The Pipeline

The United States Capitol Building, May 2011.

Just back from DC, where it’s really, really hot and humid. But rather pretty. I have some notes on Chen Bingde at the NDU, the Secret Service, and a bus ride from Dulles (none of which are related) to share with you all soon. So stay tuned.

On Chicago

The Chicago skyline, as viewed from Wrigley Field looking south, April 5, 2011. Photo by the author.

I meant this to be a stand-alone post on Chicago, but life circumstances will also turn this into a farewell to that most quintessentially American city. Things have necessitated a homecoming, but I see it as being for the best.

Yes, I have now departed Chicago and returned home to Boston for now. Career-wise this is almost certainly the right move; the kind of work I want to do is based pretty much entirely on the East Coast, and now I’m that much closer to potential employers, etc. But I got a pretty awesome trip out of it, somehow accidentally theming it around baseball. Did you know that for some games tickets to Wrigley Field are as little as $8?

And then our road trip route took us past Jacobs Field in Cleveland, past the sign for Cooperstown (sadly, summer hours had not yet begun), and home to Boston, where Sunday night I was able to watch at Fenway as the Red Sox won their first (and to-date, only) series of the year. Against the Yankees, no less. But I digress.

Much of my thinking on Chicago as a city is reflected perfectly in a post from my old professor, Fredric Smoler:

It was thus a hyper-modern and ultra-American city, more modern and in a sense more American than New York, which predated the Republic. The quintessential American architectural form, the skyscraper, was invented here, and approaching the city from its airport the spires rise above the plain like Oz. L. Frank Baum had lived in Chicago, and I think it shows…

A fantasy of Chicago made a vast impression on people like Bertholt Brecht, for whom it symbolized immensely violent capitalist energies. Chicago no longer seems to evoke that intense energy in the minds of foreigners, or for that matter for too many Americans, and we seem to have also lost the once more varied sense of its history as well… Continue reading

The Talking Pictures

So, a little while back, I managed to sit down and interview Noah Shachtman of Danger Room and Brookings fame for that wonderful venue known as Fortnight. Part of the structure of the journal includes “luminary responses,” in which an established figure in the author’s field engages with the author in some sort of dialogue or response piece. I was one of the lucky ones to receive such a response, and my luminary was Noah Shachtman.

My interview has finally gone live. You may have already gotten the official email; if not, my apologies for the omission. In the end, it’s even better than I hoped it would be. Shachtman is awesome. We covered a wide range of topics, from writing while trying to break into the field to America’s need for/lack of an overarching grand strategy to the future of navies. Please, check it out for yourself.

Also, “underemployed” seems to be one of those words that will now be permanently affixed in front of my name, like “Doe-eyed Athena.” I am a much bigger fan of “millennial combat scholar.” One for the business cards, perhaps?

New Leaf

It’s March, a new month, and I aim to drag myself out of the February malaise. I’m still going to have trouble keeping up with the latest news, but I’m okay with that because most of it just depresses me these days (example).  I’ve got more original pieces in the pipeline, along with more papers to reformat for blog purposes.

Perhaps we’ll finally get out of this endless winter, too – though that seems more and more unlikely. See you when everything thaws out in June.

Also, will this opening get put on Monster.com or anything or is it more of an internal affair?

Housekeeping

So, wow. Two-thirds of the month of February have gone by already with nary a peep from this corner. I would like to change that; consider this a step in that direction.

Sometimes I feel like my ridiculous schedule and utter demotivation to write are all a nefarious plot on the part of [BIG BOX RETAILER] to work us so hard that we don’t have time to look for other jobs. At other moments I realize they couldn’t possibly be that coordinated, such as when they schedule me to close (until 10:30PM) the night before a mandatory 6AM meeting. Then it seems like they want me to quit.

But hey, at least I have a job, I suppose. Which is more than so many both here and across the world – especially across the world. I can’t help but wonder if in addition to our usual complacency, though, the reason America hasn’t exploded into similar unrest (don’t even get me started on the Rick Scott Walker asshole miasma that passes for normal politics in this country) is because of that huge gap between unemployment and underemployment. Even if they’re jobs without a future, is there some sort of voice in our heads that insists we’re lucky just to have even that, regardless of a stunted upwards mobility?

Because I keep coming back to Paul Mason’s twenty explanations for the Middle East uprisings, and one in particular:

At the heart if it all is a new sociological type: the graduate with no future.

For all their other horrible, horrible faults, the recently deposed dictators of the Middle East were at least pretty good at educating their younger citizens. Of course, the stagnant economies provided no outlet for those credentials, thus no jobs, thus [eventual] rioting. One can try to explain it as simply an overly universal education problem, but then the observer comes upon the United States and it all goes to hell. Because, here, it doesn’t matter what your degree is in or how many you have or even whether you’re actually talented. Despite our tiered educational system, of the Ivies, the liberal arts colleges, the state school – it matters less where you went than who you met while you were there. The world is split into McJobs and MegaJobs, and the latter is a rapidly dwindling crapshoot.

For all my ranting, I’ve tried to keep a relatively sunny outlook, but the days only seem to get darker. Any “recovery” in the economy is so imperceptible as to be non-existent, and there are few real signs of actual progress on any large scale. Do we have a future? Are we the Mason sociological type, even in the United States?

With mass layoffs producing better profitability, furloughs mandated on an even grander scale, and Watson beating humanity, it’s pretty clear that something like half the workforce is in fact entirely dispensable. Which then begs the question; there are no jobs in Egypt; none in France; none in the United States: so where are these jobs going to come from? Sometimes, they simply don’t exist – but this time there’s nothing to replace them.

Eventually, Americans will realize that. And then just maybe we’ll get off our asses and take to the streets. I don’t even know what that would accomplish, but at least we’d prove to ourselves that we’re paying attention, and that the system is broken.

So that’s where I’ve been recently. As for other events in the Middle East, I like some and not others. Capsule commentary:

  • Tunisa: great! Started it all. Looks good from what little I can tell.
  • Egypt: if the military can stay classy, good things will come. Probably. Maybe.
  • Bahrain: the King is such an asshole.
  • Yemen: I’m less up-to-date, but the United States looks particularly bad here and in Bahrain.
  • Libya: we already knew Gaddafi was an asshole.
  • Others: good luck, godspeed, and try to avoid getting shot.

And perhaps the best commentary I’ve seen on recent events:

Mea Culpa

Apologies are again in order for the quiet and lack of posting around here. I started a new job a couple weeks ago (just retail, nothing to be proud of), and so that’s been keeping me pretty busy. I’m fairly certain that Tom Ricks can’t be counted as a reader of this blog, but he’s noticed a similar dimming across the entire military blogosphere.

Let’s hope it doesn’t continue, and I’ll be posting when I can. Unfortunately, it’s been pretty hard to keep up with the very current events, so I’ll most likely refrain from commenting on them. Of course, that leaves much more room for original thought.

Escape from Heathrowistan

I’ve been back in America for several days now (and thank God, made it home in time for Christmas), but it became quite an ordeal getting out of the United Kingdom.

Quite possibly the only snowplow at Heathrow Airport attempts to accomplish the herculean task of clearing several inches of snow.

The four-inch snowpocalypse at Heathrow Airport led to an air travel catastrophe, with more than half a million passengers unable to get where they needed to be. I was lucky enough to have hotels and such at my disposal, unlike the thousands forced to sleep on the floor of various terminals at the airport. But let me break it down:

It snowed four inches on Saturday, December 18. This prompted the full closure of both Heathrow and Gatwick airports. By Sunday, Gatwick had reopened at more than 50% of capacity – but Heathrow remained closed. My flight, initially scheduled for Sunday, was thus canceled. Rather than spend hours on long-distance hold with the airline, I opted to book a new one-way flight for Tuesday, connecting in Dublin and leaving from Gatwick, which was operating more smoothly.

By Tuesday, Gatwick was almost 100% operational, but Heathrow was still operating at about a third of capacity, and its second runway remained closed. I then spent eight hours at Gatwick waiting for my constantly delayed flight, which was finally canceled because it had been snowing in Dublin for five hours.

At that point, I thought I was screwed. From what I could tell and from what a travel agent told me, the next available flights were not going to be until today – Boxing Day. Thus I would miss Christmas, stranded in a foreign land. But miraculously, ten minutes later the travel agent called back to report a block of seats on Air Canada flights had opened up. We quickly managed to a book a flight connecting in Ottawa for Wednesday, and despite snow-induced delays on the ground in Ottawa and later in the air above Boston, I made it home for Christmas. We landed in snow, because flakes don’t necessitate entire airport closures. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to Us!

Joint Army-Navy Task Force No. 1 commander Vice Admiral William H.P. Blandy with his wife and Rear Admiral Frank Lowry, commemorating the task force's disbanding, November 5, 1946.

Dear Readers,

It’s official! As of today, December 6th, this blog is one entire year old. That’s 365 days worth of posts and downtime alike. Starting with humble topics like “John Boyd and the OODA Loop,” and a breakdown of the defeated Sri Lankan insurgency, and myself introducing…myself, this blog has exploded into much more than I ever thought it could be.

Let’s crunch the numbers: 265 posts, 149 comments, 157 individual tags. I went from 593 views in December 2009 to 585 views in the first six days of December 2010.

A total of 29,332 hits. The most visited month ever was April 2010, presumably thanks to my “Boot Camp or Fat Camp” post, which has garnered 1,028 views since publication.

But surprisingly, that is not the most-viewed post of all time. That honor would belong to Part I of Operation Tannenbaum, the hypothetical German invasion of Switzerland. That article has now become cited material on both the English and Hebrew Wikipedia. With 2,077 views, it leaves “The Mask of the Bear: Soviet Deception in Operation Bagration” in a distant second with nearly 1,000 fewer hits.

Also popular have been some longer works: “SMS Goeben, the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, and the Coming of the Great War,” “Dragon at Sea: A Brief History of Chinese Navies,” “Reagan, Thatcher, and the Tilt,” and my five part series “For Love of Country.”

Thanks are in order, too. The two history carnivals at Edge of the American West that I was featured in have sent loads of traffic my way, as has Starbuck through both his blog and Twitter. My sincerest gratitude for getting eyeballs on the site and the site off the ground.

Many thanks as well to everyone who has come to this site either through a link or by accident; your continued patronage and readership is held in the highest esteem. Remember you can also find me on Twitter (where I share a pretty decent amount of good links). And please keep reading – I know there are many more years of good material left in me.

All the best and happy holidays,

Graham W. Jenkins