The Claremont Institute reviews a book on Homer, remarking that Alcibiades once slapped a grammar school teacher for not having a copy on hand for his students. He then compares two famous translations into English, Robert Fagles' and Alexander Pope's:

Prince Achilles, ranging his ranks of Myrmidons,
arrayed them along the shelters, all in armor.
Hungry as wolves that rend and bolt raw flesh,
hearts filled with battle-frenzy that never dies—
off of the cliffs, ripping apart some big antlered stag
they gorge on the kill till all their jaws drip red with blood,
then down in a pack they lope to a pooling, dark spring,
their lean sharp tongues lapping the water's surface,
belching bloody meat, but the fury, never shaken,
builds inside their chests though their glutted bellies burst—
so wild the Myrmidon captains, Myrmidon field commanders
swarming round Achilles' dauntless friend-in-arms

Achilles speeds from tent to tent, and warms
His hardy Myrmidons to blood and arms.
All breathing death, around their chief they stand,
A grim, terrific, formidable band:
Grim as voracious wolves that seek the springs
When scalding thirst their burning bowels wrings
(When some tall stag, fresh-slaughtered in the wood,
Has drenched their wide, insatiate throats with blood)
To the black fount they rush, a hideous throng,
With paunch distended, and with lolling tongue,
Fire fills their eye, their black jaws belch the gore,
And gorged with slaughter, still they thirst for more.
Like furious rushed the Myrmidonian crew,
Such their dread strength, and such their deathful view.
My favorite is the Fitzgerald.
Akhilleus put the Myrmidons in arms,
the whole detachment near the hut. Like wolves,
carnivorous and fierce and tireless,
who rend a great stag on the mountainside
and feed on him, their jaws reddened with blood,
loping in a pack to drink springwater,
lapping the dark rim up with slender tongues,
their chops a-drip with fresh blood, their hearts
unshaken ever, and their bellies glutted:
Such were the Myrmidons and their officers,
running to form up round Akhilleus' brave

I've added the Whited Sepulchre to the blog roll, at its author's request; and while I was doing that, fixed several old and bad links.

While I'm at it, if any of you want to make suggestions for updates/additions, let me know.

Cost of Gov't Day

Cost of Government Day:

The Whited Sepulchre celebrates "Cost of Government Day," the day when you've finally paid off what you owe the several governments who tax you. He details his celebrations, in honor of the example set by the gov't.

* I went to Starbucks and took up a collection for orphans in Burma, to be paid when the orphans retire at age 65. If it appears that the orphans will live past 65 and the funds are running low, I can always push back the retirement age.

* I took part of the orphan money and bought a double espresso. I paid $25 for it, which some of you might think is too much. That's none of your business. Starbucks was a major contributor to my Burmese orphan fundraiser, and this is how I give back to the community. Plus, I have to protect American jobs by paying too much. To do less would be unpatriotic.

* Since I work in the transportation industry, I have a vested interest in keeping the cost of fuel as low as possible. I purchased several farms worth of wheat, and converted the wheat to ethanol. Not only is this bad for the environment (which gives me an opportunity to set up more programs to protect the environment), but when I convert food to fuel it also helps create more orphans in places like Burma ! More orphans = more fundraisers !


*Shortly before lunchtime on COGD, I used Eminent Domain legislation to tear down a Burmese orphanage and put a Wal-Mart in its place. We'll see a huge increase in tax revenue from this move. This will allow us to spend more than ever.
Our correspondent has been watching too much C-SPAN. He needs to get out and do like the rest of us: try to forget the government exists as much as possible. It's the only way to be happy. :)



This article makes some very good points against what has become a sort-of 'conventional wisdom' that the US is in decline, at least relative to other powers. As the author points out, there is much to doubt in some of the trend analysis. For example, his point about the reserves China holds is correct: China's economic expansion is deeply tied to exports to the US. China, because of where its demographics are right now, needs to expand or else it will collapse. If it were to undercut America's economy, it would be cutting its own throat. We, being vastly richer, might survive, but there is no reason to believe that they would.

A further point to be made is that the demographics don't favor many of these trends continuing. The EU's demographics are much discussed, and need to be remembered here also. As the aging EU population is replaced by immigrants, internal stresses will only increase. How to formulate a common foreign policy between several nations when each is struggling with such internal difficulties? One can easily imagine a case in the not-too-distant future in which some of these nations where the demographic trends are strongest begin to agitate against the nations where they are weakest.

China also has a major demographic disruption on the horizon, due to the one-child policy. There will be a massive depopulation, and aging of the populace there also. It's already happened -- we cannot now have more children for the years they passed under one-child -- and we are only waiting for the problem to ripen. China's interest is in stability and continued growth, to help it pull past the demographic collapse.

Japan? The demographic collapse is even worse. Russia? Same.

Of them all, India is the only one that is likely to push forward without a massive adjustment. India and the United States are both maintaining natural growth, without suffering economic collapse. China may recover: Russia and Japan will not, and the EU's future is hard to predict at this time.

If I were betting on the future, I'd bet that the US will continue to lead the world. An Indian-American or Chinese-American alliance will develop, as we have many common interests with both.

In fact, it's possible we may have an alliance with both. They border each other, and will rub against each other as they grow. They may prove to need us more than ever as a balancing actor between the two.

Watch This

Interests in Iran:

This report is interesting -- let us pay attention to how it develops.

Cut it Out

Cut it Out:

I've made this same mistake myself in conversation, and I'm rather younger than either Senators Nunn or McCain. Czechoslovakia was such a wonderful name, it sticks in the brain. If we're going to talk about what people have forgotten, both these men have forgotten more about the region and its history than certain persons have ever had occasion to learn.

Gates Speaks


Secretary Gates reiterates the point that LTG Chiarelli was making.

"America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long -- relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more importantly, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world," Gates said at a dinner organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, according to prepared remarks of his speech.

Over the next 20 years, Gates predicted, "the most persistent and potentially dangerous threats will come less from emerging ambitious states, than from failing ones that cannot meet the basic needs -- much less the aspirations -- of their people."
The American Enterprise Institute has also written on this, and challenged the Country Teams to take the lead in dealing with counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilization efforts worldwide. They are not the only ones to feel that the Country Team -- an interagency group that reports to the ambassador, but involves both military and civilian advsiors -- should be the focus of leadership in any COIN or Foreign Internal Defense (FID) efforts. It's an existing solution, but it needs a change in focus from our goverment.

The problem hasn't just been underfunding, however. This is a market-driven solution, so to speak: the reason the military has been taking over intelligence and even diplomacy is that it has done a better job. The reason it has done a better job -- aside from the military's culture of honor, which has salutory effects on human behavior -- is that the military is the only part of the government that doesn't regard war as a failure to be avoided, but rather as a tool to be used.

The civilian agencies don't just need more money. They need a change in mindset. They need -- State especially -- to reconsider diplomacy's relationship to war.

The view of diplomacy that has come to dominate the West is one of quasi-law: the point of negotiations is to create regulations and bodies to enforce those regulations. That mindset has an honorable history, and attempts to mitigate the worst tragedies in human history; but it also creates new problems.

For one thing, it should be obvious at this point that the international "enforcement" mechanisms are broken -- or, rather, that they were always illusions. The legalist model tries to treat relations between states as we treat relations between people within a state, but that concept cannot work. There is no similar way to punish a state, as our systems of law punish individuals.

If a man defies the law, we can fine him, or put him in prison: we don't necessarily have to kill him. If a nation defies its treaty obligations, however, fines don't work: the various 'sanctions'-style regimes end up being shrugged off by governments, the costs pushed down onto the people. The experience in dealing with North Korea should show that you can push sanctions to the point of absolute, grinding poverty, and still not force the rogue state to change.

Nor can we put nations in prison. We can only make them into prisons.

That, too, punishes not the nation but the poor people of that nation. Within those prisons, the leadership remains free to do what it will.

The traditional "enforcement mechanism" in international relations was war. This is not because our ancestors were barbarians, but because it is the only system that works. Engagement and diplomacy are good things, but they must always be braided together with the threat of war if agreements are not kept. Similarly, failing states and rogue states can be addressed better using civilian means much of the time -- so long as the military means are kept plainly in sight, to ensure that a proper understanding exists between us and the people with whom we negotiate.

Modern civilian agencies do need to become more central, and more important. They do need more funding.

They also need to rethink their relationship with their brothers in uniform. They should see each others as partners in the greater cause of national security, and the interests of human liberty. We should not punish the people of rogue states, but seek to help them. If that means we punish their governments, so be it: but methods that punish only the people are unfit for a nation such as ours. We should always be on the side of human liberty and happiness: always on the side of the people, even when we are opposed to their government.

USAID, USDA, State -- they can be a very positive part of making that a reality. They have to recognize, though, what works and what never works: and rethink their relationship to war.

It is not that war is desirable: it is not. But it is also not the thing to be avoided. Diplomacy does not exist to prevent war. It exists to expand the space for human freedom, and to protect the interests of our civilization. Diplomacy and war are not opposed, but are the twin tools available to us. We -- our civilian and our military officers -- must be ready to use whichever one is necessary at the given moment.
To Galway Girls:

Any good man has given his heart to one or two of you. "And I ask you, friend: what's a fellow to do? 'Cause her hair was black, and her eyes were blue."

A fair question, as any man will confess.

Friends & Enemies

Friends Like These:

This is the number one story on Memeorandum today.

I would like to say -- it would suit my temperment -- that this story was a waste of air and that we should be reading Obama's new plan for Iraq instead. However, he has demonstrated such a disloyalty to his own statements that I see no reason to bother with anything he says or writes at this point. I think we can say with some certainty that anything he says is designed for political advantage in the moment, and will not be considered binding in any way in the future.

So, since the discussion I'd prefer to have is really off the table -- it's bootless to argue about where his plan is wise (though I like the focus on nonmilitary assistance that he's been mentioning lately; a more complete reading on the subject, from people who can be relied upon to mean what they say, is LTG Chiarelli and MAJ Smith's paper from the Combined Arms Center), or where it is foolish. His word, he has demonstrated, is irrelevant.

Thus, the popular opinion -- that the New Yorker story is actually more important than Obama's stated plan on Iraq -- is actually, sadly, tragically correct. "With friends like these," folks; though I suppose, given Obama's record on loyalty to his friends, that one reaps as one sows.

Still, I don't really want to talk about the New Yorker. Maybe we could talk about Chiarelli instead -- it's the one point from Obama's piece that I think is strongly correct, and a worthy idea that deserves wider consideration and awareness. On the chance that Obama might not reverse himself, then, let's read the Chiarelli piece and talk about it.