Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Long Story Ends


Start playing this clip before you read any further. Go ahead, I can wait.


In July of 2012, I posted an abbreviated review of the story of why I was headed for Aberdeen. Since then, I've kept friends, family, and complete strangers abreast of what turned out to be fifteen months in Scotland. On Monday morning, I woke up in Aberdeen (in the Thistle Caledonian Hotel where Ginger Magic stayed, and where I'd stayed for graduation), and I went to sleep on the western side of America. Operation Highlander - and its extension, Operation Bold Brigand - have come to an end. Between graduating summa cum laude from one of Scotland's ancient universities, getting my close protection certificate, spending more than three months in my very own island paradise, and any number of other experiences and accomplishments, I'll go ahead and deem it an overwhelming success.

My final week in Scotland was a whirlwind, and for once, I actually accomplished everything on my list - with a thrilling expenditure of time, treasure, and there may even have been a bit of blood thrown in there for good measure. I went to Elgin to get Gus' whisky, Edinburgh to meet with that Dhofar Rebellion author, and Keith to meet with a contact for the Orcadian Gordon Highlanders Accountability Project. I had a last hurrah in Orkney before making my final stand in Aberdeen - an event that included dinner at Lionel's and drinks at The Tippling House (pictured). Finally, it was time for a short night of sleep before heading to the airport to catch that flight out.

This blog will continue, intermittently. There are posts left to write, locales and events left to chronicle, and a high profile political event to observe and discuss late next year. For the most part, though, I'm ready to begin (slightly less intermittent) blogging over at Beyond the Joshua Tree.

Preparing for, executing, and completing Operation Highlander defined my existence for nearly five years of my life. It involved relentless planning, rigorous discipline, field expediency, and an expeditionary spirit. To date, it has involved my most daunting challenges, and my most spectacular successes. It was an amazing phase of my life, filled with sensations and experiences that will linger with me and continue to define me for years and decades to come. And, despite enjoying my return home and anticipating many happy reunions with friends I've not seen in a very, very long time, it's tough not to miss Scotland already. Here's hoping that my next visit won't involve another eight year wait, as this last one did.

Monday, December 16, 2013

IRN-BRU Advert: Snowman

It's going to be a busy week. I'll try to post some stuff as I'm able, but expect it to be sporadic. I've posted about IRN-BRU, and not once but twice about IRN-BRU's advertisements. They have a new one out that pays homage to the classic cartoon, The Snowman. Have a look.


That's some kind of brilliance right there.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Writing Sample: SND Term Paper #2

This is the second of two essays I wrote for Strategic Nuclear Doctrine. This is the one I submitted in lieu of the other one. I'm fairly proud of this one, too.

* * *

"Identify the changes and continuities in American strategic nuclear doctrine since the end of the Cold War."




Introduction: Grand Strategy Amidst Conflicting Influences


From an academic perspective, the evaluation of a liberal democracy's grand strategy - to include nuclear strategy, the pinnacle of grand strategy - is difficult. Academics prefer to base their analysis on clean, defined models - for example, the Realist, Liberal, and Constructivist models of International Relations; or the Security, Domestic Politics, and Norms models of deterrence. These theoretical models are helpful - some moreso than others - but fail to account for the old adage that "sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction".

For all of their various drawbacks, grand strategies determined by the leaders of authoritarian regimes tend to address strategic concerns in a direct and largely coherent fashion. By contrast, liberal democracies tend to suffer from a challenge one might describe as "too many chiefs, not enough Indians", or perhaps "too many cooks in the kitchen". Even in cases in which a head of government serves as the commander-in-chief of a nation's military, their strategic calculus must account not only for actual external threats, but also for opposition politicians whose entire political platform involves posturing themselves as the anti-establishment for their own electoral agenda. This, and said commander-in-chief's own political career, introduce the infamous spectre of the Clausewitzian Trinity.[01]

In theory, liberal democratic institutions such as universal education and a free and independent press should produce an electorate capable of making informed decisions about defense policy, and holding their elected officials accountable for their decisions regarding grand strategy. Instead, a trend has emerged in both Western and Western-aligned liberal democracies in which both the electorate and their elected officials have become conspicuously disconnected from the maintenance of national security. For example, in the United States, military service has dropped from a rate of 11.2% of the population during World War II, to 4.3% during the Vietnam War, to a mere 0.45% since 2001.[02] Once considered a virtual requirement for election to national office, less than one in five members of the 2013 Congress (combined Senate and House of Representatives) boast military service[03], neither of the 2012 presidential candidates were veterans, the last Democrat president who was also a military veteran was elected in 1976, and the last American president to have retired as a flag/general officer was Dwight Eisenhower. This pattern in American politics reflects a wider trend among liberal democracies; in fact, America actually lags behind its allies with respect to the decline in military service among both the electorate and their elected officials.

As a result, neither Western voters, nor the Western political class, are automatically qualified to formulate grand strategy, to include strategic nuclear doctrine (SND). Should a group of elected officials be qualified by trade or training to determine grand strategy - and, in fact, few Western elected officials hold even basic qualifications in foreign policy, coming instead from the legal and business professions - they must still defer to the whims of an electorate that is chronically uninformed about world events and defense issues. Voters are, in fact, typically far more concerned with the provision of social services than with national security. In the United Kingdom, for example, one might expect to hear constituents or their Members of Parliament argue, "If we have enough money for Trident, why don't we have enough money to hire more doctors for the National Health Service?"

These factors, almost wholly unrelated to the management of international risks, have informed the various changes and continuities in Western defense policy and strategic doctrine since the end of the Cold War, arguably moreso than during the Cold War. Although one could make case studies of any of the world's nuclear weapons states (NWS) and nuclear-armed states (NAS), the United States should be considered particularly noteworthy. It continues to hold the world's largest nuclear arsenal, as well as the most sophisticated delivery infrastructure. While Russia's nuclear stockpile continues to serve as a prime motivator for other states to retain their own nuclear deterrents, it is American SND that exerts the most influence over the SND of each NWS/NAS, and over the strategic conventional doctrines of nearly every nation in the world.

The most direct way to consider this complex topic is chronologically, by looking specifically at the four American presidential administrations that have determined American SND since the end of the Cold War.

The Bush (41) and Clinton Administrations: 1991-2001


The Cold War ended on the final day of 1991 with the official dissolution of the Soviet Union. Although President Ronald Reagan is considered to be the American architect of the Soviet Union's collapse, President George H.W. Bush (Bush 41) held office when it took place, and it was President Bill Clinton who held office during most of the immediate aftermath. By several measures, Bush 41 made a deeper contribution to the future of SND than his successor. Of particular note were two treaties that the Bush Administration negotiated, and one bill that Bush 41 signed.

The first of these was the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. Begun early in the Reagan years, START was signed in July of 1991 after nearly a decade of negotiations. The prior Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT I and II) had, in essence, capitalized upon a rare convergence of conflicting interests to acknowledge and institutionalize the decades-long stalemate between America and the Soviet Union.[04] START represented Reagan's, and subsequently Bush 41's, effort to exploit the conditions of the Soviet Union's deterioration (and the ensuing thaw in relations between East and West) to reduce both nations' risks through a mutual nuclear force reduction.[05] START resulted in a reduction of both delivery vehicles and deployed warheads by fifty to seventy percent by both the United States and the Soviet Union - later, the Russian Federation.[06]

Easily overlooked is an American law passed in 1992, sponsored by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, which established the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program. The program sought to exploit the opportunity of the Soviet Union's collapse to use America's expertise and economic superiority to ensure the safe and efficient consolidation and disposal of Russia's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD infrastructure.

Bush 41's final contribution to the future of SND - aside from effective efforts to thaw diplomatic ties with Russia - was the negotiation and signing of START II in the waning days of his presidency. START II (the name of which led the original START treaty to be renamed START I) impacted American (and Russian) SND in two significant ways. First, it mandated an overall strategic nuclear force reduction. Second and more importantly, both states agreed to eliminate their Multiple Independently-Targeted Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs).[07]

The overall force reductions, and particularly the de-MIRVing, were significant. MIRV technology preferences a first-strike counter-force doctrine, as it allows an aggressor to target its opponent's nuclear forces by using only a proportionally small number of its overall nuclear assets. In so doing, a massive first strike could theoretically disable most of an enemy's nuclear forces while keeping a significant nuclear arsenal in the aggressor's reserve.[08] Eliminating MIRVs and reducing force strength - and convincing the Russians to follow suit - added to strategic stability by reducing the overall risk from Russian nuclear forces, and by reinforcing the deterrent value of assured destruction through de facto forced counter-value targeting. The CTR Program served as further insurance by strengthening diplomatic ties with Russia to reduce the likelihood of a conflagration between the two nations; ensuring the disposal of Russian nuclear warheads and other WMD elements; and helping the Russian government to improve command and control in order to prevent unauthorized launches.[09]

Bush 41 was succeeded in January of 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Whereas his predecessor's comparatively short time in office produced multiple SND adjustments, Clinton's tenure produced comparatively few. The Clinton Administration continued to implement force reductions and honor other treaty obligations agreed to by prior administrations.

Perhaps most noteworthy was the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The Clinton Administration identified the need to study the changes to the international environment, and adjust American SND accordingly. In fact, the 1994 NPR's primary contribution was to identify the need for periodic review of American SND.[10] Because the potential threat from Russia and other nuclear rivals remained fluid, the 1994 NPR made no significant changes to American SND, and was described by Glenn Buchan as "'treading water' while the United States figured out what it wanted to do with nuclear weapons in the future".[11]

President Clinton also attempted two treaties that would have further restricted SND. The first of these was the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Clinton signed, but which was never ratified by Congress. Despite this, the last American nuclear test - the "Divider" detonation, which concluded the Operation Julin test series[12] - took place in September of 1992, after which Bush 41 declared a testing moratorium which has been honored by each of his successors. The second treaty was the proposed START III. Negotiated in Helsinki in 1997, START III aimed to further reduce both American and Russian nuclear arsenals; however, negotiations stalled, and the treaty was never signed.[13]

As the first post-Cold War decade drew to a close, Bush 41 and Clinton had made a handful of changes between them which impacted American SND without directly changing it.



The Bush (43) Administration: 2001-2009


The most significant post-Cold War adjustments to American SND came in 2002, early in the administration of President George W. Bush (Bush 43). In January of 2002, the Administration released a new NPR.[14] In May, the United States and Russia signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). In June, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT).

The 2002 NPR represented the most significant post-Cold War deviation from Cold War era SND. Prior to 2002, the core of American SND was the so-called "Nuclear Triad" of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. This triad reinforced deterrence by ensuring second strike capability.[15] The 2002 NPR introduced a "New Triad", in which the "Old Triad" constituted only one of the three elements, and was redefined to include strategic nuclear, tactical nuclear, and long-range conventional strike capabilities.

The second element of the New Triad was labeled "Responsive Infrastructure". Reminiscent in some ways of President Dwight Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System, this element of the triad included such measures as survivable and redundant physical infrastructure - for example, robust bridges, roads, and data networks. The goal was for America's infrastructure to be ready to support consequence management in case of an attack.

The final element of the New Triad - "Passive and Active Defense" - proved most controversial. Passive defense measures, such as funding and promotion of crisis management and efforts to improve civil/military cooperation, were seen as relatively benign. However, the active defense elements of the New Triad - specifically, the strategic ballistic missile defense (BMD) program - drew criticism from both foreign and domestic commentators.

The New Triad diverged from traditional American SND on two major fronts. First, it moved from a one-size-fits-all deterrent strategy, to a system which can be tailored based upon the specifics of a hypothetical event. Second, by emphasizing both survivability and active defense, the revised American SND focused on a Deterrence by Denial strategy that abandoned Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as the cornerstone of deterrence.[16] Although Russia found the American withdrawal from the ABMT particularly egregious (perhaps because, despite unconvincing declarations to the contrary, Russia has never enjoyed success in developing its own BMD system[17]), the revised doctrine acknowledged the new century's multipolar nuclear threat environment. Bush 43's efforts to base the BMD system's interceptor missiles in Poland and its associated radar in the Czech Republic aimed to both reinforce the enlargement of NATO, and to acknowledge the importance of the new NATO members from the former Warsaw Pact to the contemporary global security environment.

Bush 43 was criticized for increasing the likelihood of a nuclear conflagration. In particular, critics alleged that BMD development gave Russia incentive to strike the United States prior to the system's successful completion. These criticisms were leveled despite Bush 43's repeated assurances that the BMD program was not directed toward Russia, and the obvious fact that the scale of the program was never so ambitious as to stop a potentially massive Russian nuclear attack. Despite this, Russian officials cited the American ABMT withdrawal as cause for withdrawing from START II (although one must note that, at the time, the Duma had already spent nearly a decade neglecting to ratify START II). In fact, outspoken Russian concern over American BMD had more to do with Russian internal politics than with American nuclear threats; meanwhile, the appearance of Russian posturing against the West addresses a prevailing credibility gap stemming from the very public, near comprehensive deterioration of the Russian military.[18][19]

Although work on the 2002 NPR began before the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the review was especially poignant for the post-9/11 threat environment. As America and the world at large worried not only about terrorist attacks, but also the potential for devastating nuclear terrorist attacks[20], the new American SND shifted away from the low probability of a Russian attack. While still able to deter potential Russian agitations, the 2002 NPR's emphasis on Deterrence by Denial postured America to better deter the increased threat from non-state actors, state sponsors of terrorism, and rival WMD states (and WMD aspirant states) such as those the Bush 43 Administration identified as members of the first (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) and second (Cuba, Libya, and Syria) tiers of the Axis of Evil.[21] The focus on robust national infrastructure, consequence management, and civil/military cooperation was especially poignant, as these were precisely the capabilities needed to respond in the event of non-nuclear terrorist attacks as well as potential nuclear attacks.

Bush 43 was further criticized for having undermined deterrence by lowering the threshold for nuclear retaliation. In fact, Bush 43's adjustment to American SND reinforced deterrence by acknowledging two key realities. First, the 2002 NPR acknowledged that America's strategic strike capabilities were no longer restricted to nuclear weapons[22]; rather, nuclear weapons were merely the extreme end of a spectrum of American capabilities enabled by Military Transformation.[23] Acknowledging this spectrum of both conventional and nuclear retaliatory options in the event of both conventional and nuclear attacks reinforced the deterrent value of escalation, in the same way that American tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) based in Europe reinforced deterrence against the Red Army during the Cold War.[24]

Noteworthy in this regard was the fate of several Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines. Originally slated for decommissioning in accordance with START I obligations, the first four Ohio Class submarines were instead converted to carry up to 154 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, or a mix of Tomahawks and special operations forces (SOF) - formations for whom WMD counter-proliferation is a primary mission.[25] This mirrored the longstanding capability of the B-52, B-1B, and B-2 strategic bombers to carry conventional munitions, and further underscored the conventional-to-nuclear escalatory spectrum as a reinforcement to deterrent credibility.

Bush 43's SND was not without its costs, particularly with respect to American diplomatic relations with Russia. As stated previously, Russia abandoned all efforts to ratify START II as a result of the American withdrawal from the ABMT, and threatened to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) over American plans to base BMD interceptor missiles and associated radar infrastructure in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively.[26] Although Bush 43 and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed SORT in May of 2002, this was seen as less productive than START II or the failed START III.[27] However, the 2002 NPR represented a sober, pragmatic reassessment of American SND based upon an updated risk calculus tailored to the post-Cold War threat environment.



The Obama Administration: 2009-Present


In January of 2009, Bush 43 was succeeded by President Barack Obama. Following the controversial decision to invade Iraq, the growing frustration over Afghanistan late in Bush 43's tenure, and the financial crisis, President Obama was essentially elected as the "anti-Bush". Whereas the Bush Administration's contributions to the evolution of American SND were based on pragmatism and the acknowledgment of an increasingly complex threat environment, the Obama Administration has applied a far more ideological approach to the adjustment of America's nuclear posture.

The first post-inaugural indication of President Obama's nuclear policies was his April 2009 speech in Prague, Czech Republic.[28] The speech envisioned a world free from nuclear weapons. Consistent with prior speeches, President Obama covered a wide range of topics without providing significant details or outlining tangible plans for achieving such goals. Noteworthy, however, was his pledge to move forward on ratification and enforcement of the CTBT. During a 2012 lecture to postgraduates in Strategic Studies, James Wyllie of the University of Aberdeen described the speech as "essentially strategically illiterate".

The second significant change was President Obama's decision in September of 2009 to cancel Bush 43 era plans to station interceptor missiles and radar sites in Central Europe, in favor of a naval solution (although the option to consider Polish and Czech sites at a later date was left open).[29]

The third major milestone in President Obama's adjustment of American SND came in April 2010, when he joined with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to sign the New START treaty.[30] New START reduced deployed strategic delivery vehicles (missiles and bombers) to 700, deployed warheads to 1550, and deployed and non-deployed launchers to 800. These figures are approximately one third of those allowed by START I, and approximately ten percent lower than those allowed by SORT. The Obama Administration began to implement the reductions before the treaty was ratified.[31]

Essentially simultaneous to New START was the release of the Obama Administration's 2010 NPR. The Obama Administration's approach to the drafting of the 2010 NPR deviated from previous iterations by Clinton and Bush 43. As opposed to being a classified Department of Defense document, the document was not only entirely unclassified, but also involved a committee approach in which the Departments of State and Energy were treated as partners in its drafting. Despite multiple expressions of concern regarding a lack of transparency from Russia and China - particularly regarding the continued deployment of Russian TNWs on its western borders[32] - the 2010 NPR expressed solidarity and friendship with both states. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that the 2010 NPR dispensed with some of the intentional ambiguity of previous NPRs.[33] Also noteworthy was the inclusion of both positive and negative security guarantees that placed special emphasis on compliance with the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty[34], a move seen as a specific warning to Iran and North Korea.

In the 2010 NPR - but also in other national strategic documents[35][36][37][38], the Obama Administration has made a concerted effort to emphasize non-proliferation and counter-proliferation in most aspects of its foreign policy. This includes what amounts to an attempt at leadership by example in unilateral disarmament efforts; engagement with potential great power partners such as Russia and China in an effort to both reduce bilateral animosities, and to seek their cooperation in pressuring NPT violators such as Iran and North Korea; engagement in direct diplomatic efforts with NPT violators; and an overarching effort to engage with other states to ensure their compliance with the NPT.

Unfortunately, for all of the Obama Administration's emphasis on multilateral engagement and diplomacy, in opposition to the ultimatums and posturing of his predecessor, Obama's efforts demonstrate both an ideological commitment to the Liberal Model of International Relations, and an ensuing lack of understanding of the reasons why nations (even his own) engage in wars and, in some cases, develop nuclear weapons. His actions reveal an ignorance of the Thucydidean adage that nations go to war with one another for "honor, interest, and fear".[39] His efforts at diplomatic engagement with Russia - seemingly diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy - ignore the political and military motivations for Russia to retain its significant stockpiles of nuclear weapons, to deploy them in a manner which continues to agitate its neighbors, and to act as a political buffer between the United States and rival states such as Iran and North Korea.[40]

Only time will tell whether the Obama Administration's direct and indirect adjustments to American SND will bear fruit. At present, the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to advance despite an aggressive international sanctions regime, multilateral diplomatic efforts, and even alleged American and/or Israeli malicious code in the form of the Stuxnet and Flame viruses.[41] Despite multilateral diplomatic engagement by both the Bush 43 and Obama Administrations and various additional regional stakeholders, North Korea continues to produce and test both atomic bombs and ballistic missiles.[42] While comparatively stable, China, India, and Pakistan continue to expand their nuclear arsenals, and the latter of these show no inclination to sign or ratify the CTBT, a move which would be contrary to the honor, interests, and fears of both nations.

For his trouble, President Obama has received little more than an inconsequential force reduction pledge from an otherwise resurgent and confrontational Russian Federation, with no concessions to speak of from Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan, or China. Despite his de facto pledge to succeed with diplomacy in lieu of his predecessor's uses of overwhelming force, the Obama Administration's strategy has lost ground in both Iran and North Korea, whereas his predecessor could at least boast of ensuring that Iraq was free of WMD programs, and of compelling Libya to relinquish its WMD programs as well. Whereas Bush 43's revised triad and its ensuing repercussions counted as a sober reevaluation of American SND based upon changing conditions, even Obama's staunchest supporters would be hard pressed to identify any points in which Obama's SND revisions have succeeded in further mitigating America's nuclear, WMD, or conventional risks.



Post-Cold War Continuities


A constant in many organizations, and particularly in military formations, is that incoming leaders endeavour to make noteworthy changes to set themselves apart from their predecessors. The result is that leaders are often defined by their innovations, whereas points of continuity are often ignored.

Since 1991, American presidents have maintained a number of significant points of continuity with the SND of their predecessors.

While American nuclear operations began in Japan (what is now the purview of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)), and have had a global reach for most of their history, the American-Soviet standoff and continuing tension with Russia have traditionally identified American nuclear capabilities with Europe in general, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance in particular. While NATO has periodically reviewed its Strategic Concept[43] to account for a changing threat environment, America's positive security guarantee to NATO member states has varied little since 1991. This continues to include the "NATO Triad" of conventional, tactical nuclear, and strategic nuclear weapons.[44] Although the phrase "flexible response" has fallen out of fashion, the Bush 43 Administration's New Triad - and the Obama Administration's decision not to abandon it in the 2010 NPR - essentially acknowledge the continued deterrent value of escalation, and the practical value of a spectrum of response options appropriate to a spectrum of potential threats.[45]

While American positive security guarantees are commonly associated with NATO, the Commanders-in-Chief continue to maintain a variety of other positive security guarantees for allies around the world, many of which still include a nuclear element. In the PACOM Area of Operations (AOR), for example, nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan possess the means, the motive, and the opportunity to cross the nuclear threshold, but resist the urges of honor, interest, and fear due to continued American security guarantees. Both South Korea and Taiwan appeared poised to pursue nuclear weapons in the late 1970's, but were dissuaded from doing so by the cancellation of President Carter's plan to withdraw the American garrison from South Korea[46], and by the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979.[47] American security commitments to Japan and South Korea (to include significant garrisons) continue in earnest to this day, while Congress strengthened and updated the Taiwan Relations Act in 2000 with the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act.[48]

While American positive security guarantees in other regions - notably the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) AOR - do not currently emphasize an American nuclear umbrella, concern over Iran's nuclear program is omnipresent among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. While the American government is presently evaluating requests for missile defense assistance from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates[49][50], perhaps more noteworthy is American assistance to both the Saudi and Emirati nuclear programs, a continuation of the long-standing policy of assisting NPT observers in order to maintain a degree of control over their fissile material.[51] Some analysts, including a team at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), expect that an Iranian nuclear test will be followed by a nuclear security guarantee for the GCC in order to dissuade the GCC nations, and Saudi Arabia in particular, from proliferating themselves.[52]

In these and other fashions, American SND continues to use positive security guarantees to prevent nuclear proliferation, protect its own interests, maintain sometimes tenuous relationships with friends and allies, and protect said friends' and allies' interests.[53]

Another seemingly simple but significant continuity, acknowledged even by the dovish Obama Administration, is the need for a deployed nuclear arsenal beyond parity levels with its peers.[54] This policy serves as a tacit acknowledgment that, as long as the United States remains the world's security guarantor, it will require a large enough nuclear arsenal to address all potential conventional and nuclear contingencies.

Also significant is the continued American posture relating to a variety of international treaties. The continued commitment to both the SALT and START frameworks - despite continued disputes and aggressive posturing from first Soviet and later Russian leaders - is significant, as American leaders could have easily and, perhaps justifiably, responded with a unilateralist approach. (By contrast, this highlights some of the opposition concern regarding the Obama Administration's unilateral nuclear disarmament efforts, as force reductions without a corresponding commitment from the Russian counterpart reduce American leverage in future relations with the Russian Federation.) America continues to promote the NPT and abide by the PTBT.

Also noteworthy, despite the efforts of President Clinton and the rhetoric of President Obama, is Congress' continued refusal to ratify the CTBT. While some assume that a total of 1054 nuclear tests[55] would provide the United States with enough test data to preclude the need for further testing, such assumptions ignore the limiting effect that compliance with such a treaty would have on American defense policy in light of changing international circumstances, or even potential technological advancements.[56] As Laurence Martin noted in 1981: "The rigidity you legislate today may deny you the evasive manoeuvre you want to take tomorrow."[57]

Finally, in an era in which other Western nations (notably the United Kingdom and France) have made significant structural reductions to their nuclear deterrents (such as the French reduction from triad to duad) or questioned the need to maintain a nuclear deterrent at all (such as the British debate over the future of Trident[58]), the maintenance of a nuclear triad - ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers - is also significant.[59]



Conclusion: “Logic” and “Grammar”


America's grand strategists - typically strategic aspirants whose decisions are, at best, informed by the input of qualified advisors - face a complex system of challenges with respect to formulating coherent SND. The combined fragmentation of the former Soviet Empire and the interconnected nature of globalization pose new challenges. American SND must manage risks posed not only to American interests, but to the interests of its many allies. In multiple cases, the interests of these allies - for example, Israel and its Arab neighbors - are, on their surface, mutually exclusive of one another.

Meanwhile, these amateur grand strategists are constrained more by domestic factors and the invisible hand of the Clausewitzian Trinity than by the comparatively simple - though still and increasingly complex - requirements of the contemporary threat environment. The result is a sort of constant struggle between managing international risks, and managing not only unrelated domestic concerns, but also the uninformed whims of an American electorate that is both disconnected from the responsibility of national defense, and uninformed about the complications and nuances of international affairs.

Fashion typically dictates a fixation on "progress" and "changes" to the international security environment. While some degree of change has taken place since the notional end of the Cold War in 1991, the truth is that both the threat environment and the strategic concepts which dictate navigation within that environment remain almost painfully similar to those of the Cold War - and, indeed, a multitude of other eras throughout human history. Despite the inherently special nature of nuclear weapons[60], Clausewitz's observation remains true to this day: the "grammar" of war may change, but its "logic" endures.[61]



Citations


[01] BACK von Clausewitz, Carl; On War, Book I: On the Nature of War, Chapter 1: What is War?, Item #28; http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/OnWar1873/BK1ch01.html

[02] BACK Palmisciano, Nick; I Wrote This; Ranger Up: The Rhino Den; 05 August 2012; http://rhinoden.rangerup.com/i-wrote-this/

[03] BACK Davis, Susan; Number of veterans in Congress continues to decline; USA Today; Washington, D.C.; 20 November 2012; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/20/fewer-congress-vets/1716697/

[04] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 5: Not For the Sake of Their Blue Eyes; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith5.pdf

[05] BACK Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START I); United States and Russian Federation; effective 05 December 1994 to 05 December 2009; http://cns.miis.edu/inventory/pdfs/aptstartI.pdf

[06] BACK N/A; START Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms; U.S. State Department; N/A; N/A; http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/121027.htm

[07] BACK Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II); United States and Russian Federation; effective 14 April 2000 to 14 June 2002; http://cns.miis.edu/inventory/pdfs/aptstartII.pdf

[08] BACK Freedman, Lawrence; The Evolution of Military Strategy; Palgrave Macmillan; New York; 2003; p. 336

[09] BACK Defense Threat Reduction Agency; Cooperative Threat Reduction Program; http://www.dtra.mil/Missions/Nunn-Lugar/GlobalCooperationInitiative.aspx

[10] BACK N/A; Extract from the 1995 Annual Defense Report; Federation of American Scientists; N/A; N/A; http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/doctrine/dod/95_npr.htm

[11] BACK Buchan, Glenn; Strategic Appraisal: United States Air and Space Power in the 21st Century, Chapter 7: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security Strategy for a New Century; RAND Corporation; Santa Monica, CA; 2002; http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1314/MR1314.ch7.pdf

[12] BACK N/A; United States Nuclear Tests July 1945 through September 1992; United States Department of Energy; Nevada; December 2000; http://www.nv.doe.gov/library/publications/historical/DOENV_209_REV15.pdf

[13] BACK N/A; Fact Sheet: The START III Framework at a Glance; Arms Control Association; Washington, D.C.; January 2003; http://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/Start3FrameworkGlance.pdf

[14] BACK N/A; Nuclear Posture Review Report (Foreword); Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; January 2002; http://www.defense.gov/news/jan2002/d20020109npr.pdf

[15] BACK Wohlsetter, Albert; The Delicate Balance of Terror; RAND Corporation; Santa Monica, CA; 1958; http://www.rand.org/about/history/wohlstetter/P1472/P1472.html

[16] BACK Sloan, Elinor; Modern Military Strategy; Routledge; New York; 2012; Chapter 7: Nuclear Power and Deterrence

[17] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 2: Plausibility and Horror; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith5.pdf

[18] BACK Isachenkov, Vladimir; War reveals Russian military might, weakness; Associated Press; Moscow; 18 August 2008;; http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/08/ap_russia_military_081808/

[19] BACK N/A; Russia to upgrade nuclear systems; BBC World Service; N/A; 26 September 2008;; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7638356.stm

[20] BACK Hoge, James F., Jr., and Rose, Gideon (editors); How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War; PublicAffairs; Cambridge, MA; 2001

[21] BACK Bush, President George W.; 2002 State of the Union Address; Washington, D.C.; 29 January 2002; http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/4540

[22] BACK Guthe, Kurt; Ten Continuities in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Strategy, Plans, and Forces; National Institute for Public Policy; Fairfax, VA; September 2008; p. 5-7

[23] BACK Sloan, Elinor; Modern Military Strategy; Routledge; New York; 2012; Chapter 4: Joint Theory and Military Transformation

[24] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 3: Shadow Over Europe; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith3.pdf

[25] BACK N/A; Ohio-class SSGN-726 Overview; Federation of American Scientists; Washington, D.C.; http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/uswpns/navy/submarines/ssgn726_ohio.html

[26] BACK N/A; U.S., Russia no closer on missile defense; Associated Press; Moscow; 12 October 2007; http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-10-12-us-russia_N.htm

[27] BACK Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation On Strategic Offensive Reductions (The Moscow Treaty); United States and Russian Federation; effective 01 June 2003 to 05 February 2011; http://www.state.gov/t/isn/10527.htm

[28] BACK N/A; Obama promotes nuclear-free world; BBC World Service; Prague; 05 April 2009; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7983963.stm

[29] BACK Baker, Peter; White House Scraps Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield; New York Times; Washington, D.C.; 17 September 2009; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/world/europe/18shield.html?_r=3&hp&

[30] BACK Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START); United States and Russian Federation; effective 05 February 2011; http://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/c44126.htm

[31] BACK Kristensen, Hans M.; United States Moves Rapidly Toward New START Warhead Limit; Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security Blog; Washington, D.C.; 02 May 2010; http://blogs.fas.org/security/2010/05/downloading/

[32] BACK N/A; 2010 United States Nuclear Posture Review; Washington, D.C.; U.S. Department of Defense; April 2010; p. 29; http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20Nuclear%20Posture%20Review%20Report.pdf

[33] BACK Kruzel, John J.; Gates Discusses New Nuclear Posture, U.S. Relations With Karzai; American Forces Press Service; Washington, D.C.; 11 April 2010; http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=58700

[34] BACK Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty/NPT); globally binding (excludes India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Taiwan); effective 05 March 1970; http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc140.pdf

[35] BACK N/A; 2010 National Security Strategy; The White House; Washington, D.C.; May 2010; http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf

[36] BACK N/A; 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review; U.S. Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; February 2010; http://www.defense.gov/qdr/images/QDR_as_of_12Feb10_1000.pdf

[37] BACK N/A; 2010 National Military Strategy; U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; Washington, D.C.; February 2011; http://www.jcs.mil/content/files/2011-02/020811084800_2011_NMS_-_08_FEB_2011.pdf

[38] BACK N/A; Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense; U.S. Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; January 2012; http://www.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf

[39] BACK Lebow, Richard Ned; Thucydides and Deterrence; Security Studies 16, no. 2: 163–188; Taylor & Francis Group, LLC; London; April–June 2007; http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nedlebow/thuc_deterr.pdf

[40] BACK Acton, James M.; Bombs Away? Being Realistic about Deep Nuclear Reductions; Center for Strategic and International Studies; Washington, D.C.; 19 March 2012; http://csis.org/files/publication/twq12springacton.pdf

[41] BACK Zetter, Kim; Legal Experts: Stuxnet Attack on Iran Was Illegal ‘Act of Force’; Wired.com Threat Level blog; N/A; 25 March 2013; http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/03/stuxnet-act-of-force/

[42] BACK Broad, William J.; A Secretive Country Gives Experts Few Clues to Judge Its Nuclear Program; New York Times; New York City; 12 February 2013; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/world/asia/despite-claims-of-third-blast-north-korean-nuclear-program-remains-a-mystery.html?src=recg&_r=0

[43] BACK N/A; Active Engagement, Modern Defence: Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Lisbon; 19-20 November 2010; http://www.nato.int/strategic-concept/pdf/Strat_Concept_web_en.pdf

[44] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 3: Shadow Over Europe; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith3.pdf

[45] BACK Perkovich, George; Like Wedding Rings or Euros? Nuclear Weapons in Europe; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Washington, D.C.; 14 December 2011; http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nato_nukes.pdf

[46] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 4: Conflicts of the Third World; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith4.pdf

[47] BACK N/A; Taiwan Relations Act, Public Law 96-8 96th Congress; U.S. Congress; Washington, D.C.; 01 January 1979; http://www.ait.org.tw/en/taiwan-relations-act.html

[48] BACK N/A; Taiwan Security Enhancement Act; U.S. Congress; Washington, D.C.; 13 April 2000; http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:H.R.1838:

[49] BACK N/A; Qatar, UAE request $7.6 billion in missile defense: U.S.; Al Arabiya; 07 November 2012; http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/11/06/247967.html

[50] BACK N/A; Qatar and UAE look to bolster defence systems; Al Jazeera; 07 November 2012; http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/11/2012117112056212762.html

[51] BACK N/A; US-UAE 123 agreement enters into force; Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; 17 December 2009; http://www.uae-embassy.org/media/press-releases/17-Dec-2009

[52] BACK Kahl, Dr. Colin H. Dalton, Melissa, and Irvine, Matthew; Atomic Kingdom: If Iran Builds the Bomb, Will Saudi Arabia Be Next?; Center for a New American Security; 19 February 2013; http://www.cnas.org/atomickingdom

[53] BACK Guthe, Kurt; Ten Continuities in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Strategy, Plans, and Forces; National Institute for Public Policy; Fairfax, VA; September 2008; p. 17-21

[54] BACK N/A; 2010 United States Nuclear Posture Review; U.S. Department of Defense; April 2010; p. 30; http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20Nuclear%20Posture%20Review%20Report.pdf

[55] BACK N/A; United States Nuclear Tests July 1945 through September 1992; United States Department of Energy; Nevada; December 2000; http://www.nv.doe.gov/library/publications/historical/DOENV_209_REV15.pdf

[56] BACK Robinson, Ambassador C. Paul, Foster, John, and Scheber, Thomas; The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Questions and Challenges; The Heritage Foundation; Washington, D.C.; 07 November, 2012; http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/2012/11/the-comprehensive-test-ban-treaty-questions-and-challenges

[57] BACK Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword, Lecture 5: Not For the Sake of Their Blue Eyes; Reith Lecture Series; BBC; 1981;; http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/radio4/transcripts/1981_reith5.pdf

[58] BACK N/A; Defense Policy Analysis: Trident; Royal United Services Institute; London; N/A; http://www.rusi.org/defencepolicy/trident/

[59] BACK Guthe, Kurt; Ten Continuities in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Strategy, Plans, and Forces; National Institute for Public Policy; Fairfax, VA; September 2008; p. 31-36

[60] BACK Guthe, Kurt; Ten Continuities in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Strategy, Plans, and Forces; National Institute for Public Policy; Fairfax, VA; September 2008; p. 2-4

[61] BACK von Clausewitz, Carl; On War, Book VIII: Plan of War, Chapter 6B: War as an Instrument of Policy; http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/OnWar1873/Bk8ch06.html#B



Bibliography


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Buchan, Glenn; Strategic Appraisal: United States Air and Space Power in the 21st Century, Chapter 7: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security Strategy for a New Century; RAND Corporation; Santa Monica, CA; 2002; http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1314/MR1314.ch7.pdf

Freedman, Lawrence; The Evolution of Military Strategy; Palgrave Macmillan; New York; 2003

Gray, Colin S.; Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare; Phoenix; London; 2005

Gray, Colin S.; Modern Strategy; Oxford University Press; Oxford; 1999

Guthe, Kurt; Ten Continuities in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Strategy, Plans, and Forces; National Institute for Public Policy; Fairfax, VA; September 2008

Hoge, James F., Jr., and Rose, Gideon (editors); How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War; PublicAffairs; Cambridge, MA; 2001

Kagan, Robert; The Return of History and the End of Dreams; Vintage/Random House; 2008

Kahl, Dr. Colin H. Dalton, Melissa, and Irvine, Matthew; Atomic Kingdom: If Iran Builds the Bomb, Will Saudi Arabia Be Next?; Center for a New American Security; 19 February 2013; http://www.cnas.org/atomickingdom

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Martin, Sir Laurence; The Two-Edged Sword; Reith Lecture Series; BBC Radio 4; 1981;; http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/the-reith-lectures/transcripts/1980

N/A; 2010 National Military Strategy; U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; Washington, D.C.; February 2011; http://www.jcs.mil/content/files/2011-02/020811084800_2011_NMS_-_08_FEB_2011.pdf

N/A; 2010 National Security Strategy; The White House; Washington, D.C.; May 2010; http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf

N/A; 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review; U.S. Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; February 2010; http://www.defense.gov/qdr/images/QDR_as_of_12Feb10_1000.pdf

N/A; Active Engagement, Modern Defence: Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Lisbon; 19-20 November 2010; http://www.nato.int/strategic-concept/pdf/Strat_Concept_web_en.pdf

N/A; Extract from the 1995 Annual Defense Report; Federation of American Scientists; http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/doctrine/dod/95_npr.htm

N/A; Nuclear Posture Review Report (Foreword); Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; January 2002; http://www.defense.gov/news/jan2002/d20020109npr.pdf

N/A; Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense; U.S. Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; January 2012; http://www.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf

N/A; 2010 United States Nuclear Posture Review; U.S. Department of Defense; Washington, D.C.; April 2010; p. 29; http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20Nuclear%20Posture%20Review%20Report.pdf

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Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty/NPT); globally binding (excludes India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Taiwan); effective 05 March 1970; http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc140.pdf

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Wohlstetter, Albert; The Delicate Balance of Terror; RAND Corporation; Santa Monica, CA; 1958; http://www.rand.org/about/history/wohlstetter/P1472/P1472.html

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Island Paradise: Pub Crawl Kidnapping!

One of my neighbors in student housing was a Canadian geologist whom we'll call Rock Sniffer. She's back in Scotland for a couple of weeks on account of graduation, and after many mentions of how awesome Orkney is, she decided to come up. She arrived in Stromness and needed to hit the cash machine, so we went to see the new statue of Dr. John Rae (a post about Dr. Rae is pending), and then around the corner to the ATM... At which point we were conscripted into a pub crawl to celebrate a local lad's twenty-first birthday. You know what they say:


We were initially dragged to the bar at the Royal Hotel, and subsequently to the Flattie Bar in the ground floor of the Stromness Hotel. Our impromptu hosts were all dressed as cowboys, Indians, or cows in honor of one lad's twenty-first birthday. They had converted what I can only conjecture to have been a football chant into a drinking song that they'd break into every now and again, replacing the lyrics with various two-syllable names. Rock Sniffer and I had intended to get the first Stagecoach X1 bus from Stromness back to Kirkwall, but we were assured that they had a bus of their own, and would get us back to Kirkwall. Okie dokie...

After those two pubs in Stromness, we ended up at the Standing Stones Hotel. This became the sight of well-lubricated singing, to include with some French guys with whom several of us ended up sitting. They broke into some song which I assume to have been La Marseillaise - I assume that because I didn't recognize the tune and couldn't understand the lyrics that they were singing. I was then made to sing the Star-Spangled Banner, which I did at the top of my lungs. At its completion, they tried to get Rock Sniffer to sing Oh Canada, but she declined! Shortly thereafter, it was on to the Pomona Inn in Finstown, where we nearly witnessed a fight, and snapped a few more pictures. It was shortly thereafter that we were back on the road to Kirkwall, where Rock Sniffer and I parted ways with our hosts. It was a fantastic introduction to Orcadian hospitality for Rock Sniffer, and although it was unexpected, it was only momentarily surprising for yours truly.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Demobilization: Wherein Gus is Mercilessly Teased

I tend to have a lot of friendly acquaintances and a handful of very good friends to whom I'm often excessively loyal. One of the latter is my buddy Gus, whose trip to Scotland I financed so that he could bring some of my stuff. He got about two thirds of a free trip to Scotland, I got a seabag full of stuff, and we both enjoyed one another's company for the duration, until he headed back home to be united with his son, Prince Hank, and impregnate his wife, the lovely and talented St. Jen, with Princess Lucy.

One of the things that Gus did while he was touring around Scotland was to go to the Glen Moray Distillery in Elgin for a tour. (The joke's on him - Ardmore is right there!) At that point, he committed to buying four bottles of whisky... For me to mule back to the States. Uh... ? Wait, what? So, that was a constant action item, with him periodically updating me on the status of his order, which was unavailable for him to carry out then and there. Finally, the order was complete, and he contacted me to let me know. It was only then that I learned the horrible truth: having been led to believe that he expected me to carry back four bottles of special twenty-five-year-old port wood finish whisky, he had, in actuality, ordered only a single bottle of the special twenty-five-year-old port wood finish whisky, a single bottle of sixteen-year-old whisky, and two bottles of twelve-year-old whisky.

Whaaaaaaaat?

My packing space is actually pretty limited, as I've noted - I'll already been unloading a bunch of my stuff in order to get my kit down to one seabag, my Echo Pack, and my carry-ons. Beyond that, it's sort of outlandish to be on the hook for carrying back twelve-year-old whisky - I wouldn't bring back twelve-year-old whisky for the mother of my children (recruitment of suitable candidates pending, please inquire within for details). So, I requested that the order be reduced, and to his great credit, Gus graciously complied. Then, a few weeks ago, in the midst of my graduation, he left the following comment on Facebook:
Don't forget, I have a few bottles waiting in Elgin. Keep calm and sip a good whisky.
Gus, you're killing me. So, I replied with the following retort:
Do I ever forget? Dork.
Good grief. The other elephant in the room, of course, is the whisky I intend to bring back. Dare I say it, I've likely developed more of a taste for whisky than Gus. So, where does that leave us?

I love Gus. He's one of my best friends - one of three or four dudes whose friendship I value equally above all others. So, I'm going to bring the two bottles of whisky, which is beyond gracious of me to do, because when all is said and done, I value his friendship far beyond the minor frustration of him pestering me about whisky. Buuuuuuut, that takes a bit of preparation. So, I've made an effort to figure out how much whisky I'm legally allowed to import. Buuuuuuut, it doesn't stop there.

I have literally begged two pubs for empty whisky bottles so that I can use them for demobilization packing testing. I've purchased a bottle of eighteen-year-old Highland Park for myself, and I received a bottle of eighteen-year-old Ardmore from Constable and Silex as a graduation gift. That accounts for the whisky I'll be bringing home for myself. Beyond that, I have two HP12 empties for when I'm packing to help me figure out how Gus' whisky will fit into the rest of it. I'll still have to leave some room for the stash of books that remain in a locker down the hall from the SOC, but some of those can be mailed.

I'm also going to post the link to this entry on Gus' Facebook page, just to make sure that he and a few other friends see it. The bottom line, though, is that Gus has put up with all sorts of my shenanigans over the years, and what's a slightly heavier bag and some hassle among friends? That's what real friendship is all about... Sort of.

Love you, Gus. See you soon. (Just, please, give me a hug and let me see the baby before asking me to dig in my bag for your whisky, alright? Alright.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Separated by a Common Language: Orcadian Dialect Edition, Part 2

Last month, I posted about the Orcadian dialect. I've identified a few more words as I've been out and around, plus I caught one more edition of Whassigo, so all of those words are included as well.

  • "bruck" - Junk. BBC Radio Orkney has a weekly Bruck Program in which people can submit requests for things they're trying to get rid of, or else requests for things they're trying to get a hold of.
  • "fleero" (W) - A piece of lightweight material (e.g. clothing) that provides little protection from the elements.
  • "girn" - The outro to the weekly BBC Radio Orkney Postbag program mentions that you can write in if you want to "moan, pleap, or girn". "Girn" means to cry (as in, tears), or else to greet.
  • "gansey" - A sweater. According to Gray 2, it's apparently derived from the word "jersey", which itself refers to sweaters from the island of Jersey.
  • "kalwart" (W) - A spell of cold weather.
  • "kamo" (W) - A blow to the head.
  • "mind" - To remember. For example, if you lost something - say, perhaps, your favorite gansey - you'd say "I can't mind where my favorite gansey is." At that point, you might begin to gairn or pleap, which leads me to...
  • "pleep" - As noted previously, the outro to the weekly BBC Radio Orkney Postbag program mentions that you can write in if you want to "moan, pleep, or girn". "Pleep" means "whine" or "complain".
  • "skarps" (W) - Worthless land on which no crops can be grown, for example, with very little topsoil.
  • "sweenkie" (W) - An earthworm.
  • "wanboona" (W) - A curse, e.g. from a mythical character. Apparently Faroese in origin.
  • "yagger" (W) - A peddler or seller, someone who sells you stuff, such as bruck or (apparently) fish. Apparently Dutch in origin.

    So, can you speak like an Orcadian yet? No? Well, keep workin' on it.
  • Monday, December 9, 2013

    Island Paradise: Inclement Weather

    One of the reasons why I came to Scotland for graduate school is that - by and large - I love the weather here. It's really similar to the climate in which I grew up, and after a year and a half in the Middle East (which, counterintuitively, actually gets pretty chilly at times). The flipside is that on some occasions, I have to tolerate snow. Orkney has wind - lots of wind - and plenty of Rain. Aberdeen gets plenty of rain, though less wind than Orkney. Both occasionally get snow. I hate snow, but it does tend to make things photogenic by being out of the ordinary. The weather here in Orkney, in Scotland generally, and in Europe more generally, has been insane for the last few days - as evidenced by this picture and other stuff posted by BBC Radio Orkney! - and so I got a few pictures. Here's a shot of Wideford Hill...


    ... and here's a shot of the Highland Park distillery.


    It's awful to walk in, though. Like, really, really awful. It takes me about twice as long to get anywhere, and it works muscles I forgot I even had! But, at least it's happening in Orkney, right? Totally awesome.

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

    The Songs That Remind You 15

    It's time for another installment of this old blog favorite. There have been a few recent songs that I wanted to share. The first is a song by a guy whose music I should absolutely hate, but that I actually tend to like. The guy is Justin Timberlake, and the song is Mirrors. In lieu of the actual music video (which is really good, but goes on forever), I'm going to post the live performance from the Brit Awards - a tactic I've used previously for my Taylor Swift Special Edition!


    In my Shetland Special Edition, I posted a song by Bastille. I heard another of their songs while sitting doing work of one sort or another at a local pub that will be detailed soon! In the mean time...


    And finally, another song from those same environs is this offering from Jake Bugg.


    Jake Bugg's album is one of several played at that aforementioned pub in which a one or two songs are great, and the rest get really tedious, which winds up getting me to use my headset to study Arabic. Actually, come to think of it, the other one is this guy called Newton Falkner, who's just absolutely awful. On the plus side, they also play Jake Bugg's Lightning Bolt. It's worth a listen. Newton Falkner isn't.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    A Virtual Train Ride

    One of my fondest memories of my original 2004 trip to Scotland is the train ride from Thurso to Inverness, right after I'd left Orkney. I spent part of it reading 1984 by George Orwell, and was a bit nervous as I was trying (unsuccessfully in the end) to get to Glasgow in time to pick up a package. Even so, it's beautiful country, as you can see from this three and a half hour video from 2002 - before I'd ever visited the United Kingdom in the first place!


    I should be posting a bit more about this particular route in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Island Paradise: Thanksgiving in Orkney

    I spent my Thanksgiving doing something I'm very, very thankful for: graduating. Of course, I was so busy that day that my Thanksgiving chow consisted of a little chicken wrap, a ham and cheese sandwich around 13:45 (thank you, Captain John!) and chicken fillets and chips at the Machar around 18:30. Not exactly a full dinner with all the trimmings, but in all honesty, I haven't had a real Thanksgiving dinner since 2009.

    Well, that changed this year. Without naming the venue, there's a cafe in Kirkwall, and since I've become a regular there, the proprietor (whom we'll call The Intrepid Chef) asked if I'd be interested in attending a joint Thanksgiving/St. Andrew's Day celebration. I thought it was a really cool idea, so I was onboard from the start. Although it was delayed by a few days to fit with everyone's schedules, we met up on Sunday afternoon.

    The Intrepid Chef went all out, as you can see from the picture - and although I can't remember what I ate at the Archie Simpson last year when I met up there for an informal quasi-Thanksgiving gathering with a couple of American friends, I'm going to go out on a limb and claim that 2013 was the first time I ever enjoyed haggis for Thanksgiving. The Intrepid Chef even made - no joke - a pumpkin pie. She was very nervous about it, but she nailed it. The two other Americans who were in attendance joined me in being absolutely stunned by the whole event. I love Thanksgiving, and it was so exciting to share it with folks who have quickly become close friends, in a place that I've loved for so long. It was an indescribably special experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

    Of course, not all Brits have any clue about Thanksgiving, as evidenced by the following video.


    So, I hope everyone back home had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I sure did - twice!

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    The Festive Return of the Dancing Pony

    Remember the dancing pony? He's baaaaa-aaaaack...


    This thing takes on a whole new level of meaning for me after my well-documented debacle in Shetland.

    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    Graduation

    On Wednesday, I boarded the Pentalina and began an aggressive day of travel. After a brisk ferry voyage, a long bus ride, and making the connecting train ride by about thirty seconds, I arrived in Aberdeen. With an agenda of seeing people and doing a few things, my primary goal was to complete a task I'd spent the better part of four years preparing for: graduating from the University of Aberdeen with an MSc in Strategic Studies... with distinction (Summa Cum Laude for my American readers out there). I originally set this goal on a slow day at work in Virginia all the way back in March of 2010, at the urging of my "Aunt" Jo. It took me a long time, and a lot of thankless hours of hard work and sweat in the Middle East to put all of the pieces together. I was pre-emptively reading the textbooks before I even left the Middle East, and continued reading while I was back home waiting to leave. When I finally arrived, I got down to work, and despite trips to places like Orkney, Shetland, Dumfriesshire, and Paris, most of my year was spent hard at work... Mostly. On Thursday, it was time to complete the goal I'd fixated on for more than three and a half years of my life. It was time to graduate.

    Those of us who were able to make it - myself, Ness, GBU-16, Warden, Sister, Homeboy, Slapshot, Vlad, and Chatti - assembled near the location of the courses we had taken with The Director, in some of Aberdeen's most ancient and hallowed classrooms, in the shadow of the "crown" over King's College Chapel. It's a place with which I've become intimately acquainted, outside of which I've spent many an hour waiting on buses and marveling at where I was and what I was doing at that moment in my life. I made a point of savoring it as much as I humanly could - of recognizing that this time was a season of my life, one that I could enjoy and look back upon, but one that would not last forever. We assembled, with those whom I'd worked, laughed, and lived beside for months on end, and received briefings on how the ceremony would unfold. Eventually, it was time to file into Elphinstone Hall - ironically, the site of our last examination back in May - to savor a ceremony conducted mostly in Latin, which inducted us into a fraternity of Aberdeen graduates reaching back more than five centuries.

    And finally, the ceremony itself was over, and it was time to revel in our hard work. We spent a good hour trying to ride the line between celebrating as a group, and celebrating with the well-wishers who had come to share in our celebration. For me, that was my old friend Captain John, Kilgore (the curator of the Gordon Highlanders Museum), Constable, Silex, and Gin Aficionado, all of whom I was extremely pleased to have in attendance. We all congregated to have our pictures taken with The Director - an amazing instructor and mentor with whom I'd begun corresponding in mid-2010, and whose intervention likely got me past a significant bureaucratic hurdle which I would have been otherwise unaware of. We had pictures taken together, pictures taken individually, and eventually dispersed. Captain John and Kilgore having made early exits, the rest of us returned my rented gown, hood, and cap, and went to the Machar to end the evening.

    It's hard to believe that it's all over, and it's also a bit of a challenge not to let it become an existential crisis. Then again, existential angst isn't really my style. There's too much yet to do. And now, after three and a half years of preparation and work, and a well deserved evening of respite and revelry, it's time to get on with it.

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    Scottish Secession: Finally, A Plan?

    Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his allies have finally released their plan. I haven't had a chance to read it; and since it's nearly seven hundred pages long, I'll probably have to just read synopses and reactions from experts. I've already seen several biting critiques of it from friends on Facebook who are familiar with such matters.

    My Strategic Intelligence instructor, E, has been following the matter very closely over the years. The highlights of his various reactions have been, after about an hour of reading it:
    "I downloaded it and have begun reading. 3 blatant lies spotted so far."

    "[E] is reading The 'white paper' and is utterly appalled by the stupidity of it. It's total nonsense."
    A friend from school works for members of the Scottish Parliament from the Liberal Democrat party. Although I don't put much stock in the Lib Dems themselves, one of their posts that she's shared is worth sharing with you:
    The Scottish Government’s Independence White Paper has left voters in the North East none the wiser over what leaving the UK would mean after the document failed to address fundamental questions over currency and other issues according to Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs Sir Robert Smith and Sir Malcom Bruce. Speaking after the First Minister launched the paper in Glasgow this morning, the MPs warned that by failing to give Scots the answers that had been promised the SNP are asking people to take a leap into the dark. Sir Robert Smith, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine added: “A fundamental issue that should underpin the success of any independent country is the currency it will use to run its economy. By assuming that Scotland will continue to use the pound backed by the Bank of England the white paper fails to address this fundamental issue. As part of the UK we currently get a say in how the pound is managed. By voting yes under these plans we would have no say in how our currency would be managed.” Commenting, Sir Malcolm Bruce, the Gordon MP said: “Having been promised clear answers from the SNP’s White Paper on independence, I for one am confused as to why one of the SNP’s central pledges for independence is to offer extended childcare later when they have the power to do so now, matching the steps that Liberal Democrats have already taken in government to boost free care. The message from the SNP seems to be that they will not give children the support they need until they get the result they want at the referendum.” Sir Malcolm added: “The United Kingdom is a significant player in the world with a seat at the top tables of the EU, UN, NATO etc. If independent, Scotland would be outside the room and not part of that decision making.”
    These are some of the very questions that I've raised on the blog over the course of the last year, and apparently the white paper fails for provide answers for these fairly simple and direct concerns on the part of Scotland's politicians and constituents. Meanwhile, the Holyrood has fallen prey to renewed outrage from Orcadians, as the lifeline ferry service (about which I've written previously) is set for a renewed disruption. According to BBC Radio Orkney:
    Serco Northlink has confirmed that the Hamnavoe route will be covered by the Helliar during the refit period. The freight vessel can carry up to 12 passengers and will deputise on the route from the 6th to the 23rd of January. The company has also confirmed that the cost of travelling on the north boats will rise from the start of the year by 2.7%. But they've announced that - following customer feedback - a third return sailing across the Pentland Firth will be reintroduced for the majority of August.
    For those who are unaware, MS Helliar is a freight vessel, as opposed to the MV Hamnavoe, which is a dedicated car and passenger ferry. The reintroduction of a third sailing for the "majority of August" is sort of a slap in the face to Orcadians, particularly when one considers that the first sailing is at a fairly inconvenient time. (As evidence of this, I'm not even entertaining the prospect of taking the Hamnavoe's 06:30 sailing when I go to Aberdeen for graduation; instead, I'll be taking the 07:45 sailing aboard the Pentalina.) One commentator on the Radio Orkney Facebook posting noted the following, which I can only assume to be from the contract between the Scottish Government and Serco:
    3. To limit the extent of the impact of Scheduled Unavailability suffered by Orkney
    i. The Operator shall carry the anticipated demand between the Scrabster and Stromness ports during periods of Scheduled Unavailability of Vessels for Lot A. A suitable replacement vessel shall be provided to undertake the Services being provided by Ropax Vessel(s) for Lot A. The suitability of any additional vessel proposed will be subject to the approval of and at the discretion of Scottish Ministers.
    In short, as the Scottish Government rolls out their questionable plan for independence, the Orcadians are being given reason to question the Holyrood's competence with their current amount of authority as a ferry operator whose acquisition of the contract was questioned by the Islanders prepares to disrupt their service for a second time in under a year. It doesn't particularly inspire confidence, particularly at a time when authority and services are being centralized in Edinburgh and, to a lesser degree, Glasgow, rather than distributed to the periphery. Interestingly enough, not only are Scotland, Shetland, and the Western Isles lobbying the Scottish and United Kingdom governments for greater powers to determine their own destiny (specifically relating to the use of their own resources), but Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has recently been promoted to become the UK's Secretary of State for Scotland. Given the Northern Isles' independence skepticism, I think this is a fairly shrewd move by the UK's coalition government, who would rather not see nor preside over Scotland's secession from the United Kingdom.

    That doesn't exactly inspire super awesome feelings. What might help with that is a special Song That Reminds Me. I'm not sure whether Scottish recording artist Amy Macdonald is a Scots nationalist or not, but she's got a great, patriotic song about singing Scotland's anthem at sporting events. It's called Pride.


    I remain skeptical of the proposed Scottish secession referendum, but I'm also willing to be convinced that the SNP has a plan and a justification for secession. Despite the release of their white paper, the wait continues.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Interim Content: Craig Ferguson and the Vortex of Scottish Charm

    I graduate on Thursday. As such, the rest of this week will be pretty chaotic. So, what kind of Scottish greatness can I bestow upon you, my valued readers, during my absence? Well, there's a bloke by the name of Craig Ferguson, who was once on the Drew Carey Show on ABC, and now hosts The Late Late Show on CBS. He's awesome, and he used to be Scottish, but - spoiler alert! - we get to claim him as one of our own now. Since 2008, I think. And you know what? Beyond just being a hilarious Scottish-American guy, he's also pretty smart, and seems to be fairly genuine. So, this post is literally a bunch of my favorite Craig Ferguson videos. Enjoy, and watch out for those last three - they're beautiful tear-jerkers.








    There's another sketch he was in on his show, but I don't have the foggiest idea what the actual content was or what sort of search string might turn it up, so you'll just have to do without. Enjoy, and check back in a few days. I've even hired all of the bits and bobs to wear my kilt properly. There will be pictures. This is going to be epic.

    The Dissertation: Mapping the Dhofar Rebellion

    As my time in Scotland wanes, I've been both busy and distracted. I've noted some of my projects in some of my recent posts. I'm not done with the Operation Highlander blog by any means, but my posts will probably be lean over the course of the remaining weeks.

    One of the projects I've worked on during Operation Bold Brigand, that I haven't really spoken of until now, has been an effort to use some of my favorite open source geographic information systems to map some of the locations of the Dhofar Rebellion. Most notable among these has been the Hornbeam Line, which I've mentioned previously. The first six of eight outposts were fairly easy to find, while the remaining two gave me a bit of trouble until I started thinking outside the box. I was able to find the remainder this weekend, and assembled a slide deck of the satellite imagery to use as a work sample. Pictured is the Reef patrol base, which is described thusly...
    Location: PB Reef
    Decimal Coordinates: 17.005118° N, 53.743272° E
    MGRS: 39QYU9208782167
    URL: (click)
    Remarks: Displays distinct square seen elsewhere at PB Killi Candidate Site #1 and PB Bole.
    ... and posted primarily because it's the best photo from the various photos of the outposts in question. I've also been able to locate a couple of the small outposts from the accompanying Damavand Line (here and here), as evidenced by the adjacent helipads.

    So, between mapping the Dhofar Rebellion, applying for jobs, enjoying my time in Orkney, preparing for graduation, finally getting around to adjusting to Google Reader's premature demise, working (slowly) on post-master's degree professional certifications, the Orcadian Gordon Highlanders Accountability Project, additional writing, and Arabic study, I've had less time for blogging than I'd prefer. I should have a few surprises for the next few weeks, though. Stay tuned.