"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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Posted by Ginny on 16th February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
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).
“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.
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 »
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.
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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by Mrs. Davis on 30th September 2015 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
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.
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.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd September 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
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
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.
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.
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
“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
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 by Trent Telenko on 17th August 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
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.
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.
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 by Trent Telenko on 12th August 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for western leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.
I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth-destroying commemorations of my own explaining why leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:
My Chicago Boyz commemoration is different this year in that it is a list of reviews from popular culture video and books that show how American culture looks at what might have happened — if Japan had continued fighting World War 2 after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and there had to be “The Invasion That Never Was”. Each review will be a text thumbnail of the content, a link, my impression and at the end of all the reviews I’ll share what I see as the problems that all of them share. Problems that amount to a cultural paradigm blind spot that I mentioned in my “Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job” back when I started these annual columns in 2010.
The first review is of the old History Channel series “Secrets of War Declassified” Episode 2 of 20: “Japan: The Invasion That Never Was”. This Charlton Heston narrated video is available through both Amazon.com and its current content-rights owner, Mills Creek Entertainment, at this link.
The video gives a reasonable back story to a 1990s cable channel audience on the historical military and political forces leading to the alternative decisions of invasion or to drop the atomic bombs by President Truman. It is told predominantly from the American professional academic military historian point of view, which while I agree with generally, leaves out much of the Chinese, Russian and British Commonwealth perspective on these events. This was reasonable editorial choice, as there is only so much you can put in a 51 minute video for an American cable channel audience. Overall the video has aged well in terms of production values from its original History Channel airing and the rich-voiced Charlton Heston narration make it a must-own for those interested in the era.
Full Episode is also on Youtube and a link is embedded above.
I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.
Chicago Boyz community member Robert Schwartz has some thoughts about the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
By now I think everybody, who is not sunk into Obama idolatry, agrees that Obama’s deal with the Iranian Regime fails in numerous dimensions. Some day it will be used in business school classes as an object lesson in poor negotiating technique.
Be that as it may, The Deal has been set, and the only remaining issue is whether the Congress of the United States will vote to disapprove it, and be able to override a veto of that resolution. The announcement of opposition by three prominent Congressmen, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and the very negative polling results for the Deal, show that this is a possibility.
One of the many tragedies of the World War II era was a heartbreakingly fratricidal affair known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir.
I’ve written before about the defeat of France in 1940 and the political, social, and military factors behind this disaster. Following the resignation of Paul Reynaud on June 16, the premiership was assumed by the First World War hero Philippe Petain, who immediately asked the Germans for an armistice. With an eye toward revenge, Hitler chose the Forest of Compiegne…the same place where the armistice ending the earlier war had been executed…as the venue for the signing of the documents. Indeed, he insisted that the ceremonies take place in the very same railroad car that had been employed 22 years earlier.
The armistice provided that Germany would occupy and directly control about 3/5 of France, while the remainder of the country, together with its colonies, would remain nominally “free” under the Petain government. (One particularly noxious provision of the agreement required that France hand over all individuals who had been granted political asylum–especially German nationals.)
Winston Churchill and other British leaders were quite concerned about the future role of the powerful French fleet…although French admiral Darlan had assured Churchill that the fleet would not be allowed to fall into German hands, it was far from clear that it was safe to base the future of Britain–and of the world–on this assurance. Churchill resolved that the risks of leaving the French fleet in Vichy hands were too high, and that it was necessary that this fleet join the British cause, be neutralized, be scuttled, or be destroyed.
The strongest concentration of French warships, encompassing four battleships and six destroyers, was the squadron at Mers-el-Kebir in French Algeria. On July 3, a powerful British force under the command of Admiral James Somerville confronted the French fleet with an ultimatum. The French commander, Admiral Jean-Bruno Gensoul, was given the following alternatives:
(a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans.
(b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment.
If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.
(c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique for instance — where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.
If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.
Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty’s Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.
The duty of delivering this ultimatum was assigned to the French-speaking Captain Cedric Holland, commander of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.
Robert Philpott, a trainee gunnery officer on the battleship Hood: ”Really it was all very peaceful. Nobody was doing any firing; there was a fairly happy mood on board. We all firmly believed that the ships would come out and join us. We know the French sailors were just anxious to get on with the war. So we didn’t think there would be a great problem.”
André Jaffre, an 18-year-old gunner on the battleship Bregagne: ”Our officer scrutinizes the horizon, then looks for his binoculars and smiles. What is it, captain? The British have arrived! Really? Yes. We were happy! We thought they’d come to get us to continue fighting against the Nazis.”
Gensoul contacted his superior, Admiral Darlan. Both men were incensed by the British ultimatum: Gensoul was also personally offended that the British had sent a mere captain to negotiate with him, and Darlan was offended that Churchill did not trust his promise about keeping the French fleet out of German hands. Darlan sent a message–intercepted by the British–directing French reinforcements to Mers-al-Kebir, and the British could observe the French ships preparing for action. All this was reported to Churchill, who sent a brief message: Settle matters quickly. Somerville signaled the French flagship that if agreement were not reached within 30 minutes, he would open fire.
It appears that one of the the options in the British ultimatum–the option of removing the fleet to American waters–was not transmitted by Gensoul to Admiral Darlan. Whether or not this would have made a difference, we cannot know.
As Captain Holland saluted the Tricolor preparatory to stepping back into his motor launch, there were tears in his eyes. Almost immediately, Admiral Somerville gave the order to fire to open fire.
This video is a bit less than 20 minutes long. It has been making the rounds on Facebook and other social network sites, so it is possible you have seen it already. If you have not, you should. It is incredible.
Numbers surrounding the Second World War are always ripe for debate, of course, and if you view the comment thread on Vimeo you will see that the debates have already started. The only revisionI would make to the video does not concern the Second World War at all, but the An-Lushan Rebellion (755-753) fought a thousand years before it. This rebellion is often included in lists of the world’s deadliest wars and it shows up when Mr. Halloran compares the Second World War’s death toll to that of earlier conflicts of equal consequence.
While it was surely a destructive event, I do not think there is proper evidence to prove that it was that destructive. The 36 million casualties number comes from Tang Dynasty censuses that showed the population of China just before and just after the rebellion, with 36 million being the difference. Many of those 36 million people surely died in the rebellion, but many more fled and moved to safer, more remote locales. The number should be properly understood not as the number of civilians killed, but as a measure for how badly the Tang government’s ability to monitor and control the Chinese population it governed had been damaged. It was a war from which the Tang would never recover.
In this sense, it was a very different kind of conflict than the Second World War, a war whose legacy is now seen mostly in the realm of memory. The An-Lushan Rebellion was (from a Chinese perspective) a war that ravaged the known world and involved almost all of the important military powers of its day. While bright emperors like Xianzong (r. 805-820) would try to pull the Tang back together in the decades after the rebellion, the dynasty’s decline was terminal. The forces unleashed by the war eventually led to the complete disintegration of Tang power. This kind of collapse was not seen after the Second World War. The power that suffered the most was to emerge from the conflict as the world’s second strongest. But it was not just the Soviet Union that showed remarkable resilience–humanity as a whole weathered the destruction of two continents and the death of 70 million people barely worse for wear. This is a truly remarkable feat–perhaps one only possible in today’s Exponential Age. The Tang never recovered from the An-Lushan rebellion; Central Asia never blossomed like it did before the Mongol conquests; no new Roman empire rose from the ashes of the old. But the Second World War was not a precursor to a new dark age. Under the old rules of static civilization–where wealth was not created, but taken–catastrophes of this scale required centuries of recovery before old heights could be reclaimed. The history of the post-war world dramatically illustrates that this is no longer the case.