"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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The base at Hellenikon was often under siege and sometimes physically so; before, during and after I was stationed there in the early 1980s; regularly once a year when the local national employees went on strike, and blockaded the front gate, and now and again by anti-US and anti-NATO protesters. Although there was a Greek Air Force installation right next to the American base, there was no passage between the two, unlike the base at Zaragoza, where Spanish and American personnel had pretty much free passage between their respective halves of the facility. In the case of striking workers, or hostile protestors at the main – and only entrance – those of us inside the base were stuck there, while those outside were also cut off. Only one year did it become a problem lasting more than a single day – but it was an inconvenience for us all, and particularly frightening for family members.
And I was remembering all of that, this weekend, reading about how Incirlik Air Base – which also used to be called Adana Air Base – was cut off for about a day this weekend, after having commercial power cut off for nearly a week by Turkish civil authorities, in the wake of an attempted coup against a president who strong-armed himself into office by side-stepping the established rules. Read the rest of this entry »
The Wall Street Journal is not exactly on board with the “Leave” vote or certainly with Trump but this is pretty good.
The vote by the people of the United Kingdom to separate from the European Union was actually Brexit the Sequel. The first Brexit vote took place 35 years ago in the United States, with the election of Ronald Reagan, who carried 44 states.
Reagan, in his first inaugural address in 1981, could not have been more explicit about what his election stood for: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Brexit is shorthand for “government is the problem.”
Liberal intellectuals have mocked Reagan for reducing his theory of government to a bumper sticker. But he elaborated on the idea with words that would have fit in the Founders’ debates:
“We have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”
Reagan is being misrepresented by a lot of Republicans these days. They don’t remember what a radical he was in GOP eyes back in 1976. I do.
In a November 12, 1974 column appearing in the Washington Post on a potential 1976 challenge by Reagan to incumbent Establishment GOP President Gerald Ford, (titled “Ronald Reagan, the GOP and ’76”), Will wrote of Reagan: “But Reagan is 63 and looks it. His hair is still remarkably free of gray. But around the mouth and neck he looks like an old man. He’s never demonstrated substantial national appeal, his hard core support today consists primarily of the kamikaze conservatives who thought the 1964 Goldwater campaign was jolly fun. And there’s a reason to doubt that Reagan is well suited to appeal to the electorate that just produced a Democratic landslide. If a Reagan third party would just lead the ‘Nixon was lynched’ crowd away from the Republican Party and into outer darkness where there is a wailing and gnashing of teeth, it might be at worst a mixed course for the Republican Party. It would cost the party some support, but it would make the party seem cleansed.”
Will certainly has a way with words. The Administrative State has come to the end of its usefulness, if it ever had any.
A common criticism of the pro side of the gun debate is that it is unwilling to get behind common sense reforms to improve things in the realm of firearms. I would say this is nonsense and that there are plenty of legislative reforms that the pro side would get behind. Here is a selection.
Eliminate ageism and sexism in 10 USC 311 by extending membership in the unorganized militia to be equal to the organized militia. We’re not in the 1950s anymore but this law has not been updated since 1958.
Pass a sense of the Congress resolution that the unorganized militia is a part of the security system of the United States of America and that like all other parts of the security system shall be regularly evaluated on how it can be made more effective.
Encourage the increase and enhancement of responsible gun culture to spread beyond the current concealed carry community to the general public with the goal of reducing the general gun crime rate of the general public to approximate that of the concealed carry community.
Demonstrating responsible gun ownership to a state via a concealed carry license in one’s state of residence shall be treated like a drivers license and recognized throughout the country.
Via Instapundit, this Weekly Standard piece on the next Hezbollah-Israel war is a bit naive. Yes, it is wise for Israel to make preemptive PR efforts to justify its self-defense against the missile attacks that Hezbollah will certainly launch from densely populated civilian areas in any future war, with the intent of maximizing civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. However, a USA that is led by a Democratic administration that is at best lukewarm about Israel, and that may be predisposed to seek accommodations from Israel’s enemies, will not necessarily do much to help Israel in such an event. Obama was obviously hostile to Israel during the 2014 Gaza war, even though he was careful not to say so publicly and to frame his anti-Israel actions in deniable terms. Would a Hillary administration, anchored as Obama’s is in far-left Democratic Party politics, be much better? It might be, since Obama’s anti-Israel/anti-Jewish animus is extreme for an American president, and he was trying to appease Iran for much of his presidency. Hillary is unlikely to be so eager to accommodate Israel’s (and America’s) enemies. OTOH, the US Left is now thoroughly hostile to Israel as well as to any US action to protect its traditional overseas interests. So, who knows.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th June 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It is amazing the things you find out while writing a book review. In this case, a review of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II. The book is thoroughly revisionist in that it posits that there were no real decisive land battles in WW2. The human and material attrition in those “decisive battles” was so small relative to major combatants’ production rates that losses from them were easily replaced until Anglo-American air-sea superiority — starting in the latter half of 1944 — strangled Germany and Japan. Coming from the conservative side of the historical ledger, I had a lot of objections to O’Brien’s book starting with some really horrid mistakes on WW2 airpower in the Pacific.
However, my independent research on General MacArthur’s Section 22 radar hunters in the Philippines proved one of the corollaries of O’Brien’s thesis — Namely that the Imperial Japanese were a fell WW2 high tech foe, punching in a weight class above the Soviet Union — was fully validated with a digitized microfilm from the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) at Maxwell AFB, Alabama detailing the size, scope and effectiveness of the radar network Imperial Japan deployed in the Philippines.
The microfilm reel A7237 photoshop below is a combination of three scanned microfilm images of an early December 1944 radar coverage map of the Philippines. It shows 32 separate Imperial Japanese Military radar sites that usually had a pair of Japanese radars each (at lease 64 radars total), based upon the Japanese deployment patterns found and documented in Section 22 “Current statements” from January thru March 1945 elsewhere in the same reel.
This is a early December 1944 Japanese radar coverage map made by Section 22, GHQ, South West Pacific Area. It was part of the Section 22 monthly report series.
This Section 22 created map — taken from dozens of 5th Air Force and US Navy aerial electronic reconnaissance missions — showed Japanese radar coverage at various altitudes and was used by Admiral Halsey’s carrier fleet (See route E – F on the North Eastern Luzon area of the map) to strike both Clark Field and Manila Harbor, as well as by all American & Australian military services to avoid Japanese radar coverage to strike the final Japanese military reinforcement convoys, “Operation TA”, of the Leyte campaign. Read the rest of this entry »
Supervisory control and data acquisition – SCADA refers to ICS (industrial control systems) used to control infrastructure processes (water treatment, wastewater treatment, gas pipelines, wind farms, etc), facility-based processes (airports, space stations, ships, etc,) or industrial processes (production, manufacturing, refining, power generation, etc).
I don’t see Trump voters as doing anything noble or particularly courageous but it is a risk and many of us are willing to take it.
Fernandez uses the example of Torpedo Squadron 8 which was a factor in the success of the US Navy in the Battle of Midway. John Waldron did not sacrifice his men and his own life voluntarily but he had a mission and he carried it out in spite of everything that stood in his way. The fighters of Fighting 8 that were supposed to provide cover got lost in the confusion. According to Alvin Kernan’s book The Unknown Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the American Torpedo Squadrons, other pilots nearly attacked the leader of Fighting 8 after the battle.
Fernandez uses the sacrifice of Waldron and Torpedo 8 as a metaphor for the 2016 election while remembering the crucial battle fought 74 years ago today.
While the path leading to the present is disputed, no one appears to deny America has now arrived in a critical place whose abnormality is most evident in a contest between two presidential candidates neither of whom is widely supported by their nominating parties. None of the two candidates is actually expected to solve the multiple foreign policy and domestic crises currently besetting the country. In fact one candidate may have helped cause many of the current problems while the other’s main attraction is that he may function as a demolition charge which will clear out the roadblocks that have paralyzed America.
If political columnist Ron Fournier is right about this election cycle, it is less about achieving incremental policy change than precipitating a radical institutional change. In that case the current unpopularity contest can be seen as an deliberate process to increase instability by hoping the worst man wins, not in order to continue the status quo but to tear things down and start afresh.
I think it is more important to stop the trends initiated by Obama and the increasingly radical Democrats than to attempt any serious foreign policy initiative.
I don’t remember much of the Second World War although I was alive for all of it. I can remember being taught some of the WWII songs, like “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Mairzy Doats.”
Most of the friends and relatives of military age went in and most returned after it was over. Not all did and the man in Bud Kerrison’s squadron who sent me the medals in the photo, was shot down and killed before I received them.
Here, I am saluting Bud Kerrison before he went overseas. He had completed bombardier training. He served in the North African Theater and flew 50 missions, from June 1943 to January, 1944. He served in The 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Squadron.
His B 17 was named by the pilot, “Spirit of Phyllis” after his girlfriend or wife and also after an earlier plane that had crash landed in England, named “Phyllis.”
There is “Phyllis” after the crash landing in England.
When the war ended, the guys all came home and my parents had parties for them.
That is one of the parties in 1946. My father is behind the bar and Bud Kerrison is also behind the bar with Pat Neary who would later marry a friend of Bud’s named Frank Flanagan. Frank stayed in Chicago after that although his father had been Chief of Detectives in Philadelphia. Pat’s father was an Inspector in the Chicago PD so they were a police family. I have previously recounted the story of Frank.
Well, we all get old. Bud did too and is gone now.
There he is with his kids who are now all grown. I would love to have been able to take him up in a B 17 as I did my son for a birthday present a few years ago.
Today I drove through the gate at the nearby Marine Corps base. The young Lance Corporal who was faithfully executing his General Orders at the gate checked my ID card, saluted smartly, and wished me a “happy holiday weekend.” I’m not sure I can have that, frankly, for the similar reason that a devout Christian may think it strange to be wished a “Happy Easter.” It just doesn’t make sense when you examine what those holidays are about.
To me Memorial Day is intensely personal. I’ve had varying levels of a relationship with 15 Marines and Sailors who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most of these men lost their lives in combat, but some lost their lives training for combat, too. Their deaths are still tragic–they were undertaking essentially the same tasks, doing dangerous work, and for the same ultimate goal.
Most of these guys are aviators. One was a UH-1 crew chief that I flew in combat with on dozens of occasions. I overflew over the wreckage which contained the remains of two of the pilots back in July, 2010. One of the 15 was a tank officer. Two were infantry officers. One was a special operations officer. One was a C2 officer. One of them was my “On-Wing” going through flight school (which means that he was the pilot who taught me how to fly).
15 irreplaceable lives.
I think about these men every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.
I hate this holiday–every second of it. I hope you hate it too. Happy Memorial Day–my ass.
In China Restructures for War we find that China’s armed forces have reorganized even while they continue a rapid upgrade in the quality of their weapons systems.
China’s officially-disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms from 2006 through 2015, and Chinese leaders seem committed to sustaining defense spending growth for the foreseeable future.
During 2015, the PLA continued to improve key capabilities that would be used in theater contingencies, including cruise missiles; short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles; high performance aircraft; integrated air defense networks; information operations capabilities; and amphibious and airborne assault units. The PLA is developing and testing new intermediate- and medium-range conventional ballistic missiles as well as long range, land-attack, and anti-ship cruise missiles, which once operational would extend the military’s reach and push adversary forces further from potential regional conflicts. China is also focusing on counter-space, offensive cyber operations, and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities meant to deny adversaries the advantages of modern, information technology-driven warfare.
China has built a number of military outposts around the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Subi Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and Gaven Reef.
Over the past 15 years, China’s ambitious naval modernization program has produced a more technologically advanced and flexible force. The PLAN now possesses the largest number of vessels in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships, and patrol craft. China is rapidly retiring legacy combatants in favor of larger, multi-mission ships equipped with advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors. China continues its gradual shift from “near sea” defense to “far seas” protection…
In 2015, the PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, certified its first cohort of domestically trained J-15 operational pilots. The air wing is expected to deploy on the carrier in 2016. China also began construction of its first domestic aircraft carrier and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years. Even when fully operational, Liaoning will not enable long-range power projection similar to U.S. NIMITZ class carriers. Liaoning’s smaller size limits the number of aircraft it can embark, while the ski-jump configuration limits aircraft fuel and ordnance loads. Liaoning will possibly be used for fleet air defense missions, extending air cover over a fleet operating far from land-based coverage. Although it possesses a full suite of weapons and combat systems, Liaoning will probably continue to play a significant role in training China’s carrier pilots, deck crews, and developing tactics that will be used with later, more capable carriers.
In his talk Chinese Views, Strategy and Geopolitics, Robert Kaplan sees China in the early 21st century as was the United States in the early 20th century, an emerging world military and economic power. In that respect, he says, China considers the South China Sea as the USA considers the Gulf of Mexico, a strategic naval zone it intends to dominate. With the Monroe Doctrine, the USA warned European colonial powers that the Americas were off limits to them, and with the Spanish American War the USA removed the last colonial influence and outpost from the region. We may see a similar attempt by China to remove American, Japanese, Philippine or any other influence or outpost from the South China Sea and possibly further.
Perhaps most worrying, China is engaging in a prolonged domestic campaign of anti-American rhetoric and propaganda. The only possible purpose for that, from my point of view, is to ideologically prepare its populace for war. And seeing Glasnost as a dangerous example of a loss of political control leading to societal breakup, it is redoubling political conditioning in its military, including an expansion of political commissars and checkists inside the chain of command with a purpose is to ensure ideological purity and loyalty.
The F-35B reached initial operational capability (IOC) with US Marine Corps in July of 2015. There are three models of this aircraft, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A which will reach IOC with the USAF this year, the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B, and the folding wing, heavy airframe, carrier version F-35C, which is due to reach IOC with the USN in 2018. Evolved from the JSF competition prototype, this aircraft is due to replace the F-15, F-16, F-18, AV-8B, and for some CAS missions the A-10, although there are rumors the USAF is considering opening a competition to replace the A-10 with a new aircraft.
Currently the aircraft is nearing the end of the test and evaluation phase and is in low-rate initial production. Lockheed is preparing to ramp up to full rate production in the near future at its massive Fort-Worth aircraft plant. To say this aircraft is controversial is an understatement and it has been the target of enormous criticism, speculation and western leftist and Russian disinformation campaigns. Probably the most egregious lie told is that $1.5 trillion has been spent on aircraft development thus far. In reality, around $1 trillion is the estimated total cost of ownership for the entire US buy of 2500+ aircraft for 50 years. That includes purchasing all the aircraft, bases, schools, pilot training, tech training, maintenance and spare parts. Politics and disinformation warfare being what it is though, the number increases whenever convenient just to increase its scariness and to make it seem as astounding as possible. It turns out, however and unsurprisingly, that if those numbers are run for any fighter aircraft you get similar or greater costs over that timeframe.
Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.
This around-about way of explaining how all this last week, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB last Friday morning – nearly a week ago. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st April 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
America’s incompetently planned and led wars in the Middle East have acted as a biological process of evolutionary selection that has been creating nastier and more lethal terrorist organizations. This has happened because of the fecklessness of America’s political leaders. (Bing West covers that political fecklessness and the selective pressures on our Islamist enemies in his article America the Weak.)
Nowhere is this selective pressure seen better than with the evolution of ISIS and its adoption of “Auftragstaktik” in order to execute terrorist operations.
“Auftragstaktik” is a German military term that is loosely translated in English as “Mission Tactics”. According to the UK Daily Mail, the terrorist organization ISIS has adopted “Auftragstaktik” as a central organizing theme because Western signals intelligence destroyed other Islamic terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda that tried to be more centrally directed.
ISIS figured out that if you give a leader resources, a target, and a time to get it done, then tell him to get it done however he can, you will get big, nasty and above all successful terrorist attacks in western nations, because such methods do not require detectable electronic communications.
See this UK Daily Mail clip:
The bloodthirsty militant group admitted to following the technique in a recent issue of Dar al-Islam, its French-language propaganda magazine.
It was this strategy of warfare that led to the November 13 Paris attacks, in which 130 people died, and the Brussels bombings two weeks ago that killed another 32.
The doctrine was first developed in the early 19th century in Prussia in response to the state’s crushing defeat against Napoleon.
This new theory of war – which gave troops the skills to respond to rapidly changing circumstances in the heat of battle – was then refined by general Carl von Clausewitz.
Later fellow Prussian general Moltke the Elder further tweaked his theory, ushering in a new way of commanding modern-day armies.
Today, similar tactics form a crucial component of the U.S. and UK armies military training.
The February ISIS article, which was devoted almost entirely to the Paris bombings, explained that its jihad in Europe encompasses three types of attacks.
This includes ambitious mass slaughter plots carried out by operatives sent from ISIS headquarters in the Middle East, to lone-wolf attacks by people with no connection whatsoever to the group.
It even cited a historical German infantry manual from 1908 as its inspiration.
The soldiers’ manual stated: ‘There is nothing more important than educating the soldier to think and act for himself.
‘Autonomy and his sense of honor push him to do his duty even when it is not in front of his superior.’
According to SOFREP.com, this style of warfare – known in the U.S. as mission-type tactics – translates to: ‘Here is your target, here are your assets, go get it done.’
This, ISIS claimed, allowed its cells to inflict terror in Europe with ‘complete tactical autonomy’ and leaves little evidence that can link back to their commanders.
This ISIS “Auftragstaktik” model will be replicated and improved upon. This will not end well.
We have sowed the wind, now we reap the whirlwind.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 24th March 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Today in Europe, in the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, a dark truth stands reveled about the nature of the Belgian state. Belgium is a failed state at the heart of Europe…and much of the rest of Europe is following.
Belgium quite literally lacks the military means to enforce the sovereignty of the Belgian state in the Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek in Brussels, the Belgian Capitol.
The following is via John R. Schindler of The UK Observer:
We should expect more guerrilla-like attacks like Brussels yesterday: moderate in scale, relatively easy to plan and execute against soft targets, and utterly terrifying to the public. At some point, angry Europeans, fed up with their supine politi1cal class, will begin to strike back, and that’s when the really terrifying scenarios come into play. European security services worry deeply about the next Anders Breivik targeting not fellow Europeans, but Muslim migrants. “We’re just one Baruch Goldstein away from all-out war,” explained a senior EU terrorism official, citing the American-born Israeli terrorist, fed up with Palestinian violence, who walked into a Hebron mosque in 1994, guns blazing, and murdered 29 innocent Muslims.
When that violence comes, a practically disarmed Europe will be all but powerless to stop it. To take the case of Belgium, at the Cold War’s end a generation ago, its army had seven brigades with 18 infantry battalions, plus some 30 more battalions in the reserve. Today, Belgium’s army has only two brigades and six infantry battalions, some 3,000 bayonets in all. That tiny force would have trouble exerting control over even one bumptious Brussels neighborhood in the event of serious crisis.
…while E.U. Security Forces supporting the Belgians are more concerned with repressing local predominantly white citizens from striking back at terrorist inclined Muslim migrants than dealing with the Muslim problem to begin with.
NB: The EU is now no longer tourist friendly, with all the economic fall out that means.
The political corruption — and ethnic tensions between the Dutch speaking Flems and French speaking Walloons — that dominates the Belgian state make it impossible to remedy the Muslim insurgency there.
Nothing short of Belgian territorial partition between France and Germany can bring effective enough military governance to end the Muslim Insurgency in Brussels.
Given that awful reality, Donald Trump’s idea of reducing America’s role in NATO (Or perhaps even getting out of NATO all together?) is the best thing the USA can do.
Both Vietnam’s and Shia Iraq’s lessons for America’s citizens are that it is a futile waste of American lives and treasure to try and protect people who don’t have either the will nor the means to protect themselves.
A bitter little story made the rounds during the closing days of the Vietnam war:
When the Nixon Administration took over in 1969 all the data on North Vietnam and on the United States was fed into a Pentagon computer – population, gross national product, manufacturing capability, number of tanks, ships, and aircraft, size of the armed forces, and the like.
“I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)
I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.
I’ve posted on Chicago Boyz and other blogs before, but it was a long time ago. Most of it was my work on the Clausewitz Roundtable. I’ve commented here and there, too. I’m happy to count Zen Pundit and Lexington Green as close blog-friends of many years.
I’m back. Some has changed, but not much. I’m still an active-duty US Marine Corps Officer. I’m a major now, not a captain. I’ve been to the sand box a few more times since I last posted an actual blog here. I’ve deployed more than most for my time in service, but less than some. I’m not complaining, just saying.
One thing did happen on my last deployment, in the end of 2014. Toward the end of deployments it’s not uncommon for things to slow down–lots of waiting for things to happen. So you have time to think. In that thinking I started to really question what the hell it is that I’m doing. Why am I fighting? What is it for? I suppose it’s connected to the fact that I was rounding out my fourth deployment to Afghanistan, and doing my small part to assist the Marine Corps with the turnover of Helmand Province to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps. I had deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, 2010, 2012-2013, and then 2014. Throw in an Iraq deployment, some time at sea with the Navy, and some other exercises, and you start to see the makings of a military career in early 21st century America. In any case, I was leading a unit and had a good amount of responsibility. But why? Why had the US come here, made the decisions it did, and why was it now trying to leave? And likewise, why was my Marine Corps doing the same thing? And me? Why was I a part of that?
I have no real regrets about the service rendered for my country. The cost has certainly been steep, personally, though. The family, with each deployment, goes through a great deal of stress, and after about three such deployments, they get harder, not easier, for the family and the soldier to handle. I’ve also lost more friends than I care to count (I can count them out for you, I just don’t want to). There are other costs which are borne, too. But the remuneration has been decent, I suppose. We always managed to be somewhat comfortable. Maybe that was the problem…the comfort?
Part of the expression of gratitude the country has for its military is the pay. For an officer, especially, the pay is quite good. I’m not going to tell you the amount of pay and allowances–that’s publicly available elsewhere. But suffice to say that the military has been quite shielded from the fears and losses of the great recession. Enlisted men and women do well, too, and can occasionally do very well when it comes times for reenlistment in specific occupational fields. Expenses have always been reasonably less than income, on average. There’s been no pressure from the economic environment to really think about my family’s financial situation today, let along 10 or 20 years from now. Yet something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel out of control, but I didn’t feel like I was in charge, either. I had a bit of a feeling of being adrift. The military side of things was very much in control of the situation–I always knew precisely how many people were under my charge, their individual strengths and weaknesses, their state of training and discipline, and their morale. I knew the capabilities of my equipment. I always strove to understand the mission, to lead with vigor, and to “own” my position. I was good at that. But personally and financially? I barely had a financial or a personal life. That had to change.
So I decided to get a handle on things. I started to track every penny–even the pennies I don’t see because they’re “pre-tax” and given to the government for safe keeping until I claim my share back at tax time. I located all of my accounts. I found all of the debts, the interest rates, the amount of interest I was paying. I started tracking expenses, and then cutting them. I’ll be honest–the wife wasn’t exactly thrilled by me looking at things with such magnification. I started to read up on personal finance, investing, and life-planning in general. I read blogs and books, listened to podcasts, and talked with others about how to really order finances these days. And I began to radically alter our financial course. We paid all our debts, we bought a house (so, in actuality, we have one mortgage now). We’ve rented out our basement to a tenant. And we now save about 40% of all our pre-tax income. We’re not where I want to be yet, but we’re getting there. I’m not leaving anything to chance any longer, unless it’s a calculated chance intentionally taken. Every expense is now deliberately taken.
I also decided to look for some hobbies. Being a military man has a way of becoming an all-encompassing experience. Your friends are basically military colleagues. Your work is military work. Military people know about “mandatory fun”–those obligatory nights spent with comrades and often with superiors. Your wardrobe is decided for you. Where you live is decided. My task was to carve out a bit of this life and make it mine. I had to get new friends and do new things with different groups of people. That would add richness to my life. I’ve done that, and I’m still doing that.
I’ve been working on the above things–redirecting our financial life and reordering how I spend time–for a bit over a year now. The changes have been pretty dramatic. Looking back, I realize that up until I took command of my life I was living in a bit of a fog. With all of the turmoil of military life, the American people do much to make finances reasonably tranquil. This financial tranquility is both a blessing and a curse. You’re never really forced to grapple with the default decisions the consumerist economy makes for you. Nor are you forced to grapple with the reality that politics is not really national. It’s local. Your political power begins with you and those you immediately affect. You need to reclaim that power for yourself. Take charge of the fruits of your labor. Own your day to the extent you can. If you want to descend into the cesspool of national politics, fine–but do it intentionally. In fact, live your life intentionally. A life, intentionally lived, taken to the logical extreme, is the very definition of freedom. That is why I fight, happily, for my country.
I’ll be blogging about my financial journey here, as well as on other things as I see fit.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The US foreign policy conducted by the Obama administration has been a disaster all along. He abandoned Iraq and the rise of ISIS has followed. I have read “Black Flags“, which describes how the al Qeada organization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has morphed into ISIS after Obama pulled US forces out of Iraq. Now, as Richard Fernandez explains in another masterful analysis, Assad is about to rout the last of the non-ISIS opposition.
Reuters reports that Bashal al-Assad’s forces have made major advances behind a major Russian air offensive and are now poised to destroy the non-ISIS rebels opposing the Syrian government is rocking the foreign policy establishment. “After three days of intense fighting and aerial bombardment, regime forces, believed to include Iran-backed Shia militias, broke through to the formerly besieged regime enclaves of Nobul and Zahra.”
The Russians have been surprising US military leaders in ways that are very unpleasant.
The performance of the miniature, “rust bucket” Russian air force has formed an invidious baseline to what the USAF has achieved. The Independent reported:
Their army’s equipment and strategy was “outmoded”; their air force’s bombs and missiles were “more dumb than smart”; their navy was “more rust than ready”. For decades, this was Western military leaders’ view, steeped in condescension, of their Russian counterparts. What they have seen in Syria and Ukraine has come as a shock.
Russian military jets have, at times, been carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month.
We are not serious and the US military has to wonder what will happen if Putin decides to take the Baltic republics.
He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better over the long run through the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »
During the Second World War, a number of Soviet women served as night bomber pilots, flying the obsolescent Polikarpov biplane. A favorite tactic was to cut the engine and glide down almost noiselessly to the bomb-release point, and these flyers were known to the Germans as the “Night Witches.” A smaller number of Russian women flew IL-2 Sturmovik attack planes and also Yak and other fighters. The memoir reviewed here was written by a woman who first flew the biplanes and later became a Sturmovik pilot. (I read the first of the 2 books linked above and only just became aware of the second one; see remarks at the end of this post.)
Anna Egorova begins her memoir with a recollection of her feelings on the day (before the war) when she reported for training to begin her hoped-for career as a professional pilot:
In Unyanovsky, I rushed straight from the train station to the Venets–the highest spot above the Volga. And such an inconceivable space opened up before me from up here, such an expanse that it took my breath away!…And what a wonder, above the Volta covered by young December ice, a rainbow began to shine. It threw its multicoloured yoke from one bank to the other…Yet maybe I had just imagined it? But I was already laughing loudly, sure it was a rainbow and that it was a sign of luck. Again just like back at the Kazan train station in Moscow, waves of joy were coming from my chest and their splashes were curtaining the horizon with a rainbow mist.
Her ecstasy was short-lived, however. Soon she was summoned before the school commandant, informed that her brother had been discovered to be “an enemy of the people,” and she was expelled from the school. (“How could my brother be an enemy of the people? My brother was the people”)
Anna’s hometown was a tiny village, so small that it had only one street. As a teenager, she had been thrilled by the plans for construction of the Moscow Metro, and volunteered as a worker, doing heavy and sometimes dangerous construction work. At the time there was great interest in aviation throughout the Soviet Union; Anna joined a glider club and looked forward to becoming a full-fledged pilot. And when walking to the airfield on the morning of her first powered flight:
Victor Kroutov runs off the footpath, barges into the bushes, and I am presented with the first bouquet of flowers in my life. I am still angry at him but accept the gift.
Everyone stood to attention. A light breeze was blowing in our faces, we were breathing easily and freely. And it was so nice to live in this world, so joyful! I thought that there would be no end to our youth or to our lives…
Anna did well in training and was given the sole “ladies’ ticket” from her class to attend an advanced aviation school, but her anticipated career was derailed by the discovery of her brother’s “treason.” (He had written an article for an economics journal which was reprinted by a British publication.)
Eventually, she was able to reenter the aviation field, and when Nazi Germany invaded, sought to actively participate in the defense. Marina Raskova, a pilot who was famous for her long-distance flights (also a former aspiring opera singer!) had lobbied effectively for female participation in combat aviation. Three female regiments were formed in late 1941 and were active by early 1942. Some women also participated in almost-all-male units.
Her initial service involved flying the Polikarpov biplane on message-delivery missions–apparently many Red Army units lacked functioning radios even at higher command levels–and also for reconnaissance. Navigational instruments and facilities were basically nonexistent, and reaching one’s destination often involved landing near a village and asking someone , “Where am I?” The slow and unarmored biplanes might seem like easy prey for the German Messerschmitts, but it was sometimes possible to evade them by clever maneuvering and by flying very low and slow. (The stall speed of the ME-109 was greater than the top speed of the Polikarpov!)
After 130 missions, Anna wanted to transfer to a ground-attack unit, but met with some initial resistance: “No woman has fought in a Sturmovik yet! Two cannons, two machine-guns, two batteries of rockets, various bombs…Trust my experience–not every good pilot can handle such a machine! Not every good pilot can handle such a machine! Not everyone is capable steering a ‘flying tank,’ of orienting himself in combat conditions while hedge-hopping, bombing, shooting the cannons and machine-guns, launching rockets at rapidly flashing targets, conducting group dog-fights, sending and receiving orders by radio–all at the same time. Think it over!” Anna replied that she had already thought it over, and got this response: “God save us, what a stubborn one! Then do what makes sense to you!”
The two test pilots were in the cockpit of a T-38 trainer flying off the left wing of the new XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, aircraft number 62-0207. They just saw the civilian registered NASA F-104N Starfighter of pilot Joe Walker slide upside down across the top of the huge white bomber, shear off both it’s twin tails and skid sideways, then break in two, killing Walker instantly. Behind the XB-70 Walker’s F-104N tumbled end over end, a pinwheel of bright orange flame nearly six hundred feet long tracing its convulsive death spiral.
The flight was a photo shoot for GE which made the jet engines of all the aircraft being photographed.
The fatal error was including an F 104 star fighter which had unreliable handling characteristics in low speed flight.
The poor safety record of the Starfighter brought the aircraft into the public eye, especially in German Air Force service. Fighter ace Erich Hartmann famously was retired from the Luftwaffe because of his protests against having to deploy the unsafe F-104s. The F-104 was also at the center of the Lockheed bribery scandals, in which Lockheed had given bribes to a considerable number of political and military figures in various nations in order to influence their judgment and secure several purchase contracts; this caused considerable political controversy in Europe and Japan.
It was considered a “widowmaker” at low speed especially takeoff and landing.
The F-104 series all had a very high wing loading (made even higher when carrying external stores). The high angle of attack area of flight was protected by a stick shaker system to warn the pilot of an approaching stall, and if this was ignored, a stick pusher system would pitch the aircraft’s nose down to a safer angle of attack; this was often overridden by the pilot despite flight manual warnings against this practice. At extremely high angles of attack the F-104 was known to “pitch-up” and enter a spin, which in most cases was impossible to recover from. Unlike the twin-engined McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II for example, the F-104 with its single engine lacked the safety margin in the case of an engine failure, and had a poor glide ratio without thrust.
My daughter was nearly ten years old, in that Christmastime of 1990. I was stationed at Zaragoza AB, in the Ebro River Valley of Spain, which was serving as one of the staging bases in Europe for the build-up to the First Gulf War … the effort to liberate Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein seemed to believe that he had a perfect right to occupy, loot and exterminate those opposing him in that small matter. But this is not about that war, particularly – only as it affected those of us located far along the haft of the military spear towards the sharp and pointy end.
Zaragoza was a long-established US base in Spain by then – sufficiently long enough to have grown up a second generation of children born to American servicemen and their Spanish wives. It was sufficiently well-established to have a fairly modern on-base school, which housed the elementary classes in one wing, and the high school in the other. My daughter started there in kindergarten, the very week that we arrived, in 1985, to the day that we departed, six years later, when she started the sixth grade. It was a safe posting, especially considered after my previous assignment to Athens, Greece, where terrorism aimed at American personnel and at the base generally was accepted grimly as an ongoing part of life, like hurricanes along the southern coasts. Read the rest of this entry »
It can only hope to make us so afraid that we do something stupid that either helps it or hurts us. ISIS can only succeed if, blinded by rage and terror, we achieve its goals for it. There are at least two ways that might happen — and one of them is already happening.
Klein listed as “stupid” the refusal to accept Syrian refugees and “resurgent sentiment in America that the West is locked in a war not just with ISIS but with ‘radical Islam'”
I think they expect an attack and are preparing their excuses.
The Meet the Press program on November 22 seemed to set a new theme for the Democrats. First, Hillary this week declared, “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”
Then, Chuck Todd had a Muslim activist “American international human rights lawyer, Arsalan Iftikhar,” who bemoaned the Republicans “Islamophobia.”
Arsalan has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies at DePaul University and he is also a member of the Asian American Journalists Association –
He seems to be a professional Muslim. A few months ago, they had former basketball player Lew Alcindor, now named “Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” to make the same point about peaceful Muslims.
Abdul-Jabbar told host Chuck Todd that terrorists “do not represent the teachings of Islam” and that this misconception makes it “impossible for real Muslims to be understood.”
He continued by saying that he believes the majority of terrorists are a product of their environment, not their religion:
The avoidance of analysis of Islam contrasts sharply with the excoriation accorded Christianity, Israel, and Western Civilization. The Catholic Church sex abuse crisis has received saturation coverage. Distinguished history professor Philip Jenkins, in a book published by Oxford University Press, claims that media coverage distorts the crisis and contributes to anti-Catholic bigotry. Israel’s very right to exist is questioned and, in high profile media, at times denied. Western Civilization is depicted as imperialist, racist, and Orientalist. This politically-correct selective outrage that lambastes the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western Civilization while emphasizing positive images of Muslims only serves further to inoculate Islam from critique.
“Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to describe these murderers. They were called “separatists” and “hostage-takers.” Three years after Sept. 11, many are still apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to rationalize terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are they trying to achieve?
They’re still victims of the delusion that Paul Berman diagnosed after Sept. 11: “It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable.”
. This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don’t want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.”
The morgue filled with the Victims of the Beslan Terrorist Attack..