Old Ollie gives Congress both barrels today. They've got it coming, on several more counts than he had room for in his column.
I'd love to write more about that today, but last night was one of those nights. Every family has them sometimes -- a child gets sick, and you find yourself awake at three or four in the morning tending to them, and then try to get back to sleep for what remains of the night with the little monster tucked into the big bed between you, punching you in the head every little while.
For that reason, I think I'll leave off here. Gonna hit the rack early tonight.
Old Ollie gives Congress both barrels today. They've got it coming, on several more counts than he had room for in his column.
Though I think the last post points to a real concern, it should be noted that free speech is still very strong in America. The GeekWithA.45 found a good example, which I just love:
Rather than simply welcoming drivers to the Garden State, a new billboard greeting people entering New Jersey over the Delaware Memorial Bridge slams the state's business climate.You can disagree with the message, but I love that we live in a country where a citizen can rent a billboard to carry a message like that, and there's nothing the government can do but grit its teeth. That's freedom.
"Welcome to New Jersey. A horrible place to do business," reads the billboard message.
The glaring, red capital letters represent the revenge - misguided, according to officials - of a developer upset with the state's environmental regulators.
InstaPundit cites a report that bloggers may have been strongly influential in the "no" votes in Europe this week:
"Proponents of 'No' have said the mainstream media have been shamelessly in favour of the 'Yes'. They said the internet was the main area where the democratic debate can take place," he added.Compare and contrast with this report from Malaysia:
Steven Gan, editor-in-chief of Malaysiakini.com newspaper of Malaysia, recalled a government raid on his Internet newspaper. "The police raided our office and 'arrested' 19 computers from the office. We held demonstrations against government repression of freedom and the police eventually returned all the computers except two."There's a difference between censorship and self-censorship: in Malaysia, the government is using intimidation whereas in Europe, the media is simply in cahoots with the governing class. In both cases, however, the internet is providing the only real place for a democratic movement to find news and to organize.
Malaysiakini.com is the only democratic space left in Malaysia, he said, as the government censors all newspapers except for the Internet, which remains a free space because the government needs to promote its Multimedia Super Corridor, a Silicon Valley-type project.
That is, of course, why this report is so alarming. A major priority for all bloggers, regardless of politics, should be overturning McCain-Feingold and preventing any similar abuses in the future.
RAND | News Release | Americans Will Back Military Action Overseas If They Believe The United States Has "Important Stakes" in a Battle
Via the Dawn Patrol, a survey from the RAND Corporation on civilian support for the war. If the survey is accurate, American civilian thought about warfighting is generally on a higher level than I had realized.
Americans support the global war on terror because they believe the United States has “important stakes” in the conflict, and will support other military actions overseas as well if they believe important stakes are involved[.]If true, that undermines an argument that we've begun to hear from many places: that the US is tapped out by Iraq.
“The main implication for the Army,” concludes the report, “is that Americans have proved themselves far more willing to use ground troops — to put boots on the ground — and to accept casualties in operations conducted under the global war on terror than in any of the military operations” during the 1990s.
Americans' opinions went on a war footing following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, often matching levels of support for military action seen during World War II, according to the study that synthesizes findings from about 100 public opinion surveys.
“The perceived importance of the stakes was the key belief predicting support for the operation,” said RAND analyst Eric Larson, the report's lead author.
There are two parts to this argument: that the US has no more physical resources on which to draw, and that American public support is drained. Apparently, the latter is not true. As to the former, it is only partly true. An additional conflict of the type in Iraq and Afghanistan could only be pursued if it were contiguous with current operations and could draw on existing logistics -- if we decided to expand our nation building to include Syria, say. But I don't think we could even consider a third nation building exercise, such as in North Korea.
On the other hand, a more traditional military approach does not require occupation and rebuilding. A conflict with North Korea, for example, could be limited to destroying their military and infrastructure, leaving occupation to the Chinese or South Koreans, depending on who had the will to do it. One or both would have to find the will, since they couldn't afford to have a vortex on their northern border. For a conflict of this type, American public support and American military might are sufficient.
This is important even if -- especially if -- our goal is to avoid a military conflict. So long as potential enemies understand that we have both the power and the will to smite them, they will be less likely to insist on a conflict. Enemies push for wars they think they can win.
But there is more in the study to cite. Again, if it is true it reflects not a passing moment of sentiment, but a deeply-rooted good sense about military adventures:
The RAND analysis also shows that Americans weren't big fans of the peace missions conducted during the 1990s, and they wanted these missions completed with as little cost as possible.This reflects something important about the American people. This demonstrates that we are not engaged in "imperialist" ventures: Americans don't support military action regardless of context. Americans don't want to be drawn into anyone else's fights.
“None of the peace operations of the 1990s (Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo) were judged particularly important by most members of the public, and avoidance of casualties turned out to be a more important consideration than avoidance of defeat…,” according to the RAND study.
Only three or four of 10 Americans thought the stakes for the United States were important in Kosovo, Bosnia and Haiti, the RAND report says.
Again, this seems to me to be a measure of good sense. It counters an insight that has been picked up by the Marines who operate the Small Wars Center for Excellence, and incorporated into the draft of the new Small Wars Manual [UPDATE: the site for the draft seems to be down; see below]:
The greatest and most significant danger we have in entering a small war is the potential for an asymmetry of wills. We must decide before embarking upon any small war whether we can withstand the pressures of our own impatience.This suggests that it is not "American impatience" that is the danger, but a reasoned consideration by the public of the stakes. Maintaining the support for the Iraqi rebuilding requires making sure that the American public continues to view the stakes for America as high.
This would seem to be a natural break on adventurism. If the political class can learn the lesson here, it will not be so ready to embark upon deployments without first testing whether the American public considers them to be worthwhile. Curiously, this is what the Marines are advocating -- the "we" in "we must decide before embarking" is not the military, but the political class. The military does not decide what wars to fight. The Marines are requesting of the politicians that they not send Marines to fight on missions the public will not support. The Marines merely misunderstood why the public might not support a mission.
This is not to say that there were not good things to be accomplished in Mogadishu, say; it is only to say that the harm caused by an early retreat was greater than the good we hoped to accomplish. We have often heard how much al Qaeda, and others, were influenced by the quick American retreat from Somalia. We must avoid such things in the future.
It seems to me that the best way to test this proposition up front would be for a return to the Congressional duty of declaring war. Interestingly, in the case of Iraq we almost had one -- the Congressional resolution approving the use of force, which drew support in Congress that was commensurate with its support among the populace. Even some Senators with strong anti-war views voted in favor, because of the demands of their constituents.
One lesson that will have to be learned, and has not yet been learned, is whether or not support for the Iraqi rebuilding can be maintained over time. The resolution of this question should have strong implications for American warfighting.
Interestingly, those implications play out according to the policy preferences suggested by the last election. As will be recalled, Kerry's chief military advisor, "Tony" McPeak, advocated what is called a "network centric" war: bombing Iraq, destroying its infrastructure and its military, reducing it to rubble, and then departing. The Bush administration proposed, and continues to propose, what is called a "fourth generation" model. The engagement with the Iraqis, the attempt to engage in counterinsurgency fighting and to change the society through development is characteristic of this model.
Both models have the potential for long term success in the GWOT. Contrary to a frequently stated line of thought, it is not the presence of unstable regions that breeds terrorists of the sort who are dangerous to Western society. It is the possession of material prosperity, in particular education, that allows groups like al Qaeda to have assets who can move freely in Western society. They must be able to speak English, understand the customs, hold passports, and travel freely. What turns these men into terrorists is the possession of material prosperity, combined with a lack of opportunity to influence the politics of their homes through nonviolent means.
The fourth generation model attempts to raise their societies the rest of the way, to democracy as well as relative prosperity. The network centric model attempts to return them to pure poverty, so that they are too poor to produce educated and mobile men capable of being a real threat to the internal structure of the West. From a purely utilitarian perspective, either method has the potential to be successful; and the second is a great deal easier and cheaper than the first.
The preference for the first method, then, must come from something other than utilitarian thinking. It must come, I think, from a moral preference. Moral preferences are very expensive in war. In a sustained conflict, they are normally abandoned: war has a way of reducing everything to utilitarian calculations.
Anti-war forces in America should be advised of this fact. Most of them are decent people, who simply detest violence, and who -- like the Quakers -- would rather suffer than strike.
They need to understand the sense of the American people, which is otherwise. If the antiwar movement succeeds in convincing Americans that Iraq's rebuilding is too expensive, it is not the case that Americans will not support future wars. They will support any future war in which they feel the stakes are high. Nor will the presence of an antiwar president in office, should one be elected, stop war: just as the Senate was forced to approve the resolution at a far higher rate than Senators' personal sentiments would allow, so the President too must be driven by the will of the people when it is expressed with clarity and unity.
What the people will not support, should Iraq's rebuilding fail, is future rebuilding efforts. The violence that the antiwar movement so detests can only become more naked and unmitigated as a result of their efforts. I do not think many of them truly supported, or understood, what McPeak was advocating. I suspect, if they understood, many would choose Bush's model as the lesser evil.
Lesser evils are usually the best you can manage in war. We are fortunate beyond words to be able to attempt to use ours to achieve some positive good. We can, for now, afford to act according to moral principles. Those who would wish us to do so would be well-advised not to undermine the public support that allows it. Indeed, a wise antiwar movement would focus its full attention on supporting those "good news" efforts, so that Americans would come to view them as an important and necessary part of the wars that they will, occasionally, support.
UPDATE: The Small Wars Center website appears to be down. Until the link to the draft copy is working again, here and here are two earlier Grim's Hall posts about it. It's not quite as good as having the whole source, but it's the best I can do while the main site is down.
Ever wonder where the phrase "Women and Children first!" came from? The story is a remarkable one, recounted in today's Scotsman:
THE AGE of chivalry is often defined by the quintessentially English Sir Walter Raleigh laying his cape before his Queen lest she should tread in a puddle. But Raleigh's actions pale into insignificance beside those of Lt-Col Alexander Seton, an imposing Scottish army officer who, in 20 terrifying minutes, demonstrated a level of selflessness, bravery, leadership and chivalry rarely witnessed before or since.Thus begins the story of "The Birkenhead Drill," which "sheds more glory upon [the 74th Highlanders] than a hundred well-fought battles."
Is it worth doing, if you have to give credit to a Texan?
Mr Carter is an unlikely bridge builder. As a child in San Antonio he trapped mink and raccoon, selling their pelts for pocket money. In the army he dropped behind enemy lines in the first Gulf war. He views himself as a 'pioneer' on a frontier with 'so many parallels with the old West.' Cattle losses to jaguars and rustlers, in this case Xavante Indians, are line items in the budget of his ranch. He indulges in a bit of Texas swagger, as if George Bush had not made it the world's least fashionable sub-culture.He's come up with an incentive-based plan to protect Amazon rainforest which, being market-based, might actually work. He's certainly devoted. But can they stand him long enough to work with him?
Well, fashion is fickle. It's only been two years ago that cowboy hats were on the Milan runway.
A 64-year-old Central Florida woman killed an intruder in her home over the weekend with a single shot from her .38-caliber revolver, according to police.Now that's a lawman talking. Well done, ma'am.
The woman shot the unidentified man in the chest from about 10 feet, sheriff’s authorities said. The man ran out the back door and collapsed, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported. He was declared dead shortly after he was found in the yard of the home in an unincorporated beachside neighborhood north of U.S. 192.
Agent Lou Heyn of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said the woman heard a window break and hid behind her bed, according to Florida Today.
“That woke her up,” Heyn said. “She can’t I.D. him. Never seen him before.’’
Heyn said the case is considered self-defense.
“The bottom line is that when somebody enters your home like that, it’s self defense,” Heyn said. “Breaking into the house obviously shows some intent."
BlackFive has an excellent update on Ops Mongoose and New Market. It contains this, from an unnamed Senior Marine Officer:
No shock to any of you, 1st Force had their own target sets and with its sniper and Direct Action capability has had great success in their missions -- nothing here out of the ordinary -- it's how Marines do business.That's Force Recon he means. You can probably read "sniper and Direct Action capability" for yourselves.
On his third day of basic training at Fort Jackson, Pvt. William Banks got his gun -- an M16A2 rifle.Now, is that a "gun," or is it a rifle?
Less than an hour later, the 23-year-old soldier from Colorado Springs, Colo., already had taken the gun apart, cleaned it and put it back together. Then, Banks and other soldiers in Company D, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment slung the weapons over their shoulders and marched off to chow.
Giving recruits a gun so early in boot camp and expecting them to carry it almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week marks a radical change in how the Army trains its soldiers.
This is a great idea. I wonder who came up with it?
A brief word on Plato's political thinking:
Plato accepted the world of the phenomena as a mere shadow of the real world of the ideas. When we observe a horse, we recognize what it is because our soul remembers the idea of the horse from the time before our birth. In Plato's political philosophy, only wise men who understand the dual nature of reality are fit to rule the country.I thought of this today while reading Dalrymple's article on Ceausescu art:
There were two still lifes — both of the President’s desk. Books by Ceausescu, the so-called ‘Danube of Thought’, are prominently displayed on his desk, the implication being that the President had only to return to his own writings to obtain further inspiration. One of the still lifes was entitled ‘One Country — One Masterpiece’, as if an entire nation were but raw material to be fashioned into a work of art by its supreme genius. To emphasise this point, an architect’s drawing was draped over the desk.One of the standing criticisms of the Right in America has been that it is anti-intellectual. I've often argued that this is incorrect -- that the intellectualism that the Right practices and respects is simply not directed at traditional academics, but instead at military and religious achievements.
The Department of Defense contains any number of serious "academic workers," from DARPA to the National War College, to the various schools attended by officers both commissioned and non- throughout their careers. Similarly, there is a whole industry devoted to Biblical scholarship, from the study of Aramaic through examinations of the Bible through the methodology of history or archaeology. This seems to occupy a lot of intellectual energy, but it is largely contained outside of the academy for one of several reasons that are obvious after a moment's reflection.
There is, however, a certain truth contained in the criticism. I think that the Right is more likely to be suspicious of claims to intellectual achievement that aren't backed up by anything other than academic achievement. An intellectual whose ideas have proven out in the real world -- a Theodore Roosevelt, who writes vigorously, and applies those ideas successfully -- is greatly admired. But an academic who writes works that are great only by the acclamation of his fellow intellectuals is regarded as suspect. An academic whose philosophy leads to bad results in the real world -- a Ceausescu or a Kim -- is regarded with baleful eyes.
He is the great teacher who teaches them what the true life is.... The General is the mental pillar and the eternal sun to the Korean people. As they are in harmonious whole with him, they are enjoying a true life based on pure conscience and obligation. They are upholding him as their great father and teacher, united around him in ideology, morality and obligation.Why this need to portray these Communists, masters of their society, as great intellectual lights? Why was Mao so lauded as a thinker, when it appears that he gave little consideration to the consequences of his words? "Let a hundred flowers bloom," he said, and was horrified to see that people believed he had meant it; let us have "a Great Leap Forward" by boosting steel production, even if millions starve. When he wrote of what he knew -- guerrilla warfare -- he was a solid mind. But why must he have also written 'the little Red book,' that so many carried around as a talisman of thought?
Perhaps the most famous intellectual light of the Communist period was Lenin, who is still regarded by some as a plain genius who simply couldn't make his beautiful ideas work in the real world. There are two serious objections to the notion that he was a genius.
First, he was a dishonest debater:
Note that the context in which Lenin wrote is often crucial to understanding the point of much of his work... It is possible to attribute just about any political position to Lenin by quoting him out of context. This is not to say that any one interpretation is as good as any other. Only that in reading Lenin it is always important to know something about who he was debating and why.Far from being an intellectual heavyweight, Lenin took the easiest road to victory in any challenge. His principles were not firm things that he could stand upon against all comers, but things he asserted or abandoned based on the needs of the moment. He was not interested in truth, but in winning arguments. He would adopt or abandon any position as it was momentarily useful. Once he came to power, he won simply by exiling or killing intellectuals who disagreed with him, and thereby intimidating the rest -- intellectuals, indeed, suffered greatly from Lenin's attention. This is not the mark of a great mind.
Second, he was noted for "borrowing" from other writers. There were a great number of intellectuals involved in Communist thought from the 1840s until Lenin's time. Much of Lenin's writings were culled from the work of these others, so that little heavy lifting was necessary -- just a lot of reading, followed by the simple exercise of updating the examples. Where the original author cited some outrage of 1852, you find a similiar outrage of 1911, substitute it, and it's a new work. If there are two such authors -- Hilferding and Bukharin are usually cited as the source of Lenin's thinking on imperialism -- you find the middle ground between them, and assert that.
Now, there's nothing wrong with doing that if you've got eternal principles that actually work. Indeed, it's a good way to educate people generally: make them familiar with older writings that express these principles, and then have them perform the exercise of finding modern-day examples of where the principle could be applied. But this is the point: any schoolchild can do it. In and of itself, it isn't that impressive. What impresses is what you do with what you've learned.
We have seen what they have done. It is, in its way, impressive. It should not convince anyone that they were geniuses who understood the truth of the world.
Yet, still today there are people who set out to portray them and their modern analogues as Philosopher Kings. These things are meant to justify their rule over "common" men: their education, their wisdom, their ability to think great thoughts. This is meant to set them apart from us, to convince us that we ought to submit to their reason. They are the experts.
The West is deeply indebted to Plato for preserving for us, in his early writings, the example of Socrates. His political thoughts, however, have been a disaster. Only those who understand the nature of reality should rule? Well, if that's what we're after, show me the man who can make his ideals work in the world. I'll follow his example, even if the ideals are mystical and their internal logic unclear.
Better that, than to follow a bright and beautiful notion that leads to ruin and cruelty. It may be that the truth isn't readily understandable. I've always suspected that might just be the case. Logic may be good at getting you from where you are to where you want to be, but it probably isn't any good for figuring out where you ought to want to be.
For that, you need something better. You need faith, in ideals that sound good and feel good but may not make a lot of sense when you try to think them through. You need to look around for the men that you naturally admire, and follow them. And you need to look at yourself honestly, and be straight about where you're not measuring up.
Before the First World War, it was called Decoration Day -- a day for going to the cemetery and "strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion." Some decorated the resting places of fallen family members; others adopted for a day the graves of those who died too young to leave any descendants.We still do.
I wish we still did that.
Virginia is unique in the South in that it celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on 30 May (most places do it on 26 April), with the provision that celebrations "give place" to Memorial Day proper. It was therefore the case that I was able to see the two celebrations back to back, as they are held in the small town of Warrenton, which changed hands sixty-seven times during the Civil War.
This morning's celebrations were far larger, and began at 9:30 AM with a parade down main street. It involved the local school bands, JROTC rifle demonstration teams, majorettes, and Marines in their Dress Blues. The Memorial Day parade is smaller than other parades -- it occupied only half of the small main street, as compared to the Halloween parade, which occupies all of it. Nevertheless, quite a few families came out to have a walk in the May sun and see the parade.
It was an old fashioned parade, in that spectators did not simply watch, but followed along (the Halloween parade is also of this sort). The destination was the cemetery, which includes many graves from the Civil War, and indeed from the Colonial period forward. The speechmaking was rather short, with the three volleys of the 21 gun salute following within twenty minutes of the start of the parade. Perhaps two hundred people came out to attend, not counting the bands in the parade or the Marines in the color guard.
Confederate Memorial Day celebrations were held the day previous. These were smaller, with the ceremony having perhaps a hundred people in total.
The ceremonies were also rather longer, with speech following on speech, including a long history lesson about one of the Civil War officers native to the town. There were two prayers -- an invocation and a benediction, the first of which I wish I had a copy to quote to you. It was an unusually fine example of the art. Though it was the Civil War they had come to remember, the prayers were of national unity and the brotherhood of Americans. The poem read afterward likewise could have applied to the soldiers of either army. There were also several hymns, most notably "Amazing Grace."
The UDC came out with baskets of flowers, which were distributed among the crowd to decorate the graves. In particular, they wished to decorate the mass grave of Civil War soldiers who had died in the hospitals following First and Second Manassas, and whose markers had been used for firewood by the Union Army during the last, bitter winter of the war. But they have raised a fine granite marker over the mass grave now, and it was covered with flags and flowers.
Then there was the 21 gun salute. There was no official color guard, but instead a group of civilian re-enactors. Five of the seven "guns" were muskets, but the last two were Civil War artillery pieces. The third time they set them off, a squirrel in the tree behind me -- having had as much as his little heart could stand of the shock and the smoke -- lept straight out of the tree and hit the ground running, twenty feet below.
Poor creature, he didn't understand. The cannons and longarms had not come to shed blood, but to honor it.
I put my hat back on my head, and went home to start the cooking fire. Happy Memorial Day.
Here are a couple of interesting articles from PACOM. The first is an interview with AEI's chair in political economy, Nicholas Eberstadt. It ran in the South Korean press.
'[A nuclear North Korea] would have a terrible economic impact on the entire region, a very big business impact,' he said. 'A downturn in this important region of the world economy translates very quickly into high urban unemployment rates in China. And if China is not afraid of North Korean nuclear weapons, I can promise you the Chinese government will be afraid of high rates of urban, male unemployment.'There's quite a bit of interesting thinking in the interview.
Meanwhile, over at The Australian, Greg Sheridan tries to explain three underplayed stories in Japan, and what they mean for the future of the Australian - Japanese alliance. His thought: they will become closer to each other, but also to the United States.
The Geek with a .45 refers to gun control advocates as "the forces of organized gun bigotry." Here are a few examples this week, taken from The Virginia Citizens' Defense League online alert list, VA-ALERT. It's an interesting email list if you're interested in that sort of thing -- particularly for Virginia citizens, but also for people interested in the issue nationwide.
In Illinois, one of the last states that essentially forbids the practice of Second Amendment rights, there is a debate about whether yet another gun control law may be wanted. The question is not whether purchasers of guns should have their names put on a list kept by the state -- everyone seems to think that they should. The question is whether the list should be kept for 90 days, to give the state time to do whatever investigations it may feel necessary, or forever.
"We are in an arena of compromise," says one of the 90-day advocates, state Senator Peter Roskam. Here is what he's compromising with:
- Fellow Senator Don Harmon asked him to explain why he was supporting "a gang-banger initiative."
- The Chicago Tribune stated that Roskam was "a tool of the NRA in its fight to weaken gun laws."
- Senator Kwame Raoul asked why, since sex offenders' names are kept on record, gun purchasers' names should not be?
Ah, yes. Compromise. My side wants people to be free to exercise their Constitutional rights without being put on a list of undesirables; your side thinks gun purchasers are moral equals of rapists and child molesters, and that the NRA is secretly in league with gang-bangers in a fight to undermine protections for law-abiding citizens.
The rhetoric is similar in the District of Columbia. There, as in Illinois, the notion isn't that anyone might be allowed to carry a firearm. However, it is suggested that people might be allowed to keep one in their home, to defend themselves at least in their own bedrooms.
That suggestion drew this rather thoughtful critique:
- "They're trying to see to it that more children get killed," said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.
Yes, precisely. That's why married couples with children are more likely to vote for conservatives than any other group of people. We want to see more children get killed.
Meanwhile, you probably saw the story on Alphecca that San Diego feels that off-duty police officers should not carry firearms, as it would make their festival unsafe.
Well, maybe it would. A badge doesn't except you from the rules of gun safety, because those are based on the law of physics.
I suppose the overall moral is, "Don't trust the government." I always feel odd saying that, being a completely committed defender of the Republic and its Constitution. Nevertheless, it's true -- the government, its politicians and its bureaucrats can't be trusted to protect your interests. You have to be ready to stand up, and speak up, to them.
Even if they're SWAT team officers.
A citizen's duty is real. We aren't going to keep this country on the right path if we don't consecrate ourselves to doing it.