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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Books of 2007

Last year, I posted a complete list of books I read in 2006. I'm not sure the post was revisited much, but I decided to make a 2007 list too. This is becoming a tradition.

Once again, I will not list books that I reviewed, unless those reviews were published. In my academic job, I chair a committee that awards $200,000 annually to the best "ideas for improving world order." Most of our nominees have written books and I read my share of the nominations.

Of course, since I'm an academic, I read multiple chapters and large sections of lots of books related to my research and teaching. However, I'm not going to list them here unless I read them cover-to-cover. Save for the books I use in class or read for review, I often skim over some portions even of outstanding books. It's a time/efficiency issue.

Finally, I'm also excluding the books I read aloud to my youngest daughter, even though some of them are fairly substantial.

So, what did I read this year, mostly for pleasure?


Taming American Power by Stephen M. Walt of Harvard.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert.

The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures by Louis Theroux.

Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringeby Sam Walker.

Play By Play: Baseball, Radio, and Life in the Last Chance League by Neal Conan (of NPR fame).

Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, by ESPN's Rob Neyer.

The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship by David Halberstam

The College Administrator's Survival Guide by C.K. Gunsalus.

This week, I finished a memoir by my father-in-law, Charles "Sam" Courtney, Ignorant Armies: Tales and Morals of an Alien Empire.

I also read just about every word in Baseball Prospectus 2007, but not in cover-to-cover fashion. It was edited by Christina Kahrl and Steven Goldman.

Of these, all were worth reading, though this was far from Halberstam's best book. Conan's book is about his mid-life adventure as a baseball broadcaster -- effectively a chronicle of his response to a mid-life crisis.

Kolbert was used in class this fall and is an excellent narrative about global warming. At the time, I did not want to finish Gunsalus, but now that I am halfway through my service as department chair, I'm glad that I did. Theroux, of the BBC, writes about a number of oddball characters in America -- mostly in the west. His subjects included a porn star, a UFO "expert," a white supremacist, and Ike Turner (RIP).


Coming Up for Air by George Orwell.

A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene.

Double Indemnity by James M . Cain.

Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh.

Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Drowning Pool and The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald.

Playback by Raymond Chandler.

The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy.

Florence of Arabia, Little Green Men, and Boomsday by Christopher Buckley.

The Quick Red Fox, A Deadly Shade of Gold, and Bright Orange for the Shroud by John D. Macdonald.

A Certain Justice by P.D. James.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

Up in Honey's Room by Elmore Leonard

Of these, I put the best first, then the genre fiction, and then the worst. I really like Greene and Waugh and these books were very entertaining. This is one of Orwell's forgotten novels. At one level, it is about a middle age man who takes a holiday from his family and work. On another level, it is about the ugliness of war, which casts a giant shadow over the protagonist's life. Greene's book has a somewhat similar theme, only his character escapes more permanently to Africa -- rather than temporarily to his boyhood town.

John D. Macdonald's Travis McGee stories are a pleasant diversion, but Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books have a harder edge. Both provide plenty of amateur philosophy.

These Buckley books were OK, but none of them was particularly good.

Leonard's latest back was a disappointment, though it was essentially a sequel to one of his books that I really enjoyed last year. I previously had a similar negative reaction to Be Cool, which followed the far superior Get Shorty.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007


I'm not altogether sure how to react to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Murder is awful, of course, but this death probably does not significantly alter the prospects for democracy in Pakistan. In her previous terms as prime minister, she was NOT known for great achievement. She kept the military at bay, temporarily, but did not apparently slow Pakistan's nuclear program. Moreover, the prospects for genuine democracy in Pakistan seem fairly bleak with or without Bhutto.

The former head of the Oxford Union was a member of a powerful political family and democrats should not be eager to celebrate dynasties. Many of her family members died violently -- including two brothers killed under mysterious (and perhaps murderous) circumstances. The family expatriated great wealth and faced numerous accusations of corruption.

This murder may destabilize Pakistan -- conceivably, it could topple Musharraf -- but Bhutto herself was a flawed vessel from which to deliver better governance.

The world may never know if the killing was instigated by the government, the Taliban, or some other violent extremists. Which would be worse?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cold duck season

My most recent post at the Duck of Minerva blog, dated December 16, is "The debate climate of the climate debate." As you might guess from the title, it is about the Bush administration's attempts to stifle the climate debate inside the US. The post reports a new congressional study.

In response to Dan Nexon's December 19 post on "Why the United States shouldn't withdraw from Iraq: abridged version," I explained in the comments why the U.S. should withdraw. This is even more truncated than Dan's post:
...I share [Dan's] great concern about US moral responsibility.

However, I also believe that the evidence reveals that the US presence in Iraq has caused tremendous harm -- initially by creating targets for violence and by serving as a rallying cry for global recruitment for al Qaeda, but then also by provoking mass migration, by effectively dividing the country into ethnic enclaves, and by empowering dubious armed factions that threaten the Iraqi state.

Thus, I favor a phased withdrawal of US troops that will likely be accompanied by some sort of regional and/or international policy/peace force. The reduction of military support for Iraq likely has to be matched by a diplomatic, development and peace offensive.

The current lull in violence, whatever the cause, may provide an opportunity that won't recur again for some time.

In sum, I would base policy on the scholarship of people like James Fearon, who seems to know a lot about civil war, and Roland Paris, who knows an awful lot about their aftermath.
Expect light blogging for awhile -- major holidays approach.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Will Republican phenom Mike Huckabee be the Howard Dean of 2008? He seemingly came from nowhere to head the polls in Iowa -- but new scrutiny of his past may bring collapse.

First up, did the former Arkansas governor lose weight via gastric bypass surgery? That theory is circling around the right blogosphere. This is from the Sacramento News and Review "bites" page:
Prior to assuming the lead in the polls for the Iowa Republican presidential caucus, Huckabee’s greatest claim to fame was losing 120 pounds off his previously obese, 300-plus-pound frame in little more than a year. Huckabee says he did it the “hard way,” using a special exercise and diet regime designed by Dr. Phillip Kern, director of the University of Arkansas Medical Center Weight Control Program.

“What if Huckabee’s signature issue is a scam?” asks Plutarch, a California physician who has painstakingly put together a case that suggests the Huckster may have lost the tonnage the new-fashioned way: Through bariatric surgery, also known as gastric bypass surgery, in which the stomach is stapled to reduce the amount the given patient can eat in a sitting. As gruesome as it sounds, it’s easier than dieting and exercising.

What would it mean if Plutarch’s right? Well, according to approximately two-thirds of the Freepers who responded to Plutarch’s treatise after it was posted on conservative Web site Free Republic, it means Huckabee is toast.
I happen to know that some major media figures know about this blog post...

Second story: Huckabee's Iowa Christmas ad. Ron Paul doesn't like it and you may find his response to it fairly incredible. See this:

You only need to watch the first minute or so!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hillary Rodham Clinton in Foreign Affairs

The November/December issue of Foreign Affairs includes an essay by Hillary Rodham Clinton outlining her foreign policy priorities.

Most of the paper reads like generic Democratic boilerplate -- emphasizing international institutions, multilateralism, soft power, etc. Clinton offers plans to address portions of the "human security" agenda -- money to fight AIDS, programs to fund education in Africa, environmental initiatives, and so on. There's not a lot of detail, but I think it sends a signal to long-time allies that her presidency would more closely align with a European security agenda.

This hawkish part of the "war on terror" section, however, sounds like it could have been written by one of George W. Bush's speechwriters:
Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq.... Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.
The sentence I cut criticizes the Bush administration for its decision to "ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it."

Granted, she calls for negotiations and says that various incentives may be offered, but she doesn't really say what happens next if the US and Iran cannot strike a deal.

She says nothing about deterrence. Clinton uncritically accepts the administration's narrative about Iranian assistance to Iraqi insurgents. She does not point out that Hamas and Hezbollah do not post significant threats to the US homeland. Needless to say, like most other US politicians, she ignores the fact that these groups are seen as much more than "freedom fighters" throughout the Middle East because of their broad social base and support for a Palestinian homeland.

I guess this is why she voted for Joe Lieberman's amendment that designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Barack Obama voted no and many of the Democrats running for President have tried to use this issue to separate themselves from Clinton.

John Edwards is certainly not the only member of his party who fears that this was exactly the kind of vote that would allow President Bush to launch war on Iran without further authorization.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Highly paid guinea pigs

Occasionally, the email announcement circulated daily at my university includes a call for volunteers to participate in various kinds of medical studies. Apparently, students and others in need of quick cash can make money serving as human guinea pigs.

For this reason, I'm not at all surprised that major league baseball players started using steroids in large numbers. Literally millions of dollars are at stake -- especially if the drugs enhance performance, as they reportedly do.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of December 15 examined the statistics -- and paydays -- of the numerous baseball players named as steroid users in the Mitchell Report.
More than one in three players - 33 in total - immediately improved in the first season compared with their career averages.

The list of 27 hitters and 19 pitchers who allegedly "juiced" and raised their statistical performances includes stars such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi....

The Journal Sentinel looked at a select group of all stars, named in the report, including Jason Giambi and Pettitte, to analyze the impact on their contracts.

The other all stars were catcher Paul Lo Duca; second baseman Roberts; shortstop Miguel Tejada; third baseman Troy Glaus; outfielders Bonds, Matthews and Gary Sheffield; and pitchers Clemens and closer Eric Gagne, who just signed a $10 million one-year contract to play for the Brewers.

According to the salary analysis, the players were given a collective raise of more than $25 million by the time of their next contract. The raises include signing bonuses paid in the first year of the new deal.
For my numerous past blog posts about this topic, just click on the labels below.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Remembering December, 2003

Want to hear a story about the ghost of Christmas past? On December 17, 2003, CBS News reported the results of two sets of polls conducted December 10-13 and December 14-16, 2003.

Why two samples? Well, on December 14, 2003, Americans learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured the previous day. Many analysts thought that the event might change the dynamics of the American political landscape.

Here's the interesting data from the poll after Saddam's capture (which is not all that different from the one right before):
(Democratic primary voters)
Howard Dean 23%
Wesley Clark 10%
Joe Lieberman 10%
Richard Gephardt 6%
Al Sharpton 5%
John Kerry 4%
John Edwards 2%
Carol Moseley-Braun 1%
Dennis Kucinich 1%
Don’t Know 28%
Joe Lieberman got a 4% boost after the capture -- nothing else changed very much. The undecideds declined by 4% and there was a bit of meaningless zero-sum movement among the candidates in single digits (a point or two). Dean and Clark remained at #1 and #2 with the same percentage support.

We know what happened over the following weeks. Kerry surged in Iowa, then won New Hampshire and the rest was history. Dean's campaign imploded -- even before "yeehaw" -- while Clark's never caught fire.

I'm noting this recent history to point out that much could change quite quickly. Mike Huckabee's surge in the Republican field reflects this fact -- and Barack Obama is currently putting a lot of heat on front runner Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, even though it is only mid-December, it is also relatively late in the contest. In 2004, Iowa voters caucused on January 19. New Hampshire's primary was held on January 27. A number of interesting states held primaries on February 3, but Super Tuesday was March 2.

This year, Iowa voters are meeting on January 3. The New Hampshire primary is January 8. Super Tuesday is February 5! That day, voters from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and 17 other states will be voting. Many states moved up their voting to be more important in the presidential selection process, but the result is a process that will end before winter does.

For all practical purposes, the race to be the Democratic nominee for president is going to be decided in the next 7 weeks and most voters won't even be paying attention to anything but family and holidays for much of that time.

To-date, I've barely paid attention and I'm something of a political junkie. Just click on some of those 2008 candidate labels below this post and see that I've only sporadically blogged about them. Currently, I'm a soft supporter of John Edwards who is willing to listen to Barack Obama.

I haven't written a lengthy anti-Hillary Clinton post, but I'm not excited by her candidacy. Americans should not be interested in political dynasties. I fear that Clinton will be a divisive figure in the country who will not be able to meet America's needs -- end the Iraq war, reach out to the world, achieve meaningful health care legislation, etc.

In any event, I personally think the rush to pick a nominee is idiotic.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Election 2008: Security policy for Democrats

Bill Hartung had an informative piece on U.S. security policy in The Nation, November 19 issue. It gives credit to -- and points accusing fingers at -- Democratic candidates who stake out particularly good or bad policy positions.

For example, Hartung praises John Edwards for not proposing increases in U.S. troop strength, for his pro-nuclear disarmament position, and for endorsing the Unified Security Budget. As a member of the USB task force, Hartung has a broad view of security:
The most recent task force report calls for cutting $56 billion from the Pentagon budget by eliminating or scaling back spending on unnecessary programs like the F-22 combat aircraft, the Virginia class submarine, the V-22 Osprey, missile defense and nuclear weapons. The proposal then argues that $50 billion of these funds should be invested in peacekeeping, diplomacy, development of alternative energy sources, public health infrastructure and protection of chemical and nuclear plants.
Barack Obama receives praise for his devotion to protecting Soviet-era nuclear material (Nunn-Lugar) and for supporting nuclear disarmament proposals. Obama gets dinged for calling for 80,000 more members of the Marines and Army.

Hillary Clinton also gets dinged by name for supporting the troop increase and is otherwise not mentioned in the article. Unfortunately, I think she's largely to blame for this paragraph in the story:
major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have not adequately distinguished their views from the Bush doctrine. Each has endorsed one or more of the following actions: threatening a unilateral military strike in the territory of an allied country; keeping all options "on the table"--including, presumably, the use of nuclear weapons--in addressing Iran's nuclear program; increasing the Army and Marines by 80,000 or more troops and increasing the military budget.
Obama and Edwards, however, have also called for strikes against Pakistan -- though there are important differences in their positions. Edwards seems to be a genuine multilateralist.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Over at the Duck of Minerva, I've recently posted the following:

December 10, I posted "Political judgment: Iraq edition." It is about my January 2007 forecasts about the effects of "the surge."

Sunday, December 9: "More than 2 Americas," which is about the various cultural tensions dividing constituencies within the Democratic party.

On December 6, "Terrorism, the shopping mall, and global gun norms." It's difficult to keep up with the shootings this December, but this post is about the shopping mall incident in Omaha.

Note: see this definition of duckery.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Blog maintenance

I've been fooling around with the blog's format a bit in my spare time (read: when I should be grading). Soon, I hope to provide an accessible list of post labels that will make it easier to search the archives. Blogger makes an easy-to-use widget available, but I'm afraid of switching from my html template to the "new blogger" layout function. I made the switch for another blog and lost virtually all my personalizations.

On this blog, that would mean a lot of lost work -- especially links (blogrolls).

In any case, while playing around I discovered that Blogger offers a service to consolidate the RSS feed source. After entering the feedburner address, my reader count jumped from single digits to about 70. After more than four years of blogging, I certainly hope that this is a more accurate count of my readership. I can't believe that the lower number has registered for such a long time....sigh.

With enough time, I may also change the blog banner. Donald Rumsfeld and Tony Blair are much less important public figures now than they used to be. Plus, all the photos are really small.

Informed reader advice on any of these matters would be much appreciated.

What else could I do to improve the blog?

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

DVDs: Foreign Affairs

Lately, I've watched a number of good-to-great foreign films on DVD. Most were made in 2006.

The best, by far, was "The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen), a German film that was recognized earlier this year at the Academy Awards as the Best Foreign Language Film of 2006.

The film is set in the mid-1980s in East Germany. The state begins surveillance of a writer, heretofore known for his fealty to socialism. I don't want to reveal much about the terrific plot or ending, but I will note that the spying turns out to involve personal passions and leads to private rebellion. It is a great film and offers a brief discussion of the kinds of torture so often practiced in the war on terror.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw "Letters from Iwo Jima," which was Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language film about the World War II battle for the island. It was very good, but not without flaws. The most sympathetic Japanese military leaders all spent time in the U.S. earlier in their lives. Hmmmm.

"Black Book" ("Zwartboek") is Dutch film released in 2006, directed by Paul Verhoeven. This film is set during World War II and tells the story of a young Jewish woman's personal struggles against the Nazis. The plot includes a number of interesting twists, which I will not reveal. The director has traveled some distance from "Robo Cop," "Total Recall," "Basic Instinct," and "Showgirls," though he does find a problematic way to humiliate his beautiful heroine.

"The Valet" (La Doublure) is a light comedy about a parking attendant who becomes involved with a supermodel thanks to her rich married lover's need to deceive his spouse. As I wrote last month, "I would recommend it to anyone who occasionally enjoys French farce."

If you are in the mood for something a bit more suspenseful, view the old French heist film "Rififi" ("Du rififi chez les hommes"). I finally saw it a few weeks ago. One very long silent sequence is a classic piece of cinema. Who needs subtitles in a film that includes half an hour of uninterrupted robbery?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The latest threat from global warming

Apparently, global warming is a threat to wine producers in both California and France.

At the same time, warmer weather turns some northern nations into quality wine producers -- like Great Britain and Canada.

From Jen Phillips in the November/December Mother Jones:
THE LAST TIME England had a reputation for its wine was more than 700 years ago, when British monks took advantage of the 400-year-long Medieval Warm Period to grow and press grapes. Today, a new round of climate change is putting the island's wines back on the map.

Thanks to its newly hot, dry summers, the south of England is now considered wine country. Nearly 400 vineyards are producing $31 million worth of wine annually...

As the latitudinally challenged English wine biz heats up, climate studies predict that established grape-growing regions like France, Spain, and California will be struggling; Napa Valley could see its wine production drop up to 80 percent in this century. Meanwhile, formerly gauche newcomers such as Tasmania and Canada are being touted as the next "star regions."
Perhaps this explains why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing so hard for climate change legislation.

In the immortal words of Three Dog Night, "Couldn't understand a single word he said but he sure had some mighty fine wine ..."

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Duck of Minerva posts

Today, at the Duck of Minerva I blogged about "2008 Grawemeyer winner" Philip Tetlock of the University of California, Berkeley. His book is about flawed expert political judgment -- and calls for public accountability for these analysts.

On November 28, I posted "Iraqi International Initiative" about the possible distribution of Iraqi oil revenues to refugees and displaced persons.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

...So Goes the Nation

Last night, on IFC, I caught most of "...So Goes the Nation," a documentary about the 2004 election with an emphasis on Ohio. The title takes its name from that old adage, "As Ohio Goes, So goes the Nation."

It was not a great film. Much on-screen time is given over to insiders from the Bush campaign explaining why their strategy worked -- and to Democratic insiders expressing lament at the way the Kerry campaign was managed. These perspectives are worth discussing, but I was hoping the film might address some of the odd results and election official shenanigans in Ohio. The Dem insiders were mainly old Clinton hands -- Paul Begala and Terry McAuliffe. Karl Rove apparently did not talk to the film makers.

The film directed some attention at the provisional ballots, but not much, and some on-screen talking heads bashed Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State.

Yet, there was nothing about voting result oddities in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties. Warren was the "security lockdown" county. Moreover, they didn't make much of the exit poll results, saying only that Kerry had been ahead in the "early" polls.

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Australia: no longer willing

By a landslide, Australia elected a new PM last week and he was sworn in today.

Kevin Rudd's first official act was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Perhaps I'll say more about that some other time.

By mid-year 2008, Rudd promises to withdraw all of Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq. Australia has 1500 total troops in Iraq. Some of the other troops will stay to protect the Aussie embassy.

This announced exodus follows Britain's announced draw down made by Gordon Brown in October. Click along the link trail and you can read about the slowly disappearing coalition of the willing.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

What Iranian nuclear program?

This is all over the blogosphere, but I wanted to save the link for myself. The latest official National Intelligence Estimate for Iran (public version) says that Iran is NOT developing a nuclear weapon. They stopped military work years ago:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program
Because Iran has a uranium enrichment program, the NIE also says this in the following clause: "we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons."

More conclusions:
We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.
As Patrick Jackson notes, this part of the NIE is interesting given what the US has been saying about Iran's President these past two years:
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.
We just might get a negotiated solution yet.

It seems quite unlikely now that the U.S. could muster a case for war before the end of the Bush administration.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Service notes

Rob Farley and Robert D. Kaplan would not appear to be allies. Farley is a progressive who teaches at the University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and blogs at Lawyers, Gun$ and Money and TAPPED.

Kaplan is a neocon journalist who writes influential pieces on military strategy and theory for the Atlantic Monthly and is currently Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Yet, despite their different perspectives, both Farley and Kaplan recently published pieces in popular magazines calling explicitly or implicitly for a larger navy.

Farley's pro-navy pieces comes in the form of a provocative call to abolish the air force. Farley wants to give important functions of the Air Force to the Navy:
To the extent that the United States requires a capability to punish other states militarily for political purposes, the Navy can handle the job. The aircraft carriers of the Navy already represent the most powerful concentration of mobile military power in the world. Navy cruise missiles, launched from submarines and surface vessels, can strike most of the surface of the Earth within a couple of hours. Adding certain elements of the Air Force portfolio to the Navy would neither transform nor hinder the Navy's power projection mission.

The strategic nuclear capability of the Air Force should also go to the Navy. The USN already operates its own strategic deterrent in the form of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, armed with the Trident missile. The Navy could also operate the other two legs of the nuclear triangle (ICBMs and strategic bombers) without difficulty, especially since the latter would support the Navy's strategic mission.
In dismantling the Air Force, Farley would give tactical air support missions to the Army.

Kaplan (in a subscriber-only piece) adopts realist thinking about world politics and implicitly urges expansion of the navy for the simple reason that other states -- China, especially -- are likely to pose future threats to U.S. security interests. Kaplan even uses a narrative structure common to academic realists -- "the tragedy of great power politics."
Democracy and supremacy undermine the tragic sense required for long-range planning.
Democracy is dangerous because it can be difficult to sell weapons systems to the American public. Supremacy is foolhardy because it breeds satisfaction and makes it difficult to see the burgeoning new threats in a dangerous world. If this sounds convincing, keep in mind that Kaplan adopts a very long-term perspective:
All of this puts us in a precarious position. History shows that powerful competitor navies can easily emerge out of nowhere in just a few decades.
Act now! Threats are merely decades away!

Of course, Kaplan refutes his thesis in a succinct sentence:
The vast majority of American ships that saw combat in World War II had not even been planned before the spring of 1941.
Some emergency, eh?

Elsewhere, I am developing my own critique of the tragedy narrative employed by realists. I'm working on a book-length argument about the comedy of global politics. Here is a link to a conference paper that is likely to become a chapter.

Note also: Farley criticizes Kaplan's facts and argument here. Yet, it seems obvious that both would increase the size and capability of the navy if they had authoritative power in the Pentagon.

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