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
It seems every technology and defense magazine these days is gushing about the future of warfare. The discussions center on all the revolutions claimed to be on the horizon or already arriving to a battlefield near you. They’re not wrong. A plethora of convergent technological revolutions stand to upend the ways wars are fought around the world, between both state (e.g. the US, China, Russia), and non-state actors (e.g. ISIS, Boko Haram, FARC). Today we are going to discuss implications for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, otherwise known as NATO. Current NATO doctrine in effect assumes efforts will be made to minimize civilian and military casualties. It also assumes that the Alliance will have electronic, airborne, and general technological parity, if not outright superiority, against any near-term opponent. This was a key part of NATO defense strategy during the Cold War, relying on superior Western munitions, non-kinetic technologies, and the threat of American, British, and French nuclear arsenals to offset massive Warsaw Pact numerical and conventional firepower advantages. Further, current Alliance defense procurement indicates a continued belief that it only needs better versions of the tools with which it planned to wage war against Red Army tank and infantry divisions, the war to end all conventional wars. The Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighter, F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, Zumwalt-class destroyers and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the new Leopard 3 main battle tank Germany is developing, and the ongoing upgrade series for the vaunted M-1 Abrams tank all are examples of this line of thinking.
That will not be the next war, either strategically or tactically. While conventional force and firepower will be an integral piece of the next war, the rate of change in how wars can and should be fought since the collapse of the Iron Curtain cannot be underestimated. There is little to no investment in any of the following combat revolutions on the horizon: strategic and tactical cyber warfare, offensive electronic warfare (EW) to deny the enemy use of their battlespace networks, defensive EW against the same, airborne and land-borne autonomous weapons systems, battlefield-ready directed energy and electromagnetic weapons (e.g. lasers and railguns respectively), and asymmetric strategies, including not only insurgencies but both limited nuclear warfare and anti-civilian strategies in a total war scenario. However, even more pressing than understanding these individual revolutions is a broader concern. There is a critical lack of significant Alliance investment in understanding the aforementioned revolutions from the perspective of an opponent of NATO. NATO has not studied the implications for enemy strategies. There is no Alliance-wide effort to perceive and adapt to such strategies. Without investment in at least understanding these potentially revolutionary technologies and the doctrines they will fit into, their possible strengths and weaknesses, in the next decade or less, the Alliance could find itself on the back foot technologically and its enemies leapfrogged over it into the next era of warfare. Continue with this piece
A part of me died Saturday, January 17th, 2016. I was one of three winning captains present at the last Decathlon, holding up the victors’ trophy, with a final personal record of 2-2. For me, on Saturday, January 17th, 2016, a part of my life finally came to a close. I had played pool in Bottom Lobby one more time (lost the last time on sinking the 8 ball early), celebrated the end of one of the most terrific parts of my life, and one of the best decisions I ever made, and I drove away from Gunn Hall one more time. Continue with this piece
Recently I saw the movie on track (or already through) to shatter every box office record it is in line for, including total worldwide and domestic box office ticket gross: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA). I saw it a few days ago now, and I think I have had the necessary time to mull over the film properly and form my conclusions about it. And I’ve come up with my short answer and my long answer when people ask me what I thought of it. Short Answer: A- as a stand-alone film, B next to the rest of the series, and C+ when compared to the Expanded Universe (EU). Long Answer: well, you’re going to have to bear with me here. It’s not going to be short. Oh, and before you read any farther, THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING, both for the film and a huge chunk of the Expanded Universe, now called Legends. I repeat, THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. Continue with this piece