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Archive for December, 2005

War Plan Red

[ 0 ] December 31, 2005 |

Want to invade Canada? We have a plan. The most interesting part of this Washington Post article is the discussion of Canada’s plans for pre-emptive war with the United States:

As it turns out, Katz isn’t the first Canadian to speculate on how to fight the U.S.A. In fact, Canadian military strategists developed a plan to invade the United States in 1921 — nine years before their American counterparts created War Plan Red.

The Canadian plan was developed by the country’s director of military operations and intelligence, a World War I hero named James Sutherland “Buster” Brown. Apparently Buster believed that the best defense was a good offense: His “Defence Scheme No. 1″ called for Canadian soldiers to invade the United States, charging toward Albany, Minneapolis, Seattle and Great Falls, Mont., at the first signs of a possible U.S. invasion.

“His plan was to start sending people south quickly because surprise would be more important than preparation,” said Floyd Rudmin, a Canadian psychology professor and author of “Bordering on Aggression: Evidence of U.S. Military Preparations Against Canada,” a 1993 book about both nations’ war plans. “At a certain point, he figured they’d be stopped and then retreat, blowing up bridges and tearing up railroad tracks to slow the Americans down.”

Brown’s idea was to buy time for the British to come to Canada’s rescue. Buster even entered the United States in civilian clothing to do some reconnaissance.

It was not immediately apparent, in the wake of World War I, that the United States and the United Kingdom would remain allies. The United States, after all, had entered World War I as an associated power. The United Kingdom maintained an alliance with Japan, which the United States viewed as our most likely foe. The jockeying for power between Japan, the UK, and the US resulted in the Washington Naval Treaty, which abolished the Anglo-Japanese alliance and limited the naval procurement of all three countries.

The Naval Treaty was not Britain’s only strategic option, however, and the Dominions played a role in pressing London toward the multilateral option. Tensions had run high between the US Navy and the Royal Navy during the war (some US admirals were reluctant to commit a squadron of battleships to the Grand Fleet, believing that the British would somehow manage a confrontation between the US ships and the German High Seas fleet, to the detriment of those two navies and the advantage of the UK), and relations between the IJN and the RN were quite close. In 1920 the Royal Navy enjoyed roughly the same level of advantage over the US Navy as it had over the High Seas Fleet, and a combination of Japan and the UK would have had a clear naval superiority over the US.

To the Australia and Canada, which had given virtually unconditional support to the British during the war, the idea of an Anglo-Japanese alliance against the US was unpalatable. The Australians did not wish to see Japan dominate the Pacific. The Canadians realized that, in spite of British superiority at sea, war against the US would result in the end of Canada. Even if the Royal Navy could defeat the USN, it could not hope to transport or supply an expeditionary force large enough to defeat the US Army.

There were other reasons, too; the British suspected that the US might, in the long run, be able to outpace BOTH Japan and the UK in naval construction, and very few in the UK wanted to pay the cost of an arms race with either power. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the threat of a US invasion of Canada played some part in global political dynamics as late as the 1920s.

Rock Bottom

[ 0 ] December 31, 2005 |

I suppose there’s something more pathetic than the fact that, on a Friday night, I currently have CSPAN-3′s re-runs of the Bork confirmation hearings on. But it’s certainly well beyond my ability to imagine…

Terrorism and Cancer

[ 0 ] December 30, 2005 |

John Quiggin with an excellent analogy. This short poste better explains why I can’t take the vast majority of the right seriously when they talk about fighting terrorism.

Why I, too, am a feminist

[ 0 ] December 30, 2005 |

Lots of reasons, but Scott’s post below reminds me of a post I meant to write last month, but never quite got around to. On Thanksgiving this year, just a few weeks after his 94th birthday, my grandfather died. Deaths of close family members always have an element of tragedy, but as far as deaths go this was expected and for my grandmother, who has found taking care of him as his health deteriorated, some semblance of relief. I could certainly recount the ways patriarchal norms have limited my grandmother’s potential and actual happiness, but it’s not all that different than the sorts of things Scott discusses below (with respect to his mother, thankfully, and not his grandmother).

My grandfather was a beneficiary of a variety of the privileges of patriarchy. For many years, while he had little work available and my grandmother worked as an elementary school teacher, she did all the housework and cleaning and cooking. This was so expected that it didn’t seem to cause resentment. My grandfather didn’t marry until he was 37. His father died when he was quite young, and he spent his life until marriage being doted on and cared for by his mother and his father’s sister. My grandmother slowly took over this role in the early years of the marriage, and continued it for the next 57+ years (for the early years of the marriage, my grandfather’s mother still lived with them, which from what I understand was a pretty difficult existence for her).

This rendered my grandfather unable to take care of himself in important ways. When my grandmother retired from teaching, she wanted a vacation, which she’d never had. She booked a flight to Virginia and a senior bus tour of historic sites, which meant she would be away from home for more than a day for the first time in their marriage. Before she left, she prepared meals for the entire time she’d be away, in Tupperware labeled “breakfast,” “lunch,” and “dinner” with comically explicit microwaving instructions. These meals went untouched. While my grandfather would simply ignore any questions about what he ate during these eight days, the physical evidence left behind suggests that at first, he eight all the cookies, candy and chocolate he could find in the house. After a few days, when this resource ran out, he drove to Burger King (they live in the country, it’s a 30+ mile round trip) for each and every meal. The only explanation he gave for his behavior: “I can’t figure out how to work that contraption” (the microwave). This story has since been retold as a humorous anecdote about his stubbornness, but when I always thought he seemed a bit embarrassed when it was brought up.

Throughout his life, my grandfather had an interest in antique farm equipment, which he collected, repaired, and exhibited at antique farm equipment shows around Washington and Oregon. At his memorial service, my grandmother told me that she once asked him what he would have liked to have done had he not been a farmer, to which he replied he’d like to have been an engineer.

Most would point to my grandfather’s privileges and my grandmother’s hardships as the feminist lesson here, but there’s another one as well. File this under Ampersand’s “patriarchy hurts men, too.” His autonomy was limited in important ways by patriarchal norms as well. Feminist theory has often told us that the patriarchal version of autonomy relies on the non-autonomous labor of others, and that’s clearly correct. But this autonomy is corrupted both ways. The women in my grandfather’s early life shaped and developed him into an incomplete person. The man who could repair a 19th century steam engine he’d never seen before couldn’t—or wouldn’t—figure out how to use a microwave. It’s easy to chalk this up to stubbornness, but it’s a particular kind of stubbornness that shows the depths of which the patriarchal norms about certain tasks had been internalized. The same patriarchal norms that gave him the large farm he inherited (it was assumed that the female members of his generation would marry, so they weren’t inheritors of the farm) and placed him in charge of it at a young age also foreclosed the possibility of him becoming an engineer. He had made his peace with being a farmer–he particularly enjoyed hosting the local grange’s annual threshing bee fundraiser–but the thought that he might have liked to pursue a different path stayed with him.

One thing feminism does is demand that we change society in order to create and enhance the opportunities for women to have autonomy. But the gender roles that feminism resists can also serve as a constraint on male autonomy as well. Patriarchal autonomy disguises male privilege, but it also disguises the ways in which some choices and options are foreclosed and limited. My grandfather never would have recognized any of this, and he’d probably think this is all pretty silly. Still, while I’ve suffered my share of embarrassments and I’m sure I’ve got many more coming, I’ll never be embarrassed by my lack of ability to operate a microwave. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty trivial, but it is one tangible way feminism can be beneficial to men as well as women.

Robert D. Herren, 1911-2005, RIP

Why I Am A Feminist

[ 0 ] December 30, 2005 |

Lauren’s post defies summary; it just demands to be read. Particularly since I’m in a context where I teach a lot of first generation college students, I found it particularly fascinating, but also reminds me that teaching at lower levels is a harder and more important job. I want to hit at it from a slightly different angle; her discussion about the importance of ideas within families reminds me of the answer I always give if someone asks me why I’m a feminist.

My parents both grew up poor on a Saskatchewan farm, and were both first-generation college students, and have the work ethic you would expect from people who grew up in that context. My father isn’t really someone with a great interest in abstract ideas; he got a law degree, quickly found a good corporate job after a few years of private practice, and methodically rose up the latter in a big, secure company in a way which is now somewhat rare. My mother, on the other hand, has some traits of an intellectual, and in some ways she’s unhappy because she would have liked to have been a researcher. She works (and still does part-time) as a dietitian, working with people with diabetes and other serious health issues. She also keeps up with the literature to a far greater extent than would be minimally required for her profession, and she would have liked to have been able to produce research itself. But it wasn’t possible, because it was too late. I don’t mean to say that this is the result of the patriarchy in its crudest form; my father never had objections to her working or anything like that and they have the happiest and most stable marriage imaginable, and my sister (although not a feminist) has an extremely successful career in a male-dominated profession and her education and choices were always encouraged. Rather, my mother’s occasional status taught me about the subtler ways in which patriarchal norms work; it’s about internalized expectations. She couldn’t become a researcher because she finished with a BA in Home Ec, and would never have considered grad school because getting married and having kids and taking care of them after graduating was what a woman did. By the time she started her career, she was in her mid-30s, and has often worked only part-time. She just wasn’t in a position to achieve her ambitions, and it’s always been important to me that women do have these choices.

The other big reason, which is even starker, is my mother’s mother, my only surviving grandparent. My grandmother’s husband passed away in the early 80s, and since then her life has essentially been over, even as she keeps living. Her identity was so thoroughly bound up in being a wife and mother, in taking care of her husband, that after he passed away there was essentially nothing left for her to do. She had no interest in reading, or music, or any kind of culture, and slowly retreated from any human contact at all. When she moved from her small town home to be closer to her daughters, she would periodically complain that she didn’t know anybody and didn’t see her old friends, but if her old friends came to visit she would quickly get tired of them and want them to leave. She talked for a long time about taking a train ride through the Rocky Mountains, but when my mother and her sisters paid for an expensive luxury train ride from Calgary to Vancouver she just stared at the seat straight ahead, not wanting to go to the observation car and look at the scenery or go to eat the gourmet meals or anything. She basically had no independent interests, nothing that brought her any joy other than caring for her spouse, and seeing the last stages of her life has taught me that the legal dissolving of a woman into her husband when she married had very tangible human costs, even when the legal forms themselves changed. Being in a committed, caring relationship is a great thing, of course, but the damage wrought by a certain level of dependence that some people would require of women for the sake of the “family” can extract an awful toll.

Which is why–even though I was otherwise pretty conservervative as a teenager–I gave a less-than-strategically-appropriate pro-choice speech at my high school’s “Speech Day,” and have always strenuously opposed attempts–whether through state or cultural coercion–to restrict the autonomy of women’s choices about childrearing, and was particularly hostile to reactionary idealizations of the patriarchal family. There’s another lesson, of course, which is that cultural norms are stubborn and do not necessarily have easy legal remedies. Pace Maureen Dowd, feminism’s victories are real but far from complete; it’s a slow process, but also a necessary one. Freedom doesn’t bring guarantees of happiness either, of course, but it’s infinitely preferable to the alternative.

HF has more.

[ 0 ] December 30, 2005 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Snowball

Bipartisanship!!

[ 0 ] December 29, 2005 |

Wow, I never thought it would happen either, but I agree entirely with a post about movies on The Corner. (Hell, I’m shocked that there was a post about movies, as opposed to using movies as a pretext to talk about politics, at The Corner.) Since we could use more conservatives who actually care about aesthetics, I figured I should give a link…

Rhythmic Admirer of the Day

[ 0 ] December 29, 2005 |

Glenn Reynolds.

That Poll Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

[ 0 ] December 29, 2005 |

John and Ezra are, of course, right: despite the claims of people like Jeff Goldstein, the fact that only 64% or the public answers “yes” to a question that I (and virtually everyone else) would unhesitatingly answer yes to is hardly a sign of strength for the President’s position; if they ask about the President’s program as opposed to the concept of using wiretaps to fight terrorism in general, then we’ll have something. In addition to this, of course, we get the usual projection of intense partisanship onto others. He asks: “Will these results convince partisan Democrats who’’ve been pushing the story that they’’re not likely to gain much politically by pressing the issue?” The answer, of course, is “who gives a shit?” Let’s say for the sake of argument that opposing the President’s program will be unpopular–quite likely, although this particular poll is neither here nor there as far as that’s concerned. I could still care less. If it’s unpopular to oppose presidential illegality and pointless violations of civil liberties, so be it. There are some principles you have to stand on; if some people believe that narrow partisanship is more important than upholding the Constitution that’s their privilege, but speak for yourself.

As for the claim that “case law to this point supports that authority”, uh, sadly, no. We have to start with the fact that the program clearly violates the FISA statute. We need not concern ourselves with the few embarrassingly specious and outcome-oriented attempts to argue otherwise, because not even the administration itself is claiming that their wiretaps were authorized by FISA. And the claim that the taps were somehow authorized by the AUMF is, if anything, even more unserious. So, the question is: does the case law support an inherent presidential authority to engage in national security protections contrary to Congressional statutes? Let’s turn this over to Daniel Farber’s Lincoln’s Constitution, an (excellent) attempt to defend the constitutionality of most of Lincoln’s wartime measures:

With the possible exception of Midwest Oil, where the court found in a long history of prior congressional acquiescence, the Supreme Court has never upheld a presidential claim to take emergency action in violation of statute. At the very least, any such claim of presidential authority must be scrutinized with great caution…On balance, Lincoln’s transfers of federal funds are probably best regarded as unconstitutional. (137)

In this case, Midwest Oil is also clearly inapplicable; not only has Congress not provided long-term tacit consent, but the Attorney General has argued that the program is necessary precisely because Congress wouldn’t grant the authority. And as Glenn recently pointed out, in the Steel Seizure cases the Court refused to uphold Truman’s actions even though 1)there actually was a war as traditionally understood going on, and 2)the steel seizure represented a far more plausible “emergency” context than warrantless wiretaps in December 2005. If Truman didn’t have the inherent authority to override the will of Congress, Bush certainly doesn’t. So, the case law on this question is indeed clear: the President plainly exceeded his constitutional authority. The program would only be constitutional if the Court were to expand traditional understandings of executive power considerably. For the good of the country, we can only hope that they won’t.

Digby gets it right.

10 Worst Americans

[ 0 ] December 28, 2005 |

Far be it from me to decry any of my countrymen, but I cannot resist. In no particular order, and including both those crimes aesthetic and political…

J. Edgar Hoover: I don’t think that civil liberty in the United States has ever had a more committed enemy. I don’t know that he hated leftists, african-americans, and civil rights advocates per se, but he was willing to destroy anyone who threatened his power.

Aaron Burr: Had little, if anything, to contribute to the early Republic, and came close to disrupting it in the 1800 election. Killing Alexander Hamilton puts him over the top.

Jefferson Davis: Ninth circle of Hell, next to Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. That his treason was in the cause of slavery makes him much worse than, say, Benedict Arnold.

Nathan Bedford Forrest: Fought to destroy the Union, then fought to destroy the only good things that came out of the Civil War.

Bill O’Reilly: Other demagogues could be placed here, but Bill O’Reilly takes precedence for his insipid faux populism.

George Wallace: Patterson Hood puts it best.

Joseph McCarthy: Willing to burn everything that was good about America in the service of his power.

Henry Miller
: America’s worst novelist.

Mickey Kaus: America’s worst pundit/blogger/journalist.

Joel Schumacher: America’s worst director.

The last three are idiosyncratic, I know. Reading the comments is fun; if you’ve ever doubted whether the right has more spite, anger, hatred, and vitriol than the left, please put those concerns aside. Including Martin Luther King was not enough for one enlightened commenter; she decided to put every African-American on her list. Jimmy Carter seems to be a mainstay on the conservative lists, as does Earl Warren.

American Exceptionalism

[ 0 ] December 28, 2005 |

Chris Bertram reminds us that contemporary discussions of American imperialism miss out on the fact that the United States has historically been a very successful imperial power. It’s not as if we just pulled 37 new states out of our collective ass The conquest and colonization of the West was so extraordinarily successful that modern Americans simply don’t think of it as a conquest in the same way that we think of Russian expansion, Chinese expansion, or European colonialism.

This reminded me of why I have an aversion to Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria is, of course, a prominent public intellectual. Like many prominent public intellectuals, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard. He turned his dissertation into From Wealth to Power, which is a study of the effect of weak executive power on colonial expansion. He concludes that weak executive power in the US in the second half of the nineteenth century precluded the United States from seeking colonies in the same manner as other great powers.

And that, my friends, is absurd. It doesn’t even pass the laugh test. As long as you posit that America’s expansion into the West wasn’t colonialism, it sounds like a great, nuanced, interesting thesis. Similarly, if you posit that pigs are vegetables, you’ll wonder why vegetarians don’t eat bacon. The argument doesn’t even have face validity (and Zakaria deals with the problem in the book only in passing), and yet he managed to defend it as a dissertation and get it published. I once assigned the book to a group of undergraduates, and even they were genuinely flummoxed at the gaping blind space in the center of the book’s argument.

I haven’t read any of Zakaria’s other books, so I can’t comment on them. I have found his columns well-written and occasionally insightful. And yes, there is an element of academic bitterness here; I wish I could have written and published such a crappy dissertation. Nevertheless, I will always find myself suspicious of his work.

See You In Leavenworth, Kenny Boy

[ 0 ] December 28, 2005 |

Causey to testify against Lay and Skilling. Bye-bye!

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