Monday, November 2, 2009

Hey, Rocky..!

There was a long-running gag on the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" where the moose would dress up in his stage magician outfit and shoutout to his pal the squirrel "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" Whereupon he would reach in and pull out a tiger that would gnaw on his arm, or a rhino which would paste him all over the stage. His best effort resulted in his pulling Rocket J. Squirrel out of the hat, at which point Bullwinkle announces "Well, I'm getting close!"

Our good friend at the Washington Post appear to have a copy of Bullwinkle's magic book, the chapter dealing with "foreign internal defense". And yesterday they let the squirrel out of the hat regarding what they and their friends - the neocon Right, the "serious" pundits and legislators who are hawkish on "defense" - consider pulling out of our military strategy hat:
"If it's necessary to pacify Afghanistan to protect U.S. security, goes the taunt, must we also intervene in Somalia and Yemen? The presumed answer is: "Of course not -- and therefore why bother with Afghanistan?" The more sensible response is: If something is not done soon about these lawless places, one or the other may well become the next Afghanistan..."

"...if something is not done soon..."

"if something is not done soon..." (gee...I wonder what that "something" could be? You think..?)

Imagine that; these very serious people believe that we should be sending soldiers to be policing - not just the hinterlands of Islamic Central Asia - but...SOON...the Gulf and North Africa as well.

Speaking as a retired con man high school teacher and platoon sergeant, it's usually not a good idea to show the marks students (troops) all your future scams lesson plans (op orders).

It scares off the fools and shortens the take.

(h/t to Pat Lang over at Sic Semper Tyrannis)


  1. Once again, I am more than willing and happy to serve as the Pub's whipping boy, so let me have it.

    C'mon FDC, let's be fair. Yep, the NeoCons are evil. Fine. But their counterparts can be worse, they can be just plain stupid.

    Let's rewind a couple of weeks. Afghanistan, like it or not, we are there. So, the Dems have to do something about it. The election, well, it doesn't go as the ideologues hope for. Can you imagine voter fraud! In a country like Afghanistan!! Yep, outrageous! But don't worry, we won't let your election be considered illegitimate, enter US Senator, John Kerry (and to be fair, some of his Rep buddies).

    Have you seen the pictures of John Kerry standing next to Karzai like an homage to the Evil Star Wars Emperor (and some random old white guy, maybe he is Darth Vader) as Karzai reads a prepared statement about how important it is to have a run off because of the voter fraud? "These are not the election results you are looking for"


    What kind of message are we sending? "It is your election, but we aren't too happy with the results, and we think it might be considered by some as an illegitimate election, therefore, we, the Mighty US, your big brothers, are going to step in and not let you make a big mistake!"

    (Darth Vader breathing...)

    And how was this message received by the average Afghani? Probably a few words came to mind, "Look at Karzai, that American stooge, puppet, etc." (assuming they didn't think that before, now their suspicions are all but confirmed). I don't believe that the Afghan voters were not that concerned about fraud. Sure, some got worked up about it (those on the losing end), but I am willing to bet that the meddling of the US Senator and his Imperial decree will do 100 times the damage of any allegations of Afghani's cheating each other. And now, as if the military didn't have a tough enough job fighting the insurgents, they have to work with a public that is outraged by the US politicians.

  2. Now that I got that diatribe out of the way, back to the point of your posting. I will suggest that the editorial is somewhat accurate. We must keep a vigilant eye on lawless parts of the world, we can not ignore them. Is he suggesting that we invade them? I admit, Somalia is not Afghanistan, and we should be careful of analogies, but the actions taking place in Somalia DO have the potential to impact our national interests (the fact that 5 Americans have blown themselves up as suicide bombers in Somalia should not be ignored, but not something to lose our heads about either). But no, I don't think we need to "invade" Somalia. Somalia is being contained just fine using the current mix of diplomatic, military, law enforcement and other nonconventional means (despite what he is implying in the editorial).

    I suggest that there has to be a happy medium between the 8 years of Clinton foreign policy and 8 years of Bush foreign "strategery". And yes, I believe that happy medium of multiple choices of actions in the hinterlands of the world include:

    A. diplomatic
    B. economic
    C. military
    D. law enforcement "policing"
    E. All of the above
    F. None of the above

    In my less than brief opinion on this topic today, we choose answer C. more often than any other answer (just like the SAT). The COINists, as Pat Lang refers to, like to use all of the above (usually heavily leaning on C. as well).

    My argument is that we have always chosen one or more of these options to "police" parts of the world that we believe impacted our national interests. Not just the NeoCons, but all American Politicians since the birth of our nation.

    FDC, are you suggesting that we should simply stop meddling or "policing" beyond the borders of the US and return to the days of psuedo-isolationism when we stuck our heads in the sand and hope that nothing beyond our borders will ever impact our way of life?

    My comment is that I am beyond sick and tired of the divisiveness of our political system and of the perennial "kettle calling the pot black." Neocons, Blue Dogs, Whigs, Tories, Federalists, whatever. But that too, sadly, has been around since the birth of our nation.

    Sorry. I am done. Better than psycho-therapy (and cheaper until the government fixes that health care problem).

  3. bg: The short answers would be;

    a. Yes, I think that we would be well served to let the wild parts of the world be wild. Remind yourself (as I remind myself when this subject comes up) that pretty much until 1948 we were a neutral party to Islam. We we outside the old colonial structures and had no real brief with Islam. The only reason were are seeing these wild men take any real interest in us is because we decided we needed to take over from the Brits and French when they buggered off AND had to stick our oar in about who ruled the shore of the southern Levant.

    "Hoping that nothing outside our borders impacts our way of life" is not the same thing as "Sending troops to fiddle-fuck with every tinpot satrap that talks a good game about sending death to the Great Satan". Of course we need to keep and eye on these guys. But, as we found out in Afghanistan and Iraq and Somalia, the first rule of foreign policy is "first, do no harm". When you overthrow foreign dictators, fund guerilla movements and attempt to bring peace and love to the lawless hinterlands, you often find yourself on the forked stick of unintended consequences.

    The Somali guerillas and the Yemeni nuts have no air force. They have no navy. They are not an existential threat to the U.S. We can monitor them with a couple of hundred CIA agents if they know their stuff, and infiltrate a handful of assassins to do the dirty work if the bad guys, say, get some ooga-booga scary bomb. But the likelihood is that if we quit farting around with local dictators and tell the Israelis that the gravy train is off the rails in a couple of years these characters will find something local to be pissed off about and go back to ignoring us like they did for the 200 years before 1948.

    This idea that somehow the entire world is our backyard and we need to rake the leaves and trim the hedges infuriates the hell out of me. It has nothing to do with the "divisiveness of our political system" - you note I called out three groups; the neocon Right, pundits who are all about military intervention, and legislators who are the same. This transcends party alignment (to the degree that the GOP is not utterly bugshit insane, which is about 94% of the GOP now that the Limbaugh wing has run everybody else out of the party). It is an American disease, the late-20th-century/21st-century version of Imperial Japan's "victory disease" - the notion that American wisdom, American might and American goals trump everything else and entitle us to meddle in the doings of the entire world.

    It didn't work for Imperial Spain, it eventually didn't for Imperial Britain, and it won't work for us. We can either choose to pick our fights more sensibly or fall to imperial overstretch as did the other two. Your call.

  4. ...and;

    b. the whole POINT of the editorial is to call for a military solution to the problems of Somalia and Yemen. and no, I think that would be a supremely fucking BAD idea.

    If you don't read the Washington Post you may not see this in context, but the Post is right up there with the Heritage Institute and the bloody National Review and the goddam DLC in advocating this sort of "America, solver of the world's problems" approach to foreign policy. The more explosions, the more better for this crew. These people would have been lurking in the corridors of the Escorial 300 years ago snarling about what "had to be done" about the damn Dutch heretics or the danger of heresy would snuff out the Spanish Catholic way of life.

    Well, guess what - Catholicisim is just fine, and the Dutch are Prods and we all managed to work our way around that - other than Spain, which went from being Europe's preeminent empire to the place where drunken Brits go on holiday.

    So the point here is:

    The Washington Post IS advocating that we "do something soon" about these places, and since, as you point out, we're already doing just fine using our intel and foreign policy types, "doing something soon" other than that means making stuff explode, and

    I think that's a goddam stupid idea and the fact that neither political party is willing to come out and say "Y'know, all this military fucking around in places that cannot threaten our existence and never will be able to threaten our existence just destablizes them and makes them MORE dangerous, makes us look like dangerously paranoid fools and wastes our blood and treasure on a strategically insignificant part of the world."

    You say that and the serious people from both sides of the aisle act like you're running around naked foaming at the mouth. Look at A-stan. Is anyone - ANYone - saying "Well, Karzai is a marginally competent despot who stole his election, we're mostly fighting an internal civil war since the zealots mostly moved to Pakistan, so why not leave a couple of thousand SF guys to train up the local gooners and get out?"

    Nobody who's getting listened to in DC, I can tell you.

    It's like through the frigging looking glass, I tell you.

    And at least with therapy you get some sort of insight. This fun house never seems to get better lit. Sod this for a game of soldiers.

  5. "My argument is that we have always chosen one or more of these options to "police" parts of the world that we believe impacted our national interests."


    OK, let's take that apart, using our nearest neighbor as an example. You won't find a country that impacts our national interest more than Mexico.

    Well, for the first hundred years or so all we did was fuck with it. We stole some land back in the 1840's, bought a little more in the teens. We actually had some people who suggested filibustering it in the 1860s but came to nothing. We stood by while the French tried to conquer it, stood by again while it was racked with civil war off and on for forty years - and the only real "policing" we did was a ridiculous goose chase after Villa in the teens.

    And now, while the drug cartels are dismembering it? Where's the SF? Where's the Predators? Where's the 40K conventional troops there?

    We're doing, in effect, what I'm suggesting - and the WaPo crew is deriding as ineffective - for Somalia and Yemen and Nigeria and whereever else. Watch and wait. Use your intel. Bribe, suborn and threaten on the downlow. Use your local proxies. It worked for us in Mexico...and when we decided to "police" the place, as we did in 1848, we replaced Santa Anna with an even less savory regime that ended up with a foreign invader.

    So, no. I DON'T think we really "policed" parts of the world. I think we did what smart empires have always done: kept an eye out for the badmashes, slapped them ("punitive expeditions") when it was called for, got out when prudent. That's NOT what these people are saying, and it's not what they've gotten us into over the past 50 years.

  6. FDC, sorry, I don't have time for a proper response, but one thing popped out at me (more to follow)

    "The Somali guerillas and the Yemeni nuts have no air force... They are not an existential threat to the U.S. We can monitor them with a couple of hundred CIA agents if they know their stuff, and infiltrate a handful of assassins to do the dirty work if the bad guys, say, get some ooga-booga scary bomb."

    So are we in violent agreement in respect to Somalia? How is what you are suggesting above (which by the way, is exactly what we are doing) any different from your belief that we should not be policing the hinterlands of the world?

  7. BG,
    I completely, and totally disagree with you.
    I would unass Afghanistan in two blinks of an eye as I scribbled my name on the dotted line to the document that said, “Afghanistan is a lost cause, get out now.”

    And no, we don’t need to do anything in Somalia. In fact, like Chief said, we contain Somalia, and the techies can have at each other till they’ve had their fill of blood, death, and destruction.
    Next, is that we, the U.S., have so many unfuckingbelievableshitforbrainsleadersandthinkers that I want all them assholeswithnosenseotherthanwhattheirpatronsarepayingthem to stfu!
    BG, we, here, the US, are on the precipice of a major sociological shift that is switching to a new paradigm in the way we interact with the world. The old ways of viewing the world are being exchanged for another view, and the neo-cons are scrabbling to find meaning, purpose, something to make themselves relevant to the change…and all they have is “Ooga-booga!”
    Seriously, BG, ooga-booga is not the proper foundation for foreign or diplomatic policy to be built on, but that is all the Neo-cons have…ooga-booga.
    And you, BG, are bellying up to the Neo-con table to have a taste of that ala carte dish called “weshouldallbescaredshitless”
    Sorry brother, but that shit will infect you, and already has.

    So, read what I’m about to say…okay, I want you to contemplate this…because I think you’ll find this far more…profoundly interesting than anything you’ll find in the neo-con buffet

    You wrote… “C'mon FDC, let's be fair. Yep, the NeoCons are evil. Fine. But their counterparts can be worse, they can be just plain stupid.”

    And here is what I say…”Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    The neo-con’s aren’t evil, BG, they’re uncompromisingly stupid, and you’re buying into their idiocy. Their counterparts…are naive, but the reason for that is that their counterparts have bought into the Neo-con stupidity because they foolishly think that by not doing so they look weak, spineless, and girlie-man to the electorate.

    We don’t need to police the world BG, we just need to learn to get along with everyone else…we seem to have forgotten how to do that, and instead view the world as hostile to us…which makes us, in the localized sense, similar to the nut bag psych case pissing himself with fear because he thinks the government is out to get him. Someone like that should be hospitalized, and taken care of… and that BG, is what the Neo-con’s are…crazy.
    Walk away from them BG, just turn, and walk away from them.

  8. bg: Because there is a HUGE difference between "policing", which implies that you are a beat cop, showing yourself, having a "presence", using your lights and sirens and nightstick to beat the local bad guys into submission, and "spying", which implies that you are snooping and pooping on the downlow, using as little force as possible, and whenever possible using deniable cutouts and local proxies, leaving the local bad guys to be as bad as they want to be.

    This is NOT what the Posties are talking about, and in the editorial they are using all the dog whistle terms that the inside-the-Beltway crowd understand mean "shock and awe".

    I don't think we want to be a cop policing the islamic parts of the world. If there is any "police work" to be done there it is the police work of the deep cover police informant, and that does not get interventionist dicks hard.

    Tom Engelhardt has a nice summary of the sort of "America the Global Policeman" thinking that the WaPo editorial represents here:

    Once we start "policing" these fucked-up Third World shitholes we DO end up owning their failures, which will be legion, since they are set up to fail by their own misgovernment, poverty, violent societies and various other internal fails. The only way to win that game is not to play. Like I say - they have no far-reaching assets that can threaten us. Good intel will head off any plots that are truly dangerous. AND be grownups about it; every so often they WILL slip past us and land a 9-11 type black swan. As any Roman will tell you, the alternative to an empire accepting the reality that every so often the barbarians will chop up a frontier post is trying to rule the entire goddam world. And there aren't enough legions or enough sesterces to even come close.

  9. "We don’t need to police the world BG, we just need to learn to get along with everyone else…"

    I will have to disagree with you on this one, Sheerah. We DON'T have to get along with everyone, we can't and never will. There are lots of people out there who hate the way we Westerners live, don't want to live like us and resent the impact we have on their lives.

    But that's them there, and as long as they stay there and do their bad work there we don't need to waste blood or treasure having a 5.56mm argument with them. We need to keep an eye out for them, just in case they come up with something sneaky and smart. But tromping around their part of the world smashing things - as we've seen over the past eight years or so - doesn't really help all that much.

    Part of the problem is that, frankly, we have trouble with sneaky and smart. Our MO since 1945 has been dumb and brutal. Any playground bully can tell you that dumb only gets you so far. Eventually you weed out the enemies who are dumber than you are, and someone smart sneaks up behind you and knocks you on the back of the skull.

    One of the best reasons for either bribing these gomers or leaving them alone is that by actively intervening in their world we play the role of natural selection, refining their skills as we vacuum the shallow end of the bad guy gene pool.

  10. "I will have to disagree with you on this one, Sheerah. We DON'T have to get along with everyone, we can't and never will. There are lots of people out there who hate the way we Westerners live, don't want to live like us and resent the impact we have on their lives."

    I see your point Chief, but herein is the not so secret secret...Getting along doesn't mean we're taking long walks on the beach with each other, whispering sweet nothings to each other hoping to get lucky with flowers and chocolates.
    Getting along can mean, "we'll stay on our side of the pond, you stay on yours, and we'll get along fine."

    Does this mean we shake hands with tinpot dictators...sure, does this mean we're going to send goodies to those same tinpot dictators?
    Oh hells noes!

    I'm not advocating isolationism either, but what I am saying is what...crap...Jefferson? Madison? Adams? Damn...which one said, "Do not make entangling alliances."
    Which is exactly what we've been doing since the world became enslaved to oil.

    We need to start cutting countries loose...kinda like how women today let the men who want to sleep with them know that that desire will never ever be realized.
    We let them know how much their friendship means to us, how lovely they are when the moon shines in their eyes, and how sad we are that we couldn't stay longer.
    No, no, have to go, and it's been a wonderful dinner, and I like you as a friend...and that's it.

  11. "One of the best reasons for either bribing these gomers or leaving them alone is that by actively intervening in their world we play the role of natural selection, refining their skills as we vacuum the shallow end of the bad guy gene pool."

    I wanted to treat this separately because I think we could have saved so much blood and toil with a hell of a lot less cash if we had just bribed everyone to disappear.
    We could have bought Saddam and his sons out, could have bought the entire Shi'ite community out, and hells bells, we could have bought the taliban out too.
    All this for a hell of a lot less cash than what all this nonsense is costing us.
    What has it been now...7 years?
    84 months?
    Let's do the math...
    80 billion dollars a month.
    800 billion dollars for 80 months
    320 billion dollars for 4 months
    1.12 trillion dollars so far for this wonderful lil expedition into Dantes inferno.
    I'm willing to bet we could have bought each individual off in the aforemention countries for one hundred million dollars, and not have killed a single soul.

  12. Some people have no understanding of costs, difficulties and no respect. Add in a strong dose of irrational fears and daydreams - voilà, you got what it takes to want to meddle in the most stupid places and problems that don't really affect you unless you get involved voluntarily.

    Hawks usually lack humility and the ability to stand unpleasant situations. Sometimes you simply need to accept limits and some people simply need to grow up and learn to tolerate some degree of problems. There's no way of solving all problems anyway - just the fantasy of doing so.

    Oh, and most importantly; some need to learn to weigh problems rationally. I had discussions lately about how to weight worst case scenarios. Of course, the only rational method is to consider the assumed worst case damage and multiply that with the assumed chance - then compare it with other possibilities.
    Yet, some people stick to the idiotic idea that you need to prepare primarily to avert worst cases. These people fail terribly in their preparation against less terrible, much more likely problems because there are simply not enough resources for rational AND irrational preparations at once.
    My standard question to them is "If the probability shall not be considered, why don't you prepare for the worst case of alien invasion?". There's never a good answer to that because they have no real rule about how to weight threats; they merely have a feeling and are irrationally scared p***ies.

    The amount of dumbness and irrationality in security policy these days is frightening (not everywhere, but in too many countries - including several ones with whom my country is allied).

    The good news is that not all countries turned completely stupid in regard to national security policy. The bad news is that history confirms that stupid national security policy is no modern invention at all.

  13. FDC, good points, and I still owe you a better response to some specific statements. But, first point:

    I think the nature of our disagreement, or at least on my end, was my understanding of your use of the term "policing", so thank you for clearing that up.

    Going back to my previous statement, I place your form of "policing" in multiple choice C., the military option. The option that I feel we lean on way too much. So if you don't feel that spying on other countries, having proxy/surrogate forces is not simply "policing through other means", than we are in agreement of the need to do so.

    So in your endorsement of proxy forces and cut outs (in the same way that Iran uses Hezbollah, or the way we used the US used the Contras, or the way that Pakistan ISI used the Taliban) essentially, to borrow the SF adage "to train snakes to kill other snakes," are you suggesting that we can, and should, run policing actions from the shadows, just not using our own overt troops, when required to protect our national interests (real or perceived)?

  14. Sheera, just for the record, I agree with you on AFG, that is a fight we need to deescalate, not escalate. (I've said so in previous postings)

    As far as Somalia, and other dark corners of the Earth, I am sorry, but we must remain vigilant. (I am far from the NeoCon's perspective, but I won't try to defend that, I am not drinking the Kool Aid.) There are many ways to do this, bribing the right people, as you suggested, is one of them. But before you know who to bribe, you MUST be involved in that part of the world to truly understand who to bribe and how much it will take.

    Perhaps I am too jaded by my experiences to believe that so many people of so many different perspectives and interests can ever just get along. This isn't fear-mongering, this is history taught to me through my own experiences as an active participant in 4 different armed conflicts on 3 different continents.

    But I found this statement really interesting I would like to hear more because I would love to believe it (but perhaps I am too jaded or brainwashed to do so):

    "BG, we, here, the US, are on the precipice of a major sociological shift that is switching to a new paradigm in the way we interact with the world. The old ways of viewing the world are being exchanged for another view"

    Where is this shift coming from, who is leading it and what evidence are we seeing that it is occurring.


  15. bg-

    Great comments.

    "through my own experiences as an active participant"

    That must be the most frustrating part . . .

  16. Thanks seydlitz, and yes, the most frustrating and potentially the most blinding part (which is why I greatly appreciate the perspectives on this blog).

  17. Excellent discussion! I'm with FDC: "This idea that somehow the entire world is our backyard and we need to rake the leaves and trim the hedges infuriates the hell out of me."

    It seems the Post and many others are a bit hopped up on employing the one thing we really do excel at, namely, displays of military might, especially now when we suffer so many other come-downs. Yet it also seems we would appreciate that ramrodding our ideas down other people's throats doesn't turn out well.

    When Thomas Friedman (he of the fabled 6-Mo. "FU") states we should begin diverting our energies and start nation building here at home, a tide has turned.

    I, too, would be interested in explication of the "major sociological shift" envisioned in our worldwide relations.

    [Sheerah: I wasn't aware that young women still behaved so demurely :)]

  18. There is a school of political thought that the U.S. is kind of doomed to be the world's lightning rod. It's because we're so big and we're so bad, and we take what we believe to be prudent measures to secure ourselves. This means that no matter how benign our intentions, we're inevitably going to be viewed as a threat to the rest of the world. FDChief is talking about how a smart super power would go about doing things. Unfortunately, we've really never been a smart super power.

    Despite the hope of many that the U.S. can somehow stay below the radar and be a real nice and friendly country, the reality is that no matter how nice and friendly we may try to be, we're going to be targets. Belgium we're not. We're the big dog. We're a threat to everyone on the planet and that's going to ensure a lot of folks will always try to take us down a notch.

    We are an empire. But we're unfortunately a stupid empire. The rest of the planet quakes when we walk. So how do we deal with this? Well, we shit on our friends. Then we try to ingratiate ourselves with those who wouldn't piss on us if we were on fire.

    Then we kill our youth in stupid wars, instead of making the local youth, the ones who should actually be doing the fighting for their country or cause or whatever it may be, die for it. Lyndon Johnson in 1964: "I won't send American boys to die in a war Asian boys should be fighting." Right on, LBJ.

    Our wealth and our ability to spend lots of money to secure ourselves—with an enormously expensive military establishment—makes us a threat to the rest of the world. Yeah, we say we only keep this great, expensive military to protect ourselves, and we may even mean it, but the rest of the world views it as a threat.

    We didn't end up being Mr. Jefferson's dream of a pastoral nation. Of course Jefferson was a rank hypocrite, as witnessed by the Louisiana Purchase, one of the largest land grabs in history, the precursor to empire. If any 21st Century "can't we all get along" folks would actually take a look at our history, they'd see that we're always been assholes. From the very beginning, Americans have always viewed themselves as superior and have always believed that the world belonged to them. We've never gotten along with the rest of the world—because we've always been a threat.

    If you don't understand our history and who we are as a people, then you can't understand why the Neocons have been able to get away with their shit. Americans have always felt blessed by Providence and destined for great things. So have Brits, French, Germans and Russians at various times. One way or the other, we beat all of them. And boy, have we taken that to heart.

    Instead of "E Pluribus Unum," our national motto should be the Latin equivalent of, "Our shit don't stink." This attitude permeates our national discourse and it's what makes our citizenry eager to follow those who sing the siren song of empire.

    We're in a box. We're an empire, the greatest ever. We have a third of the entire world's economy. We absolutely cannot withdraw from the rest of the world. Even if we wanted to, the rest of the world wouldn't let us.

    Although Goliath recognizes the need to influence the rest of the world, Goliath has run up against new challenges but is unable to come up with new approaches. Goliath has made a lot of terrible mistakes over the years, but has always had amazing resiliency. But Goliath is no longer young. Goliath is deep into middle age and deep in debt. Unfortunately, rather than recognizing the realities of age, Goliath thinks he's still young, that he can still go out and party while not worrying about the home front.

    Goliath thinks he's got a lifetime supply of Viagra. Goliath is stupid. And WASF.

  19. Publius-

    BRAVO. So elegantly stated.

    You wrote, "Americans have always felt blessed by Providence and destined for great things. So have Brits, French, Germans and Russians at various times. One way or the other, we beat all of them. And boy, have we taken that to heart."

    I would suggest that we haven't "beaten them all", but simply occupy the lead at this point in time. Since we tend to have been making the same dumbass mistakes as those other great powers, our leading role in the world is just as temporal. China's growing economic might cannot be discounted, and there will come the day when more and more nations look to them for guidance, just as they once looked at the Soviet Union. China's selling point will be economic more than a "political system", giving them a broad advantage over what the Soviets had to offer.

    As to, "Instead of "E Pluribus Unum," our national motto should be the Latin equivalent of, "Our shit don't stink.", never have I read a more accurate and succinct description. Hey, all we have to do is kill all the bad guys in those two bit, troublesome nations and the reamaining good guys will simply transform, in the wink of an eye, into Rush Limbaugh Bobble Heads like the great folks of the US.

  20. I've thought a lot about the general war glorification mentality of far too much of the US population. I would offer that for a vast majority of the population, war, and it's attendant death, mutilation and destruction, is an abstract. Even people who know someone who has been killed or wounded only know the after effects of the casualty, not the actual experience of being there when it happens. Even more so when it happens in numbers greater than the one or two people you might know.

    When Americans watch movie violence, they do not have to deal with the really messy bits. You know, like seeing corpses stacked like cord wood (Tet Offensive) or carry a dozen or so body bags in the cargo hold of a Chinook, with the attendant odor, and so on. The fact of the matter is that the really ugly side of war cannot be described nor experienced vicariously. However, the abstract satisfaction of "killing bad guys", especially when done in a neat, clean and sanitary fashion by someone else is quite captivating.

    Anyone on our little island over the age of 70 remembers their first hand experiences of the German Occupation and the Islanders who were killed resisting the Occupier, or the homes and businesses that were destroyed. That's a hell of a lot of folks, and there is no similar population in the US. 19 fanatics armed with boxcutters to hijack 4 aircraft and kill 3,000 people will not cause the population of Greece to break out in assholes and try to shit themselves to death. These folks not only lived through numerous invasions, but suffered a horrible civil war. They would respond firmly, not not stupidly. They know the horror of what a response by war would entail.

    Of course, our response to 9/11 was to mindlessly declare war on every possible actor the population would tolerate. And, while we are doing that, we build a list of future opponents.

    I am reminded of this mindless gravitation toward killing every so often on a forum for Vespa motorscooter enthusiasts to which I belong. While it is generally a very civilized place for discourse, on occasion, a new member will inquire about security devices to protect their Vespa from theft and/or vandalism. The direction of the answers will always be the same. First, a variety of locks, alarms and chains will be discussed, to include the pros and cons of specific types and brands. Then, inevitably, someone will post a picture of his handgun with a "cute" comment along the lines of it being "foolproof". The threat will then become a series of posts comparing a large number of members weaponry and how anyone who even thinks of violating their property or person is going to meet a swift demise. Nothing but endless puerile posturing. Really childish stuff like, "I know I will enjoy the look on the bastard's face as he realizes that by trying to enter my house he signed his own death sentence, and I am about to carry it out."

    About a month ago, I decided to post my thoughts about firearms, and simply said that I was required, as a part of my job, not only to carry a weapon, but to actually use one to kill or maim another human being. And, of course, other human beings were in the same situation with me, except I was their target. And, with the passage of time, not only was I at the trigger, but I lead people who were also to kill. Thus, when I retired, having spent 35 years actually using or potentially using firearms to kill other people, I no longer found any joy or excitement in weapons. Not even for target practice. With a bit of retrospection, killing, those killed and the horror of death was a disincentive for being enamored with guns. I closed by saying, "How about the others here who have actually taken a life with a firearm? What's your opinion?"

    That was the final post of the thread.

  21. Publius, Al, well said.

    So is there any hope for Goliath? I believe so, and here is why.;_ylt=ApyUS29CbAr2_ZjzIxaLypys0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJwNHFnZ2ljBGFzc2V0A2FmcC8yMDA5MTEwMy9taWdyYXRpb251c2FmcmljYWFzaWFldXJvcGUEcG9zAzUEc2VjA3luX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDbWlsbGlvbnN3b3Js

    Of the many countries I've traveled over the past 10 years, I've seen one very universal trend. People of the world don't hate Americans, the fact is, that many, many of them wish nothing more than to be Americans. It is our culture, way of life, or at least a perception of our way of life.

    Reasons why people fear/hate America. Because their leaders tell them too, because their leaders fear our government (and often over reasonable concerns).

    I disagree with the analogy that our country is deep in middle age (but yes, ridiculous debt), but I think we are still relatively young. The Civil War was puberty, WW II was college, and the Cold War was our first real job after school. I am sure many on this Pub can relate with how our attitudes and beliefs, even our values, have changed and evolved towards the end of our first career. I am 35 today, and my views and attitudes are barely recognizable to my own self 12 years ago.

    I think our country can change. Unlike the Romans, our country has proven time and time again that we can adapt to a changing world.

    So, what do we have to do? I am not sure if we will have to do anything. I am both scared and amazed of this new generation. Watch a 10-20 year old and how they communicate with their world. Social network websites (Facebook) where people have hundreds of "friends" who read each other's every move. They carry on simultaneous conversations via SMS with 10 different friends while multitasking.

    With the right ideas and understanding of the world, can you imagine what a generation of free thinkers with nearly unlimited communication ability can accomplish (for a sneak preview, look how twitter and SMS's influenced the political unrest in Iran this year in one of the world's most oppressive nation).

    Yah, the jury is still out, I don't know if I should be scared or amazed with these kids. I guess we will find out soon enough.

  22. You underestimate the Roman's ability to adapt.
    Especially their army adapted well. A Roman army marching against the Parthians looked completely different than a Roman army marching against Celts.

    Their downfall was rather a result of their inability to free enough resources for sufficient military power to keep the promise of destruction on invaders. Their bluff was called and they had just a pair of twos.

  23. Publius,and friends,
    It's nice to read your thoughts expressed by words. The problem is that i caught your malaise and feel words to be only that-words.
    We all talk and where do we get with this. ?
    Sheer- why do we need to contain Somalia? The cold war and containment are over. Why do we kick ass only on small defenseless countries? We screw with the little guys and give the real tough guys a pass. We won't tackle the real issues , only the illusory problems. We are a joke that is no longer funny. At any level.
    BTW, Sheer, this is not an attack on your thinking which is always solid , but you are buying into the b/s.
    I love you guys. Well some of you. Anyway.
    jim at rangerAW

  24. Sven, I choose my words poorly, of course Romans adapted well. My point was that the Roman society did invent anything new, they absorbed cultures, war fighting techniques, etc. I think what makes America different is that in the past we have led with new ideas, new technologies, new culture. Rome didn't have new ideas that people wanted. We do (for good or bad). The world did not turn to Rome for leadership, but I believe that the world has and will continue to turn to the US for leadership if we champion new ideas. Does that prove the point of US feeling self important? Perhaps, but I still find it to be true. I don't think there is any question as to whether the world will follow the US lead, I question whether or not the leaders of the US will ever get it together long enough to champion the new ideas in the first place.

    Of course, this begs the question, is it the responsibility or even the place of the US to be that leader? My self-important opinion is yes, we must lead if we want to maintain our status as the Goliath (and enjoy all of the benefits and pains that go with that status). If we want to relegate our nation to a lower status, than we should lay low. Lead or get the hell out of the way, what can be more American?

  25. "Sheer- why do we need to contain Somalia? The cold war and containment are over. Why do we kick ass only on small defenseless countries?"

    Hmm, if we "contain" somalia we are in effect not going into Somalia, but rather allowing the Somalian's to have at each other.
    Now, the question that begs my "containment" thinking is "how active of a containment" do we need to thoughts are, in colusion with my "staying on our side of the pond" is to let the other countries surrounding Somalia contained them and their nuttiness.
    We...we'll send Ehtopia grain, corn, peas, bricks, and some educational materials on farming, water purification, and land restoration.
    If Somalia likes what Ethopia is getting from us, then they can grow the fuck up, trade in their guns and stupidity, and we'll send them sameo sameo.
    I'm of the mind that we should be exporting food, and knowledge...not our dumb-ass style of democracy that we ourselves, as a nation, are having a difficult time with much less understand the enormous responsibility that a...well, allegedly free people should know by experiential knowledge.

  26. Good to see this thread burgeoning. Couple of thoughts:

    bg: You're interpretation is correct - we need to do what successful empires have always done, and that includes everything from arranged marriages to burning entire cities to the ground. I think our problem right now is that we have such a huge, muscular fighting arm that we tend to use it when coercion, bribery, seduction and blackmail would be not only more efficient but more effective.

    Most of what goes on in these shitty little backwaters is meaningless except to those living there. The problem comes when the Great Power has neither the capability to discern the importance of the actions of the locals nor the discernment to make good choices about the options and their cost-effectiveness.

    There's really only two ways to do this:

    a. You use local proxies. Of course, the problem with this is you don't know that your proxies will stay bought, or whether they'll feed you disinformation because they've been suborned or because they're using you to kack a local rival.

    b. You send out your own people to "go native". They spend what amounts to their entire career in the region, cultivate local sources, immerse themselves in the area until they truly understand and can interpret the local intentions and actions. The drawback of this is that it's a dead-end in any bureaucracy, and, since the local case officer is relatively low-level, his or her conclusions are easy to ignore, disregard or cover-up.

    Either of these have the additional problem of being outward-centric, when, as we know, one of the real differences in U.S. politics and U.S. culture over the past 60 years has been the increasing centralization and internalization of our outlook. We make decisions more because of what we believe here, and what impact it will have domestically, rather than because of what the man or woman on the scene tells us is the best solution. I don't believe that this will change, short of a truly shattering realignment of power inside the Beltway.

    I do think you overstimate our ability to reinvent ourselves. We've - and by that I mean our ruling classes - lost a lot of the flexibility and outward-looking viewpoint we had as little as half a century ago. It shows in our politics, which are more about scoring dingy points off the other side of the aisle than the common weal.

    It IS true that much of the rest of the world envies us our lifestyle. But it's not that they want to be Americans; they want to be Brazilians, Chinese, Uighurs or Iraqis...but with our STUFF. They, too, want Hummers and flat-screen TVs and Giorgio Armani suits and large-breasted girlfriends. But that doesn't mean that they want that accompanied by our manners or mores or political structures.

    I don't think we need to "lead" in the sense you mean. As long as we are the world's Great Power we will lead by example. The examples we set, however, aren't always a problem just for the "leaders" of these various places. There are a lot of fairly objectionable things about our culture, our policies and our manners (just as there are lots of things to object about in other peoples' ways). There will always be some people to object to them, regardless of their motives or position in their community.

    So while we can't withdraw from the world, we can stop making the same stupid mistakes:

    1. Stop kidding ourselves about making the rest of the world like us. They will or they won't, and unless we plan to actually take over places and rule them, bullets won't work.

    2. Stop kidding ourselves about our innate goodness. We're a nation, yes, a great nation, but a nation like any other. We can do bad things, we can do stupid things, and both will return to bite us on the ass

    3. Try and actually figure out what is in our best interests, both foreign and domestically. And then do it.

    I have no real hope that we will accomplish any of the above.

  27. Interesting discussion, as usual.

    The only thing I want to point out is that although the neocons were driving the bus for eight years, there are plenty of others who are all for intervention under the right ideological conditions. We shouldn't forget about Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, any one of which could have become the Charlie Foxtrots that Iraq and Afghanistan have become. I certainly remember the anti-war protests a few years ago where some demanded we get out of Iraq and into Darfur. Personally, I don't think there is much that differentiates such people from the neocons except the neocons seem to be much better at getting what they want.

  28. Sheer,
    Have you ever considered that by sending food this actually extends and causes more problems? Such as over population and unrealistic belief that free food will solve their over population problems.?

  29. I second Al's "bravo", Publius.

    FDC, thank you for an excellent roundup of a more correct approach. An excellent argument for honesty-as-pragmatism (if for no other reason.)

  30. Sheer,

    I know you are not naive, but your idea here is:

    "We...we'll send Ehtopia grain, corn, peas, bricks, and some educational materials on farming, water purification, and land restoration.
    If Somalia likes what Ethopia is getting from us, then they can grow the fuck up, trade in their guns and stupidity, and we'll send them sameo sameo."

    First of all, do you remember, "We are the world?" We sent food to starving people in Ethiopia. Do you know the full story behind that? Here is the brief, behind the scenes history:

    The Govt of Ethiopia was essentially conducting genocide on a tribe within Ethiopia, they were starving them out. Some press got a hold of a story, showing starving people in Ethiopia, oh, so sad, totally disregarding the reason they were starving (their own govt). So we sang, "we are the world" and money and food came pouring into the Govt of Ethiopia to distributed. Well, we just reinforced that government's behavior, and then they really put the screws to the people to so they could demonstrate the need for more aid, and they got it and gave it to whomever they wanted to (hint, not the starving people, they were a cash cow).

    True story. As we say, "Atia", meaning, "This is Africa."

    So, let's talk Somalia. Do you know why we originally had troops in Somalia back in the 1990s? Prevent warlords from stealing the food we gave to the people. So today, who would you give the food to if the Somalia people promised that they would get their act together?

    The Transitional Federal Govt? Their soldiers are selling the weapons we give them for Kot. Most of their government is in exile in Kenya playing it safe. Would you give it to Al Shabaab, the AQ affiliated group attacking the TFG? Would you give it to the Ethiopian sponsored militias, or the Kenyan sponsored militias? Or how about the NGOs (aka Al Shaabab). Or do we need to send in international troops to safeguard the food and ensure it gets to the right people (if so, then what is the point?)

    I am sorry, it just is not that easy. Food is power, just like weapons. Whoever you give the food to becomes powerful. And unfortunately, they will not use that power for what we would consider "good will," they will use it for their own "good will."

  31. Interesting thread. Would only add a couple of points.

    First, for me as usual it comes down to whether the strategy is coherent in terms of the "fit" or lack thereof between political purpose and military aim. Also the disjunct between the rhetoric of the "Global War on Terror" which is presented as an existential threat to the US and how we have in fact reacted to that threat in terms of policy and force structure since 2001. One would have to think "strategically" to understand that, and unfortunately "strategic thought" is in very short supply among our movers and shakers, who think only in terms of "interests" as in their own or those of their patrons. This is all about domestic US politics, not policy, which means it will run its course until the political machine runs out of gas or goes off a cliff, which is basically Publius's argument.

    Second, I would like to know anyone's thoughts on the changes that have taken place in the US military over the last 20+ years. Pfaff in his most recent article mentioned that the establishment of the all volunteer Army may have been "the most dangerous decision ever taken by Congress". Have we allowed a politicized military to develop, with its own political agenda? Is what we are seeing concerning Afghan policy today a "revolt" by the war party (including its military members) against the president? Is this part of a larger plan to establish a general as the next president?


    "So, let's talk Somalia. Do you know why we originally had troops in Somalia back in the 1990s? Prevent warlords from stealing the food we gave to the people."

    That was the official version. The unofficial version was quite different . . .

    Which goes along very much with the "buzz" I was hearing at the time . . .

  32. If the US is an empire, it is a strange and ahistorical kind of empire, perhaps it can be called an empire of consent. I don't think America's status can change without fundamental changes in our structure of allies and alliances. We are the "World's policeman" in the sense that it is our military might that backs up not just our interests, but those of our allies, many of them who aren't capable of of doing much beyond their own borders.


    I don't think the military that you or Pfaff describes exists in the real world. The military's political agenda seems to be about the same as it always has - inter-service rivalry over resources. In that sense it is like any other government beaurocracy. Beyond that I don't see much politization at all and I've lived in and around the military for most of the past 20 years. Opinion about Afghanistan policy in military circles is quite diverse. The idea that there is some conspiracy in the military to put a general in the WH strikes me as completely absurd.

    As for Somalia, I don't think there's much evidence to support the oil argument as a primary motivator for the Somalia intervention. Certainly the oil companies wanted an intervention to bring stabilization allowing them to resume exploration, but I don't think there's any evidence that desire significantly impacted the decision to intervene. The most serious problem with the theory, however, is that the intervention itself was obviously not designed to pacify Somalia to allow continued exploration, much less extraction of any discoveries.

  33. No BG, I am ashamed to admit this, but I did not know that about Ethopia...and...

    "I am sorry, it just is not that easy. Food is power, just like weapons. Whoever you give the food to becomes powerful. And unfortunately, they will not use that power for what we would consider "good will," they will use it for their own "good will." a true statement, and apparently I am naive.

    "That was the official version. The unofficial version was quite different . . ."

    And so goes in the final nail to my naivete.

    "Have you ever considered that by sending food this actually extends and causes more problems? Such as over population and unrealistic belief that free food will solve their over population problems.?"

    I would have disagreed and said food is a lot more innocuous than weapons, but having been disabused of that silly thought before it took wing I will have to say that I spoke/wrote out of ignorance.

    My apologies to everyone for being...irrational, and not thinking before giving my frustrations permissions that in hindsight should have been...hell I don't know.

  34. Andy: empire is as empire does. When you send lawyers, guns and money (not to mention soldiers, aerial drones, ships and CIA agents) to places around the world where you have no physical skin in the game - no citizens in peril, no coaling stations under siege, no imperial legates held captive by local beardie-wierdies - you're acting like an empire in all but name. I doubt that the Lebanese consented to our incursions in the 1950s or the 1980s, the Iranians consented to our defenstration of Mossadeigh, the Chileans to our support of their military government or the coup that ousted Salvador Allende, the Hondurans and Guatemalans to the various SmedleyButlerish fun we've had there since the Teens. We're a big dog, and we gnaw on the bones we choose, regardless of who thinks they own them.

    I'm not saying that "empire is bad" across the board. I suspect that a Gaul in Narbonensis in 15AD would have told you that he preferred Roman rule to the howling barbarians beyond the Rhine. An upper-class Hindu in Delhi in 1915 might have told you that the Raj was a better deal than the Mughals or the warring petty rajahs had been. And certainly for the Romans and Britons and Spaniards, they derived a hell of a lot of lucre and influence from their empires.


    Those empires WERE empires. They moved in directly and ruled the places they wanted. We, on the other hand, seem to want these dusky heathens to do what we want without the inconvenience of having to provide them with at least the benefits of the peace of the conquered. I'd have a lot more respect for our foreign fiddling if we were honest about it and acted like conquerors. Instead, we want it both ways. We want "freedom" and "democracy" for our Little Brown Brothers...unless that freedom includes the freedom to elect Islamic rulers or Commie presidents, in which case we'll cheerfully help the local satrap, be it Pinochet, contras, Mubarak, the Shah or Marcos, crush the irritating bastards who want the freedom to NOT do what we want them to do.

    As bg points out, there are lots of ways to run an empire. Food is a weapon, technology is a weapon, information is a weapon. We use all these weapons on the people we pick as our foreign enemies. But if you're going to be an empire without directly ruling - as the Romans did much of their early empire - you have to do it smart and on the downlow. You have to master the arts of diplomacy, subversion and blackmail. You have to know how to work in the shadows. The real issue I have with the "interventionists" - the neocon Right, the hawkish Left, the "world's policeman" supporters in general, is that they seem to have forgotten this. Much as the Spaniards ruined themselves fighting religious wars in the 16th and 17th Century and the British fighting world wars in the 20th, we seem determined to stick our head into the meatgrinder playing whack-a-mole across the globe without ever trying to figure out if the objectives we're chasing are worth it. We're like frightened children, leaping on out chairs when the cynical warlovers shout "TERRORIST!".

    I have no illusion about my - or our - ability to change things. In an oligarchy, which is what we have largely become, only the oligarchs count. But it still offends my sense of organization and love of Reason. It is humuliating and offensive to know that I am a citizen of the Biggest Nelly of Global Empires.

  35. Chief,

    Like I said, if we're an empire, we sure are a strange one. However, by your criteria (send lawyers, guns and money (not to mention soldiers, aerial drones, ships and CIA agents) to places around the world where you have no physical skin in the game) aren't most countries empires?

  36. Despite Andy's objections, I remain steadfast in my contention that the U.S. is indeed an empire. Sure, it's a strange empire, but it's an empire nevertheless. A third of the world's economy, plus the military ability to do just about anything we want makes us an empire. Note I've never said this was necessarily a good thing—I wholeheartedly agree with FDChief's thoughts about how the U.S. goes about this empire business—but it is what it is. Perhaps strange, but Andy, I'd say there aren't too many other countries out there able to send "lawyers, guns and money (not to mention soldiers, aerial drones, ships and CIA agents)" to just about anywhere desired. No, by this definition, most countries aren't empires.

    The problem with our empire status and with the magnificent power projection capability we've developed is that it's ultimately going to prove worthless. Sven tells us why when in discussing the Romans, he notes, "Their downfall was rather a result of their inability to free enough resources for sufficient military power to keep the promise of destruction on invaders. Their bluff was called and they had just a pair of twos."

    Right on. Years of proligate spending accompanied by irresponsible tax cuts during a time of war, exacerbated by a near depression, have combined to put our empire pretty near the end of its fiscal rope. The days when the U.S. was able to do whatever it wanted overseas without consulting the checkbook are numbered. Interventionists, both left and right—I agree with Andy about how they're all around—are just going to have to fulminate to their friends and in op-eds, while realizing that the funds aren't there. Yeah, the manpower will be there—no shortage of volunteers in bad times—but they do have to be paid. And personnel costs aren't the majority of the defense budget. That fancy hardware costs big time. This nation soon won't be able to afford to go to war.

    BG disagrees with my characterization of the U.S. as middle-aged; he thinks we're still a young, vital nation. BG, you're right in one respect: the U.S. is actually "younger" than our Euro buddies if one just looks at demographics. But take a look at where that youth comes from. In what's important, and where I'm coming from, we're old. We're old in our commitments to a bunch of old folks, plus we're old in our politics. Our politicians are still fighting the Cold War; they've learned nothing in the past 20 years. Plus the unfortunate reality is that the huge Baby Boom generation is the best educated in history. Which means they vote. You think they're going to give up their dreams to live forever through modern medicine so the troops can go screw off in the third world? Meanwhile, BG, way too many of the younger generations—yours and your kids—are undereducated and perhaps don't even speak English. BG, how are you going to keep the empire together with a "young nation" whose people specialize in video games and tweeting, and who think math and science are esoteric subjects best left to Asian geeks?

    Seriously, BG, you've got a far greater challenge than Al, the Chief, the Ranger and I (just talking military) ever had. We were able to focus on the military without worrying about the rest of the country burning down around us. You don't have that luxury. If you're not worried about the nation, then you're spending too much time in the motor pool. The empire is in deep shit.

    Seydlitz: No, I have no worries about any military conspiracies. Yeah, tons of generals are stupid right-wingers, but I don't see any of 'em having the sack to subvert the Constitution to that extent.

    Oh, and then we have events at Fort Hood today. A major with an Arabic name, maybe helped by two others—still unknown‚greases 12 GIs, wounds 31. Arabic name. Huh. Anybody think this won't profoundly affect the dialog?

  37. Sheera,

    I appreciate your willingness to concede the point. No discussions of ideas are bad discussions as long as both parties are willing to have an open mind.

    To bring up some current events and slightly go off topic for a moment, what annoys me is not those who make statements about things they don't know, it is those who make those statements with no humility and with an unearned sense of infallibility. A few years back, there was a plot by some potential terrorists (for lack of a better term) to get weapons and drive onto Ft. Dix, NJ, with the purpose of killing as many soldiers as possible. Keith Olberman, a great sportscaster, but not a military genius, laughed a the Bush administration and criticized the government for using this story as fear-mongering. Olberman's logic was that it was absurd that any group of armed men could have any success on a post filled with trained, armed, Army personnel. Olberman was so sure of himself, but so ignorant of the fact that on Army posts, very few, if any, soldiers carry weapons. He had probably never been on a military post in his life, but he was very sure of himself in making comments about what would happen on the post.

    Side note: Where I am at right now Fox News is the only US news source available, but, in their defense, they've done an excellent job of covering the story at Ft Hood. I will give FoxNews some rare props for quality journalism today.

    Thoughts and prayers with those at Ft Hood today.

  38. Publius,

    Just for the record, I haven't been in a motor pool for years. I hate that place.

    Funny you should bring generations into this. Has there ever been a generation who did not honestly believe that the generation that followed were going to be the ruin of their civilization? Youth is wasted on the young, etc?

    I am ready to take this thread into a whole new direction with this statement (sorry in advance for the potential hijack). I, as a member of Gen X, if there is such a thing as a collective personality of a generation, fully believe that the Baby Boomers are the cause of all evils in our country today (with all do respect to those of you who fit in that category, please just accept it is an intended overgeneralization).

    I could go on a 10 page dissertation on my thoughts concerning this statement, but I will spare everyone the diatribe. Besides, it would be filled anecdotal evidence, over-generalizations and other unsubstantiated biases (kind of like trying to predict how today's kids will turn out).

  39. Bg, I won't disagree with you about Baby Boomers. Of course, I will note that I'm not of that generation: just missed it. I'd also note that, in my experience, Baby Boomers born in 1946-50 (first five years) tend to be fairly conservative, not in the political sense, but in an overall approach to life. They're also not nearly so self-absorbed and whiny as are many later boomers. They're not all like Clinton and Bush.

    It wasn't my intent, BTW, to get into a generational pissing match. As noted, I agree with your characterization of the Baby Boom generation—and I'll also warn you that if you think they whine and snivel now, just wait until they're in their 70s—but one must also acknowledge that the boomers are the best educated cohort in history. If you delve into my post, you'll see my thrust wasn't which generation is best, but more the fate of the nation. Whether you as a Gen Xer like it or not (and my daughter, who's one of you sure doesn't like it), neither your generation nor the next is turning out the numbers of well educated folks that will be needed to maintain the empire. That's a fact.

    What's also a fact is that 75 percent of Americans aged 17-24 are unqualified for military service, either because they're fat and out of shape, or because they're either uneducated or stupid, or both. This was not an issue when I was in that target group, it was somewhat worse when your generation was there, but now it's gotten totally out of hand. This is a failure of parenting and IMO, younger boomers and older Gen Xers have to take the hit.

    Generational finger-pointing is a lot of fun—I might even do something on it—but it's ultimately unsatisfying. I recall that back sometime before my old man died, when I was in my forties, I got really irked at some of his "greatest generation" horseshit. Said something to the effect of, "well, if you all are so great, what was I doing in those jungles in a stupid unwinnable war"? Shut his ass up, but didn't do anything to alter reality. You? Well, shit, man, you can do the same to us old dudes about the stupid and unwinnable wars you're doing. You know what? Won't help you any. They're still dead. And the nation is broke. And you're going to pay for it the rest of your life.

    Education. If we had a well-educated nation, we wouldn't elect sociopaths, psychopaths, ignoramuses and men—it's always men, BTW—with inferiority and Napoleonic complexes—to high political office. We wouldn't have turnouts of 50% for critical elections. Of course, we also wouldn't be about 20th in the world in infant mortality, wouldn't have to bring folks in from Asia to do our engineering and science work for us, wouldn't owe the rest of the world several trillions of dollars, and would probably be able to find some smarter ways of exerting our influence around the world.

    I think Bg's confidence is misplaced, but what do I know? I hope he's right and I'm wrong, but I'd feel much better about the future if I didn't believe that the lives and talents of those few like Bg—the best and brightest of our youth—are just being wasted in pointless foreign adventures. Meanwhile, society makes no demands on their contemporaries who can't cut it and are accordingly free to drink soda pop, eat potato chips and play video games.

    Bg, I'd much rather see you in the motor pool. All MI officers need motor pool time. Builds character.

  40. bg,

    As a gen-x-er myself, I feel the same way much of the time, so you're not alone. If you're not already, I suggest you start saving because it's doubtful that things like social security and medicare will be around when its our turn. You can also expect to take it up the ass in taxes to pay for a couple generations worth of debt. I never thought I'd say this, but a couple of decades of double-digit inflation is looking like a least-bad option.

    I thought of something the other day I hadn't thought of before: I'm 41 years old and our government has run a budget deficit my entire life with the exception those few years during Clinton's term when the tech bubble gave us a surplus. My whole life I've heard people say that it's not a big deal, that's it's only temporary, blah, blah, blah. I believed it for a while, but the chickens are coming home to roost and they'll probably be shitting in our wheaties. I can't help but feel resentful that previous generations squandered the future and the boomers appear to be taking the squandering to new heights. I also feel ashamed I didn't do more more to correct our listing ship-of-state earlier and that it took me so long to wise-up.


    There are a lot of countries that send guns, lawyers and money abroad and there are even more that could but don't. Granted, there is a huge difference in degree in that we are capable of sending and sustain large military forces abroad. And that brings me back to our alliances, which I think is the big reason we still have that military capability. We are the burly guy with the big stick standing behind a lot friends and allies of convenience and necessity. Would the world be a better place if some other country besides the USA had the big stick or if all these countries we protect fended for themselves? Hard to say, but I think it's something that we, as a nation, need to seriously look at. I'm frankly tired of subsidizing the defense requirements of our allies, many of whom are quite happy to receive the subsidy while bitching and moaning about us or actively working against us. A strange empire indeed.

    bg (again),

    I've broken my usual ban on watching the news networks to follow today's events and from a "current intel" reporting perspective, none did very bad, but they all failed with the "analysis" and speculation. CNN and MSNBC, for example, went out of their way to say there was nothing to suggest that Hasan's name or religion had anything to do with it and were offending that anyone would suggest such a thing before the facts were in. They were, however, perfectly happy speculating about PTSD and all the ways he might have gotten PTSD which inevitably led to the rehash of recent PTSD-related violent incidents. I guess it's ok to speculate when the narrative fits one's bias.

    As for Fox, to be honest, I only watched it for about five minutes. I can't really stand Fox anymore except for Shep Smith. I'll take your word they were better than usual on this.

    Publius (again),

    Great comments on generational splits. Take my comments above with a grain of salt. They are soldierly bitching, but grounded in some truth. I agree with you that the future isn't bright and am not looking forward to when the boomers hit 70. They'll be wringing us younger folk dry I suspect.

  41. There is nothing about discussing generational issues that is "hijacking" in terms of this topic. Many of the demographics of a nation indeed effect the policy making of that nation, or at least should effect it.

    We should be worried about the current generation. It has increasing segments that are poor and ill equipped to participate in the "American Dream". Unemployment, lack of access to health care and non-completion of high school remains disproportionately high amongst certain demographic groups, and they are groups with high reproduction rates. I find it interesting that the "quality of life" statistics for some of these groups mirror the statistics oft cited for third world countries. And it is these very "quality of life" statistics that are often used to explain the unrest and turmoil in those third world countries.

    In short, I wonder if we have the equivalent of third world subcultures in the US, and if they are growing. If so, then one cannot simply generalize our condition based on "generations", as the real makeup of the generations under discussion is changing in a manner not directly addressed. When the "third world" (or "under class", as some call it) population reaches a certain quantum size, it may very well profoundly impact the general population.

    That, as a society, we have tended to ignore the well being of those less fortunate among us, speaks volumes of how we are addressing the rest of the world. I would guess that one could say that the US is an egocentric society, versus a sociocentric one. For example, far too much of the population is arguing over the personal cost to the currently insured of health care reform than addressing the fact that the ranks of the uninsured rises continuously. All too often, the agenda is driven by the first person singular while implying it is the first person plural. Should we be surprised that our foreign policy reflects such ego-centrism? In our form of "majority rule", it is a given that "we" pertains only to the wishes of the majority. So if "we" are not individually feeling the burden of stupid foreign adventures at any given moment in time, but are enjoying being "the big kid on the block", why should "we" expect more enlightened approaches to our nation's dealings with the rest of the world. Until our current approach to the world inflicts unacceptable pain on a seriously large segment of our population, nothing will change. Again, pointing to health care as a parallel, TX has the highest percentage of uninsured people (about 27%) in the country and many of the most anti-reform CongressCritters are in the TX delegation. The uninsured are simply not a significantly large enough constituency - even at 27%!!!

    Until our oligarchy is called upon to answer to a more sociocentric population, the beat will go on. It's not politics or "government" my friends. It's cultural.

  42. Andy-

    " don't think the military that you or Pfaff describes exists in the real world."

    I wasn't really describing it, just introduced Pfaff's latest article and then asked a series of questions. I respect Pfaff - Korean war infantry vet and former US intel officer - so, yes I do take what he writes seriously. As to a US general being groomed to be the next Prez, that is a view I've read on this blog, but have not expressed myself, and I referred to a "war party" not the military doing the string pulling as you wrote. Interesting use of rhetoric there.

    As to Somalia 1993, the LATimes article I posted is an unclassified version of what I was hearing from my colleagues at the time . . . both US and foreign, for what that is worth, but which might be interesting to bg since I assume that Bush I and Somalia were before his time in uniform.


    "No, I have no worries about any military conspiracies. Yeah, tons of generals are stupid right-wingers, but I don't see any of 'em having the sack to subvert the Constitution to that extent."

    Not so much a military conspiracy, but rather the actions of a highly politicized military elements which see their best interests as resting with the GOP. An example of this would be the question of Gen McCrystal involving himself in policy decisions . . . essentially campaigning for his own plan . . . do you see this in line with the Constitution?


    Andrew Bacevich mentioned the "generational issue" in a recent interview. COIN is seen uncritically by the new generation of Army officers as the doctrine for a global counter-insurgency effort according to his view . . .

    Pfaff's article . . .

  43. Aviator47,
    I live in a 3rd world nation and it's called America. I live in Gadsden Co FL where ignorance , and poverty rule. The love of football trumps the Constitution, whatever that is. Our cty STD, Aids,teen pregnancy and unwed mothers is incredible BUT being unwed is no longer a bad thing. Now we pay SSI and foodstamps forever to encourage the downward spiral. There is devolution as I see it.
    Now having said that I distrust education b/c what do we get from this- yep a bunch of attornies running everything and dominating politics b/c they want their piece of the pie at our expense.
    I wonder if the people that cmt on America ever open their eyes-just look around at our TV, movies, BET, violent games, and emphasis on sports. Our emphasis is totally screwed and this is not generational-IT'S A NATIONAL FOCUS.
    BTW Publius-i'm your boy and in your corner totally but the Army and country was crumbling around our ears when we served in RVN but we were too self focused to notice. Think about while we were invading Cambodia the US Army NG was shooting people in Ohio.Did anybody ever stop you and say that they gave a damn about our dead and wounded?

  44. Al,

    Great point about being an ego-centric nation. I think the root of that is our diverse ethnic, religious and social backgrounds and I think that other divers countries have similar, and usually much worse, problems. It's one reason that I could support the concept of a single-payer health-care system yet believe it simply isn't politically possible in this country. We are not European countries who, after a series of very bloody wars, forced population movements and border adjustments, are generally homogenous populations. Human beings, being what they are, are into group identity, like it or not, and I think that explains why some things are easy in Europe and near-impossible here. Size doesn't help either since we are as big and populous a nation as all of Europe.

    Al, I also agree to a certain extent about the "current" generation, but their denial of the "American Dream" is as much or more due to the mistakes of previous generations IMO. We have been living the high life and they (and probably my generation too) is going to get stuck with the bill.


    "Being groomed?" What does that mean? (asking anyone, not just you)

    I would also point to Gen (ret.) Wesley Clark, who I served under at EUCOM durin the Kosovo war. I saw him everyday on the VTC and his private, "General" persona was quite different from the silky public face. It was nice to know he can at least curse like a soldier though I would certainly consider him a "highly politicized" element that ultimately supported the Democrats.

    Point being is that there are ambitious generals - always have been, always will be. In short, I think the answers to the questions in your original post are "no" - at least until there something of substance to say otherwise.

    I have no doubt Pfaff is a respectable man but I think his allegations (and indeed, anyone's) need to be examined on their own merits. I admit that I am probably much more skeptical than most of viewing arguments through the lense of who makes them.

    As For McChrystal, we haven't heard from him lately. I think there's a reason for that. Rather than an elaborate conspiracy to influence policy, a more reasonable explanation is that he made a mistake. People do that from time-to-time. One also has to consider the confusion at the policy level in context. After all, McChrystal was hired by Obama to implement the counterinsurgency-centric plan that the President's team published back in March. His comments, innappropriate as they were, were generally consistent with the published policy.

  45. Part 2:

    Finally, we have to consider the the Iraq war and the silence of the Generals on that score. They were rightly, as a group and some individually, excoriated for being yes men. Well, that's a fine line and it seems that there are many who insist that Generals need to speak up in opposition on policies and strategies they oppose and stay silent on those they support. Where does one draw the line as to what is appropriate or not? Consider Col. Gian Gentile, an officer I agree with more than not and have tremendous respect for. Here's his recent NYT opinion article where he writes:

    These histories should also inform our thinking on Afghanistan.

    History shows that occupation by foreign armies with the intent of changing occupied societies does not work and ends up costing considerable blood and treasure.

    The notion that if only an army gets a few more troops, with different and better generals, then within a few years it can defeat a multi-faceted insurgency set in the middle of civil war, is not supported by an honest reading of history.

    I agree with Gentile here but he's taking a policy position. His comments are obviously aimed at the McChrystal strategy. If it's wrong for McChrystal to "campaign for his own plan" is it wrong when another military officer campaigns against it on the pages of the NYT? We hear the conpiracy theories about McChrystal and the supposed cabal of right-wingers supporting him yet there is nothing on Gentile and the other officers who debate against a COIN strategy. Why is that?

    Finally, on Somalia. Here's my thinking and I will state at the outset that Somalia occurred before my time in the military. What I do when evaluating allegations about what people claim is the "real" motivation is compare the actual actions taken with the stated and alleged intent. In the case of Somalia our actions were consistent with the stated intent. If the intent was really about oil contracts I would expect to see some action on the ground to reflect that. We didn't make any effort to stabilize Somalia. We didn't send troops to secure the areas where people believe oil exists. We didn't do any number of things that would actually lead to these corporations being able to continue exploration. That's why I discount the idea that oil was anything but a tertiary motivator. Now, was it "talked about" at senior levels? Probably. But then a lot of things get discussed when considering policy and the fact that something was discussed doesn't automatically mean it is the driver behind whatever policy/COA is chosen.

    Now having said that I distrust education b/c what do we get from this- yep a bunch of attornies running everything and dominating politics b/c they want their piece of the pie at our expense.

    Amen Jim. Too many of our politicians are lawyers. To many have never done an honest days work or had to do things like make a payroll or live in the middle class.

  46. Andy-

    Our ego-centrism is stated quite clearly in the Declaration of Independence. Our nation is built on an egocentric ideal.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    In short, the well being of the individual trumps the collective well being. The role of government is to allow the unfettered, competitive pursuit of personal well being. Now, with a boost from the Reganites, this pursuit tilted the playing field toward the wealthy and corporate interests. "Trickle Down" meant that the big guys could get bigger and bigger pieces of the growing pie, while crumbs fell to the collective population. Never was this as evident as the past several years, as the wealthy amassed disproportionately great wealth while building a house of cards, and the government published GDP stats and patted everyone on the back. Of course, the Ponzi scheme called American finance collapsed, and the real suffering is being realized by the average schmoe who believed the lies that his life was improving. Wall St today posted gains and celebrated corporate profits while the unemployment rate hit 10.2% and the "underemployment" rate hit 17.5%.

    America is not egocentric because it it heterogeneous. It is egocentric because it was founded to be egocentric. Americans with health insurance are not beating down the doors of their representatives to get the same for their fellow citizens. They are fighting universal health care because they don't want to pay for it.

    I'm sorry, Andy, but we have developed a dysfunctional culture. There is no graceful way of explaining it away. The founding document for our country states it clearly, and over time, we have perverted away any sort of social consciousness there might have been in this seemingly elegant document in the quest for individual gain and damn the other guy's happiness, life or liberty if it impinges on mine.

    That's why WASF and will remain so until a major collapse. It was the Depression that brought about universal social programs. We need to sink deeper before we will make another significant temporary correction. There isn't even the guts to make a revolutionary health care change. Just a modification to the current bankrupt approach. Why should our ridiculous approach to foreign policy differ? We are sociologically and culturally crippled in every regard.

  47. Andy, Jim: I would expand on your observations to opine that one of the serious problems facing us is that our oligarchy - far beyond the mere issue of the profession of the ruling classes - has little, if any, experience outside of their own class. We are, hell, we HAVE, constructed an entire string of little enclaves beginning with the communities of the wealthy and privleged, running through the schools where their children prep and matriculate, to the places they "work" and the offices they hold. These people have little contact with, and less understanding of, the "little people", those of us who are struggling to stay ahead of the tax man, the mortgage company and themedical co-pay.

    They also have no, or little, experience serving in the hinterlands of empire so have only the dimmest conception of the costs and the attitudes of the unwashed hordes out there.

    From there its a small step to feckless adventures overseas and foolish policies at home.

    Andy: I don't think that Belgium would send lawyers, guns or money to Afghanistan if it could. Or Greece. Or Chad. Or Chile. We are a unique creature, an empire without colonies, but it doesn't make us any less of that odd sort of empire.

    We are alone at the top tier of global hedgemony, for now. The Russians have been knocked back to a superregional power, the Chinese, in their quintessential Chinese way, have no interest in foreign conquest but lots of fingers in foreign pies, doing their global thing in their quiet way.

    The Euro zone is an ugly, misshapen bastard with a brain in Brussels disconnected from its loosely assembled body. I'd suspect that in less than a decade, if the NATO community continues to dabble in American foreign adventures that the entire thing will devolve as the Euro nations finally tear the sheets over some silly U.S. COINvention in some Third World shithole. Brazil is a rising power, as is India.

    The rest? C'mon. Sending a couple of million and a battalion or two doesn't make a world power or even a regional power. Even if they wanted to, they don't have the surplus wealth.

    Of course, neither do we. We just haven't realized that. Yet.

    Re: the "generation gap"...Up to 5 years ago I was a low-level NCO in a reserve componant troop unit. My troops were Gen Xers and then Gen Yers. The young troopers I saw were, frankly, not a lot different than I was as a young trooper. They weren't in that much worse shape, they were callow but, shit, so was I when I was 22. They were badly educated, but so were my peers - let's face it, the rigorous primary and secondary education systems that the early Boomers grew up was already on the way out by the late Sixties and early Seventies.

    The only real differences I noted were:

    a. Many were cynical as hell about "society". They expected their "leaders" to fuck them, and didn't see a point to all this "we" talk. I'm not sure if this was generational. I was pretty callous and egotistical when I was 22, too. It takes a certain amount of getting kicked in the head to develop empathy and an understanding of WHY you need other people.

    b. They were really disengaged from politics. Of course, my part of my generation was Vietnam and Watergate, se maybe it's that we were ENgaged in an unusual way.

    I'm not sure if this "generational" gap is more due to the standard differences between any group of people in their 20s and 30s and the same people in the 40s and 50s. I DO agree that the Boom Generation is very likely to become the Whiny Titty-Baby Generation in their 70s. Sorry, X and Y, but they (we) are going to suck the fiscal life out of you.


  48. Al: Grimly perceptive, as usual. I have nothing really to add, other than that the difference between the Depression and today is that in 1930 we had a remnant of the old aristocratic upper class, the sort of patrician typified by FDR. Those guys really did have a sense of noblesse oblige that drew them to public service and a degree of concern for their less-well-off fellow citizens.

    AND you had the scary object lesson of the USSR to remind the patricians what would happen if they neglected their proles TOO much.

    When the Reagan Revolution trumpeted "greed is good" and the USSR fell in 1989 the brakes were off. I doubt that there is enough common sense and noblesse oblige left in the current U.S. ruling class to make the same bold moves the Dems did in 1930. Hell, we know there isn't, since we're watching a similar economic slump and the primary concern inside the Beltway seems to be for the profits of Goldman Sachs and the private insurance companies.

    Nope, we're falling, and we ripped up the parachute that helped save us in the Thirties.

  49. Al:
    In short, I wonder if we have the equivalent of third world subcultures in the US, and if they are growing. If so, then one cannot simply generalize our condition based on "generations", as the real makeup of the generations under discussion is changing in a manner not directly addressed. When the "third world" (or "under class", as some call it) population reaches a certain quantum size, it may very well profoundly impact the general population.

    As the Chief noted earlier, you are very perceptive. This is something I've been worried about for some time. It doesn't SEEM to be a problem, at least in my neck of the woods. But in looking, I've found another problem that you've touched on as well.

    The government has a number of US citizens that they called "discouraged workers," people who have given up and can no longer be considered part of the work force. estimates this to be roughly 4.7% of the adult US population between 18 and 65. For obvious reasons, the official number of discouraged workers changes all the time and in response to a variety of needs, including political.

    What the US government is saying with this number is that are essentially beyond redemption and it is essentially writing them off. It won't surprise you that this number is currently growing fairly rapidly because it helps make the unemployment problem look somewhat smaller and the Obama administration needs all the cover it can get on this issue.

    But it goes beyond that. According to the government, there's an additional 7.3% of the US workforce that is underemployed, they want/need more money but can't get the work to earn the money. These people are on the slow slide to "discouraged worker" status but there is some hope that the economy will recover enough to save some of them.

    Add the numbers together and add in the official 10.2% unemployment rate and you've got a total of 22.2% of the work force can't find sufficient work and is in financial trouble of some sort. The official number of 10.2% have some chance of getting out of trouble but the other 12% probably are going to get screwed over. And most of these people are younger and older workers who either didn't have good job skills or who have had the rapidly shifting economy make their skills obsolete.

    Someday somebody's going to figure out how to organize these people for their own personal benefit and then things are going to interesting...

  50. Pluto: Can you say "capti censi", boys and girls?

    "Additionally, massive and rapid expansion from Rome's foundation as a fledgling city 700 years earlier until the mid 1st century BC, created monumental holes in the political and governing ability of the Senate. Periods of stability were mixed in with those of near collapse while powerful generals or inciters of the Roman mob jockeyed for position.

    Beginning with the Punic Wars and Roman conquest outside of Italy, followed by massive importation of slaves, the face of Roman life was changing far more rapidly than the governing body could deal with. Political infighting was and always would be a common trait in any system, but even the greatest of Romans like Scipio Africanus, fell victim to the whims of politicians.

    The social instability that resulted from inequities in the class system gave way to rise of demagogues like the brothers Gracchi. The use of the citizen assemblies for popular agendas tore at the very fabric of Senatorial power."

    Not to mention the Marian reforms and theis impact on the Roman Army:

  51. Pluto-

    Yes, the discouraged and underemployed do not show up in the "unemployment figures", and the "discouraged" are a hard lot to identify and could be more than estimated. I am a labor market theorist by training, and as I have posted before, when you take people out of the "primary labor market" for an extended period of time, they tend to remain out of it permanently. So the current situation is creating a large number of people who will never return to reasonably stable jobs with upward mobility and income growth potential. Their earnings will simply be a function of hours worked and the minimum wage. More permanent "underclass" members. Despite all the anecdotal "fought his way back" stories, that is not the historical story of the majority of the long term displaced. Extended unemployment is all too often a mortal wound.

  52. Al -
    I am a labor market theorist by training

    I'm just an interested bystander, don't hurt me! ;-)

    More seriously, I'm curious about your views on the economic situation and where its going to end up.

    I've posted a lot, especially for a semi-educated layman. Anything I'm getting wrong? Anything obvious I'm missing?

  53. Andy-

    "Wesley Clark"

    I think this pretty much supports my argument. General Clark supported then President Clinton's policy in Kosovo and was viciously attacked by the right for it. His problems with superiors were with his military superiors not with Clinton who in turn didn't really support Clark in the clutch, that is after the operation was successfully completed. Clark , now as a politician, in turn supported Hillary's bid for president which won him a snub from Obama. An ambiteous general making a good career move for himself by supporting the president's policy? Sounds OK to me, but that isn't what we have with General McChrystal is it?

    "an elaborate conspiracy to influence policy"

    If you are as skeptical as you claim, then why do you make statements like this? Looks like a rock-solid view to me. If the actions are taking place in public with an obvious intent to influence with the promoted "expert military view" as opposed to the "inexperienced political view", that is the president's, then it isn't a conspiracy, is it? Creating and promoting a controversy of military commanders pressuring the chief executive to follow a certain policy could be seen as "grooming", with the general in a win/win situation politically . . . Which would bring up the question as to whether Petraeus or even McChrystal might be seen as the best GOP candidate for 2012 . . .

    I thought maybe Jeff Huber summerized the "conspiracy theory" well, but then I guess one could label him as a "conspiracy theorist" and forget about the whole thing, but then I wouldn't call that "skepticism" . . .

    As to Somalia 1992, the article I linked was fact-filled and had some very interesting information which was based on oil-industry documents. Conoco's headquarters in Somalia became the US headquarters which only means that they were still there. That nothing so far has come of it in terms of oil drilling does not prove that oil was not the "unofficial reason" for going in in 1992, which also is the nature of the oil business. Maybe the geologists at the time were just overly optimistic, or the local political situation has never been worth the effort, especially after 2003, when there were far brighter pickings to be had. I would add that the Caspian Sea basin was seen also at the time as being a future "mother lode", but didn't pan out at all. Maybe Condi's supertanker was named for naught . . . ?

  54. Damn it, I put in one day's work, and I am about 20 posts behind.

    I will sum up my response by saying, "well said" to all. I have nothing left to say except a few war stories, gripes, complaints and a few high expectations for myself and my generation. More for discussion over a beer sometime.

    Bacevich said it best:

    "It's probably generational in that perhaps young people -- and this is not necessarily a bad thing -- have bigger dreams, have bigger ambitions. Older people tend to perhaps be more given to pessimism or cynicism. I mean, I would like to call it realism, but others might view it differently."

    I do view it differently, perhaps because I have too for my own sanity. Andy, trust me bro, I am saving up. But I have seen great things from the younger generation, I've worked with these kids and seen them in very trying situations. True, I am only seeing a small slice of the society, but in all honesty, can anyone tell me of a time in history when a small slice of society did not govern for the largely ignorant or self-absorbed masses? Do we need 100%, or even 50% of the masses to be well educated, or do we only need enough well educated in order to govern the masses?

  55. Pluto-

    More seriously, I'm curious about your views on the economic situation and where its going to end up.

    Your question is flattering and I am working on a brief, yet coherent answer. Will post a new thread soon with my thoughts, as it will take more room than the "comments" feature allows.

    I've posted a lot, especially for a semi-educated layman. Anything I'm getting wrong? Anything obvious I'm missing?

    Your comments about the employment picture are spot on, and point to why the recovery is not going to be pretty. At least in my view.

  56. BG,
    Education is the problem in America but it's not the masses as you call us that cause the problem.
    Let's lay it where it belongs. The professional service academy and ivey league mindset have led us to the brink. It's not the masses that work doing what they do.
    It's the MBA's and Statisticians, and Banking ans Economists that play with our lives. I say this as the son of a coal miner who grew up in a company house. Not much has changed in 63 years except labor is now a dead entity in the glorious new world.
    You should look around and look at the real America.

  57. Seydlitz,

    I think you and I have very different ideas of what is required to reach a "rock solid" conclusion.

    If the actions are taking place in public with an obvious intent to influence with the promoted "expert military view" as opposed to the "inexperienced political view", that is the president's, then it isn't a conspiracy, is it?

    No, that's called politics. Now, if you have the GoP leadership calling McChrystal at 3am every day to give him talking points (or vice-versa) then you'd have a conspiracy. The support for McChrystals troop request is no more a conspiracy than was the opposition was to Bush's "surge" - it's a legitimate area for politcal debate.

    And people seem to forget that the Obama adminstration came out with a policy way back in March, one that was COIN-centric. They fired McKiernan and hired McChrystal to implement that policy, which he began to do. At about the time McChrystal's team finished the assessment, the Administration, rightly I think, began having second thoughts on that policy and is spending more time looking at other options. Nothing wrong with that (in fact I support it) but one should expect all sorts of interests to attempt to influence that debate, including those who like the original March policy and want to see it implemented and resourced. They are no more conspirators than those (like me, Chief, Publius, Col. Gentile) who advocate for something much different.

    Creating and promoting a controversy of military commanders pressuring the chief executive to follow a certain policy could be seen as "grooming", with the general in a win/win situation politically .

    And it could also be seen as the GoP politiking for their favored course of action. It's not McChrystal's fault the GoP are latching onto him. McChrystal is actually in the middle which, in my view, is a dangerous place to be and not a "win/win" position. The Democrats similarly latched onto Shinseki - is that a conspiracy too, especially since he now has a cabinet-level position in a Democratic administration. Maybe he was groomed for it?

    Jeff Huber's post you linked to is kind of incoherent, but his list of firing offenses for McChrystal is pretty bizzare and unintentionally funny. The strangest of the bunch is his belief that John McCain's statements that the President should follow McChrystal's advice is a "MacArthur-class stunt" that deserves punishment. It's hard to take someone seriously when they think it's a great idea to hold a general accountable for the comments of a politician.

    The post has a lot of flaws incorrect but oft-repeated and wrong assumptions that I really don't want to spend the time addressing here. He obviously began with a narrative and then picked out "facts" to support that narrative. Nothing wrong with that - it is teh internets after all.

  58. continued...

    As to Somalia 1992, the article I linked was fact-filled and had some very interesting information which was based on oil-industry documents.

    Yes, it was interesting with a lot of good background on Somalia and oil. It doesn't, however, tell us (one way or the other) if oil was a factor in the decision to intervene and, if so, how big a factor it was. The portions of the article on that question are completely speculative and based primarily on perceptions.

    That nothing so far has come of it in terms of oil drilling does not prove that oil was not the "unofficial reason" for going in in 1992, which also is the nature of the oil business.

    You're right, but it also doesn't prove that oil was the "unofficial" reason either. It seems to me its incumbent on the propenents of such a theory to prove their case and not for others to disprove it.

    And as I said before, all one has to do is compare possible reasons for intervention with what actually happenened - easy to do since we are talking a historical event. If oil was the "unofficial" reason for intervention, then why did the US fail do anything to pursue oil-related objectives? If your theory is true then shouldn't we expect to see that "reason" expressed into action on the ground?

  59. Andy-

    I always find your comments well formulated and thought provoking . . . thanks again.

    "I think you and I have very different ideas of what is required to reach a "rock solid" conclusion."

    I make a distinction between strategic theory and US domestic politics. I recently posted on the objective causes of WWII, a post I would not have made five years ago without reading the theorist Svechin. So in terms of strategic theory, maybe there are no "rock solid" conclusions.

    Domestic US politics on the other hand requires a different approach imo since we as citizens do have certain responsibilities. As a conservative I also feel the need to pass on what I have been entrusted with to my children and grandchildren. For me the distinction is not between GOP and Demo, or Right and Left or Liberal and Conservative, since most of those terms have been drained of all meaning. Rather the distinction is between Empire and Republic and the Republic has been on the skids for some time.

    Have you been surprised to realize how many of the posters here agree with that distinction?

    My original question was: Is what we are seeing concerning Afghan policy today a "revolt" by the war party (including its military members) against the president?

    To which you insist on framing as a conspiracy theory, but which we don't have to prove as a conspiracy without concluding that in fact something along these lines seems to be going on. (Although to be fair, your description of a conspiracy sounded very much like the Pentagon's military analyst/domestic psyops program - which would just make McChrystal's policy encroachment a more recent example of that same sort of behavior)

    See, to fit the pattern of the Empire/Republic distinction, the first thing I look for is abuse and acting in irregular patterns in terms of the rule of law or constitutional traditions (Plame, FISA, Iraq war propaganda, torture, domestic psyops, etc). Empires are laws unto themselves and operate outside the limits imposed on political states, which is the key distinction between a state and an empire.

    Kinda like the actions of the GOP since the late 1990s. For instance the selective and timely leaking of favorable (but often false or misleading) classified information which is then commented upon by the GOP official, getting their selected version into the news cycle, a Cheney specialty btw. So the GOP has a history, they don't enter into the analysis with a high degree of credibility or benefit of the doubt.

    I liked Jeff's post because he included links, but if you don't like his style than read the post on Col. Lang's site instead which is saying pretty much the same thing, but without links . . .

    Funny enough some of the best US domestic political commentary is from comedians - Jon Stewart, Bob Somerby - to name but two. Reflects our current political situation well imo.

    "They are no more conspirators than those (like me, Chief, Publius, Col. Gentile) who advocate for something much different."

    You can add me to that bandwagon as well, since I'm not the one talking about conspiracies, and very much support a different approach to Afghanistan - preferably a negotiated withdrawal under favorable conditions.

    "You're right, but it also doesn't prove that oil was the "unofficial" reason either. It seems to me its incumbent on the propenents of such a theory to prove their case and not for others to disprove it."

    Course it does, you're in to rhetoric, what is the difference between "unofficial" and unofficial? What I related was a war story, which is more than opinion isn't it? Are you requiring me to "prove" a war story? As to "action on the ground", would you consider the 1992-3 Somalia operation a success? If it was a failure and in fact stability has not been imposed to our satisfaction, what sort of events on the ground would you expect?

  60. Seydlitz-

    "Kinda like the actions of the GOP since the late 1990s."

    How wrong you are, my friend. In 1978, shortly after MG John Singlaub publicly criticized President Carter's Korea policies, I had the honor of meeting COL Scooter Burke over lunch in DC. At the time, he was the Army Liaison to the House of Reps, and had surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. During the lunch, one of his fellow Medal of Honor Society Board members asked what made him suddenly decide to retire. COL Burke told us that he had recently suffered an insult to his uniform and told us the following.

    Shortly after Singlaub returned from Korea and his first public criticism of the President's policies, three ranking Republicans entered Scooter's office and closed the door. They proceeded to tell him that the Party and the Country needed respected senior officers to help expose the weak foreign policy of Carter, alluding, not by name, to the fashion in which Singlaub had done so. In return, the officers would be "remembered" in the GOP administration that would replace the discredited Carter. Scooter, a totally apolitical and professional Soldier gave them a piece of his mind about their thinking that he would violate his oath, the law and tradition by engaging in what he considered "mutiny". They apologized and slunk out of his office.

    A while later, Scooter learned that Singluab was scheduled to speak at Georgetown at a supposedly private affair. He asked an assistant, a major, to attend and see what was going on. The major reported back to Scooter that Singlaub had repeated his criticisms, and that the press was present, having received, a reporter acquaintance told him, an "off the record" tip about the affair and assurances that they would not be turned away.

    Now, one might remember that Singlaub was forced to retire immediately following the Georgetown speach. Of course, he claimed that he had no knowledge of any press presence, but Scooter's major said that they were in front row seats resplendent with notepads.

    Sickened by the above, Scooter decided to retire and remove himself from such behavior. Singlaub went on to earn millions, not surprisingly in part by contract operations in Iran-Contra and other right wing activities.

    Scooter asked us to keep the above in confidence, but since his passing, I do not feel retelling is a violation of his request.

    I add to the above, that during the Clinton impeachment, the GOP House Managers tossed out calling the Joint Chiefs to testify as to whether the President's actions diminished his authority with the troops and thus undermined his ability to be Cdr in Chief! Thank God that never came to pass, as I really didn't wish to hear what they might say after what I learned from Scooter.

    Thus, Seydlitz, I correct you only on the date you offered. It began long before you realize.


  61. Thanks Al, I stand corrected. Which I suppose makes us both supporters of the "Republic" as opposed to being Republicans in the GOP sense. Nice that.

  62. Seydlitz,

    Sorry for the tardy reply, I've been out of town.

    Here's my basic position: There are a number of interests and people who pursue those interests. If disparate interest groups align on a particular issue, I tend to look at such alignments in the context of a temporary "alliance." That's how I see McChrystal and his strategy paper and what you call the "war party." People can support a similar prescription yet differ significantly on ultimate goals. So, I don't see Gen. McChrystal as part of the "war party," rather I see him being used by the war party to further their own ends. Where I take issue is that you seem to believe they are one in the same (hence the contention that McChrystal is both aligned with the GoP and is likely to run for President). I think it's also important to note there are other interests out there who, for whatever reason, play up the narrative of McChrystal as a modern day MacArthur. Those people are "using" McChrystal too, just in a different way.

    Interesting that you link to Col Lang's post (which I had read), and it seems to me the Col. is making a much different and more subtle point than Huber. I don't think Col. Lang subscribes to the "MacArthur" narrative at all. He says:

    McChrystal, on the other hand, is more of a problem. From all I have heard from those who know him, he is a good man, a "good and faithful tiger." I doubt if he realizes the potential damage that he is beginning to inflict on our constitutional arrangements.

    On Somalia, yes, the adventure was a failure, but that is, I think, irrelevant to my point. Before the policy failed I would have expected to see some action on the ground aimed at supporting an "unofficial" oil-related intervention goal. There wasn't any such action that I'm aware of, so again, is there any actual evidence of the existence of this "unofficial" reason beyond rumor and speculation? There were many actions we could have taken to aid the oil companies that were not taken. Why?