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Conferencin’ Is Over

[ 12 ] April 5, 2010 |

So I’m back from the great city of Grace Slick. Marty Balin. Paul Katner. Jorma…something. Three panels, including one with co-blogger. City great, of course, even if exploration time was unduly limited. Actual blogging to resume forthwith.


Easter Daddyblogging

[ 7 ] April 4, 2010 |

An egg appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.

Primitive accumulation.

A free market economy generates vast and enduring inequalities of wealth.

The rich, unsatiated even by their own gluttony, brazenly steal the crumbs from the proletariat during a moment of distraction.

The World Needs More Childishness

[ 2 ] April 4, 2010 |

Sunday Book Review: The Culture of Military Innovation

[ 6 ] April 4, 2010 |

Dima Adamsky’s The Culture of Military Innovation is a very recent contribution to the literature on culture, military innovation, and the Revolution in Military Affairs. Adamsky’s question is this: Why did theorization of the RMA begin in the Soviet Union, while the practical technological developments associated with RMA first took hold in the United States? What explains how and why and state adopts RMA technology and doctrine? Adamsky’s three case studies are the Soviet Union, the United States, and Israel, but these aren’t independent observations. Rather, they’re three narratives within the larger story of how RMA doctrine has developed across the international system.

Adamsky’s narrative of the Revolution in Military Affairs begins (or should begin) with the Yom Kippur War, where the Egyptian Army demonstrated the effect that precision guided munitions could have on a conventionally organized army. PGMs helped close the tactical capability gap between the IDF and the Egyptian Army by allowing the poorly trained Egyptians to destroy the much better trained Israelis at stand off distances. The Yom Kippur experience was taken very seriously in Western and Soviet military circles, as it challenged doctrine and force structure in both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The rate of attrition on both sides of the Yom Kippur War would have quickly exhausted the belligerents in Europe. Both the Americans and the Soviets began thinking through solutions, with the Americans initially deciding on the Active Defense doctrine combined with a quantitative increase in PGMs, and the Soviets reconceptualizing “deep battle” concepts that went back as far as the 1920s.

Adamsky argues, however, that the most important efforts to reconceptualized warfare in the context of precision guided munitions and advanced information technology happened in the Red Army. Red Army theoreticians, inclined towards seeing warfare as a series of revolutionary cycles, argued that information tech and new PGMs would lay the material foundation for a military-technical revolution. Traditional distinctions between offense and defense, as well as territorial demarcations between conventional armies, would cease to exist between PGM equipped military organizations. Long range PGMs gave a defender the capability to cause serious, mission-killing losses to an attacker before an attack even developed. Similarly, such weapons made possible preparatory attacks on defender staging, mobilization, headquarters, and supply areas. The prevalence of PGMs and information technology would necessitate major changes in doctrine and force structure for any army that wished to avoid virtual annihilation. Future battles would be less about the ability to penetrate, create a breakthrough, and exploit than about disrupting the enemy system of movement, mobilization, and communication.

Adamsky’s key empirical insight is this; the Russians developed the doctrine for the MTR/RMA, but they lacked the material capacity to put its lessons into effect. Soviet technological capacity was more impressive than is oft remembered, but the United States was far, far ahead in the very technologies that made the MTR/RMA possible. By the time that sufficient consensus had built around the MTR in the Red Army, the Soviet Union was politically and economically incapable of providing the material foundation for the new doctrine. In the United States, on the other hand, military theorists were way behind on thinking about PGMs as anything other than force multipliers. This is to say that Americans conceptualized PGMs in terms of quantitative effect rather than qualitative transformation. It wouldn’t be until the early 1990s that Americans began to think seriously along the same lines that the Russians had developed in the 1970s and 1980s. In the American case, of course, the technology would not contradict the doctrine, but rather preceded it.

Adamsky also tells the tale of the RMA in Israel, a story which is simultaneously fascinating and confusing. Adamsky argues that the IDF picked up the overarching RMA/MTR theory around the same time or slightly after the US military, and that the technology-doctrine relationship was similar to that seen in the United States. However, the IDF was carrying out “RMA lite” campaigns in Lebanon prior to the full integration of theory and practice. Integration of doctrine and technology took place in the late 1990s, in the wake of the Gulf War and in very close collaboration with the United States. However, Adamsky’s story about the IDF and RMA becomes a bit more confusing after this. She argues, for example, that the IDF considered its reaction to the Second Intifada to be based primarily on RMA principles (even if this didn’t involve high intensity warfare), and suggests a high degree of intellectual ferment within the IDF. However, he also notes the IDF’s (somewhat deserved) reputation for anti-intellectualism, and suggests that many of the key precepts remained controversial as late as 2006. Perhaps out of necessity, he treats the 2006 war very briefly, arguing that some of the Israeli failure can be laid at the feet of a still-incomplete doctrine/technology synthesis and ongoing conflict in the IDF about the proper transformational impact of RMA. This part of the account is more than a touch confusing; on the one hand the IDF gets credit for RMA doctrinal adaptation, while on the other hand intra-organizational conflict excuses poor IDF performance in Lebanon. An alternative interpretation of Lebanon might go as follows: The precepts of MTR/RMA are, at the very least, insufficiently developed in the context of low intensity warfare, and the use of “effects based operations” against non-traditional military organizations remains a problem for theorists and practitioners. MTR/RMA doctrine is was conceived of as a way to cut apart, paralyze, and destroy a modern, high technology military system. Effects Based Operations makes sense in the context of such an organization; rather than focus on simple destruction, key nodes which enable organizational operation are attacked. Non-traditional organizations such as Hezbollah either lack such nodes, or have different vulnerabilities that haven’t been sufficiently specified by the theory.

Adamsky’s story isn’t simply empirical. His explanatory framework focuses on psycho-cultural tendencies in Russia, Israel, and the United States. The argument is that cultural milieu breeds a certain way of thinking that affects how individuals conceptualized the relation of the whole to its parts, and of the present to the future. In the Soviet Union, a holistic theoretical method prevailed that allowed Russian military theorist to grasp the forest even in the absence of the trees. In Israel and the United States, a more practical manner of thinking allowed the planting and cultivation of the trees prior to the conceptualization of the forest, so to speak. I’ll confess that to a reader suspicious of simplistic cultural explanations, there is an element of “Russians drive this way, but Americans drive this way” to this account. It’s unclear, for example, how well such a theoretical framework could predict, as opposed to explain, the adoption of MTR/RMA theory, technology, and practice. Nevertheless, while I found the empirical story more interesting, Adamsky at least makes a serious effort to wed the narrative to a theoretical account.

There’s a lot to like here. Although the story of Soviet military theorization of the RMA has certainly been told before, Adamsky’s account lends analytical clarity to the project, and evokes interesting questions about the relationship between doctrine and technology. Most (although not all) political science work on military doctrine tends to assume that technology precedes doctrine, and that the central difficulty military organizations face is the integration of new technology into existing doctrinal constructs. The offense-defense balance literature is particularly guilty of this, although the situation is improving. Adamsky rejects and even reverses this formulation, observing that theory sometimes precedes technology, and even develops in the latter’s absence. From a common sense point of view this is not particularly shocking; in order for military organizations to identify and push for new technological innovations, they must have some ideational foundation to precede the technological development. Adamsky also gives a relatively short, highly lucid, and quite readable account of the development of RMA in the USSR, the US, and Israel. It’s a worthwhile book for anyone interested in modern military doctrine, military learning, and the application of cultural models to organizational behavior.

Unpaid Labor Illegal? In America?

[ 32 ] April 3, 2010 |

Damn. And just when LGM was thinking about offering an unpaid internship:

With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.

Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.

Good on ’em. Let’s be clear; the unpaid internship effectively excludes a wide socioeconomic swath from gaining useful experience and making effective connections in business, government, and NGOs. For example, it was utterly impossible for me to even consider an unpaid internship as an undergraduate; paying the bills was difficult even with loans and full time work. Lots of young people lack significant parental support, and require minimum payment to have any hope of making ends meet. Moreover, even for those with support the “payment” for unpaid internships (connections, experience, and recommendations) often has no lasting effect on the intern’s job prospects. If you’ve ever wondered why DC NGOs and journalistic organizations are dominated by Ivy Leaguers, it ain’t just because they’re smart.

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LGM Baseball Challenge Reminder

[ 7 ] April 3, 2010 |

Tomorrow is Opening Day! Please celebrate accordingly; I am also informed that some minor Middle Eastern mystery cult celebrates the encore performance of its demigod tomorrow by eating chocolate bunnies. On Monday, the Queen City Bolsheviks will host the St. Louis Cardinals in the real season opener.

Remember that LGM has a Baseball Challenge League:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

The Flimsy Case for Drone Wars

[ 18 ] April 2, 2010 |

Amitai Etzioni, a law professor at George Washington University, has followed up the State Department’s justification for drone attacks in Pakistan with an argument of his own, published in the new issue of Joint Force Quarterly.

Here is the first paragraph, sentence by sentence with commentary:

The substantial increase in the employment of unmanned aircraft systems in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other arenas has intensified debate about the moral and legal nature of the targeting killing of people who are said to be civilians.

Oh good. Because when I first saw the title – “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The Moral and Legal Case” I almost thought Etzioni believed he needed to make the case for unmanned systems per se. But of course it’s not the systems themselves that are at issue. The issue is in using them – or any technology – for targeted killings of civilians, whatever we might suspect those civilians of doing, and particularly inside the sovereign borders of countries with whom we’re not at war. A better title for this particular piece might be “Targeted Killings of Civilian Terror Suspects: The Moral and Legal Case.”

The US and its allies can make a strong case that the problem is those who abuse their civilian status to attack truly innocent civilians and to prevent our military and other security forces from discharging their duties.

OK, fair enough. But note this is a PR argument, not a legal or a moral argument per se.

In the long run, we should work toward a new Geneva Convention, one that will define the status of so-called unlawful combatants.

Fair enough also. I myself have been in favor of an Additional Protocol that would create a multilateral consensus around what current law means in an era of asymmetric war. But note that this implies there is actually no legal case to be made for this behavior using existing law.

These people should be viewed as having forfeited most of their rights as civilians by acting in gross violation of the rights of others and of the rules of war.

Whoa, stop the presses. Read more…

I should—but can’t—resist.

[ 56 ] April 2, 2010 |

Althouse has devoted another post to figuring out my previous one because, according to her, it contained “strange levels of complexity.”  It didn’t.  She then completely misreads the update to that post, claiming that I “beg in the most pusillanimous fashion that [Althouse] should pity [me] because [I] could be fired.”  Professor?  Someone whose life is a bad tone poem should be able to recognize tone.

Also: if your commenters succeed in their quest to discover my secret identity I’m going to invoke states secret privilege and sue you for violating it.

I’m Guessing that Many of His Best Friends are Jewish…

[ 26 ] April 2, 2010 |

Worst invocation of anti-semitism ever:

Father Cantalamessa quoted from what he said was a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend. “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole word,” he said the friend wrote. “The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”

Blood libel against the Jews and accusations of pedophilia against Catholic priests? Pretty much exactly the same, without any notable difference that I can think of.

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Good news in the Simon Singh case

[ 39 ] April 2, 2010 |

The British journalist Simon Singh received excellent news yesterday when an appeals court ruled that he was not necessarily committing libel by describing chiropractic care as “bogus.”  Singh’s should have been a completely uncontroversial observation, given the gaping distance between the (minimal-to-nonexistent) scientific evidence in favor of chiropractic efficacy and the elaborate claims made by chiropractors (e.g., most diseases are preventable and treatable via spinal “adjustments” that relieve mysterious vertebral “subluxations” and restore the body’s “innate intelligence.”)

Now, it must be a great disappointment for chiropractors to be reminded that their practice — like everything else in the goofy solar system of “alternative medicine” — is complete garbage. The perversity of British libel law, however, enabled the British Chiropractic Association to bring suit against Singh, claiming that he’d recklessly damaged the reputation of a profession that tries to make a virtue of pseudoscience.  (Anyone familiar with the Lipstadt-Irving case will know how this all works.)  The suit placed the burden of proof on Singh himself to demonstrate that the BCA was being “conspicuously dishonest” by promoting chiropractic woo as the solution to infant colic, asthma, breastfeeding problems, and an array of other disorders that chiropractic techniques do not actually help. An earlier ruling held that Singh was attempting to make a factual statement not simply about chiropractic treatment but about the motives of BCA officials; demonstrating that chiropractic theory and practice is a sham wouldn’t be difficult, of course, but proving the dishonesty (as opposed to the simple idiocy) of the BCA would have been a steeper hill to climb. Moreover, the professional and financial expense of the suit (which has already cost Singh 200,000 pounds while forcing him to suspend his career) would have had predictable and stifling consequences for other journalists who might feel compelled to call out sham science in print.  Fortunately, the latest ruling overturns that previous holding and asserts that Singh’s remarks should indeed be considered “fair comment” — that is, informed opinion — a judgment that gives his statements greater legal protection and, barring any unforeseen twists, will likely mean the death of the case.

As an entertaining footnote to all this, the publicity over the Singh has caused some unanticipated difficulty for British chiropractors; when science bloggers realized that government regulations prohibited chiropractors from making the sorts of claims being made by the BCA in its complaint against Singh, they began looking closely at chiropractic advertisements and websites throughout the UK.   As of a month ago, roughly a quarter of the nation’s chiropractors were under investigation for making garden-variety — that is to say, bogus — statements about the health benefits of chiropractic treatment.

Because everybody knows there’s no casual racism or misogyny on the right.

[ 122 ] April 1, 2010 |

I went over to Althouse‘s and wrote a number of insanely offensive comments, but everyone started agreeing with me before I could declare “April Fools’!”  Please ignore comments in which someone talks about trading in white women for Filipina because the former can’t be trained; calls strangers “cunts” in front of their kids or justifies calling strangers “cunts” in front of their kids on account of “Alinksyite incivility collapsing into mutual incivility”; sings about it being “time to give the country to the darkies” or advocates that popular means good; claims that there were tea bags at the Boston Tea Party or blames the firing of Don Imus on “the Progressive Jews and the non-Jewish Left” because they were all written by an undercover agent in it for the lulz.

Those good folks only wrote those terrible things because I baited them.

Read more…

What if Franco Had Entered the War?

[ 22 ] April 1, 2010 |

Not much would have changed, according to Mark Grimsley. The Spanish would have seized Gibraltar with German assistance, which would have complicated the Allied war effort in the Mediterranean, but the impact on other fronts would have been limited. Post-civil war Spain simply lacked the resources and the political cohesion to make a critical difference in the war. Franco, who consistently resisted entreaties from Hitler and Mussolini, seems to have largely agreed with this analysis.

In Advanced Third Reich and its successor, World at War, Spanish entry can help put a nail in the coffin of a weak Britain in 1940 or 1941. Failing that it becomes a liability; Spanish control of Gibraltar tends to dissuade the Allies from wasting resources in the Mediterranean (this effect would likely have happened in the real world, as well), and the Axis simply lacks sufficient forces to defend the entire Atlantic seaboard from Allied amphibious assault. Since the game substantially understates Allied air and naval dominance from 1943-1945, I suspect that the overall net effect of Spanish entry would have been an extension of the war in Europe by a few months, and the end of Franco’s regime.

Via Blog them Out of the Stone Age.