Category Archives: Military

Modeling might be real: Taiwan and the Falkland Islands

A few weeks ago I was in class and Dr. Sterken asked me a question I don’t remember, which I had no answer for because I hadn’t been following the discussion at all. Obviously, I’m a great student. I had a pretty good reason, though: I was extremely distracted by this paper.

I may be overselling it some, but this is arguably the coolest academic/policy publication I’ve read. That includes a paper on cereal pricing, and I love cereal.

To make a long story short, Goldstein argues that China visualizes the Falkland Islands conflict between Argentina and Britain as a proxy for the tensions involving itself, Taiwan, and the United States. Going further, the paper provides rather substantial evidence that China actively models a great deal of its military planning regarding Taiwan on Argentinean action in 1982. This is not entirely unexpected, given the relationships between the relevant states and how China thinks of itself in the context of global power projection.

Why am I so enthralled by this? That’s a good question. Continue reading


Incentives matter, terrorism edition

JIEDDO is doing some really cool stuff with anti-IED technology, but it seems more often than not it’s just a rather expensive, low-effectiveness R&D program.

“We’re not going to solve the IED problem inside Afghanistan,” a senior U.S. military official told ABC News last week. “If we don’t go after the supply, we’re playing defense.”

That’s exactly what JIEDDO’s looking to do. The agency’s new call for research, first spotted by, asks for “additives and methods to disrupt or discourage [bomb] manufacturing from fertilizer.”

via Pentagon Looks to Sabotage Pakistan’s Bomb Supply | Danger Room |

That being said, this is probably closer to an ideal strategy; I’m reminded of this paper exploring costs of suicide bombers. We think a lot about the intent or motivations of terrorists, but not as much about what rationality means for them. There are costs born by organizations or individuals, and if we can devise some method of increasing that cost, we’re better off. So far, JIEDDO has been a very pricey game of Whack-a-Mole, but if the focus shifts to an offensive strategy that might change.