Monday, January 30, 2012

A Question of Honor?

The Clausewitzian scholar Dr. Andreas Herberg-Rothe has published an interesting article titled The Concept of Honor in War.

The article is exactly what one would expect from Herberg-Rothe since he is an expert on Hegelian thought as well as on the theoretical side of Clausewitz. Herberg-Rothe has charted the development of Clausewitz's theory in an earlier work which I recommend. Simply put, Clausewitz's view of war evolved over time.

Honor here acts as a motivation for participation in war. War itself as organized violence between political communities would have an existential element.

Once a war is understood as existential, a distinction must be drawn among totally different forms of existence:

a. Direct “physical,” objective existence;

b. Existence as an intact, self-aware political community, society, or nation;

c. “Aspirational” existence, meaning an identity to be created by some act of self-assertion or liberation;

d. “Moral” existence, entailing recognition as an equal state among states, or as an equal citizen within a state.

Clausewitz’s Political Declaration implies a clear ranking of these forms of existence: at the very top he placed “moral,” followed by the continued existence of Prussia as a self-aware political community. For the sake of these first two forms, he was prepared to risk his own physical existence and that of the state.

These different forms of existence also exist at different levels of the political communities involved. The soldier faces (a) whereas the patriot faces (b) and possibly (d) while the revolutionary or liberator faces (c) (and only later (d)) while the latter three also face (a) if they are involved in actual combat. The soldier can thus be politically motivated (defending his political community) or simply be motivated to save himself and those around him. Simply put, existence has both a subjective and "objective" side: the existence of the individual and the existence of the political community.

This varied view of political or even physical existence connected with war is basic Clausewitz. Once again, he is able to come up with a series of simple statements which indicate a wide range of options, or ways of looking at something quite fundamentally, but allowing for insight at the same time. For instance Clausewitz's choice of (d) over the others indicates a profound insight. The state is separate from the "nation" (b). Not only that, but for a nation state to be "free" requires it to be recognized as sovereign by other states: (d). That is it can not exist in this "moral" way as a puppet state of another. It is better to risk the very existence of the state (d) in order to safeguard the integrity of the nation (b), but the existence of that nation as a coherent political community can still exist even as a puppet state, with the nation still resisting. Thus for Clausewitz it was better for the state to go down fighting, offering the nation a proper example and even hope for the future, than surrender ignominiously. This is what happened in Prussia after 1806. Prussia was defeated by France, but Napoleon did not depose the Prussian king but rather retained him as a figurehead ruler to maintain control more easily. Prussia continued to exist (b) but as a vassal of France (lack of (d)). Spain, on the other hand, after Napoleon smashed the Spanish state and placed his brother on the Spanish throne, continued to resist as the nation (b). It was this resistance, which inspired Clausewitz to come to his basic conclusion that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". The Spanish nation essentially rejected the imposition of a French king, thus rejecting the French-imposed state. This emergence of the partisan as a political actor and savior of the nation came across to Clausewitz as the natural reaction to the existential French threat.

Up to that point it seemed that Napoleon and his army would be able to defeat all before them. Given the combination of power to mobilize resources of the French state (material cohesion) and the élan and patriotic spirit of the French soldiers (moral cohesion) they had been able to defeat every traditionally composed enemy who had come up against them. Now faced with the partisan supporting the nation, they had finally met their match. Spain in effect pointed the way to dealing with the French threat.

For Clausewitz, Napoleon was a "real enemy", one that challenged the very definition of what not only Clausewitz and all Prussia thought themselves to be, but also one that brought their entire independent political existence into question (d).

Thus in Clausewitz's original concept, wars could be bloody, but they were not questions of physical existence for one political community/nation or the other, although individuals and even states were of course at risk, this being war. With the First World War we start to see a radicalization of this approach as the full weight of a political community/nation using the consolidating/organizing/administrative powers of the state to mobilize its full potential to fight becomes a reality. By October 1917 the political conditions had ripened to usher in a new political concept of existence.

An "absolute enemy", the Leninist concept as presented by Carl Schmitt in The Theory of the Partisan I introduced in my last thread would conflate these subjective and "objective" perspectives, actually conflating a, b, c, and d, making the enemy an existential threat to the political community/nation as a whole as if it were an individual. The distinctions between individual, political community, nation and state were lost. What makes this a totalitarian concept is that one side essentially has to exterminate the other, the other portrayed as an existential threat, but falling far short of such a reality, or in some cases constituting no actual threat at all. It should be noted that Lenin's original concept of "absolute enemy" pertained only to civil - that is revolutionary - wars, but was expanded after 1917 to include not only wars within political communities, but between political communities.

The target is always an abstract identity, a mental concoction created for ideological/propaganda purposes. So no existential threat, but rather the concept is used for internal political control/consolidation. The Bolsheviks and the "Whites", the Stalinists and the "Kulaks", the Nazis and the "Jewish-Bolshevik threat", the Maoists and the Chinese "feudal lords" are all examples of how this concept was applied for totalitarian political effect.

Could we include "Islamofascism" to this list of abstract identities?

So what of Honor? It is the title of this post and I have not said much about it. Part of the value set that makes up the individual's motivation to service is the concept of honor. I think we can see honor in at least two distinct ways. We have honor as egotism: It's all about me and if you cross me, you pay the price. The other type is honor as responsibility: I hold a certain place in the community and am honor bound to act in a certain way. To fail to act in this way would be by definition, "dishonorable". An excellent film that portrays both senses of honor is the 1977 film The Duellists . . . In the film we see both types of honor in action and how one can feed on the other, the egoistical fanaticism (the Harvey Keitel character) continuously met by the traditional acceptance of the obligations imposed (the Keith Carradine character).

What can this tell us today? Egotistical "honor" is timeless, existing in every age and culture, whereas "honor" as responsibility requires a traditional culture in which to exist. This may sound like a radical statement, and I suppose it is, but only to make the distinction between traditional communities and modern societies. In modern societies, we don't really have honor as it exists in traditional communities, but rather "civic duty" or "virtue". That is not to say that honor does not exist in modern families, it does, but that is how they are more similar to traditional communities than they are to modern societies. I would also point out that one of the main causes of family breakdown is the lack of a concept of honor, but then I'm a small town Southern conservative, so what else would you expect from the likes of me?

While honor as responsibility requires a community of like minded individuals to exist, since it is all about the meaning behind the action, not the result (value rationality in Weberian terms), modern civic duty or virtue is a means to an end (instrumental rationality). We pay our taxes and vote because they are necessary legally or for political stability, a means to an end. Honor as responsibility simply exists since a life without this concept itself would be meaningless, the action itself is embedded in a whole world of meaning and the result stoically accepted as being unavoidable, something akin to fate. If we connect this concept of honor as responsibility to our four forms of existence above we get a clearer notion of the motivation behind political commitment in not only traditional communities, but also modern societies.

If "honor" as it exists in traditional communities is of both types whereas in modern societies predominately egotistical (especially in consumerist societies), we get something of an idea of the disadvantage these modern societies have in fighting wars with more traditional communities. While the modern side enjoys a quantitative and qualitative advantage in terms of material it operates at a disadvantage in terms of motivation and meaning in regards to "existence".

This entire article is filled with interesting analysis. The points that Herberg-Rothe makes in regards to torture are important as well. It deserves a proper discussion.


Carl Schmitt writes in regards to "absolute enemy":

Lenin shifted the conceptual center of gravity from war to politics, i.e. to the distinction of friend and enemy. That was significant and, following Clausewitz, a logical continuation of the idea that war is a continuation of politics. But Lenin, as a professional revolutionary of global civil war, went still further and turned the real enemy into an absolute enemy. Clausewitz spoke of absolute war, but always presupposed the regularity of an existing state. He could not conceive of a state becoming an instrument of a party, and of a party that gives orders to the state. With the absolutization of the party, the partisan also became absolute and a bearer of absolute enmity. Today, it is not difficult to see through the intellectual artifice produced by this change of the enemy concept.

The Theory of the Partisan, 1962

This idea of the state as serving as an instrument of the party is common among scholars of Totalitarianism, such as Hanna Arendt and Hermann Rauschning.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

I could say that my name was Bonaparte,
and show you Napoleon's tomb;
that wouldn't make him my grandfather would it?


Makes me feel quite dirty,

Though we all do sometimes

--I Wanna Be a Cowboy
Boys Don't Cry

Oh. Um, l-- look, i-- i--

if we built this large wooden badger ...

--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Ranger often quips that he was Special Forces before SF was cool, before it earned its "O".

In his day, joining SF was a career kiss of death for an Infantry Officer, as it was often viewed as
abandoning ship. The Infantry's main focus was, "Clank clank, I'm a tank" and the Fulda Gap. The war in Vietnam was just a live fire exercise which Ranger called the field Army in the ambush; the events in SE Asia were mostly seen as a distraction from the Cold War (anyone remember that one?)

Fast-forward 2012 and everyone is GAGA over Special Operations Forces. Poster child Seal Team 6's exploits are touted as the best thing since sliced bread (and since Wonder Bread's going bankrupt, it's nice that we can have a replacement.) The new Bill of Goods says Special Ops are the wave of the future, but this is hype based on showboat moments.

Recent vaunted ST6 actions are not military in nature. For instance, the death/murder/killing/neutralization of Osama bin Laden was a simple assassination, gussied up for American consumption as a heroic military operation. However, wars are not won (or lost) via assassinating individuals; if they are, Ranger would suggest that this is a war he would rather not fight.

How about the recent ST6 rescue of two hostages in Somalia? Portrayed by the administration as a military operation, again this was simply the killing of eight pirates hoping to negotiate for somewhere between their requested $10 million in ransom and the $1 million offered. The WaPo reported, "U.S. officials said there was no evidence that the hostage-takers had any connection to the [al-Shabab militant group which is said to be allied with al-Qaeda]". Shabby brigands who understand Westerners are flush and so want to steal a little; you'd think they'd studied the banker's handbook.

So they rescued a couple of hostages -- a Jessica Lynch moment for sure, replete with blonde captive Jessica Buchanan, reminiscent of other constructed American Teutonic heroes like "Lucky" Penny, the would-be downer of ill-fated Flight 93 (
Sorry, Shoshanna, we have not forgotten you). But how does this translate out to war fighting?

This is not exactly Guns of Navarone or the Son Tay Raid, or Desert One. This was simply a feel-good raid against a small band of bandits -- anything but prime troopers. This action was not Anzio or Pointe du Hoc or the Great Raid featured in Ghost Soldiers. This was not a Studies and Observations Group mission against superior enemy forces; not the Hammelburg Raid, alas.

So why do we get our peckers hard about a chicken shit live-fire practice raid?

For SOF assets to contribute anything of value the assets must be part of a Theatre Commander's strategic plans and must work as a force multiplier to synergistically enhance the overall mission objectives. Crummy little raids like these need not apply.

In the 1980's the SOCEUR had raids and target folders that identified and delineated targets 450 kilometers to the rear of the forward line of troops (FLOT). This meant that troops had to insert by fixed or rotary-wing flying over enemy-controlled terrain and then conducting the operation, followed by an attempt to return to friendly lines -- a far piece from fighting drug-dazed bandits.

How does a raid against OBL or a rag-tag bunch of pirates contribute anything beyond enhanced recruitment for the SEALS? It is all movement with no progress. One more dead guy (even OBL) or 20 more bandits is hardly a strategic event.

We are so desperate to call the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) a real war that we stretch the reality of ancillary actions to the breaking point. Why not just dress the teams as United Parcel Service deliverymen and hide them in the back of the truck? Why not use a Trojan Horse or a Trojan Rabbit?

Our operations mimic those of a bi-polar amoeba. One wonders if the good folks at DARPA have studied that application yet.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Inflection Point

FDChief's last thread introduced the latest Obama national strategy document to this blog, that being Sustaining US Global Leadership. The first paragraph of the introduction sets the tone for what is to follow:

The United States has played a leading role in transforming the international system over the past sixty-five years. Working with like-minded nations, the United States has created a safer, more stable, and more prosperous world for the American people, our allies, and our partners around the globe than existed prior to World War II. Over the last decade, we have undertaken extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring stability to those countries and secure our interests. As we responsibly draw down from these two operations, take steps to protect our nation’’s economic vitality, and protect our interests in a world of accelerating change, we face an inflection point. This merited an assessment of the U.S. defense strategy in light of the changing geopolitical environment and our changing fiscal circumstances. This assessment reflects the President’’s strategic direction to the Department and was deeply informed by the Department’’s civilian and military leadership, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of the Military Departments, and the Combatant Commanders. Out of the assessment we developed a defense strategy that transitions our Defense enterprise from an emphasis on today’’s wars to preparing for future challenges, protects the broad range of U.S. national security interests, advances the Department’’s efforts to rebalance and reform, and supports the national security imperative of deficit reduction through a lower level of defense spending.

Emphasis is mine.

The first sentence is true, but incomplete. Actually we have again transformed the international system since 2001, advocating pre-emptive war as a coherent strategy (as long as the US is the only country that practices it). Also the financial/economic system established by the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 has been replaced by what we could refer to as our own made in the USA version of crony capitalism/global market as rigged casino that had been coming together since the mid 1990s, but has become glaringly obvious after the economic crash of 2008.

The "like-minded nations" at this point in time comes down to Israel, although they have their own goals which are not necessarily in the US interest of being achieved. One could argue that France may be a "like-minded nation", but given US "confusion" during the Libyan campaign I think that unlikely. The extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were the results of two strategically incoherent wars and both amounting to US defeats. In fact there is much the propaganda feel to the whole document and the disjunct with our recent history is so blatant at times it is difficult to take this document seriously, at least in terms of strategic coherence based on an accurate assessment of our recent history. Still I think it worthy of study in not so much what it says, but in the assumptions behind it, what it avoids and its intended audience.

Let's start with the assumptions. The first is what I bolded in the first paragraph and is the title of this post. Inflection point can be defined as:

An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation. An inflection point can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. . . .

. . . Politically, an inflection point can be illustrated by the fall of the Berlin Wall or the fall of Communism in Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries.

Difficult to see what exactly the "inflection point" is today, although I would agree that 1992 was indeed one and that our strategic coherence has been going south, along with the effectiveness of our military actions, ever since that point in time. In other words there was a turning or inflection point after 1989-1992 and the result has been negative. Nothing I have read in this document shows either awareness of that basic fact, awareness of the self-defeating quality of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, nor any inclination to correct the situation to reflect the actual interests of the people of the United States. Instead what it shows is a lock-step determinism to continue with the failed policies/attitude of the past.

The second assumption is that the Al Qaida boogyman remains the main national security threat and counter-terrorism remains the first primary mission of the US Armed Forces:

The demise of Osama bin Laden and the capturing or killing of many other senior al-Qa’’ida leaders have rendered the group far less capable. However, al-Qa’’ida and its affiliates remain active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. More broadly, violent extremists will continue to threaten U.S. interests, allies, partners, and the homeland. The primary loci of these threats are South Asia and the Middle East. With the diffusion of destructive technology, these extremists have the potential to pose catastrophic threats that could directly affect our security and prosperity. For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.

Interesting mix of messages associated with this assumption. First, there is the not so subtle reminder of OBL "being brought to justice". Then the extensive nature of this nebulous threat which is portrayed as being essentially existential (violent extremists . . . pose catastrophic threats that could directly affect our security and prosperity), what in strategic theory is known as an "absolute enemy". Absolute enemies are not recognized as such in Clausewitzian thought and it is rather a Leninist concept. That is the concept that the administration is using here is a totalitarian concept which has been used in the past to justify war crimes and mass murder. The last sentence refers to the use of drones or RPAs, which I have addressed in the past. The existential and absolute nature of the threat justifying not only the use of this destabilizing weapon system, but the extensive and unending dedication of resources to combat this type of threat. In fact even questioning this policy can be see as treason, since "the absolute enemy" requires by definition an "absolute" response.

There is no mention of any state connection to Al Qaida, which is interesting given what we now know about OBL's last years. This would add necessary ambiguity to understanding the actual nature of Al Qaida and the situation as a whole, and that is clearly not the intention of the present administration any more than it was that of the last.

The third assumption has to do with what we actually achieve with our current force structure/level:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. . .

The maintenance of peace, stability, the free flow of commerce, and of U.S. influence in this dynamic region will depend in part on an underlying balance of military capability and presence.

Is it true that our presence keeps the peace, or would we have an acceptable level of stability if the US Navy only had three carrier battle groups? Is it the US that keeps the free flow of commerce going, or would it be operating pretty much the same without us? Who exactly would be the source of all this disorder if we weren't there to police this huge area? What would be their possible motivation to disrupt things? Do they even possess the resources to achieve this disruption?

A clue to the answer to these questions imo is the title of this document, which is "Sustaining US Global Leadership", but it isn't really "Leadership" that we are interested in sustaining, but "Dominance". "Defense" is a reaction to a threat or actual aggression, whereas "Dominance" is a state or condition of existence. Almost all acts of aggression committed by states since 1992 have been either committed by us, like-minded Israel, or by states that we supported. We're not in the peace and stability business, we're in the coercion and war-making business and our current goal is to maintain the state of dominance which allows for that, no matter what.

The fourth assumption has to do with the Arab Spring:

n the Middle East, the Arab Awakening presents both strategic opportunities and challenges. Regime changes, as well as tensions within and among states under pressure to reform, introduce uncertainty for the future. But they also may result in governments that, over the long term, are more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people, and are more stable and reliable partners of the United States.

Emphasis mine. I don't see how being more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people can be equated with being more stable and reliable partners of the United States, but then if we get to decide what their legitimate aspirations are (wink,wink, nod, nod), then I guess it works. This of course brings us back to the same situation we had prior to the Arab Spring itself . . .

The fifth and last assumption I'll list has to do with NATO, but is not limited to that since the quote brings up other interesting points as well:

The United States has enduring interests in supporting peace and prosperity in Europe as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO, which is critical to the security of Europe and beyond. Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it. Combined with the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has created a strategic opportunity to rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe, moving from a focus on current conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities.

The first sentence contains an array of conflicting statements adding together to a very dubious assumption. By bolstering the strength and vitality of NATOpeace and prosperity in Europe? One could argue the opposite, that by not only maintaining and expanding NATO, not to mention a US missile shield for Europe, we are needlessly antagonizing Russia.

Europe doesn't need NATO, the US does, since without it what would be our rationale or legal basis for stationing troops, nuclear weapons and equipment in Europe? Without those bases (and Lajes as well in the Azores) we would be very hard pressed to sustain our dominance, in fact the whole war on terror would have been probably impossible, which would have been a good thing not only for Europe (would there have been the London and Madrid attacks without GWB's wars?), but for the US as well, or rather for the people of the United States.

Europe has gained nothing from NATO post 1992. The commitment of non-US NATO countries to both Iraq and Afghanistan argues for the immediate discontinuation of NATO in fact.

The final point I would like to make associated with this assumption, but actually a separate one, is that security is seen by the US government today as a commodity. The document speaks of our "Defense enterprise" and mentions European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it.

On the individual level, we purchase "security" as a commodity all the time: a new/improved lock for the front door, a can of pepper spray, a guard dog, an H&K automatic for your "personal protection" . . . Insurance also provides a form of "security". At the individual level though, "security" is a mindset buttressed by commodities, but not necessarily so. A person who trusts his or her neighbors does not feel insecure and probably will see little need for security in terms of commodities.

But we are not talking about that at the level of states. At this level, "security" is more a collective result of a whole series of material, institutional and moral/value decisions. Security = internal social stability/a durable external balance of power. Dominance could be seen as providing security, but that requires the consensus of the international community. Should the power in a state of dominance start acting erratically, or against the interests of powerful states or coalitions, then the presence of the dominance itself becomes source of instability. Also should the hegemon define its "security" has having its own way by coercing others and perceiving their ability/intention to resist as "undermining" its own security, then the hegemony is approaching delusional behavior or even systemic collapse.

By discussing these assumptions, I think both the mindset of the Nation's leadership and what they are leaving out of the equation becomes clear. My final statement on this post will be in regards to the intended audience . . .

To answer that question, let's first start with a quote:

Here we come face-to-face with the essential dilemma with which the United States has unsuccessfully wrestled since the Soviets deprived us of a stabilizing adversary - a dilemma that the events of 9/11 only served to intensify. The political elite that ought to bear the chief responsibility for crafting grand strategy instead nurses fantasies of either achieving permanent global hegemony or remaking the world in America's image. Meanwhile, the military elite that could puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to US policy fixates on campaigns and battles, with generalship largely a business of organizing and coordinating material . . .

Reasserting a professional monopoly over the conduct of warfare requires drawing the brightest possible line between politics and war, thereby preventing civilian and military considerations from becoming entangled. Hence, the senior commander who experiences combat vicariously in the comfort of an air-conditioned headquarters nonetheless insists on styling himself a "warfighter". He does so for more than merely symbolic reasons. Assuming that identity permits him to assert prerogatives to which the officer corps now adamantly lays absolute claim.

As if by default, getting to Baghdad (or Kabul) becomes war's primary - almost its sole - purpose. The result is war undertaken in an atmosphere of astonishing strategic naiveté, leading soldiers like Franks and civilians like Feith to assume that, with a couple of quick battlefield victories, everything else will simply fall into place.

Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power, pp 187-8.

I think this quote makes it clear who the intended audience of this document is. It's our own military elite. This assures them that the political side will retain the same old goal of dominance, which we have pursued since 1992. The military will be left alone to organizing and coordinating the various operations, but there will be no actual connection between policy and military means/aim. Policy will continue as before to exist behind a curtain of propaganda and window dressing, while the military plans campaigns of destruction, but with the new promise of no actual US boots on the ground (However, US forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations), outside of special operations forces I assume. This is what Obama's "inflection point" comes down to. As others have mentioned we experienced this same sort of drawdown in the 1990s after the "Defense Panning Guidance" of 1992 had been put into effect.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eating Something With a Sieve

Robert Farley has a new article up at World Politics Review about his thoughts on the coming Department of Defense budget circus:
"Perhaps the most important takeaway from the white paper is the official recognition that the size of the defense budget itself represents a threat to U.S. national security."
says Farley,
"In theory, this should not be such a remarkable insight; one common narrative explaining the end of the Cold War is that the United States drove the Soviet Union to economic ruin by forcing it to maintain an unsustainable military budget. As Bernard Finel suggests, the United States has now committed itself to a degree of dominance over potential rivals that may be unsustainable in the long run, and that in and of itself poses risks."
Well enough. But I don't know if he has thought this through far enough.


First, I think he's giving the flacks too much credit - simply saying this will happen is far from a guarantee that it WILL happen. Military overstretch is nearly universal in the decline phase of imperia; almost the first symptom of post-vitality in a large or imperial polity is an excessive amount of revenue devoted into military forces and a decreasing return from that "investment".

That is; as empires first grow they often find that war "pays for itself". Imperial troops extend the borders, bringing home slaves and tribute, incorporating rich lands and peoples into the empire. This wealth then translates into more, better-equipped forces, which are more effective against the barbarians, bringing more people and more wealth into the empire. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But over time the combination of imperial social and political arteriosclerosis, bloated elites devoted to their own interests at the expense of the common good, and the vicious effects - on both imperials and colonials - of ruling the subject populations reduces the gains and expands the costs. Subsequent rulers desperately try and find ways to reduce these costs, only to find that in armies, in in every organization, what begins as a relatively lean, cost-effective organization over time becomes overstuffed with useless dunnage that contributes little, if anything, to the actual business of warfighting.

But, second, it is difficult or even impossible to reverse this without immense outlays of political prestige and will. I cannot think of a historical example of an empire that voluntarily restructured its armed forces, in a short time, as the result of a deliberate serious analysis of its geopolitical interests. The Marian Reforms? Except they were more-or-less purely organizational. The conversion of the U.S. to a global superpower in 1945? Helped that just at the moment we had the world's largest army, navy, air force, and a nuke or three lying around.

I'm not sating it can't be done - just that it's damn deadly difficult and the successful examples are so few I can't think of any, And throw in the toxic political environment of the 201s United States? It seems beyond unlikely; it is likely to be absolutely impossible.

Overall I tend to agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion:
"Defense budget politics has increasingly become a field of narrow contestation between experts, elites and interested actors, rather than a field in which different visions of the political good engage with one another. This has resulted in a prioritization of bureaucratic interest and parochial concern, both of which are enemies of real grand strategy."
...but tend to see this not as a bug but as a feature. In my opinion throughout MOST of U.S. history our military budgets have been decided this way.

For most of U.S. history that's been fine. We didn't need much in the way of geopolitical strategy to lick the natives of North America; some smallpox and a railroad or two would work just swell. Ad-hoc assemblies of forces would do to swat the Mexicans, Spanish, and Filipinos. You can sum up our geopolitical plans during the period 1918-1940 as "have a big Navy and don't fight anyone worth shit".

WW2? I'll give you that - well done, FDR, George Marshall. and Congresscritters all.

The Cold War was sort of a no-brainer, too. The Soviets were big so we had to be big, and we were already big. They had a blue-water navy and so did we. They had ICBMs and intercontinental bombers and so did we, or we developed them. It wasn't as big a no-brainer as giving smallpox-blankets to the Sioux, but, still...

So we're down to this particular time in history; post-Cold-War, 1991-2012.

And here's where our historical traditions; lack-of-planning, empire-in-a-fit-of-absence-of-mind, foreign-policy-as-an-outgrowth-of-domestic-policy are biting us on the ass. We are suddenly faced with a non-binary choice and an undefined future, a cloud of potential problems rather than a simple "threat". Teasing sense out of the chaotic multipolar world of the 21st Century and translating that sense into some sort of intelligent military policy is the sort of things that asks for a Talleyrand, or a George Marshall.

And instead we're awash with Rick Santorums.

So it occurs to me is that if reducing the U.S. defense budget growth in a sensible, strategically-planned, geopolitically coherent way relies on the sorts of gentlefolk of the sort much found in the U.S. Congress or in charge of the various executive agencies today making some sort of rational choices based on national interests and the cold calculation of economic and political realities we would be better off hoping for a pink magical pony to appear in a cloud of pixie dust, soar overhead and crap out lemon-verbena-scented golden nuggets of budgetary savings.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vote Herman Cain in South Carolina

Borthers and Sisters, in times like these, when sin and corruption surround us like the Immigration Fence around the SouthWest Rump of America, God has raised up before our eyes two young heroes to counter the Forces of Evil that beset us day and night!

God may have shut the door in our faces when He forbade Stephen Colbert's name to be placed upon the ballot of the God-Fearing State of South Carolina, but He opened a window in the back porch for Colbert to climb in to steal Evil's Cookies!

Vote Cain!

Raise Cain, South Carolina, raise Cain!

Update: For a "million cool points", who said this?

"Andrew Jackson had a pretty good idea about what do with America's enemies: Kill them."

Update #2: Chief is the proud recipient of "Million Cool Points" prize. Congratulations, Chief. It constantly amazes what a tiny bit of research can do! :)

Lots of Jacksons here today. Stonewall, Andrew & Samuel.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Piss Hard

The Marines I have seen around the world
have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds,
the highest morale, and the lowest morals
of any group of animals I have ever seen.
Thank God for the United States Marine Corps
--Eleanor Roosevelt

The Marines have landed
and have the situation well in hand!
--Richard Harding Davis

Marines know how to use their bayonets.
Army bayonets may as well be paperweights
--Navy Times (1994)

The news is abuzz with the story of the four Marines filmed pissing on the bodies of dead
suspected Taliban fighters.

Begin with the premise that these are corpses are "suspected Taliban" -- dead, necro, stiff, checked out, finis, kaput . . .
suspected. When did being Taliban become a death sentence? Don't Taliban sit in the Afghanistan parliament?

These Marines are warriors; it is extremely doubtful that a soldier would piss on a dead enemy fighter, but clearly the warrior culture permits the behavior. Presidential candidate Perry says the action was that of "kids" making a stupid mistake. Now Marines wielding deadly weapons are relegated to kid status. That statement seems as egregious as calling a black man a "boy", and yet it has passed nicely under the scrutiny of the porous Republican radar.

The pissing Marines are emblematic of a warrior culture run amok. Killing is no longer sufficient, so humiliation must be heaped upon the dead. However, this impulse to desecration runs up against the Geneva Conventions which were passed into law to provide minimal standards of conduct between combatants. Pissing on dead bodies is not in keeping with the intent of the conventions.

How do things like this happen? What is the command climate that permits
such disregard of civilized human conduct? Does our training or our never-ending wars contribute to this mindset?

Some say, "What matter?" -- this is one small episode in a larger SNAFU. While that may be true, that fact does not diminish the import or significance of the act. The abject disdain and revilement shown in the act and its filming may be seen as the embodiment of the culture of elective wars, writ small. Peeing on dead opposition soldiers is a microcosm of a destitute military policy. The videotape of actions like this one will serve as future
naufrages of a time and place.

The fact that fighting men would photograph this disgusting behavior is indicative of a bankruptcy of spirit which results from adopting warrior values. Warriors must be brave, but what matter if they are morally bankrupt? If the warriors are bankrupt, our social fabric is rent.

Psychologically, this is a sado-masochistic act in which the Marines are sexually humiliating a fallen enemy. The behavior is aberrant, but moreso when death and killing are involved. It is also (possibly) homoerotic.

You would not applaud the behavior in a snuff film, and yet a trash-talking female "news commentator" proudly declares she would
"drop trou" and join in the Marine's pissing game. Most who oppose the situation only find fault with the filming of it. But would you want your daughter dating such men?

What sort of society are we when we execute and defend such behavior? Ranger believes the Marine's action signify a personality disorder, and he would recommend psychological evaluation and discharge on that basis.

This is a real pisher. The values of warriors are not the values of a liberal democratic philosophy.

--Jim and Lisa

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Former Guantanamo Prisoner Speaks Out

Chris Hayes on his news show "Up", Saturday and Sunday mornings on MSNBC, really stepped into it earlier today. He interviewed a former prisoner of the US prison at Guantanamo.

Apparently, something has changed here at blogger so that I cannot bring you the video here at this site.

You must see this, and spread it around as much as you can. My hope is that it will go viral.

Americans are one of the most propagandized of any people in the world. We have a major newspaper asking its readers how much truth they need to reveal to its readers, let alone making any attempt to actually do that.

We have a comedian running in South Carolina ( Where the heck is Publius on this? Your country, your readers need you more than ever! ) exposing the fraud and lies of our Democracy.

It takes a foreign court to do the job that the US legal system, with notable exceptions, has failed to do.


It's that time of the our lives again...

As the title says it all, it is that time of year again.

That time when Political speeches are made, many words are spoken, and truly, little of substance is said.

If, however, one is to actually pay attention to what is said by these Armani’s suited warriors of the belt-way carefully parse their words, one will hear what the each individual is saying...

for example...

Newt "not Romney" Gingrich: "Repeal Obamacare and pass a replacement that saves lives and money by empowering patients and doctors, not bureaucrats and politicians."

Now, does our dear Newt tell us what he will replace it with? Nope, he doesn't, but I bet if we look at his contributors we'd get a better idea of what type of "replacement" dear Newt baby is going to bring about...bon appetit!

Rick "Not Romney" Perry: "...get government out of the way so we can get America working again. By cutting taxes, repealing regulations, balancing our budget and expanding domestic energy production America can create millions of new jobs. Perry not only espouses conservative economic ideas – he has put them to work in his home state, where nearly 40% of America’s net new jobs have been created since June 2009."

Now, I'm pretty sure we've been down this road before, but the way this other "not Romney" Republican Candidate talks makes me wonder if Texas isn't the next Shangri-la...however, like Shangri la, alas, Texas isn't all that and buttered fact, it seems Mr. Perry has the same speech problem that the other former Governor of Texas had...a problem with, sorry, misspeaking.

"Democratic House member Lloyd Doggett said Perry's job claims don't tell the whole story. "Twenty-five states have lower unemployment than Texas," Doggett said, adding that Texas is "tied with Mississippi for more minimum-wage jobs than anywhere in the United States." We checked the numbers and found Doggett was right; we rated his statement True."

A pity that Ms. Bachmann bailed before I could assemble this list as she would have provided a comedic relief, alas, we press on.

Rick "Not Romney" San...oh, god, really, I can complete his last name...the imagery associated with it...come on sheer, man up...okay, here it goes...Santorum (Oh, god, I think threw up in my mouth): Okay, so, here is his site of issues, and as you peruse this I think you'll see that he is the poster boy with the unfortunate association with what is coined as "A loving act between two people" which is a polite way of saying that, like this man, it is a good idea not to go any further as you may discover things that later you will say to friends and families, "I miss my innocence."

However, since I'm jerk, I'll dive headlong into this mess and "translate" for you, my friends, what exactly he is saying...

"Defending the Dignity of Every Human Life" which is the buzzword for "I'm against everyone else having an abortion except for the privileged few like myself."

"Appointing Constitutionalist Justices and Judges Who Refuse to Legislate from the Bench" which is his way of saying, "I'm liking that Executive Privilege that W. and Obama are setting themselves up with, and I would like to expand on."

"Restoring America's Greatness Through Educational Freedom And Opportunity" is a not so clever way of saying, "I hate public edumication because it teaches our young people how to think for themselves, and we all know that American Greatness doesn't come through thinking for yourself, it comes through obeying those who are telling you what to do."

"Blah, blah" followed by, "Blah, blah, blaaaah, blah blah."

"Herpy derpity derp" which then is explained with, "Derp, burka, derp derp."

"Made In America" is a shorthand version of "Our workers here in the US are making way to much money, and in order to be competitive we need to lower those wages down to something below what their making in those washed out villages along Mumbai."

"Iran" translated is, "Oh how I really, really want to bomb Iran into the stone-age...oh...oh...oh...oh yeah...I need a towel."

"Executive Branch Actions" is another way of saying, "did I mention I totally dig Executive Privilege?"

Ad nauseum.

Anyway, I would go on, but with the loss of Michele Bachmann I've seem to have just laugh my last, I just cry because here it is in a nutshell.

Ron Paul, back in the 80's, and 90's was a crack-pot Right Wing looney toon who no one in their right mind took seriously except for a few groups in Idaho, and maybe down south.
Now, that Ron Paul is an actual contender, and that he is actually main stream, EVEN THOUGH HE HAS NOT CHANGED HIS POLITICAL POSITION IN THE PAST THIRTY YEARS!!! tells me how far down the hole of insanity the Republican Party has crawled too...and that the other Republican Candidates actually make him look like the only sane one in the group is, in my opinion, not only disturbing, down right frightening.

And that is the take home message I think we're all stuck with here...the Republican line up has gone full on, batshit insane, and Obama with his "Who you gonna vote for, that, or me?" leaves us with the old adage of "Do we stick with the devil we know, or the devil we don't know?"

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea...if I only we had that choice as an option.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My predictions for 2012 . . . an open thread

Why doesn't some one else go first . . . ?

It would be nice to hear from all the barkeeps and regulars, as well as any guest wishing to comment . . .

I'll chime in at an appropriate time. I'm cautiously optimistic for the longer run, fear the immediate could turn somehow possibly desperate. Difficult to say where the fear comes from.

Difficult to say how the locals would react.

How far does theory actually lag behind praxis . . . ? I'd hope for a quiet year, a time of mending, but I somehow don't think it's going to work out that way.