Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘soviet union’

The story of Rhodesia is an inherently tragic one.  Europeans, who came to Africa in search of economic progress and confident in their power to spread Christian Civilization, soon found themselves swamped by demographic trends and nationalistic political ideas.  These trends were the products of the very medicine and education that Europeans had brought to Africa.  Of course, things could not have remained forever as they were with a small white minority forever ruling a black majority.  Yet the alternative of majority rule in a continent notoriously tribal, corrupt, and inefficient has proven to be a disaster for most Africans.  Both white and black Africans have endured wars, mismanagement, corruption, and a decline in every measure of civilization since the emergence of independence in the sixties.  

Rhodesia disappeared.  It’s now Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.  And the last few years have seen the terrorist philosophy he embraced come to fruition.  In a last ditch effort to reward his supporters, white farms are being distributed to black Zimbabweans and soon ending up in a state of disrepair.  Food is now scarce.  And his political opponents, white and black, are increasingly being arrested, harassed, or murdered outright. 

Apartheid-style policies were unsustainable and unjust.  So too were the communist “class justice” policies proffered by the likes of Mugabe, Mandela, and their peers.  As conservatives we should acknowledge that steady and measured change towards greater political equality would likely have been more sustainable than the blood-soaked politics of revolution.  And, regardless, we can admire the courage, tenacity, and discipline of the Rhodesian military–a force that attracted adventurers, idealistic anti-communists, and professional soldiers from the world over to fight a an ultimately doomed war against the rising tide of African nationalism in the seventies. 

The video above shows some of the peculiarities of their fight:  black and white soldiers, side-by-side, fighting for a regime that excluded blacks from political power; modern jets and horse cavalry; and amazing sophistication and improvisation in a nation cut off from aid through UN embargoes.  These men  ultimately fought for their country and their way of life against an enemy that indiscriminately employed terrorist tactics.  But their defeat also shows another fact of modern life:  even a fight with flags waving and extraordinary courage and determination can still be lost if the political system to which it is attached is too far out of step with the tide of history.  Their extraordinary military effectiveness and amazing kill ratios (25:1 or more) should also give pause to those who believe we can easily win in Iraq if we just “take the gloves off.” 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Notice how much more coherent, articulate, and balanced his rhetoric is compared to our current crop of “conservatives.” In particular, notice that he recognizes our country’s earlier failings without rejecting these failings as something that wipe away all moral legitimacy to our past, as Bush and Rice have done repeatedly, comparing the savage atrocities of Iraq’s savage insurgents with the brave soldiers on both sides of America’s War for Independence and Civil War. Finally, he is far more steeped in the traditions of Western Civilization, quoting Tocqueville, C.S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers,  Isaiah, Tom Paine, and Jesus Himself.

How far the quality of our political life has declined in my own lifetime.  Transcript here.

Read Full Post »

In the wake of the Cold War, the US military was cut dramatically. We went from a 750,000 man Army to one of about 475,000 today. The Navy and Air Force undertook similar cuts. We went from spending about 5.5% of GDP on the military to 3%. One consequence has been that the “all volunteer force” is stretched thin, has had to make due with relaxed recruiting standards, and there is a great deal of grumbling from senior commanders that the Iraq War and the repeated, lengthy deployments are killing recruiting and retention.

A larger military, both now and in the future, likely would be easier to recruit for and retain manpower, even during a time of war, than the present system. There is a reason for this paradox: such a military would allow greater time between deployments, greater flexibility when a surge of any kind is needed (including for contingencies in other theaters), and it would ease the strain on the battlefield through more overwhelming force whenever a large number of forces may be concentrated. Since one of the missions our troops will likely be called upon in the future is counterinsurgency, large numbers of skilled, trained, and well-rested infantry will be needed. The basic dynamics of this type of war are less technology and more manpower intensive than their counterparts. The U.S. had over 500,000 troops in Vietnam and the French had more than 400,000 in Algeria. We have now approximately 160,000 troops in Iraq. Since our goals in the wake of 9/11 have been so ambitious–indeed, overly ambitious and utopian in my opinion–Rumsfeld and Bush’s continuation of the “peace dividend” military and their failure to demand a larger military (particularly when support would have been high right after 9/11) has proven foolish indeed.

This is not just a matter of 20/20 hindsight. Their decision-making was truly warped. Who looks at the Soviet problems in Afghanistan and blames them on troop levels rather than on the Soviet penchant for “scorched earth” tactics and the inherent unpalatability of its ideology to the religious Afghan people? Who looks at a looming occupation and thinks gratitude will grease the wheels when governance and power are necessary? Who looks at a country the size of Iraq and thinks troop levels that are a fraction of the number of (per capita) police in the peaceful United States will get the job done? The combination of incompetence and ideological blindness is the root of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq. Some hard-headedness, including about the size of the military, will be needed in the next administration. We should not, because present-day recruiting problems avoid planning for the next conflict in a way that is sustainable, avoids a draft, and allows the military to accomplish the mission.

Read Full Post »