Monday, October 03, 2022

We Need to Talk About France

On paper and in theory, one would think that a nation who love-hates NATO only slightly less than she love-hates the USA, and is always looking for an opportunity to - now that the UK yeet'd itself out of the EU - nudge Germany out of the way so she can be seen as THE leader of Europe, would take the lead in supporting Ukraine in the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Of course, I'm talking about France;

If France wants to lead Europe to a new era of military self-reliance, how come its contribution to the war effort in Ukraine is so small?

That is the awkward question being posed by some of the country's top strategic thinkers, who are pushing President Emmanuel Macron to make an urgent decision on more arms to Kyiv.

Recent analysis conducted on the ground in Poland and Ukraine shows that the French share of foreign arms deliveries is less than 2%, way behind the US on 49%, but also behind Poland (22%) and Germany (9%).

"I was concerned about the reliability of the statistics which showed France low on the list of contributing countries," says François Heisbourg, who is perhaps France's most influential defence analyst.

"So I went out to the main distribution hub in Poland to see how much in tonnage was actually being delivered, rather than just promised.

"Unfortunately the figures bore out my fears. France is way down the list - in ninth position."

We hear the same old excuses that we are used to hearing from other nations (FRA actually spends a bit over 2% GDP on defense), who free-ride in NATO;

...defence officials say the true measure of military help is quality not quantity. Some countries are delivering masses of outdated equipment. France has given 18 Caesar self-propelled artillery units, which are now celebrated along the Ukrainian front-line.

France, they add, is like other Western countries in having run down military stocks as part of the post-Cold War peace dividend.

You know there's a "but" on the way ... and this is the point I raised to surprising response over the weekend on twitter;

Ukraine's Caesars are fully one quarter of France's entire mobile artillery. It cannot offer much more without making itself vulnerable in regions where it is already committed, like the Sahel and the Indo-Pacific.

18 = 25%. Yikes.

Yes, the nation that pretty much invented modern artillery on the battlefield is that short. Amazing, and she desires to be a major player on the stage? She's a continental power...but in theory only.

How to fix on the whole? That is a great question with a complicated answer I'm not sure we can do justice to here. 

How do you possibly fix her relative lack of support to Ukraine?

"When I was in Kyiv, everyone was very polite. I had no sense that the Ukrainians disapproved of us," he says. "In a way it was worse. I had the distinct feeling we were becoming irrelevant."

For Mr Heisbourg the equation is simple. Ukraine will talk to countries who it knows are likely to deliver the weapons it needs. France at the moment is not one of them.

The French have a very flinty ego. They don't like to be dismissed. They like to be important. They lust for a seat as a player.

Treat her like a 3rd-tier nation, and that might get her to up her game. 

Yes, France has long-standing interests in Russia ... but she, like many, seems to be missing her moment on history's stage. 

France has been and could be a strong and responsive ally ... but at this moment in time, cracks in her very real military capability are being brought in to focus, and larger cracks in her ability to understand place and time are even more pronounced. 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Fullbore Friday

Lessons - yep there are lessons.

When you go to war - you step in to a dark room. You hopefully have prepared yourself with the best equipment, training, operational concepts possible. The wise commander steps in to that dark room knowing that he will not know what will happen when he enters. At first, he won't see what works and does not - but he looks for it.

He adjusts, he modifies - he tries to find advantage.

Remember the FbF the other day about the Australian Light Horse and the 
assault on Beersheba? The Germans then did not think that mounted infantry would fight as cavalry - though the Commonwealth leadership saw the need to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Victory came to the less myopic leader.

Now the other side of the coin. You have cavalry. Always go back to one question: what is the mission.

General de Witte, Belgian Army knew what to do.
On the morning of August 12, the German cavalry arrived at Haelen and prepared to cross the bridge there.
Units of the Belgian cavalry (the 4th and 5th Lansiers, plus a company of cyclists and another of pioneer engineers) under General de Witte ambushed the advanced squadrons of the German cavalry, in what was almost certainly the last fight between mounted cavalrymen, wearing the breastplates and helmets of a different era.
(at the bridge, the Germans) encountered a prepared Belgian cavalry, fighting under General de Witte. The two cavalry fought throughout the day. The significant difference between the two cavalry was that the Belgian cavalry dismounted and fought as infantrymen.

The Germans launched numerous and repeated attacks against the Belgian forces but their sabers and lances could not hold against the unexpected Belgian rifle fire. The Germans fought until 6pm that evening having begun the attack around 8am. Frustrated Marwitz and the German cavalry were forced to withdraw from the bridge at Haelen that evening.

In all the Germans suffered nearly 1000 casualties that August day in 1914; 200 – 300 were taken prisoner by the Belgians, 150 were killed and 600 Germans were wounded. Belgian forces suffered approximately half that number in casualties.
Von Marwitz withdrew, advancing days later with great caution. This battle grew in Belgian folklore as the 'Battle of the Silver Helmets'.
The Battle of Haelen was a tremendous victory for the Allied Forces. Although the Belgians held the bridge at Haelen, the remainder of the German army won the Battle of Liege on August 16 and the German army continued their advance through and takeover of neutral Belgium.
Fight with what you have. Fight for every hour - as those behind you need every one.

Unlike WWII - not all of Belgium was taken by the Germans, and the plucky actions of the Belgian King and his people kept a tiny corner of Belgium free through the war. Their holding action along with the British Expeditionary Force and the spotty help of the French was essential in stopping the Germans from taking Paris.

Without Generals like de Witte, we would live in a very different world. Important to remember - especially for Americans.

In WWI, the Belgians lost 14,000 men in a population of 7.5 million.

For the USA's population of ~307 million today (2010) - that equates to 573,066 dead.

First posted November 2010.

Thursday, September 29, 2022


With what looks like sabotage of the Nordstream 1 & 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea bringing a momentary focus on critical infrastructure on the seabed, now is the perfect time point everyone to Pierre Morcos and Colin Wall's 2021 CSIS commentary, Invisible and Vital: Undersea Cables and Transatlantic Security.

In the national security arena, when conflicts arise people will discuss Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) and Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) - concepts military professionals concerned with keeping beans, bullets, lawyers, guns, and money flowing have focused on for all of human written history. 

In our age, where so much of what goes over GLOC and SLOC relies on the flow of information - voice and data - with few offline backups, is the security of those pathways just as important - the Information Lines of Communication (ILOC)? 

I've been guilty as most have with the fragility of satellite communications ... but is that where the real threat is to the lifeblood of the information age?

...undersea cables carry over 95 percent of international data. In comparison with satellites, subsea cables provide high capacity, cost-effective, and reliable connections that are critical for our daily lives. There are approximately more than 400 active cables worldwide covering 1.3 million kilometers (half a million miles).

Forget obsessing about what additional bridging equipment we need in light of the lessons from the Russo-Ukrainian War (actually, do keep obsessing about it because we are woefully short) - but instead invest some of your intellectual effort about the challenge of bridging a cut in a cable 1,000nm at sea and 3,000 meters under the water;

The Euro-Atlantic ... carries traffic between the two biggest economic hubs with dozens of cables, the majority of which are between the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Europe relies heavily on these cables as a majority of its data is stored in data centers located in the United States. 


he planning, production, deployment, and maintenance of subsea cables are almost entirely in the hands of the private sector. Currently, the four largest suppliers are Alcatel Submarine Networks (France), SubCom (United States), NEC (Japan), and newcomer Huawei Marine Networks (China)...

...In the financial sector alone, undersea cables carry some $10 trillion of financial transfers daily. 

There is more than just financial and economic exposure here;

Submarine cables are also critical for transatlantic security as governments rely heavily on this infrastructure for their own communications. Diplomatic cables and military orders largely pass through these privately owned cables as military operated, and classified cables remain marginal. Undersea cable breaks between Egypt and Italy in 2008 led U.S. drone flights in Iraq to decrease sharply from hundreds to tens a day. recent years, Russian attention to transatlantic undersea cables, particularly in the North Atlantic Ocean, has increased commensurately with NATO’s perception of undersea cables’ importance and vulnerability. Moscow has two primary means by which it could directly threaten the cables: submarines and surface vessels that can deploy autonomous or manned submersibles. 

On top of physical vulnerability;

More difficult and subtle than destroying the cables is tapping them to record, copy, and steal data, which would be later collected and analyzed for espionage.

Well, 'nuff said on that. Ahem.

This next bit should give you a flash of panic;

Allied governments should also step up their efforts to protect this critical infrastructure from malicious activity. Once allies agree on a shared assessment of vulnerabilities, NATO defense planners could consider setting capability targets to encourage allies to develop appropriate assets, such as surveillance ships or autonomous undersea drones. The United Kingdom has already announced the acquisition of a vessel specifically designed to protect underwater infrastructure. It will be equipped with advanced sensors and underwater drones and is expected to come into service by 2024. In addition to monitoring capabilities, allies could also consider policies to bolster the global fleet of cable repair vessels, which as of now is both overstretched and informally organized. The Fiscal Year 2020 U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for example, allocated a small stipend for a program to incorporate two privately owned vessels into a “fleet” the government can activate in a crisis.

Adopt contingency planning in case of major breaks: The United States and its European allies and partners should also develop, in close coordination with the private sector, contingency planning to prepare for the consequences of intended or unintended significant cuts. A focus should be on scenarios where many cables are severed in a short time period, overwhelming the redundancy features that the private sector builds into account for more common, isolated failures. 

We are naked, and you should be afraid.

Ask hard questions. Demand action.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Nordstream's Burning Ships


If there was any concern that Russia might turn Germany as winter sets in cold and expensive, you can put that concern to the side;
European leaders said Tuesday they believed dual explosions that damaged pipelines built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe were deliberate, and some officials blamed the Kremlin, suggesting the blasts were intended as a threat to the continent.

The damage did not have an immediate impact on Europe’s energy supplies. Russia cut off flows earlier this month, and European countries had scrambled to build up stockpiles and secure alternative energy sources before that.

With both Nordstream 1 and 2 now offline due to - well - "things," Russian gas is no longer an option for Germany in the short term. 

Who did this, why, and what are the implications? Well - I don't want this to be Emma Ashford week - but her thread here is pretty good;

What this means is high energy prices for Germany, significant headwinds for her manufacturing and export markets, and lowered living standards for the German people and others who ride in her wake.

The German people will have to do those things smart people have been telling them to do for a couple of decades - nuclear, coal, LNG - things their political class thought was "old think" by people who were of a lower class than they.

Arrogance, again, has a price.

This should not be a shock. This is a perfect storm resulting from decisions of her political class who painted their nation in to a corner for the sake of Green fever dreams, WEF/ESG sourced corruption, and general arrogance of a leadership class more interested in their in-group positioning than serving the needs of their people.

Will there be any accountability? I hope so. Maybe, maybe ... hopefully ostpolitik will be dead for another generation ... but it will be back. Money has its own gravity field.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Russia's Nuclear Option?

As winter arrives in Eastern Europe and the Russo-Ukrainian war approaches the end of its first year, a very serious war will become even more serious.

Both nations are increasingly fully invested in to seeing this to the end. Though on paper stronger, cracks in national resolve in Russia are showing much more than in Ukraine. Wars of choice for conquest – which is what Russia is engaged in – has a much different impact on a nation’s people than an existential war for national survival, which is the war Ukraine is in.

As Russia’s problems in trying to achieve something that looks like victory manifests itself in to the Russian people’s waning support for the war, the rulers of Russia will increasingly find their legitimacy and hold on power under threat. They know this war should have been over months ago. They clearly did not know their enemy well. 

Desperate times can force desperate measures. If the present Russian leadership’s hold on power is seen as weak, what measures might they take to try to hold on to power by forcing a quick end to the war on favorable terms?

Some are looking closer at the nuclear option that Russia has. I think they are looking too hard. A good example of this line of concern was in yesterday’s WaPo by Joseph Cirincione

NB: Before the pull quotes, a fair warning – Cirincione is selling a book titled, Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before it is Too Late, so keep that in consideration;

Russian President Vladimir Putin is losing his war. If the Ukrainians continue to liberate areas of their country from his invading army, would he actually use nuclear weapons as he has threatened? If so, how? And what would the U.S. response be?

It is difficult to put percentages on risk. Nor does it really matter. Given the stakes, if the chances are 10 percent or 40 percent, the response would be the same: Minimize the possibility of nuclear use, and prepare responses in advance.

This is when I remind everyone that "we" are horrible at predicting the next war early enough to prevent them. The track record is simply not very good. However, Cirincione has invested a lot of time and effort in looking at this - so we should give his ideas some consideration;

The next quote reminded me of a little reminder a peer gave me back when I was a NATO staff weenie at the other end of the HQ p-way from him. As a JO, he was on the other side of the wire as an JO in the Warsaw Pact. "Americans may not follow their doctrine very well, but Russians do."
Russian military writings describe in detail how, if Russia is losing a conflict, it could use nuclear weapons to force its enemy to retreat. This “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” strategy is somewhat controversial, but it is not dissimilar to various U.S. plans for using nuclear weapons first.

Well, sometimes we follow our doctrine. Sometimes the Russians don't...but if you are playing odds... 

I still stand by my belief - and that is a weak thread, I know - that in the next war, nuclear weapons will be what chemical weapons were during WWII. Everyone had them; no one used them.

If nuclear weapons were to appear on the Ukrainian stage, Cirincione does not have this COA as his most likely ... but it is my most likely if one must choose from the "Nuke" basket;

Demonstration shot. One option is for Russia to fire a nuclear weapon over an uninhabited area — say, part of the Black Sea — as a demonstration of its seriousness in hopes that the West will back down. Some scientists involved in the Manhattan Project urged just such a demonstration shot as an alternative to bombing Japanese cities at the end of World War II. While no one would be killed and there would not be physical damage, the explosion would stop the world in its tracks. There has not been a nuclear weapon used in combat in 77 years. No one has even seen a nuclear explosion above ground since 1980.

This is their neighborhood and fallout will drift to their lands if nukes are used. Is anyone going to buy grain downwind? No. Next to underground explosions, explosions high over the water or in the atmosphere create the least secondary radiation effects. Don't underestimate the lingering memory of Chernobyl. I see "Demonstration Shot" of the most likely COA of the least likely Nuke COAs.

As shocking as this would be, Russia would likely reject this option for the same reason U.S. military leaders did in 1945: It is not shocking enough.

Don't agree. Russia believes their own FITREPs, so to speak. The arrogance of their initial OPLAN speaks to this. They hold most of Central and especially Western Europe in contempt. I am sure a nuke over the Black Sea would be shocking enough (and they're right).

This is the author's "Most Likely COA:"

Low-yield weapon. Russia could fire a “low-yield” nuclear weapon on a Ukrainian military target. The explosion would kill hundreds or thousands and cause significant damage. Russia could use one of the 10-kiloton warheads it deploys on some of its ground-launched cruise missiles, including the Iskander that has been used extensively in the war with conventional warheads. Although this would be a massive explosion — equal to 10,000 tons of TNT — it would be small by nuclear standards. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was 15 kilotons; most U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads range from 100 to 1,000 kilotons. Some believe that Russia has even smaller-yield warheads, in the one-kiloton range.

I'm sorry, a nuke is a nuke. Any use, however slight, breaks the seal. As mentioned earlier, why go right away with something that will blow fallout your direction and ruin a major cash crop for who knows how many years? No one would want hot-wheat. You'd win nothing but a poisoned challis.  

Once this seal is broken, beyond that line be dragons. I would see a hard split between Western and Central European NATO on a response. Lots of marches with large paper mache puppets, etc. I don't think the author is correct at all in his assumptions.

... it would not require a “response in kind” by the United States, though some would urge that. The likely response, in addition to those in scenario one, would be massive increases in military aid to Ukraine and possibly concerted NATO or U.S. strikes on the Russian units that launched the attack.

As per the split in NATO, there will be no NATO strikes anywhere after such a use. I do not see the USA using nukes either when two European NATO members, France and the UK, have nukes of their own. NATO will not do it, and especially the Biden Administration won't go alone in such a step unilaterally.

In his next two COAs, he treats them as individual events, I don't. Once "Low Yield" goes, unless there is an immediate capitulation to Russian actions, the next two steps will follow rather quickly. This isn't a ladder, this is a chute.

Large-yield weapon. Putin could dial up the explosive force of the attack to the 50- or 100-kiloton range, or about three to six times the Hiroshima bomb. Tens of thousands would die with massive damage and radiation plumes. If the target were Kyiv, it would decapitate Ukraine’s leadership. This would almost certainly trigger a direct U.S. or NATO response, though not likely nuclear. The United States and NATO have sufficient precise, powerful conventional weapons that they could use to devastate Russian forces in Ukraine and command headquarters, including those units responsible for the attack. This would likely be accompanied by large-scale cyber operations.

Nuclear attack on NATO. This is the least likely scenario. Russian first-use doctrine includes the option of striking NATO targets. The attack could be by long-range missiles or air-launched cruise missiles on Central European states. If the yield of the weapon was similar to the previous scenario, it would inflict a level of destruction on a NATO state not seen since World War II. This could trigger a nuclear response. Some would argue a limited nuclear counterstrike was necessary to preserve nuclear deterrence. More likely is an all-out conventional assault to try to eliminate either Putin himself or the weapons he commands before he strikes again.

There is a certain arrogance in thinking that you can control the nuclear genie once it is out of the bottle. I am firmly of the school that you can't ... unless one side buckles. That is why one must be firm. The weaker you are, the more attractive the chute of nuclear use seems.

There is also a Rumsfeldian Known-Known in play here; the US President Joe Biden. He has a history going back decades. As former SECDEF Gates noted, he has a tendency to pick the wrong action on the international stage. He also shows a desire to - at whatever cost to foreign nationals - get the USA out of foreign entanglements involving our forces.

Should the Russians in desperation pull the nuclear card, would the USA do nothing and let the Russians get her way? What precedent does that set? Does anyone think that will stop the Russians from pulling this card again?

Does anyone really think there is a way to control nuclear escalation, that the same people who on the USA side who never saw Kabul collapsing like it did or on the Russians side who didn't see Kyiv standing like it did - that these two groups - have the insight and nuance to steer around and control each step in the "nuclear escalation ladder?" 

If the Russians do an airburst high over the Black Sea, would NATO/USA do a similar airburst over the Arctic? I don't know. No one does. Do you think the Biden natsec team has run this game yet and has a pre-planned response approved and ready to go?

I don't. 

Even with the best of teams on both sides, these are the "B" and "C" teams, not the "A" teams. Neither side has that record. There is no ladder to escalate on, to pause on each step and ponder. No, once the seal is broken, we have a steep and well greased chute. 

Pray for cooler heads, humility, and well secured genies. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Realism in Foreign Policy and its Discontents


Before diving into today’s post, as we have reached a lot of new readers in the last year, I would beg the indulgence of long-term members of The Front Porch to allow me to review some long-standing positions of mine.

On the foreign policy front, especially for the last decade, I have liked to consider myself a realist. I do not expect perfection in my personal friends, nor expect perfection in my nation’s friends. I am not an isolationist by any stretch, but I do find myself much closer to John Quincy Adams’s;

…admonition that “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons they do not understand in the name of democracy.”

…than I am to that mindset that brought us to that now clearly disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 etc.

For firm realists, I am probably seen as a bit wobbly, but that’s OK as it is fair. I am, for a lack of a better description, a situational realist. For even longer than the 18 years I have put my thoughts down here, I continue to advocate for a complete restructuring of our imperial presence around the world, especially when it comes to our ground forces. All of our friends and allies can more that support significant ground forces to defend their lands. We are a maritime and aerospace power on the other side of the world. We can maintain combined logistics and training facilities with them, and even rotate forces in and out when desired, but we should not be garrisoning their nations with tens of thousands of ground forces as we approach the middle of the 21st Century.

I’m not dogmatic on the topic. I am open to the argument for some forces in South Korea – very few – because integration timelines are so short for that still unresolved war. Other locations, even in Europe, I am much more skeptical about. Even with recent Russian aggression, our allies in Europe should, if we can break their addiction to Uncle Sam’s umbrella, more than handle that threat until, if needed, we need to bring forces across the Atlantic.

I also depart realist dogma when it comes to Ukraine. As the record shows, I have been a regular supporter of helping Ukraine defend herself over the last decade. Russia is, and remains, a bully with an imperial mindset. She started this war, and it is in our interest that she is defeated as her present leadership clearly stated that this was the first of many wars of conquest. Best to stop the Russian neo-imperial effort with Ukrainians on the Dnieper than with Americans on the Oder.

America has a long record of helping those trying to secure self-determination. An imperfect record, but in line with our nation’s founding. We are not, however, to force our beliefs on others. Set and example for others to follow if they so wish, but not force.

That’s the outline, and with that, today I’d like to point you to an article by someone who I disagree with now and then – which is normal and healthy. 

You must read widely, and not just the people who think just like you. You need to challenge your ideas with well meaning people of good intention that see solutions to problems differently than you do in whole or in part. No one has a perfect picture, but some are mostly right and others history shows are mostly wrong regardless of their pedigree or alignment with the constellation of your priors. You may dismiss their ideas for lacking merit, find some challenges in them that refines and improves your own, or you might even be provided some insight which leads you to change your own. Normal and healthy.

I’m not aligned with her fully here, but if you want to hear – and you should – what a principled realist argument is, our friend Emma Ashford has a read worth your time over at Foreign Affairs. It is actually a review of the recent books, Matthew Specter’s The Atlantic Realists and Jonathan Kirshner’s An Unwritten Future,  but in practice it is much more.

First, let's allow Emma to define "realism" in this context;

What today is called “realism”—the school of thought most undergraduates are taught in their International Relations 101 class—is in fact structural realism or neorealism, a version of realism outlined in the 1970s by the scholar Kenneth Waltz. Neorealism is further divided into “defensive” and “offensive” variants, depending on whether one believes that states primarily seek security through defensive means, such as military fortifications and technology, or through an expansion that acquires power and territory. Both versions focus heavily on structural factors (the ways that states interact at the global level) and effectively ignore domestic politics, the quirks of bureaucratic decision-making, the psychology of leaders, global norms, and international institutions. Neorealism thus stands in stark contrast to the older school of classical realism, which counts Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Bismarck among its earliest practitioners, has strong roots in philosophy, and includes factors such as domestic politics and the role of human nature, prestige, and honor. It also contrasts with classical realism’s more modern counterpart, “neoclassical realism” (a term coined by Gideon Rose, a former editor of this magazine), which seeks to marry the two variants by reincorporating domestic and ideational factors into structural theories. 

Now let's dive in to a few pull quotes that hopefully lead you to read the whole thing.

None of these notions are pleasant or popular. The realist Robert Gilpin once titled an article “No One Loves a Political Realist.” All too often, pointing out the harsh realities of international life or noting that states often act in barbaric ways is seen as an endorsement of selfish behavior rather than a simple diagnosis. As one of the school’s founding fathers, Hans Morgenthau, put it, realists may see themselves as simply refusing to “identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe.” But their critics often accuse them of having no morals at all, as the debate over Ukraine has shown.

That is something I find attractive about the realist argument. It accepts the reality of fallen man, our own limitations, and the need for the attenuation of emotion. At its core is humility - a rare but valuable commodity in our age.

Ukraine has long been a flash point for realist thought. Many realists argue that in the post–Cold War period, the United States has been too focused on an idealistic conception of European politics and too blasé about classic geopolitical concerns, such as the enduring meaning of borders and the military balance between Russia and its rivals. Policymakers who subscribed to liberal internationalism—the idea that trade, international institutions, or liberal norms can help build a world where power politics matter less—typically presented NATO’s expansion as a matter of democratic choice for smaller central and eastern European states. Realists, in contrast, argued that it would present a legitimate security concern for Moscow; no matter how benevolent NATO might seem from the West’s perspective, they would argue, no state would be happy with an opposing military alliance moving even closer to its borders. 

This argument aligns closely with one of my critiques that is mostly OBE but should be understood; our Ukraine policy was in no small measure run by people who could not see the situation from the Russian perspective. They were Russian experts who had a spreadsheet understanding of Russia, but not a cultural or historical perspective. That ignorance was fortified with an unalloyed belief in their own expertise. They/we were like a stumbling child - meaning no harm but unable to not damage things they/we don't understand.

Yet even if realism is largely present in today’s policy debates as a foil, pushing U.S. foreign policymakers to justify their choices and perhaps adopt slightly more pragmatic options, that may be the best that realists can hope for. As Specter points out, realists have had a complicated relationship with policymaking. Kennan, who served as the U.S. State Department’s director of policy planning, and Morgenthau, who worked under him, are among the best-known realist policymakers, and their influence has waxed and waned over time. The most realist administrations—those of Presidents Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush—had some notable policy triumphs: ending the Vietnam War, managing the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union, winning the Gulf War. But they also had mixed legacies, from Nixon’s troubled domestic political record to Bush’s 1992 electoral loss. That is still more than one can say for realist influence in the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations, when unchallenged U.S. power allowed idealists to drive most policy. Yet as the world continues its shift toward multipolarity, realist insights will once again become more important for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. 

Perhaps realism at mid-century will have a better seat at the table. Perhaps.

Again, I encourage you to read it all, but in your busy life if you can't, I will leave you as Emma leaves her review. This is the core, and apologies to Hillel, all else is commentary;

Realists accept that foreign policy is often a choice between the lesser of evils. Pretending otherwise—pretending that moral principles or values can override all constraints of power and interest—is not political realism. It is political fantasy.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

AUKUS at 1-year, with Alessio Patalano - on Midrats


In September of last year, the national security story was the announcement of AUKUS - trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Though the Russo-Ukrainian War quickly took it from headlines, it is still moving forward - and in ways you may not expect.

These three Anglosphere nations have a long cultural, diplomatic, economic, and military history together - so many of the building blocks are already there to make something impressive.

Using his recent article in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as a starting off point, our guest for the full hour returning to Midrats this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dr. Alessio Patalano.

Alessio is Professor of War & Strategy in East Asia and Director of the King’s Japan Programme at the Centre for Grand Strategy at the Department of War Studies (DWS), King’s College London (KCL). Prof Patalano is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS), Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University Japan, a Visiting Professor at the Japan Maritime Command and Staff College (JMCSC) and a Senior Fellow at the highly influential think tanks Policy Exchange and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). In 2022, he also became fellow at the Royal Navy Centre for Strategic Studies, and Sir Herbert Richmond Fellow in Maritime Strategy at the Council on Geostrategy. 

Join us live if you can, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.