Bachmann and the Soviet Union

Does Bachmann think the USSR is on the rise? I expect not, but her defense and fiscal policy skills still need some work.

The blog Right Wing Watch caught Bachmann making the following statement on the Jay Sekulow Live radio show:

But what people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward. And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama and the first thing he’ll whack is five hundred billion out of the military defense at a time when we’re fighting three wars. People recognize that.

Lest there be any confusion, the Soviet Union ceased to be at the beginning of the 1990s.  S0, obviously, the Soviet Union is not on the rise.  I assume that she meant “Russia” and just made a verbal error.  As a child of the Cold War, there is little doubt that in her mind there area strong associations between the words “Russia” and “the Soviet Union” (kind like the way I have been known to, on occasion, call our current cat by the name of one that died ten years ago).  This is not dissimilar to Obama’s deployment of “Czechloslovakia” a while back.

So, no, I do not think that Bachmann either a) doesn’t know the USSR dissolved roughly twenty years ago, or b) that she thinks it is re-forming.  One would need a bit more evidence than one verbal gaffe to leap to either conclusion.

However, the statement above is still problematic, but for other (and more important) reasons.

First, I must confess that I am not sure why the “rise of India” should be considered a security threat to the U.S.   For that matter, there are positives from the rise of China, given that they are helping finance our debt and they make a lot of stuff that American consumers like to buy.  Even Russia, while clearly interested in exerting influence (like any other country) in the international system hardly rises to the level of major threat.

This underscores one of the major problems with our politics in general, and especially within some segments (most?) of the GOP:  the notion that there are threats everywhere.  As dangerous as the world no doubt is, and recognizing that there are real national security issues that require attention, the notion that we are on the brink of some major new existential threat is problematic and leads to bad policy.

A second and related point is the notion that we are so threatened that we cannot cut the defense budget.  Such assertions ought to make Representative Bachmann’s head explode, as she has steadfastly stuck to the notion that we should not have raised the debt ceiling (and that there would have been no ill effects from failing to do so)–a position that is founded in the notion that we have to cut spending, and we have to do so drastically.  As James Joyner noted yesterday (and a Dan Drezner has also pointed out on numerous occasions), there are good reason to believe we could scale back and still have a more than sufficient ability to both defend ourselves and to project power.

So, to recap:  I think she made a verbal error.  However, I think when it comes to substance of policy she is overly alarmist, underestimates US capability (even after budget cuts), and holds an utterly incoherent view of fiscal policy.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, National Security, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    However, I think when it comes to substance of policy she is overly alarmist, underestimates US capability (even after budget cuts), and holds an utterly incoherent view of fiscal policy.

    I have to point out that thinking Putin is putting the USSR back together is not inconsistent with the above.

    Does she? Would not surprise me in the least.

  2. @OzarkHillbilly:

    I have to point out that thinking Putin is putting the USSR back together is not inconsistent with the above.

    I am willing to allow the theoretical possibility that she does think that. However, the quote noted above is insufficient evidence and so my working hypothesis is “verbal gaffe.”

  3. john personna says:

    I think “India” is in there because the paragraph conflates economic and military futures.

    The rise of China and India are huge economic factors, as you say, but it’s more than a little weird to pair them with “our loss militarily going forward.”

    What? What loss was that?

  4. john personna says:

    The lead-in was this:

    I would say it’s a unified message. It really is about jobs and the economy. That doesn’t mean people haven’t [sic] forgotten about protecting life and marriage and the sanctity of the family. People are very concerned about that as well. But what people recognize …

    That’s even a wider merge of ideas than just economic and military.

    (But I still think someone should ask here about the “loss” she predicted.)

  5. Jay Tea says:

    Putin does seem intent on reassembling the Soviet Union in all but name. And China just sent its first aircraft carrier out to sea. Aircraft carriers are about one thing, and one thing only: power projection. A nation only needs a carrier if they expect to get involved in conflicts well away from their borders. (Here’s hoping someone from the State Department reads this, as it seems they don’t know what carriers are for.)

    India, though… India has one carrier (former British), another that should be operational within 18 months (former Soviet/Russian). And they’re building their own native carrier.

    I think that India certainly holds tremendous potential as an economic rival, but I don’t get the “vibe” of them being a potential military challenge to us. They’re pretty solid allies… but the potential is there. I’d put them on near the same strength as the current Royal Navy, if not slightly superior in some ways… and not that distant from China. (England has no carriers at the moment, but both they and China have boomers, which India does not.) So the potential is there.

    J.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    So, is the Mughal Empire also coming back? Because I’ve done way too little reading on that.

    And what effect will a resurgence of Huns have on the Euro zone?

    China, India, Russia, you know what they are? Not us! Scary. Very scary. Let’s spend in the trillions to keep them at bay.

  7. john personna says:

    Interesting, I was going to say “Putin does seem intent on reassembling the Soviet Union in all but [size]” but Russia is still pretty big.

    The USSR was 22.4 million square kilometers and included one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface.

    Russia is 17.1 million square kilometers and includes one-eighth of the Earth’s land surface.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Jay Tea:
    Good lord. Here comes the mighty Chinese navy. Soon it will be “projecting force” using what is already an increasingly obsolete platform — the carrier — with which they have precisely zero experience. They’re building battleships in 1942. Or training cavalry in 1914, choose your own comparison.

    And then, India will be along with its own carrier. Which will be even more of a relic.

    Projected lifespan of the Chinese navy in a fight with the US Navy? Maybe as much as 24 hours.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, unless Putin is insane he’s not planning on recreating the USSR. He’s not ideological and has no ideological message to spread to other countries. He is rather unlikely to want to invade Ukraine, and he has no capacity to subjugate Eastern Europe. Further, the USSR is a historical failure, so not quite sure why he’d want to recreate the very system that helped to keep Russia impoverished.

    In other words, it’s facile and silly.

    Does he want to make Russia strong and able to walk around town with the big boys? Sure. Is it going to happen? Probably not. Historically Russia’s power was about population, it’s capacity to mobilize huge (ill-prepared) armies and burn them up as cannon fodder. Currently Russia is a colder Saudi Arabia. Russia has a GDP 10% of ours. A little over 20% of Japan or China. The best Russia can manage in the near future is to be a pain in the ass.

  10. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes, big, but poor (and drunk, but that’s another story.)

  11. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea: England has no carriers at the moment

    The HMS Illustrious is still active until 2014. I thought warships were your hobby…

    Anyway, other countries with active aircraft carriers: Italy has 2, and Spain, Russia, India, Brazil, Thailand, and France each have 1. The US has 11. Add China’s carrier and the US still has one more than all other nations combined. I for one am not worried about us being outmuscled anytime soon.

  12. @Jay Tea:

    And China just sent its first aircraft carrier out to sea.

    An aircraft carrier they didn’t build, doesn’t have any actual aircraft yet, and is so small its makers considered it a cruiser rather than a true aircraft carrier.

  13. sam says:

    @Jay Tea:

    And China just sent its first aircraft carrier out to sea. Aircraft carriers are about one thing, and one thing only: power projection. A nation only needs a carrier if they expect to get involved in conflicts well away from their borders. (Here’s hoping someone from the State Department reads this, as it seems they don’t know what carriers are for.)

    Here’s a pretty good rundown of the Shi Lang. Not exactly Nimitz class. The author of the piece thinks it’s a floating Potemkin village. It looks like it’s constructed to launch Harrier-type aircraft, but the Chinese have denied they are developing VTOL. It’s hard for me to see how a J-15 could take off without a catapult, and how would you put a catapult system in that bow configuration? Maybe they can, but I’d assume they would use the canted deck for catapult launches.

    As for this, “A nation only needs a carrier if they expect to get involved in conflicts well away from their borders” — well, the South China Sea appears to be the ship’s intended theater of operation, and that’s not that far away for them.

  14. Jay Tea says:

    @michael reynolds: Is China a threat to the mainland US? No, Will it be one any time soon? No. Will it even be a threat to Hawaii? No.

    What their current strategy seems to be is a two-pronged tactic:

    1) Area denial. They’re developing weapons that threaten our carriers, which greatly impairs our ability to project power to protect our interests.

    2) Power projection. They want the ability to have their own forces be able to act independently of their mainland, or friendly bases. Carriers are wonderful floating air bases that move around quite rapidly.

    Here’s how they work together: Taiwan.

    Push enough weapons into the area to make it way too risky for the US to keep a carrier in the vicinity. Suddenly our ability to protect our ally is greatly diminished, Then the Chinese move their carrier (or carriers; they’re long-term thinkers) into the area, and quite suddenly they are the dominant force around Taiwan, and we’re nowhere to be seen. Just how independent-minded will the Taiwanese be in those circumstances?

    Here’s another potential flashpoint: the Spratly Islands. They’ve got a LOT of natural resources, and they are claimed by China, The Philippines, Viet Nam, and Taiwan (and, a little, Brunei). A Chinese carrier could be quite useful in asserting China’s claim.

    Here’s a third: North Korea. They’re mostly a China client state, but occasionally go rogue. A Chinese carrier off the coast could deter the US (or, at least, complicate matters) should things go all pear-shaped, perhaps in the chaos should Kim drop dead.

    I’ve got more, michael. But I don’t want to run up the score too badly.

    J.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Jay Tea:
    Jay, you live in a fact-free fantasy world. Follow the helpful link sam provided above. Then come back and tell me how you’re running up the score.

    Ninny.

  16. Jay Tea says:

    @sam: Here’s a pretty good rundown of the Shi Lang. Not exactly Nimitz class. The author of the piece thinks it’s a floating Potemkin village. It looks like it’s constructed to launch Harrier-type aircraft, but the Chinese have denied they are developing VTOL

    When China bought the carrier in question, they said it was for use as a hotel and casino. Then it was to be an experimental, research vessel. Now it’s getting close to being operational as an actual major fleet combatant.

    Further, it doesn’t need VTOL aircraft; the ex-Varyag is a modified Admiral Kuznetzov-class carrier, which was designed to operate fixed-wing aircraft like the SU-33 and SU-25. So even if you decide that, for once, the Chinese are not lying about their carrier intentions, they simply don’t need VTOL aircraft for this flattop.

    Finally: the ex-Varyag is about 1,000 feet long — which puts it not that much smaller than a Nimitz. It’s not as capable, but I’d put it more capable than a Midway, and not too far behind the Forrestals. It’s likely to carry 24 SU-33 ripoffs and 26 helicopters — a respectable force.

    J.

  17. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Both your Taiwan and North Korea examples are hypothetical situations in which the Chinese navy would be directly challenging the US Navy. In other words, wingnut fantasy land (what else is new?). It won’t happen, because the Chinese aren’t idiots.

    The Spratly Islands are a long-running territorial dispute that is not of primary concern to the US, but at least the use of a carrier there is a realistic possibility. Hey, one out of three ain’t bad!

  18. Jay Tea says:

    OK, read sam’s linked article (missed it at first; I was writing my own comment) and I’m not impressed.

    1) Lack of catapults: she’s got a ski-jump bow. As the British proved (who developed that notion, along with the angled deck), a ski-jump can do almost as well as a catapult — without having to engineer the hook and reinforce the hell out of the nose gear. It’s an absolutely viable option.

    2) Lack of integral AWACS capability. As noted in the article, they’re working on a helicopter with limited AWACS capability. Again, not the best option, but better than nothing.

    3) Lack of high-tech escorts. Here, choice of opponents counts. They aren’t looking for this to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy (no one’s that suicidal), but to exploit the power void caused by the Navy’s withdrawing. We’re going down to 9 active carrier groups for the entire world, and as I noted, the Chinese are developing weapons that have the potential of seriously threatening our carriers. That’s what they would use to create the power void; the ex-Varyag would then move in to exploit it.

    4) sam, I just re-read your comments, and it seems like you’re not familiar with the ski-jump bow concept. Here’s a halfway decent rundown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_deck#Ski-jump_ramp The US is pretty much married to the catapult concept, but it’s not the only solution.

    J.

  19. Jay Tea says:

    @mantis: Both your Taiwan and North Korea examples are hypothetical situations in which the Chinese navy would be directly challenging the US Navy. In other words, wingnut fantasy land (what else is new?). It won’t happen, because the Chinese aren’t idiots.

    mantis, ever heard of the DF-21D missile? It’s intended to be a carrier-killer. And the Chinese don’t intend for the PLAN to fight by itself.

    I’ll admit that it’s kind of hard to take seriously a force called the “People’s Liberation Army Navy,” but then again one of our better allies is the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, so having a silly-sounding name doesn’t mean they’re weak.

    J.

  20. john personna says:

    @Jay Tea:

    So Jay, according to that Wired article the Chinese can now field 40 carrier based planes, compared to our 600.

    So how many do we need to counter? 800? 1000?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    You’re in fantasy-land. In fantasy-land anything is possible. In fantasy land maybe the kriegsmarine is coming back. Maybe Spain will assemble a new armada.

    Over here in reality we have to allocate resources where they make sense. Which would not really involve the Spratlies so much. Or even at all. Kind of the textbook definition of “not our problem.”

  22. mantis says:

    mantis, ever heard of the DF-21D missile? It’s intended to be a carrier-killer. And the Chinese don’t intend for the PLAN to fight by itself.

    What are you saying? The Chinese are going to sink one of our carriers and start a war? What the hell are you smoking?

  23. michael reynolds says:

    mantis, ever heard of the DF-21D missile? It’s intended to be a carrier-killer.

    Classic. So missing the point. See my earlier reference to training cavalry in 1914. The Chinese are building a weapons system that will soon be obsolete, a big, expensive soft target. Had you actually read sam’s link instead of just pretending to, you’d see that the US Navy is laughing at this thing.

  24. Jay Tea says:

    Finally, sam, your article seems to consider any big ship with a mostly flat deck an “aircraft carrier.” I’m guessing that the South Korean “carriers” are the Dokdo amphibious assault ships, which have no catapults or arresting gear (a common feature many of the “carriers” he cites), which makes them useless for non-VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. The Harrier is dying out and the F-35 is still years away, so these hardly count as “aircraft carriers.”

    J.

  25. Jay Tea says:

    @michael reynolds: Had you actually read sam’s link instead of just pretending to, you’d see that the US Navy is laughing at this thing.

    If YOU read the article, and had a clue, michael, you’d note that the author doesn’t even know the definition of “aircraft carrier” and doesn’t mention the DF-21 missile at all.

    Only a suicidal idiot would consider challenging the US Navy in a force-on-force basis. So I see why you immediately think of that.

    J.

  26. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea,

    The Chinese don’t think like you, Jay. They don’t see military power as a method of global control, and if you would take the time to understand Chinese history and cultural psychology, you’d realize China is not a military threat to the precious American Empire. They will intervene militarily to protect their interests. Otherwise they’ll do what they’ve always done (and what we used to do a hundred years ago) to extend their influence: dollar diplomacy.

  27. Jay Tea says:

    @michael reynolds: By the way, horses and mules were invaluable during World War II. Which, by my limited math skills, was about 30 years after World War I.

    Oh, and just to rub it in, the US Army still has cavalry units. And they’re state-of-the-art.

    J.

  28. Jay Tea says:

    @Ben Wolf: So, then, Ben, I repeat the State Department question: why do they want carriers? Their only purpose is power projection.

    J.

  29. john personna says:

    @Jay Tea:

    why do they want carriers?

    Wired has an adequate answer. One carrier is sufficient for training and to develop a knowledge base, a base they might use 20, 30 years from now in unknown circumstances.

    Heck, maybe THEY are the ones worried about India.

  30. Jay Tea says:

    @john personna: Heck, maybe THEY are the ones worried about India.

    That’s quite possibly the most sensible thing said to me so far, john. That makes a bit of sense. India either as a direct threat, or a threat to China’s plans of its own.

    Which again brings it back to our concern, as India is a pretty damned good friend of ours…

    J.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @Jay Tea:
    Sweet Jesus you’re a nitwit.

    You accuse Wired of conflating all forms of carrier as carriers (even though they carefully differentiate in detail) and then you conflate pack mules with cavalry.

    Anyone too ignorant to understand what is meant by “cavalry in 1914” is too deliberately ignorant to follow Ben’s excellent advice to actually learn something about the people you fear.

    I realize your point is to divert the conversation away from noting that Bachmann is clueless, but by demonstrating your own cluelessness you just wrap hers and yours into a single big package of dumb.

    Why don’t you break down and actually learn something that didn’t come from a hasty search of Wikipedia? Why don’t you actually set your crippling ideological presuppositions aside, go get some actual facts, and then see if you can’t formulate a coherent thought?

  32. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea:

    [W]hy do they want carriers? Their only purpose is power projection.

    This is not true. Carriers were used quite effectively during World War II as a mobile defense. Midway comes to mind in that regard. The Chinese want carriers because we threaten them militarily on a regular basis and because their rival for regional primacy, India, is also expanding its naval capabilities.

    China is effectively surrounded by competitors who fear its rapid growth and have formed alliances to counter its expanding power. In response the Chinese have pursued the capacity to dominate the East and South China Seas which they consider to be solidly in their sphere of influence, the same way we consider the Gulf of Mexico “ours”. In the event of any war against another naval power they want to be able to push their adversay safely away from China’s shores and the trade lanes critical to her economy.

    I see no reason to think acquiring a carrier or two is intended as a buildup of global offensive capability.

  33. Jay Tea says:

    @Ben Wolf: I think we’re getting into semantics here. The Midway case, for example: the island had as many planes as it could handle. The 3 carriers we fielded were “projecting” power from Hawaii, which was well out of range of the aircraft used. And we weren’t so much protecting Midway (even if the Japanese had landed and taken it, they could never have supported and held it) but going after their carriers. Scholars have decided that the Japanese simply overreached themselves and hit the panic button (thank you, Doolittle raid) when they thought of taking Midway.

    J.

  34. john personna says:

    You know, the chance of any one of us contracting cancer is very much higher than the chance of China rising to kill us. But … it’s conservative to fear the China … and liberal to worry about the cancer. Go figure.

  35. Jay Tea says:

    @michael reynolds: OK, the cavalry might have been a bit much. But 100 years later, the US Army still has the Armored Cavalry and Air Cavalry, serving the same functions.

    Now, as for carriers… sorry (not really), but this is an obsession of mine, and I do know quite a bit more on this topic than the average layman. The Wired author, to be blunt, is as clueless as you are on what constitutes an “aircraft carrier.” The vast majority of the non-US examples cited are helicopter carriers or other forms of amphibious assault ships. To repeat: big flat decks do NOT make a carrier.

    Here’s a list of current ones. Note that Thailand’s makes the list, but just barely:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_carriers_in_service#Carriers_in_service

    India’s Viraat is the only other Asian carrier listed. Note that the Japanese and South Korean amphibs don’t make the cut.

    J.

  36. Rick DeMent says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Aircraft carriers are about one thing, and one thing only:

    Being a target for subs.

  37. Jay Tea says:

    @Rick DeMent: sniff Apparently, you are ignorant of their utility as artificial reefs…

    J.

  38. Rick DeMent says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Carriers are over, done, they are floating targets and the only reason they are useful to us is because no one else has the sub fleet to give us a hard time. We however have a sub fleet therefor rendering any navel offensive capability from other countries null. In fact the only thing our navy has to worry about is asymmetrical attacks from countries that are short on any kind of navy at all and a lot of suicide volunteers with explosive laden speedboats.

    Jay, I am so glad your not in charge of military strategy.

  39. Rick DeMent says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Apparently you are living in the past, a rebel without a clue.

  40. steve says:

    The data on the Chinese anti-ship missiles is not too promising. They still have major targeting issues. Our military can shrink a lot, and still dominate the world. Where we need to compete is economically. While we pour money into fighting foreign countries, China is investing in them.

    Steve

  41. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Communists and killer bees!

  42. Jay Tea says:

    @Rick DeMent: The carrier is still a very viable weapons platform, especially when we have commitments around the world and a shortage of dependable land bases. The carrier battle group has the ability to utterly dominate a sphere — airspace, surface, and subsurface — that isn’t just limited to water. And as long as we hold our dominance at sea, there are very, very few viable threats to it.

    China’s working on a couple.

    Russia has a few.

    As long as we need the carrier’s function, we need to worry about potential threats to them.

    J.

  43. Davebo says:

    Is it not polite to mention that you shouldn’t feed Jay Tea?

    Good God! If you respond to his idiocy you provoke more.

    I’ve spent more time on a head than Jay has spent on a carrier but I’m not willing to waste time on his ill informed rants.

  44. Ben Wolf says:

    Anything in range of China’s land-based warplanes is also in range of The Chinese coastline. For the Chinese security means keeping an enemy navy away from their territory, which means pushing them back beyond the China Sea. This is an entirely reasonable line of thought and is only a threat to our navy if our navy is engaged in offensive operations against China in its own back yard.

    This is what really bothers people like Bachmann, that someone out there may fight back if we hit them. To here and her ilk other nations exist solely to obey, and have no right to resist American power.

  45. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Apparently Jay doesn’t realize that when he reads the names of foreign defense forces in English they’ve been translated from a different language. So, like Homer Simpson, he makes fun of them because the literal translation doesn’t sound like standard English usage.

    And this is the great military strategist who is explaining how the world works to all of us.

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Not saying other wise Steve, but there are a whole lot of people in this neck of the woods who think Obama is plotting to let the Russkies in…. And she is playing to them. Does she believe it too? I kinda doubt it, but the question is, if push comes to shove will she double down?

    My money is on the affirmative.

  47. mattb says:

    Ironically, contra JayTea’s concern about Chinese Aircraft carriers, the fact is that this might of the Chinese Army — as with the Soviet Army — is far more likely to be used against residents of China (in order to keep the nation together) than it is to be used against another country.

    Again, in both the case of India and China, we imagine these nations as far more united (like the USSR) than they are. The border regions of China (and part of the interior) — especially to the West and North — are really only China in name.

  48. gVOR08 says:

    Taylor, I think you and Right Wing Watch kind of missed the real take away here. She was asked what her message is, and her response was this incoherent, rambling mess. The complete quote at Right Wing Watch is a lot worse than your excerpt. You’d think someone who’s been running for months would have a rehearsed answer on what her message is.

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @steve: This…. says it all.

    While we pour money into fighting foreign countries, China is investing in them.

    Steve, you cut thru all the BS.

  50. mantis says:

    @WR:

    Apparently Jay doesn’t realize that when he reads the names of foreign defense forces in English they’ve been translated from a different language.

    Indeed. I didn’t bother to note that, as he won’t give a shit how ignorant he sounds, but you’re right. The Chinese armed forces are called, in pinyin, Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn. Rénmín is “the people,” Jiěfàng means liberation, and jūn is the general Chinese character for military. It has long been translated as “army,” but in fact is a much broader term. Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn, or People’s Liberation Army, is the equivalent of the US Armed Forces. Adding Hǎijūn just signifies one branch within that umbrella, the navy.

    Translated, it sounds somewhat awkward in English, but not at all in Chinese. I guess Jay thinks all non-English speaking countries should modify their language use so that anything translated into English doesn’t sound silly to Jay Tea.

  51. An Interested Party says:

    Usually when threads go astray they can be a mess, but this was an entertaining thread–the poseur vs. everybody else…thanks for the chuckle, fellas…

  52. Jay Tea says:

    @WR: The notion of an “Army Navy” is absurd in any language. It implies that the Navy is a subset of the Army, like the Marine Corps is of the Navy and the Air Corps/Air Force was of the Army. And in Japan’s case, it’s the saddling of the “self-defense force” on a force that has truly impressive offensive capabilities.

    Now back to your kennel, lickspittle.

    @mantis: Thanks for the linguistic lesson. I have absolutely no talent for foreign languages. I can do accents quite well, but not languages. And that correction on Chinese makes a lot of sense — it ought to be pushed into general use, kind of like how Peiping became Peking and then Beijing. I have a copies of Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War I and World War II, and it’s fascinating to see how Japanese ship names were transliterated differently in less than 30 years. “Hu-So” became “Fuso,” for example.

    I still stand by my comments on carriers, and my judgments on others’ knowledge on that topic.

    And back to Bachmann: Her original comment implied she was referring to both economic and military challenges to the US — and in that context, she was correct.

    As for the Soviet Union reference… as noted, Obama referred to Czechoslovakia, I sometimes forget there’s only one Germany again, I’ve seen Belarus called Byelorussia, and then there’s Burma/Myanmar, one or two Yemens, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe…

    Sometimes I think the biggest secret force behind a LOT of global conflicts is Rand McNally and the rest of the mapmakers. Notice how big, identity-changing wars and other matters have declined since the world largely went digital, and Google Earth really took off? It’s not a coincidence, people!

    J.

  53. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Hey, usually you wait at least an hour or so before you contradict yourself, as you did with that lovely story about Bill O’Reilly.

    (Good work fighting that good fight, brave Sir Robin!)

    Here you repeat your idiot complaint about a foreign phrase as it is rendered into English, insisting that you are so much smarter than all those people who actually speak the language in questions, and then you turn around and say that you see that the translation possibly doesn’t make sense as a translation. Yes, I realize you were doing one of your silly litte attempts at dominance in the part of the message that was directed to me, and that you chose to suck up to Mantis in one of your standards feints at looking reasonable, but putting them in the same post leaves you looking, well, even more transparently empty than usual.

  54. Jay Tea says:

    It’s called “treating a lickspittle like a lickspittle,” WR.

    You said almost nothing of substance. On the other hand, mantis taught me something I did not know, and I appreciated that.

    The phrase “People’s Liberation Army Navy” IS funny in English. And presuming mantis is correct on the translation (and I am willing to take his word for it), then it SHOULD be changed to be more accurate.

    Regardless, I’m in good company. P. J. O’Rourke once noted that Viet Nam, for all its economic advances, really won’t be taken seriously on the global stage as long as it calls its currency the “Dong.” And I was once represented in Congress by The Honorable Dick Swett.

    Yes, I’m easily amused.

    Back to your kennel, lickspittle.

    J.

  55. mantis says:

    it ought to be pushed into general use, kind of like how Peiping became Peking and then Beijing

    This is due to the evolution of the transliteration of Chinese characters into Roman alphabet. The early dominant system was British, called Wade-Giles, developed in the 19th century. It is the system that gave us character combinations such as “Ts” (e.g. General Tso’s Chicken), and names for cities like Peking and Nanjing. Sometimes they didn’t even try, and changed the names of difficult to pronounce cities. That’s why we have Hong Kong instead of it’s actual name, Xianggang (the “X” is pronounced like “sh”). It was a highly imperfect system, phonetically, and was replaced by the People’s Republic with the more accurate pinyin system in the 1950s. It is used throughout China, Malaysia, Singapore, and recently, Taiwan, who finally switched (though they retain old spellings for some things and use a different system for teaching pronunciation in schools) in 2009. The ISO adopted pinyin in 1982.

    Japanese is a little more complicated, and not my specialty. Part of their writing system, Kanji, is an adopted version of the Chinese script (Japan had to borrow it about 2000 years ago when they had no formal script). I looked into it a bit when I was trying to figure out the Nippon vs. Japan deal (long story short: it’s the fault of the Portuguese). Anyway, I believe the Hu-so/Fuso change is for much the same reasons as China’s changes. Fuso is the correct Japanese pronunciation. Hu-so was the name the west originally gave the word.

  56. anjin-san says:

    Back to your kennel, lickspittle.

    Apparently Jay is the only person who does not realize that Jay is shooting blanks here.

  57. anjin-san says:

    the poseur vs. everybody else

    And there you have it. His type is a dime a dozen on the fringe right. A self-appointed expert on military matters, who in reality is an ineffectual zero and abject coward in real life. Perhaps he can somehow leverage a little manhood cred off of the real life asskickers in the US Armed Forces.

    Bithead is another flavor from the same greasy spoon with his constant calls for military action in which the USA will open up a few cans of whoop ass. Of course it would be other guys doing the bleeding, but a right wing armchair warrior can feel like a real hard case that way.

  58. Jay Tea says:

    I’m starting to feel like I should apologize for finding naval history fascinating, and knowing a hell of a lot more than the rest of you on that particular topic. But I decided long ago to never apologize for knowing things — especially to the ignorant who seem to take pride in their ignorance.

    In that spirit, let me repeat: mantis, thanks for the lesson on Chinese. I dunno if I’ll ever use it, or even remember it, but I’m gonna try and not snicker so much when I see “PLAN.”

    But I still intend to snicker over some British warship names. The Royal Navy has had some of the most awesome names ever put on ships, but they also had an “HMS Dainty” and “HMS Pansy.” Thank heavens they canceled the Dainty’s sister ships, the “Desperate” and the “Desire.”

    J.

  59. Jay Tea says:

    @anjin-san: I’m a dime a dozen?

    HEY, I’VE APPRECIATED!

    J.

  60. anjin-san says:

    Their only purpose is power projection.

    Well, that’s the cartoon Interpretation. Someone with a broader perspective might realize that simply by deploying a carrier, China sends a political message. “We can play this game if we choose to”. They can put political pressure on Taiwan. They can force Taiwan and America to spend more money than they might wish to to deal with a potential threat. They can gain regional prestige and reinforce their image as a rising power to be reckoned with. They can gain an internal political advantage by playing to nationalism and militarism.

    I could go on for a while, but it’s Friday night and there are a lot of things I could be doing rather than pointing out the rather obvious… “Jay is an idiot”.

  61. Jay Tea says:

    @anjin-san: They can put political pressure on Taiwan. They can force Taiwan and America to spend more money than they might wish to to deal with a potential threat. They can gain regional prestige and reinforce their image as a rising power to be reckoned with. They can gain an internal political advantage by playing to nationalism and militarism.

    Which are all ways of saying “projecting power.” All based on the military capabilities of the ex-Varyag. Thanks for the examples.

    Oh, and did anyone mention how awesome carriers are in natural disasters? Helicopters with highly trained crews. State-of-the-art communications suites. Hospitals (well, “sick bays”) with state-of-the-art equipment and personnel. Huge desalinization capabilities.

    And one time, back in the winter of 1929-1930, the USS Lexington spent a month tied up at a pier in Tacoma, Washington, and provided the electricity for the city after storms left them powerless. The Nimitz-class carriers have two reactors that can produce almost 200 megawatts of power between them.

    Disaster relief isn’t and never should be their primary function, but they’ve been great at that role many times of late.

    J.

  62. labman57 says:

    Michele plans to elaborate on her grave concerns about the economic threat posed by the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia in an upcoming issue of her campaign newsletter“The Daily Gaffe”.

  63. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Oh, for God’s sake, just stop. Every thing you type here just embarasses you further, and it’s getting uncomfortable even for those who find you loathesome. Yes, we get it, you’re trying to change the subject and show off some tiny bit of information you possess, even if it has nothing to do with anything at hand, just so everyone won’t realize what a complete dolt you are. But it’s like watching the guy who’s put his foot in the chamberpot and is waltzing across the room in an attempt to pretend it was intentional.

    Go to bed. Go to work. Go get drunk. Go do anything but this. You’re just not funny any more, and it’s getting painful.

  64. anjin-san says:

    Which are all ways of saying “projecting power.”

    Really? Gaining an internal political regime that serves the interests of the regime is “projecting power”?

    Your desperation to never be wrong is within shouting distance of pathological. It must be pretty uncomfortable going through life as a callow 17 year old stuck in the body of a middle aged man.

  65. @michael reynolds: Sounds like a bad Tom Clancy novel.

  66. @Jay Tea: Uh, you know that the Forrestal class held 85 aircraft, right?

  67. MarkedMan says:

    I never thought I would say this, but you have to give Jay credit for knowing something about carriers. And I can’t accept what anyone says about the long term plans of the Chinese Navy. We just don’t know. Setting themselves up in anticipation of India makes sense. Intimidating Taiwan makes sense. But so does “Some admiral just made himself a rich man by getting the Navy to buy this turkey from his shell company.” And, truth be told, since every journey begins with one step, it could also be their intention to eventually rival US naval might.

    As usual, this discussion quickly turned into vicious attacks, but it wasn’t initiated by Jay this time, although he eventually responded in kind. Just sayin’.

  68. anjin-san says:

    We just don’t know.

    What we do know is that we outspend pretty much everybody else put together. And that we are going broke. And that a handful of guys with box cutters hurt us as badly as we have ever been hurt.

    Yes, carriers are important – they can be quite useful. But at least to some degree, they represent us preparing to fight the last war. (Actually, the one before it)

    Eishenhower was a formidable warrior, a patriot, and a wise man whose words we should heed – even at this late hour.

  69. Jay Tea says:

    @Timothy Watson: Yeah, but I’m balancing the number of aircraft with the capabilities of said aircraft. I’d put China’s knockoff of the SU-33 as superior to any aircraft carried by the Forrestals, with the possible exception of the F-14 (love that Tomcat/Phoenix pairing) and the F/A-18.

    Plus, the Forrestals had a very poor deck/elevator/island layout. Very inefficient.

    J.

  70. Jay Tea says:

    @anjin-san: Your desperation to never be wrong is within shouting distance of pathological.

    I think you mean “my determination to not let ignorant dips succeed in letting their aggressive ignorance prevail?”

    In this very thread, I made a point of admitting ignorance and thanking the guy who corrected me — a guy who routinely disparages me and runs me down.

    I’m pretty good at knowing my strengths and weaknesses. I know a hell of a lot more than the average layman on matters naval. (On the other hand, I participate on a board with people who are genuine experts on that subject, and over there I’m a cheerful naif, soaking up what I can learn from the pros.) On a lot of other matters, I know as much or less than the average person, and will cheerfully admit that.

    mantis, on a related note, I just stumbled across a reference to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in a novel, and did NOT snicker — but I did note that at least here, there’s precedent in the US, when the Air Force was first known as the Army Air Corps and Army Air Force before becoming a standalone branch of the military. And I think that bit about “Army” is actually going to stick in my brain for a while.

    J.

  71. Jay Tea says:

    @MarkedMan: And I can’t accept what anyone says about the long term plans of the Chinese Navy. We just don’t know.

    What we do know is that they repeatedly lied about their intentions in obtaining the ex-Varyag, ever since they opened negotiations to buy it. So not taking them at their word concerning it now makes a certain amount of sense.

    Oh,and thanks for the kind words. We all got our obsessions, areas where we know a lot more than the average person. This is one of mine. Not overly useful, but that’s the thing about obsessions — they’re not supposed to make sense.

    J.

  72. Ben Wolf says:

    What we do know is that they repeatedly lied about their intentions in obtaining the ex-Varyag, ever since they opened negotiations to buy it. So not taking them at their word concerning it now makes a certain amount of sense.

    The Chinese engaged in a disinformation campaign regarding their military plans, something we and every ofther country with significant military capabilities has done every day since the end of World War II. So they took a page from our playbook of trickery and deceit. Of course our lies are noble and somehow for the good of humanity. Chinese lies are just dirty.

  73. Ben Wolf says:

    Actually paranoia regarding American military dominance of the planet isn’t a left-right issue, not in the United States. Barack Obama and Leon Panetta belive in the innate right of this country to control the cosmos just as much as George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. The entire D.C. establishment is infected with the same messianic fervor to manage the world through bombs and threats. It is, however, unacceptable for anyone else to behave in this manner, or to have so much as a rock to throw we don’t approve of.

  74. Jay Tea says:

    @Ben Wolf: I’m not making any kind of moral judgment on China’s deception. Damned straight we all fib a bit. China’s, though, is slightly more egregious, as they misrepresented their intentions to Russia, Turkey, and the world at large, giving their word to other nations that the ex-Varyag would not be used for military purposes.

    I’m not going “shame, shame!” at them; I’m saying “you know, they lied through their teeth when they got the thing; it would be really, really stupid to depend on them keeping their promises about how they will use it.”

    J.

  75. anjin-san says:

    I’m pretty good at knowing my strengths and weaknesses.

    If that were true you would see that you don’t really understand the big picture. Gaining an internal political benefit by deploying a marquee warship such as a carrier is not “projecting power”. Sorry, it just ain’t.

    But you made a blanket statement about carriers and projecting power, and you will stick with it in spite of any evidence to the contrary.

  76. @Jay Tea:

    I’m pretty good at knowing my strengths and weaknesses.

    Well, I will allow that you have strengths in terms of knowledge of naval equipment. I will grant that that is a strength

    However, that’s not the same thing as understanding Chinese politics, fiscal policy, or even military strategy, whether it be in theater or grand strategy.

    The issue here is a lot less about the equipment and a lot more about the nature of the Chinese “threat” and how much we should be spending because of it.

  77. grumpy realist says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Lemme point out that the change from Hu-So to Fuso when talking about Japanese characters ain’t much–it’s two different transliterations. The Jorden transliteration (Hu-So) is actually the more modern version and maps onto Japanese hiragana and its ordering much more accurately. Fu-so is the older transliteration.

    (and yeah, I both read and speak Japanese.)