Battle of Blackwater

Yes, it was a spectacular episode.  Game of Thrones spent an entire hour on the crucial Battle of Blackwater, in which the soldiers of Stannis Baratheon are repulsed by those loyal to Joffrey Lannister.

Tyrion, my favorite character, proves himself to be the real leader of men in King’s Landing.   Read Scott Meslow’s take on the episode in The Atlantic here.

Great Book Alert


The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food 

by Lizzie Collingham

I recently finished The Taste of War by Lizzie Collingham. The subject is the role that food played in causing World War II and how the war was conducted. Germany wanted food security and sought to establish an agrarian empire in Russia. The Nazis planned on starving millions in the process. Japan sought a similar empire in China, and millions of Chinese perished because of the disruptions to agriculture brought on by the Japanese invasion.

Britain could get food from its colonies, but German submarines made this a very tenuous way to feed an island nation. The Russians had the dual misfortune of seeing their food plundered by the Germans and then being underfed by Stalin. America came out pretty well. It alone grew more food during the war than it had before it, and Americans were subject to few of the food restrictions that the peoples of other combatant nations endured.

If you prefer your military history suffused with the acrid smell of gunsmoke, this is not that kind of book. There is only a handful of examples of actual warfare in it. Instead, this is a magisterial, big picture work of history that will change – or at least greatly enhance – your understanding of the Second World War.

The Taste of War is available from Amazon here.


China’s Maritime Ambitions

China is finding that projecting power at sea is harder than it looks.  It is not just a matter of building ships and planes.  It isn’t even about having bases in the area.  Other nations – at least some of them – have to cooperate with you.  The Philippines is playing a shrewd game with the Chinese at sea.  Check out this article in Foreign Policy by Professor James Holmes of the Naval War College which lays out a good case.   Any article about Chinese military power that mentions the Roman general Fabius Cunctator is a winner in my book.


Crashed Second World War RAF Fighter Found in Egyptian Desert

A crashed Royal Air Force P-40 Kittyhawk fighter has been found in the desert of Egypt, well-preserved by the dry heat of the Sahara.  The pilot’s remains have not been found near the craft, indicating that he, identified now as 24-year-old Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping, likely tried to walk back to his own forces, and perished in the attempt.  The fighter is a monument, in its own way, to all those brave men who died lonely deaths during the Second World War, unknown to either friend or foe.


Wired Weapons and their Vulnerabilities

Here is the Foreign Policy interview with defense futurist Peter Singer.  Singer is a consultant on the new Call of Duty: Black Ops II videogame.  The interview touches upon issues that previously had only been in the realm of science fiction.  What happens if an enemy hacks our own weaponry and turns them against us?

I think that the rush to make everything wired and connected has made for new vulnerabilities with our weapons.  You couldn’t hack a P-51, but what about one of our advanced drones?

At least someone is thinking about this.


Easy Living in a Hard War

I just finished MHQ Summer 2012’s article Easy Living in a Hard War by Meredith H. Lair in the issue’s new department, BEHIND THE LINES. It’s about rear echelon troops in Vietnam and the stark contrast between the war they saw, or more accurately, did not see, and that fought by the combat troops who made actual contact with the enemy. There has always been a big “tooth to tail” question with the U.S. Army – almost all armies really – but in Vietnam the problem was very stark. The article was great, kudos to Meredith Lair, and I look forward to seeing more such items in the BEHIND THE LINES department. If I can make my own suggestion – how about legionary recruitment in the Roman Empire?

Yes, he is skateboarding!


Japan’s Armament and China’s Rise

Michael Auslin in his piece Japan Awakens in Foreign Policy captures well the strategic predicament of modern China.  Japan is increasing its military capability, with an eye toward deterring Chinese moves in the East China Sea and elsewhere.  A cursory glance at the map of East Asia will reveal that China, a continental power, is surrounded all along its maritime periphery by islands or other territories under the control of states that are not friendly to it.  The sea lanes around China are intensely vulnerable to disruption.  The Chinese navy, without significant overseas bases, is effectively boxed in by its prospective opponents, just as Imperial Germany’s High Seas Fleet was cornered by the Royal Navy before and during the First World War.