I normally shy away from plugging our advertisers, but check out the Kentucky Equality Federation (ad on the right). They seem to be doing some good work on domestic violence and gay rights issues in the Commonwealth.
In light of the new study of deaths caused by the War in Iraq, Sam reminds us of this pair of classic posts by Daniel Davies, debunking the know-nothing attempts to attack the study. Needless to say, as Greenwald notes “Bush followers have become overnight expert statisticians and are able — with certainty no less — to declare these numbers to be wildly inflated and unreliable (some try to provide some reasoning, while some don’t even bother).” He does leave out Rick Moran, who also tries to claims that the study was “politically motivated” because…there were erroneous critiques of the study in 2004! (The fact that he’s bringing up stuff like the Iraqi Body Count makes clear that he simply doesn’t understand what the study is analyzing, let alone understand anything about statistical methodology.) The statistical ignorance about to be launched by Bush administration dead-enders is going to be staggering, and it’s safe to say we’re not going to see anything that Davies hasn’t already addressed and disproven.
I’ll take neat printing over sloppy cursive any day, and — take it from a guy who’s graded a lot of bluebooks — nearly all the cursive you see is sloppy. It’s hard to find someone under 70 with nice, traditional penmanship.
Sometimes, I actually say this before in-class exams, and when I forget I always regret it. 99% of the time, cursive writing is a disaster; while with printing you can pretty much always make it out, bad cursive writing might as well be hieroglyphics, and most cursive writing is bad. I curse every teacher in this day in age who insists on it.
…Amanda is also making sense, which is less surprising.
Following up the maritime theme…
The latest thing in maritime circles is the “1000 ship Navy”. This isn’t an effort to triple the existing USN; the Navy is looking for 313 ships, and won’t get that. Rather, the 1000 ship Navy envisions a global coalition of navies cooperating to fight terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, natural disaster, and any other ills that afflict the international system. The project is extraordinarily ambitious, but the rewards for developing a successful international coalition could be enormous.
A lot of work that navies do can be thought of as constabulary. When not fighting each other (and high intensity naval warfare is an exceptional rare occurence), navies search for smugglers, pirates, and drug traffickers. The reason the United States was able to respond so quickly and in such force to the tsunami disaster was because of available naval assets. Wary cooperation and poor communication between naval assets allow illicit commerce to persist and make disaster relief more difficult. Just as the plethora of different police organizations often makes it easy to escape speeding tickets, terrorists, smugglers, and pirates exploit the “seams” between navies when plying their trade.
There are already some examples of international maritime cooperation. Under the aegis of NATO, Operation Active Endeavour conducts maritime constabulary work in the Mediterranean. Active Endeavour includes non-NATO countries as disparate as Russia, Israel, and Algeria, and has generally been considered a success. On the other side of the world, PACCOM (Pacific Command) has sponsored a communications network that links the various navies of the region in an effort to spread effective methods and make cooperation easier. Both efforts have the incidental effect of making “hot” conflict between their participants less likely.
The difficulties are also tremendous. A lot of the countries that would have to cooperate are suspicious of one another, or of the United States. Agreement on basic principles isn’t too hard, but the devil is in the details. In the Mediterranean, for example, North African countries are notably less excited about refugee hunting missions than their European counterparts. The same problem of emphasis exists with drug trafficking and even piracy. Some of the questions dealt with by the network would invariably touch on political concerns. For example, a cooperative naval effort to monitor North Korean trade might not win universal support. Much work would need to be done, and even then the prospects aren’t necessarily bright. Nevertheless, given the tremendous amount of money that the nations of the world devote to their naval resources, it would be nice to at least try developing a multilateral naval framework. Nudging the military and political establishment of the United States in a multilateral direction is never a bad idea, either.
Cross posted at TAPPED.
Two days ago Kim Jong Il bequeathed a glorious gift on the Navy and the Air Force. Because the Army is deeply engaged in Iraq, it has been requesting additional funds to the point that the fiscal division-of-spoils between the Army, Air Force, and Navy has been threatened. As Defense Tech and Arms and Influence point out, any military confrontation with North Korea would most immediately be handled by the USAF and the USN. A couple months ago in Armed Forces Journal, Frank Hoffman critiqued naval acquisition strategy and proposed an alternative approach. Hoffman’s core point is that the Mahanian navy, built around a few powerful capital ships and intended to destroy the fleet of a peer competitor, is an increasingly anachronistic vision that is nevertheless held to by a considerable portion of the Navy. I’m not as comfortable with this argument as I once was, because the Navy has done some serious work increasing its littoral capabilities in both a doctrinal and material way, but he has a point worth engaging.
There is currently no peer competitor worth discussing in the same league as the USN. The old Soviet Navy never sought to directly challenge US dominance of the sea lanes, and the Russian Navy has been reduced to an almost token force. The Chinese have considerably capabilities for use in the Taiwan theater, but not so much in the blue water. The most advanced destroyers employed by the rest of the world are more than a generation behind the warships used by the USN. Given this, emphasizing those capabilities that would allow the USN to affect operations on land makes more sense than increasing our capacity to destroy an enemy fleet. Doctrinal publications like Forward… from the Sea have taken the littoral (60 miles from the coast in either direction) seriously, and the design and construction of the littoral combat ship (LCS) also speaks to a renewed emphasis on land operations. Some ships, like aircraft carriers, can serve in both the traditional Mahanian and the littoral roles, while others, primarily the Zumwalt class destroyer or DD(X), can’t.
Hoffman proposed that, as a cost saving measure, the AGS (Advanced Gun System) be installed on some of the new San Antonio class LPD (Landing Platform Dock). The AGS is, like, a super cool 6″ gun that can fire at very long ranges at a high rate of fire. It’s currently the centerpiece of the Zumwalt class destroyer, and indeed represents just about the only reason that anyone would consider building one of the ultra-expensive Zumwalts. If the AGS could be installed on a San Antonio, and there’s no reason to think that it couldn’t, the Zumwalt could be dispensed with in the favor of useful ships.
Hoffman uses Julian Corbett as his touchstone, arguing that Corbett had a better handle on the relationship between politics and war than Mahan. That’s a debatable point, but there’s no question that Corbett deserves more attention. Corbett was more interested in the use of the navy as a political instrument than Mahan, which may make him the theorist we need to revisit today. Of course, Mahan was an American, which may account for his enduring influence over US naval policy.
Cross-posted at Tapped.
My rule of thumb is that almost every current, know-it-all critic, whether a Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Chris Matthews (“we are all neo-cons now”), Francis Fukuyama, etc., at one time or another voiced support for removing Saddam and bringing war to Iraq.
One constant in their various escape hatches is that a particular lapse, a certain mistake alone explains their abandonment of earlier zeal—too few troops, disbanding the Iraqi army, not trisecting the country, the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld, etc.
In contrast, the simple truth is too bitter to confess: their support follows the pulse of the battlefield. When the statue fell and approval for the war hovered near 80%, few wanted to be on the wrong side of history. But fast forward three years plus: after well over 2,000 battle deaths, and chaos in Iraq, most not only don’t wish to be associated with the stasis, but contort to assure that they never supported the war in the beginning (hard to do with footprints on the internet), or were supposedly betrayed by the incompetence of others.
My own views remain the same. While I didn’t support removing Saddam prior to September 11, I am glad we did afterwards.
So it seems to me that Hanson must have been writing checks to Howard Dean for President fund for some time now. Dean, of course, has had the good fortune and good sense to be right about the war from the beginning. He never supported the war, predicted that the occupation would be a disaster, predicted that it would weaken our position in Afghanistan, and noted that it would strengthen the hand of Iran and North Korea. He also correctly pointed out that the capture of Saddam Hussein wouldn’t change the course of the war, a statement for which he was roundly denounced at the time.
So VD Hanson must be a big Dean fan, right? He does like consistency, doesn’t he? Well, maybe not…
Dean seems to evoke Vietnam without any inkling how close the United States was, after a decade of ordeal, to achieving many of the goals originally envisioned — something like a viable South Korean government that, unlike its Communist counterpart, might have a chance to evolve into a truly consensual society. Much less does he cite the millions who perished, were incarcerated, or sent into exile following the establishment of a cruel Stalinist regime, or the effect of that defeat on the security of the U.S. and its allies, as later demonstrated in Cambodia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central America.
Forget that Hanson has only the most tenuous grasp on the reality of the Vietnam conflict, and instead savor the love of Dean. More love here:
When I turn on the TV and see some wild-eyed crazy-like public figure ranting, it is not a John Bircher frothing about pure drinking water and statesmen of dual loyalties, but prominent Democratic politicians like an Al Gore or Howard Dean screaming to the point of exhaustion, alluding to the end of America as we have known it, and citing a “betrayal” of the United States.
Ooh, and here too:
Lincoln was often cartooned as an ungainly ape. During the hysterics over the Korean War, George Marshall — who earlier oversaw the U.S. military victory of World War II and aid to a postwar starving Europe — was called a “front man for traitors” and “a living lie” by Indiana Sen. William Jenner.
In this context, Howard Dean’s assertion that the present war is unwinnable or John Kerry’s claim that our troops are engaging in terrorizing Iraqis is hardly novel.
So I’m left confused; VD Hanson claims that he’s particularly incensed by people who favored the war at one point but oppose it now. His record (and I assure you that this was quite representative) seems to indicate that he doesn’t have much regard for Howard Dean, who’s been quite consistent in his position on the war. I don’t know what I should think; if I were the more cynical type, I might think that VD Hanson was a liar, and that he really just loathes everyone who opposed the war at any time. The more optimistic take, I suppose, is that he’s just intellectually confused.
And while I’m on the subject, Hanson ends his post with this:
A final note. At some point all these retired generals need to simply quiet down and think. In World War II, Nimitz or Eisenhower never blamed the Secretary of War or FDR for the mistakes on Iwo Jima or the Kasserine Pass. Instead, they called in their top brass, drew up a plan, followed it, and then presented a successful fait accompli to their civilian overseers. In other words, our four-stars need to summon their colonels and majors in the field, draw up a military strategy that ensures our political aims of seeing a stable consensual Iraq, and then win. Blaming Bush, or faulting Rumsfeld is a waste of time; figuring out as military officers how to achieve victory over a canny enemy is all that matters.
Right. So these men that each have, literally, infinitely more military experience than Hanson get some time in the corner to think about what they’ve done. I’d suggest a relatively simple answer, Vic; the difference is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a competent executive in a well conceived and winnable war, characteristics that George W. Bush and the current conflict lack.
Although the home version of Lawyers, Guns and Money has run into snags at the design stage — for some reason, combining the principles of “Strat-o-Matic Baseball” with “Battleship” is more difficult than it sounds — I’m pleased to report that the classroom beta is working to perfection. Today, amid a discussion of the 1778 Franco-American treaty, one of my students cracked wise about la France and its quick surrender during World War II.
Reciting the major points of this post, however, I was able to deliver what another student later referred to as “the smackdown of the century.” Given that the century is only six years old, I can only take so much pride in my achievement — but it’s the little accomplishments in life that keep us all from leaping into traffic.
I’m shocked, schocked that the people who planned my beloved war would have anything to do with Henry Kissinger. Why, I thought that they shared all of my views on foreign policy, and that the necons were somehow hermetically sealed off from Kissinger’s influence. Also, in spite of the fact that Kissinger has been explicitly arguing against a withdrawal from Iraq, it will clearly be his fault if we withdraw and something bad happens.
Read the whole thing. Hitch’s position is based on a couple faulty premises that, to their credit, many other liberal hawks have come to grips with. The first and most important is that the war that they wanted was not the war that they were going to get, and that this was obvious from day one. No matter how powerful in the abstract the case to liberate Iraq might have been, the actual execution of its liberation would inevitably fall into the hands of men and women who were both incompetent and utterly uninterested in the goals that the Euston Manifestors pursued.
The second and related point is that, despite Hitchens’ fantasies, the foreign policy wing of the Republican Party has never been neatly divided between realists and neocons. There have been disputes within the foreign policy community, but the core of the establishment has remained the same since Nixon’s second term. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Scowcroft, and others have been around for a long time. The direction is dependent on the man at the top; under the experience George H.W. Bush, a competent and reasonably moderate foreign policy was possible, while under his son it has not. It’s absurd to declare Henry Kissinger a war criminal then to explicitly support the foreign policy efforts of a Republican administration; only an idiot or an ideologue could convince himself that Kissinger would have no influence.
Having at last unraveled the pneumatics of the internet, Sen. Ted Stevens — whose full psychotic break I anticipate will occur sometime in 2007 — offers us all an important history lesson. In Bob Woodward’s State of Denial there is evidently an account of a 2005 meeting in which Stevens allegedly agreed with Sen. John Warner that “eerie parallels” exist between the American wars in Iraq and Vietnam. Stevens now boldly insists that “Iraq is not Vietnam.” The President pro tempore explains:
He noted that President Lyndon Johnson sent military advisers to Vietnam without congressional authority to use force while Congress gave Bush authority before the Iraq war.
Just eight nations allied themselves with the United States in Vietnam and in Iraq, 30 have, he said.
Saddam Hussein violated 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions and the president of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, violated none, Stevens said.
The United States sent 2 million draftees went to Vietnam and the military today is all volunteer, he said.
Also, Ho Chi Minh used no chemical or biological weapons against his countrymen and Saddam Hussein killed thousands with such weapons, Stevens said.
Stevens also quoted from an article by former diplomat Anthony Cordesman, who said Iraq’s insurgents have no “massive external” countries backing them. North Vietnam had backing from Russia and China.
I’m sure Ted Stevens, like Grampa Simpson, could piece together information from the backs of sugar packets and matchbooks to produce a convincing historical narrative. But I’m equally sure that facile comparisons between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam are unproductive. Analogy, as Charles Darwin once told us, can be a “deceitful guide.” Comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, or between the GWOT and World War II fail, for example, to tell us anything about what the war might look like to the people closest to the destruction. Indeed, when we make these comparisons, we tend to erase the very presence (and historical agency) of ordinary, non-American civilians. We might compare the duplicity or nobility of American leaders (or the generations they lead); we might fret about or celebrate the effect of the war on the American homefront; or we might draw cartoonish resemblances between the United States and the demonic leaders who presume to oppose us. But we rarely consider the possibility that our historical frameworks might offer little clarity to the people on whose behalf these wars are supposedly being waged. (I’d offer the side note that yes, historical analogies are an inherent luxury for people whose neighborhoods aren’t being littered with cluster munitions and whose morgues aren’t cotted by sectarian reprisal killings.) However empathetic Vietnamese citizens might be to the plight of ordinary Iraqis, it seems to me that they would be justifiably skeptical of any analogy that ignored the costs of the American War to their own country — and any analogy that originated from the question of what previous American ordeal the war most closely resembled.
I suppose what I’m arguing here is that however useful it might be to draw analogies between this war and others — and if we’re being honest here, I should concede that my preferred (and deeply flawed) analogy for all this is the Mexican War — we might take a moment and consider the historical experiences and perspectives that we automatically liquidate by drawing such analogies in the first place.
Ted Stevens is still a buffoon, though.
Two Fridays ago the Kentucky Canadian Roundtable treated myself and about forty other scholars and students to a day long seminar on Canadian foreign policy. In attendance were Liberal Party MP Dr. Keith Martin and Dennis Moore, Public Affairs Officer from the Detroit Consulate.
The program was put together by the Canadian Consulate in Detroit, and is apparently intended to serve as a reminder of Canada’s importance to the economy and social life of Kentucky. Did you know that Canada represents 34% of Kentucky’s exports, or that Kentucky has a $.6 billion trade surplus with Canada? Apparently, 280000 Canadians visited Kentucky last year, while only 70000 Kentuckans visited Canada; odd, that. Also, no fewer than two Canadian horses have won the Kentucky Derby. Anyway, it occurred to me while in attendance that programs like this are an important component of modern foreign policy; direct appeals to the population of the target country, bypassing government-to-government interaction. I suppose that the whole thing would have felt more sinister if the country sponsoring the event were Israel, France, China, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela.
One of the breakout sessions concerned Canada’s status as a second tier power. A consideration of Canada’s position has to include, I think, not just the observation that Canada is a second tier military and economic power, but also that Canada stands in an almost unique position even among second tier states. For most of its existence, the problem of territorial integrity has largely been off the table, the responsibility of a much more powerful patron. This is not to say that Canada has somehow escaped the dangers of the international system, just that the critical questions of Canadian national survival have been answered in London and Washington rather than in Ottawa. Since Canada historically has broadly shared the values of its two imperial patrons, its position as world actor has essentially been as adjunct to empire. This is not to minimize Canada’s ability to affect the world, as having influence over Washington and London gives Ottawa a non-trivial capability to pursue its foreign policy values. Indeed, when one of the members of our roundtable asked “What is Canada’s greatest foreign policy resource?”, the answer seemed to me clearly to be its ability to influence United States foreign policy, even if that capacity sometimes seems limited.
Listening to Martin, who is the official Foreign Affairs Opposition Critic, I got the sense that the question of Canada’s relationship with the United States is more one of tactics than strategy. Liberals agree that maintaining a close relationship is critical, but differ with Harper regarding what this means for the relationship with the Bush administration and with the United Nations. Cleaving close to the United States does not mean going down with the sinking ship that is the Bush administration. From an outside point of view, it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which Canada will break more cleanly from the direction of US foreign policy than it already has. I’d be very surprised, for example, if Canada scaled back its presence in Afghanistan, even in response to heavy casualties.
In any case, it was a useful workshop.
Whatever. He started as a playwright, he learned to tell his stories by having his characters talk them out, and he hasn’t learned any new lessons for his adopted medium, which is only part of his weakness as a television writer.
Sorkin writes snappy dialogue. But he doesn’t write as much of it as you might think, if you listen to his shows with only half an ear.
His characters don’t talk in their own voices. They all talk in his voice. And they don’t talk about themselves. They talk about what’s happening around them. Sorkin writes lots of exposition and divides it up among his characters to read at us.
He’s like a novelist who puts all the narration inside quotation marks.
Lance also points us to this review in the Chicago Reader, which tempts me to watch Studio 60 next week if only for the trainwreck effect:
Too insidery? Does anybody think this looks even remotely like what really goes on at Saturday Night Live, or at any other show in the history of TV? It’s straight out of a World War II movie about a desperate mission behind enemy lines. All the cliches are in place: the heroic renegades who can’t fit in with the military establishment, the tough, old-school commanding officer who grudgingly agrees they’re the best men for the job, even the perky, brilliant young staff officer who pipes up with the daringly unconventional plan that Just Might Work.
But it can’t be a joke — not given the show’s enfeebled concept of humor. Our heroes, those edgy, brilliant writer/producers, need a way to reestablish their cred as quickly as possible. So they, too, come up with a daring idea. They’ll open with one of those big, controversial, startling comedy sketches they used to do, the ones that back in the day got everybody in America talking. Here’s the sketch: they have a choir sing “We are the very model of a modern network TV show,” to the tune of “Modern Major General” from The Pirates of Penzance.
Now there’s cutting-edge comedy for you: a Gilbert and Sullivan parody! It’ll have the frat boys in the audience in stitches!
I haven’t even gotten to the backstage drama. So far it’s mostly focused on why one of the writer/producers has broken up with his girlfriend, who is both the star of the SNL-ish show and a Christian singer. He says she’s pissed at him because he didn’t show up when she sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at a baseball game. But that’s just a cover story. The real reason is that he can’t forgive her for going on The 700 Club to promote her new CD of Christian music.
Empathize with his dilemma? I can’t even follow it. He’s pretending to be indifferent to her performance of the national anthem to cover up how he’s actually upset because she made a promotional appearance on a talk show he disapproves of. Has anyone in Hollywood — anyone on planet earth — ever had a problem so shallow and rarefied at once? It’s like a story in Us Weekly rewritten by Henry James.
Well, there is Ann Althouse and her crusade against wearing shorts in the summer.
Let’s review: Studio 60‘s pose of being all backstage and insidery is a preposterous sham, and its characters bear no relationship to actual human beings. Sounds like classic TV to me — why isn’t it a hit?
Good question. There’s lots more about how the anti-TV rants he puts in the mouths of his characters are anachronistic old-fartism, pining for a Golden Age of tightly controlled quality television that didn’t actually exist. I can’t say about Studio 60, but it was definitely true of The West Wing. As Ezra pointed out, it was never a liberal fantasy; it was a nostalgic fantasy of High Broderism, in which decent, moderate Republicans engaged with principled, well-meaning, moderately liberal Democrats in what resembled the Oxford Debating Society more than actual politics. You could definitely make an interesting show about the nature of contemporary politics, but whatever its other strengths The West Wing had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
As science has already proven Victor Davis Hanson to be a hopeless tool, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that he also fails to appreciate some of the many differences between journalism and historical scholarship.
Every source in Cobra II, Fiasco, or State of Denial, may be accurate, but we will never know that, because for a variety of reasons the authors who claim they worked from notes and recordings, chose not to identify the most inflammatory sources by name. It would be as if I wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War and, to support my most controversial points, added footnotes that stated “A manuscript in the Vatican,” or “Private letter to author from anonymous Greek shepherd attesting a stone altar in his field.”
Like Victor Davis Hanson, I can’t imagine why any internal — nay, “inflammatory” — critics of this administration would feel the least bit reluctant to break the threshold of anonymity and disclose to the world what they know. After all, there really isn’t any appreciable difference between a source who’s been dead for two thousand years and one whose career and personal life might be imperiled by speaking on the record to a journalist like Michael Gordon, Thomas Ricks, or Bob Woodward. And if history teaches us anything, it is this — unless journalists reveal their sources immediately, the world will be forever deprived of the knowledge we are owed.