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  • Archive for the 'War and Peace' Category

    Terror Is Glamour as War is Game

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the necessary simultaneity of temporal and eternal perspectives ]
    .

    quote-terror-is-glamour-salman-rushdie

    **

    First as to glamour -– it may help to reflect that glamour, our word, comes not from Vogue but from the same origins as grammar (referring to languages) and grimoire (a book of spells, spelling also being a matter of language), and means something along the lines of “luminous illusion”. If we say terror is glamour, then, we mean that it “casts a spell” — and thus creates an appealing, indeed compelling, mirage. It lies, then, in the realm of magic, image, imagination, so ably delineated by Ioan Couliano in his great book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.

    The best of contemporary advertising draws on precisely the same Renaissance principles of persuasion — principles of extraordinary power which we nowadays tend to dismiss as “magical thinking”.

    **

    Thus Virginia Postrel, in Terror Is Glamour:

    Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows. All invite us to imagine escape and transformation.

    Postrel continues:

    From Achilles and Alexander to “national greatness,” the glamour of battle is remarkably persistent. So is the glamour of martyrdom, as any trip through a Western museum or perusal of a Lives of the Saints (or its Protestant equivalent) will demonstrate. Nor is martyrdom’s appeal to Christians merely historical, as Eliza Griswold reported in this 2007 TNR piece.
    .
    Glamour appeals to our desires, whatever they may be, and Jihadi glamour offers something for everyone: from historical importance to union with God, not to mention riches and beautiful women.

    Postrel then quotes Egyptian cleric Hazem Sallah Abu Isma’il, indicating that the “beautiful women” in question are “black-eyed virgins” from a world conceptually above our own:

    If one of these virgins were to descend to this world, her light would extinguish the light of the sun and the moon. That’s how beautiful she is.

    Yet as Postrel comments, “glamour proves perishable”:

    As Rushdie suggests, of course, glamour always leaves something out, in this case the literally gory details of the act .. Either aspirations change, entropy and boredom set in, or the audience learns too much, destroying the mystery and grace on which glamour’s beautiful illusion depends.

    She concludes with a significant question and preliminary response:

    How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.

    That may seem like CVE 101, but the deeper our understanding of magic, imagination, image — and hence the power of glamour — the deeper our understanding of the deep problem that CVE presents will become.

    **

    Next we turn to Richard Fernandez, writing in A Bellyful of War, picking up the themes of war’s attraction, and the carnage its glamour omits from mention, and tying both to the notions of war as game and war as brutal reality:

    William Tecumseh Sherman understood what many modern theorists have forgotten: war can be attractive to young men for as long as long as it remains a game. War in small doses is supremely thrilling, even glamorous. It is peace which can be routine and boring.
    .
    And so it goes until war stops being a game and the going gets really rough. “Its glory is all moonshine,” said Sherman. “It is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.” To Sherman a “bellyful of war” was ironically the psychological foundation of generational peace.

    Not only is that last sentence a profound statement worthy of the contemplation of all who love peace – it is also far more subtly convincing than the old Strategic Air Command motto, Peace is Our Profession, which sounds more like one of Rochefoucauld’s tributes that vice pays to virtue than anything, and yet is presumably intended to convey the same insight.

    **

    Finally we have Plotinus, for whom – in a manner richly echoed by Shakespeare — life itself is a dream, a play, a sport, a game:

    Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.

    Plotinus is correct, I would suggest, sub specie aeternitatis, just as is Sherman sub specie incarnationis — and it is the role of the artist to hold both visions, trivial and eternal, as Koestler suggests.

    **

    I am again grateful to David Foster for his ChicagoBoyz post The Romance of Terrorism and War which triggered this exploration and the one on Getting Deeper into Koestler which preceded it.

    Posted in Advertising, International Affairs, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Getting deeper into Koestler

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit — on creativity at the intersection of the fleeting and the eternal ]
    .

    centaur skeleton
    Centaur, displayed in the International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, AZ

    **

    You know Lao Tzu’s “uncarved wood” (pu) — and Spencer Brown’s “Mark” or “first distinction? It is hard to speak of “the one and the many” without language itself favoring the many, the one being “one” and the many “another”. The Greek phrase “Before Abraham was, I am” attributed to Christ may be as close as we get.

    The “uncarved wood” is not some definite -– named and thus defined -– “one” -– it is also “raw silk” (su), the simple -– the natural way or stream, from which things have not yet been separated out by naming.

    There is delight, however, both in one becoming two and thus many, in the making of distinctions and naming of names, and no less in two (or the many) becoming one, in the resolution of paradox, the release of tension, peace after strife. In human terms, there is joy in both solo and collaborative achievement.

    What better, then, than the perfect fit between disparate entities?

    I have written often enough about Arthur Koestler and the place where two disparate spheres of thought link up — the centaur links horse and man in an indissoluble unity — there’s no question here of dismounting after a ride, giving the horse a rub down and some feed, then retiring to the verandah for a whiskey…

    The mythological aha! we get from the centaur displayed in the museum hinges on the fit of horse and human skeletons, the perfection with which disparates are joined.

    **

    Thus far, whenever I’ve discussed Koestler‘s notion of bisociation, I’ve focused on the sense that it liea at the heart of creativity. Koestler himself takes it deeper. Here’s Nicholas Vajifdar, in a review titled Summing Up Arthur Koestler’s Janus: A Summing Up:

    Koestler .. asserts that there are two planes of existence, the trivial and the tragic. The trivial plane is the stage for paying bills, shopping, working. Most of life takes place on the trivial plane. But sometimes we’re swept up into the tragic plane, usually due to some catastrophe, and everything becomes glazed with an awful significance. From the point of view of the tragic plane, the trivial plane is empty and frivolous; from the point of view of the trivial plane, the tragic plane is embarrassing and overwrought. Once we’ve moved from one plane to the other, we forget why we could have felt the way we used to.

    That’s not just any old distinction between two realms, that’s the one Koestler himself prioritizes. And following his basic principle that a creative spark is lit when two disparate “planes of ideas” intersect, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find Vajifdar continuing:

    “The highest form of human creativity,” Koestler writes, “is the endeavor to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted — or cursed — with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity…”

    William Blake made a similar observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, writing:

    Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

    Finally, Vajifdar tells us why he finds Koestler’s definition of art maybe the best he’s ever read:

    What I value in this definition of creativity is its emphasis on the subjective being of those who experience the work of art or scientific theory, a surer gauge than cataloguing formal properties or whether it's "interesting." Art has always seemed like a kind of sober drunkenness, or drunken sobriety. Most people probably have wondered whether the feelings they felt while drunk were more or less real than their sober feelings. Koestlerian art joins these seemingly irreconcilable feelings together.

    Let’s just go one step further. In Promise and Fulfilment – Palestine 1917-1949, Koestler specifically singles out this intersection as an aspect of the experience of warfare:

    This intense and perverse peace, superimposed on scenes of flesh-tearing and eardrum-splitting violence, is an archetype of war-experience. Grass never smells sweeter than in a dug-out during a bombardment when one’s face is buried in the earth. What soldier has not seen that caterpillar crawling along a crack in the bark of the tree behind which he took cover, and pursuing its climb undisturbed by the spattering of his tommy-gun? This intersecting of the tragic and the trivial planes of existence has always obsessed me in the Spanish Civil War, during the collapse of France, in the London blitz.

    **

    I am grateful to David Foster for his ChicagoBoyz post The Romance of Terrorism and War which triggered this exploration, and that on the glamour of war which will follow it.

    Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Culture, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Happy Anniversary to the Spitfire!

    Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Today marks the 80th anniversary of  the first flight of the Spitfire fighter prototype.

    See also my post from last year: the Battle of Britain + 75

    Posted in Aviation, Britain, History, Tech, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    The Romance of Terrorism and War

    Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez has a very good post exploring the reasons why a person would choose to join something like an Islamist militia in Libya.  Read the whole thing.

    His post reminded me of something that Virginia Postrel posted on 9/11/2008:

    Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows.  All invite us to imagine escape and transformation…The question for this September 11 is, How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.

    I was also reminded of a passage from Erich Maria Remarque’s neglected novel ‘The Road Back,’ which follows a group of former German soldiers in the aftermath of WWI. One member of the group, George Rahe, explains his inability to come to terms with peacetime: Comradeship and idealism are perishing in “this pig’s wash of order, duty, women, routine, punctuality and the rest of it what they call life here”…he sees an ordinary city street as “All one long fire trench” and the houses as “Dugouts, every one–the war still goes on–but a dirty, low-down war–every man against his fellow–”  These feelings drive him to join up again–most likely one of the Freikorps units which sprang up during the postwar chaos.

    Also,  Arthur Koestler wrote about what he called the  Tragic and the Trivial planes of life. His friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary, explained the concept thusly:

    K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.

    The desire to move to the emotional intensity of the Tragic plane explains part of the attraction of war; I think it also explains to a considerable degree the revolutionary attitudes of many “progressives,” especially those who spend their actual days in pretty Trivial-plane ways.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    But despite all the opportunistic campaign rhetoric, the newly elected President Eisenhower more or less followed Truman’s policies. By July 1953 he had achieved an armistice. And by keeping sizable U.S. deployments of peacekeepers in place, he also ensured what would become a long evolution to democracy in South Korea and the country’s current dynamic economy. Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq.
     
    [. . .]
     
    We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it.

    Victor Davis Hanson, “Iraq: The Real Story”
     
     
    Actually it’s not a mystery. The Republican candidates opposing Trump must have discovered that the dishonest “Bush lied” narrative about Iraq polls better than the truth. (None of the remaining Republican candidates seems qualified to be President. Unfortunately, the Democratic candidates are even worse.)

    In 2009 news stories reported that fewer Americans had been killed in Iraq the previous year than were murdered in Chicago. Iraq had an imperfect but functioning democratic government. The war was essentially won.

    In 2016 Iraq has largely fallen apart. ISIS, Iran and Russia dominate much of Iraq and Syria. ISIS controls territory in North Africa. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are hanging by threads. Turkey and Russia have skirmished. Israel no longer has regional air superiority, perhaps not even air superiority in all of its own territory. Talk of regional and even world war is in the air.

    The principal differences between 2008 and 2016 are Obama’s terrible decisions to withdraw US forces from Iraq and then to stop defending our other Middle Eastern interests. Bush had nothing to do with it except to the extent he was inept at promoting his case at home. Many if not most Americans neither understand why we invaded Iraq nor remember the bi-partisan, international consensus for invasion that existed in 2002 and 2003.

    Posted in Iraq, Korea, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Quotations, Trump, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Don’t you belong on a beach?

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th February 2016 (All posts by )

    In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:

    “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.

    As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Law, Law Enforcement, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Going Over Past Territory

    Posted by Ginny on 16th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Thanks to Jonathan’s earlier post of Kristol’s conversations; whether Kass on education or Kagan on human nature or Gerlenter on art, these are consistently interesting.  Here is Valentine’s Day with Petraeus (there’s another with Keene).

    Posted in Iraq, Video, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    “Airbnb slammed for offering rooms with a view in Jewish settlements”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Airbnb slammed“. So passive. Who slammed them? Palestinians engaged in lawfare and mediafare against Israel. An accurate headline would be, “Palestinians open new front in boycott campaign against Israel”.

    The Palestinian Authority says offering vacation rental properties in Jewish homes in the ­occupied West Bank, through U.S.-based sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor, ­violates international law.

    No word on whether apartment owners in Mecca are using Airbnb to rent to Jews and Christians.

    Posted in International Affairs, Israel, Media, Middle East, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Vinegar Joe’s Long Walk

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th January 2016 (All posts by )

    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 »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Two Interesting Films

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 18th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Cloverfield

    It’s been said about Godzilla that it was Japan’s way of dealing with the B-29’s of the American Army Air Corp of WWII. A…monster…emerges from the ocean to the East, wreaking havoc and destruction on the cities and people of Japan. Nothing they could do seemed capable of stopping or even slowing the incredible assault. All was laid to waste before it. The movie was a means of dealing with the horrible memories of the bombings on another level, a symbolic level, easier to face that way. Dealing with it without dealing with it. A coping mechanism for the culture.

    Cloverfield may be the American equivalent. An apocalyptic horror film, it incorporates themes from Godzilla, Alien and the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. It takes place in Manhattan and the movie begins in retrospect as video footage from a recovered camera, now in the archives of the DoD. The everyday friendships, lives and loves of a few young professionals unfolds into a nightmare of fear and panic as an enormous creature inflicts death and destruction on the city and everyone around them. Virtually the entire film is done in hand-held camera style as they sporadically document the chaos unfolding around them. It’s an incredibly effective technique and gives a feeling of reality to the film it otherwise wouldn’t have. There’s no doubt in my mind this is the filmmaker’s way of coping with 9/11.

    Here’s the first clip in a series of nine you can watch at Movieclips. The friends have just left a going away party and evacuated to the roof after what felt like an earthquake and power outage.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Film, Morality and Philosphy, Society, Terrorism, Video, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    The Islamic State of Saddam’s Iraq

    Posted by Grurray on 23rd December 2015 (All posts by )

    ISIS/Daesh wasn’t created by the American invasion. It’s the logical aftermath and post regnum of Saddam’s Salafized regime

    Alongside the Faith Campaign, Mr. Hussein’s regime constructed a system of cross-border smuggling networks designed to evade the sanctions. This funded a system of patronage, much of it distributed through mosques, that maintained a series of militias directly loyal to the ruler, like the Fedayeen Saddam and the Sunni tribes, as a hedge against any repeat of the 1991 Shiite revolt. These networks, which are deeply entrenched in the local populations, especially the tribes of western Iraq, are now run by the Islamic State, adding to the difficulty of uprooting the “caliphate.”

    This also throws cold water on the belief that Christians were better off under Saddam. It’s true that they were marginally better off with secular Baathists in power than radical Islamists, but that was no longer the case after the Gulf War. In fact, the trouble started even before that with the tyrannical Arabization campaigns that tried to erase the Kurds from history. They also victimized all non-Arabs, including Christians. The biggest problems for Iraqi Christians after 2003 were largely the result of many trying to reclaim lost property, possessions, and dominion. The lack of legal authority and rule of law meant inflamed tensions and retaliations that culminated in the total ethnic cleansing of the past few years, but the roots of the brutality reach farther back.

    The refusal of the Obama Administration to recognize or even acknowledge the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq is now worsening the already grim situation. It’s obvious now that the official American policy is continuation of the Arabization of the region.

    Posted in Christianity, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    This is How We Lose

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 12th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Stand and defend the line. Stop retreating.

    Posted in International Affairs, Islam, Morality and Philosphy, Terrorism, War and Peace | 33 Comments »

    Random Thoughts

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th November 2015 (All posts by )

    -Why should food made using GMO techniques be specially labeled? It’s indistinguishable from non-GMO food. The only difference between GMO techniques and older breeding techniques is the speed and precision with which the desired genetic outcomes are obtained. The outcomes themselves are the same. Going out of our way to label GMO food is like going out of our way to label manufactured products built using CNC machine tools.

    -There are often two purposes to an election. One is the selection of the best candidate. The other is the punishment of an inept or corrupt incumbent in order to discourage bad behavior by future elected office holders. A similar point holds for wars. Winning or changing the strategic situation to favor your country is but one reason to go to war. Another reason is to punish your enemy in order to discourage others like him. This is one reason why it was important to depose and humiliate Saddam Hussein after our 2003 invasion and why it was a mistake not to have done so in 1991.*

    —-

    *It might have been best to get rid of Saddam Hussein by bribing him to leave Iraq. However, he might not have been amenable to such a deal, and once we decided to invade it probably made more sense to do what we actually did.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Elections, Tech, War and Peace | 29 Comments »

    Veterans Day 2015

    Posted by David Foster on 11th November 2015 (All posts by )

    One of Kipling’s lesser-known poems:  The last of the Light Brigade

    There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
    There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
    They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
    They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

    They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
    That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
    They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
    And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

    They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
    Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
    And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
    The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

    They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
    To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
    And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
    A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

    Read the whole thing here

    Posted in Britain, History, Holidays, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Admiral Roughead Speaks

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 6th November 2015 (All posts by )

    null

    Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations 2007-2011, recently spoke to our organization. A U.S Naval Academy graduate, he was one of only two officers in the US Navy to have commanded both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. He’s currently on the board of directors of both Northrup Grumman Corp and The Center for a New American Security. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. I paraphrase some of his remarks below.

    A Wilderness of Disorder

      Clearly the old order we grew up with is rapidly disappearing. I use that in the Shakespearean sense, where the wilderness is this multitude, this mass of uncertainty that really surrounds us. That’s the period we’re in. And I do think Europe today, NATO today, epitomizes that. If you look at the structure of NATO it has started to parse into many different groups. If you’re in the East, the threat is Russia. If you’re in the South, it’s North Africa and the Middle East. If you’re in the West, Russia and the Middle East are, well, other people’s problems.

    The Narrative

      We’re in a time when we place a higher value on ‘The Narrative’ than we do on the substance of a problem. The idea is that if we get the narrative right, we’ve got it right; when in point of fact it is the underlying substance that is important.

    A Changing Landscape in Asia

      I’m not of a mind that China’s had it’s run and now it’s into a different phase. I think we’re going to see them work very hard with a very centralized approach to weather some of their economic issues. As China looks to the future, it has a strategy that has an economic underpinning and a military underpinning. At its heart is the “Belt and Road” initiative which consists of a Maritime Belt around the Indian Ocean, a Silk Road across Asia, and the Asia Development Bank. It a very interesting strategy that will press China deep into the heart of Asia.

      Russia finds itself in a partnership with China that is historically inconsistent. China has been a strategic competitor of Russia, and Russia will soon find itself the junior in that relationship.

      The associations and relations we have in Asia are going to be hugely important.

      India, Japan and China will be pressing into space in a very big way. We need to think about the business and strategic effects of that.

      Asia has found the submarine. We are going to see a proliferation of submarines and unmanned undersea systems there unlike anywhere else.

    Our Focus is Too Close

      We tend in think in terms of the next budget, what’s in the news, what’s capturing our attention at the moment. We need to spend more time thinking about the patterns of life, about what the drivers are and how they span a generation or perhaps two generations.

      We are in a time when actions are more event driven than strategy driven. This is partly driven by the explosion of information availability, people now have instantaneous access to information that was once the purview of the elite. It has shortened the deliberation time leaders have before judgement is delivered from the public domain. It is forcing a compression of events. We need to act less hastily and think more.

      Because of this information space we now exist in, we have gotten away from being able to thoughtfully assess whether something is an existential threat, or a vital threat, or perhaps not even a threat. But because of this flood of information, we have now begun to associate violence somewhere with a threat, which is not always the case.

    He also touched on many other subjects including: the declining performance of our schools and toll that will take on our entire society, the loss of boundaries between the personal and the public and the corrosive effect that is having on our society, the rise of political and religious extremism, our loss of leadership in nuclear power development, the need to develop directed energy weapons, the increasing importance of unmanned vehicles, and the desperate need we have to develop cyber-warfare and cyber-defense capabilities.

    Admiral Roughhead gave me the impression of someone intelligent, thoughtful, and someone aware of the questions that need to be asked but not sure of the answers.

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, Speeches, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    99 Luftballons

    Posted by David Foster on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The story about the runaway surveillance balloon,  especially in conjunction with the report that  there may have almost been an unauthorized missile launch in Formosa, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, reminded me of  this song.

    Original German version, with on-screen lyrics, and  an attempt at directly translating the lyrics into English.

    Posted in Germany, History, Music, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Organizational Culture, Improvisation, Success, and Failure

    Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Maggie’s Farm reminds us that October 21 was the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  (JMW Turner painting of the battle at the link)  I am reminded of a thoughtful document written in 1797 by a Spanish naval official, Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?”  His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent,  in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:  

    What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?

    Here are de Grandallana’s key points:

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2015 (All posts by )

    (rerun)

    This month marks the 53rd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Miscellaneous, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2015 (All posts by )

    J. E. Dyer on Russia in Syria:

    Get used to it. This is the world as it is without American power setting standards and boundaries. After a 70-year hiatus from history, nothing you think you know applies to this situation. This is the world of 1900 – 800 – 500 B.C. – but with much more destructive weapons, and much faster ways to get around.

    Interesting times ahead.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Russia, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    “No, it’s not a new Cold War. It’s something much more perilous.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Noah Rothman in Commentary:

    Moscow now has a bigger conflict to prosecute, one in which the United States cannot decline to engage. Russia had spent the better part of the last two months paving the way for intervention in the Syrian civil war. Last Monday, that campaign began with a dramatic attack on CIA-armed and trained rebels under the guise of airstrikes on the Islamic State. The United States immediately scrambled to pursue “deconfliction” talks with Moscow, with the singular purpose of establishing military-to-military contacts so that Russian and NATO forces operating in the Syrian theater wouldn’t accidently start shooting at each other. But Russia’s aim is to ignite conflict. Its desire is to prop up the ailing Assad regime and to force NATO assets and its proxies out of Western Syria (and, eventually, out of the country entirely). It is a farce to pursue “deconfliction” when triggering conflict is the whole purpose of this exercise.
     
    [. . .]
     
    In a sense, Obama was correct when he insisted that a new Cold War was not in the offing. The Soviets would have been far more cautious about inviting confrontation with the West and fomenting wars in unpredictable caldrons like Syria. Unlike the Soviets who for much of the country’s existence believed that history’s arc bent resolutely in Moscow’s direction, Putin does not believe that time is a commodity he can afford to spend recklessly. The Russian public is restless and dissatisfied, an extraordinarily malleable American president will soon leave office, and financial pressures have compelled the Kremlin to scale back its already unsustainable military expenditures. All these factors make Russia an even more dangerous actor. It would rather risk a major confrontation with the West now than allow this window of opportunity to close unexploited.

    The last paragraph is key. The Obama window of national vulnerability closes in January 2017. Putin and other foreign thugs are all calculating how far they can go in exploiting our current submissiveness without risking a prohibitively severe response from Obama’s successor. The cumulative damage to our interests will be enormous and long lasting and we have not seen the end of it.

    Rothman’s piece is worth reading in full.

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    One step closer to war

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 30th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Tonight Obama must be contemplating how much he feels like Stalin on June 22, 1941. One wishes it won’t take him 10 days to reappear. Until one considers how craven he will be when he does reappear. He’s no Uncle Joe, that’s for sure.

    Posted in History, Miscellaneous, Obama, Russia, War and Peace | 20 Comments »

    9/11 Plus Fourteen Years

    Posted by David Foster on 11th September 2015 (All posts by )

     

    —-

    I guess I thought they were all gone, those types of monsters, stranded on reels of black and white film.Cara Ellison (blog no longer available), in a 2007 post about 9/11/01.

    Bookworm:  “My life is divided into two parts:  Before September 11, 2001 and after September 11, 2001.”

    Simply evil: Christopher Hitchens suggests that sometimes the simple and obvious explanation for an event is more accurate than an explanation which relies on an elaborate structure of “nuance”

    An attack, not a disaster or a tragedy. George Savage explains why the persistent use of terms like “tragedy” by the media acts to obfuscate the true nature of the 9/11 attacks. Much more on this from Mark Steyn

    Claire Berlinski was in Paris on 9/11. Shortly thereafter she wrote this piece for City Journal

    Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney were F-16 pilots with an Air National Guard squadron. Their order was to bring down Flight 93 before the terrorists in control of it could create another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center…but their aircraft were configured for training, with no live ammunition and no missiles. A video interview with Major Penney here

    Joseph Fouché writes about how the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, and the murder of Ahmed Shah Masood on September 9 of that year, prefigured the 9/11 attacks.

    The Diplomad posts a speech he gave on 9/14/01, when he was charge d’affaires at a U.S. embassy.  You will not hear speeches like that being given by diplomats under the administration of Barack Obama.

    On September 11, 2005, Rare Kate didn’t go to church. Follow the link to find out why. In my original post linking this, I said “What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy?  Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany (executed in 1945), wrote the following:

    Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.

    The refusal on the part of many individuals to face the seriousness of the radical Islamist threat to out civilization stems in significant part, I feel certain, from a desire to avoid the uncomfortable and even dangerous kind of clarity that Bonhoeffer was talking about.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, History, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    “The Medical History of the American Civil War”

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Michael Kennedy’s blog series in six parts:

    The Medical History of the American Civil War

    The Medical History of the American Civil War II

    The Medical History of the American Civil War III

    The Medical History of the American Civil War IV

    The Medical History of the American Civil War V

    The Medical History of the American Civil War VI

    Posted in History, Medicine, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Happy V-J Day, at 70 Years Plus a Day

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd September 2015 (All posts by )

    While the time pressures of work and family life prevented me from posting this yesterday, Sept 02, 2015, a commemoration of the official surrender of Japan in WW2 is still in order. Like the commemoration of the atomic bombing of Japan, this post will be about how the events leading to the surrender have been covered in American culture. Specifically, it will be a posting of several C-Span network video links to presentations by the leading historians of the period including Craig Symonds, Richard Frank, D.M. Giangreco, and John Kuehn. Afterwards I will give short reviews of each video.

    The following symposia video titles & descriptions, plus links, are from C-Span

    1. Pacific War Turning Point
    June 8, 2013
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?313164-1/pacific-war-turning-point

    Historians talked about the turning point in the Pacific theater
    during World War II. Craig Symonds argued the Battle of Midway was the
    decisive engagement that shifted momentum in the Allies favor, while
    Richard Frank asserted that the Guadalcanal campaign thwarted future
    Axis plans and resulted in a permanent blow to the Japanese war
    machine. A video clip from “Victory at Sea” was played without sound.
    After each author made his presentation, they held a discussion and
    responded to questions from members of the audience.
     
    “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” was part of The
    Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series WWII & NYC of
    The New York Historical Society.

    2. Fall of the Japanese Empire
    July 14, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327055-1/discussion-fall-japanese-empire

    Richard Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire,
    spoke about the events leading up to Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. He talked about American and Japanese strategies and operations in the closing months of the war, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s surrender, and the fall of the Japanese Empire.

    3. Strategies for the Invasion and Defense of Japan
    August 6, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327355-5/strategies-invasion-defense-japan

    D.M. Giangreco talked about the American offensive directed at Japan’s
    northernmost island, Hokkaido. He also spoke about the Soviet Union’s
    involvement, including the influence of logistics and diplomatic
    relations.
     
    “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics

    4. Japan’s Decision to Surrender
    August 6, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327355-7/japans-decision-surrender

    John Kuehn talked about Japan’s decision to surrender to Allied forces
    in August of 1945.
     
    “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics.

    Each of the above presentations was hugely informative. In the “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” argument, I side with Richard Frank on its impact on Japanese military capability. The Guadalcanal campaign hurt the Japanese far more than the “Decisive battle” of Midway. I recently received a Kindle Copy of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II (Cambridge Military Histories) that convinced me of the importance of Guadalcanal over Midway in terms of killing off the best Japanese naval pilots, most of whom survived Midway.

    In the second video on July 14, 2015 Richard Frank basically gives a presentation drawn from his coming trilogy on the “Asia-Pacific War” that highlights the Japanese military preparations to defend Japan, including the mobilization of a 20 million strong civilian-militia to back up the military, and how important the A-bomb was as compared to the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria in getting the Japanese to surrender. Frank also speaks to the King-Nimitz efforts to challenge Olympic and the total casualties up to August 1945 and how many more would have died from starvation had the war lasted even a short time longer. Frank tends to be US Navy centric and did not think much of MacArthur’s Olympic plans.

    The third video, by D.M. Giangreco of a presentation titled “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion”, goes very heavily into Japanese, Soviet & American plans to alternately defend or invade the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Short form — The Soviets had enough American provided sealift for a light infantry division, but not enough airpower to protect it, and the available Japanese ground forces and Kamikazes would be able to make any Soviet lodgment a Pacific Anzio.

    The final video, by John Kuehn, titled “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” goes deeply into the Japanese high command, civilian leadership and the Showa Emperor’s maneuvering to achieve a surrender. I found it particularly useful in getting a better understanding of the irrationality that dominated Japanese decision making. And the point that Kuehn made that the “Big-Six” represented the Japanese military “Moderate factions” was chilling.

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The Last Man to Die in World War 2 (+70 Years)

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th August 2015 (All posts by )

    On August 18, 1945, in a second day running of violations of the Potsdam cease fire, fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked American B-32 Dominator bombers on photo reconnaissance missions over the Tokyo area. During these attacks the last American serviceman to die in combat during World War 2 fell.

    B-32 Photo mission over Japan

    This is a painting of the final B-32 photographic mission over Japan after acceptance of the Potsdam terms, and before the formal Japanese surrender in early September 1945.

    Stephen Harding’s book LAST TO DIE: a Defeated Empire, a Forgotten mission, and the Last American Killed in World War II describes in a prologue, seven numbered chapters and afterword, with index, bibliography and copious footnotes the ill-fated mission that lead to the death of Anthony James (Tony) Marchione, an Italian-American gunner-photographic assistant, over the skies of Japan.

    The prologue sets up why Stephen Harding wrote the book, the first two chapters are biographies of Tony Marchione, how he came to his unit — the 386th Bombardment Group — for the mission, and a thumb nail history of the trouble plagued B-32 Dominator super-bomber’s development and combat history. The B-32 was a back up “Very Heavy Bomber” (VHB) to the B-29 Superfortress that USAF documents would not even admit was a “VHB” design post-war!

    Chapters Three through Five are the set-up for and a description of the desperate fighting action that saw Tony Marchione killed by a 20mm shell while giving first aide to two other B-32 crewmen wounded in an earlier fighter attack on his B-32 plane, tail number 578.

    Chapter Six focuses on General MacArthur’s wisdom in not launching immediate retaliatory strikes on the Japanese. Thus allowing The Emperor and his loyal retainers to shut down numerous mutinous air units, to include the IJN air bases where the fighters that killed Marchione were based.

    Chapter Seven has the grim details of the notification of Tony Marchione’s next of kin and the mechanics of getting his personal effects, and eventually his body, to his small-town Pennsylvania home for final funeral services in 1948.

    All in all I found the book satisfying both as story telling and as a foot-noted history. It has my strong buy recommendation.

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »