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Category: Robert Farley

The Eastern Eastern Front

[ 22 ] April 20, 2016 |
Soviet aircraft carrier Novorossiysk.jpg

Soviet aircraft carrier Novorossiysk. Public Domain.

My latest at the National Interest examines some of the lit on what World War III might have looked like in the Pacific:

Scholars have devoted far less attention to the planning of World War III in East Asia than to the European theater. The two classic novels of the Third World War (Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and John Hackett’s The Third World War) rarely touched on developments in Asia. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Naval War College traced the potential course of war in East Asia as part of a series of global war games. These games lend a great deal of insight into the key actors in the conflict, and how the decisive battles of a Second Pacific War might have played out.




[ 64 ] April 20, 2016 |
Rear view of jet aircraft in-flight at dawn/dusk above mountains. Its engines are in full afterburner, evident through the presence of shock diamonds.

F-22 in full afterburner. U.S. Air Force. Public Domain

Been on the road for a bit, getting back into the swing of things…

Congress wants a study on whether to re-open the F-22 Raptor line.  This is a complicated question.  Way back when, I supported the decision to kill the F-22 at 187 planes, largely because the F-35 looked like it was going reasonably well, and because of other priorities.  Since that time the F-35 project has nose-dived, and the F-22 has performed exceptionally well, notwithstanding some issues at high altitude.  I think it’s fair to say at this point that the decision to kill the F-22 in favor of the F-35 was wrong.*

That doesn’t make restarting the F-22 line necessarily the right thing to do, however.  For one, restarting any line is extremely expensive, even when all of the tooling and the procedures have been locked down.  Workforce has to be trained (or rehired), factories have to be spooled up, etc.  The bump will all be in capability; new F-22s will cost more than new F-35s.  Moreover, the ban on F-22 export remains in place, meaning that it will still likely be impossible to recoup any expenses through an export model. Finally, although the F-22 is awesome, it’s also old; re-opening the project at this point means committing to a fighter that’s been in development since the 1980s, and in production since the 1990s.

It’s also worth noting that the worm can turn pretty quickly on the evaluation of defense projects.  Eight years ago the F-22 was an expensive disaster, incapable of contributing in a meaningful way to the COIN fights going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, it is widely acknowledged by aviation experts to be the finest fighter in the world, a good distance ahead of any competitor currently flying, and most still on the drawing board.  The F-15 and F-16 (especially the latter) followed similar paths.


*Let’s take some care on this sentence; it takes no position on whether killing the F-22 to fund, say, schools or free Toyota Corollas or new battleships or anything else would have been a good idea.  Defense procurement decisions are generally of the branch rather than the root variety

USS Portland

[ 36 ] April 12, 2016 |
US Navy 110609-N-VL218-336 The amphibious transport dock ships USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and USS New York (LPD 21) are underway together in the Atla.jpg

Sisters of USS Portland: The amphibious transport dock ships USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and USS New York (LPD 21) are underway together- U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Edwin F. Bryan –  Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Well, this is embarrassing.

For the second week in a row, Portland’s talking about banning city employees from traveling to a bigoted state, and this time Mayor Charlie Hales’ Pascagoula dreams may be dashed.

Hales and First Lady Nancy Hales had planned to travel to Mississippi next month to pay a visit to the USS Portland (actually, the third USS Portland to be owned by the US Navy), named in honor of this city. But after Mississippi became the latest state to pass a terrible, homophobic, discriminatory lawyesterday, Hales says he’ll put those plans on ice.

“I would be very disappointed if the Mayor of Portland was not able to be there for the launching of the Portland,” Hales said this morning, adding “these travel bans, if they are to mean anything, should mean we are not able to go to Mississippi.”

Turns out that they’ll commission USS Portland in Portland in late 2017. Sucks to be you, Mississippi.


[ 11 ] April 11, 2016 |

RFS Pyotr Velikiy transiting the Suez Canal

I have updated the page for the Battleship Book with the latest reviews and podcasts; please check it out. Most importantly, take a listen to the recent podcast I recorded with Ankit Panda of The Diplomat. Note that the book is finally available from Amazon!  You can get the ebook direct from Wildside

If you’ve already bought the book, then let me encourage you to review it at Amazon or some other relevant retailer (even if you hated it). Amazon reviews are a huge help for any author, so if you’ve read any of these books, please take a few seconds:

No Way Out

[ 17 ] April 11, 2016 |
P-8A Poseidon of VP-16 dropping torpedo in 2013.JPG

“P-8A Poseidon of VP-16 dropping torpedo in 2013” by U.S. Navy – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.


A Taiwan-born Navy officer who became a naturalized U.S. citizen faces charges of espionage, attempted espionage and prostitution in a highly secretive case in which he is accused of providing classified information to China, U.S. officials said.

The Navy examined the charges against Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin in a preliminary military justice hearing on Friday. The service did not release his identity, but a U.S. official disclosed it Sunday under the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the case. Lin’s connection to the case was first reported by USNI News.

Ash Carter has cancelled his visit to China, apparently in connection with this case.  The maritime recon mission is some pretty serious stuff; I’ve been digging through some old wargaming material from the Naval War College, and the P-3s were expected to bear a heavy load in case of conflict. P-8s also do fun stuff like this. In any case, spying of this nature is probably more important in the big picture than all the cyber-espionage stuff that we’ve heard so much about recently; Chinese intel has been very serious about making inroads into the various Chinese language communities in the United States, although it hasn’t historically had a lot of success with the Taiwanese-American community. Down the road, we may see the US intelligence community and the Pentagon start to get sketchy about security clearances for Chinese-Americans, especially those with fairly recent family connections to the mainland. That would be a shame.

Japanese Nukes

[ 16 ] April 11, 2016 |
Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15.jpg

“Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15” by Angelique Perez, U.S. Air Force -Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Latest at TNI: Letting Japan build nukes would have been a bad idea.

During the Cold War, the United States supported selective nuclear proliferation as a means of deterring a Soviet invasion of Europe. The Russians might not believe that the United States would trade Berlin for New York, but they might find a British or French threat more credible.

Washington did not pursue the same strategy in Asia. Although Japan could easily match Britain or France in economic power and technological sophistication, the United States didn’t see fit to support Japanese nuclearization. Instead, the United States quashed Japanese nuclear ambitions whenever they appeared.

As always, the comment thread is a treasure.

Foreign Entanglements: Central Asia Survey

[ 0 ] April 9, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Natalie speaks with Katie Putz about Central Asia, and about the future of journalism:

Nikita, Fidel, and Mao…

[ 19 ] April 8, 2016 |

mao2My latest at the Diplomat surveys some of the latest lit on how the Cuban Missile Crisis affected Chinese domestic politics:


Cuba provided an ideal arena for sparring between Moscow and Beijing. In a developing country long under the thumb of the United States, the Castro brothers’ revolution accorded perfectly with Mao’s vision of conflict between the capitalist and socialist blocs. But China lacked the military and economic power to support the Cuban Revolution; only the Soviets had the means to protect the Castro regime.

Here Come the North Koreans?

[ 74 ] April 7, 2016 |
Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Monument4.jpg

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Monument, Pyongyang. By Hanneke Vermeulen –, CC BY-SA 3.0

Some thoughts at the Diplomat on what a dissolution of the Korean People’s Army might mean for private military firms around the world:

The end of the Cold War led to the largest military demobilization since the final days of World War II. Between 1988 and 1999, the Soviet Union alone reduced its military personnel by about three million men (although some of these found employment in the armed forces of successor states). The rest of the Eastern bloc went through a similar experience, followed by the NATO alliance.

This demobilization left a massive, floating population of trained soldiers, often without any good economic prospects. This pool of military labor helped feed the growth of private military firms, operating in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In some cases, Russian and Eastern European soldiers served on different sides of the same conflicts, often bringing equipment along with them.

Given the changing nature of military technology, it is unlikely that we’ll ever see a global military demobilization of similar magnitude. Mass armies have gone out of style, except for in one place: the Korean Peninsula.


Israeli Nukes

[ 76 ] April 6, 2016 |
F-4E Israel HAPIM0321.jpg

Israeli F-4 Phantom. By Itayba CC BY-SA 3.0,

My latest at the National Interest suggests that the Israeli nuclear program has had a fairly minimal impact on regional politics and security:

Since the early 1970s, Israel has informally maintained a nuclear deterrent. In order to prevent the activation of a variety of legal instruments that would disrupt Israeli relations with the United States and Europe, Israel has not acknowledged the program. It remains, however, the worst-kept secret in international politics.

But a country always has options. What if Israel had never developed these nukes? What impact would a different decision have had on Israel’s security, and on regional politics more broadly?

India and IP

[ 2 ] April 5, 2016 |

US Patent cover
Some thoughts at the Diplomat on how different perspectives on IP protection are proving to be an obstacle in the budding US-India alliance:

Intellectual property (IP) protection remains a sticking point in the budding bromance between Washington and Delhi. Reports have emerged over the last month that the Indian government has given informal assurances on IP protection to a U.S. business lobbying organization. Such assurances would violate at least the spirit of Delhi’s commitment to viewing IP regulation within the framework of broader humanitarian goals, and as such have generated considerable controversy.

It’s not surprising that India and the United States feel differently about IP protection. Vast social and economic differences often lead to different regulatory approaches; the U.S. favors strong protection for its corporate interests, while especially in pharmaceuticals, India reserves the right to compel firms to license their IP in service of broader health care goals. In the past, these practices have made Western firms reluctant to invest in Indian industry and infrastructure (see the Novartis case from 2013).


[ 11 ] April 5, 2016 |


1 210 160 200 240 320 320 Villanova 0 1450 99.8
2 220 180 160 240 320 320 Villanova 0 1440 99.8
3 210 200 160 160 320 320 Villanova 0 1370 99.6
4 240 220 200 160 160 320 Villanova 0 1300 99.4
5 190 140 200 240 160 320 Villanova 0 1250 99.1
6* 200 160 200 160 160 320 Villanova 0 1200 98.7
6* 200 200 240 80 160 320 Villanova 0 1200 98.7
8* 190 160 200 160 160 320 Villanova 0 1190 98.6
8* 230 160 160 160 160 320 Villanova 0 1190 98.6
10 200 200 200 80 160 320 Villanova 0 1160 98.3

The winner should contact me at the address on the far right sidebar for prize info!

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