has maintained a consistent nuclear attack submarine capability since the 1950s. Initially focused on anti-shipping missions, over time the SSN force has developed critical anti-submarine warfare (ASW), recon, land attack, and even Special Operations Forces (SOF) roles. More so than aircraft carriers or even manned aircraft, we can expect that the USN will continue to need modern subs to manage these missions over the lifespan of these boats. The fleet has proven so successful over the past decades that attack subs are likely to acquire more missions, not fewer.
On Tuesday, I participated in the Fletcher School’s “Bridging the Gap” idea fest. Organized by Dan Drezner, the concept involved drawing scholars from a wide range of experiences into a conversation about the size, relevance, and tractability of the divide between policy practitioners and the academy. We debated whether the “gap” was growing or shrinking, how graduate education could mend relations, how scholars could approach practitioner concerns, and whether the emerging structure of the academy (in terms of graduate preparation, hiring, and promotion) was sustainable.
Storify record is available here (thanks @caidid !) , other materials here. My own contribution addressed the role of social media in bridging the gap. I argued, from the experience of my book, that social media and other forms of online engagement broadened and deepened peer review, resulting in more rigorous work while also making that work more accessible and more widely known.
Best part was getting to meet Sarah Kendzior, Michael Horowitz, and Erin Simpson, as well as to reconnect with old friends such as Drezner, Mira Sucharov, and Mike Desch.
Now we have several air forces — in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — because none of the other services trust the Air Force to meet its needs. America needs military aviation, but it doesn’t need a bureaucracy specifically devoted to airpower.
Other entries include AP classes, BRICs (a disposal with which I can heartily agree), and President’s Day.
Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting at the Ideas Industry conference at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. I believe I was invited because I lack ideas and need some more. I’ll be live-tweeting from @drfarls, hashtag #FletcherIdeas.
So a new thing with a new book is the book festival circuit. This last weekend, I was invited to the Southern Kentucky Book Festival, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Because Bowling Green is home to the Corvette production line, I probably saw more Corvettes in two days than I’d seen so far in my life.
The festival itself involves authors sitting at tables, with a stack of books, waiting to speak with people who might be interested. In this case, attendance was driven by the presence of Charlaine Harris and CJ Redwine. I sold nary a book, although I did have a couple long conversations with potential buyers.
A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.
The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.
Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.
But the greatest true submarine campaign never (or only intermittently) went “hot.” Waged with advanced, streamlined submarines, hunting each other from the polar ice cap to the Eastern seaboard, the Cold War undersea “game” lasted for over three decades. In case of real war, these submarines would safeguard (or destroy) NATO’s trans-Atlantic lifeline, and would protect (or sink) much of the nuclear deterrent of America, Russia, Britain, and France.
So what were the best submarines of the Cold War era? For the purposes of this list, we’re excluding ballistic missiles submarines or boomers, which have an entirely different mission from attack boats, built for different requirements. Instead, this list will focus on submarines optimized for killing surface ships or other submarines. The criteria should be familiar from previous lists; to what extent did the vessels perform its strategic mission at a price that its nation could afford?