Staff writer at @TheAtlantic. Curmudgeon. Cat guy. Democracy enthusiast, defender of experts. Legacy blue check who'd have paid more for a better Twitter.
Sep 26 • 7 tweets • 2 min read
I was looking something up in @bterris's book (which you should read), and I recalled the chapters about Matt Schlapp in there. And I wonder if, in their hearts, all of the people who got on Team Trump - including Trump - wish they could go back to 2016 and lose. /1
They could win again, of course. But nothing will be the same - and Trump will likely not bring them back in. He'll choose new cronies. Trump himself will be in a cold sweat every day (as he is now). Republicans will be chained to a sociopath (as they are now). /2
Sep 25 • 11 tweets • 4 min read
Anyone who knows me - and the people who had the bad luck to work with me - knows I am a fount of criticism about the U.S. war colleges. But the article going around about how our generals are being corrupted by war colleges is just crapola. Let me clear up two things quickly. /1
My qualifications to say all this? Over 30 years, in various roles, with the Naval War College, including as a department chair in Strategy and Policy, and a course director in National Security Affairs. /2
Sep 1 • 10 tweets • 2 min read
I wrote a whole book on why democracies become illiberal, but something about America after Trump's indictment really strikes me. Yes, MAGA world is about resentment and ignorance and displaced anger and all that. But it's also a time that seems to me incredibly...juvenile.
Trump hawking t-shirts with his mug shot is like some hair band selling posters of their guy getting busted for drugs or waggling his junk onstage or something. It's beyond unserious. It's child-like, the political version of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. And yet it'll sell. /2
Aug 4 • 6 tweets • 1 min read
A reminder that calling former presidents "Mr. President" is not only discretionary, but it's actually (by old school etiquette) incorrect. It can be done as a mark of respect, but it's not required by any protocol. /1
Some titles - governor, ambassador, certain military ranks, and yes, "professor" - are lifetime titles. "President" is not; a president is the "presiding officer" while he presides, which is why Senate Presidents are "mr/madam president" only while they hold the gavel. /2
Jul 13 • 8 tweets • 2 min read
Each time I see a story like this, it's a reminder that there is no actual Russian strategic goal in this war: The idea of "defeating" Ukraine and capturing it whole went down the tubes over a year ago. All that's left for Russia is fighting over map squares. /1
This leaves Russian forces not knowing what to do even if they *could* win on the ground in various areas (which they're not.) As we teach at US war colleges: operational victories do not automatically translate to strategic success, esp if you have no idea what your goals are./2
Jul 8 • 5 tweets • 1 min read
An important line from the @DavidAFrench piece today: "About half of self-identified evangelicals now attend church monthly or less often. They have religious zeal, but they lack religious community. So they find their band of brothers and sisters in the Trump movement." /1
But think about that: It suggests how shallow the roots are of a particular kind of religious belief that is less a belief system than an expression of social identity. (If your replacement for Christian worship is a Trump rally, maybe church-going wasn't about Christ.) /2
Jun 30 • 6 tweets • 2 min read
I was thinking about this today while, of all things, hearing John Denver.
Bear with me.
I was listening to "Country Roads" and thinking of the great diversity of America. I was on my way to a beach in RI, but I've seen the beauty of WV.
All of it is America.
When I would travel in the old USSR, or even in the new Russia, if you ran into anyone from the United States, it was like family.
Boston? Wheeling? Jackson? Didn't matter. It was like encountering long-lost cousins.
Jun 9 • 6 tweets • 2 min read
So, a short thread on pardoning Nixon.
It was the right thing to do.
Trump has been up to his eyeballs in crimey stuff since he was a young man. He's seen people do time. He's been around the mob. He is not deterrable; he is a sociopath and he doesn't see himself as subject to the rules by which others live. So, Nixon's pardon means nothing. /2
May 6 • 4 tweets • 2 min read
I'm going to go all Emily Post here and say that some titles are lifetime titles as a matter of protocol and respect, rather than right granted by the government. (I say this as a holder of one of them.) But "president", as Ms Post would note, is not one of them. /1
Not so long ago, America had one "president as a time" and only the holder of the title used it, as is proper for a "presiding" officer. It's why the Senate president is only president on the podium. Calling all former presidents "president" is a mistake. /2
Apr 23 • 7 tweets • 2 min read
For all of you who think Musk is some agent of Saudi investors or other nefarious actors who you think want to destroy Twitter, consider this: They're probably wincing right now. States with agendas want a strong and authoritative Twitter, not a joke site. Bear with me. /1
If your goal is to spread your agenda, you want the venue to be respected, full of dependable sources, so that your influence operations can be one more among those sources. If you're putting out bullshit, you want it on the same rack as the NYT and WaPo, not tabloids. /2
Apr 16 • 11 tweets • 2 min read
Since I hate to leave a debate without granting at least some points to my critics - seriously - let me now tell what I *do* worry about when it comes to American fascism.
Because I am not Pollyanna on this stuff. And I worry more than you might think. /1
The things I look from a US fascist movement: 1. Organized campaigns of violence against democratic institutions, including courts, legislatures, and the press. (One jacquerie on J6 isn't it, but it was a *severe* test.) Armed ppl in legislative chambers has happened. Red flag./2
Apr 15 • 20 tweets • 4 min read
A longish and quixotic thread on the misuse of "fascism."
Why does it matter what we call things? Because labels tend to guide choices and allocation of attention and political resources. So I'm going to give this a try.
Fascist regimes, as we knew them in the 20th century, have some things in common with the current American right: cult of personality, vicious nostalgia, and anti-intellectualism. But that describes *many* authoritarian regimes. Why is "fascism" different and more dangerous? /2
Apr 13 • 4 tweets • 1 min read
I'm going to comment here because this is an interesting "death of expertise" problem. This gent checked on me at Google Scholar, and says, pshaw, these are all commercial publications.
But...Google Scholar doesn't list stuff like that. These are all academic pub citations. /1
The reason this is a problem is that when laypeople say "I want to check your credentials as an expert," often they have no idea what they're looking at.
This is why instititutions mediate such questions. You might not know who I am, but you know what Oxford is. /2
Apr 12 • 4 tweets • 1 min read
Some of you keep sending this to me and I think you should all treat this more skeptically. A lot of what he was talking about was projection about what was really happening inside the Soviet Union in the 1970s when he was defecting. /1
I mean, this is almost 40 years ago, 1984, when the Soviet Union is imploding, is about six years from a complete collapse, and America is approaching the zenith of its power. Bezmenov was not a psychic. /2
Apr 2 • 7 tweets • 2 min read
Okay, so at the risk of more fury from DS9 and TNG and VOY fans, I don't like long, drawn-out story arcs with moody, troubled characters. Those series, imo, lost the sense of fun and wonder that made ST: TOS the great show it was. The show that's recaptured that? SNW.
In my view, the third best series in the franchise after TOS and SNW is... ENT. Yes, it went off the rails eventually. (The temporal war, something something, hurr durr) but when it began, it had the same sense of danger and fun and unpredictability that TOS had. /2
Mar 28 • 6 tweets • 2 min read
Talking with my Naval War College colleague and friend @FPRI_Orbis, and we are hard-pressed to think of any war we've studied or taught that matches the level of pure incompetence on the part of the Russians in this Ukraine war.
It's staggeringly stupid.
/1@FPRI_Orbis There is no rhyme or reason to most Russian operations other than "go out and walk around until you make contact with the UKR forces and get waxed." It's as if they're being sent to go get killed at random grid markers by officers who have no idea what the objectives are. /2
Mar 25 • 5 tweets • 2 min read
I'm going to defend academic presses here for books - I have worked with three fine presses who got out my stuff in a timely way - and note that journals are trying to be faster. But there are real problems with the journals. /1
I mostly avoided the journals after a few bad experiences and went the book route, but two things I know (as a regular peer reviewer back in the day): There are too many articles because of the pressure to publish, and reviewers tend to be, shall we say, a tad louche. /2
Mar 21 • 4 tweets • 2 min read
I teach this every year at @HarvardSummer but for @mehdirhasan I'm going to put up these slides and ask how, on God's earth, Iraq 2003 and Ukraine 2022 are even remotely alike. /1
Putin told another nation: "Be part of Russia or we'll murder you all." The US and UK went to the UN and got a resolution in the UNSC: /2
Mar 17 • 4 tweets • 2 min read
Today is a special day when I think of my Mom, who took such pride in being Irish. Born in 1934 in terrible poverty, youngest of 11 with two immigrant parents, she overcame so much in her life. /1
Although I am half Greek and Greek Orthodox (my mom converted to Orthodoxy when she married my dad and loved it), I am culturally much more Irish than I am Greek. And my mom always teased my father: "He's a scholar because he's Irish," she'd say. But my dad would often agree. /2
Mar 13 • 4 tweets • 2 min read
I went back and looked at what some jerk liberal wrote about the Iraq War after it was over, around 2008. This hack predicted that the U.S would engage in yet more "limited operations" that will be dressed, as they are now, in the stodgy gray tones of bureaucratic language."
"But no matter what they are called, many of them will unmistakably fall into a broader and more encompassing category: "acts of war.'" /2
Mar 9 • 5 tweets • 2 min read
A fascinating conversation just now between @monacharen and @chrislhayes about how much Fox relies on the innate mistrustfulness of its audience to bond them to Fox programming, and how much contempt that shows for them.
And that brings us back to the problem of "elitism." /1
I am routinely accused of elitism: "Tom, you look down on Trump voters."
I do. But I respect them enough as fellow citizens to say to them: "You're wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself for what you support." I respect their agency and I am honest about what I think. /2