Russian submarine launched ballistic missile tests not going well:
“After its firing from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy, the Bulava missile self-liquidated and exploded into the air” – Russian MoD spokesman to Interfax 23 Dec 08
That’s three successful launches out of eight tries. Three out of eight actually works in terms of nuclear deterrence, but you’d still like to see the success rate a bit higher. But more importantly, I’m going to try to work the term “self-liquidated” into as many conversations as possible over the next few days; it’ll be my Christmas-Hannukah theme for 2008.
Surface to Air Missile technology is one of those areas where small shifts in tactical capability could have large strategic effects; if reliable, effective, difficult to counter surface to air missiles become cheap and available, the most common manner in which rich countries pound the bejeezus out of poor countries loses much of its attraction. This possibility is not lost on the USN or the USAF. David Hambling:
Soon after radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles became a threat, planners realized that the simplest way to stop them was to take out the radar. These radars make an easy target; in radio terms, they are equivalent to lighthouses, radiating brightly. So in 1958 the U.S. introduced the Shrike, an “Anti-Radiation Missile” that homed in on enemy radar and proved invaluable in the Vietnam War. The modern successor is the AGM-88 HARM High Speed Antiradiation missile, which has longer range and a speed of over mach 2. “No U.S. aircraft has ever been lost to surface-to-air missiles when HARM has been flying cover,” Mike Vigue, HARM Growth Manager at Raytheon, told me.
The problem with this type of missile is that it relies on the enemy radar being turned on. Once they spot a missile barreling towards them, the operators can turn off the radar so it has nothing to home in on. So the mission is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defence or SEAD: you’re not likely to kill them, but you can force enemy radar to shut down, making the skies safe for friendly aircraft.
All that changes when you can fit HARM with a GPS module that allows it to accurately pinpoint the location of the radar emitter. The addition means that even if the radar turns off, the missile can still hit it precisely.
Raytheon’s upgrade is called HDAM, for HARM Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses Attack Module. It’s being built for the Air Force. And it incorporates both GPS and an inertial measurement unit with a fiber-optic gyro. Raytheon won’t say exactly how accurate it is, but unlike other anti-radiation missiles which rely on a shrapnel warhead, HDAM has achieved “metal on metal” hits on radar targets, both emitting and non-emitting.
Paul reminds me of one of the most interesting parts of Chapter VII; the 1891 war crisis between Italy and the United States. The good people of New Orleans saw fit to lynch eleven Italians for roughly the same reasons that the good people of New Orleans ever see fit to lynch people, and the Italian government took offense. There was concern about the possibility of war, and someone noticed that the Italian Navy was actually larger and more capable than its US equivalent. An apology ensued.
Erik brings a second image argument to the table re: the military capabilities question. Heh; it’s so like an American historian to think that the development of ideas and institutions within the United States have a lasting effect on its foreign policy. So reductionist… Anyway, the argument is that a general skepticism towards the Federal government and preference for private actors permeated nineteenth century American politics, minimizing the interest in a large standing military. This isn’t quite the same as blaming the institutions; the US federal government maintained the capacity to mobilize behind big projects, but simply chose not to.
Nate Silver discovers that John Lott, Jr., is unable to comprehend the difference between a typo and a vast left-wing conspiracy.
His conclusion completely overlooks the fact that Mary Rosh thought the article was outstanding!
Henry, 12/21/08, 6:40 p.m.:
’tis the season….
My first thought was “Toyota suffered a loss in 1937?” But no; turns out that the automotive spinoff of Toyota Industries was founded in 1937. Impressive that they managed a profit in 1945 and 1946; apparently the surrender saved the major Toyota factories from bombing by a couple of days.
However, I find Lula’s efforts to actually enforce military conscription for everybody to be quite a fascinating aspect. Although the military is technically and legally supposed to conscript from all Brazilian sectors regardless of class, race, etc., the reality is Brazil’s military ranks are composed overwhelmingly of the poor and marginalized who do not have recourse to get out of such service and who often accept it because they need the money. For decades and even generations (dating back to at least the Paraguayan War) there has been an unspoken understanding that elites and (more recently) the middle classes were “above” military service. So in one sense, any effort to break through this mold to prove that “mandatory conscription” applies to all Brazilian citizens, and not just those who don’t have an economic/cultural/political way to avoide it.
What strikes me as interesting about the article is that the motivating concept seems to be territorial defense and consolidation, with defense of the Sao Paulo oil fields being included under that rubric. This is all well and good, and would be expected of a second rank power in, say, 1930 or 1960. Today, however, most military organizations in Europe and Asia seem to be remodeling themselves around an expeditionary mission. This is as true of North Europe as North Asia; the dreadnought of the day, so to speak, is the amphib, and modular, deployable ground units are the new black. This doesn’t, however, seem to be the direction that the Brazilians are headed, which is curious for a country interested in promoting its benevolent image on the world stage. If you’re looking for international prestige, amphibs are a much better way to go than nuclear submarines; they show the flag, facilitate participation in a variety of different multilateral operations, and are sometimes even actually useful for executing policy (disaster relief, protection of locals in dangerous situations, etc.).
But not, apparently, the direction Brazil wants to go.
Chapter VII of From Colony to Superpower covers the period between 1877 and 1893. Erik talks about missionaries, trade wars, and the generally expansionary US policy in the Pacific. I wish that Herring had dealt in more depth with the tremendous military gap between the United States and the European powers during this period. The United States had a larger population than any European state other than Russia in 1877, and experienced higher population and economic growth than anywhere in Europe between then and 1893. The US industrial base was competitive with that of the UK, and larger than any other European country. Yet US military power was comparatively miniscule. To give a sense of the gap, check this out (average 1877-1893, COW):
|Country||Military Expenditure/Person||% in Uniform|
|United States||$ 0.22||0.07|
That’s a pretty substantial gap, especially given that US GDP, total population, and steel production were all at or near the top of the list during this period. Some of this can be explained by the geographic situation of the United States; France needed more troops because it was next to Germany, for example. This only takes us so far; territorial threat can’t explain why the US retained huge standing military forces post-1945, and in any case the US was certainly developing global interests during this period. Rather, I think there was simply a different understanding of the utility of military force in Europe than in the United States. It would be wrong to say that the US was a pacifist country (as witnessed by the ongoing conquest of the West), but Americans certainly don’t seem to have seen the point of large standing military establishments. To put it another way, the US was economically and demographically capable, even at this early date, of competing for hegemony with Britain and Germany. Americans chose not to. The US didn’t even build a world class Navy, as it would during the 1920s and 1930s.
Apart from the post-war experiences of Germany and Japan (which are obviously dependent on much different factors) I’m not sure there’s another example of a potential hegemon that simply chose not to compete. There are various unsatisfactory explanations for this (Fareed Zakaria’s terrible book comes to mind) but Herring, unfortunately, does not venture much of an effort. In part, this may be because the book’s central thesis is that the United States has never been an isolationist power; this argument is certainly correct to some extent, but there has to be some explanation for the tiny US military profile in the late nineteenth century.
Anybody read T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom? I haven’t, but I’m assigning it next term; if you have any thoughts re: boiling down the 700 or so pages down to a digestible chunk for a graduate strategy course, leave them in comments…
…recommendations on editions will also be entertained.