Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and TAPPED.

Recent Articles


In an earlier discussion of the defense budget, I mentioned that the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle had been exempted from the cuts. This was curious, because the EFV is over-budget and effectiveness-challenged. The motivating concept of the EFV is that the Marine Corps needs an armored vehicle that can move fast on land and in the water, all while carrying a gun and a squad of Marines. The idea is that the EFV can be deployed from an offshore amphibious assault ship, move across water at about 30mph, then move on land at about 45mph. The Marines believe that the EFV is key to being able to carry out amphibious invasions. Via Armchair Generalist, it appears that Robert Gates is targeting the EFV, in spite of the fact that it wasn't mentioned in his budget memo: I have also directed the QDR team to be realistic about the scenarios where direct U.S. military action would be needed – so we can better gauge our requirements. One of those that will be examined closely is the...


The Good: Dutch commandos operating under NATO authority raid a pirate ship and rescue 20 Yemeni fishermen. The Bad: The Dutch then release seven captured pirates because NATO has no authority to arrest pirates. This, my friends, is not change we can believe in. Especially since the same thing happened again yesterday; a Canadian frigate operating under NATO authority chased down a group of pirates over the course of seven hours, forced them to surrender at gunpoint, and then released them. In last week's special pirate round-up , I linked to a variety of ideas on how to stop piracy. I can guarantee right now that releasing pirates caught red-handed in the act of piracy will not solve the problem. I'm reluctant to join in the right-wing chorus of denunciation against bureaucrats and lawyers, but someone somewhere in NATO has screwed up badly . There isn't the faintest question that Canada and the Netherlands have the authority to arrest and collect evidence against pirates, and the...


I'll admit to suffering a John Bolton moment at the news that North Korea had, once again, threatened to drop out of the Six Party talks and restart its nuclear program . This nonsense will never end; it's pretty clear that the North Korean leadership hasn't the faintest interest in good faith negotiation. Is the answer, then, to break off any further contact with North Korea, and let the chips fall as they may? I don't think so. The "answer" to the North Korea problem is that there is no answer; there will be no resolution until North Korea ceases to exist. Indeed, a North Korean collapse produces a host of new problems, which is one reason why North Korea's neighbors are terrified at the prospect of general state failure. That said, being unable to produce an "answer" doesn't absolve the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea of the responsibility for managing the situation. In foreign policy generally, I think, there is too much focus on the idea that problems can be resolved...


Dan Drezner and I talk some piracy at Bloggingheads: The gist of the clip is that we can conceive of some military options that might reduce piracy, but that those options are likely to be more costly than simply paying ransoms to pirates. By costly, I mean the literal cost of the ammunition, fuel, work hours, and wear on operating platforms; pirates simply aren't exacting that much of a price on the United States, or on most of the rest of the world. As such, piracy really isn't one of the more pressing priorities for the Obama administration. Fortunately, Robert Gates seems to understand this. See also Spencer Ackerman on the way that piracy has affected the reform debate within the USN. --Robert Farley


There's an avalanche of piracy related material today. Noah Shachtman has a fabulous rundown of what's wrong with several of the major proposed solutions for fighting piracy. Dave Schuler does pretty much the same bit, and comes to the same conclusions. Long story short, the super-simple proposal you've developed for ending piracy has probably already been thought of, and probably has a host of problems that you haven't considered. For example, Fred Ikle proposed a series of terrible ideas for solving piracy in the Washington Post . The silliest is a "military blockade" of Somalia, which overlooks the fact that Somalia is blessed with a very, very long coast line, that small pirate boats can easily evade even a tight blockade of warships, and that pirates are pretty much indistinguishable from fishermen. But hey, Newt Gingrich thinks it's a great idea... Lindsay Beyerstein is worried that we're enjoying this just a trifle too much, in reference to this detailed Washington Post article...