Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kitty Hawk to India? 

From Rob at LGM, via Kevin, via Winds of Change:

The latest ROUMINT suggests that Secretary of Defense Gates, now visiting India, might give them the USS Kitty Hawk, CVN-63. The carrier is scheduled to be decommissioned soon, so rather than steaming back to the US, it could steam to India. Potential benefits to the US might include: parts and maintenance contracts, sales of planes to India from Boeing or Lockheed (F-18 and/or F-16), a strategic ally with a Blue Water navy in the Indian Ocean to help fight pirates and such.

The coolest thing came from one of Kevin's comments:
The Kittyhawk spent most of the last few decades based out of there [Yokosuka] working with the JMSDF (you can see her in Google Earth at 35°17'28.13"N 139°39'47.29"E. Look 1200m S-E at 35°17'6.33"N 139°40'27.91"E and you'll see the pre-WWI Japanese battleship Mikasa which is a museum piece. Compare the sizes of two first-rate warships of their time...)
I looked, its there, its kinda cool.

Monday, February 18, 2008

China's Role in USFP 

One of the interesting and recurring themes in USFP, especially when you look at it through the lens of Hegemony as we are this semester, is the role that certain countries play in the domestic debate. That is to say, there are certain type-cast roles that are used to justify certain policy positions, and having someone to fit that role really helps the person making the particular policy argument in question.

One of the classics is 'China' as "the next big thing." As a rhetorical device, this has little to do with what China is actually doing or plans to do. Rather, there is a role for the future challenger to the USA that requires action today, and China now fits that role. It didn't always have this role--long ago, it was the Soviets, then for a brief time it was Japan.

Fred Kaplan, in Slate, has a very interesting write up of the latest use of the China Card, this time in the Air Force's desire to buy more F-22's. Secretary of Defense Gates wants to stop production of the F-22, which costs $385 million per plane.

Gen. Carlson's rationale for this expansion: "Most people say in the future there will be a China element to whatever we do." In plainer words: He says we need more than twice as many F-22s than the secretary of defense says we need because of the future military threat from China.

Two things should be noted about this claim. First, by the Pentagon's own measure, the Chinese military has a long way to go before it constitutes a threat to U.S. forces. Second, even if it does become a threat, it's not at all clear that the F-22 would be the best weapon to deal with it....

The F-22 is the centerpiece of Air Force procurement at the moment. It has nearly no role in the sorts of wars that the United States has been fighting in the last 20 years—or has much prospect of fighting in the next 20.

And so, the China threat is dragged out of the cellar once again, as it has been to justify troubled weapons systems for 40 years now.
Kaplan goes on to document the leaps and bounds by which Chinese military power is behind the US. Its certainly worth reading all of it, especially if you are a China-o-phile. The moral of the story: China's military doesn't fit the role today, but the role is quite powerful--powerful enough to drive billion-dollar military spending at a time when the US military has many other more pressing and immediate needs. He concludes
In other words, it's worth keeping an eye on China. But it's probably not worth spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars now for a program like the F-22, which its own sponsors admit might be needed in case a threat develops 20 years in the future.

(plus, how can you not love a chance to have some cool F-22 pics on the blog?!?!)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Signaling Great Power status 

Last weekend, a pair of Russian TU-95 "Bear" bombers buzzed the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.

According to published reports, one Bear buzzed the Nimitz while another circled several miles off. The Nimitz launched planes to intercept the bombers, and escort them away from the carrier. (you wonder if it was anything like when Maverick and Goose 'communicate' with a MiG in the opening of Top Gun...)

This type of military signaling is something that used to happen all the time during the Cold War--on both sides. We'd send ships in international waters all around their coast, just to show them we could, we'd send planes to fly along the outskirts of their airspace. They'd send planes to fly by our ships, just to let us know that they knew we were there and the like. It was a complex signaling game, each side showing that it could maintain a deterrent posture, communicating its resolve and intentions.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has abandon these kinds of flights, as they are quite expensive. The Bears were, literally, thousands of miles from home, and you need a superpower-sized military budget to keep that up.

Interesting, though, is that even with the supposed "rise" of other countries / currency zones and the relative decline of Russia, its really hard to imagine anyone else doing this. The US still sends out its patrols (recall the P-3 incident with China back in early 2001--a similar deal where we sent a P-3 up their coast in international waters, and they sent a plane out to 'communicate' back). Still, only Russia has anywhere near the ability to do this in the middle of the ocean. Neither China nor India have the projection capabilities. The EU simply wouldn't think to do such a thing--they lack much of the capabilities, but as 'allies' they could just have a guy on the US ship as a guest.

A small incident but telling of what it takes to offer any kind of challenge to the US military.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Failure in Iraq redux 

The New York Times has a fascinating article uncovering an unclassified report by RAND for the Army that details the multiple instances of failure of US policy in Iraq. The report, based on documents, public information, and interviews with over 50 policymakers, identifies failures at all levels, from the White House to CENTCOM to the State Department to the Intelligence agencies.

The Army, concerned that the report bit off more than the Army wanted to chew, buried the report, ergo, all we know about it is what Gordon revealed in his NYT story from his paper copy. Timothy Noah at Slate likens the study to the Pentagon papers, but as of now, the NYT doesn't quite see it that way.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday for a Super Power 

Paraphrasing (very roughly) a conversation I had earlier today with an SIS faculty colleague (A) and another professional colleague who works for a government-funded peace research institution (B) here in DC:

Blah, blah blah, super Tuesday, voting, Obama, etc...

B: If Obama wins, that would have a tremendous impact on my job. The message that would send to the world, electing a black man President, and the way he speaks about international issues, would completely change the way people look at the US.

A: Quite literally, it would be like the old Monty Python bit-- And now for something completely different.

B: Yes, very much so.

Me: Considering how many people globally are paying attention to this race, its amazing. (vague reference to the post below)

B: Yes, for many of those people, the winner of this race has more impact on them than it does on you.

Given how Liberal ideals and Liberalism underlie US hegemony (particularly as Latham describes it), how big would an Obama Presidency be for the US? A Hillary Clinton presidency? Or does it not really matter?

Its super Tuesday, a day that could go a very long way in deciding the next President of the USA.


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