Pinnacle

A nuclear bomb detonated by the French government at the Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia, 1971.

A fantastic photo series, “When We Tested Nuclear Weapons,” is up at The Atlantic. Some are downright beautiful. All are haunting.

Satellite Past

Historic Aerials is an site I just learned about. Think a historical Google Maps. It’s a tremendous database of historical aerial photography, and potentially very useful for understanding how we got to just where we are. Post-Soviet development in the Moscow area? The growth and spread of Rio’s favelas? The fortification of borders, be they US-Mexican or Israeli-Palestinian? It’s an endlessly powerful and fascinating tool. I can’t wait to see Geoff Manaugh‘s take on it.

It’s certainly an interesting link, and it’s one I considered posting to say, Twitter. To truly understand it, though, you have to see for yourself. For example, here’s Boston’s waterfront pre-Big Dig, in 1971:

And today:

You’ll certainly find something to explore.

Via Beyond DC.

More Island Chains

Courtesy of The Globe and Mail (and via Information Dissemination) comes this infographic of the range of Chinese naval operations:

Now, if both this map and the “Island Chain Theory” of Chinese strategy are accepted as true, then perhaps China is not as far along as recently thought. China has uncontested control of neither the South China Sea nor the Luzon-Okinawa-Kiyakyushu chain. But is that slow progress the result of capabilities or intent?

The PLAN has grown more than was previously thought, but much of that growth has come from additional submarines – not the most effective offensive weapon to claim and hold territory. Still, it would not be especially difficult for China to assert themselves more unilaterally in the South China Sea especially – the other ASEAN nations have virtually no navies and little recourse to international fora to decry Chinese expansionism.

And still, while Chinese leadership seems to disdain international standards and mores, there is some respect for general global sentiment towards the country. Isolated instances of repression, jailing dissidents, and other such common phenomena in the People’s Republic barely make it to the A section of major newspapers, and usually just as a sidebar item. Most people would hardly notice unless they were looking for it.

But if a major operation were launched – like one to take and secure the Paracels and the Spratlys, and to start building on them – you can be sure the international outrage would be deafening. And that seems to be what CCP leadership hates the most. Not necessarily being lectured or talked to about human rights, but being yelled at. Regardless, the Chinese position vis-a-vis the first island chain should be seen as soft. It may look underdefended and contested, but the PLAN could easily seize key points along it in a heartbeat. For the moment, at least, there is just no need to do so.

OODAs of Noodles

Ah, Boyd. Master of all things. As a good friend once explained the cult of Boyd as “it’s like the Americans wanted to scream, ‘WE HAVE A MILITARY GENIUS, SEE!’ while losing in Vietnam.” But still, the underlying theory is sound, and this chart does a good job of breaking down all four letters.

I’m a little embarrassed to say I hadn’t seen it before (the original website dates it back to 2006). It really is an excellent overview of the OODA Loop, including all the cultural and individual particulars that inform a decision. Also, note the sheer number of ways to ‘observe. The chart can be expanded or condensed for as long as you need, be it split-second decision or drawn-out debate process. And if nothing else, you have a crucial tool to get all inside your enemy’s head.

There is a real risk, though, of reading too much into OODA. More guidelines than rules. And so forth.

Via zenpundit.

The Output Gap

It seems like good news always comes out when the weather’s bad, and bad news when it’s nice out. But when it’s a grey day to begin with and you look at this series of charts

What the gap between potential and actual production means for employment.

Basically, a recovery could take 10 more years. Or never materialize at all. Given the devastating effects of long-term unemployment on recent graduates, young adults, and the very fabric of society, we have got to do better. And the stimulus was too much?!

At this point, it doesn’t even matter. Make-work, nothingness – anything is better than the worst-case outcome here.