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Category: Robert Farley

Chinese Airpower

[ 15 ] August 1, 2014 |

The next Guns N’ Roses album? No, my latest at the Diplomat:

Ankit’s recent post (building on Rebecca Grant’s  longer list at Air Force Magazine) opens the question of whether China has structured its military institutions such that they support the sophisticated development and dynamic use of military aviation.

In short, how does the organizational configuration of Chinese airpower matter for how China will fight, plan to fight, and procure?

There is no single optimal way to organize military forces. Different organizational constellations produce different outcomes for warfighting, procurement, and strategic thought. Reorganizations are costly, and shouldn’t be undertaken at the drop of a hat, but nevertheless provide an opportunity to better align organizational imperatives with national goals.

The Goeben’s Saga Begins…

[ 6 ] August 1, 2014 |

One hundred years ago today, Goeben and Breslau were preparing their escape…

In the years prior to the war, Germany deployed naval squadrons around the world to protect its burgeoning colonial empire. War came so quickly that some of these squadrons were trapped in unfriendly waters, chased by superior British forces.

Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau amounted to a respectable, if not formidable, capability. Germany had two allies in the Mediterranean—Italy and Austria—but Berlin worried the two traditional enemies might fight each other, instead.

The Germans were unprepared for war. Goeben—displacing 25,000 tons and packing 10 11-inch guns—badly needed a refit, as well as refueling, and Mediterranean allies weren’t ready to accommodate the vessel. Vienna still hoped it could avoid war with Britain. Italy was unhelpful.

Longtime LGM readers will recall that I wrote a much longer version of the story several years ago.

Don’t Over-Stupid an Already Stupid Conversation

[ 74 ] July 31, 2014 |

Of all the stupid tropes that are used to describe the Israel-Palestine conflict:

What would politicians in Arizona, Texas and California do if Mexico were shooting rockets into Scottsdale, Houston or Los Angeles? You can bet it wouldn’t last almost ten years. More like ten hours, before the USA would unleash whatever force was necessary to protect the citizens of Arizona, Texas and California.

Would America keep the water and the electricity on for a people that were attacking her? Would anyone blame America for protecting their own people and showing strength? Would we care if the rest of the world disagreed?

No, we would care about one thing, and one thing only: protecting American’s and doing the best we could to minimize innocent civilians deaths.

Sure; in the past the United States has punctuated mild tolerance for pinprick attacks launched by indigenous peoples with vicious campaigns of extermination.  Many Americans have come to regret this particular reaction; others have not.  I daresay, however, that if a substantial group of Americans was subjected to land confiscation and occupation on a scale similar to that imposed upon the Palestinians, they would valorize heroic resistance in the face of impossible odds, however pointless and illegal that resistance might seem to outsiders, and  that they would engage in terrorist activity in hopes of overturning the existing political and military order.

And with respect to “But but but Hamas is BAAAD!!”, I agree that this might matter if we were talking about justice.  What we’re talking about, however, is the politics and psychology of vengeance.

Still with the Air Force Bit

[ 7 ] July 31, 2014 |

I have an op-ed at Aviation Week and Space Technology on abolishing the Air Force:

Institutionally speaking, we are living in 1947. We created military services in order to provide institutional voice to certain kinds of capabilities. Interwar airpower enthusiasts argued that aviators needed an independent service because land and sea commanders could not appreciate the transformative implications of military aviation. Innovation, industry and doctrine would suffer as the parochial interests of the Army and Navy prevented aviators from spreading their wings, so to speak.

Oliver on the Nuclear Community

[ 26 ] July 30, 2014 |

Nice.

WWI Nutshell!

[ 45 ] July 29, 2014 |

Your World War I graphic of the day:

A couple thoughts:

  • The Western Front and the Isonzo Front give an incomplete understanding of the static nature of World War I warfare; there was considerably more movement in the east than in the west.
  • Nevertheless, the ability of a country like Serbia to hold its own for as long as it did does suggest important differences in military tactics and technology between 1914 and 1940.
  • It’s easy to appreciate the potentially decisive impact of the Ludendorff Offensive, especially in the wake of successful Central Power offensives in 1917.

Open Comment on Comment Registration

[ 208 ] July 28, 2014 |

All,

We’ve now completed a week-long comment registration trial.  This post should serve as an open thread for how this week has gone.  Note that I’m still processing a few password requests, so if you can’t register (and note that WordPress registration is different than LGM registration) please let me know (address on far right sidebar).  With respect to metrics, no noticeable change in traffic/usage, commenting down by about 30%.

Best,

Management

OVER-RATED!

[ 78 ] July 27, 2014 |

For this week’s listicle, I bring the Jeter:

Overrated” is a challenging concept.  In sports, a player can be “great” and “overrated” at the same time.  Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, for example, is quite clearly a “great” player, well deserving of the first ballot invitation he will likely receive.  However, as virtually all statistically minded aficionados of the game have noted, he is highly overrated (especially on defense) by the baseball press. Similarly, no one doubts that Kobe Bryant is an outstanding basketball player.  However, many doubt that he is quite as good as his fans (or the NBA commentariat) seem to believe.

Airpower and Dead Horses

[ 16 ] July 26, 2014 |
unu8

Via Hushkit: Published by the Bureau of Public Information on behalf of the National Salvage Office
Commercial colour print, 1940-1941 Canada
CWM 19920196-001

Lest we forget, it was dead horses (and other animals)that made the Combined Bomber Offensive possible…

 

Russia and Malaysia

[ 6 ] July 25, 2014 |

Some thoughts at the Diplomat on the future of Russian arms exports to SE Asia:

Malaysia is a significant customer of Russian hardware. Su-20MKM Flankers, and MiG-29 Fulcrums make up the bulk of its fighter fleet, along with F/A-18 Hornets.  Malaysia also purchases air-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, and similar ordnance from Russia.  Indonesia buys a broader array of equipment from Russia, including helicopters and anti-ship missiles.  However, both Malaysia and Indonesia have displayed considerable willingness to purchase weapons from other partners, making their relationship with Russia strictly arms-length.

The survival of these relationships depends, to some extent, on how deftly Russia plays the diplomatic game over the next few weeks. Thus far, it doesn’t look too promising. Russia’s quandary is to maintain a stance of studied belligerence towards Ukraine and the United States, moderate indignation towards Europe, and civilized behavior to the rest of the world. The downing of the Malaysian airliner puts these into tension. Russia has proposed a frankly incomprehensible theory about how a Ukrainian Su-25 might have shot down the Malaysian jet.

Links of the Day

[ 18 ] July 25, 2014 |

Some links for your morning consumption:

 

Abolishing the Air Force, 80s Style

[ 12 ] July 23, 2014 |

My latest at WiB looks at a proposal to ditch the Air Force from 1982:

In 1982 John Byron—then a Navy commander and submarine skipper—argued that the United States should reorganize its military around three branches, eliminating the Air Force and creating a new Strategic Deterrent Force.

Reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces” was the first strategic study co-published by the National War College and the National Defense University Press. It made the rounds among defense analysts at the time. It attracted some attention from the defense reform community and an audience in some of the professional defense journals, including Proceedings and Early Bird, the much-beloved Pentagon news roundup that ceased publication in 2013.

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