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Russian SSBNs not Patrolling

[ 0 ] May 4, 2008 |

Hans Kristensen has a good post on the inactivity of Russian SSBNs:

The number of deterrence patrols conducted by Russia’s 11 nuclear-powered ballistic missiles submarines (SSBNs) decreased to only three in 2007 from five in 2006, according to our latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In comparison, U.S. SSBNs conducted 54 patrols in 2007, more than three times as many as all the other nuclear weapon states combined.

The low Russian patrol number continues the sharp decline from the Cold War; no patrols at all were conducted in 2002 . The new practice indicates that Russia no longer maintains a continuous SSBN patrol posture like that of the United States, Britain, and France, but instead has shifted to a new posture where it occasionally deploys an SSBN for training purposes.

Kristensen notes that the SSBN schedule stands at odds with the tempo of the rest of the Russian Navy, which has increased substantially over the past year and a half or so. The short explanation, I suppose, is that SSBN operations don’t really convey all that much prestige; they sail into the Arctic and hide, but don’t impress anyone other than a few whales. Taking this a step farther, I think that it confirms impressions that the Russian Navy operates today primarily as a public relations organization.

I would also guess that the survivability of those Russian SSBNs in a hot war is pretty low; the Russian Navy is no longer capable of providing layered “fortresses” for its boomers as it did in the Cold War, and the old Deltas can’t be much of a match for modern US attack boats. Fortunately, no one seems to care.

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[ 0 ] May 4, 2008 |

Let me second Yglesias’ recommendation of this Dave Meyer post on signaling. Meyer concentrates on the public relations aspect of signaling behavior in a democracy, but here are some assumptions that have to hold for a strategy of “signaling”, such as invading small countries in order to demonstrate that we’re tough, to work:

  1. Signals are unambiguous: The meaning of our signaling is not subject to interpretation, such that different people could, based on different priors, carry away different meanings.
  2. Signals always indicate what we want them to indicate: This is related to the first; if we are trying to send a signal of strength, then we send a signal of strength, not a signal of mean, stupid, crazy, etc.
  3. We never develop a bad reputation, except for weakness: This is related to the first two; our effort at signaling strength doesn’t have reputational costs. If we invade his country, the Other will understand us as strong, rather than as brutal, imperialistic, crusading, evil, etc.
  4. No one ever considers that we might be trying to deceive through signaling: This is probably the most important. If signaling is about creating a reputation for strength, and if a reputation for strength is a positive good, then obviously there’s an incentive to lie about being strong. The entire premise of signaling depends on no one noticing that we have an incentive to lie about our own strength.
  5. We know our own strength: Our effort to communicate the true level of our resolve is dependent on knowing what that level is. However, the resolve of the American people to crush enemies of the American public is a value that is unknown to anyone, including our leadership. At best we’re guessing, which basically means that every effort to signal is essentially deception.

Unfortunately, none of these assumptions hold. Worse, in an effort to signal that we have the will to crush small countries under our boot, we often seem to gut our capability to do so; even if attacking Iran were a good idea, the military deployment in Iraq has made such an effort impossible.

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How Apropos

So, I am studying for my last-ever law school exam. And it’s in professional responsibility, which, for you non-lawyers (and I hope there are lots of you), is an ABA requirement. Even though I have already taken (and passed) the MPRE. And let me tell you, I am struggling. Not only am I just plum out of steam, but also this is not the most scintillating topic ever.

At least I’ve got the NY Times (and my buddy Adam Liptak) trying to help me out and keep me interested. And I have to say – the question the article addresses (namely, the extent of a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality to a now-deceased client when the lawyer has information that would exonerate another person) is an interesting one. The article suggests that ethics experts like drawing a clear line at preventing imminent death, which is to say that a lawyer can violate a confidence if doing so would exonerate someone facing the death penalty, but not someone serving life. In some ways, this rle makes a lot of sense. Bright lines are easier to patrol and we have to make sure that we protect the relationship of trust between a client and his or her attorney, particularly in the criminal defense context. But when we balance a life sentence against a dead client, I’m just not sure our current rule makes sense.

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Final Exams

[ 19 ] May 3, 2008 |

For lack of a better topic to post on, here are my final exam questions. In both cases the students had roughly two hours to write on their choice of one of the three questions. First, Defense Statecraft:

  1. The time frame for developing new advanced weapon systems can now be measured in decades. Many defense analysts, however, have argued that we now live in an age of uncertain and unpredictable threats. What are the implications of this apparent contradiction for military procurement, doctrine, and grand strategy?
  2. Some have argued that the elevation of General David Petraeus to command of CENTCOM indicates that counter-insurgency advocates have won the day in the US Army. Consider this argument, and discuss the pros and cons of refocusing US military efforts around the problem of counter-insurgency.
  3. Compare and contrast the efforts of Iran and the United States to shape the future of Iraq. What military means have each employed to ensure a friendly government in Baghdad? How have each attempted to defeat the strategy of the other?

And then European Security:

  1. To what extent do the major institutions of European governance (NATO and the EU) complicate the trans-Atlantic relationship, and to what extent do they smooth it? Would the relationship between the United States and its European allies be easier without the institutional baggage, or do the institutions play a critical role in maintaining the Atlantic community?
  2. The struggle against trans-national terrorism has multiple facets. Consider the usefulness of both NATO and the European Union as tools in the War on Terror. What can each do? Do the organizations complement one another, or is their competition distractive?
  3. Compare and contrast the Polish and German perspectives on NATO and the European Union. What does each state hope to accomplish through membership in these organizations? How do the perspectives of the two states differ on the future of the organizations?

I should add that an acceptable answer to any given question was “This is a stupid question”, as long as the student explained why. More than one student took that approach…

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"I Have A Convincing Reubttal To Your Arguments. No, I Won’t Tell You. But Trust Me, It’s Very Compelling."

[ 8 ] May 3, 2008 |

The Jeffrey Goldberg method.

It’s a rhetorical style of profound morality!

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Post Haste

What Baze hath wrought.

Good to know that Texas is getting all fired up to execute a dude in a wheelchair.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 8 ] May 2, 2008 |

Lyndon Johnson, in a televised address given on 2 May 1965, just after the United States invaded the Dominican Republic to thwart an alleged communist revolt:

To those who fight only for liberty and justice and progress [in the Dominican Republic] I want to join with the Organization of American States in saying, in appealing to you tonight, to lay down your arms, and to assure you there is nothing to fear. The road is open for you to share in building a Dominican democracy and we in America are ready and anxious and willing to help you. Your courage and your dedication are qualities which your country and all the hemisphere need for the future. You are needed to help shape that future. And neither we nor any other nation in this hemisphere can or should take it upon itself to ever interfere with the affairs of your country or any other country.

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Dumbest. Spin. Ever.

[ 7 ] May 2, 2008 |

Seriously. Maybe Kerry should have tried that logic out in 2004. “Why does the media keep setting up all these hurdles in front of me? I’ve proven that I’ve won! Obviously, the relevant criterion for judging the success of my campaign should be my performance in an arbitrarily selected group of large states, not irrelevant factors like ‘electoral votes’ or even ‘the popular vote.’”

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Today In Wingnut Public Policy

[ 16 ] May 2, 2008 |

Apparently, “critics of evolution are turning to a higher authority: state legislators.” In some states, this has involved private screenings of Ben Stein’s creationist wankery. Goody. I think this speaks for itself:

The academic-freedom bills now in circulation vary in detail. Some require teachers to critique evolution.

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1860 and Electoral Systems

[ 0 ] May 2, 2008 |

Matt says that “I think there’s an underexplored historical counterfactual in which the United States uses a different kind of electoral system — like popular vote with a run-off — that resulted in a Stephen Douglas presidency without any change in the underlying shape of public opinion.” One of the best parts of Gerry Mackie’s brilliant demolition of public choice claims the democratic outcomes are arbitrary is an extended analysis of the 1860 election. One of the things he shows is that under any common method of counting votes more accurate than the plurality system (such as Condrocet, Borda, or approval voting), Douglas would have won.

The larger context of the argument is that the 1860 election is one of the key examples of the anti-democratic theories of Commander Riker and his disciples. Riker claims that there was a cycle in the 1860 in which any of Lincoln, Douglas or Bell could have won according to different rules and comparing pairs of candidates would lead to a tie. As Mackie points out, though, once you remove Riker’s exceptionally implausible assertion that Bell — the candidate of the more moderate South that got roughly 2% of the vote in states carried by Lincoln — was the second choice of 75% of Lincoln voters, the cycle vanishes. In fact, any reliable voting system that didn’t entirely throw out alternate choices in the absence of a majority would produce Douglas > Lincoln > Bell > Breckinridge. The 1860 election wasn’t evidence of a cycle; rather, it’s just evidence that 1)plurality-based electoral systems are less reliable than many other means of tabulating votes, and 2)institutions designed to constrain majoritarian preferences will sometimes constrain majoritarian preferences.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether this fact has created artificial support for the indefensibly anachronistic system that the U.S. uses to choose presidents. Because the country got lucky in the leader chosen against the majority of the country’s wishes in 1860 and the outcome of the Civil War the election made inevitable was relatively fortunate, what would otherwise be the best example of the electoral system going haywire is obviously not a politically useful one. But it should be remembered that given somewhat different immigration and migration patterns the system could have also given us a President Breckinridge, and the most recent example of the plurality/electoral college system producing a different winner than a more accurate system would was rather less fortunate.

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Where are the Degenerate Gamblers?

[ 12 ] May 2, 2008 |

Not at the track, according to Tim McClelland. From my accumulated experience at Keeneland this sounds about right; betting on the horses is wholly incidental to the Keeneland experience. It helps, I think, that Keeneland is only open for six weeks a year, which tends to give it event status. The main attraction is simply to see and be seen; if you happen to drop $2 on a 30-1 glue factory candidate, all the better.

Also, I’m still bitter that the 11-1 that I bet on last Thursday lost by a nose…

…Oh, and as for the Derby tomorrow; hell, I have no idea. How about this:

1. Colonel John
2. Z Fortune
3. Tale of Ekati

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8th Grade?

[ 17 ] May 2, 2008 |

What’s the point of this?

One day. Two games. An eighth-grader competing against players 15-years-old and younger.

Those factors made for perhaps the most surprising commitment in the history of University of Kentucky basketball. UK Coach Billy Gillispie noticed Michael Avery, an eighth-grader from Lake Sherwood, Calif., while attending a youth basketball event sponsored by LeBron James last weekend in Akron, Ohio.

Less than a week later, Avery accepted Gillispie’s offer of a scholarship to play for the Wildcats … beginning with the 2012-13 season.

“Oh my goodness,” recruiting analyst Brick Oettinger said of the commitment. “A school taking a commitment from someone that young — there’s no telling what will happen.”

In four years of high school (by the way, Avery has not yet decided what high school he will attend), the 6-foot-4 guard could get injured. He could have peaked physically, meaning he could be surpassed athletically by other players who mature later.

And who’s to say Gillispie will be Kentucky’s coach in 2012?

The Boss:

When news of the commitment reached a meeting of the UK Athletics Association Board of Directors on Thursday, it stunned school President Lee T. Todd Jr.

“An eighth-grader?!” he blurted out.

After noting that plenty of time remained for such an early commitment to be rescinded, Todd expressed his wish that Kentucky not regularly seek a college choice from a child who had not yet entered high school.

“Not that you’d tell people not to ever do it,” Todd said, “But I’d hope there aren’t very many eighth-graders thinking of playing at a specific college. …

I don’t know; myself, I think I’d tell people not ever to do it. I understand that the commitment can be rescinded, and that it depends on a certain (low) level of academic achievement in high school, but the idea of 8th graders making commitments to play college basketball strikes me as wrong. The “student” part of “student-athlete” has been in difficulty for some time now, and this really helps to clarify how little the former means compared to the latter. The strangest thing about it is that, if the kid pans out, he’ll probably only be a Kentucky for one year.

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