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Category: Robert Farley

Romney Cabinet Preview?

[ 22 ] March 17, 2012 |

Well, this is enough to drive someone to drink (even on a solemn Irish-themed religious holiday):

Land said he recently told them that Romney could win over recalcitrant conservatives by picking Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) as his vice presidential running mate and previewing a few Cabinet selections: Santorum as attorney general, Gingrich as ambassador to the United Nations and John Bolton as secretary of state.

Word is that Liz Cheney will also find a prominent home at State. I do wish that we followed “shadow government” opposition party procedures in the United States, just to help keep the electoral stakes clear…

Friday Linkage

[ 16 ] March 16, 2012 |

Some random Friday linkage:

  • I like Max Fisher; I have nothing against his family. He stands between me and Eli Lake, and that means he’s gonna get paved over.
  • Luck is gone. I really, really tried to get into it; there’s obviously a lot of talent, and perhaps they would have kept it around were it not for the whole “kills a lotta horses” part. But let’s be frank, it was extremely slow to develop, and lacked characters to focus on.
  • Adam Weinstein has a good article on the relationship between Stratfor and Robert Kaplan. I have a quote; I had hoped to wave it off as a “youthful indiscretion,” but apparently I wrote it in 2010. And to be clear, I don’t think it’s obvious that Kaplan is even a realist, and realists shouldn’t in any case be pleased that a realist of “caliber” is achieving greater prominence.
  • Sharks on yachts are 37 different kinds of awesome. This is what we lose when we casually kill off our colorful dictators.
  • Max Boot’s guiding principle is that the United States ought to fight more wars. In service of that principle, he sees little difference between truth and falsehood.  See also Leon Wielseltier.
  • Foreign Entanglements now has helpful audio, fast audio, and video subscription feeds.
  • I talked Afghanistan yesterday on the Alyona Show:

Statebuilding and its Discontents

[ 1 ] March 14, 2012 |

Josh Foust and I discuss the recent massacre in Afghanistan:

But with the Gingrich-Perry and the Santoro-brokered Convention!?!

[ 62 ] March 13, 2012 |

I am shocked, shocked by the lack of a Mississippi-Alabama-Hawaii results thread.  Do the readers of LGM not deserve the sort of close analysis of Mississippi regional politics that only the commenters of LGM can provide? I mean, what else is there to do? Watch the NIT? Drink? Sob quietly in a darkened room?

Ducks was Robbed, and So Forth

[ 7 ] March 12, 2012 |

So apparently my Ducks have been excluded from the NCAA Tournament based on nothing more than the fact that the Pac-12 was truly awful this year. A disgrace, if you ask me; there should be some sort of investigation. However, I’m quite hopeful that the Ducks will be the first team to complete the three year CBI-NIT-NCAA championship trifecta.

In any case, remember that we have a league, and remember to fill in your bracket:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Sunday Book Review: Chinese Aerospace Power

[ 5 ] March 11, 2012 |

Chinese Aerospace Power is a collection of essays generated at a December 2008 colloquium organized by the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The collection is held together by a common focus on maritime oriented Chinese aerospace military capabilities. Edited by Andrew Erickson, CAP is part of a series of similar volumes on Chinese maritime military issues. Taken together, the essays supply a vision of how the United States and the People’s Republic of China envision high technology warfare against one another.  In some sense this would remain asymmetric warfare; the PLA would attack perceived US weaknesses using means that the US itself does not normally employ, including ground based cruise missiles and conventional ballistic missiles.  However, conflict between the modern PLA and the modern US military establishment would look much more “symmetric” than any conflict that the United States has been involved in since the Vietnam War.  The battlespace would horizontally extend deep into China and into the Pacific, and vertically extend between space and the sea floor.

CAP avoids treating any particular system as the key to Chinese military power. Even the much touted ASBMs are placed within context of other Chinese capabilities, and of the role they’d be expected to play within the system of anti-access systems. Another element of this system that has received less attention than it should is the PLA’s collection of land attack cruise missiles (detailed in a chapter by Michael Chase), which provide a similar but somewhat more manageable threat to US bases and ships in the region. Together with the ballistic missiles, the cruise missiles have the potential to overwhelm air defense capabilities, especially given the limitations on total number of SAMs carried by US air defense ships. A chapter by Toshi Yoshihara tracks Chinese views of the development of sea based anti-ballistic missile defense in the United States and Japan, with the upshot that China views such systems as a genuine, but potentially manageable, problem.

CAP also highlights some areas in which technological and doctrinal development has lagged. In particular, the PLAN appears roughly a generation behind in aerial anti-submarine warfare, even allowing the decay of US capabilities over the past decades. This includes both fixed wing maritime surveillance aircraft and ship-borne helicopters. Indeed, the development of helicopter technology and doctrine in the PLA has lagged in general, with total numbers of rotary aircraft running behind international standards. This may have been due to some uncertainty regarding how responsibility for helicopters is divided between the PLAAF and ground combat organizations. In the future, it will be worth watching PLA-assisted disaster relief operations (both domestic and international) to track continued development of rotary aircraft capabilities.

CAP includes some discussion of Chinese carrier aviation, but this is not a major focus.  In short, it will take some time for the Chinese to perfect carrier aviation, and between now and and the presumed  endpoint (modern, fixed wing carrier capabilities with 3-5 active platforms) there is much time and money to be spent, as well as many choices to be made.  The Shi Lang gives some indication of what these choices may be (ski jump carriers launching mainly air superiority aircraft) but it’s still possible for the PLAN to go in other directions.  In particular, Chinese development of big deck amphibious warships will be very interesting to watch; these warships are likely to carry helicopters for the foreseeable future, but Chinese development of some kind of equivalent to the F-35B isn’t out of the question in the long term.  Again, people will be paying a lot of attention to China’s use of naval aviation assets in disaster relief operations.  Aircraft carriers obviously represent a move in a different direction than the anti-access capabilities represented by cruise and ballistic missiles; even ski-jump carriers are power projection tools, designed to provide cover over task forces deployed at distance.

Given my own focus on how the configuration of military institutions affects policy, strategy, and procurement, I read the essays that touched upon the role played by the PLA Second Artillery Corps with great interest. The Second Artillery is responsible for ballistic missile development and deployment, and has become both a partner and bureaucratic competitor for the PLAAF and the PLAN. The Second Artillery historically had primary responsibility for nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union and the United States, and accordingly controlled Chinese ballistic missile forces. Over time, however, a potential conventional role for the SAC in a conflict over Taiwan developed. With improved targeting technology, conventional SAC ballistic missiles could disable airfields and other critical military targets in the first hours of war. Later, the potential use of Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles would give the SAC a role in deterring US intervention.

There are two interesting stories here. The first is a basic institutional logic about how a bureaucracy develops capabilities beyond its core mission. Not entirely without prodding, the SAC has created a non-nuclear mission for itself, and indeed would be expected to play a critical and decisive role in superpower conflict without direct reliance on nuclear weapons. When a (quasi) service is built around ballistic missiles, it finds new and innovative ways of using ballistic missiles, especially when it needs such innovations to maintain political and bureaucratic relevance. In this case, the SAC has pursued innovations that have potentially decisive effect at the operational and strategic levels. Institutional design has consequences; build a service around bombers, and you get interesting bomber technology and doctrine, build it around missiles and you get interesting missile developments.

The second is an inevitable counter-part to the first; divisions of responsibility between bureaucratic organizations invariably create conflicts between those organizations. We know less about conflicts between the PLAAF and the SAC than we do about those between the USAF and USN, but such conflicts definitely exist, and often appear to coalesce around control of information technology. Modern warfare is extremely hungry with regards to information, communications, and bandwidth, and the PLAN, PLAAF, and SAC all want access to and control of the platforms and capabilities that create and distribute information.

In an actual war context, we don’t know how these conflicts would play out. PLA anti-access capabilities involves use of a system of systems designed to deter and defeat efforts to penetrate sea and air space near the Chinese littoral. These systems include diesel electric submarines, surface launched cruise missiles, land launched cruise missiles (targeting both enemy ships and enemy airbases), air launched cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. On the surface this seems an exceedingly imposing collection of capabilities. In actual fighting, coordination between services and capabilities would prove extremely demanding. Interservice conflict invariably produces friction, notwithstanding “jointness” or whatever term the Chinese may use to describe the concept of interservice operations.  The collection does an excellent job of highlighting where the rifts lay, and describing the effect that they’ve had on planning and procurement.

More broadly, the discussion of interservice conflict in the Chinese context highlights both the contingency of specific configurations of military power, and the policy impact of particular institutional choices. As I have labored to argue, there is nothing natural or necessarily optimal about the current distribution of responsibilities across US military services; other countries make much different choices, even when they face similar security environments. More importantly, the choice of configuration has a big impact on how doctrine, technology, and procurement will play out. Military bureaucracies almost invariably compete with one another, with the most serious issues arising when mission requirements cross service boundaries. China now faces a situation where exceedingly complex operational tasks are divided between three “services,” an issue that may prove problematic if push ever comes to shove.

As with all such collections, some entries are stronger than others. There are very few clunkers, however, and anyone interested in the subject will have their own favorites. Some of the essays could be difficult for a layman to penetrate, but an understanding of the arguments has value beyond the evaluation of Chinese military capabilities.  These essays shine a light on how China is thinking about fighting the United States, deterring US intervention in regional conflict, and shaping US behavior in the Western Pacific.  Given that the book is the product of a Naval War College colloquium and that it includes the work of many individuals close to the development of USN doctrine and strategy, it also gives good indication of how the United States views the prospect of war against China.  It bears note that the book is relevant whether or not we evaluate a war between China and the United States as likely; the technologies, doctrines, and procurement priorities outlined will guide US and Chinese policy for at least a generation, and calculations regarding the likelihood and likely course of war will guide how the two nations related to one another diplomatically.

For those with even more interest in the subject, here’s a talk on the book by Andrew Erickson:

Zombie Bin Laden

[ 8 ] March 11, 2012 |

Well, this is lovely:

Because apparently I needed to feel even more uncomfortable about playing Zombie Gunship, what with the resonances between killing zombies and killing insurgents, etc.

Anyway, I ran a class simulation on zombies that involved Al Qaeda a couple of years ago. Teams included several nation-states, plus Al Qaeda and Wikileaks for NGO flavor. Al Qaeda embraced the zombie apocalypse, undertaking a variety of means for spreading the virus as far and wide as it could. Russia, overrun by zombies and with expatriate refugee communities all over the world, clung bitterly to territorial modes of authority despite controlling no territory. For whatever reason, the other teams hated Wikileaks more than AQ, and refused to engage in any kind of productive relationship with the rump Russian government. Had some interesting implications for sovereignty, sinews of the nation-state, and so forth. Perhaps will write it up at length someday.

Bell: A Genuine Problem for Obama

[ 36 ] March 10, 2012 |

I’ll confess that I haven’t watched the video, and I don’t understand most of what people are saying with regards to Obama’s embrace of Derek Bell. Nevertheless, while I’m generally reluctant to launch into rants about “Obama apologism,” this Derek Bell thing really does seem to me to be a bridge too far.  I appreciate that the speech (and apparent embrace) happened in 1990, when Bell was still in the minors and hadn’t fully demonstrated his craptastitude; nevertheless, I would expect that a competent chief executive would note that Derek Bell was simply not the kind of player who should be a regular outfielder for a good organization. At a bare minimum, we should hope that our President will be as smart and capable as Pat Gillick.  It should have been clear to Obama that Bell was a mediocre hitter with poor on base skills, no glove, and questionable commitment to the game.  I don’t think we even need to get into “Operation Shutdown” or Bell’s post-retirement drug problems to realize that this issue opens up serious questions about Obama’s judgment.

This can be taken too far; Derek Bell is obviously no Sarah Palin.  Nevertheless, I doubt that Hillary would ever have made such a mistake. I would like to think that Scott and others could get past their tribal defensiveness and acknowledge that this represents yet another serious problem with the Obama legacy.

Tournament Challenge

[ 3 ] March 9, 2012 |


It’s time for the LGM Tournament Challenge!

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

As always, a prize will be made available to the winning entry.

Foreign Entanglements: Iranian Domestic Politics

[ 1 ] March 8, 2012 |

Matt Duss converses with Meir Javedanfar on the latest edition of Foreign Entanglements:

Over the Horizon: The End (of what?)

[ 19 ] March 7, 2012 |

In my final Over the Horizon column, I discuss the future of American hegemony:

The most important step for the U.S. to take is to gain the acquiescence, grudging or not, of most of the rest of the major international players in modern global society. Accommodating Indian, Chinese or even Russian concerns within the U.S.-managed global framework demonstrates the utility and flexibility of that system, and reinforces the sense that the United States plays a unique role. The strength and resilience of a system — and when we speak of U.S. hegemony, we really mean the system of norms and institutions that the United States has established — depends more on its ability to co-opt competitors than to crush or isolate them. This hardly means that the United States must concede to every demand from every competitor, but we shouldn’t think of the need for careful diplomacy as weakness; rather, the ability to handle problems diplomatically reflects strength.

What are the dangers? Hegemony has never meant the ability to achieve any outcome the United States wants, whenever it wants. Indeed, hegemony may mean the luxury to make dreadful mistakes without suffering dreadful consequences. However, as the gap between the United States and other great powers declines, the margin for error narrows. The most dangerous steps for the United States to take would involve projects that threaten fiscal capacity while also undercutting the U.S.-sponsored system of global management. The invasion of Iraq, for example, is not an undertaking that the United States would want to repeat in the future. It undermined global confidence in both the international system of governance and the decision-making capacity of the United States government, while damaging the fiscal health of the United States. Ironically, advocates of the war believed that it would demonstrate not only American power, but also reinforce confidence in American leadership.

I’d like to thank the team at World Politics Review for the opportunity to write Over the Horizon for the last year and a half; it’s been a deeply rewarding experience.

Neptunus Lex RIP

[ 1 ] March 7, 2012 |

Long time mainstay of the milblogger community Neptunus Lex has passed:

Authorities say a pilot for a defense contractor is dead after an Israeli-made military fighter jet crashed at Fallon Naval Air Station in northern Nevada. Base and company officials say the F-21 Kfir (kuh-FEER) aircraft crashed just after 9:15 a.m. Tuesday inside the west gate of the military airfield, about 60 miles east of Reno.

Petty Officer 1st Class Doug Harvey says it was snowy and foggy at the time. Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. official Matt Bannon in Newport News, Va., says it’s too early to say what caused the crash of the single-seat, single-engine aircraft.

Lex and I had only the briefest of interactions, but he will be missed by the community.

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