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Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Quoted over at Sully‘s:

On everything from civilian trials to Gitmo to torture, we have two distinct groups — GOP leaders, the Cheneys, Limbaugh, and conservative activists on one side; President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, Secretary Gates, Colin Powell, Adm. Mullen, Adm. Blair, and Gen. Jones on the other…McConnell and his Republicans cohorts are reluctant to admit it, and political insiders have been slow to acknowledge it, but what we’re witnessing is exceedingly rare — the Republican establishment openly rejecting the judgment of the military establishment.

This is called believing your own bullshit. Both Republicans and Democrats know that the military “establishment,” on the whole, is extremely political and goes with the flow.  This is why Rumsfeld gets to hear what he wants on troop levels in Iraq and Lynnie England gets to guard hardened Iraqi terrorists. It’s true there is actually some debate on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and probably a greater percentage of liberal views being held among officers, but these guys yapping are either speaking a minority view or saying what they think will get them promoted.   If you poll a bunch of random E-5s, I should imagine some different, less p.c. views would prevail.

The guys with stars tend to have friends in high places; their organizational chart changes with administration; and, they know how to say what the political leadership wants to hear no matter who is in power.  The scurrilous remarks on diversity from General Casey after Maj. Nidal Hasan’s murderous rampage were prefigured by the platitudes on women-in-combat mouthed by the cowed survivors of the Tailhook reckoning in the Clinton years.  Gone are the days when generals resigned in protest.  The last we probably had of that Old Breed was Shinseki, or possibly van Ryper, both of whom were proved right in spades regarding troop levels in Iraq.

Note too from Sullivan the contradiction, the “one way ratchet” on civilian control of the military.  We’re told the military needs to accede to civilian directives, and that it is often mindlessly against change to its rules or culture. This much is generally true.  But then we’re told not to listen to those civilians when they happen to say something illiberal, that is when they speak for the the military’s rank and file who cannot speak without being hammered by Pentagon commissars.

The problem with the “military voice” on political and even military matters is their complete lack of independence.  Soldiers and officers work for the government.  The President is their commander in chief.  They can be cashiered or down-graded or otherwise made miserable if they make too much of a fuss about anything.  For a long time, America’s military dealt with this constraint through a well-cultivated political independence.  They avoided interfering in politics, and politicians generally did not interfere with the folkways of their very distinct and undemocratic corner of American society.  Post-Vietnam, the military itself became seen as a problem.  Its regimentation and very warlike essence was seen as the root of social evils within (My Lai) and outside (Kent State) combat.  Politicians responded.  The draft ended.  Training was made easier.  And this political pressure to soften things up tended to drive career military men towards a distinct political conservatism.  This politicization of the military, however, had as much to do with the anti-military changes to the once-patriotic Democratic party as anything else.

Incidentally, as a practical matter, I don’t think allowing gays to serve openly will change much or destroy the military’s culture all by itself.  Times have changed somewhat since the early 90s.  With few exceptions, flamboyant or disruptive types (gay or otherwise) have avoided the service and tend to conform once they are in on a great many matters.  Most will keep their lives discrete if they judge it will be a problem within a particular unit.  But don’t ask don’t tell allowed all of this; it simply required discretion both up and down the chain of command.

The new policy will allow open service by gays.  This will be a big change, but, more important, this will usher in a whole host of related and very negative changes.  Judging by the umpteenth sexual harassment seminar our forces endure on a biweekly basis, open service will probably lead to demands for changing the military’s “homophobic” culture through indoctrination of one kind or another.  Those uncomfortable will leave.  They will be ostracized and eventually punished for the very cultural conservatism that leads them to join the military. Those who remain will be those who lack the courage of their convictions, if they have any convictions at all.

Beginning with the post-Tailhook approach to women in combat, to affirmative action, to enforced religious tolerance of anti-American Muslims, and now this, the military, which was once a bastion of competence and an Old World veneration of character, has slowly become a reflection of the dishonest, flabby, egalitarian, and leftist spirit of the 1960s–a spirit defined in great part by its hostility to the warrior and his ethos.

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The US Army has started fielding Multicam (and a version of its own uniform with brown mixed in) in Afghanistan as part of an experiment on whether to switch (again) its uniforms.  The Army adopted its blue-grey ACU pattern in 2003 under the orders of General Schoomaker, which decision ignored tests that the Natick Labs had conducted showing the superiority of several other patterns.  It’s dubious to have a single world-wide camo in any case, but if there is to be such, the ACU (sometimes called UCP) is not it.  A crummy camo is bad for esprit de corps and will get our soldiers killed. There is literally no reason other than inertia to keep this crap camo that was adopted contrary to all of Natick’s testing.

Consider, would you rather be wearing this

Or this

Interestingly, and in a story I did not see much run-up to this decision, but the British have adopted Multicam as well for all of their forces in Afghanistan.  We meanwhile have spent a ton of money to outfit our troops with a camo pattern that failed in tests, is much worse than the woodland/desert combination of uniforms that it replaced, defies common sense (are woods blue?), costs lives, and hurts army morale.

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I thought this piece on the Afghanistan decision-making was truly excellent:

We have known for a while that the administration’s Afghanistan deliberations were taking too long. Now we know why, and the explanation is not pretty.

First, it was a month until Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s commander in the Afghan theater and author of the plan being considered by the administration, was brought into the discussions. McChrystal presented his plan in August and the White House began its deliberations during the second week of September. Yet, McChrystal was not consulted until Oct. 8.

Second, when the White House war planners finally talked to McChrystal, they discovered he was not on the same page as the administration. McChrystal said his plan was designed to “defeat the Taliban and secure the population.” But key members of the White House team insisted that the mission should be to “degrade,” not defeat the Taliban.

McChrystal responded that defeating the Taliban was the mission he had been given in March. Obama agreed, but decided that the mission should be redefined, and the general’s plan adjusted accordingly.

In short, the decision on a plan of action was delayed because the White House waited a month before bringing McChrystal into the loop and, when the general finally was consulted, the White House decided it did not like the mission it had given him.

There’s a word for this — incompetence.

Speaking of flawed decision-making, however, Mr. Mirengoff ignores the assumptions of the Bush administration, namely, that the tribal and primitive Afghan people would respond positively to a decade-long American presence and an alien form of government. Obama and Bush both ignore the civilizational differences of the West and the Muslim world, as well as ignoring the ways Islam itself sustains the hopes and hates of our Islamic terrorist enemies.

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Pretty amazing revelation that when the White House started discussing McChrystal’s proposal, that there seemed to be no awareness of the details of the March strategy by Obama or that it expressed a goal of defeating the Taliban:

In June, McChrystal noted, he had arrived in Afghanistan and set about fulfilling his assignment. His lean face, hovering on the screen at the end of the table, was replaced by a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: “Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population.”

“Is that really what you think your mission is?” one of the participants asked.

In the first place, it was impossible — the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. “We don’t need to do that,” Gates said, according to one participant. “That’s an open-ended, forever commitment.”

But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan — the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff. . . .

“It was clear that Stan took a very literal interpretation of the intent” of the NSC document, said [Former USMC General and NSA advisor] Jones, who had signed the orders himself. “I’m not sure that in his position I wouldn’t have done the same thing, as a military commander.”

My God. If generals have to “read the boss’s mind” in Afghanistan when his orders go through many layers of review and calibration, we are totally screwed. I mean this is as bad as the kind of stuff you see at a Kinko’s or a law firm. Oh, when I said send so and so that letter I really mean to check with me before you sent it, because I was having a conference call before that. Didn’t you check with my calendar? Uh, no, I was doing what you said.

Generals at the top echelons, like Jones, are pretty unimpressive and highly political creatures. For most of them, honor goes out the window after they pin on a star. The Van Ripers of the world are rare. More often you get the half-nonsensical and half-destructive Joneses and Wesley Clarks.

Obama is a huge moron in plain English. Either that or he’s totally callous. Or both, which is most likely.

It should have been obvious in March when he said what to do in Afghanistan was to continue to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda and build up Afghan forces that he was, in effect, calling for a surge. Why? He was calling for recommitment of resources, we just had a surge that was perceived as successful in Iraq, and one of the aspects of the COIN Manual that Petraeus and company produced is the importance of security and training, both of which take lots of troops.

Obama’s half-serious campaign stance of “the ‘good war’ in Afghanistan” is catching up with him. It would all be kind of funny if his zombie-like pursuit of this war would not needlessly cost a few hundred, possibly several thousand, bright young American lives.

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Not much to say. It seemed like he was channeling George Bush’s invocation of 9/11 coupled with a few bones to his buddies in POKEESTAN. I especially laughed at his “direct address” to the “Afghan people.” I’m sure they’ll get the executive summary by smoke signal within a fortnight. Otherwise, it was just more of the same: nation-building, a surge. Not much “Rah Rah” inspiring talk about turning these bastard al Qaeda into a pink mist. Winston Churchill, he is not.

His speeches are making me weary. They don’t inspire. They lack any appeal to the emotions. The only proto-emotions he displays are vague self-worshiping references to “hope” and a very abstract celebration of America’s late 20th Century “global cop” role. He has trouble connecting with ordinary Americans and their concerns. We don’t care about torture or GITMO or that the UN approved the attack on Afghanistan. Only the hardcore anti-American Left cares about such things. We don’t think our moral right to self-defense hinges on how we treat KSM and company. We believe in our right not to be mass murdered, that’s enough. We hate these people and want a leader who hates them too. They killed our people; we want their people killed in turn.

I thought his alibi about the delay on the troop augmentation was weak, and his talk of limiting the commitment of troops because of the national debt was utterly tone-deaf. If this is an essential war to prevent mass terrorism, it’s worth nearly any expense, correct? If McChrystal says time is running out, six months of delay is kind of serious right? And, along these lines, there was a bit too much emphasis on the end-date for the U.S. commitment. But what if things aren’t better in two years? What if it costs a lot but it’s an absolutely vital expense?

This speech is not a game changer. The troop surge won’t be either. And for a guy running $1T stimulus packages, his grave concern over $30B a month–pocket change in comparison–is quaint. Insulting, really.

I still think this is the wrong strategy (as I wrote last June), even if the people we’re engaging deserve to be whacked. Why? Because we won’t be able to do much to reform Afghanistan’s military. The Afghan security forces don’t operate in a vacuum. They serve a state to which many people are lukewarm. The Afghanistan’s government and traditions are the problem, and over those we have had and will continue to have little influence. Second, Pakistan is still highly divided internally over who the bad guys are, and the gravy train for their government depends upon dragging this out. Pretending they’re this great “partner” glosses over more than a little. Finally, the end state we’ve achieved in Iraq is nothing to write home about. Saddam’s gone. Good thing. But that was true five years ago. They still have a guerrilla insurgency and daily terrorist attacks and a not-terribly-pro-US foreign policy. Plus various anti-American terrorist organizations still roam its streets. If this is the success we’ve achieved some two years after Bush’s surge, we’d be in little worse shape if we had quickly left then.

Our comparative advantage is to engage enemy nation-states when they harbor terrorists overseas and to be more careful about whom we let in domestically. These tasks we can accomplish effectively with far less cost, far less loss of American life, and far more success than we’ll have in the quixotic Afghan nation-building campaign among a gaggle of violent subsistence farmers.

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I am not terribly annoyed that Obama would give military policy a deliberate review. War is serious stuff, and too often bad ideas carried forward through inertia. It’s appropriate he changes policy in certain particulars. In fact, my own preference is for something like Biden’s plan or even more radically off-shoring the whole thing, treating Afghanistan not so differently from Pakistan with the occasional Predator or SF raid and a threat of massive conventional retaliation without mercy for whatever government inhabits the rubble that might harbo terrorists. Nation-building is for the birds, and if the “success” we’ve had in Iraq is the end-game, I’d say it’s not worth the trouble.

But Obama is revisiting his policy on the basis of an entirely predictable statement by his hand-picked commander that more resources were needed to fight the traditional counterinsurgency Obama chose to fight. Was Obama not paying attention in super-recent-history class regarding the Iraq Surge, which has become the U.S. military’ model for such operations? He’s obviously backing away because he lacks the guts to follow through on this or much of anything that might require him to act like the leader of a nation at war.

The stuff about the “Real War is in Afghanistan” we heard from so many for the last six years turns out to be a thinly held debater’s point; and this was fairly obvious, because Obama and the Left in general lack the visceral faith in their country and hatred of the enemy needed to win any war. And this demerit applies even if this strategy were a good one, which in fact it is not. It was also obviously not a good strategy earlier this year and during the campaign when it was embraced by the Democratic Party. It was the Iraq “surge” strategy translated into Pashto.

The reason I’m extremely pissed off the more I think about this is that our troops are not in the locker room suited up for the big game. They’re in the field, executing Obama’s strategy as we speak. Some young American will die there this week and the next and the next in order to “build up Afghanistan” and its army and its government. I don’t mean to be maudlin. These are professional soldiers and volunteers. If it’s worth it to defend the country, then their sacrifices are a cause for honor and remembrance, not weak-kneed irresolution. They’re certainly mostly killing bad people that deserve little sympathy. The question is whether a defensive strategy off-shored and focused on surgical strikes is superior. In either case, it is utterly unconscionable to commit to a war, announce a new strategy with much fanfare, and then deny the troops the resources to win only two or three months thereafter.

Obama is dithering as if the world were on hold while he takes his time. This is not a faculty meeting. The issue can’t be tabled. It’s a real war, with real blood and death, and Obama’s increasing the mission requirements while cutting troops and the Pentagon budget. A foreign conqueror could do little worse.

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As usual, the folks at DNI are making sense on the Afghanistan Campaign and the General McCrystal Report

Politically, the report is bold, in that it acknowledges the enemy has the initiative and we have been fighting the war – for eight years – in counterproductive ways. But intellectually, both as analysis and as prescription, it is five pounds of substance in a 50 pound bag.

The report’s message can be summarized in one sentence: we need to start doing classic counterinsurgency, and to do so, we need more “resources,” i.e. troops. In a narrow, technical sense, that statement is valid. Classic counterinsurgency doctrine says we need hundreds of thousands more troops in Afghanistan.

Past that syllogism, the report’s validity becomes questionable. Defects begin with the study’s failure to address Fourth Generation war’s first and most important question: Is there a state in Afghanistan? At times, the report appears to assume a state; elsewhere, it speaks of the Afghan state’s weaknesses. It never addresses the main fact, namely that at present there is no state, and under the current Afghan government there is no prospect of creating one.

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The whole thing is out. I’m plowing through its uninspired “bureacratese” now.  Initial impressions:

One, it takes for granted that we have to create something without historical precedent:  a well-governed Afghanistan.

Two, it says we should forge better relationships with the people, but understates the details of that people:  that it is fiercely tribal, Muslim, illiterate, and hostile to outsiders.  In other words, it treats Afghans like every other group of people on Earth, when in fact this is a multinational country with unique local features that render any COIN strategy unlikely to succeed.

Three, it supports creation of a viable Afghan army as a central prong in the strategy, while ignoring the perrennially unviable Afghan state which it would serve, and the tribal factors that make that impediment unlikely to change anytime soon.

Four, other than the coincidence that Osama bin Laden is in the region, there’s no justification for this strategy in Afghanistan while we adopt a more remote, raid-based, “kinetic” strategy in places like Somalia and Yemen.

Finally, the report does not address an important strategic puzzle:  the more effective we are in Afghanistan, the more we will drive al Qaeda into the ungoverned and unreachable hinterlands of Pakistan, where they will be able to organize, arm, and train anti-Western cadres, and where there is very little we can do about it.  In other words, the report does not consider that it might be preferable for al Qaeda to assemble on Afghan turf rather than be dispersed or assemble on that of nuclear-armed Pakistan.

UPDATE:  Jennifer Rubin notes that Obama’s talk of “working through” the Afghan strategy contradicts his own commitment to a basic nation-building strategy and his direction to McChrystal to prepare a troop recommendation on that basis back in April of this year.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with re-thinking a strategy, particularly in war.  But all of the structural problems with Afghanistan were self-evident, and should have been especially so to Obama, as that campaign’s problems are similar to those of our campaign in Iraq, which Obama criticized so forcefully for the last five years.

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If Obama wants to have WWIII with the US military, particularly the enlisted ranks, he should try to shove this down their throats:


Ban on tobacco urged in military

WASHINGTON — Pentagon health experts are urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ban the use of tobacco by troops and end its sale on military property, a change that could dramatically alter a culture intertwined with smoking.

Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon’s office of clinical and program policy, says he will recommend that Gates adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban.

The study by the Institute of Medicine, requested by the VA and Pentagon, calls for a phased-in ban over a period of years, perhaps up to 20. “We’ll certainly be taking that recommendation forward,” Smith says.

Soldiers run on coffee, cigarettes, and porn. You take those things away, particularly in the field, and they aren’t worth a damn. Honestly, he’d have better luck with lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” than yanking cigarettes from servicemen in a combat zone.

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One of Obama’s great strengths as a campaigner was his message discipline.  But one of the skills needed by an executive is the ability to multitask, prioritize, and make decisions.  In other words, he needs to know when to address the unexpected and deviate from the message he would otherwise prefer to be giving.   Otherwise, he risks looking as lost as Bush did during the infamous “Pet Goat” reading on 9-11.  The piracy problem has been thrust in Obama’s face when the Somali pirates boldly attacked a US-flagged vessel, something that has not taken place in centuries.  While I’m disinclined for the US to get involved in the various disorderly parts of the globe, I do make an exception for international waters; open sea lanes worldwide are important for our prestige and that of our navy and the eradication of pirates everywhere is an important necessity for global commerce.  Nearly everything imported everywhere travels by sea, and oil flows through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea and should not be subject to the whims of primitive Somalis.

It looks both callous and weak for Obama to say nothing for several days after an American is taken hostage by the Somalis.  When asked on Friday, Obama responded, “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now.” This is characteristic of his annoyance at the press for interjecting issues he’d rather not think about, such as his early annoyance when asked about his deviation from his own lobbyist policy in January.  The backstory that Obama’ has been hand-wringing over legal niceties is doubly worrisome.  Navy SEALs should be swimming underneath the boat to rescue the captain and targets should be identified on the shore for naval aviation.  This is the perfect time for a brutal, primitive raid.  We don’t need to be on the ground nation-building in Somalia; we can simply kill a great many of the pirates and their supporters and destroy their boats until the problem becomes a little more manageable.

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A roundup of a few interesting things from the internet this week.

Great pieces by establishment conservatives George Will and Charles Krauthammer pointing out the increasingly wide gap between Obama’s rhetoric of post-partisanship and his narrowly partisan agenda.

A scathing editorial by Robert Samuelson on Obama’s phony economics agenda.

A nice tribute to one of my favorite writers, Steve Sailer, by John Derbyshire.

An interesting power point from Natick Labs that shows the Army’s dubious universal pattern was actually a poor performer in tests.  The best performer looked a lot like old Rhodesian camouflage and, like the earth around us, was comprised of greens, tans, and browns.  It is a minor scandal that the Army has made its soldiers appear worse in garrison and endangered them in the field with its new Army Combat Uniform.  Since so many soldiers are now slogging it out like their fathers and grandfathers on Afghan hills, it’s a decision worthy of revisiting by the DoD.

South of the border, things seem to be really melting down.  It’s kind of pathetic that Obama thinks we can have an unsecured border with Mexico and is considering sending in the military to stop narco-terrorists only, as if a border without controls can easily separate illegal aliens seeking work at car washes and restaurants and illegal aliens seeking work as pimps and drug dealers.  Without a secure border, the un-uniformed, un-named, disorganized, and visually indistinguishable criminal element from Mexico will continue to flow into the US.

I was never terribly impressed with the GOP since Bush took the helm.  Michael Steele is not helping things. More of the same is a recipe for disaster:  both politically and, if we somehow manage electoral success, on policy.  The gap between concerns of the rank and file–the economy, culture, immigration, national security, and moral decline–and the guilt-ridden, beltway rhetoric of the leadership is quite remarkable.

Dick Cheney said this morning that Obama’s policies make America less safe.  I, of course, said Bush’s border policies made America less safe, though Obama may even be worse on this score.  But so what if Cheney said this?  Isn’t this what criticism of another person’s national security policy always is saying implicitly?  One of the most dangerous developments in the media’s tone under Obama has been the idea that criticizing his policies–i.e., hoping they fail or saying they make us less safe–is out of bounds and unpatriotic.  If we can’t criticize Obama without being called racist, and we can’t criticize his policies without being unpatriotic, what is left other than blind submission?

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I would not be so offended if Obama or any other politician said:  we’ve spent too much money on too many things for too long; we must economize, and the Defense Department too must learn to be more efficient with public funds.  But Obama, instead, has said we must spend far and wide on everything from sidewalk improvements and  “green jobs” to home mortgages and banks, because government spending is needed to lift us out of an economic crisis.  But the one area that must embrace austerity and cut its budget is the Department of Defense, which is charged with fighting two wars and keeping us safe from any emerging threats

The whole thing suggests partisan spite, a holdover from Obama’s 1980s liberalism and its contempt for Reagan’s rebuilding of the military after the painful, post-Vietnam degradation of its capabilities.  This spending has proven to be a huge bargain, leading to the end of the Soviet Union, the nearly bloodless victory in the First Gulf War, and our ability today to project unmatched conventional power in defense of our nation and its interests around the globe.  Those interceptor vests, Abrams tanks, Apache helicopters, and stealth fighters weren’t cheap, but neither should be American lives. 

It may well be debatable whether the F-22 is absolutely necessary given the state of conventional threats.  But if we’re going to be spending gazillions of dollars on everything and nothing in a Pelosi-drafted Stimulus Bill, while also surging our forces in Afghanistan, would it be too much to ask that they be given the best, most life saving weapons whether improved MRAPs, body armor, rifles, and transport helicopters like the Osprey. Is it so extravagent to update our helicopters every 40 years so that pilots don’t fly unsafe aircraft older than they are! The Pentagon must do better with the money it has and have a strategic reality check on the threats ahead.  Rumsfeld, to his credit, did away with the Crusader Artillery program and encoruaged all branches to be more expeditionary.  But to cut its budget in a time of profligacy on general principle reeks of spite and Obama’s (and his socialist father’s) college kid dreams of sticking it tot he military-industrial complex.  After all, unlike midnight basketball and housing bailouts, national defense is a constitutionally mandated federal government responsibility.

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McCain really lost what little respect I had for him when he started knocking Mitt Romney for not having lived a life of “public service.”  Romney, you see, spent his life in the shameful pursuit of building an honest business, and he succeeded in spades, creating a billion dollar consulting empire.

To me, Republicans used to have one natural constituency:  people that were rich or trying to become rich, or, at the very least, people that took some pride in pulling their own weight.  If they didn’t have their neighbor’s money, they didn’t want the government to steal it for them becuase they knew they had not earned it.  Republicans may recognize the need for a social safety net, but would rather not partake of one for themselves.  This streak is the old fashioned American “rugged individualism,” and McCain is quite notably the first anti-business Republican since sometime Bull Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, to whom McCain is often compared. 

While I am skeptical of off-shoring and impenetrably complex financial arrangments with 27 classes of stock designed to conceal a company’s financial picture, I still have a sentimental respect for people trying to make a buck along the lines of Calvin Coolidge’s insight that the “business of America is business.”

McCain’s class warfare rhetoric is crowned with a call for national service and sacrifice at the national level that is quite un-American in its particulars.  Gene Healy captures its essential creepiness rather nicely:

John McCain provided an answer in a little-noticed article in the Washington Monthly, written shortly after 9/11. In it, McCain called for a quasi-militarized domestic national service corps as a way to address a “spiritual crisis in our national culture.” What Senator McCain envisioned was, well, rather creepy–a sort of jackbooted Politics of Meaning.

McCain praised City Year, an AmeriCorps initiative operating in 13 cities: “City Year members wear uniforms, work in teams, learn public speaking skills, and gather together for daily calisthenics, often in highly public places such as in front of city hall.” He also endorsed the National Civilian Community Corps, “a service program consciously structured along military lines,” in which enrollees “not only wear uniforms and work in teams… but actually live together in barracks on former military bases.” McCain calls for expanding these two initiatives and “spread[ing] their group-cohesion techniques to other AmeriCorps programs.”

“Group cohesion” and calisthenics in front of city hall reflect a version of patriotism, to be sure, albeit one that seems more North Korean than American. But all in all, the article provides further evidence of Welch’s claim that McCain has an essentially “militaristic conception of citizenship.”

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The War Nerd has a good column (as always) about how the Navy’s commitment to big budgets and unlikely conventional wars leaves our forces vulnerable to low-tech attackers in speed boats. This is familiar territory; it’s how the Spanish Armada was routed, and it was the means by which the USS Cole was successfully attacked. It’s the same thinking that led our Army to develop Crusader artillery pieces for billions, while it neglected the light infantry and civil affairs units necessary for occupying Iraq.

He writes:

See, the Navy brass always plans for a neat, clean hi-tech war. Their real investment isn’t the Phalanx or Aegis but the operations rooms deep in the hulls where flabby desk jockeys just like me sit at little screens. Those screens are supposed to show a few dots, nice fair-fighting Soviet surface ships and subs. That’s how the Navy wants to play the game. Seeing their beautiful screens clogged up by a bunch of goddamn cheap speedboats full of Revolutionary Guards, not to mention hundreds of “boxes” that might turn out to be mines, ruins everything.

You might wonder, if you were real, real naive, why the Navy hasn’t tried to learn from what van Ripen did to them six years ago in the same waters. Well, the truth is that no big, well-funded armed service learns or changes until it absolutely has to, which usually means when it starts to lose a war. And of all services, navies are by far the most stubborn, old-fashioned, snobby, retarded of all. I don’t mean the submarine force, which is pretty much God. I mean the brass in their ridiculous floating targets, aka carriers, frigates, tankers and other dive-sites-in-the-making.

Rumsfeld intoned that “you go to war with the Army you have.” But the time for redevelopment of the military based on likely threats is now. There’s nothing wrong with aircraft carriers, but the future wars will likely remain low tech, unconventional, messy, and require large numbers of troops duking it out, since we don’t have the stomach to leverage our air power to massacre civilians in order to get the enemy to comply. Consider the conflicts since Vietnam: Grenada, Somalia, Panama, and now Iraq. These wars do not require high tech, so much as wily troops grounded in operationally training geared to low intensity conflict.

From Iraq to Iran and China too, everyone has learned there’s no good reason to take on U.S. forces head on. Rather, our enemies aim to achieve parity by sucking us into morally and tactically confused environments, where combatants wear civilian clothes and try to provoke massacres. This technique has remained the best way to defeat technologically sophisticated first world powers since WWII. It worked in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Kenya, in Indonesia, and in South Africa. The jury is out in Iraq, but the only reason things are turning out is because the “good guys” consist of disaffected factions of former terrorists, former sheiks and their henchman fighting irregulars in the same irregular way to which they are accustomed.

World War II isn’t going to happen again. Everyone knows they’ll lose that game against the United States, which spends more than Russia and China combined on defense. Since no one wants to lose to us, our potential enemies worldwide are learning from the playbook of the Viet Cong and the Iraqi resistance. The out-of-touch would-be defense contractor managers at the Pentagon, however, are only learning how to mouth the right phrases of transformation, even as they develop F-22 fighters and plan for digital battlefields. Real improvement will only come from the development of the human skills of the war-fighter: language skills, tactical intelligence gathering, cultural awareness, civil affairs skills, and small unit independence. Of course, these kinds of skills don’t lead to six figure jobs at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

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The New York Times has resurrected the old post-Vietnam War canard that returning veterans are unusually disturbed, crazy, and likely violent.  It found 121 homicides committed by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans over a period of six years.  The good folks at Powerline show that if this exhaustive review unearthed all of the veterans’ homicides during that time frame, then the veterans’ murder rate was significantly lower than the general population’s.

This is not surprising.  Bill Burkett found the same results in a study of Vietnam Veterans in his excellent book, Stolen Valor.  It’s also not surprising that veterans (even with the burdens of PTSD) have lower rates of violence because crime of all kinds tends to be a low IQ man’s game, and the military screens out folks in the bottom two quintiles of IQ through the ASVAB.  In other words, the military is filled with people with 95 and higher IQs, while out here in the real world 20-30% of people are running around with sub-90 IQs, and the criminal population is dumber still.  This lack of brainpower matters because things like deferred gratification, self control, and violence are correlated with intelligence.  

The fact that none of the Times’ reporters chose to compare background murder rates demonstrates that innumeracy of all forms prevents an intelligent appraisal of reality, whether the issue is crime, AIDS, immigration, the economy, or seemingly unrelated matters like civil liberties.  Or, worse yet, they knew the real facts and suppressed them because they did not fit the script. 

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