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The Question of Will

[ 1 ] May 2, 2006 |

One element of Goldstein’s argument deserves some more attention. The focus on Will is common to conservative analysis of the Iraq War, and of war in general. Will, it is believed, is the key to victory. If we lack Will, as we (in the sense that the media, a certain percentage of the Democratic Party, and a certain percentage of the electorate consistute “we”) did in Vietnam, then we will suffer defeat. If we demonstrate that we have Will by attacking Iraq, or attacking Iran, or dropping some bombs on places where Iraqi civilians live, or torturing people, or disposing of international law, then our enemies will understand that we are not to be trifled with, and will slowly back away.

Why this focus on Will? I can think of three reasons. First, Will provides a simple, easy to understand, and utterly non-quantifiable explanation for outcomes. Lazy arguments will always be more popular than complex arguments. Second, the idea that Will is determinative of outcomes fits easily into a set of pop culture notions about success and victory. Finally, Will is compatible with a masculinist notions of conflict, combat, and victory that have roots in fascist thought.

It is common to hear the refrain, especially in wingnutty circles, that no war has ever been won by a country that lacked Will. Why did the French lose? Not because of insufficient doctrine or poor organization or poor intelligence, but because they lacked Will. Why did the Athenians lose? Because they lacked the Will to do what was necessary on Sicily. What must we do to win in Iraq? Demonstrate our Will. It’s fair to say that this is an explanation for victory and defeat that is wholly immune to any evidentiary evaluation. There is, simply put, no way to measure national Will. The explanation ends up being circular, as defeat demonstrates that a country lacks Will. It is simple, easy, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable. Contrary cases are rarely mobilized; could it be honestly argued that Japan and Germany in World War II had less Will than the Allies? Perhaps less than Russia, but the Western Allies? Moreover, the Will explanation leads to a clear policy prescription. We win by being tougher. This is an emotionally satisfying, if empirically uncompelling, argument.

The argument is echoed in popular culture. Recall this wonderful speech from The Usual Suspects:

One story the guys told me, the story I believe, was from his days in Turkey. There was a gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t. After a while, they come into power and then they come after Soze. He was small-time then, just running dope, they say. They come to his home in the afternoon, looking for his business. They find his wife and kids in the house and decide to wait for Soze. He comes home to find his wife raped and children screaming. The Hungarians knew Soze was tough, not to be trifled with, so they let him know they meant business.

They tell him they want his territory, all his business. Soze looks over the faces of his family. Then he showed these men of will what will really was.

Recall also Michael Corleone’s comment at the end of Godfather II, about how history has shown that anyone can be killed. In Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz demonstrates that only a Will to commit atrocity is necessary to defeat the Viet Cong. The Will explanation extends to athletics, as well. How often does a commentator explain a team’s victory through their commitment, courage, and Will rather than through the fact that it plays better and is more talented? As noted above, this explanation is attractive precisely because it is so lazy; the Yankees win games because they have talented players, not because they have Will. Nevertheless, pop culture evocations of the importance of Will are extremely common. Will plays better as a story than a sober analysis of things like capability, skill, or talent. Will is dramatic and surprising in a way that capability is not.

Finally, and I think that this is the most important element of the attractiveness of Will to warbloggers, the idea of Will is extremely appealing to a particular construction of masculinity. Toughness, understood as a male characteristic, is more important than skill, capability, technology, etc. The French lose because they are effeminate. The Democrats lose because they are effeminate (and shot through with feminists in any case). The individual warblogger may not have been trained for war, or have any particular physical talents, or have done much more to study war than read and re-read Victor Davis Hanson, but he knows that he is tough, and he knows that this toughness must matter in some way. As Goldstein displays so clearly, he is willing to think about difficult and awful things, like bombing Iraqi civilians, in a tough and manly way. He understands that horrible things must often be done in war because he is a Man, and knows that he cannot afford to have the illusions that women and children are allowed to have. He remembers Don Vito Corleone’s words,

Women and children can be careless. But not men.

and vows not to be the careless sort who would allow humanitarian considerations to get in the way of victory. The impulse is obviously a fascist one, familiar from the speeches of Mussolini and the films of Leni Riefenstahl, although it would not be fair to say that all those that entertain fascist impulses are, indeed, fascists. Nevertheless, the combination of virile masculinity, nationalism, war, the “decision”, Will, and disdain for weak-kneed intellectuals is a frightening one.

So, the reason for US difficulty in Iraq becomes a lack of Will. Had the United States the Will to ignore humanitarian considerations and just carpet-bomb Baghdad, we would have few difficulties. The Iranians, respecting our Will, would back down from their nuclear boasts. A contest of Will shall determine defeat or victory; nevermind that the Iraqi insurgents are willing to accept far higher casualties, a much longer struggle, and far greater physical insecurity than US forces would ever be willing to endure. This, indeed, is what makes the Will argument absurd in the context of Iraq; an insurgency, by its nature, ALWAYS displays more Will than an occupying power. This doesn’t mean that the insurgents always win, but it does mean that skill, capability, and technology have to be used in an effective and measured way, and that pointless invocations of Will are hardly constructive.

UPDATE: In comments, SteveG adds:

The notion of will is intended to eliminate all discussions of the cost of war, failures in the stretegy and execution of the war, the legality and legitimacy of the war,… The scope of consideration is limited as soon as will becomes an issue. When things are going poorly, the blame simply can be laid at the feet of those who lack the will — no mucking about with that pesky reality.

Greenwald on Steele

[ 0 ] May 2, 2006 |

Damn, Glenn Greenwald is a good blogger. Referring to the laurels being laid upon Shelby Steele by Jeff Goldstein, among others:

To sit and listen to people who have spent the last three years piously lecturing us on the need to stand with “the Iraqi people,” who justified our invasion of that country on the ground that we want to give them a better system of government because we must make Muslims like us more, now insist that what we need to do is bomb them with greater force and less precision is really rather vile — but highly instructive. The masks are coming off. No more poetic tributes to democracy or all that sentimental whining about “hearts and minds.” It’s time to shed our unwarranted white guilt, really stretch our legs and let our hair down, and just keep bombing and bombing until we kill enough of them and win. Shelby Steele deserves some sort of award for triggering that refreshingly honest outburst.

As Greenwald points out, we’ve moved beyond the solidarity with the Iraqi people, beyond the purple fingers, and beyond the demand for democracy in the Middle East. Now, all we have left is the angry frustration of warbloggers who really, really want to win and just can’t figure out why they’re not. Jeff:

Which is why there are times when we really should turn off the “smart” bombs and show our seriousness by putting the world on notice that, when we believe the situation calls for it, we are willing to ignore the inevitable bad press and the howls of protest from human rights groups, and exhibit a show of strength and military professionalism that is politically disinterested and tactically thorough and lethal.

In other words, we should massacre more people. This would indicate our seriousness to the world, and would keep them from fucking with us. Jeff and his cronies defend this in the comments in the most odious ways possible; only read if you have a strong stomach. Jeff also demonstrates an understanding of the US military that would be most appropriate for a video game. Believe it or not, the United States military does not consider mass murder to be an element of professionalism.

The most basic fallacy behind all of this is that, if we were just a little bit tougher, things would work out. Success, for Goldstein, Steele, and the rest is tied to toughness and masculinity, rather than to skill or capability. What determines victory is will, the will to be more brutal than the other side. It’s fair to say that a survey of military history does not support Jeff’s conclusions. When we did incinerate cities, the result was not enemy surrender, but rather increased support for the target governments. Brutal, heavy-handed tactics also have a piss poor history in counter-insurgency operations. Murderous brutality didn’t help the Nazis put down resistance movements in Western Europe or the Soviet Union, didn’t help the Soviets win in Afghanistan, and didn’t help Saddam Hussein defeat the Kurds.

I leave you with Jeff’s conclusion:

It is a fight for the soul of classical liberalism, which is being undercut (in my estimation) by nearly 40 years of a concerted effort by those whose goal is power and control to relativize meaning and deconstruct, through incoherent linguistic assertions that have unfortunately been widely adopted out of self-satisfied feel-goodism (specifically, an ostensible deference to the Other that allows us to convince ourselves we are “tolerant” and “diverse,” when in fact we have created the conditions to turn those ideas into something approximating their exact opposites).

Taking back the grounds for meaning—and being willing to fight for those grounds against those who try to shame us out of reasserting them—is the first step toward the recovery of our belief in our strong and generous national character. To that end, we should draw a lesson from the charges of Bill Bennett’s “racism”—cast by those who don’t believe Bennett intended to say anything racist, but who insist, rather, that his words themselves were racist (an idea that grants that public perception is the locus of meaning, and that the utterer can be held accountable for the public perception). Such a dismissal of the importance of intent has led, predictably, to a rhetorical condition wherein those who protest the loudest (and can play to our emotions) will have effectively seized control of “history” as it is constructed and disseminated through language.

This is the will to power—and it is only possible in the vaccuum left by the marginalization of a truly coherent interpretative paradigm.

… which reads like an undergraduate paper written by someone who really, really thinks that stringing together lots of big words produces coherent meaning, without having the benefit of actually understanding what any of those words mean. The shorter version is this: Postmodernist lefties are trying to take over classical liberalism through linguistic trickery, and the only way to stop them is to become fascists and kill plenty of brown people.

He’s right about one thing; we’re in a fight for the soul of classical liberalism.

…another thought; I wonder how long it would take for Hitch to come out in favor of “carpet bombing for democracy” and “mass executions for freedom”?

…yet another thought; does this represent the move to the second stage of wingnut grief? The first is denial; the war in Iraq isn’t a disaster, it’s all just media lies! Now we’re to anger; Exterminate the bastards!

…David Neiwert is indispensible on this, and every other, topic.

It’s Still All About the Heritage

[ 1 ] May 2, 2006 |

Walking the Plank, as it were, reminds me what a magnificent resources the blogosphere has in Tapped, a group of excellent writers with serious things to say about policy. The Plank is by no means as bad as The Corner, but lord, it’s not good. Today, Jason Zengerle allows that while John McCain may be beset by both sides of the evil blogosphere, at least he has the mainstream media in his corner, and that counts for something. We then find that those who thought Stephen Colbert was funny on Saturday night hold to a Stalinist aesthetic. Adam Kushner suggests that liberals were willing to tolerate Saddam Hussein, without pointing out that, before 1990, conservatives were so tolerant of him that they were willing to sell him weapons, give him advice on how to use his chemical munitions, and ignore his attack on the USS Stark. All fine and committed wankery, but I’d like to turn your attention to this post by Jason Zengerle.

I actually have a fair amount of sympathy for some Southerners who love the Confederate flag. I even once wrote a piece about them. For these people, the flag really is a representation of their heritage; perhaps more importantly, it may be the only thing in their lives that actually transcends their daily existence. Put it this way: if you’re a guy whiling away your days in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, the fact that your great-great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg–the only thing connected to your life that you ever actually read about in a history book–is a real source of pride. Therefore, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d express that pride by flying a Confederate flag, or putting a sticker of it on your car. And there’s nothing more unfair than being branded a racist for doing so.


I mean, it’s not as if anyone from the South fought in the Revolutionary War, or that there were any critical battles fought against the British in, say, Virginia. No Southerners fought in the War of 1812, or the Mexican American War, or really participated in any other event of historical consequence prior to 1861. The Spanish-American War was conducted entirely with troops from New England, and Southerners were banned from participation in the Army in World War I. And the school year always ends before you get to World War II, so it’s not as if anyone can be blamed for not feeling a connection to it. Was there a Southerner in Saving Private Ryan? I don’t recall…

So, while the South has been a part of the United States for 230 years, the only time worthy of historical note is the period between 1861 and 1865, where the slaveholding elite dragged the rest of the South into a war of treason in defense of slavery. If you wish to have pride in the South, it’s rather too troublesome to think of the Battle of Yorktown, or the Battle of New Orleans, or of the Southerners that fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood, or in the Battle of the Bulge, or at the Chosin Reservoir, or at Khe San. This is not even to mention the tremendous difficulty of developing a regional identity based around cultural and artistic contribution, rather than around war. How could pride in William Faulkner ever hold a candle to pride in your great-great-granddaddy’s experience at Gettysburg?

No, really the only option for Southern pride is attachment to the Confederate flag and its unfortunate connections with treason, rebellion, slavery, racism, and white supremacy. Pity the Ohio native whose great-great-grandfather fought on the Union side at Gettysburg; the only flag he can fly is the Stars and Stripes, and this clearly isn’t good enough.

Finally, while I allow the possibility that the fetishization of the Civil War in the South has meant that our hypothetical North Carolinian may know more about Gettysburg than any other event in US history, this is rather part of the problem, and not an excuse.


[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

I don’t mean to pick on Ezra, but, after our recent experience with Josh “The Roman Troll” Trevino, you can color me deeply skeptical that the “Swords Crossed” project will amount to anything beyond hollow pomposity…

Ask a Wingnut: The Changing of the Horses

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

Dear Wingnut,

Kingdaddy has this post which says that changing leaders in mid-war can be a good thing. He’s wrong, isn’t he?

Confounded in Topeka

Dear Confounded,

Kingdaddy’s post is interesting enough, but his invocation of the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts is obviously ill-conceived. It is, of course, always acceptable to replace a Democrat with a Republican in the course of a war. Democrats are pussies, and can’t be expected to fight worth a damn. Once the Republican is in office, the rule about not changing horses in mid-stream applies.


Another Note on Conspiracy Theories

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

Some of the comments in this thread deserve a more lengthy response.

On the various question regarding one piece of evidence or another, it’s important to realize that conspiracy theories are, by their nature, impervious to evidence. If the government produced the flight recorder, and all of the data supported the conventional conclusion regarding United 93, it wouldn’t prove anything. If the plane really was shot down, and the government really did want to cover it up, then of course the administration would release a falsified data recorder. You could produce a hundred experts on plane crashes pointing out that passenger planes maneuvering violently at high speeds run the risk of breaking up, and the retort from the conspiracy theorist would invariably be that experts are easy to buy, or that evidence is easy to conceal, or that this other expert said something different. Moreover, the conspiracy theorist would be right; once the conspiracy has been submitted, no evidence can possibly be sufficient to disprove it.

The other argument that some have made is that, while it may be difficult to ferret out the precise motive for a cover-up, the Bushies are congenital liars and really are capable of anything. To an extent this is true, and there are many things that I would believe of the Bushies. But it does not follow that I must believe that everything Bush and Cheney do is tinged with deceit. I am capable of believing, for example, that there were serious problems with vote counting in Ohio (I don’t believe it made a difference, but I don’t think that people who do are out in left field). However, if someone began arguing to me that there was widespread voter fraud in Wyoming, my brain would shut down pretty quickly. Why would anyone ever risk stealing votes in Wyoming, even if they were otherwise deceitful? To me, it makes about as much sense as concocting an elaborate cover-up of the fate of United 93, which is none at all.

Now, if in a year some fighter jock turns up and produces conclusive evidence that he personally shot down flight 93, I will issue a retraction and apology. Until then, however, I’m sticking to my position that this is the first step on the road to madness.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: SMS Schleswig-Holstein

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

SMS Schleswig-Holstein was the fourth of the Deutschland class, the last pre-dreadnought battleships built by Germany. The Deutschland’s were authorized by Admiral Alfred Von Tirpitz’ Fleet Acts, designed to provide Germany with a large, powerful Navy. The idea of a powerful Navy appealed to a wide swath of German society, including labor and big industry. The prospect for a larger overseas empire also excited the Kaiser. Schelswig-Holstein was laid down in 1904 and completed in 1908. She carried four 11″ guns in two twin turrets, displaced 14000 tons, and could make about 18.5 knots. Pre-dreadnought battleships tended to carry large secondary armaments, and Schlewig-Holstein was also armed with 14 6.7″ guns

The commissioning of Dreadnought in late 1906 rendered most battleships in the world obsolete. This helped to obscure the fact that Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were completely outclassed, upon completion, by foreign competition. The British King Edward VIIIs were much larger and carried a heavier main armament. The same could be said of the American Connecticut class, and even the Japanese Mikasa, completed six years earlier, compared favorably with the German design. Moreover, the German ships were utterly inferior to the last generation of pre-dreadnought warships, mostly completed after Dreadnought, and including the British Lord Nelsons, the French Dantons, and the Austrian Radetzkys.

No one knew quite what to do with pre-dreadnought battleships after the completion of Dreadnought. The USN continued to employ pre-dreadnoughts in front line roles until it possessed enough dreadnoughts to push the older battleships into the second line. Some pre-dreadnoughts, like the Radetzky class, had the speed to keep up with the dreadnought battlefleet, and could stay in a fleet role. The British employed pre-dreadnoughts in any number of different roles, including coastal defense, cruiser hunting, and in the Dardanelles operation. By 1914, Germany had an embarassment of dreadnoughts for any mission other than fighting the Royal Navy. Most German pre-dreadnoughts were committed to training operations or coastal defense. The Deutschland class, however, were retained as a squadron in the High Seas Fleet, and regularly performed maneuvers with the German dreadnought fleet.

Thus, Schleswig-Holstein was part of the High Seas Fleet in late May of 1916, when the German Navy sortied in an effort to catch and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy. The inclusion of the six pre-dreadnoughts (the five Deutschlands and the earlier Hessian) was controversial; these ships were slower than the German dreadnoughts, and many believed that they didn’t add enough firepower to be of consequence. Given that the High Seas Fleet was at a severe firepower disadvantage relative to the Royal Navy, I think that the inclusion of the pre-dreadnoughts was defensible. Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were at the end of the German line, and did not suffer from severe gunfire damage. However, one of their number, Pommern, was hit by a torpedo and sank.

After the High Seas Fleet returned to port, Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were removed for other duties. At the end of the war, the best of the High Seas Fleet was dispatched to Scapa Flow for eventual scuttling. The rest of the German dreadnoughts were turned over to other allied powers, which either sank the German ships as targets or sold them as scrap. By the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was allowed to keep only a few pre-dreadnought battleships, including Schleswig-Holstein. The replacements allowed for these ships were even smaller than the pre-dreadnoughts themselves. Thus, the Kriegsmarine retained Schleswig-Holstein as an active unit for the entire interwar period.

In late August 1939, Schleswig-Holstein was dispatched to Gdansk for a “courtesy visit”. On the morning of September 1, 1939 the aging battleship opened fire on a Polish Army barracks, opening World War II. Schleswig-Holstein continued to bombard Polish positions for the next five days, taking some damage from Polish shore batteries in the process. The rest of Schleswig-Holstein’s career was relatively uneventful, although she did participate in the occupation of Denmark in early 1940. The Kriegsmarine used the old battleship as a training ship for the rest of the war.

On December 19, 1944, Schleswig-Holstein was hit by 3 bombs, caught fire, and sank in shallow water. The crew later set off scuttling charges, causing some additional damage. This damage did not dissuade Russia for refloating Schleswig-Holstein, renaming her Borodino, and turning her into a target ship. She continued in that service until 1948, when the Russian Navy scuttled her.

Trivia: What was the only German capital ship (other than a pre-dreadnought) lost in World War I?

Contrarian Centrism at its Best

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

If you need a perfect example of how non-sensical Slate’s form of knee-jerk contrarianism is, look no further than Lord Saletan’s article on gay and covenant marriage.

Fair enough. But the test goes both ways. In their foundational statement on marriage, Catholic, Baptist, and evangelical leaders claim to be defending it against cohabitation, divorce, and “diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying.” They call for “mentor couples” and “influence within society” to promote marriage. Can you imagine a more powerful influence than finding out that the gay couple down the block has a stronger marriage than you do? Can you imagine a more powerful way for that couple to earn society’s respect? Here’s a chance to get more marriage, less cohabitation, and less divorce. Is that what conservatives want? Or would they rather keep out the gays?

If anyone can show just cause why these two movements may not be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

In other words, if we take a form of marriage that even Christian conservatives find idiotic (covenant marriage) and combine it with gay marriage, then everyone will be happy! Conservatives would love gay marriage if only the gays couldn’t get divorced!

How stupid do you have to be to write this kind of crap? Does Saletan seriously believe that conservatives are going to evaluate gay marriage based on the likelihood of divorce, rather than based on the notion, you know, that men shouldn’t marry men and women shouldn’t marry women? And why does Saletan think that gays are going to want to accept a far more legally onerous type of marriage than heterosexuals? Believe it or not, some gays just want to get married like everyone else; the point is that they love someone, not that they want to make political hay.

Saletan remains mired in this idea that for every political disagreement there is a compromise that will make everyone happy, and that if a Slate writer just thinks hard enough about it for a while, the solution will appear. It is a fundamentally unserious approach to politics.

UPDATE: In response to Patrick, I too wondered whether this article was intended as sarcasm. Let’s say that Saletan has not earned the benefit of the doubt.

Occupied Britain

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Interesting post and thread at Crooked Timber on the idea of a Nazi occupied Britain, based on an interesting article in the Guardian.

On the one hand, it’s important to note that French behavior wasn’t all that atypical of countries occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II. If the English Channel had not existed, Germany would undoubtedly have successfully conquered Great Britain and installed some sort of collaborationist regime. The French weren’t cheese-eating surrender monkeys so much as they were cursed by geography. On the other side of the continent, Russia prevailed over Germany only by giving up several France-sized chunks of territory. The French military defeat in 1940 was just that; a military defeat. All it revealed was that Germany had a more potent army and better intelligence than the French, and neither of these is, particularly, a moral or cultural failing.

However, I am inclined to think that Vichy was unusually poisonous for a collaborationist regime. Although fascist groups existed in Britain, I don’t believe that they ever had the strength that the right was able to claim in France. The Third Republic was a bit of a mess by 1940, riven by factions which had ceased to believe that they could work with the other side. The defeat of France by Germany was taken as a signal by the right wing factions that the left had finally led France to destruction. These groups saw Vichy as an opportunity to expunge the Third Republic, the Dreyfus Affair, and even the Revolution from French life. I don’t think that any British group had aims as far ranging, which suggests that the British collaborator government would have been somewhat less awful than the Vichy regime. Of course, I yield to any specialist on this question.

I also suspect that, because of the strength and relative independence of the British Empire, that a far more significant residue of UK fighting power would have continued the struggle. Neither Australia nor Canada would have surrendered to Germany, and both would have probably joined the US in its war against Japan. I would imagine that a significant portion of the Royal Navy would have passed to Canadian or American control, regardless of the neutrality of the United States.

Spanish speakers? They’re not really as American as the rest of us…

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

I seem to recall a little while ago that all the wingnuts were in a rage because immigration demonstrators didn’t wave enough American flags. Today, Dear Leader made clear that patriotism in Spanish just isn’t quite as good as patriotism in English.

That Bush’s claim is appalling doesn’t particularly surprise me. More importantly, it seems really stupid and hamfisted; how many of the people on the right who find this issue important are going to be swayed to vote by this? Bush has just made a symbolic identification of the English language with American identity. This is quite a bit different than making a practical argument (one that I think most people, including immigrants, agree with) that English is necessary to doing well in the United States. Moreover, it would seem a perfect issue for Democrats to use in the Spanish language media. The President has made clear that the Spanish language isn’t good enough to sing the national anthem in; by extension, Spanish speakers are second class citizens.

When you have to appeal to the bigots, you’re eventually going to step in it, and I think that’s what the President just did.


[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

I admit to being a bit staggered by Ezra:

So far as Flight 93 goes, various folks have convinced me that the plane was actually shot down by scrambled fighter jets. I don’t tend to go in for conspiracies, and I don’t think it much matters one way or the other, but I basically trust the sources here. As I understand it, the way the plane’s wreckage lay wasn’t consistent with an on-the-ground crash, but rather with an in-air explosion. Various parts of the engine were miles away from each other, debris was found eight miles from the crash site, etc. If you’re interested, there’s a collection of info here, but as I said before, I fail to see how it matters.

Apparently Amanda Marcotte believes the same thing. I think it’s absurd; indeed, I think that it goes a fair bit beyond absurd. You have to believe that the Bush administration would willingly (and, really, in a few minutes) concoct a cover-up for something that was genuinely justified. If a fighter shot down United 93 on the orders of someone in the Bush administration, there would have been, literally, zero political heat. If, on the other hand, the administration had managed to shoot down 93 and quickly covered it up, there would be enormous heat if the facts ever got out. Given that the administration can barely be bothered to cover up the things it should be ashamed of (Gitmo, Abu Ghraib), you’ve got a long way to go to convince me that something happened here other than the standard narrative. If Cheney/Bush ordered Flight 93 to be shot down, they’re heroes; why wouldn’t they publicize it?

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that most people genuinely don’t understand how bureaucratic organizations, including the ones tasked with national security, function. They operate by a set of standard procedures fixed around expected threats. When other threats materialize, it can be difficult for them to shift focus in short periods of time. It’s not at all difficult for me to believe that the fighters scrambled over Washington did nothing useful on the morning of September 11.

Please, leave the conspiracy theories to the right-wingers who believe that Saddam Hussein sent all the WMD to Syria…

Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Heh. Indeed.

According to Judge Smith:

“Jackie Fisher was England’s greatest admiral after Nelson, and was responsible for the creation of the Dreadnought, which was launched nearly exactly 100 years to the day of the start of the trial,” the judge wrote in an e-mail message. “Nevertheless, he has been airbrushed out of history.”

I’m not sure that either of those is the case. Surely Fisher deserves some credit for revitalizing the Royal Navy at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it’s not as if all-big gun ships would have failed to appear if he hadn’t been around. South Carolina and Michigan were already designed when Dreadnought was laid down, as was Satsuma. Moreover, Fisher had his share of disasters, including battlecruisers that exploded at the drop of a pin and useless light cruisers intended to foray into the Baltic Sea. I doubt the assertion that he’s been airbrushed out of history, either; he is featured quite prominently in Massey’s excellent books about the German and British battleships, and remains well known among naval enthusiasts.

Nevertheless, kind of cool…

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