Note: This article was written before the events of August 8th and 9th, 2017.
There has been quite a lot of talk about nuclear weapons in the last few months. President Trump ran, and won, on a platform that advocated the buildup of American nuclear capabilities, even at the risk of igniting conflict with Russia, while (now former) President Obama made headlines with legislation that would invest billions of dollars to modernize the current US arsenal. Both of these policies have garnered considerable attention, and with good reason. Very little has been done to distinguish between the two, or to explain to the average voter why one policy is inherently reckless while the other is (or at least could be) a legitimate effort to make the country, and the world, safer. Then, over the last few weeks, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (otherwise known as North Korea) has done a series of ballistic missile tests, including one on July 28 that appears to be able to strike any military target of consequence in the continental United States (CONUS). This is a significant change in the status quo on the peninsula, and worthy of some study on its own. This essay is not a comprehensive assessment of either policy or the North Korean situation by any means, but it is an overview–meant to make the nature and consequences of each policy and the changing situation on the Korean peninsula clear, in at least a broad sense, to the public. Continue with this piece
TL;DR: Alfred Thayer Mahan was an influential American naval theorist from the 19th century who got a lot of things right, and got the more important things wrong because his focus was the past and not the future. His positive contributions succinctly laid out key strategic points for waging a war at sea, but his negative focuses retarded the growth of offensive thought for over half a century, and directly led to the naval arms race between Germany and Britain that contributed to the start of World War I, and created what became “Kantai Kessen”, the doomed Japanese strategy that precipitated the strike on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Continue with this piece
Over the last few months, there’s been quite a bit of hubbub about the doings of the brand new Chinese aircraft Liaoning. She finished her refit for service late last year, and has spent these last few months working up with exercises in the Bohai Sea, including live-fire drills, further exercises in the South China Sea seen by many as a signal to the incoming Trump Administration in America, and finally a return to her new homeport of Qingdao through the Taiwan Strait, sending the entire Taiwanese military into a frenzy. Even Chinese media has been abuzz with the developments of the ship, the first aircraft carrier in People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service, such as this editorial suggesting the ship make a cruise to the West Coast of the United States as a geopolitical gesture. To be frank, the ship is being rather overblown. A former Soviet warship, the Liaoning represents a fundamentally different approach to carrier warfare at sea than the United States Navy’s (USN) Nimitz and Ford class supercarriers that mass nearly twice her full load, and to presume that the ship means the PLAN is now nearly ready to oust the USN from East Asian waters is laughable. Rather than swallow these sixty thousand tons of hype, this is intended as a rational discussion of the ship and her actual capabilities. Continue with this piece
As readers of this blog are aware, I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan. I was crushed when the Expanded Universe was remade into Legends, and was generally disappointed by The Force Awakens last year. I follow the Star Wars Report (an excellent site with quality podcasts), and have dived headfirst into the new(ish) Star Wars miniatures fleet battle game Star Wars: Armada (the best tabletop game I’ve ever played, period). I had the distinct pleasure of viewing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Sunday, December 18th, and I have to say, without reservation, this is now my favorite Star Wars film by a county mile. A more detailed review follows this, but for now, this is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. I repeat, this is a SPOILER WARNING (for both Rogue One and The Force Awakens, though the latter has been out for a year). Continue with this piece
I have made an effort to avoid partisan politics on my blog. It’s a personal choice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if readers, especially ones who know me personally are well aware of my political views on the American presidential election happening at the beginning of next month. In response to the severe and unprecedented circumstances of this election, I am temporarily abrogating my commitment to non-partisanship for this post. I could list off all of the reasons I oppose Donald Trump, from racism, narcissism, poor temper control, dishonesty, bragging about sexual assault, or outright incompetence and ignorance. I could link an extremely short summary of only a few of the most egregious reasons he should not be president, his opponent’s flaws notwithstanding. But I won’t (list them, obviously I did link that article). Instead today I will offer a somewhat more subtle rebuke, to a particularly virulent isolationist idea he has revived into national prominence. Just over a month ago, I posted an article devoted to the future issues of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, and a way I thought it could help future-proof itself. This time, I am instead going to focus on NATO in the present, and an issue raised in this presidential election campaign: is the Alliance still relevant to American global interests, or is it a long-lived ghost of the Cold War? Does NATO have a place in a world focused on defeating international terrorism, or should America stop allowing European powers to free-ride on its own defense commitments? For myself, the answer is clear: NATO has never needed American engagement and energy more than the present moment. The long and short of why is thus: so you can have the iPhone or laptop you are reading this essay on. At a fundamental level, NATO and its security guarantee underwrite the international order that uphold the Western lifestyle and allowed the creation of that device. Not only will American withdrawal engender an international collapse, but the modern technology sector will rapidly follow global order and peace into chaos and dissolution. Continue with this piece