Memorial Day Weekend

Martial Law in the RP

I'm sure that the Filipino troops charged with exercising these extraordinary powers will be measured and responsible.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte joked Friday that soldiers could rape up to three women, as he reassured them of his full support under his newly imposed regional martial law.

Duterte, who often peppers his language with man-on-the-street curses, made the comments in jest during a speech at a military base to lift the spirits of troops tasked with quelling what he says is a fast-growing threat of Islamist terrorism.

"For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your work. I will handle the rest," he said.

"I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it."
That sounds less like a joke, and more like encouragement.

Well, a Lot of the Votes were In Early

So, today we're hearing theories about why the loss of a cowboy poet in Montana to a man charged with assault on election day is great news for Democrats or, alternatively, horrible news for the republic.

Normally politicians aren't supposed to physically assault journalists, but there are exceptions. Rep. Duncan Hunter said of the alleged assault, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

One might be tempted to think (as the Washington Post piece suggests) that we are near a Preston Brooks vs. Charles Sumner moment. But that isn't necessary. Montana has early voting, and a number of partisan votes that might have been embarrassed by the assault were already in. There's no reason to think that the vote represents either 'great news for Democrats' (as they likely outperformed on the actual election day what they would have done absent an assault) or 'rising tribalism' (as many votes were cast in ignorance of the forthcoming assault).

I'm not sure how much to read into the thing. On the one hand, the cowboy poet did greatly outperform Hillary Clinton in losing by six points instead of twenty. On the other hand, he was a far better fit culturally for Montana than Hillary Clinton. He ought to have outperformed her substantially simply by being a native, a cowboy, a cultural icon, and not on record as despising the majority of the population of Montana as deplorable. All else being equal, I'm not sure how different last night looked from any given night. If anything, I'd guess the assault helped Democrats a bit; but not enough, given the early votes.

A Leaking Ship

This is a good point. (H/t Insty)

Trump is plausibly guilty of some very bad judgment in his sharing of American secrets -- the deployment and precise number of American nuclear submarines near Korea, for example. It was the press, however, that shared that information with the world. Perhaps the President shouldn't have shared with the Russians information that might lead them to a sensitive source belonging to an allied government. It was the press, however, that made sure that everyone in the world knew just which government.

And, as the author points out, it was the press who made sure that the Manchester bombing cell knew everything the US had been informed by our British allies. Before the cell had been rolled up. While it was still a threat to England's eight-year-old girls.

These aren't ordinary citizens, these leakers, but people who have passed security clearance investigations at high levels. Everything we think we know about how to find the people who will loyally protect crucial secrets has to be called into question in light of this continual bad behavior. If it comes to the point that an American president cannot trust anyone who is not from his own political faction, American presidents will make it a habit to purge these security institutions at every election. That will greatly harm everyone, not only by removing the people with experience from these positions but also by dangerously politicizing these institutions.

There is much to criticize where the President is concerned, but he is not doing the lion's share of the damage right now. People who think of themselves as security and intelligence professionals are. Our systems for ensuring that such professionals exist are being badly undermined, and with them, the existence of reliable security and intelligence institutions at all.

Rio Lobo

Just the introductory guitar, which is lovely.

Ethics & Leadership

These questions are posed in a military context, but they have broader application. Indeed, most of them are drawn from the broader debate about human ethics -- only some of them have their origin in explicitly military concepts.
1. What are the ethical dimensions of power and authority in the military? This includes formal command authority, giving rewards and punishments, informal power/influence and personal power (friendship, loyalty, and expertise.) What is the ethical power or temptation of self-interest? Does power magnify moral characteristics that are already there? Or does it corrupt moral character?

2. Is the morality of the leader a matter of what they do in their public role or also their private life when not in that role? Is it possible for these to be separate or different, or must they be in harmony and alignment? Can a good leader have immoral or bad private morality? Is it important that the leader serve as an ethical role model?

3. What are the duties of the leader to her followers? Is it permissible to use followers merely as a means to another end, or must they always be viewed as ends in themselves? Are the duties of leaders and followers two sides of the same coin or are they fundamentally different? Do followers have ethical duties to the leader beyond obedience?

4. How should leaders think about the Big Picture (Mission) or the Greater Good? How does a leader decide what is best for the Greater Good (Mission)? What if some of their followers (or others) must suffer for this to be achieved? Is that ethically permissible? What are the leader's obligations to those who suffer? What happens if these actions lead to guilt and/or moral injury in leaders and followers?

5. How important is charisma or personal power (The Great Man/Woman) in contemporary military leadership? What are the ethical implications of charisma in leading? Do leaders need an emotional connection or appeal with followers to be effective? What kinds of connections make good, ethical leaders? Trust? Servant Leaders? Transformative Leaders? Relational Leadership?

6. How do cultural and moral differences (ethical relativism) impact the intersection of leadership and ethics? How ought a good leader navigate moral disagreements, tensions and conflicts? Ought the leader's view of what is 'right' prevail? Must one have ethical agreement to work together and achieve the mission?
Those are important questions.

UPDATE: Related: The Army Chief of Staff wants to remind junior officers that they are empowered to disobey direct orders, but they had better be "morally and ethically correct."
Milley then made news headlines by calling for “disciplined disobedience.” This idea undoubtedly caused jaws to drop among many Army leaders, but it actually echoes back to the idea of “selective disobedience” one of his predecessors endorsed in the late 1970s. In Milley’s formulation, disobeying orders can be justified to achieve the larger purpose of the mission. According to Milley,
[A] subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish a purpose. Now, that takes a lot of judgment … it can’t just be willy-nilly disobedience. This has got to be disciplined disobedience to achieve the higher purpose.
He added, “disobedience, when done, must be done with trust and integrity, and you must be morally and ethically correct.”
Being morally and ethically correct will often mean answering these questions "correctly." Are there correct answers to all of them? That would make it a lot simpler.

American Geography

Trump to a roomful of Israelis: "We just got back from the Middle East." Slate's correspondent is extremely dismissive.

In fairness to the President, though, American geography is really confused where Israel is concerned. Officially Israel is in EUCOM, not in CENTCOM with all the countries that surround it. That's so the CENTCOM commander never has to meet with any Jews, making it easier for him to work with Arab leaders. So officially, according to the US military, Israel is in Europe.

The State Department, meanwhile, considers Israel to be part of the "Near East." (Although Saudi Arabia also qualifies as "Near East" rather than "Middle East" on this model; and, even more confusingly, "Middle East Peace" is one of the things that the "Near Eastern Affairs" bureau is tasked with handling.)

And apparently nobody is sure if the Western Wall is in Israel, though it is definitely in Jerusalem, which may or may not be in Israel depending on which American you ask.

An Unlikely Charge

Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but a Crusader is not plausibly one of them.

That's not to say there aren't Crusaders on staff.

A Truly Oppressed Religious Community

On ex-Muslims, who must meet in secrecy even in Portland, Oregon.

Wolf Time

Mentioned in the comments to the "American Gods" post below, Lars Walker pointed out that he wrote another book featuring Odin as a character at about the same time. I picked up a copy yesterday. I'm only about a fifth of the way through it, but it's an interesting read that some of you might like to join me in discussing later. Mr. Walker accurately predicted some things back in 1999.

The book is called Wolf Time, and it is available in Kindle format for those of you who might like to join me.

The Cowboy Hávamál

(Thanks for noticing this, Douglas.)

Is It Time to Get Angry?

Spiked Online argues that the Manchester attack marks the right moment to "get angry."
After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.
Compare and contrast the response to the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal. Those also targeted young British girls; they were permitted to go on for a very long time, even though the authorities were repeatedly informed about them. Here, too, the perpetrator of this suicide bombing was well known to police authorities, as seems to be usually the case. Nothing was done.

Will this get a bigger response because, this time, the young girls were killed instead of repeatedly raped? Will it get a bigger response because, this time, the girls were the daughters of richer families who could afford expensive concert tickets, and not the daughters of the working class?

Or is it the case, instead, that nothing will change? The institutional inertia in Western governments is very great. We can't build a bridge anymore because of all the regulations that exist to govern the building of bridges. We know -- it seems we always know -- who is likely to conduct a mass murder like this, but we can't do anything to stop it. We aren't allowed. We won't allow ourselves.

I don't know that getting angry will fix that. What needs to change, whether to repair our infrastructure or to secure our nations, is to peel off whole layers of institutional regulation and control. These are simple problems in need of simple solutions.


"MacLeod," for your information, means "Son of Ugly."

It's a Small World After All

Not to make light of a tragedy, which will be devastating to the families who lost daughters tonight.  I just happen to notice that the artist canceled her "World Tour," which included "England, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Switzerland."

So, you know, a World Tour from Tennessee to Texas.

The World We Live in Now

Police: Denver man arrested after removing transgender woman's testicles

...A police affidavit says James Lowell Pennington, 57, removed the testicles and sutured the opening while the woman's wife witnessed the 90-minute procedure.
I could have explained this story to my grandparents, but not without using language that would today get me sued, arrested, or barred from productive employment.

How'd that Toby Keith Show Go?

In case you were wondering, there's some video -- as well as the usual sneering HuffPo commentary -- available here. It sounds like everyone had a good time. The Saudi performer was the big draw, and you can hear a bit of his stuff as well.

Female Infantrymen

America’s first female Army Infantrymen are here, but not all of them made it through.

In fact, only eighteen of the thirty-two female infantry recruits made it through the One Station Unit Training (OSUT) program at Fort Benning, Georgia.... the females needed only to meet the much-lower female standards for physical fitness that separate them from their previously all-male counterparts.

That said, there were some women who certainly gave their male colleagues a run for their money.

“There was even one female that did better than 90 percent of the males on the PT test,” said one 22-year-old male trainee, who reportedly had high PT scores.
An attrition rate from a training program that approaches fifty percent is pretty striking. Some of the special operations training/selection courses are higher than that, of course, but those are built around higher standards -- not lowered standards. Some percentage of the women (at least one of them, I gather from the article) might have met what was until yesterday "the standard." They would have been better served, though there would have been fewer of them, by being held to the same standard as the male infantrymen.

UPDATE: A related story in the Marine Corps Times: "New Concerns that Lower Fitness Standards Fuel Disrespect for Women." The creator of Terminal Lance is among those interviewed.
“Women, from Day One, do not have to do the same PFT as men,” said Maximilian Uriarte, a Marine veteran and the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip. “

“To men, that’s immediately like: ‘Oh, they have not accomplished the same thing I have … Therefore, they do not rate the same respect that I do,’” he said.

One way to erase the gender gap, Uriarte said in an interview with Marine Corps Times, would be to have women meet the same standards as men on the PFT and CFT.

“I think you’d probably lose a lot of women, but the ones you’d keep would be really stellar, fighting, fit Marines that the men would respect on that level,” he said.

A Sense of History

Security removed a school principal from his campus after he was photographed at the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, near a Confederate flag.
However, Dean said the fact that he was shown standing next to monument supporters was pure coincidence.

"I didn't go to protest for either side. I went because I am a historian, educator and New Orleans resident who wanted to observe this monumental event," he said. "People who know me know that I am a crusader for children and I fight tirelessly on their behalf."
If he has a degree in history, of course he'd want to document a historic event. Whatever else these removals of Confederate memorials in New Orleans are, they are events that mark something important in the region's history. It can be hard to say just what that something is until time has passed; perhaps it's just that enough of the generations closer to the Civil War are now dead, and thus the balance of who cares about that war has shifted demographically. Perhaps the racist killings in Charleston, SC, moved many hearts. Perhaps it is something else.

Still, if the principal had been a fervent supporter of Robert E. Lee, could he be fired for it? Would an educator who was also a member of, say, the Sons of Confederate Veterans suddenly be a security risk who needed to be forcibly removed from campus? The law seems to suggest that even those with disapproved opinions have some rights under the law; that's why we have to let the Westboro Baptist Church protest the funerals of soldiers and Marines.

It seems that leeway does not apply to every disapproved opinion. I suppose we shall see if it still applies to historians who merely wanted to document the event.

The Murder of an American Soldier at the University of Maryland

The author of this piece thinks it was a racially motivated killing; perhaps it was. Of greater importance is that he was a lieutenant in the United States Army.
Collins, of Calvert County, was scheduled to graduate with a degree in business from Bowie State University Tuesday, and was commissioned May 18 to join the United States Army. He was involved with Bowie State's ROTC chapter, police said.

Darryl L. Godlock, a pastor who was serving as a spokesman for the Collins family, said the young man had obtained his airborne certification. Collins wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a military veteran, Godlock said.

"He wanted to make his parents proud of him so he went into the military to serve his country," Godlock said.
We should avenge him as a soldier.

"A Communist Fanfic"

No kidding. His argument that the recent Mad Max movie fits this plotline is basically right, though. It just ends with the release of all the water that was being wrongfully hoarded to grow plants, rather than continuing to the point at which the now-held-in-common water is all gone and the plants have been swept over by the desert that surrounds them.

But hey: "Make sure to buy the t-shirt!"


It is amazing to me that no US President has before visited the Old City. I had read and studied the conflict for years before I went, but only standing there did I understand the close scale and what was at stake. The "pre-1967 borders" of which you hear so much would require yielding up the Old City, including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and -- of moment to Christians -- the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

For Christians, it may well be enough that the city is controlled by those who will protect the sites and permit access to pilgrims. We have seen the Taliban and others destroy heritage sites of other religions in order to establish the primacy of their own faith; but actual control may not be of special importance if protection is guaranteed. Muslims also care about the preservation of their shrines. The Iranians use the protection of special Shi'a shrines in Syria and Iraq as a major focus of their recruiting of local militias who will serve as reliable proxy forces. But the Muslims also assert a physical claim more boldly: the Old City's Muslim quarter is closed to non-Muslims lacking special permission. As a practical matter they do rely on the Israelis to protect their shrines, but it is clear that the Muslims of Jerusalem do not trust any outsider to do it: not even to pass nearby.

For Jews, though, Jerusalem has another importance. Go up on the Mount of Olives, within sight of Jerusalem's Old City and another place that would have to be surrendered. Gethsemane lies between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. The mount is chiefly a graveyard. Thousands of years of Jewish graves are there. For a people whose whole history has been marked by exile, Jerusalem is the one place that is truly home.

You can appreciate all that intellectually from afar, but it takes on a new clarity when you go and see it. All Presidents should go there, at least the ones who intend to meddle in this conflict.


Many Purple Hearts issued even today were manufactured in 1945, because the DOD expected so many casualties from the invasion of Japan.
As late as 1985, the Defense Logistics Agency still had about 120,000 refurbished Purple Heart sets dating back to World War II, said DLA spokeswoman Mimi Schirmacher.

“There could be a small number of WWII-era medal sets still in the hands of military service customers and it is possible that recent and current issues of medals were made from stock produced in previous time periods,” Schirmacher said in an e-mail.

The DLA has ordered about 34,000 Purple Hearts since 1976, of which 21,000 were ordered in 2008, she said.

But Giangreco, who wrote a book about the planned invasion of Japan, maintains that the bulk of Purple Hearts in stock date back to World War II. His research found that most of the refurbished Purple Hearts were sent to military depots, units and hospitals between 1985 and 1999.