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[ 0 ] April 9, 2006 |


So, just for the record, in the hermetically sealed moral universe of conservatives (where all compasses point to the right), when the President sends out his lackey to spread false information about the President’s ex-girlfriend, it is inexcusable, a threat to the republic. When the President sends out his lackey to spread false information about why the President sent hundreds of thousands of American troops to invade and occupy another country, it’s no big deal. Got it?


[ 0 ] April 8, 2006 |

There’s something mind-boggling about the notion that either a) a sustained bombing campaign will topple the regime in Iran, or b) sanctions will force a revolution in Iran. The mind boggling thing is not that these ideas are absurd, that they have no empirical support, or that they are doomed to failure.

The mind-boggling thing is that these arguments are coming, presumably, from the same people who thought that invading Iraq was a good idea because a) a sustained bombing campaign was unlikely to topple the Iraqi regime, and b) sanctions had failed to force a revolution in Iraq.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and it’s just that the neocons in the administration have been shunted aside by the equally idiotic paleocons. Is that progress?

If we let them have Kaus, will they just leave us alone?

[ 0 ] April 8, 2006 |

Mickey is afraid that Mexican immigrants are going to rise up and “take back” California.


Posts Worth Reading

[ 0 ] April 8, 2006 |

Erik on heroin in the Espanola Valley.

Redbeard on abortion on Saipan.

[ 0 ] April 7, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck


[ 0 ] April 6, 2006 |

AG has an excellent review of Stephen Biddle’s excellent book, Military Power. Read the review, and read the book if you get a chance.

AG sums Biddle’s argument up as follows:

His argument is that it is not superior manpower, superior technology, superior firepower, or superior mobility that wins battles – it’s superior force employment. If you’re on the offensive or defensive side, superior tactics and skills are what wins the day.

Which is not quite accurate; Biddle allows that numbers and technology can overwhelem employment advantage in certain cases. In the Desert Storm chapter, Biddle notes that the outcome in 1991 was over-determined, as advanced Coalition technology would likely have won the day regardless of the force employment advantage, and that the two in combination led to the historically low casualty rate of that operation.

One of my students asked an excellent question about this book; how would Biddle explain the performance of the PLA against the US Army in 1950? Force employment and technology clearly favored the Americans, yet they were soundly defeated by a PLA with overwhelming numerical superiority. My initial cut would be a) numbers still matter, b) US Army force employment in 1950 was not what it had been in 1945 and not what it would be in 1990, and c) MacArthur’s Korea strategy put the US in an operationally hopeless situation. Any other thoughts?

Also see Kingdaddy’s commentary on Biddle’s latest on Iraq. Biddle disputes the Malaya/Iraq analogy, and Kingdaddy disputes Biddle.

NRO: Our Generals Suck

[ 0 ] April 5, 2006 |

Matt helpfully points us to this:

“As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically.”

Some generals may have said that, but it’s wrong. It’s what is said by generals who love to train and parade and buy expensive weapons systems and then retire to cushy jobs at Lockheed. The fact is we have to win both militarily and politically.

We have to learn to fight and win a war against terrorist and insurgent groups. If we have a military that can’t win this kind of war, then Iraq will be only the first of many defeats–Afghanistan, Jordan and Pakistan will soon follow. What would prevent that?

Conservatives have come to love the idea of the military more than the actual military. Now, May is right that the US military isn’t particularly well constructed to fight this kind of war, and that at least some of the blame for failure in Iraq lies at the feet of senior military personnel. It would have been great, however, if someone on the Right had made this analysis prior to 2001. Since the end of the Vietnam War, conservatives in the United States have pursued what must be understood as a pro-military propaganda strategy. Beginning with Caspar Weinberger and the Weinberger doctrine, they facilitated and enabled the US Army narrative which said that the primary responsibility for the defeat in Vietnam lay with (Democratic) politicians. This was great, as far as it went; it helped restore morale within the military, and helped the Republicans to win elections by painting their Democratic opponents as weak, meddling, pacifist traitors.

It was not, however, conducive to healthy civil-military relations, or to the construction of a set of military organizations capable of fighting the kinds of conflicts the United States was likely to fight. Enabled by this narrative, the services turned further away from the kind of low intensity conflict seen in Vietnam and toward a high intensity model that had little applicability in the post-Cold War world. Because support of the military became so deeply embedded in a particularly Repbublican form of patriotism, cricitism of the military became akin to criticism of America itself. The Democrats are not innocent in this; to say that Bill Clinton treated the military with kid gloves is a grave understatement.

The chickens, so to speak, have come home to roost. Left to its own devices, the Pentagon has constructed a doctrinal and material edifice wholly unsuited to the challenges of the War on Terror. The most valuable political insight that American conservatives have offered is that large governmental bureaucracies are unwieldy, inefficient, and often unable to accomplish their goals. For the last 35 years, however, an article of faith among conservatives has been that this insight ought never to be applied to the US military, the largest bureaucracy in the Federal Government. Since 2001, Don Rumsfeld and his lackies have discovered that, no matter how many one-stars and two-stars you fire, the US military is too large of an institution to be turned on a dime. Like any bureaucracy, it includes entrenched interests that resist change. It cannot transform itself, will not transform itself, at the command of a few arrogant and irritable civilians.

And so they complain, and they blame, and they point fingers, and they manage to forget that the monster is of their own creation.

Lexblogging: Drinking Liberally

[ 0 ] April 5, 2006 |

For anyone in the Lexington Area,

The first meeting of Drinking Liberally-Lexington will be held at 6:30pm, Tuesday, April 11 at the Horse and Barrel (101 North Broadway). I expect that we’ll be meeting every other week. Given popular preference, the day, time, and venue may change after the inaugural meeting.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Hank vs. Wilt

[ 0 ] April 5, 2006 |

I have to agree with several of Matt’s commenters that Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs probably is the most “hallowed” record in American sports, given that hallowed is a rather inexact term.

It’s not the most unbreakable, which I’m inclined to think goes to Charlie Radbourn’s 59 wins in 1884. In the modern era, I wouldn’t be surprised if Barry Bonds 232 walks in 2004 stands for about as long as any record in sports; it’s 62 walks ahead of any player not named “Bonds”. But unbreakable does not equal hallowed, because the latter term encompasses more than difficulty. Certainly, a hallowed record must be difficult to break, because it has to stand for some time and acquire a certain legendary status. 73, for example, may be hallowed fifty years from now, but it’s not that memorable right now. However, to be hallowed a record must also reflect something central to the sport, an achievement of some note. Given the importance of the home run to baseball, I think Aaron’s record counts.

Yglesias invokes Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance as another candidate, and it’s certainly the most hallowed record that basketball has given us. I don’t think it’s unbreakable, but forty years is pretty solid for a single game record. I suspect, though, that a career records are always going to carry a bit more “hallow” than single game or even single season records, because they take years to make and years to break. People have been talking about the possibility of Bonds breaking Aaron’s record for the last five years or so. Before that, they were talking about Griffey. The more attention a number gets, it seems to me, lends “hallow”.

Anyway, the Giants come to Cincinnati for three games in late September. I’ll be in the right field stands for at least one of those games. It’s obviously unlikely given Bond’s health, but I can say without hyperbole that seeing home run 756 live would be the most exciting moment of my existence on this planet.

Go Terps

[ 0 ] April 4, 2006 |

Congrats to Maryland for winning one hell of a championship game.

Venezuela’s Spree

[ 0 ] April 4, 2006 |

I’m inclined to think that the foreign policy of Hugo Chavez could provide grist for a generation of new international relations scholars. Chavez has pursued a fascinating anti-hegemonic strategy; gambling that hostility to the United States will be more profitable than friendship with the US. It’s a policy that not many Latin American leaders have pursued, and that fewer have succeeded with. Without doubt, it’s more risky for a Latin American country than a European one, the latter not needing to worry overmuch about the threat of a US sponsored coup.

This article on Venezuelan spending patterns is very interesting, demonstrating that Chavez has a conception of power and security that extends beyond the military sphere. Clearly, Chavez believes that general approval and perception of legitimacy among Latin (and North) American leaders will help him survive as much as new tanks and helicopters will. Venezuela is spending a lot of political and financial capital on soft influence. It would seem obvious that this project includes a genuine commitment to leftist goals, a desire to maximize Venezuelan power in the region, and a hope that foreign assistance will help immunize Venezuela from US intervention. These three can conflict in pretty serious ways, as pursuing left wing goals is a good way to earn the animosity of the US, and maximizing power can have the perverse effect of reducing security.

Chavez also has to play a domestic game, and the article suggests he may be having some trouble pursuing his foreign strategy and keeping his base quiet. Some Chavez supporters are apparently asking questions about why so much of Venezuela’s oil wealth is being spent on international projects, and it’s not hard to see why; the connections to increased Venezuelan prosperity are tenuous. Chavez derives domestic benefit from sticking his thumb in the eye of the US, but it’s not clear to me that international status and prestige translate all that well into domestic electoral success (is there any good work out there on that?). It’s possible that Chavez feels so secure in his domestic position that he doesn’t think he needs to worry about losing future elections. It’s also possible that he’s become overconfident, and has miscalculated the degree of his grip on power.


[ 0 ] April 4, 2006 |


Uh, I’m not sure how someone is supposed to react to this from Assrocket:

It’s too bad, I think. DeLay was an effective leader, albeit too liberal in recent years. It’s possible, of course, that he did something wrong along the way. But there is no evidence of that in the public domain; as I’ve often said, the politically-inspired prosection of DeLay by Travis County’s discredited DA, Ronnie Earle, is a bad joke. As far as we can tell at the moment, DeLay appears to be yet another victim of the Democrats’ politics of personal destruction–the only politics they know.

The english language lacks the verbs, nouns, and adjectives necessary to describe…

Instapundit clutches desperately for some centrist cred…

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