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One Other Reason the Germany Analogy is Stupid…

[ 12 ] June 29, 2008 |

The conquest of Germany and Japan was not, in the largest sense, motivated by the belief that the German and Japanese people needed to be liberated from tyranny. We were happy enough to “liberate” them, but surely the Soviet Union was far more tyrannical than either in a domestic sense. Rather, Germany and Japan were conquered because both presented grave threats to international order and, in a very real sense, to civilization as we understood it. As such, nobody really cared what the Germans and the Japanese thought about being occupied, at least in the early days. Everyone knew that the German and Japanese puppet regimes would happily accept the military installations we installed in their countries, and no one was overly bothered by what the random Hans and Akira on the street thought about it.

Since 2003, the liberation of the Iraqi people from tyranny has become the sole plausible (and I use that term in the broadest sense possible) justification for the invasion of Iraq. As such, there’s rather a contradiction inherent in the project of creating a puppet state in order to legalize a long term military occupation that, by all evidence available, seems to be strongly opposed by a substantial majority of the Iraqi population.

The problem is this; if you say you’re liberating people, you have to make some allowance for what they do with their liberty.

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Why "Next War-itis"?

[ 0 ] June 29, 2008 |

Why does the Air Force have more trouble getting over the Cold War than either of the other services? The Army has rebuilt itself in response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Navy shifted focus to the littoral in the 1990s and to maritime maintenance in this decade. Particularly in the case of the Navy, procurement strategies have followed suit; whatever you want to say about the DD(x) and the LCS, they are NOT platforms intended to fight the Soviet Union. The Air Force? Not so much…

Gates expressed doubts that the United States will get into a shooting war with a “peer competitor” like Russia or China any time soon. After he was fired, the outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. “Buzz” Moseley, echoed those sentiments. Not [Michael] Wynne.

“My response to Secretary Gates in that interchange was my brother was shot down in Vietnam by a Russian surface-to-air missile that was sold to the North Vietnamese,” Wynne said. “I never considered Vietnam to be a peer competitor. But I lost my brother to the fact that some peer sold the weapon that killed him.”

Wynne’s defenders in the Air Force are equally unapologetic. While Gates has spent months railing against the military-industrial compl ex’s fixation on a showdown China or Russia — “next-war-itis,” the Defense Secretary called it — Air Force Maj. Gen. Charlie Dunlap, writing in the Tampa Tribune, says “the entire defense establishment nevertheless suffers from a ‘This-Waritis’ contagion.” Which means the bureaucratic and strategic battle that ousted the Air Force’s chiefs is far from over.

Right… because we certainly should pay much more attention to a notional, fifteen years away war against potential enemies over whom we have presumptive dominance than to the wars that we’re actually fighting. Good catch, Chuckie.

The larger problem for the Air Force is that both the Army and Navy have long traditions to borrow from, such that they are capable of “re-inventing” themselves while retaining a sense of identity. Both the Army and the Navy can also borrow from the histories of foreign military organizations; the Navy rather self-consciously styles itself as the modern equivalent of the nineteenth century Royal Navy. The Air Force lacks historical traditions to borrow from, both because it is such a new service, and because it has been a worldwide leader since its inception. Put briefly, the Air Force only knows the Cold War; it only understands conflict in terms of great power struggle, and as such all future planning (in contrast to short term compromises) will be oriented around that organizational purpose. To ask the Air Force not to think in terms of great power war is to ask it not to be the Air Force, but rather some other organization born at some other time for some other purpose. As such, Gates cleaning out of the brass isn’t really going to amount to much; it is literally in the DNA of the Air Force to act in this way.

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The Midwest

[ 0 ] June 28, 2008 |

I’ll be hanging out in various quadrants of the midwest for the next two weeks, so blogging on my end will be mercifully sporadic. I lived for many years in this part of the world during graduate school, and my wife’s family hails from Illinois and Wisconsin; I absolutely love it out here, and I would gladly spend the rest of my days in any of the midwest’s fine states.

Having said that — and recognizing that the unique pathologies of American culture are sown broadly — I feel bound to suggest that something is deeply wrong with a region that could play host to a restaurant that boasts “All You Can Eat French Toast” and “Squeaky Fresh Cheese Curds.” We didn’t stop there, because I am not quite ready for the gray embrace of death. We did, however, enjoy an excellent roadside meal at Beefaroo, whose teenage workers didn’t seem to take seriously my recommendation that they change their restaurant’s name to something less, you know, awful.

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Surge Evaluation

[ 6 ] June 28, 2008 |

I mostly agree with what Ezra says here, here, and here about David Brooks Surge column. I would diverge slightly in regards to his discussion of the four trends that have led to a decrease in violence; Ezra lists the Sadrist truce, the Awakening strategy, successful ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, and the Surge, but I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that. For one, I would divide the Surge itself into tactical and material components, as one element of the Surge was a shift in tactics, while another was the increase in troops on the ground. It’s also important to note that the five trends aren’t analytically independent. Sadr certainly saw the Surge coming when he decided to pursue a political rather than military strategy. The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was probably accelerated by the same anticipation. Similarly, the Awakening strategy is tied to the tactical evolution of US doctrine that resulted in the Surge, and the increase in troops is called for by that doctrinal development.

Ezra also reminds us…

Folks forget this, but the surge was actually part of Howard Dean’s 2004 candidacy, when he was running as an anti-war candidate. In June 2003, on Meet the Press, he said, “I can tell you one thing, though. We need more troops in Afghanistan. We need more troops in Iraq now.” I disagreed with him, but that was the plan: More troops, leading to less violence, leading to withdrawal. It was a plan that Democrats, even liberal Democrats, supported. Would Brooks like to credit Dean as a military visionary?

Indeed, although I have to wonder whether an increase in 2005 would have had the same effect as the increase in 2007. There was still plenty of ethnic cleansing to do in 2005, and Al Qaeda may not have grown sufficient in strength to make the US a good option for the Sunni tribal leadership. Just as important, the Army and Marine Corps were not the organizations in 2005 that they were in 2007; the experience of Iraq (and, in fairness, the revolutionary push by David Petraeus) has served to shift the focus especially of the Army, making it an instrument more capable of carrying out a Surge-like operation.

Still, even if Brooks is 100% off base. It wasn’t hard to predict that the Surge would fail to produce reconciliation, or that the empowering of Sunni tribal leaders would serve to facilitate the disintegration of the Iraqi state. I thought that both of these outcomes would result from the Surge in early 2007, and nothing that’s happened has changed my view. However, I did very much doubt that the expansion of US forces by only 25000 would contribute to any significant reduction in violence in Iraq. While the Surge hasn’t begun to “solve” the problem of Iraq, and certainly hasn’t been the sole contributor to the reduction in violence, I think it’s fair to say that violence since June 2007 has declined more than I would have thought possible. If someone had told me that US casualties in Iraq would average under 40/month for a nine month period, I doubt I would have believed it, and I know I wouldn’t have bought it if told that this could be accomplished in the context of increased operational tempo.

So there’s that, but it doesn’t really go anywhere; the occupation of Iraq is less costly in human terms than I would have expected a year ago, but that doesn’t, in the end, get us very far.

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700 Cell Phones?

[ 0 ] June 28, 2008 |

While recognizing the general principle that prisoners, even in Afghanistan, ought to have some contact with the outside world, I have to question the wisdom of allowing this:

This month’s spectacular prison escape in Kandahar began with a jailed guerrilla’s phone conversation with the No. 2 leader of the Afghan insurgency, according to one of the roughly 350 Taliban fighters who broke out. Speaking to NEWSWEEK by phone from his home in eastern Afghanistan late last week, Taliban subcommander Mullah Khan Muhammad Akhund, 36, said more than 700 of the prison’s approximately 1,000 inmates were allowed to have their own mobile phones. It was one of the few comforts at the antiquated and squalid Sarposa Prison, where 15 to 20 men were crammed into each tiny cell, he says. Counting on prisoners’ families to pay, prison authorities charged each inmate $100 a month for the privilege of keeping a phone, according to Akhund, who was serving an eight-year sentence in Sarposa before the escape.

Right… in a place where an active insurgency can move about more or less freely, someone thought it was a good idea to allow inmates of a prison holding over 350 members of that insurgency to use cell phones without supervision. I suppose that to make it even easier, they could have faxed prison blueprints and guard shift schedules…

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Compulsory Reading

[ 5 ] June 28, 2008 |

Good one. (Via Jessica Crispin.)

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The Most Exciting 90 Seconds in Sports…

[ 0 ] June 28, 2008 |

A correspondent notes that today is the 20th anniversary of Tyson-Spinks:

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It’s Racist NOT to Fly the Confederate Flag..

[ 0 ] June 28, 2008 |

Now you know:

Social equality should not mean that blacks can take pride in any part of history they choose (even if their self-proclaimed leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X were murderers), whereas whites can only honor those parts of history which minorities and the Left deem politically correct.

However, racism towards the South continues to exist and does not appear to be going away anytime soon. It is no wonder that the Left is so prejudiced towards the South: it’s conservative, Christian, traditionalist, and resistant to cultural revolution. In other words, Southern attitudes stand in the way of Leftists’ agendas. Thus, as usual, the Left finds it necessary to censor the South or berate it into submission by throwing guilt at its people.

As I was leaving the couple’s house that night in New Orleans the professor warned me, “If the Left succeeds in removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the public sphere they will no doubt declare war against another emblem of American history: Old Glory herself.”

Indeed; by attacking the symbol of a slaveholding elite that launched a war intended to destroy the United States, we are ourselves anti-American. Oh, and racist.

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The Phrase You’re Looking for is "Successful Diplomacy"

[ 7 ] June 27, 2008 |

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Free Ride

[ 15 ] June 27, 2008 |

To follow up on Dana’s excellent analysis of Jim Wallis’s latest bit of abortion concern-trolling, I continue to be irritated by these kinds of assertions:

Without calling for restrictions such as parental consent laws, Wallis believes that if the Democrats were to alter their abortion platform, it could help them make inroads among young evangelicals and Catholics.

“Taking abortion seriously as a moral issue would help Democrats a great deal with a constituency that is already leaning in their direction on poverty and the environment,” said Wallis. “There are literally millions of votes at stake.”

Wallis expects us to believe that there is a substantial bloc of voters who 1)care enough about abortion to vote against Democrats they would otherwise support because of abortion, and 2)will switch back despite no change in the party’s substantive positions if Democratic rhetoric just becomes even more mealy-mouthed when defending reproductive freedom. Since this is implausible in the extreme, and I’ve never seen the slightest bit of evidence to support it, I see little reason to take this seriously.

In addition, even if this mythical group of single-issue-anti-abortion-voters-who-don’t-care-about-abortion-policy existed, there are potential strategic (as well as normative) costs to Wallis’ strategy. Shouldn’t we consider the many voters who have had abortions and don’t appreciate people like Wallis implying that they did something grossly immoral? In addition, as even Amy Sullivan has conceded McCain’s entirely unearned reputation for moderation on the abortion issue seems to be worth a significant number of votes. The Democrats would be much better off emphasizing McCain’s extensive history of unpopular anti-abortion extremism (including support for the draconian ban in South Dakota) than further muddling their position to chase after unicorns.

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

Stories like this make Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s jobs too easy.

Larry Craig and David Vitter have just co-sponsored the “Marriage Protection Amendment” — a law that would “protect” the sacred institution that is heterosexual marriage. An institution they have so honored.

I shit you not.

Ah, I just love the hypocrisy of the Republican party.

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Building Tension Between Army and Air Force?

[ 2 ] June 27, 2008 |

I have to agree with Noah; the evidence for inter-service tension between the Army and the Air Force in this article is largely inferential. Shanker relates some anecdotes about Army frustration with the performance of the Air Force, notes that the Army is developing a UAV force, and concludes that the former must have brought about the latter. But of course the Army doesn’t need to be frustrated with the Air Force to seek to augment its own capabilities; the dynamics are complicated, but it’s hardly unusual for organizations to try to seize new turf and pursue greater autonomy, even absent bureaucratic tension. Moreover, Noah correctly notes that Odin (the Army UAV project) has been in the open for quite some time, in contrast to the picture that Shanker tries to paint.

As everyone is aware, I’m all for augmenting the tactical capabilities of the Army at the expense of the Air Force. However, I suspect that Shanker is inferring something that isn’t there. It’s possible that people on the inside are telling him something that he’s not relating to us, but we need to see that evidence before jumping to conclusions.

See also Peter.

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