Here at the LGM home offices we receive a bewildering array of offers for infographics and guest posts from an equally bewildering array of NGOs, companies, and other organizations. We almost never use them, but this one is kind of interesting. The broader story being told here seems to be about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and state capacity, with the upshot that the use of UAVs tends to increase state capacity in ways that we don’t like, but also in ways that we like. In any case, curious about y’all’s thoughts…
Category: Robert Farley
Here’s the second of what will likely be three columns on the Biddle-Oelrich International Security article:
As discussed in last week’s column, Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich have made a significant contribution to the literature on the future military balance in the Western Pacific. As with any such analysis, however, their article offers as many questions as it does answers. We can break these quibbles down into three areas; strategic, technological, and organizational questions.
My latest at the National Interest ponders the possibility of a two-front war:
The United States discarded its oft-misunderstood “two war” doctrine, intended as a template for providing the means to fight two regional wars simultaneously, late last decade. Designed to deter North Korea from launching a war while the United States was involved in fighting against Iran or Iraq (or vice versa,) the idea helped give form to the Department of Defense’s procurement, logistical and basing strategies in the post–Cold War, when the United States no longer needed to face down the Soviet threat. The United States backed away from the doctrine because of changes in the international system, including the rising power of China and the proliferation of highly effective terrorist networks.
But what if the United States had to fight two wars today, and not against states like North Korea and Iran? What if China and Russia sufficiently coordinated with one another to engage in simultaneous hostilities in the Pacific and in Europe?
It will surprise no one to learn that the Big Scam is begetting small scams:
At a glance, the two websites look virtually indistinguishable. Both feature a photo of Donald Trump, in a suit and red tie, in front of a giant American flag. Both seemingly offer a chance for two to win dinner with Donald Trump.
One is at donaldjtrump.com; the other is at dinnerwithtrump.org.
Story Continued Below
The first belongs to Trump’s campaign. The second is a scheme run by Ian Hawes, a 25-year-old Maryland man who has no affiliation with Trump or his campaign and who has preyed on more than 20,000 unsuspecting donors, collecting more than $1 million in the process.
I get that there’s an inclination to point and laugh, and I also appreciate that on the Ledgers of Historical Justice, it’s better that this money ends up in the hands of a small-time grifter than of the big-time grifter. Still, it’s a shame that people can apparently get away with effectively stealing the money of Trump’s least savvy, least well-off fans.
In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women’s movement or the civil-rights movement — and it hasn’t even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children.
Stop here. It’s a short essay, and you can’t fault the author for failing to undertake a historical ethnography of the development of the family in what we may broadly call “Western” society, but the term “absolute authority within the household for several millennia” is every bit as empirically accurate as declaring that the Earth “enjoyed an absolutely central role in the universe for several millennia.” It takes no account of how families actually functioned in agrarian economic conditions, or of how the industrial revolution changed those conditions, or of how mothers and fathers have negotiated (and imposed) roles and responsibilities for millennia. One man’s funny throwaway line is another’s lazy nonsense.
We’re also, of course, going to set aside all of the instances in which fathers abandoned the title of benevolent authoritarian, in favor either of actual abandonment, or of explicit, tyrannical, domestic violence, executed upon the bodies of the woman and children they were notionally protecting.
Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don’t guide their children through the moral quandaries of life — they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan.
Isn’t this also what moms do? And doesn’t that mean that Young views women, and their appropriate position within in the home, as falling under the term “the help?” Is it genuinely useful, at this point in American political and social life, to publish an essay written explicitly from the point of view that family relations ought to be constituted on authoritarian terms, with the man acting as (albeit distant) tyrant over the woman and the children?
“Home Game,” Mr. Lewis’s account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. “At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and — let us be frank — got fleeced,” he writes.
The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks — tasks that his own father was barely aware of — and received nothing in return.
He did get the opportunity to spend time with his children, a reward which can surely be overstated, but that many fathers consider quite valuable. It’s apparent that Young profoundly dislikes his own children, and would rather not be forced to spend any time around them (see the vasectomy comments below). I know it sounds crazy, but no small percentage of fathers enjoy, and derive great satisfaction from, the daily demands of active parenthood. It turns out that many of the moral quandaries of life can, in fact, benefit from conversations conduction from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan.
If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: “Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight.”
American men now find themselves in the same position as Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Having done the decent thing, and ceded power without bloodshed, they are now looked on with good-humored disdain. (Full disclosure: I am a father of four living in London and can confirm that the situation for British men is no better.)
This is, indeed, good stuff; men have voluntarily given up their position as domestic tyrant, and with hardly any work at all! The participants in successive waves of feminist thinking surely view their victory as both complete, and bloodless; men will now grudgingly drive the children to soccer practice! Break out the champagne and bon bons!
This is good stuff — the American male is a pitiful creature — and it is followed by plenty of examples from Mr. Lewis’s own life. No sooner has his first daughter arrived than he is transformed into a surrendered husband, forced to take her to a succession of “Mommy and me” classes. At one point, while living in Paris, he ends up in a swimming pool with “a dozen scantily clad Frenchmen,” all accompanied by their newborn babies. It isn’t long before he has been thoroughly brainwashed by the politically correct mumbo-jumbo that passes for wisdom in “parenting courses.” “I understood that my job was no longer to force the party line upon Quinn,” he writes. “My job was to validate her feelings.” His wife, who used to look up to him as a glamorous writer, begins to view him as an “unreliable employee.”
“Home Game” ends with Mr. Lewis’s description of getting a vasectomy — at the request of his wife, naturally. Having submitted to metaphorical castration, he decides to go the whole nine yards. It reminded me of the final scene in “The Stepford Wives” in which we see the lobotomized Katharine Ross wandering down a supermarket aisle. Mr. Lewis laughs off the indignities of the surgical procedure, as he does all the other humiliations that his wife and children inflict on him, but beneath all the jokes there’s a sense of loss, a nostalgia for the time when fathers weren’t objects of ridicule. This is a profound and far-reaching change in American family life, and it deserves more serious consideration from one of America’s finest writers.
Because having determined that the American man has been utterly subjugated by wife and children, the appropriate response is surely the production of additional children! One begins to wonder about the good sense of allocating authoritarian power to such irrational, status-paranoid, emotionally driven creatures in the first place.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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: