State of the Union

Shakedown in Copenhagen

If you would know what Copenhagen is all about, hearken to this nugget in The Washington Post‘s report from the Danish capital.

“Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenari — who is representing all of Africa here — unveiled his proposal Wednesday for a system in which rich countries would provide money to poor ones to help deal with the effects of climate change. …

“Zenawi said he would accept $30 billion in the short term, rising to $100 billion by 2020. … This was seen as a key concession by developing countries, which had previously spurned that figure … as too low.”

There was a time when a U.S. diplomat would have burst out laughing after listening to a Third World con artist like this.

But not the Obamaites. They are already ponying up. Read More…

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Oh to have been a Fed Chairman back in 1832!

Nick Biddle must retching somewhere in the spirit world that he isn’t alive and young and well today. Back in 1832, he was a vilified man. He unwittingly made himself the center of the 1832 presidential election and became a perfect target of the Jacksonians, who used his strenuous defense of the second Bank of the United States as its President to be the centerpiece of their campaign to re-elect Andrew Jackson.

Back then, Biddle was attacked viciously, called Old Nick and Czar Nick by his opponents.  They hung him in effigy in Hurra Boys parades. The more they hissed, the more he spent to try and beat them and the more it only fed the impression that Biddle was trying to buy the election for Henry Clay and the National Republicans. He played right into the hands of the Jacksonians looking to paint themselves as defending the rights of the common man of that time against the “monster bank”.

Today however, the central banker is looked upon as guru, an economic wizard, the chief steward of our the globe’s economy and its protector as well. He is an oracle of economic forecasts and provider or liquidity and fluidity that keeps the economic engine humming like motor oil. Thus Biddle’s successor as the head of the third Bank of United States (the Federal Reserve), Ben Bernanke, is named Time’s “Man of the Year” instead of being called Old Ben or Czar Benjamin or even “Helicopter Ben”.

Read More…

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Lieberman Moons Democrats Again, and Again

The Democratic wringing of hands over Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seemingly traitorous behavior has got to stop. The party did this to itself the very second it decided to play nice and allow Jumpin’ Joe to keep his chairmanship on the influential Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Like a kid, he knew then he could get away with anything and that his former party (he’s an independent now) was all bluster and no ‘bring it on.’

Perhaps the party’s decision to keep the Nutmeg Knave around was truly the beginning of the end of the Democrats’ triumphal return to power. Things haven’t seemed to get quite right since then, and surprise, their biggest looming folly on healthcare reform can be attributed in part, to Joe.

But Democrats got exactly what they asked for, if you ask me. Watching Lieberman’s Republican National Convention speech in Minnesota last year it was clear that he had broken for the other team. Just walking out on that stage which was wired for serious wattage of anti-Democratic vitriol, was declaration of war. Here are some passages from that speech. You decide what part of ‘bite me’ the Democrats didn’t understand in September ’08: Read More…

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Reading T. S. Eliot in Osage County

When a play about Oklahoma begins with “This is the Way the World Ends” as opposed to “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” you know that you are not in that Oklahoma anymore. Instead, this is August: Osage County which I had a chance to see during its national tour (with the great Estelle Parsons in the leading role as Violet Weston, the  matriarch of a disintegrating family) at the Eisenhower Theatre (Kennedy Center) in Washington, DC, this week.

August had won major awards, including the Tony and the Pulitzer and critics have compared it to Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Tennessee Williams’s A Street Car Named Desire. And like those plays it is about the wacky members of a large dysfunctional family who engage in nasty shouting matches, who discover that you shouldn’t fall in love with your cousin because he is actually your brother, and who end-up drinking themselves to death (and that is the lighter side of the play).

Most of the American reviews of the play that I’ve read describe it as some sort of a black comedy about a family in the final stages of meltdown, which it is. “All happy families are alike, “Tolstoy told us, and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own. But I’d bet the farm that no family has ever been as unhappy in as many ways — and to such sensationally entertaining effect — as the Westons of ‘August: Osage County,’” is the way Charles Isherwood opened his review in The New York Times.

But I saw the play more as an allegory about the decline and fall of America, and I discovered that I was probably right after reading an interview with the author Tracy Letts in the Times of London. The Westons are America, a political and cultural experiment that has failed, Letts explains. And what he seems to be suggesting that the time has come to return the territory on which the United States was established back to those who were there before the white man showed up.

Indeed, Johnna Monevata, a Cheyenne who is hired as by Beverly, the drunken family patriarch (before he drowns himself) as a housekeeper, seems to represent all the cherished American ideals of hard work, strong family ties, traditional values, a thirst for education, and a willingness to cultivate and fight for one’s own land. And then there is the Weston family of Osage County, Oklahoma, your contemporary wholesome American family where divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, incest, pedophilia are part of everyday life.

The youngest member of the family, 14-year-old Jean, smokes pot when she isn’t glued to the television. She is sexually promiscuous and hates her mom and dad who are separated; and she is just so, so stupid. Compare her to the unassuming yet very intelligent Johnna who reveres her parents, reads the T.S. Eliot (while Jean is watching Phantom of the Opera on television) when she is not taking care of the Westons. And unlike the members of this decadent and dying family , she wants to stay in Osage County. That’s where she belongs.

According to Letts, Johnna and other Indians are just waiting. They “were there before the white people, and that they were going to be polite and help them and nurse them and do what they had to do. But they would still be there when the white people had gone.” The Westons (re: America) are transients. Hence, the play opens with Beverly reading the line of from Eliot’s The Hollow Man, “This is the Way the World Ends.” And the play ends with Johnna reading the same line the abandoned and mad Violet.

The play reminded me of Clinton Eastwood’s Grand Torino, in which Eastwood plays a Polish-American Ford factory worker and Korean War veteran who discovers that it’s the Other, his Hmong neighbors, with whom he seems to have more in common when it come to what it means to be an American (again, the values of duty, strong family ties, hard work, local patriotism) than with his materialistic and son and daughter-in-law and spoiled and stupid grand kids.  

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Battle of the Bulge: Eisenhower’s Biggest Folly?

This is the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge.  While most Americans who are aware of the battle learned of it through Hollywood movies that portrayed valiant U.S. resistance to the German Wehrmacht, the truth is far more embarrassing to the U.S. Supreme Commander.

The battle was  unnecessary, and resulted from Gen. Eisenhower’s stifling of a U.S. Army group that was ready to cross the Rhine into Germany a month earlier.

As David Colley, author of Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944, recently noted:

The Sixth Army Group had assembled bridging equipment, amphibious trucks and assault boats. Seven crossing sites along the upper Rhine were evaluated and intelligence gathered. The Seventh Army could cross north of Strasbourg at Rastatt, Germany, advance north along the Rhine Valley to Karlsruhe, and swing west to come in behind the German First Army, which was blocking Patton’s Third Army in Lorraine. The enemy would face annihilation, and the Third and Seventh Armies could break loose and drive into Germany. The war might end quickly.

Devers never crossed. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, visited Devers’s headquarters that day and ordered him instead to stay on the Rhine’s west bank and attack enemy positions in northern Alsace. Devers was stunned. “We had a clean breakthrough,” he wrote in his diary. “By driving hard, I feel that we could have accomplished our mission.” Instead the war of attrition continued, giving the Germans a chance to counterattack three weeks later in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, which cost 80,000 American dead and wounded.

The psychological impact on German forces and German society of U.S. troops racing across the Rhine would have been far greater than the impact caused by the pointless slaughter of German civilians in Allied air raids on German cities.

When I was growing up in Front Royal, Virginia, I met one of the few survivors of the Malmedy massacre (the most notorious incident from the Battle of the Bulge).    A decade later, I lived in a group house with a retired CIA agent who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.   Frostbite, not a massacre, was his most vivid memory of that bitter time…

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“‘Nuff Said?” You Bet.

I know it is a tired trope, but it’s helpful to look at the ultimate success of Counterinsurgency, or the vaunted COIN doctrine dominating the popular ethos of the American military establishment, as a three-legged stool.

As it is conceived, or at least projected for public consumption, in order for COIN to work in Afghanistan —

1) The central government must be legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people and willing to work hand in glove with the U.S military to pursue the campaign to its proscribed ends.

2) Afghan security forces must be trained and equipped and trusted enough by the civilian population to eventually provide security and to “hold” in the long-term any territory coalition forces can wrest from the “enemy” in the current campaign.

3) The U.S military must have trust (and assistance) from the Afghan civilian population in order to gain leverage over the insurgency and to build legitimacy for the government in Kabul.

All three goals bear serious problematic signs of failure today and yet, there is no realistic talk from the Obama Administration, nor the senior military brass about the prospects of any of this having a snow ball’s chance in hell of ever seeing fruition. Karzai’s legitimacy, and particularly his standing with the Pashtun people (at least 46 percent of the population), is a joke. The reliability of the Afghan security forces is much worse than any administration flak or Washington COIN pusher will concede.

And the military’s success with winning over “the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people? We can’t necessarily blame the soldiers themselves. They were trained to kill — and in a post-9/11 world, their target practice was on dummies with funny headgear who spoke even funnier languages and lived in sand traps and goat-dotted mountains — not to make friends or strive to be the next Greg Mortenson. But it is in the soldiers’ and Marines’ own words that we can sense the truth of the matter — and of how flimsy this house of cards really is.

First, war scribe Robert Young Pelton wrote this engaging chronicle earlier this year of his time with one unit of the Human Terrain Project — the Army’s (clearly problematic) attempt to inject anthropologists/social scientists onto the battlefield to engage the people and to learn more about the regional tapestry for the benefit of the mission. What he found was earnest but overwhelmed personnel, and, more than a little disdain, a lot of confusion and a truck load of condescension and outright scorn for the whole “touchy-feely” approach from the chain of command he had encounters with. A good read, for which Pelton tells me he has been virtually “cut off” from the press office and the lead guy for the project  (it’s also worth it to read the reaction to Pelton’s piece, particularly from the Army and subsequent comments).

Secondly, this little nugget, posted yesterday by COIN hagiographer Tom Ricks. Again, it takes a non-commissioned officer, not a “senior officer who represents the Establishment Party they serve” as one commenter described, to show how this thing is headed to nowheresville. Why? This last paragraph says it all:

Doesn’t matter if you like the people or not. Don’t really care if you think their ideology is bullshit. Fact is if you want to win, the people have to believe that you are sincere and convincing them that it is in their best interest to support you vice your enemy is a key part.  Winning is what matters and the only way to do that is getting better at COIN and IO, regardless of how much we hate it. Read it all here.

As Ricks so artfully blurts at the end, “nuff said?”

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Taliban Not Fit for Student Consumption

The Wash Post had an article today describing how an Arlington middle school had canceled a mock UN discussion in which one team would represent the Taliban point of view.  At least one parent had objected, saying it was an “abuse of the academic freedom that we all cherish.”  Apparently we don’t cherish academic freedom enough to actually practice it if the topic is in any way objectionable, at least not in Arlington County.

Well, I am no fan of the Taliban but the US is heavily engaged in their country and is trying to kill them so it would seem that a little knowledge about them might actually be a good thing.  The Taliban do have a certain constituency inside Afghanistan and many Afghans appear to prefer them to the government that the US is supporting.  Ignorance may indeed be bliss, but I would think that teaching students that there might well be two sides (or more) to an argument is not intrinsically harmful and might actually result in some of those being educated realizing that bombing the natives does not always make for the best foreign policy.

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Boom Times for Big Government

“It’s time to stop worrying about the deficit — and start panicking about the debt,” the Washington Post editorial began. “The fiscal situation was serious before the recession. It is now dire.”

The editorial continued:

“In the space of a single fiscal year, 2009, the debt soared from 41 percent of the gross domestic product to 53 percent. This sum, which does not include what the government has borrowed from its own trust funds, is on track to rise to a crushing 85 percent of the economy by 2018.”

What are the risks of an exploding U.S. public debt?

The Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs still buying that debt will begin to suspect they are holding onto paper on which the United States will default or will cheapen by inflating its currency — as the Germans did in 1923 to avoid paying war reparations.

When they do, they will stop buying U.S. debt and start dumping. The Fed will then have to raise interest rates to attract borrowers, throwing the economy into a tailspin.

Is Congress even aware of what is happening?

Harry Reid is talking about doubling Medicare rolls to include folks 55 to 64. Facing a second straight $1.4 trillion deficit, Congress is moving to raise the debt ceiling by another $1.8 trillion. Read More…

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A Farewell to Arms (For Now)

This will be the last On War column, at least for the foreseeable future. I will (unexpectedly) retire from Free Congress Foundation, where I have worked for 22 years, at the end of this month. Once I am re-established, either with a new institution or in retirement, I intend to re-start the column. When that will be I do not know. It also depends on obtaining connection to a telegraph line, which is not available everywhere.

After 325 columns, what is left to be said? Two points, I think, are worth noting in closing. First, since the Marine Corps Gazette article that first laid out the framework of the Four Generations of Modern War was published in 1989, events have largely followed the course it predicted. That is not to say I was right in all my predictions in these columns. Were my crystal ball that accurate, I would be a rich man. (Being rich, as a Rothschild once defined it, is being able to live comfortably on the interest on the interest.) But in broad terms, the theory has had predictive value, which is the test of any theory.

In particular, the theory’s definition of Fourth Generation war has proven prophetic. Since 1989, the world has witnessed a progressive weakening of the state and rise of alternative, non-state primary loyalties, for which a growing number of men are willing to fight. That is the heart of my definition of Fourth Generation war. As Martin van Creveld says, what changes is not how war is fought, but who fights and what they fight for.

Other definitions of 4GW, including defining it as just a new name for insurgency, miss the mark. Fourth Generation war is more than a buzzword. It is the biggest change in war since the Peace of Westphalia.

The second point I would close with is that the U.S. military doesn’t get it. Some European militaries do get it. Many Fourth Generation entities (not all) not only get it, they are writing the book. But the U.S. military is largely an intellectual void. Its two implied (and related) theories, that wars are decided by comparative levels of technology and by who can put the most firepower on targets, have both been proven false. Were they true, we would have won the Iraq and Afghan wars quickly. In fact, the Pentagon was so blinded by its false theories it thought we had won them quickly. Sorry, guys. Read More…

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Why the Global Warming Hoax?

The major unanswered question are the motives behind all the lies, exaggerations, cover-ups, and suppression of opposing views. The scientists’ actions can be understood in part because of all the fame, luxury meetings, and millions of dollars of government money they received to promote their agenda—namely, (1) that the world was warming and (2) that human beings were responsible. If sunspots were responsible for the warming cycles, then there would be little justification for government money to subsidize the scientists to find ways to stop it.

Similarly, many big corporations saw billions in government “carbon” subsidies for windmills, research, and such, so they supported the theories as well. They could sucker the taxpayers while making for themselves an image of concerned citizens helping to “save the world.” (See Climate Money–$79 Billion So Far and Trillions To Come from the Science and Public Policy Institute.) For comparison, think also of the way many businesses supported the lies about ethanol saving energy–with billions of dollars in subsidies for ethanol production. The whole hype was another hoax. Historians one day will write in awe of America’s unbelievable waste of money and resources during the Bush-Obama years.

The crazy big-media hype was mainly for the same old reason newsboys used to shout “FIRE!” or “MURDER!” The “end of the world” is always a good topic to pique readers’ and TV viewers’ interest. Circulation and money drive big media. Everyone would pay to learn about coming disasters. Remember how, a little while ago, they were telling us that more and stronger hurricanes would be coming every year.

However, there were some real brains with other motives for promoting the lies. Extreme environmentalism has become the new socialism, an excuse for dictatorial rule to limit consumption and justify highly centralized government power “to save humanity.” Below is a list of quotes from leading leftists. There were brains behind it all, the old socialists looking for a new justification for government takeover of the economy, for a “planned” economy which they would plan and manage. Man-made global warming became the substitute agenda for Leftists who had been discredited by Reaganomics and the collapse of communism. Read More…

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