Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A lousy book review (or "Why did I even buy this?")

Just added to my library Japan's Blitzkrieg: The Allied Collapse in the East 1941-42, by Bernard Edwards. Now, just based on the title, you'd think that this book is right up my World War II alley and fits perfectly with my ongoing interest in the activities of the slender American, British, Dutch and Australian forces trapped in the western Pacific in the days after Pearl Harbor to face Imperial Japan basically by themselves. And you'd be right.

So, when I got this book, I immediately went to the section on the Battle of the Java Sea, February 27-28, 1942. And was aghast at what I read:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sellout to Russia

Just when you thought Obama's defense and foreign policy couldn't get any worse:
At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”
The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.
The exchange:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
To be fair, discussions about needing space or room to maneuver in foreign affairs for domestic political reasons are held all the time. It's practical and not treasonous (layman sense, not legal sense).

But in terms of the substance here ... well, let's just say there is a reason why the Democrats are perceived as being very, very weak on national security. It's crap like this: effectively promising to give away our missile defense for nothing.

New additions to the library

Shiloh, 1862, by Winston Groom.
The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, by Earl J. Hess.

I've always found the western theater in the Civil War to be more interesting than the eastern one. Much more maneuver, covered a much larger area. And whereas in the eastern theater the incompetence was almost entirely on the side of the Union (i.e. the "good guys") with such idiots as Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, John Pope and Ambrose Burnside, in the western theater it was largely Confederate, featuring John Pemberton, Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Was there an attempted coup in China?

Foreign Policy seems to think it's a possibility:
Last week, controversial politician Bo Xilai, whose relatively open campaigning for a seat on China's top ruling council shocked China watchers (and possibly his elite peers, as well), was removed from his post as Chongqing's party secretary. He hasn't been seen since. Rumors of a coup, possibly coordinated by Bo's apparent ally Zhou Yongkang, are in the air.
Western media has extensively covered the political turmoil: Bloomberg reported on how coup rumors helped spark a jump in credit-default swaps for Chinese government bonds; the Wall Street Journal opinion page called Chinese leadership transitions an "invitation, sooner or later, for tanks in the streets." The Financial Times saw the removal of Bo, combined with Premier Wen Jiabao's strident remarks at a press conference hours before Bo's removal as a sign the party was moving to liberalize its stance on the Tiananmen square protests of 1989. That Bo staged a coup is extremely unlikely, but until more information comes to light, we can only speculate on what happened.

Reading official Chinese media response about Bo makes it easy to forget how much Chinese care about politics. The one sentence mention in Xinhua, China's official news agency, merely says that Bo is gone and another official, Zhang Dejiang, is replacing him.  But the Chinese-language Internet is aflame with debate over what happened to Bo and what it means for Chinese political stability.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A new Sino-Japanese war in the offing?

A little too early to seriously worry about that, but this bears watching:
Japan's prime minister issued a new warning about Beijing's military build-up Sunday, two days after his government made a fresh protest over a Chinese ship's entering waters near a chain of islands claimed by both countries.

In an address to graduating cadets of the Self Defense Forces, Prime Minister Yoshiko (sic) Noda cited China and North Korea as the main military challenges Japan faces in Asia.

"Circumstances in our surrounding regions are increasingly severe, complicated, and remain uncertain, as depicted in moves by North Korea including nuclear and missile issues, and China, which is reinforcing its military capabilities and continuing activities in surrounding waters," Mr. Noda said in his speech at the National Defense Academy in the Tokyo suburb of Yokosuka.

Almost ...

I just (finally) turned in Adrianople. It should be posted in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March

I hope everyone wore black today, because we must mourn the anniversary of the murder of Caius Julius Caesar by idiots in the Roman Senate.

Statue of Roman dictator Caius Julius Caesar, outside the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum; il Foro Romano) and the Forum of Caesar (Forum Iulium; il Foro Giulio) on the Via dei Fori Imperali in Rome. (My own photograph.)


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The end of the Enterprise: an outrage, an insult and a crime

The US Navy will soon no longer have an active aircraft carrier named Enterprise:
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departed Norfolk Naval Station March 11 on the ship's 22nd and final deployment.

Enterprise is slated to deploy to the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.

[...]

For Enterprise, the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the deployment represents the culmination of more than 50 years of distinguished service.

Commissioned in 1961, the Enterprise is both the largest and oldest active combat vessel in the Navy.

Enterprise's age, however, does not impact its effectiveness.

"Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years," said Capt. William C. Hamilton, Commanding Officer of Enterprise. "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Not Winston Churchill's proudest moment (or "New additions to the library")

Hostages to Fortune:Winston Churchill and the Loss of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, by Arthur Nicholson.
The Sinking of the Prince of Wales & Repulse: The End of the Battleship Era, by Martin Middlebrook and Patrick Mahoney.

(Gee, are you seeing a theme to these books?)

Many consider the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Carrier Striking Force Kido Butai to be the end of the era when battleships ruled the seas, but the actual end, in my opinion, came three days latwer, on December 10, 1941 when the British Royal Navy's Force Z, centered on the new battleship Prince of Wales, and the old but fast veteran battlecruiser Repulse, was caught without air cover off Malaya by bombers from the Japanese Naval Air Force. Both were sunk in dramatic fashion.  The sinkings were so momentous that even the Japanese pilots were given pause.  For the British, it was extremely traumatic, the end of their empire and the end of the battleship era.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Drug warriors don't care if you're sick

By golly, they're going to get Sudafed off the streets even if it kills you:
Cold and allergy sufferers would face limits on the amount of medications like Mucinex D and Sudafed they could buy in Kentucky under a bill passed by the Senate on Friday.
The goal is to limit access to large quantities of products that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the illegal drug methamphetamine that's being widely abused in the state.
The compromise bill brokered by Sen. Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, passed 25-11 to limit any one person's purchases to no more than 7.2 grams in a month or 24 grams in a year. People who need more that that would have to get a prescription.
Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers II of Manchester, sponsor of the legislation, said he would have preferred requiring prescriptions for any amount of medications containing pseudoephedrine. But he had been unable to garner enough support to get that proposal through the Senate.
This is happening more and more across the country. And, yes, there are, uh, "warriors" who are trying to do the same thing in Indiana.  If Kentucky actually passes this garbage, the pressure to pass similar restrictions here will increase.

We need to draw the line and tell our lawmakers to not sacrifice the health and well-being of their constituents for useless cred in the even more useless Drug Wars.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sorry for the light posting.

Been buried in work. And I'm trying to make the final push to get the last edits to the Adrianople article done before turning it in. When I'm trying my hand at scholarly writing, I get very nitpicky about cites and evidence. But I firmly believe the piece will be worth it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New addition to the library

Cruiser: The Life and Loss of HMAS Perth and Her Crew, by Mike Carlton.

Aside from the works by Ronald McKie (Proud Echo, The Survivors), I've found very little that focus on the experience of the Perth during the Java Sea campaign. And McKie's works tend to only focus on the Perth somewhat during and after her experience fighting alongside the USS Houston against hopeless odds in the Sunda Strait.  Cruiser deals with Perth's entire war career. Damn good ship.

Curiously, I've identified no books that focus on the career of the cruiser HMS Exeter.  Her last commander, Oliver Loudon Gordon, wrote Fight It Out, which apparently dealt with her combat record, in 1957, but the book is now out of print and almost impossible to acquire.  Considering the incredible record of the Exeter -- helping to cause the sinking the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee off the Rio de La Plata, fighting in two battles in the Java Sea, the second against hopeless odds -- I find this to be an amazing oversight.