The Shelves Are Stuffed (and Ikea’s Not Selling Extras)

I have a piece out in War on the Rocks, on the limitations of “enhancing” the U.S. forward presence in the Western Pacific. In short: putting additional forces at our existing (and vulnerable) bases doesn’t add any value; there’s no appetite among allies to provide new bases or access arrangements, especially if we’d want to deploy land-based missile systems; and focusing on putting military forces forward is probably the wrong way to approach the issue in the first place.

For all the posturing over the absolute necessity of deploying missile and forces forwards now, just because the United States wishes it does not mean it will happen. New basing options cannot simply be willed into existence.

Insofar as it’s only been a day, I think it has been well-received. Mike Mazarr, in particular, wrote a very nice thread about the need to reconsider our assumptions of access and how those affect force structure and acquisition planning themselves:

Blake Herzinger points out, however, that I got the nature of U.S. arrangements with Singapore wrong, and he’s right: the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding Regarding United States Use of Facilities in Singapore not a “basing” agreement so much as it is a “facility use” and rotational deployment one, which “facilitates US’ forces access to Singapore’s air and naval bases, and provides logistic support for their transiting personnel, aircraft and vessels.” It’s an important distinction and I’m glad he called me out on it.

At any rate, I think it’s worth your time to read! There are a few portions I wish could have made it into the final version, particularly regarding Guamanian statehood, allied precision weapons proliferation, and robust access agreements made during peacetime, but it stands well on its own.

Link Dump

This will be the last one of these for the foreseeable future. But they should keep you busy.







Recommended Reading (2011-01-30)

Anti-government protesters clash with police in downtown Cairo January 25, 2011.

– John Robb’s analysis of Mubarak’s survival strategy. “It’s to create a vacuum.  De-escalate and out-wait the protest.”

– Remarkably good breakdown and compilation of the usual cross-European (and transatlantic) stereotypes.

One Frenchman, an intelligent man; two Frenchmen, a violent altercations; three Frenchmen, a relationship.
One Englishman, an imbecile; two Englishmen, two imbeciles; three Englishmen, a great nation.
One German, a pig; two Germans, beer; three Germans, war.
One Italian, an artist; two Italians, a concert; three Italians, defeat.
One American, a drunk; two Americans, two drunks; three Americans, Prohibition.

– Huis ten Bosch is an enormous recreation of several Dutch cities in amusement park fashion. It’s located in Japan, naturally. Spike Japan takes you on a tour in three parts.

– At some point, Lee Sandlin’s very long essay “Losing the War” deserves a proper and comprehensive response, but for now… Just read it. It is amazing.

– The concept of the “elite” is being taken on from all quarters now. Particularly good examples at n+1 and The Atlantic.

Did the poor cause the economic crisis? (Answer: no. But a good exploration anyways.)

And from the past week at Automatic Ballpoint:

Drezner’s talk on theories of international politics and zombies meets with great acclaim. My newest Fortnight piece is published. Massive new addition to the links page. And is the J-20 a bastard child of the F-117?

Whatever Happened, Happened

My new piece at Fortnight, partially inspired by the events of the MV Mavi Mamara Gaza flotilla raid, is all about the facts and just the facts, ma’m. More specifically, it’s about how no one agrees on what should be indisputable, universally accepted truths. Reality itself is now up for debate.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandos rappelled onto a series of boats in an enemy flotilla that was attempting to run a blockade off of Gaza. Provoked, Jerusalem had no choice but to respond to and interdict the flotilla. Met with hostile resistance as they boarded the boats—rappelling down from helicopters—the Israeli troops responded in kind, and neutralized the terrorist threat.

Or: On May 31, 2010, a band of Jewish thugs murdered several innocent protesters who were on a mission of mercy to the blighted Gaza strip. In an attempt to persuade the world of the injustices and cruelty being perpetrated on the innocent peoples of Palestine, Israel proved that it could not tolerate even peaceful protest, and violated its own principles of free speech by slaughtering those attempting to exercise their rights.

But, how about we phrase it this way: On May 31, 2010, a bunch of people were killed and injured on boats in the Mediterranean. Two parties, clearly at odds with each other, both overreacted and some people died because of it.

Nobody wins.

Sadly, time will heal little, and temporal distance from the Gaza flotilla incident will do even less to clarify what happened and why. Who is correct in their interpretation of history?


Today, there is no single agreed-upon history from which to gauge correct accounts of political events. Facts are debatable. Ignorance and willful denial can coexist in a single narrative. Conspiracy theories and epistemic alternate realities (or, to use the recent turn of phrase, a certain “epistemic closure”) run rampant and unchecked. Cultural differences in conceptualizing time even play a part. And this all assumes there is an active desire and search for truth; many news consumers now cope with a world in which shoving their collective past down the “memory hole” is de rigueur.

Read the rest over at Fortnight.

Blogroll Update, Vol. Whatever

The list keeps growing, and growing, and growing (just realized that I haven’t updated the master list since October). I finally had to prioritize different feeds, I just had too much to keep up with. But definitely try out Yahoo Pipes for an excellent way to filter and scrub your feeds. Still, the days of not having 1000+ unread items are over.

Friends & Colleagues

General News Sources




East Asia
















Recommended Reading 2011-01-23

A Tunisian demonstrator holds his breadstick like a weapon in front of riot police during a protest against the country's new government in Tunis on January 18, 2011.

Abandon the internet! It’s time to start thinking about its successor.

– The White House, through the Commerce Department, is pushing for internet IDs. I suppose Commerce is probably a slightly less troubling agency than the NSA or DHS, but still. While I welcome anything that might stop YouTube comments, this is not a solution to anything. Even the master password system under discussion is not something anyone should be interested in (via the Daemon Technology Feed).

Popular Science suggests an alternative ‘Terminator scenario‘. The machines won’t necessarily gain sentience and rise up against us, but instead:

We would build powerful military systems that would “take over the large key functions that are done exclusively by humans” and then discover too late that the machines simply aren’t up to the task. “We blink,” he said, “and 10 years later we find out the technology wasn’t far enough along.”

– A really profound and thought-provoking piece on digital life after death. Time to prepare a virtual will.

– Historians have ceded the debate over an American “character” to sociologists (ew). Time to reclaim the mantle, says David M. Kennedy.

Recommended Reading (2010-12-12)

A bunch of British children get particularly cranky and start burning and smashing things. Probably stabbing them, too.

– How to access the internet, circa 2025. Get your RealID cards out and ready!

– Tom Ricks has been putting out an intriguing little series on American civil-military relations, inspired by the ubiquity of those worthless “support the troops” ribbons. Here’s the first installment, “You Can Go Strangle Yourself with that Yellow Ribbon, or, Here Is What I Want You to Do Instead of Shaking My Hand.”

– Great interactive map of American migration patterns in 2008.

– The Smithsonian presents “The Ten Most Disturbing Scientific Discoveries.”

– For fighting in the bush with overlapping cones of fire, there’s Drake shooting.

– Everybody, everywhere is full of shit, from Joe Stack and other disillusioned citizens to the political class itself.

– I may have posted it before, but Niall Ferguson is to be given a hand in rewriting British school curriculums. It’s about time there was some revisionist revisionism; I can only imagine how much fun textbooks might become.

And from the past week on Automatic Ballpoint:

This blog celebrates its first birthday! Cake included. We also take a look at the intricate workings behind nuclear weapons. But then I start getting angry.

Between fuzzy “economish,” the continuing rape of the American financial ‘system’, and our total loss of agency, the week had me pretty worked up. So I’m trying to relax and refocus.

You’ll see for yourselves soon enough how well that’s going.

Recommended Reading (2010-12-05)

A military helicopter overflies the Morro do Alemão shantytown during a raid on November 28, 2010 in Rio de Janeiro.

I realized the other day that I have a tremendous list of links going months and months back that I never posted, so this Sunday roundup will start to become a little longer. I will try to make it a compendium of things from the past week that I’ve read, or tweeted, as well as those links from the “archive.”So without further ado…

– One type of “illegitimate” government in Rio’s favelas is being replaced by a different one. Whoever provides the most adequate services wins.

– My friend Ross argues for ratifying START in the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

– P.W. Singer and some other people discuss “America 2021: The Military and the World.”

– Anatoly Karlin explains his “Collapse Party” and reprints its manifesto:

Thinking about the political dimensions of adapting to a re-localized world, in which resource depletion and climate change make impossible the huge economies of scale and their supporting technologies that we know take for granted.

– New skill you didn’t think you needed: post-state diplomacy.

– An absolutely riveting discussion of the law surrounding U.S. overseas possessions, particularly the law of islands:

Boom, there are all these wildcatters and roughnecks throwing up the Stars and Stripes on little mounds of manure all over the world. In the end, more than seventy such islands are actually secured under the act, and many more are claimed (unsuccessfully, for one reason or another). But that’s not the interesting part, really—although it’s curious enough, and there are some great stories about what goes down on these islands: shanghaiing Polynesian laborers, piracy (of course), mutiny, etc. Some of the islands are still claimed by various shady types. Indeed, a rather mysterious gentleman contacted me some years ago in connection with his alleged title to an uninhabited guano island in the Caribbean.

– Is Batman a state actor (legally speaking)?

And from the past week at Automatic Ballpoint:

Israel thinks airpower is great in urban environments. But flying is much less fun for the average civilian. I prognosticate on the future of war in Fortnight.

Scientific breakthroughs are still made, but I find that we’re shifting into reverse and rolling back the twentieth century. Is it because of, or has it caused, our continuing hysterical breakdown?

Recommended Reading (2010-11-28)

Destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells at the island, seen on November 23, 2010.

– Analyzing data sets: the future of journalism. So says none other than the inventor of the internet (no, not that one).

– New York City is the most-modeled environment in video gaming. But could games also serve as architectural prophecy?

– Then again, perhaps Tim Berners-Lee and the gaming industry will form a new journalism together. The ‘news game‘ is rapidly becoming an interactive tool for educating (or indoctrinating, depending on your point of view) the public. It’s certainly more fun than Cable in the Classroom (via Futurismic).

– Kyle Mizokami sees the new ‘21st century equation‘: “Growing world population + Increasing affluence in developing countries + Dwindling resources + Territorial disputes + Greed = Trouble.”

– Rich people don’t need America anymore. And finally public intellectuals are picking up on their self-segregation from actual American society. The latest: Tom Ricks.

And from the past two weeks at Automatic Ballpoint:

Thanksgiving happened. I found an interesting organizational chart sans explanation. My most apocalyptic Fortnight article yet came out, which I quoted. I also quoted from the BBC nuclear contingency transcript. The headlines show why we’ll have been sucked dry and suckered into our own moral, societal, and financial bankruptcy.

But with the Palins around, are the end times already here?