small arms

Small Arms: Lessons in Supply & Demand

The bottom fell out of the market for Kalashnikov rifles in Gaza this week, as smugglers from Egypt suddenly found that no one was really trying to keep their arms out of the place any more:

Palestinian gunrunners smuggled hundreds of assault rifles and pistols across the Egyptian frontier into Gaza, dealers and border officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The influx confirmed Israeli fears about giving up border control and could further destabilize Gaza.
Black market prices for weapons dropped sharply, with AK-47 assault rifles nearly cut in half to $1,300 and even steeper reductions for handguns.

News of the smuggling came as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried to impose order following the Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza this week. Militant groups scoffed at a new Palestinian Authority demand that they disband after parliamentary elections in January, saying they would not surrender weapons.
Another report has the price even lower:
An arms dealer said the price of an AK-47 assault rifle has dropped from around £1,000 (€1,484) to around £650 (€965). Bullets for the weapon are now being sold for as little as three shekels (around 50p) when previously they cost up to 18 shekels.
That's the price for black-market militant groups. One wonders what the Palestinian Authority is paying for its arms. Less, because it can take advantage of wholesale prices and commercial shipping? Or more, because it involves kickbacks to every corrupt official along the way?

Indonesia, meanwhile, has decided to address the problem of small arms being too expensive in another way -- build its own:
Indonesian arms industry PT Pindad has started to produce rifles which are lighter and cheaper than US-made M-16 or Russia's AK-47 and potentially will become the standard rifle of any Indonesian soldier, an executive said Thursday.

"The SS-2 rifle will be tested by a platoon of soldiers in the Army, the Air Force and the Navy," Sutarto, an expert staff for Pindad's director of military production, was quoted as saying by the Antara news agency.

He said the 5.5-mm caliber SS-2, produced with significant improvement from the earlier series of SS-1, is designed to become the standard rifle of Indonesian soldiers.

He claimed that the local rifle is much cheaper than any other rifles of the same category.

Pindad spokesman Timbul Sitompul said separately an SS-2 is priced at some 500 US dollars, far below the price of an M-16 which is sold at 1,000 dollars in the market.
Expense shouldn't be the primary consideration in picking a battle rifle. The question that you should be asking is, "But will it work?" Still, there's no reason it shouldn't work. Rifles aren't that hard to build -- the technology has been mature for a long time.


The master of this great hall has graciously invited me to post my thoughts here. By way of introduction my name is Joel T. Leggett and I am an active duty captain in the Marine Corps. I began my career in the Corps as an enlisted cannoneer in the artillery. Currently, I am serving as a judge advocate at MCB Camp Pendleton. Politically I can best be described as an Andrew Jackson Democrat and/or a Ronald Reagan Republican. I am proudly of Scotch-Irish descent. Although I was born in Cobb County GA I consider Petal MS home.

Since this is a hall dedicated to the heroic life I will include my favorite excerpt from Thomas Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
``To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods,


New Co-Blogger:

I'm delighted to announce that Captain Leggett has accepted my invitation to join us as a blogger here at Grim's Hall. We will benefit greatly from "the Sheik Marine's" experience and analysis. The good Captain has been a reader and commenter for some time, so I expect most of you are familiar with him. Others of you may know him as a blogger at Southern Appeal, a "blawg" for lawyers of Southern extraction.

Welcome aboard.


A Marine Writes:

Live in Iraq is recommended to me by our own JHD. I've added it to the sidebar. It's apparently by a young officer. Give it a look.



Longtime readers know how I feel about the use of words like "liar!" In general, they have no place whatsoever in common discussion. They are deadly insults, which should not be used against people you don't actually intend to kill, or by whom you are not prepared to be killed.

You will have to imagine the strain that particular ethic is causing me, now that I find myself faced with this assertion:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.
I must assume that the Honorable Gentleman was entirely misquoted. At least, I expect him to have the decency to claim that he was in tomorrow's paper.


Non Enim Propter Gloriam

President Jalal Talibani has a message for you. It's something Americans should hear.

“In the name of the Iraqi people, I say to you, Mr. President, and to the glorious American people, thank you, thank you.

“Thank you because you have liberated us from the worst kind of dictatorship. Our people suffered too much from this worst kind of dictatorship. The signal is mass graves with hundred thousand of Iraqi innocent children and women, young and old men. Thank you.”
"To the glorious American people." Now there's a phrase we might hear more often. But we ought to answer in the words of Robert the Bruce:
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Hat tip: Baldilocks.

Future Marines

On the Future of the Marine Corps:

The Adventures of Chester (hat tip Mudville's Dawn Patrol) has a summary of AEI's blockbuster seminar on the Future of the Marine Corps. Some extraordinary talent came out to discuss the question -- a question that never dies, I might add, because the larger services are always after the Marines' budget. We know that the Marine Corps has a future (I believe there are still about four hundred and fifty years on the lease), but the nature of that future is always up for debate.

Chester ably summarizes the debate, so I will refer you to his summary rather than reproduce it. The things that interest me are the discussion about "seabasing," versus a more Army-like approach with heavier equipment and more firepower in exchange for losing the ability to be sea-based; and the role of the USMC in special operations.

It's a big issue that has to be solved soon because, as Max Boot says, some major capital outlays need to be made soon one way or the other:

I remember, a few years ago, visiting Camp Lejeune and seeing a big demonstration for VIPs of amphibious warfare in action. It was all very impressive with the Amtraks and hover craft and landing craft, and Cobras and Harriers. It was a terrific demonstration and just watching it, I thought it was glorious, but I also wondered, Was this a glorious anachronism? Was this like watching the cavalry on parade in the 1930's?...

It seems to me the problem with any kind of amphibious vehicle is that you're inevitably going to sacrifice firepower and armor for the sake of being able to swim. Hence, it's going to be less useful to Marines patrolling Iraq or Afghanistan, where there's not a lot of swimming to be done.

I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense, as an interim step, to buy more armored vehicles that are available on the world market, that might provide greater protection to Marines from IEDs and RPGs. You could buy vehicles like the Israeli-made Rhino Rhiner or the South Carolina-produced Cougar, which I know is being bought already, but in very small quantities.

And in the longer term, perhaps, the Marine Corps should work with the Army to develop Marine variants of the future combat system vehicles, rather than making this big buy of the expeditionary fighting vehicle.
Boot is suggesting that the USMC needs to make a commitment to an entirely different mindset -- a return to the days of being an imperial, colonial force, a refocusing on "small wars" and nationbuilding concepts. "I suspect that in the future, a core mission of the Corps will be doing the kind of things that it did in the past," Boot said, "such as setting up foreign constabularies, such as Smedly Butler's Haitian gendarmerie, or "Chesty" Puller's Nicaragua national guard."

It's certainly possible that a core mission of the US military may be that. The USMC, however, is not the right service to handle it.

Nation building exercises strongly benefit from two things that the USMC is not ideal to provide: very long term deployments, and the ability to draw on a large reserve/National Guard which is composed of people who have developed medical/police/technical skills over the course of a longer civilian life. The civilian capabilities and experience is obviously invaluable. The long-term deployments are valuable because they allow the formation of personal relationships in-country. The formation and maintenance of those relationships is the most effective strategy in counterinsurgency warfare. Finally, the Army already has a fully developed and effective special operations wing to this kind of low-intensity, relationship-forming warfare: the Green Berets.

All of these things can be better provided by the Army. The Army's far larger size means that it can more easily detail a unit to remain in an area for long periods of time. It's reserve size and access to the National Guard likewise far outstrip what the Marines can offer. Long term occupation and nation building should not be the USMC's core mission, simply because of economies of scale.

The shift away from mobility that Boot suggests is tied into the move to nation building. The Army's equipment stands up better to long term fighting. It's heavier, it's less mobile, but because we have a Marine Corps that is seabased and devoted to being expeditionary, the US military is not without rapid-entry capabilities. The Marines can secure what the Army may need to hold.

This brings us to the question of special operations. As noted, the USMC has only a small presence at SOCOM, although that may be changing. If it changes, however, it seems to me that it ought not to redefine what the USMC does in terms of special operations. The most effective thing that the USMC can do, for future special warfare, is not commando raids. The Navy SEALs are excellent commandos, and if more commandos is what we need then we need more of them -- if many more such men can be found.

The USMC's special operations competence, unmatched by anyone else, is the MEU(SOC) (pronounced, "Mew-sock"). That stands for "Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable." It is a Marine fighting unit of about battalion strength, with integrated air support and transport capability, trained to special operations standards, capable of deploying with extraordinary speed.

The MEU(SOC) is the extension of expeditionary warfare to the special operations field. Its capabilities were on display early in the war in Afghanistan, which I think beautifully illustrates how the Marines ought to support special operations and low intensity conflicts. The Green Berets and CIA SOG made contact with Afghan units, and provided logistics, intelligence, and air support. The Northern Alliance did most of the fighting. But when it was necessary to suddenly close a route to the enemy, the 15th MEU seized control of an area to the south of the Taliban.

They were able to deploy from the Persian Gulf to southern Afghanistan -- a victory for the concept of seabasing, for until their deployment they were out of the range of enemy attacks, yet could be on the ground in hours. Had it been desirable, they could have been back off the ground again hours later, returned to the bases at sea.

This, I think, is the role the USMC can best serve in terms of fighting future small wars. They shouldn't be the primary forces on the ground -- the Army's strengths play to that area, and if anyone is going to redesign with that in mind, it's the Army who should assign some units to doing it. They shouldn't be doing commando raids, in imitation of the SEALs or the Deltas. They shouldn't be trying to replicate the Green Berets.

What they should do is focus on their seabased, expeditionary concept, but extend it. The ideal should be for a quick-strike force with rapid deployment and withdrawal capability -- a force who can follow on Sun Tzu's advice, "When you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

The ability to deploy in sustainable force, rapidly and in an unexpected sector, is invaluable in maneuver warfare. It serves the country well against opponent states, but also in insurgency warfare such as we see in Iraq. A Corps that focused on being rapidly deployable in that fashion, and which avoided being tied down with occupation duties, would be able to support Army units with sudden surges in manpower and firepower, as well as closing off at the last hour routes that the enemy was counting on for escape.

Special operations of this type would only be part of the Marine Corps' role, of course. The other missions of the Corps will require units of other types -- including the MEFs, whose power is unmatched by any similarly sized unit of infantry. Still, insofar as the Marines are going to be more involved in special operations and low-intensity warfare, I think this is the role for them: MEU(SOC) deployments in the support of nonconventional or conventional units, and also the same ability put to use in the service of Army nation-building units.

If I were betting on the future of the Marines, that's the way I'd bet.

UPDATE: The famous "Sheik Marine", Captain Joel Leggett of Southern Appeal sends this analysis:

I agree with most of what you said. Having said that I think you are
wrong when you say that the Marine Corps is not the force best suited
for small wars occupation duty. In fact I think we are ideally suited
for that mission. As the Small Wars Manual makes clear such duty
requires a high degree of flexibility and mobility, as well as an
institutional ability to operate in a vaguely defined operational environment.
With all due respect to our brothers and sisters in the Army, that branch
of the service does not posses the institutional culture necessary for
success in that setting.

My service with the Army in joint environments has demonstrated that
the Army is very insistent on people "staying in their lanes." In fact,
I heard that phrase used repeatedly as both a command and compliment by
Army personnel. Furthermore, it became increasingly clear to me that
much of the Army leadership that I dealt with would rather see a
problem go unsolved than have a person step out of the narrowly prescribed
duties of their billet to fix the problem. Such an institutional culture
is spectacularly ill suited for small wars occupation duty.
Consequently, since Marine Corps culture is the complete opposite (i.e. every
Marine a rifleman, fill in where needed, etc.) it should come as no
surprise that we are the service that produced the Small Wars Manual in the
first place.

The Marine Corps posses the necessary institutional culture to
successfully carry out such duties. The important thing to remember is that
due to our size we can't carry out much more than one or two such duties
at a time. Furthermore, such duties require time. We have to be
allowed the time to finish the job.

I think Mr. Boot has a point to a degree when he says that we might
want to examine getting some heavier vehicles for such duties. The
amtrakers I have talked to indicate that their vehicles have been used
incorrectly in situations that would require heavier vehicles.

Let me be clear. I don't think the Marine Corps should surrender its
expeditionary role or nature. However, I think that role will require
us to be the primary counterinsurgency/small wars force.
I will agree that the USMC's institutional culture is an advantage -- in this as in every mission it undertakes. One of the things the panel was talking about, which I think is really true, is that the Marine Corps is the thinking man's service (although I've also argued, and do believe, that the military officers' corps as a whole is sufficiently intellectual as to serve as a parallel structure to academia for the life of the mind). Regardless of that claim, the USMC is certainly more flexible and able to embrace new ways of doing things, from the squad level up to the level we're seeing here, where it's possible to debate taking the entire service in a new direction.

The question for me isn't that, but rather, "To what missions should we be applying that particular advantage?" And I think that the three things mentioned above -- the need for longer deployments, the benefit of drawing on a larger reserve and the Guard, and the integration with the Special Forces -- make the Army better suited for these kinds of long-term occupation / nation building duties.

Now, the USMC Reserve has its own citizen soldiers, whose quality I certainly don't mean to denigrate. LTC Coulvillon spoke glowingly of them at the dinner he held for the brothers of Iraq the Model. It's not their quality, but their size, that is is the issue.

To maximize effectiveness in nation building and counterinsurgecy, you need to be able to combine three elements:

1) A professional class of warriors who will not mind to stay in-country on a prolonged basis. They will have to manage the reconstruction and fight most of the battles. To be effective, they will need to be able to build family-like relationships within existing tribal/social structures, whether in Iraq or Thailand. The Regular Army can do this because it has the manpower.

2) A large reserve, which can be rotated in and out on shorter deployments to maintain its viability as a volunteer force. The need to move them in and out is a disadvantage, but it is balanced and offset by the expertise that the (usually older) citizen soldiers have learned in private life. This is well served by the Army Reserve and National Guard; the USMC Reserve is not large enough to manage rotations faster than the regular units.

3) Special units that can penetrate into harder to reach areas and make initial contacts with groups "beyond the pale." These contacts can be integrated into regular units as the "pale" expands, assuming an "oil stain" model of counterinsurgency. The Green Berets are specially trained for exactly this, for example being selected based on their score on the DLAB artificial language test as well as the physical attributes. The USMC has no parallel model, and would have to devote a lot of resources to developing one or do without.

I don't dispute that the Army would be improved by developing a culture more like the Marines'. (Rather, I shall let Eric dispute it. :) I do think, though, that the Marine Corps' culture is as useful an advantage in any sort of warfighting. It ought to be reserved to where it can do the most good, given the realities of force structure.


Comments Policy:

Given the apparent reality of new readers, I thought it would be wise to repost the comments policy. Please be welcome, so long as you will adhere to this form.

I adopted [this policy] from the sadly-defunct Texas Mercury, a fringe publication but one whose bold assertion of well considered and unusual ideas I always enjoyed:
As we see it, modern society has all the important ideas of life exactly backwards: we are completely against the belief in sensitivity and tolerance in politics and raffish disregard in private life. The Texas Mercury is founded on the opposite principles- our idea is of tolerance and polite sensitivity in private life and ruthless truth in politics. Be nice to your neighbor. Be hell to his ideas.
Comments failing to uphold those principles run the risk of being deleted without warning. In the year and some months since I adopted that as the policy here, I've added one additional point: hit-and-run comments, as well as anonymous comments, will generally be deleted. If you're a regular here, and willing to stand up and fight for what you believe, you can say pretty much anything that isn't a personal attack on a fellow reader. If you're just wandering through, or unwilling to leave your name (even a false name you'll stand by will do, e.g., "Grim"), pass on. This is a hall, and regular readers are honored guests not to be troubled by cowards.
Fair enough? Well, fair or unfair, those are the rules.



I suppose I can't put this off any longer, since they've posted a profile of me at their site. Very well, then:

Grim's Hall has decided to join PajamasMedia.

I did so for the reasons that are laid out in the profile. I think that the MSM's astonishing refusal to admit alternative viewpoints can only be broken by hitting them at their foundation: advertising revenue. If we're going to have a serious effect on the media, we have to get their attention. Nothing will get their attention except cutting into their money flow.

I've read Althouse's critique of PJM, but she and I are coming at if from different perspectives. She is considering what's best for the individual blogger. What matters to me is the effect on the MSM, and looking past that, toward society and particularly to the Republic.

The thing reminds me of the early days of the unions -- a point that Jill Stewart, a charming lady who did the profile for PJM, redacted a bit in her necessary editing of my remarks. (Southerners, as I warned her on the outset, think slowly and talk slowly and take our time getting to the point. It's not her fault.)

In the early days of unions, there was a serious effort to get skilled laborers to join in with unskilled laborers to bargain collectively. By doing that, early union organizers thought, they could bring a lot more pressure to bear at once. Skilled laborers were not as easily replaced, for one thing, and so one faces a strike by skilled labor with more fear than a strike by unskilled labor (particularly in the days when the police and US Army were called out to break picket lines).

Similarly, if it is able to draw top bloggers as well as mid- and low- ranked bloggers, PJM will be able to bargain for a higher percentage of the total monies spent on revenue than bloggers individually could do. It's true that the top bloggers could make more, as Althouse says, bargaining as individuals. That is why the idea of getting skilled and unskilled labor to bargain together didn't really work out -- it was foolish for skilled laborers to go in with the unskilled, when they were in a fine position to negotiate on their own.

I am not interested in the money, however, but only in the wider effect on society. As a consequence, PJM is an initiative I wish to support.

What about the money? I have decided to spend it in three ways:

1) I offered my co-bloggers a chance to cut themselves in at whatever percentage they would care to name. I have to tell you, however, that Eric Blair and Daniel are two of the most modest and moderate people you will ever meet. I am proud to have them as co-bloggers here at Grim's Hall, and only wish they'd asked for more than they cared to do.

2) On the occasions that I get to meet with readers, it will be my pleasure to cover the costs of the feast. These chances come only too rarely, but I have enjoyed them when they have. It's your eyes that are making these ads worth what they are worth, so when we can feast together, consider that you've paid in advance.

3) I shall give the rest to my wife, who has suffered many a long adventure with me and has had little in the way of reward. She is the finest and noblest of women, one who deserves and could have gotten better than she's asked. The kind of money we're talking about won't make up for that, but at least once she will be able to say that she's profitted from our alliance.

In any event, soon enough I suppose we'll be seeing advertisements here at Grim's Hall. I trust you understand, good readers.

China and PACOM

China & USPACOM:

Admiral Fallon spoke on Sunday to the possibility of renewed US-China military ties. I have a piece about that, and updating last week's commentary on China, at The Fourth Rail. I know some of you are thinking about China now, to judge from the email I've gotten since publishing that piece last week, as well as the many comments appended to that post. It may be interesting to you to see something of what the military is thinking.

Love or leave

"Love it or Leave It"

So said Australia's top Muslim cleric to its chief radical. It's a theme that seems to be increasingly common, and not just in Australia: we've seen governments in Europe looking at forced deportation for those who don't obviously "love" being there.

At this point, Australia's Muslim community seems to be doing some damage control, isolating their own radicals so that any deportations will not harm the larger Muslim community. The attorney general there, one Phillip Ruddock, has frequently made noises about the possibility of deportations since the London attacks of July. Nor is this aimed only at Muslim radicals. "Peace activists" are coming under scrutiny too:

A US peace activist and history teacher, Scott Parkin, has been arrested in Melbourne after his visa was revoked on grounds of character. He was deemed "a threat to national security" by the Australian Department of Immigration, according to a spokesperson from Anti-Deportation Alliance. The ABC has reported that the Federal police have confirmed an American man was arrested on the orders of the Immigration Department (DIMIA) and is in custody.

Mr Parkin participated in an anti-war profiteering protest outside Halliburton in Sydney on August 31, and was also reported to have attended the Forbes Global CEO Conference protest.
For now, Australia's movements are concentrated on foreigners -- some naturalized Australian citizens, but foreign-born -- who are making trouble for the current order. One can sympathize with the notion that foreign troublemakers should be sent home. Even ones, like Mr. Parkin, who haven't broken any actual laws? Perhaps.

On the other hand, we have predicated a lot of the War on Terror on the principle that democracy, including the right to protest and the freedom of speech, will dissipate radicalism. We've seen in London and elsewhere that this is not so -- that allowing a community of radicals to operate promotes terrorist recruitment, and permits terrorist groups to build networks capable of operations within Western countries.

Where is the middle ground between suppressing radicalism, and permitting the kind of free speech and democratic protest that avoids radicalism? If you can't have both, which one is more important? I'm going to side with free speech and liberty, even if it means more blood. That was always the choice for me and mine, as Patrick Henry put it long ago.

Yet if we make that choice, we ought to realize that it very well may mean more blood, and not only ours. There is a threat of seeing a community that is guaranteed democratic rights and freedoms, and uses those rights and freedoms to organize itself for the destruction the main society. In such a case, we may find ourselves supporting their right to speak and think freely, at the cost of having to kill them or imprison them, or watching them kill themselves in order to take some of us along. We end up defending their rights, but destroying their bodies.

That is better, I think, than not defending their rights. If we sacrifice their rights, we sacrifice our own as well -- and it is those rights that have always been the point of the American model, as the British model before us. I always heard it said, growing up, that we must expect to bleed and to sacrifice if that model was to be defended among the perils of the world. I always expected to, so it is no surprise to me to see that we may have to do so.

We shall see, however, if that line of thinking appeals broadly. Your chains are forged, Patrick Henry also said -- and so they are, fitted and ready for you. But the only other choice is blood.

Have we enough who will vote for more blood and more pain, that liberty be defended? Do we really mean that democracy and freedom are the cures to radicalism? Or shall we find ourselves not defending our principles and extending liberty to the world, but rather seeking a middle ground with tyranny -- so that Egypt is less tyrannical, but we ourselves far more so?

That may be the road to peace; it may be the only road there. If so, I will not vote to walk it.


Men of the West:

In yesterday's wake, it seems proper to point out that today is a mighty anniversary as well. Or, at least, so we long believed -- there is some renewed debate on the topic of when the Battle of Marathon was actually fought.



Four years ago today, I shut off the television in the middle afternoon, and walked out into the forests of Georgia. Crossing onto an island in the middle of a creek, I sat down and thought about what we had seen, and what was to come, and wrote "Enid & Geraint."

The first four years have been quite a bit easier than I would have imagined. In spite of the occasional passion, such as we saw in last year's elections; in spite of the occasional horror, such as we saw in Beslan; yet the enemy has proven incapable of fighting war on the terms it has so often threatened. I feel much more peaceful about the future now than I used to, because of the experiences of these last several years. I think that, with time and the continued application of leverage, we shall have something of the revolution we dreamed of seeing in the unfree places of the world -- in Iraq and Afghanistan, certainly, but also in those places which have been inspired to freedom in part by the experiences of those nations. We are seeing democracy strengthened from Malaysia to Lebanon, to name just two places recently unfree and oppressed, where a hopeful glow has emerged.

There is much left to be done, but I think it lies within our power. We must still accomplish more on securing the former Soviet weapons; encouraging nonproliferation; resolving the problem of North Korea, which is particularly difficult; and undermining the enemy in his home through a combination of encouraging democracy and punishing tyranny. There are still plenty of problem areas -- Thailand's south is one I spend a lot of time thinking about -- but we have made some great strides, too.

At home, there is still quite a lot to accomplish. Perhaps the most important matter is the completely unsecure border to our south, followed by the large degree of smuggling on the border to our north. The events of the last few years have also proven that our system is inadequate when it comes to holding the powerful responsible for their actions. Internal partisanship is making it harder to reform the system: one side will name Sandy Berger and certain Senators as being particularly guilty of bad faith; the other side, Wolfowitz and Brown and the President himself. The result has been that no one is punished for anything they do or say, no matter how destructive the effect on national security or the health of the Republic.

It is interesting that, four years on, we should find that we have more problems at home than abroad, but I think we have. The internal tensions of the Republic are now where the most danger lies, from the politics of elections to the Court, and from the securing of the border to the vast increase of government secrecy. It has always been the case that the American political system was our point of greatest vulnerability in this war, even as it is our greatest pride and the thing we are most devoted to defending. We need to be able to keep up the pace and pressure of our actions abroad -- both military and diplomatic -- while pursuing reforms at home.

In order to accomplish that, we need to lower the heat of the political atmosphere so that we can reason together. Encouraging and reinforcing Federalism is surely a major part of that, so that neither Red nor Blue America needs to fear for its way of life. For the same reason, it is important to encourage a Supreme Court that respects Federalism and defers to legislatures when there are no blatant violations of the Constitution. With two vacancies on the Court now, we have an unusual opportunity for influence.

That, at least, is how it seems to me four years on. I don't feel inclined to poetry today -- my own heat is much lower than it was four years ago. Now is the time for rational thinking, to consider how the Republic is changing in the face of the war, and to apply ourselves to ensuring that the changes are healthy rather than destructive for the liberty that is our government's primary purpose.


Guns in New Orleans:

Adam asks, below, what the proper way to deal with police officers attempting to illegally disarm you would be. I answered him at some length, but let's look at an actual case study. This is how it's really being done, and we can examine it to see what some of the difficulties are.

Here is a video showing California Highway Patrol officers, who have volunteered to help with the forced evacuations, tackling an elderly woman in order to disarm her.

Now, the CHP officers and the newscaster both seem quite sympathetic -- but they are willing to use real physical violence, even against someone who is frail, to enforce the surrender of all weapons.

That's not constitutional under the Louisiana state constitution. It's just not -- the constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be abridged, though it makes provision for bearing concealed weapons. But this woman's weapons were plainly displayed, not brandished in a threatening manner, and not being carried outside of her home.

The cops were wrong to do what they did, but I doubt they understand why they were wrong. In California, the state recognizes no right to bear arms at all; they won't have known that the LA constitution is more civilized. They are probably accustomed to dealing with drug smugglers and the like as a more regular thing, and simply lack training or experience in these matters, as well as lacking an understanding of the legal context.

The lady herself was wrong to resort to screaming curses and other things that would let them view her as irrational.

If it comes to a confrontation, you must be polite and professional, explain the law, and then -- if they still insist upon it -- get everything on the record. Make them provide a receipt for everything they take, their badge numbers, etc. Make clear at the time that they're going to be called to answer in court for what they are doing.

Recognize what we're up against here. Neither the police nor the media have any conception that the Second Amendment or its mirrors at the state level protect a right that really exists. The cops and the reporter all felt that "she had a gun" explains why they can do whatever they feel they need to do in order to disarm her.

We have to prove that this understanding is wrong, and that can only be done in court. The battle has already been won, in most states, at the legislative level -- the law supports us. It's only the courts now that refuse to apply the law that already exists. Get everything on the record, don't do anything illegal, and then fight it in the court. The law is on our side -- we will win this battle, eventually.

Do look up your own state laws, to see what changes you would like in them. It's a good time to do it now, while there isn't a disaster in your own community, but people's minds are fixed on the possibility that there might be one someday.