FDL Book Salon Welcomes Robert M. Farley, Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force

Welcome Robert M. Farley (University of Kentucky, Patterson School) (Lawyers, Guns & Money)(Twitter), and Host David Axe (War Is Boring) (author) (Twitter)

Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force

It’s been a rough couple of years for the U.S. Air Force. The flying branch has squandered billions of dollars on gold-plated aircraft and other weapons it doesn’t need. It has mishandled nuclear weapons. Airmen in the nuclear force have been caught cheating on exams. And then there are the numerous sex scandals.

At the same time, the Air Force has struggled to remain relevant during the course of two land-centric wars. The Air Force sends strategic bombers to drop bombs on small bands of insurgents. In nearly 13 years of continuous warfare, the flying branch’s most advanced fighter, the F-22, hasn’t flown a single combat mission.

The air service is also unnecessarily bureaucratic, resistant to systemic change and is the most parochial of the armed services. But there’s an even bigger problem—one that calls into question whether the Air Force should exist at all. (more…)

A War Reporter, Adapted in Comics

Jules Rivera

by DAVID AXE

I’ve been a cartoon character for so long that I’ve begun thinking of my cartoon “self” — that is, the versions of me drawn by artists Steve Olexa, Jonathan Hughes, Matt Bors and others — as, well, not me. That’s the funny thing about writing autobiography, especially autobiographical comics. Do it often enough, and you might forget, in a sense, that you are your subject.

To me, “David Axe” as he appears in War is Boring and other works, is a dude who’s gone to a lot of dangerous places. But he’s not me. Me, I’m just the guy forever sitting in front of his laptop with a mug of lukewarm coffee, typing stuff for obscure magazines for pennies on the hour. That’s emotionally a very useful thing, as I can pour into cartoon David all the bad things I’ve seen, heard and experienced — leaving myself, the real me, the glorified typist, peculiarly unaffected, neutral, empty.

I honestly believe that creating comics is the only reason I’m not permanently disabled by post-traumatic stress. That black-and-white line-drawing of a man — not me — is the guy who’s been shot at, mortared, blown up and kidnapped and who has spent six years surrounded by rape victims, starving refugees and the mutilated, terrorized victims of war. Yes, I know all his stories really well, perfectly even. But they’re still his, not mine.

Comics aren’t just my medium. Comics are why I don’t have nightmares. Comics are why I can be happy. Comics, they protect me and, in that sense, enable me to keep sending cartoon David into new, deadly places, to work, witness and feel in my stead.

If that sounds a bit schizo … well, consider the alternative.

Now I’m better protected than ever, thanks to Jules Rivera, a talented artist I met in San Francisco last month. Jules, one of the artists behind Hard Graft, has drawn “David Axe” in a brand-new, action-hero version (pictured above) — and even adapted that David one step further, into a “fictionalized” version of himself.

Does that mean that cartoon David Axe can sleep peacefully, now, too?

Sinking Royal Navy Shifts Burden to U.S. Fleet

MoD photo
MoD photo.

The U.K.’s new Conservative government is ruthlessly cutting spending in an effort to close the country’s roughly 100-billion GBP annual deficit. For the Ministry of Defense, that means a gradual 8-percent reduction in its 40-billion GBP yearly budget. As laid out in the Strategic Defense and Security Review, published on Oct. 19, the British military will lose thousands of soldiers, airmen and civil servants plus more than a third of its tanks, artillery and fighter jets. But the deepest cuts, by far, will fall on the Royal Navy. The implications are huge for the U.K., and for the U.K.’s number-one ally, the U.S., which is struggling to balance its own finances and military ambitions. That’s the subject of my two-part story just out in World Politics Review.

To be fair, the Royal Navy has been on the decline for years. But the most recent navy reductions are the most brutal. They amount to around a quarter of the fleet’s combat power, measured by tonnage. The flagship “Harrier carrier” Ark Royal (pictured) will be decommissioned immediately, as will the entire fleet of Harrier jump jets that provide the Royal Navy’s sole fixed-wing air-strike capability. Either Ark Royal‘s sister ship Illustrious or the chopper-carrier Ocean will also go, leaving just one small carrier to haul helicopters for amphibious operations. In a decade or so, a new, large carrier will replace the sole surviving flattop. But earlier plans to operate two big carriers in the future will likely change. Meanwhile, the navy will give up four of its 23 frigates and destroyers and several of its amphibious ships.

“This is a real punch in the gut for the Royal Navy and it has a significant impact on the ability of the United Kingdom to project power and maintain presence abroad,” said Eric Wertheim, an independent U.S. naval analyst.

(more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ted Rall, The Anti-American Manifesto

Welcome Ted Rall, and Host, David Axe.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The Anti-American Manifesto

As a cartoonist, columnist, radio host, TV guest and graphic novelist, Ted Rall has always been hard to categorize. Rall is liberal and an environmentalist, to be sure, but he’s a peculiar brand of both. He’s not scared of guns or all gun owners and he’s got a strong law-and-order streak. He seems to dismiss popular “peak oil” theories that anticipate a rapid and disastrous fall-off in petroleum production. He’s equally critical of Democrats and Republicans.

Rall is most notorious for his U.S. political commentary. A 2004 cartoon criticizing football player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, who was killed by “friendly” fire in Afghanistan, is easily Rall’s most famous work. But arguably Rall’s most unique and important work has grown out of his infrequent jaunts through foreign conflict zones, particularly in Central Asia. A trip to Afghanistan in 2001 produced the graphic novel To Afghanistan and Back, one of the best and most prescient books on the now decade-old war. For all that, Rall’s most eloquent work isn’t political at all. His memoir The Year of Loving Dangerously recounts his turbulent but passionate youth.

Rall’s new book, The Anti-American Manifesto, is a polemic, a call to revolution against a U.S. government that Rall claims “has become so undemocratic and unresponsive that the only reasonable means of opposing it is to strive for its violent overthrow.” Equally, the book is a prism for viewing the rest of Rall’s work. In reading Manifesto, it becomes clearer what lies at the heart of Ted’s sometimes schizophrenic-seeming career. In short, Rall is a contrarian and a firebrand. He knows it. He believes it’s an important role to play. He admits as much in Manifesto: “I don’t want you to buy into everything I say. … I MAY BE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING. I want you to THINK, dammit!”   [cont’d] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ted Rall, The Anti-American Manifesto

Welcome Ted Rall, and Host, David Axe.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  – bev]

The Anti-American Manifesto

As a cartoonist, columnist, radio host, TV guest and graphic novelist, Ted Rall has always been hard to categorize. Rall is liberal and an environmentalist, to be sure, but he’s a peculiar brand of both. He’s not scared of guns or all gun owners and he’s got a strong law-and-order streak. He seems to dismiss popular “peak oil” theories that anticipate a rapid and disastrous fall-off in petroleum production. He’s equally critical of Democrats and Republicans.

Rall is most notorious for his U.S. political commentary. A 2004 cartoon criticizing football player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, who was killed by “friendly” fire in Afghanistan, is easily Rall’s most famous work. But arguably Rall’s most unique and important work has grown out of his infrequent jaunts through foreign conflict zones, particularly in Central Asia. A trip to Afghanistan in 2001 produced the graphic novel To Afghanistan and Back, one of the best and most prescient books on the now decade-old war. For all that, Rall’s most eloquent work isn’t political at all. His memoir The Year of Loving Dangerously recounts his turbulent but passionate youth. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Sebastian Junger, War

[Welcome Sebastian Junger, and Host David Axe]

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

I have just one complaint about War, the new book from Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and a documentary filmmaker. In the book, Junger draws a clear distinction between “war” and “combat.” War is politics and strategy. Combat, by contrast, is a personal experience entirely divorced from the politics driving it. The book should have been called Combat.

In 2007 and 2008 Junger and his photographer Tim Hetherington spent several months living with a platoon of U.S. Army paratroopers in eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. At one point during a spike in the fighting, the 30 young men of Junger’s Second Platoon — part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Italy — accounted for around a third of all the combat experienced by the 160,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. Half of the platoon fell dead or wounded. Others suffered psychological injuries. (more…)