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Category: Robert Farley

Things I Learned from John McLaughlin

[ 122 ] August 16, 2016 |

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.


Axis BB Throwdown!

[ 37 ] August 15, 2016 |

Sketch of Tsingtao, 1906.  From a photo taken by pratyeka at the Qingdao Beer Musem, 2004-10-03., Public Domain,

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:

Can we imagine a scenario in which two titans of World War II, the German battleship Bismarck and the Japanese battleship Yamato, would come into conflict? Difficult, but not impossible.


BB Book Review

[ 26 ] August 13, 2016 |

Another review for the Battleship Book, by Commander Mark R. Condeno, Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary:

From the Pre- dreadnought HMS Victoria to the Post World War Two USS Guam, the Battleship Book is a highly useful account of about 62 Battleships/Battlecruisers of 9 navies that possess them. The author Robert Farley, a teacher of national security courses at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky and an avid enthusiast of Maritime History, Airpower Theory and National Security issues is to be commended for this impressive tome. He is also the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.

Beginning with an introduction in which he covers battleship history emerging from the Steel Battleship types of the late 19th Century to the advent of HMS Dreadnought in 1905 and until the demise of these Castles of Steel after the Second World War. He then present’s his thesis for coming up with the book and on why he has written it, its purpose and objective.

The book is divided into three chapters covering the era of the Pre-Dreadnought, World War One and World War Two. As each for the three chapters, each particular entry is typical providing basic ships information, its history from commissioning, actions involved to decommissioning as well as its impact on warfare and technology. He also provides comparisons to other battleships of each particular period. Apart from the individual ship entries which is the books strength were in the readers would gain knowledge of both old and new, interlude chapters on battles are provided in which these vessel engaged such as the Battle of Jutland (1916)- which celebrates the Battles Centenary this year, the Naval Treaties prior to World War Two and Pearl Harbor. Subsequently, 8 sidebars of various pages provide information on relative subjects like battleship aviation, turrets, guns, and even movies featuring these ships.

In assessment Mr. Farley, has done an outstanding job in adding another volume on Battleship History. The book is exciting and informative, and how it is arrayed is another gem, even with only one photograph per entry which is understandable, the history is of more importance. A four page conclusion, further reading section and photo credits supplement’s the book.

The Battleship Book is a valuable account for Naval Officers specially those on the Academy and Service School positions, Historians, Students and Enthusiasts. The book is highly recommended.

CDR Mark R Condeno

Yamato hit by bomb.jpg

HIJMS Yamato hit by bomb during Battle of Sibuyan Sea. By Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives., Public Domain,



[ 38 ] August 12, 2016 |
Republic F-105 Thunderchief - Vietnam War 1966.jpg

Republic F-105 “Thud.” By United States Air Force – United States Air Force via, Public Domain,


Latest at the Diplomat highlights some interesting new research on the impact of bombing on South Vietnam:

new survey on the use of aerial bombing during the Vietnam War has seemingly confirmed what many suspected: the systematic bombing of South Vietnam detracted from, rather than furthered, U.S. war aims. The study uses a U.S.-generated system of classifying individual Vietnamese hamlets to demonstrate that similarly positioned villages, subjected to different inputs (bombing), reacted differently.


[ 215 ] August 11, 2016 |


Of course, if SC is that close in November, then it’s an afterthought anyway.


[ 11 ] August 11, 2016 |

Albanian Air Force Chengdu F-7A. By Chris Lofting –—Air/Chengdu-F-7A/1052628/L/, GFDL 1.2,

Latest at the National Interest involves a look at some of the US and Russian military systems that China has stolen borrowed been inspired by:

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged from war and revolution in 1949, it became apparent that the Chinese economy lacked the capacity to compete with the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. in the production of advanced military technology.  Transfers from the Soviet Union helped remedy the gap in the 1950s, as did transfers from the United States and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Still,the Cultural Revolution stifled technology and scientific research, leaving the Chinese even farther behind.

Thus, China has long supplemented legitimate transfers and domestic innovation with industrial espionage.  In short, the PRC has a well-established habit of pilfering weapons technology from Russia and the United States.  As the years have gone by, Beijing’s spies have become ever more skillful and flexible in their approach. Here are five systems that the Chinese have stolen or copied, in whole or in part:

The Conspiratorial Turn, and Links for the Day

[ 158 ] August 10, 2016 |

Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Charles de Gaulle (R91). By USN – U.S. Navy VFA-146 official website [1] photo [2], Public Domain,

For your pleasure:


The Impossible and the Unlikely

[ 209 ] August 9, 2016 |

aptopix-campaign-2016-trumpI really have to wonder what the Clinton campaign is doing right now:

If you were Clinton, how much time and money would you be spending prepping for the fight against Donald, and how much would you devote to the (unlikely though it may be) eventuality that Donald will drop out and be replaced by a real candidate? I ask not because I think that the latter is terribly likely, but because I really can’t see any other eventuality in which the GOP seriously challenges Clinton.

GOP Theater of the Absurd Becomes Mildly More Absurd

[ 140 ] August 8, 2016 |

Turbo_Hank_Hill_propane_DerpBREAKING BREAKING BREAKING: GOP #NeverTrumpers back MAJOR, WELL KNOWN independent candidate against Trump!

Key players in GOP’s anti-Trump movement are preparing to launch an independent presidential campaign for Evan McMullin — a CIA veteran and the chief policy director of the House Republican conference — sources close to the effort told BuzzFeed News.

Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based media consultant and outspoken Trump critic, is expected to be involved in McMullin’s campaign. Sources said Wilson was in Washington on Sunday meeting with members of McMullin’s prospective campaign — which includes some who were involved in a group called Better for America, which has been pushing an independent presidential bid.

Jesus, these assholes can’t do anything right.

Road to Moscow

[ 30 ] August 4, 2016 |
Faina and Chiang Ching-kuo in 1935.jpg

Chiang Ching-kuo and Faina Chiang, Soviet Union, 1935. By Unknown –, Public Domain,

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the late 1960s correspondence between Taipei and Moscow:

A recent article in the journal of Cold War History shed light on the 1960s-era relationship between Taipei and Moscow, a relationship that both sides kept quiet for the duration of the Cold War.

The article, by Xiang Zhai and Ruping Xiao, dug into some archival material on the Taiwanese side of the relationship. It revealed that the government of Chiang Kai-shek made secret approaches to the Soviet Union through intermediaries, and that talks between the two sides continued for several years.



Do Your Bombers Know the Way to San Jose?

[ 16 ] August 3, 2016 |

Dionne Warwick tells me that I’m all turned around on this Air Force issue:

But this is the one that really hurts:

Pete was probably just fulfilling the requirements of some sort of plea deal to avoid felony conviction, right?

Moving Past the Post-Cold War

[ 14 ] August 3, 2016 |

Ropucha Class Landing Craft. By PH3 DAWN SCHMELHAUN – Still Asset Details for DNSC9102263, Public Domain,

Latest at the National Interest has some thoughts on Russian military procurement and reform priorities:

As the Cold War ticked to its end, the USSR lost the ability to compete with the United States in many key areas. The collapse of the Soviet military-industrial complex after the fall of the Soviet Union only exacerbated this problem. Today, even though the Russian military remains formidable, it continues to have key deficiencies relative to the United States. Here are five areas in which Russia would like to have the capabilities that the United States now enjoys.


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