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  • Archive for the 'Military Affairs' Category

    Rape Culture

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th December 2014 (All posts by )

    The country is going through one of the increasingly common episodes of hysteria in modern times. In the 17th century, there was the period of The Salem Witch Trials.

    From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.

    The episode was begun by what sounds like hysterical symptoms occurring in the daughter of the new minister. Before it was over, a number of people of the village of Salem had been accused of witchcraft and 19 were executed and five others had died.

    SALEMCLR

    Suspected witches were examined for certain marks, called “witch marks,” where witches’ “familiars” could nurse. The hysteria ended as quickly as it began. By the end of 1692, it was over and all surviving accused were released.

    The period of the hearings in America after World War II, in which many were accused of being communists, the so-called “McCarthy period,” is often compared to this era and a left wing playwright, Arthur Miller, wrote a play called “The Crucible,” which made the connection between the Salem trials and Senator McCarthy’s accusations the theme.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Education, Feminism, Leftism, Military Affairs, Politics, The Press | 20 Comments »

    US Military Lawyers Should Have Operational Responsibilities

    Posted by TM Lutas on 6th December 2014 (All posts by )

    The US, as a signatory to the major treaties on the laws of war has an obligation to enforce the customary and treaty norms of proper behavior in wartime not only within our own forces but by allied and opposing forces. This is not just a support task but in cases where opposing forces deliberately violate the laws of war, it is an operational responsibility that, when we fail to carry it out, cedes vital military advantage to law breaking enemies and increases the dangers that civilians face within war zones.

    It would be interesting to read the operational planning document that lays out how we are supposed to undertake such operations. So far as I can tell, nobody has written such a document. We just don’t view military lawyers as anything other than a support element that helps other units undertake other military operations.

    The operations documents are published by the Joint Chiefs, listed in the Joint Electronic Library. Classified planning documents have a link into the non-public JEL+ so the missing document can’t be put down to a problem of state secrets keeping the document out of public view.

    Until we reformulate our doctrine and start taking laws of war enforcement as a military operation against enemies that tend to violate these laws en masse, excess casualties will be an inevitability. Most of those casualties will be non-military civilians of whatever country we happen to be fighting in but a significant amount of them will wear US military uniforms.

    Posted in Military Affairs | 22 Comments »

    On Russia and Ukraine

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th November 2014 (All posts by )

    For many years I’ve studied the Russian front during WW2, where the Germans and their allies battled the Russians (and their empire) in some of the largest and deadliest battles on earth. The war went far beyond the battlefield, with the Russians taking over the ancient German capital of Prussia, evicting / killing all the (remaining) citizens, and turning it into today’s Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This is fair desserts; the Germans planned to turn Moscow into a reservoir. That war was about annihilation, a complete extermination and permanent subjugation of their foes.

    In recent years I’ve tried to turn away from this focus, since I didn’t think that this conflict, ancient by modern standards, had much to teach us anymore, and just following along a well-worn narrative was teaching me nothing. And I did move on, reading about more modern conflicts, and today’s volunteer and high-tech military as opposed to the “old world” of conscripts, artillery, heavy armor, utter destruction of cities and the civilians trapped inside them, and political control superseding military objectives.

    The Russian armed forces also seemed to be gliding towards irrelevance, other than their ubiquitous nuclear weapons. Their performance in Chechnya was poor until they basically razed (their own) cities into ruin with heavy artillery fire; to this day I don’t understand why this wasn’t called out as a giant atrocity. In Georgia they were able to beat a tiny, poorly armed adversary, but their motorized divisions seemed to be driving by compass and they did not cover themselves in military glory. Their military transitions from conscript forces with older weapons and tactics also seemed to be foundering in the face of objections from old-line military-industrial complexes.

    When Ukraine slipped out of Russia’s orbit and the vast presidential compound of the ex-president was paraded on TV worldwide, Putin obviously viewed this as a direct threat to his authority. The Russians historically had been at odds with the Ukrainians over natural gas prices and on other topics, but it wasn’t obvious that this was going to move into a warlike situation. Ukraine is rich with agricultural resources but these resources aren’t prized by the Kremlin; they need easily extractable resources like oil, natural gas and various iron ores that they can pull out of the ground and sell for hard cash overseas. John McCain’s recurring joke that Russia isn’t much more than a gas station with nuclear weapons in fact has a lot of merit. Other than around Moscow, parts of St Petersburg, and in “showplace” locations like Sochi and Vladivostok Russia in fact was falling into ruin and shambles.

    But something was happening; the Russian forces that invaded the Crimea (even though they were never formally identified as Russians) appeared to be well organized and well armed. It was not the “Keystone Cops” group that I might have expected. They handled themselves with relative distinction, fulfilling their objectives with limited civilian casualties and using discretion against the Ukrainian military forces they encountered. This was the complete opposite of the blundering incursions into Chechnya.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Military Affairs, Russia | 59 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – The Enemy Within

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th November 2014 (All posts by )

    And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.

    – Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage

    [Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test.]

    Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Small Unit Cohesion

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th November 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, 2010, at a Shooting training center

    In 2010 my dad and I went to an all-day class to learn how to shoot properly. The first four hours were in a classroom and the last four hours were outside when it was a brisk fall day and we learned various techniques of how to shoot and spent over 800 rounds.

    In the beginning of the class, the instructor asked everyone about their background. My dad and I said we were complete amateurs. When the others talked about their experience I didn’t fully understand what they were saying until later but many were ex military who were now contractors in Iraq or elsewhere with very extensive experience. They were attending for what must be some sort of required periodic classroom time.

    The reason that this is interesting is because the instructor went through firearm basics that was all news to me but must have been the most banal and simplistic discussion that these guys have ever heard. It would be like sending me back to school for mandatory training and showing me a balance sheet or explaining the very basics of systems technology. In five minutes of this I would be agitated and distracted and frankly a bit insulted that someone wasn’t properly valuing my corporate and career experience. Because that is how a corporate or business person would view the process, but not a military person. Each of the military guys sat in their seats for four hours and if anything they constructively helped the instructor, who was ex-military himself. In hindsight no one was joking around or making a mockery of anything.

    When we were shooting the guys all helped each other and the team immediately without asking. We had a lot to cover so they leaped up and changed the targets and moved and anticipated and everyone was part of a larger mission. After a while it was completely obvious to everyone that me and my dad (who was in his late 70s at this point) were behind the game so they subtly starting helping and coaching us in addition to what the instructor was doing. Sometimes you had to shoot multiple targets to clear a level and I think a few times guys helped me by shooting my targets too.

    Only in hindsight did I recognize the “cohesion” concepts that SLA Marshall talked about in his famous book. He talked about the value of leadership and training in motivating and getting the best out of the men under your command. While these sound like commonplace lessons, and ones the military has likely long since learned in its recent brutal wars overseas, these lessons are usually nowhere to be found in corporate America and most private businesses.

    I watched “The Last Patrol” (highly recommended) last night on HBO and they had a similar observation. The protagonists are walking across America (even in Baltimore, I was scared for them) and asking people what is great about America. These ex-military guys and ex-combat photographers (with 20+ years in the middle of all of it) were trying to wind down and find their bearings without the adrenaline rush of combat and surviving possible death. They met a woman in an American flag bikini and she said she worked in an old folks home for veterans and she said that they all helped and looked out for each other. However, she said, it wasn’t like that once you left the facility – it’s not like that outside in America today.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    Air strike: interdiction vs close air support

    Posted by TM Lutas on 21st November 2014 (All posts by )

    The news media writes about air strikes in Iraq and Syria and those who are uneducated in military affairs read one thing. Those who are in the community read something different. The difference between the two means that the vast majority of the country thinks that we have ordered something to be done and is evaluating the action on that basis, even though it has little tie to reality. It would be important for the Pentagon to fix this misperception, however there seems to be little concentrated effort to do that work. If you are an interested civilian, as I have been, it’s possible to sort things out and get educated fairly quickly because the military does publish the necessary resources. They just don’t push them enough to actually create an educated public.

    When the military sends an aircraft out to conduct an airstrike, there are two subcategories of strikes that are relevant, close air support and interdiction strikes. The former is a much harder task than the latter because with very small errors, you end up killing men on your own side and not the enemy’s. Interdiction strikes lack this danger because they are conducted behind combat lines. They are designed to starve the front line of supplies, ammunition, and further military units to replace combat losses. Close air support effects are immediate, direct, and measurable. They require close coordination with someone on the ground to properly identify the targets. There is a checklist of bits of information that need to be provided to ensure a proper strike. The more holes or errors in the checklist, the more likely you are to kill your own instead of the enemy. There are courses to teach how to do this. The people we are aiding in Iraq include personnel who have taken these courses. The people we are aiding in Syria have not.

    Interdiction attacks take longer to matter and depending on how robust the enemy’s behind the front lines operation is, you have to do more to get any perceptible effect at all. If the enemy counts on you knocking out 3 trucks in 10 and your interdiction rate is only 2 in 10, the effect of your interdiction effort at the front line is negligible.

    We are providing both interdiction and close air support in Iraq but as a result of the lack of trained personnel, only interdiction missions in Syria. Confusing media stories make it clear that the distinction is not generally understood. Few seem to be asking the question of when or how the ability to do close air support missions in Syria will happen, what is the pace of operations needed to overcome ISIS’ logistics design margins, or much of anything else useful.

    Media on the left, center, and right are all guilty of this lack of discernment. In a US with a volunteer military with popular oversight of the government, civilians need to do better so we’re at least educated enough to ask the right questions and intelligently hold the politicians accountable.

    Posted in Media, Military Affairs | 7 Comments »

    War Movies

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Veterans Day seems to be a good day to consider war movies. We saw the movie Fury last night and it was technically pretty good. A couple of folks on veteran sites complained about the haircuts but I don’t know if they would have been different in April 1945 in guys who had been fighting all the way from the Normandy beaches. I objected a bit to the tank they used as it looked like the Sherman Firefly that the British used. However, the movie web site says it was an M4 A2E8 which does look like the Firefly.

    M4A

    The combat scenes were intense and looked authentic to me. They even had a Tiger I from a museum in Britain. Most tanks that I see in Movies, including Patton, are not authentic Shermans.

    tiger I

    The tactics looked pretty good as they showed that Shermans had to get around the Tiger Tank to attack the rear where the armor was thinner. The Russians used the same tactics with their T 34 which was the best tank of the war.

    Char_T-34

    The story was about the same plot as Saving Private Ryan although some of the objectionable lines, like saving Ryan was “the only good thing that will come out of this war,” as if Hitler was not a good reason. The plot device is basically the same with the new guy as an innocent who survives and the experienced guys all get killed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs | 42 Comments »

    What did those veterans do?

    Posted by TM Lutas on 11th November 2014 (All posts by )

    While we’re honoring America’s veterans, I thought it would be interesting to see what it is the were doing to earn that honored status.

    There is a site on the Internet called the Joint Electronic Library (and it’s slightly restricted cousin the JEL+). It’s where the American military officially plans what is to be done when the job’s big enough that sometimes different military services are going to be doing it next to each other.

    What military people do is essentially a task list. The military publishes an unclassified universal task list every three months. It currently has 1,285 tasks. They each have performance indicators. The whole list looks very little like how civilians discuss war or think of all the things that go into the military. Exploring this disconnect and how it makes the lives of our military harder and even increases casualties is a post for another time. This is Veterans Day, not Memorial day.

    Posted in Military Affairs, Systems Analysis | Comments Off

    The Kurds and the Israelis are our only allies in the middle east.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2014 (All posts by )

    The growth of the terrorist state ISIS has taken all the attention lately. This is just a resurgence of al Qeada in the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal of all US troops. Maybe, if we had kept a significant force in Iraq, something could be saved of all we bought at such terrible cost. Now, it is too late.

    We do have allies worth helping but they are not in the Iraqi government. It is Shia dominated and dependent on Iran for support. They have alienated the Sunnis and the growth of ISIS is the result. We still have the Kurds as allies and they know we were their only hope in 1993. Jay Garner did a great job working with them once we decided to protect them after the First Gulf War. I have never understood why he was dismissed by George W Bush.

    The Kurds have been an embarrassment for us for decades in the middle east because they occupy parts of three nations, two of which were at one time our allies.

    contemporarykurdistanmap2005

    Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have never had a modern nation and the neighbors are enemies. Only the mountains have protected them. Now, it is time we did something. Iran is certainly no friend. Iraq has dissolved and it is time to allow it to be broken up into the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish provinces it should be. Turkey is increasingly Islamist and has not been an ally at least since 2003 when they blocked our 4th Infantry Division from invading Iraq from the north.

    The 4th was initially ordered to deploy in January 2003 before the war began, but did not arrive in Kuwait until late March. The delay was caused by the inability of the United States and Turkey to reach an agreement over using Turkish military bases to gain access to northern Iraq, where the division was originally planned to be located. Units from the division began crossing into Iraq on April 12, 2003.

    The Kurds know this is their opportunity and Dexter Filkins’ piece in the New Yorker makes this clear.

    The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

    The Kurds were surprised and routed by ISIS mostly due to limited weapons and ammunition. We could supply the deficit but Obama seems to be oblivious to the true situation. The Iraqi Army will not fight, a characteristic of all Arab armies. To the degree that the Iraqi army is Shia led, the Sunni Arabs will not cooperate or will join the enemy.

    The present situation in Kurdistan is desperate.

    Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a garden restaurant.

    A new kind of Middle East city.

    What a difference a year makes. Now, Erbil is a city under siege. The closest lines of the Islamic State (IS) forces are 45 kilometers away. At the distant frontlines, IS (formerly ISIS) is dug in, its vehicles visible, waiting and glowering in the desert heat. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are a few hundred meters away in positions hastily cut out of the sand to face the advancing jihadi fighters.

    The problem and a solution are both clear. Obama is not serious about doing anything in Iraq or Syria and the Kurds may have to fend for themselves. Interesting enough, there are Jewish Kurds. Israel may have more at stake here than we do.

    The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.

    Barzani1Barzani

    Perhaps the Israelis and Kurds can work out an alliance. The US, under Obama, is untrustworthy. We will see what happens.

    The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.

    Israel might be an answer to the Kurds’ dilemma. I don’t think we are, except for supplying materials which we should have been doing all along.

    Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 21 Comments »

    Tommy in Service – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th September 2014 (All posts by )

    (Wherein I meditate upon the relationship between military members and veterans, and the commander-in-chief – present and most recent last.)
    I was not a voter especially enamored of establishing a ruling class, so I was not all that enthused about Bush 2. In the 2000 elections I was considerably annoyed that it was an unedifying choice between the scions of two long-established political families. I thought it was not a good omen, redolent of hereditary politics and an established aristocracy – and that there was not that much to choose between them. At this point Al Gore had not displayed anything of his hypocritical and self-serving fixation on so-called ‘global warming’ – and I basically flipped a coin. But as it turned out, post 9-11, my daughter’s commander in chief was Bush 2, and as it also turned out, his respect and consideration for the troops in wartime was a rock of constancy. To quote the line from the TV series Sharpe’s Rifles, “There are two kinds of officers, sir: killin’ officers and murderin’ officers. Killin’ officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin’ officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose – for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag.” Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Speeches, Terrorism, USA | 7 Comments »

    Tommy in Service

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd September 2014 (All posts by )

    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees! – R. Kipling

    I started my first stretch in the military as Jimmy Carter was elected and sworn into office. I did not think anything of him, particularly – either pro or con, although being a bit of a snob, I did think it was distinctly juvenile of him to be known as Jimmy, rather than James. Boys are called by the diminutive; men ought to go by their proper names. The one big issue that I did hold against him for most of my first hitch in the military was when he declined a military spending bill which would have provided for the rebuilding of the Misawa AB high school, which at the time of my assignment there was housed in three pre-WWII buildings which had once been Imperial Japanese Army stables. On hot days, those buildings still smelt faintly of horse, and the students had to use the base gym for their PE classes. I recollect that there was grumbling resentment among the senior NCO cohort (and likely among the officers , too) whose teenaged dependents attended the school, to the effect that that Amy Carter did not attend classes in 70+ old shacks that smelled of ancient horse-shit. The Iran hostage situation and his limp-wristed response to it didn’t develop until later. And Carter – that bundle of mind-numbing sanctimony and anti-Semitism – was gone by the time I was done with that first tour, having pretty much disappointed everyone who assumed that having been a wartime Naval Academy graduate and serving USN officer would have been good for something when it came to being a commander in chief.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Military Affairs, Obama, Politics | 18 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 21st September 2014 (All posts by )

    Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
    About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
    – Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1

    Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.

    As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.

    Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.

    I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Leftism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Systems Analysis, Tech, The Press, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    History Friday: Jan Sobieski III and the Battle of Vienna, “Veni, vidi, Deus vicit”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Jan Sobieski

    On September 12, 1683 the army of the Ottoman Turks besieging Vienna was driven off and routed by an army under the command of Jan Sobieski III, at Battle of Vienna.

    On July 14, the Ottoman army of roughly ninety thousand effectives set up camp in front of Vienna. An Ottoman envoy appeared at the gates with the demand that the Christians “accept Islam and live in peace under the Sultan!”
     
    Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who had been left in command with about twelve thousand soldiers, cut him short, and a few hours later the bombardment began. Within two days, the Turks had completely surrounded the city and, by one contemporary estimate, were within a mere two thousand paces of the salient angles of the counterscarp. The grand vizier (Mehmet himself had stayed behind in Belgrade) set up a magnificent tent in the center of what was virtually another city outside the walls. There, in the company of an ostrich and a parakeet, he dispensed favors in complete confidence of an eventual victory, and sauntered forth each day to inspect the Turkish trenches.
     
    The situation inside the city grew steadily more desperate as water ran low, garbage piled high in the streets, and little by little the familiar diseases of the besieged—cholera, typhus, dysentery, scurvy—took hold. Yet the defenders managed to hold out for two months.

    From here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Christianity, History, Islam, Military Affairs | 12 Comments »

    The Defense Implications of Scottish Independence

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Trident Nuclear Submarine HMS Victorious

    America 3.0 coauthor James C. Bennett has a post on National Review Online entitled What are Defense Implications of Scottish Independence?

    Bennett notes: “First, it takes 5 million plus taxpayers, and most of the North Sea oil base, out of the funding available to keep the U.K. within the minimum 2 percent GDP contribution to its defense capabilities that NATO calls for … .” It will reduce Britain’s defense capabilities, and make Scotland a security free-rider.

    Second, it will likely require Britain to remove the nuclear submarine base from Faslane, which is the base for Britain’s Vanguard class Trident ballistic missile submarines. Britain’s entire nuclear deterrent force is on these submarines. Building a new base to replace Faslane will be an enormous new expense at a time of declining defense budgets.

    Bennett also notes that the Scots seem to have erroneous ideas about the prospects of making their country more socialistic than it already is.

    But, as Bennett notes, a defeat for the independence referendum could mean a move toward a more federal United Kingdom, which would be more interesting than just another small, socialist ethnic enclave in Europe.

    RTWT.

    UPDATE: This article, entitled SCOTLAND’S REFERENDUM: TO GREAT MICHAEL OR CALUM’S ROAD? is also very good.

    Posted in America 3.0, Britain, Military Affairs | 8 Comments »

    The First Great ‘Barbarian’ War of Chinese History

    Posted by T. Greer on 7th September 2014 (All posts by )

    A modern depiction of Huo Qubing’s cavalry charging a surprised Xiongnu  force.

    Image Source.




    The 3,000 years of recorded Chinese history are full of bloodshed and war. In times of strength and union the Chinese warred with ‘barbarian’ peoples on the frontier; in days of disunion they fought bitter wars against each other. Very little of this history is known by Western readers, and to be frank, there are not many books English speakers can pick up to fill this gap in their education. Narrative accounts of most of China’s famous conflicts simply do not exist–not in English anyway. Getting a handle on any of these wars usually requires reading numerous works on narrower topics that mention Chinese military campaigns and grand strategy in passing. There is a pressing need for treatments of these wars (to say nothing of the broader history of Chinese strategic thought) that can be understood by Westerners not versed in Sinological conventions.

    A few months ago Edward Luttwak published an essay on one the most significant wars of Chinese antiquity, the eighty year conflict between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu steppe confederation (133-53 BC). This was the first war in Chinese history between a nomadic empire of central Asia and a centralized Chinese dynasty. The scale of this conflict had no precedents in world history and was one of the most extraordinary events of the ancient world. The Han dynasty’s victory required the mobilization of 12 million men, campaigns in theaters 3,000 miles apart, and eight decades of fighting on the steppe.

    Mr.Luttwak’s essay, which contends that this experience left an enduring impact on the Chinese psyche that can be seen in China’s foreign policy today, presents a deeply flawed account of the war. In response I have written a more accurate account of Han-Xiongnu relations and the first great barbarian war of Chinese history. ChicagoBoyz readers interested in military history, the ancient world, or contemporary Chinese strategy will find it of interest.

    The first part, which summarizes Luttwak’s essay and sketches the Han’s antebellum strategy for dealing with the nomads, can be read here.

    The second part, which narrates the course of the war itself and analyzes the tactics the Han used to defeat the Xiongnu, can be read here.

    I welcome comments from ChicagoBoyz readers on the contents of either post.

    Posted in China, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Ukraine as an arms exporter

    Posted by onparkstreet on 2nd September 2014 (All posts by )

    From a comment I wrote at SWJ. The part about Churchill is not directed at anyone here, or toward any of the recent posts. It occurs in my comment because of the heated rhetoric used about Ukraine by some:

    “Ukraine a top small arms exporter?

    Ah, yes, I remember well Churchill’s fiery speeches on Ukrainian small arms exports….

    It’s almost like the majority of western foreign policy commentators, think tank analysts, the NYT, the Washington Post, every “fearful of being ostracized by the in-crowd” crony for the DC consensus, are completely and utterly full of it. (Well, not everybody, naturally):

    Ukraine, unlike many other successor states of the Soviet Union, inherited a large and sophisticated defense industry when the USSR fell apart. It exports $1.3 billion worth of arms annually and according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute was the ninth largest arms exporter in the world between 2008 and 2012.
    BREAK
    The military in Ukraine has suffered from the same neglect and mismanagement as the rest of the country. Ukrainian military personnel have taken part in coalition operations in the Balkans and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ukrainian officers have attended professional military educational institutions in the United States and other NATO countries. Over the years, in meetings with Ukrainian officers, I have seen the beneficial impact on them from this experience. But the fact remains that the military, like many other Ukrainian institutions, has suffered at the hands of a crony capitalist state dominated by a corrupt elite with little interest in state- or nation-building, but plenty of interest in enriching itself.
    .
    Ukraine needs help, but the kind of help it needs cannot be reduced to shipments of military hardware. It needs to reform its armed forces and its law enforcement. The conflict with Russia remains a threat, but the bigger and immediate threat is the proliferation of militias, gangs and separatists in eastern Ukraine, where effective action by a competent police force loyal to the state and the nation could have prevented the tragedy that is unfolding there now. Many law enforcement personnel were cashiered en masse following the revolution. That has created a security vacuum and, one suspects, provided plenty of able recruits to help fill the separatists’ ranks.

    Link

    Bremer II and the disbanded Iraqi Army.

    The US/NATO and EU make a play for Ukraine–which has been going on for twenty years in a mixed up way with genuine desire to help the state–and has only enabled this process, hasn’t it? Just as in Afghanistan, so too in Ukraine.

    Perhaps official DC is simply embarrassed by its serial failures since the end of the Cold War and wanted a “win” at any cost? That the Russians were more realistic about their proxies doesn’t mean that the answer is now for the US to shovel more aid toward our proxies. The poor Ukrainian people, but, then again, this is what happens when corrupt elites (and well meaning internal and external modernizers) are encouraged by outsiders with fantasies of using the Ukrainian state for its own power plays and expansionism.

    In a multifactorial world, why can’t we talk about the multiple factors in Russia, Ukraine, and the US/EU/NATO that have all led toward this point? I suppose propagandizers can’t use real understanding to grandstand, so they simplify.”

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Two Good Analyses of the Gaza War

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Strategy Page has a very interesting discussion of how Israel’s military has learned and adapted from its failures in the 2006 Lebanon war:

    After the 2006 war Israel realized two things; its military was still superior to Arab forces and its military was not as superior as Israel believed it was. The major Israeli deficiency was communications. What the Arabs, or at least Iran-backed Hezbollah, had done was learned to move faster and more resourcefully than the Israelis expected. What really shocked the Israelis was that although they could spot and track these Hezbollah moves they could not get artillery, aircraft or ground troops moved quickly enough to take out a lot of identified targets before the enemy managed to change position. All the different levels of Israeli headquarters and combat units could actually communicate with each other, but not fast enough to hit a target that had been identified and located but was not staying put long enough for the completion of all the procedures and paperwork required to get the strike order sent to the unit best able to carry it out.
     
    The solution was new technology and procedures. Since 2006 Israel has built a new communications system that is faster and able, according to Israeli claims, to hit a lot more targets than the 2006 era forces could manage. Much of the solution had nothing to do with radical new hardware but to simply standardizing the procedures everyone had long used to call for fire, or to deliver it. Now commanders at all levels can see the same data and call for and receive fire support quickly. Thus when a target is identified the bombs, shells or ground attack follows quickly. Everyone was shown how easy, and damaging it was to underestimate the enemy. In training exercises the “enemy” is controlled by Israeli troops with ordered to be imaginative and try real hard to not get spotted and hit. It’s been amazing what these “enemy” troops come up, and necessary to keep this secret so that the real enemy does not find out.

    While we withdraw from the world in the face of external threats, downsizing our military, slow-walking R&D and firing thousands of experienced NCOs and mid-level officers, other countries are learning and adapting. Not all of those countries are our allies.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Some World War I Book Recommendations

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th August 2014 (All posts by )

    A friend asked for recommendations for books about World War I. I responded with the following list. I have read all of the books on the list. There are many books I have heard of and I am sure are good, but I only put ones I have read myself on the list.

    Please list any favorites I have missed in the comments.

    [Jonathan adds: Please also let us know if any of the book links don’t work or if we have overlooked a link to a public-domain edition of any of these books.]

    Memoirs:

    Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel — essential

    Also by Junger, Copse 125 — a good addendum, depicting the German Army in the closing months of the war.

    Erwin Rommel, Infantry Attacks — pure nuts and bolts infantry fighting, zero philosophizing

    Frederick Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune (also @ Project Gutenberg) — the enlisted man’s view

    Robert Graves, Good-Bye to All That — classic, on every short list

    Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer — very solid, not quite so literary as Graves

    Sidney Rogerson, Twelve Days on the Somme: A Memoir of the Trenches November 1916

    also by Rogerson, The Last of the Ebb: The Battle of the Aisne 1918 — both down to earth depictions

    Herbert Hoover, the first volume of his memoirs has a section on the outbreak of World War I and his involvement in getting food into occupied Belgium. An unusual, informative and fascinating perspective. The book can be had for pennies (free here, or on Amazon).

    The novel by Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March is very good on Austria Hungary up to the outbreak of the war. It is a great favorite of mine.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 34 Comments »

    Why Foley wasn’t rescued.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th August 2014 (All posts by )

    The Delta Force raid on the Syrian ISIS camp failed to rescue any hostages. They had been moved. Now we know why.

    Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”

    This is a reflex reaction of Obama to any call for action. He delays and thinks and worries about the politics. It has been reported that Obama delayed the bin Laden raid three times.

    President Barack Obama — at the urging of senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden three times before finally approving the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL mission, according to a book scheduled to be released next month.

    In “Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him,” Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March, The Daily Caller reports

    It isn’t just the conservative press but Hillary Clinton even says so.

    Through weeks of sometimes heated White House debate in 2011, Clinton was alone among the president’s topmost cabinet officers to back it. Vice President Biden, a potential political rival for Clinton in 2016, opposed it. So did then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

    The optics and the political fallout were most of his concerns. In the case of Captain Phillips of the ship hijacked by Somali pirates, reports have circulated that Obama delayed the SEALS raid several times as he agonized over the decision.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism, Vietnam | 16 Comments »

    History Friday: Secrets of the Pacific Warfare Board — Block III TV in the Invasion of Japan, Fourth of an Occasional Series

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th August 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the more interesting things in researching the end of World war II (WW2) in the Pacific is the way certain individuals or certain technologies keep showing up over and over again. Whenever flame tanks come up in Pacific histories, you find the name Col. George Unmacht. When you see the Brodie Device, Lt and later Captain Brodie is not far behind. This is pattern is something most academic diplomatic or military history researchers miss, either because their various thesis’s are too narrow to see that pattern for them. Or if they do, it is an exercise in minutia that doesn’t make the cut. This is a great loss to the general public.

    Fortunately for you, I’m not an academic and I like what they consider minutia.

    It turns out in Ryan Crierie and my latest adventures through the record groups in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), found one of those discarded patterns, in spades, with Dr. Vladimir Zworykin’s Block III television technology. The technology crossed over from the General Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific Warfare Board, to the ‘Sphinx Project’ files of the US Army’s New Developments Division in the Pentagon, to Army Air Force Records Group 18 (RG18), to Secretary of War Stimson’s RG107 “secret consultant” files of Dr. W.B. Shockley and then, finally, to the US Navy’s Secret Weapons files. The darned thing showed up everywhere, to include the cancelled by Japanese surrender Cadillac III Airborne Early Warning (AEW) planes as a data down link. This “Where’s Waldo” performance across NARA explained a number of questions Ryan and I both had on how the heck MacArthur got what amounted to a crewed UAV surveillance system

    <strong>This is a photograph of the installation of block III TV Camera in the Stinson L-5 Sentinel. This aircraft  was a World War II era liaison aircraft used by all branches of the U.S. military and by the British Royal Air Force.  It was slated to play the role of a "Manned UAV" providing live television of the invasion of Japan.</strong>

    This is a photograph of the installation of block III TV Camera in the Stinson L-5 Sentinel. This aircraft was a World War II era liaison aircraft used by all branches of the U.S. military and by the British Royal Air Force. It was slated to play the role of a “Manned UAV” providing live television of the invasion of Japan.

    According to the US Army Air Force files, there were 2,500 of Zworykin’s Block III television seekers built for all the various War and Navy Department programs it was involved with by December 1944.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    History Friday: Oliver P. Morton, The Great War Governor

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by )

    I mentioned Oliver P. Morton, the Governor of Indiana during the Civil War, in this post.

    The statue in front of the Indiana state house has a plaque which says he shall “ever to be known in history as
 The Great War Governor.” When the Union veterans who built the state house and put up the statue were alive, I am sure they believed the heroic deeds of the war would “ever be known … .”

    But one of the lessons of history is the fleetingness of fame. The things that move and inspire one generation are rejected by the next, or simply forgotten. This is especially true in America, where we are a forward looking people and typically not terribly concerned about what happened in the past. Henry Ford spoke for America when he said history is more or less bunk.

    This short article from the Indiana Historical Bureau, entitled OLIVER P. MORTON AND CIVIL WAR POLITICS IN INDIANA is worth reading.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, History, Military Affairs, Politics, Quotations, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    History Friday — The WMD Back-Up Plans for the Atomic Bomb

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th August 2014 (All posts by )

    It has become something of a tradition for Leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.

    I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth destroying commemorations of my own explaining why Leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:

    2013 — History Friday: US Military Preparations The Day Nagasaki Was Nuked
    2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
    2011 – Happy V-J Day!
    2010 – Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Joband
    Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 years

    Today’s column addressing those myths is about the weapons of mass destruction back-up plans for the Atomic bomb. They were in many ways worse than the A-bomb and there was more than one — two coming from the Sphinx Project, one from General Douglas MacArthur — and they all involved the use of poison gas, American, Australian, and amazingly enough captured German nerve gas!

    German 250-kg Chemical Bombs capable of carrying Phosgene, Mustard or Nerve gases, formerly in the Chemical Corps Museum’s collection (U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum, C. 1950)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs, Okinawa 65, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    The Borg

    Posted by onparkstreet on 6th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply. In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power. So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country). In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.” And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.
     
    In this century, a full-scale second “Defense Department,” the Department of Homeland Security, was created. Around it has grown up a mini-version of the military-industrial complex, with the usual set of consultants, K Street lobbyists, political contributions, and power relations: just the sort of edifice that President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his famed farewell address in 1961. In the meantime, the original military-industrial complex has only gained strength and influence.

    Link

    The technocratic-elite is just as much a part of it, and the part of Eisenhower’s address that people often leave out. I’d include a certain connected gaggle of military “intellectuals” and think tank or “private” military analysts I was stupid enough to spend so much time reading. Most of what I learned was a waste of time.

    A total bunch of weirdos and it’s my fault for wasting my time.

    It seems strange to me that conservatives would assume that the American military or our alliances would remain immune from the complexities of the human heart and its varied motivations such as fear, pride, anger, greed, do-gooderism, meaning-wellism, and the rest of it.

    NATO today is a nation building exercise tied to an economic bloc, the EU, and to our own large economy. It is no longer a pristine defensive alliance, if it ever was that, it is an expansionary competitive bloc that strives not only to incorporate others but to use that incorporation to re-engineer societies. How is it conservative to ignore that aspect of it, now, today, in 2014?

    If one does think it is important as a defensive alliance, then this aspect needs to be understood because it is hollowing out real defensive capabilities (“a global NATO”, I am talking to you) and hollering about Putin or lack of funding for Ukraine doesn’t change the fact that the billions spent by the alliance, still, somehow, is not enough to do its job. Well, unless its job is to make money and increase the power and funding of bureaucrats and their agencies. Then, it’s doing a mighty fine job.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Europe, Military Affairs | 12 Comments »

    Revolving Doors

    Posted by onparkstreet on 5th August 2014 (All posts by )

    From Pat Lang’s blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis:

    “- DNI Clapper perjured himself before the US Senate and was allowed to apologize and stay on.

    – General Keith Alexander has gone into business in retirement for the purpose of selling cyberwarfare knowledge that rightly belongs to the American people.

    – John Brennan is now revealed as yet another liar. He told everyone who would listen that CIA had not hacked its way into computers belonging to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). Now the CIA IG has produced a report that states the opposite. Brennan has apologized to the senate. That is not enough. The SSCI’s role is oversight of the CIA. Under Brennan’s command CIA tried to escape that oversight.”

    Link

    The national security state is a bureaucracy that is rapacious, it grows and never slows in its growth; politicians, reporters, analysts, retired military, retired civilian bureaucrats, routinely trade on connections and insiderism and then go on television and basically say whatever comes to mind, precious little of it correlating with reality. But you have to look for it, you can’t assume that you know if you don’t look. I’m not saying I’m right, but I am saying that I’m tired of closing my eyes to the phenomenon.

    Posted in Human Behavior, International Affairs, Military Affairs | 10 Comments »

    Future History Friday — China’s Coming “Days of Future Past”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 25th July 2014 (All posts by )

    This Friday column on Chicago Boyz is normally reserved for the unknown stories of the End of World War 2 (WW2) in the Pacific, aimed at answering the question of “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 had the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column, takes a completely different tack from any previous History Friday column. Rather than deconstructing the P-51 narrative, being a book review — See this link and this link — or exploring the moral character of the IDF’s Barak Brigade on the Golan Heights in 1973, this column will use the military geography of the past to explore the near future. And in specific, it will use the military geography of the 1945 Okinawa campaign and the proposed invasion of Japan, to explore the patterns of “future history” between Japan and China in the coming age of Unmanned Warfare. It is a column about China’s coming “Days of Future Past.”

    <strong>The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of the unarmed Global Hawk aircraft to Japan for the first time at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.  This move greatly enhances the U.S. military’s efforts to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea, Chinese naval operations in the region and respond to natural disasters and assist in humanitarian aid operations.</strong>

    The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of the unarmed Global Hawk aircraft to Japan for the first time at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. This move greatly enhances the U.S. military’s efforts to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea, Chinese naval operations in the region and respond to natural disasters and assist in humanitarian aid operations.

    To begin at the beginning, see this Defense One column and this AP Column on the arrival of American Global Hawk Drones in Japan and Japan’s announcement that it is now a “Normal Power,” one that is able to sell arms internationally.

    And in particular pay close attention to this passage from those links:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, History, Japan, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 27 Comments »