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  • Archive for the 'War and Peace' Category

    June 28, 1914

    Posted by David Foster on 28th June 2014 (All posts by )

    A century ago today, the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, along with his wife Sophie, lighting the fuse that would soon ignite the First World War.

    Here is a British project which invites people to send a time-traveling letter to the young WWI soldier whose bronze likeness stands at Paddington Station.

    See my post Western Civilization and the First World War, which references and excerpts Sarah Hoyt’s post on that subject.

    Posted in Europe, France, Germany, History, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: Secrets of the Pacific Warfare Board — Body Armor for Operation Olympic

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 27th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Today’s History Friday column is another in a series focusing on an almost unknown series of military documents from World War II (WW2) called “The Reports of the Pacific Warfare Board,” and specifically Pacific Warfare Board (PWB) Report #35 Armor Vest, T62E1 and Armor Vest T64. (See photo below) This report, like most of the PWB reports, had been classified for decades and only now thanks to the cratering costs USB flash drives and increasing quality of digital cameras has it become possible for the interested hobbyist or blogger to access and write about these reports from the formally hard to use National Archives. And PWB #35 is about one of those hugely important but overlooked details — Infantry Body Armor — that utterly undermine the established historical narratives by the professional Military history community about the end of WW2 in the Pacific. Namely that the Japanese would so bloody attacking American invasion forces the Japanese would “win” – for values of winning – a more favorable settlement of the war.

    M12 Vest for Operation Olympic

    Pictured is the T64/M12 anti-artillery fragment body armor. It was being combat tested in July 1945 and over 100,000 complete sets were scheduled for completion by the end of August 1945, for the invasion of Japan. The body armor consisted of a 0.125″ 75 ST aluminum plate backed by 8 ply of ballistic nylon and weighed 12 pounds.

    According to PWB #35, both the T62E1 and T64 vest (the latter is pictured above and was standardized as the M12 in August 1945) were sent for combat testing to MacArthur’s 6th and 8th Army’s in the Philippines in June and July 1945. The T64 vest was chosen for series production as the M12 in the summer of 1945 with 100,000 supposed to be finished by the end of August. This was sufficient time to ship those vest to the Pacific for all the assault infantry regiments participating the cancelled by A-bomb invasion of Japan, code named Operation Olympic.

    Why infantry body armor like the M12 is so disruptive for the established narratives boils down to one word — casualties. The deployment of 100,000 such vests would have reduced American infantry casualty rates from lethal artillery fragments in the invasion of Japan to roughly Vietnam levels. This means roughly 1/3 fewer combat deaths from artillery fragments and about an overall 10% to 20% reduction in total projected combat deaths. Depending on which of the historical casualty ratios you select for measurement, it means something on the order of up to 10,000 fewer battle deaths, in the event that the A-bomb hadn’t made the invasion superfluous.

    I would call this a very significant, reality altering, detail.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

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

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 20th June 2014 (All posts by )

    When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. Today’s column is focusing on an almost unknown series of Documents called “The Reports of the Pacific Warfare Board,” and in specific reports No. 31 and 50. This professional lack of interest by the academic history community in these reports represents a huge methodological flaw in the current “narratives” about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific. These two reports amplify and expand an earlier column of mine hitting that “flawed narrative” point titled History Friday: Operation Olympic – Something Forgotten & Something Familiar. A column that was about a WW2 “manned UAV” (unmanned air vehicle AKA a drone), an L-5 artillery spotter plane with an early vacuum tube technology broadcast TV camera, pictured below.

    Brodie Device In Land and Sea Based Configurations

    Brodie Device with L-4 and L-5 Spotter Planes In Land and Sea Based Configurations, 1944-1945

    Block III Broadcast TV Surveillance Equipment

    Dr. Vladimir Zworykin of RCA’s Block III Broadcast TV Surveillance Equipment

    These Pacific Warfare Board (PWB) reports have been classified for decades and unlike their more well know, examined by many researchers, and posted on-line European Theater equivalents. Almost nothing from them has made it to the public since their mass declassification in the 1990′s. There are good reasons for that. The National Archive has a 98,000 file, 80 GB finding aide. One that isn’t on-line. Until recently, the only way you can get at archive files like the Pacific Warfare Board Reports is to learn that finding aide and make your own copies using National Archive equipment. This was usually time consuming and cost prohibitive to all but the most determined researchers or hired archivists.

    Thanks to the cratering costs USB flash drives and increasing quality of digital cameras built into even moderately priced cell phones over the last few years, this is no longer true. And as a result, the academic history profession is about to have its key institutional research advantage outsourced to hobbyists and bloggers.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, China, History, Korea, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Heroism in America, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Bookworm posts about America’s cultural journey from an age in which the heroism of Audie Murphy was widely recognized to one in which Bowie Bergdahl is referred to by a senior Administration official as having served with “honor and distinction.”  With references to George MacDonald Fraser’s excellent WWII memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here and thoughts about the Oprah-ization of America.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, Human Behavior, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    The Great Iraqi Bug Out and the Death of “LOGCAP”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    This article from the McClatchy papers makes clear that the collapse of the Shia dominated Iraqi Army was arranged. See: “Iraqi soldier who fought with Americans says decision to flee left him feeling ashamed” By Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy.

    While this explains a great deal why the American intelligence community was blindsided by the collapse, it leaves a huge strategic level issue for the Obama Administration. Will they protect American hired private military corporation personnel from torture-murder by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Forces? The failure to do so would be a huge strategic blunder that would cripple American conventional force projection for literally decades.

    Why this is requires explaining “LOGCAP.”

    LOGCAP Explained
    LOGCAP or “Logistics Civil Augmentation Program” was established in 1985 primarily to pre-plan for contingencies and to “leverage existing civilian resources.” It was not really used in a large way until the 1st Gulf War of 1990-1991, to take advantage of the Saudi and Gulf States civil economies to replace uniformed American logistical support. This was as much a political move by the Pres. George H.W. Bush Administration to manage American anti-war, and primarily Democratic anti-war, opposition to retaking Kuwait as it was a logistical exercise. (Hold that thought!)

    LOGCAP was later expanded by the Clinton Administration to cover “operations other than war” in places like Somalia, Southwest Asia, Haiti, the Balkans, and East Timor. This allowed the Clinton Administration to exercise a muscular and multi-lateral foreign policy with the minimum of senior uniformed military opposition. Opposition which balked at “operations other than war” as the American Senior military leadership’s version of the “Vietnam War syndrome,” as the US Army’s deployments during the Kosovo war made clear.

    This Clinton Administration “work around” approach to American military “Flag Rank” opposition was hugely apparent with the Croat “Operation Storm” in Bosnia, where “Military Professional Resources Incorporated” acted as an American military surrogate to plan the Croat Offensive that broke Serbian power in Bosnia.

    Effectively “Private Military Corporation” contractor support has been the keystone of American military power projection since the 2nd Clinton Administration. This fact has been documented in a lot of places. See this July 2000 article from US Army Logistician Magazine — Contingency Contracting in East Timor — or this more recent Defense Industry Daily article that speaks to the most recent LOCGCAP 4 contract — LOGCAP 4: Billions of Dollars Awarded for Army Logistics Support.

    LOGCAP after 9/11/2001
    The two Pres. George W. Bush Administrations further expanded the use of LOGCAP after 9-11-2001, not only to manage public opposition to the “War on Terror” but also as a “Fight the War on the Cheap” exercise because your average logistics/garrison specialist first class (SFC) with government income, free medical care, education benefits, and housing allowances for three dependents earn earns arguably 125-150K in “benefits.” A DynCorp or KBR contractor costs the US government up to twice what a SFC costs in terms of annual income, but it is a known, predictable, fixed cost incurred and gone; whereas the Federal government will pay for the SFC and his dependents for another 20+ years in terms of benefits obligated by service.

    This was in fact one of the reasons Democrats in Congress hated private military corporations doing uniformed military work in the War on Terror. Their extensive use in the 1st Gulf War plus the on-going operations in Iraq and Afghanistan hugely reduced the long term opportunity for graft and corruption via the Congressional administration of uniformed veterans education and medical benefits.

    LOGCAP as a Foreign Policy Disaster
    LOGCAP in Iraq and Afghanistan is only part of the private military corporation portfolio. The DEA uses a number of private military corporations in the Drug wars in Latin America for aerial electronic surveillance and training of local security forces. The American government also uses a number of private military corporations to furnish spares for things like the ATK built AC208B light gunship in Iraq.

    The torture-murder of any of those Iraq private military contractors will utterly cripple current American foreign policy as implemented since the late 1990’s by the Defense Department regional commanders.

    The lack of trust such a mass abandonment of private military contractors by the Obama Administration — a lack of trust that is already bad since the abandonment of both the American Ambassador and his private military contractor bodyguards at Benghazi, Libya — will result in demands for far more money up front in the form of letters of credit in foreign banks not under US Government control to pay for both private pre-paid “go to hell plan” preparations and death benefits.

    That sort of change will increase private military corporation contractor support costs to such a degree that it will require uniformed US military in much larger numbers to replace private military corporations. The functional impact will be the reducing of American military type “hard power” projection world-wide for decades…and increase the amount of graft flowing through Democratic interest groups if the security threat warrants the use of a lot of uniformed military to address an existential foreign threat.

    Isn’t it funny how things work out like that with the Obama Administration?

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Victor Davis Hanson:

    As far as war and peace go, closure for Obama is when the United States is surrounded by war and confronted with looming conflicts, and yet has ended them all by declaring that we choose not to be interested in any of them. Obama is right about one thing: losing is certainly a way of reducing the violence.

    Genteel defeat is the way of the appeaser and comes from cowardice or expediency, sometimes both. The cowardice may be physical though it is often intellectual, a willful cutting of corners for short-term political gain at the expense of foreseeable long-term geopolitical disaster.

    Closure is a pernicious concept. People who use the term sincerely, rather than as cover for some hidden agenda, may have a compulsive aversion to loose ends. Sometimes a loose end or other untidy low-energy equilibrium is the best, least risky, most robust outcome that one can hope for in a bad situation. Obama has achieved closure in Iraq. We could have had a muddy equilibrium stabilized by a few tens of thousands of US troops. Instead we will get closure in the form of a decisive defeat for the USA and its allies following Obama’s principled military withdrawal.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Iraq, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Saigon in Baghdad — Iraq’s Corruption-Based Collapse

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th June 2014 (All posts by )

    While the media has made much of both the Iraqi government’s request for air strikes on the Al Qaeda aligned fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Obama Administration’s refusal to do so, few people have bothered to look at what airpower was available to the Shia dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force has had light gunships based on the Cessna C208 Caravan capable of firing Hellfire missiles since 2011 that should have been fully capable of dealing with the ISIS “technicals” — armed light trucks — seen in many photos recently.

    Iraqi AC-208B Fires Hellfire

    This is an Iraqi ATK AC208B Cessna “Combat Caravan” Light Gunship with laser guided Hellfire missiles.

    See this link and text:

    http://www.defenseworld.net/news/3837/ATK_delivers_3rd_AC_208__Combat_Caravan__Aircraft_to_Iraqi_Air_Force

    Alliant Techsystems has announced delivery of a third AC-208B “Combat Caravan” aircraft to the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission in Kirkuk, Iraq. To date, ATK has delivered 11 modified C-208 aircraft in support of U.S. Government contracts for rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force: three reconnaissance aircraft, five trainer aircraft and three AC-208B aircraft. The AC-208B Combat Caravan aircraft is a specially modified Cessna Grand Caravan that incorporates an electro-optical targeting system with integrated laser designator, Hellfire laser guided missiles, an air-to-ground and air-to-air data link and aircraft self-protection equipment.

    See also this link and ATK press release photos:

    http://defensetech.org/2011/10/26/atks-ac-208-combat-caravan-gunship/

    The AC208B “Combat Caravan” light gunship in ATK Press Release Photos.

    Whether the current Iraqi government there has any left in operable condition is a very different question. I very strongly suspect that most of the 30,000 Iraqi Army troops that deserted in the face of the ISIS attack had not been paid in months, with most of their weapons, radios and vehicles either being sold or deadlined from issues of corruption.

    What we are seeing with the Iraqi government is a collapse from corruption. If the CIA had any capable human agents on the ground outside the Green Zone — ones that were paid attention too — none of that would have been a surprise to the Obama Administration.

    Now we have “Saigon in Baghdad,” with a President that has all the bad features of the Nixon Administration and is isolationist to boot.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, National Security, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Caroline Glick speaking about “The Israeli Solution” for the David Horowitz Freedom Center

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

    Caroline Glick, spoke on June 11, 2014 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

    Her columns for the Jerusalem post are here.

    She is promoting her book The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. I purchased a copy and got it autographed, but I have not read it yet. In the book she advocates Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, a/k/a the West Bank.

    I find her argument entirely convincing.

    A key piece of education for me was the Israeli birth rates versus Palestinian Arab birth rates. Israeli Jewish women are having more babies than anyone else in the developed world.

    Here is a video of the same speech, given recently in Washington, DC.

    Here is the Q&A from that event, which she says is even more important.

    Quote of the evening: “The only thing in the Middle East that works is Israel.” Right.

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Israel, Middle East, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Nautical Book Project: Volunteers Needed

    Posted by David Foster on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Who wants to sign up to do a review of:

    1) One or more Joseph Conrad nautically-themed novels?

    2) Moby Dick?

    3) The Aubrey-Maturin series (either the series as a whole, or the early books)?

    4) Other?

    Ones I’m planning to do myself are White Jacket (Melville), The Hornblower Series (at least the early ones), and The Cruel Coast.

    Michael Kennedy, with your considerable sailing experience I hope you’ll sign up to do at least one review for this series.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Nautical Book Project, Transportation, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    History Friday — Books to Read for the D-Day 70th Anniversary

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    After a hiatus, for the birth of Mindy’s and my third child Clyde, this “History Friday” column returns to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landing with reviews of three books that, IMO, shatter many of the myths of June 6th 1944. Myths established in and often repeated from “the big three” Normandy campaign authors Hastings, Ambrose, and Keegan.

    These books, in author alphabetical order, are the following:

    o The 2009 book “Cracking Hitler’s Atlantic Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day” by Richard C. Anderson.
     
    o The 1989 book “Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy” by Joseph Balkoski, and
     
    o The 2013 book “The Devil’s Garden: Rommel’s Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day,” by Steven Zaloga.

    Each book has important points from original research in primary source material and they can be seen as Anderson, The planned Allied attack; Balkoski, the infantry fighting; and Zaloga, the planned German defense.

    Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, rush toward the shelter of amphibious tanks at the water’s edge of Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Left and right in the foreground are M4 Sherman tanks with wading equipment. The troops in the photo, expecting weak defenses, are loaded down with food and equipment for several days of combat. Most of which was discarded on the beach in their desperate fight for survival. Source: Britannica Online for Kids, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-40275

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Remembering

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Today, June 6, is the  70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

    Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

    Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

    See Bookworm’s post from 2012, and Michael Kennedy’s photos from 2007

    A collection of D-day color photos from Life Magazine

    Neptunus Lex: The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

    The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.

    See also Sgt Mom’s History Friday post today.

    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Wag the Dog?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd June 2014 (All posts by )

    I know, it was a bitterly ironic movie, and the novel it was based upon was even more bitterly ironic (Trust me, I read the darned thing –eh – moderately funny, but I fear that the only thing that the move took away from it was the premise) but what we may have here *assuming Strother Martin voice* is called a failure to communicate. I mean the imbroglio with returning Bowe Bergdahl, the only recorded POW from the war in Afghanistan to the bosom of his family, after languishing in durance vile for five long years. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Conservatism, Current Events, Islam, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism, The Press, USA, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    “Grant and Lee at Cold Harbor”

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd June 2014 (All posts by )

    An explication of the exchange of messages between the commanders, concerning retrieval of dead and wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

    (Via Rand Simberg on Twitter.)

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Rhetoric, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    A Compendium of Useful Reminders to be Consulted in Moments of Confusion

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 1st June 2014 (All posts by )

    Judging by what I see communicated by many of my longtime friends, there are a whole lot of confused people out there these days. Here is a helpful list for them:

    1. Only a small minority of projects, even in relatively successful organizations in highly competitive industries, deliver their promised scope, on time, within budget. A large majority are drastically scaled back, incur huge cost overruns, deliver years later than intended, or are canceled outright. Anything nefarious either fails or is publicized by whistle-blowers or investigators. There are no secret, vast criminal enterprises pulling the wool over the eyes of the populace, and the best-known entities in society, both public and private, can be astonishingly inept.
    2. Large publicly-funded initiatives, other than those intimately connected to the physical survival of the societies in which they are undertaken, are quite likely to be mainly for show, irrespective of their supposedly spectacular significance. The current American example is the ACA, which has not resulted (and almost certainly will not result) in either greater insurance coverage or lower costs, is notoriously not a fully government-operated, “single-payer” system, and has no pathway to lead to one. None of this matters; indeed, many of its provisions, if they ever go into effect, will do so only after the current Administration has departed from the scene. All that matters is that its perpetrators get to claim to have passed “historic” legislation ostensibly providing “universal” health care. For an example from an earlier generation, see the Space Shuttle, which was supposed to fly 50-60 times per year at $5.5 million per launch. The actual flight rate hovered around a tenth of what was promised, and each launch cost nearly a hundred times the original projection. Hilariously, President Obama is now being criticized for ending this, even though it was collapsing from its own weight and consisted mainly of workfare jobs in Republican congressional districts.
    3. Notwithstanding phenomena like the above, the United States is probably the most successful large-population country in the world due to its sheer realism, in particular the relative openness and process orientation of English common law, which (to quote myself) “rather than construct elegant theories and then shoehorn (or bludgeon) societies into an unchanging mold,” exhibits “a willingness to work with the world and human nature as it is.”
    4. Even ignoring the fantastic technological advances, quality of life in the US has improved immensely in the past two decades. Social pathologies have plummeted. The rates of some categories of crime are down 90%, to all-time recorded lows. There are now fewer abortions per capita than at the time of Roe v Wade. Probably three-quarters of Americans live in neighborhoods where violent crime is effectively nonexistent. And the worst labor market in 80 years has done nothing to reverse these trends.
    5. Large-scale, institutionalized technologies range from the very safe (electric-power generation [including nuclear] and transmission) to the so-safe-there-is-no-instance-of-recorded-harm (agricultural genetic engineering). The problem is that in much of the real (that is, Third) world, they are insufficiently available to provide the thoughtless, comfortable existence that pervades most of the West. Living “off the grid” / following a soi–disant “natural” lifestyle is a plaything of rich people who can slink away into town whenever they get tired of hewing wood and drawing water. Especially water with enterotoxigenic E. coli in it.
    6. Pharmaceutical companies are not trying to kill you, nor to provoke health crises to sell new drugs. They may in some instances be trying to convince you that your life depends on continuing to purchase their products, whether it actually does or not. Then again, so is the “health food” store down the street, and in all likelihood, what it’s pushing is far more dangerous.
    7. All religions are not equal. The general heuristic is to judge them by their effects, or at least by their efforts. Those prescribing global expansion through conquest and coercive displacement, and those (especially if they don’t refer to themselves as religions) prescribing the extermination of followers of other religions, are particularly problematic.
    8. Any conspiracy theory that mentions the Mossad, Rothschilds, etc, is every bit as viciously anti-Semitic as Mein Kampf and should be treated as such. Anyone expressing admiration for Marxist notions and personages is no better. Conspiracy theories involving the CIA quaintly ignore the NSA (which is ~6x larger) and, in any case, descend from Stalinist and Maoist propaganda during the early Cold War and the Korean War. Facile anger about the NSA, however, ignores its well-publicized activities with the analog wireline telecommunications of 30-40 years ago, as amply documented in Bamford’s The Puzzle Palace. The phenomena of Wikileaks and Snowden’s massive data theft are an existence proof that such activities can neither be kept secret nor have much influence on real-world events; as someone who read through the supposedly devastating Wikileaks cables remarked, “[American diplomats] sound like Canadians with better access.”
    9. No amount of “smart diplomacy” or supposed avoidance of provocation will protect a country from attack. Only a convincing ability to make an attack more trouble than it could possibly be worth can do that, and even such an ability may be insufficient to deter non-state actors and small groups. In combination with steadily declining costs of dual-use technologies, a more-or-less freelance WMD attack somewhere in the world seems inevitable. When it occurs, the greatest hazards to the immediate survivors will be 1) official overreaction, as by ordering the evacuation of a far larger area than was actually affected and 2) popular derangement, which in the worst-case scenario may create a conspiracy theory popular enough to put an extremist political movement in power, even in a large, democratic nation.

    Commenters are encouraged to provide additional examples and corollaries.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Management, Military Affairs, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review: To the Last Salute, by Georg von Trapp

    Posted by David Foster on 1st June 2014 (All posts by )

    If you’ve seen The Sound of Music–and who hasn’t?–you’ll remember Captain von Trapp.  The real Captain’s real-life children were not thrilled with the way he was portrayed in the movie–according to them, he was by no means that rigid disciplinarian who summoned the children with a bosun’s whistle and required them to line up in military formation.  (The bosun’s whistle was real, but only for communication purposes on the large estate…no lining-up involved.)

    The movie was indeed correct that Captain von Trapp was a former naval officer whose services were much desired by the Nazis after their takeover of Germany and, later, Austria…and that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. His memoir, To the Last Salute, was originally published in German in 1935 and later translated into French; an English translation has only become available fairly recently.

    Captain von Trapp could not be called a brilliant writer, but he does achieve some nice descriptive and reflective passages. Here, he is returning from a patrol very early in the First World War, when he was commanding a torpedo boat:

    We had been out all night searching for enemy ships that had been reported, but once again, had found nothing.  Far out in the Adriatic we had investigated, looked, and looked, and again came back disappointed through the “Incoronate,” the rocky, barren island,s that extend in front of the harbor at Sebenico…These islands look bleak; nevertheless, years ago people found them and still live there…It is a heavenly trip there between the islands with the many large and small inlets swarming with fish. But it is most beautiful in the wind still nights, which are uniquely animated.

    From one place or another, red and white lights flash on and off. They are the beacons that flash their warnings to the ships. Out of the many inlets merge innumerable fishermen’s boats. Some are under sail, hauling big nets; others, sculled about almost silently by heavy steering rudders, search the water with strong lanterns…As they put out to sea, the people always sing their ancient folk songs: ballads with countless verses, wild war cries, soft, wistful love songs…

    The war broke into this peaceful world. Traveling between the islands changed overnight…The singing has become silent, for fishing is forbidden, and the men are fighting in the war…Mines lie between the islands.  At any moment an enemy periscope, or a plane with bombs, could appear, and the nights have become exceptionally interesting; there are no more beacons. The war has extinguished them.

    Soon, Captain von Trapp was reassigned to command of a submarine,the U-5.  This board was one of a type that was extremely primitive, even by WWI standards. Propulsion for running on the surface was not a diesel but a gasoline engine, and gasoline fumes were a constant headache, often in a very literal sense.

    The Captain seems not to have thought a great deal about the rights and wrongs of the war.  As a professional, at this stage he also felt no animus toward the men it was his duty to attack; quite the contrary. Here, after sinking a French cruiser:

    I quickly scan the horizon. Is there absolutely no escort ship? Did they let the ship travel all alone? Without a destroyer? WIthout a torpedo boat? No, there is nothing in sight, only five lifeboats adrift in the water.

    After discussing the matter with his exec and determining that there was no feasible way to take the survivors on board:

    With a heavy heart, I order the engines to be turned on, and I set a course for the Gulf of Cattaro. “They let our men from the Zenta drown, too,” I hear one of the men say.  The man is right, but I cannot bear to hear that yet.  With a sudden movement I turn away. I feel a choking in my throat. I want to be alone.

    I feel as if something were strangling me…So that’s what war looks like! There behind me hundreds of seamen have drowned, men who have done me no harm, men who did their duty as I myself have done, against whom I have nothing personally; with whom, on the contrary, I have felt a bond through sharing the same profession. Approximately seven hundred men must have sunk with the ship!

    On returning to base, von Trapp found numerous letters of congratulation waiting for him, one from an eighth-grade Viennese schoolgirl.  To thank her for the letter, he arranged to have a Pruegelkrapfen from a noted confectioner to be delivered to her.  ”The outcome of all this is unexpected. Suddenly it seems all the Viennese schoolgirls have gotten the writing bug because it rains little letters from schoolgirls who are sooo happy and so on.  But such a Pruegelgrapfen is expensive and, at the moment, I don’t have time to open a bakery myself.”

    On one patrol, U-5 met up with an allied German U-boat, and von Trapp had an opportunity to go on board.  He was quite impressed with the diesel engine, compartmentalization of the boat, the electrically-adjustable periscopes, and even creature comforts like tables for dining.  ”It’s like being in Wonderland…”  The German commander’s comment, on visiting U-5, was “I would refuse to travel in this crate.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Europe, Germany, Military Affairs, Transportation, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Memorial Day 2014

    Posted by David Foster on 26th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Carbon Leaf:  The War Was in Color

    Neptunus Lex, when first posting a link to this music video, remarked:

    They all are.

    Posted in History, Holidays, Music, USA, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: Two Brothers and the Twin Sisters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd May 2014 (All posts by )

    The two brothers were the McCulloch brothers, Ben and Henry – and the twin sisters were a pair of six-pound cannon, which were sent by the citizens of Cincinnati to Texas at the start of the Texas War for Independence. The good citizens of Cincinnati were persuaded to support the rebellious Texans, and so raised the funds to have a pair of cannon manufactured at a local foundry and shipped down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from thence by coastal schooner to Galveston, where they were presented to the representatives of the harried and scattered government of the Republic of Texas sometime around early April, 1836. A resolutely determined settler in Texas, Dr. Charles Rice had arrived on the same schooner, accompanied by his family – including a pair of twin daughters. This was too charming a coincidence to pass unnoticed – that the schooner had arrived with two pairs of twins, and so the pair of Cincinnati-cast and paid-for 6-pounders were christened ‘The Twin Sisters.’ By the time that they caught up to Sam Houston’s expeditiously-retreating army, temporarily camped at Groce’s Landing on the Brazos, they would be the only cannon possessed by said army. (All other artillery pieces had been captured at the Alamo or after the defeat of the Goliad garrison at Coleto creek, or dumped in the Guadalupe at Gonzales to lighten the retreat).
    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Announcing the Nautical Book Project

    Posted by David Foster on 14th May 2014 (All posts by )

    The Classical Unities are three principles of drama (derived , or perhaps misderived,  from Aristotle) which, according to certain Italian and French literary critics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, should govern the construction of any drama. They are:

    –unity of action: a single plot line with no sub-plots

    –unity of place: the events should be constrained to a single location

    –unity of time: the events should be limited to the period of a single day

    One of the reasons that nautically-oriented fiction can be so powerful, I think, is that by its nature it often establishes certain unities: the action typically occurs in a single place…albeit a moveable one, the ship…with a consistent cast of characters belonging to that place…and, although unity of time in the strict classical sense of all action occurring within a single day may be rare, another sort of unity of time is often established in that events occur over the course of a single voyage.

    I’m launching an ongoing project to post reviews of worthwhile nautical fiction, recent and not-so-recent, well-known and not-so-well-known. All ChicagoBoyz and ChicagoGrrlz authors are invited to participate. Movies may also be included under this review category, as may some nonfiction books, especially personal memoirs.

    Books/movies I’m planning to review myself, in the not-too-distant future, include: The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk…The Hornblower series, by C S Forester, and White Jacket, by Herman Melville.  Also To the Last Salute, by Captain Georg von Trapp (yes, that Captain von Trapp.)

    Other books definitely deserving of reviews as part of this project include the nautical novels of Joseph Conrad, Melville’s Moby Dick and Billy Budd, and Nicholas Montsarrat’s The Cruel Sea.

    Please post your suggestions for worthwhile books for this project in comments; also, for Chicago Boyz and Grrlz and anyone else who feels especially motivated, any books you would particularly like to sign up to review.  I see this as an ongoing project since the universe of books under this category is vast.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Holidays, Transportation, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    RERUN–a Neglected but Significant Anniversary

    Posted by David Foster on 13th May 2014 (All posts by )

    ‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
    ‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
    When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
    And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
    When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’

    (A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)

    On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:

    The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.

    If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.

    This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.

    First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in France, Germany, History, Military Affairs, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    How To Think About Catastrophe

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 4th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Many thanks to the commenters on my review. I won’t be agreeing with all of you, but I value your input for increasing my understanding of what others think. I have some related ideas on how to think about the issues raised specifically by Lightning Fall and generally by “preppers” and, indeed, anyone anticipating a societally disruptive crisis in the near future.

    NB: this is an essay in the original sense of “attempt.” It is unlikely to fully represent my thinking on these issues even a few years hence; and whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to think these things through based on your own abilities and experience, and then act as your specific situation appears to require. Hayekian distributed local knowledge may save us. Central planning, as I hardly need admonish this audience, will not, and therefore any attempt by me to impose a uniform mental framework should (and undoubtedly will) be firmly rejected.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, National Security, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Never Again

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    For background on the above link, see here (via The Optimistic Conservative).

    Posted in Europe, History, Israel, Judaism, Leftism, Military Affairs, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    “Lightning Fall” – Review

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2014 (All posts by )

    While this will not be a uniformly positive review, I must immediately note that the purely literary quality of Bill Quick’s Lightning Fall (subtitled either “A Novel of Destruction” or “A Novel of Disaster,” depending on whether one is looking at the spine or the cover of the paperback edition) ranks it alongside Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon and comes within metaphorical striking distance of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. It is a classic page-turner and a serious threat to a good night’s sleep; I began reading it after awakening shortly before 3:00 AM one morning, expecting to drift off in a few minutes, and eventually noticed that I was somewhere around page 250 and the time was after 6:00 AM. This sort of thing has not happened to me more than a handful of times in a half-century of reading, and I read a lot.

    Other reviews have included – well, not exactly spoilers, but more specifics about the events in the novel than I intend to provide here. I will mention three things that I think it useful for prospective readers to know, and then use the general thrust of the novel as a springboard for extended commentary of my own.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, International Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    The Darkness behind Colonel Nightingale’s Two Great Truths

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Colonel Keith Nightingale, was featured  at Thomas Rick’s Best Defense blog  ”future of war” series at Foreign Policy.com. It is a strong piece, well worth reading:

    The seven ingredients of  highly adaptive and effective militaries  

    The there are two great truths about the future of war.
    The first is that it will consist of identifying and killing the enemy and either prevailing or not. We can surmise all sorts of new bells and whistles and technologies yet unknown, but, ultimately, it comes down to killing people. It doesn’t always have to happen, but you always have to prepare to make it happen, and have the other guy know that.
    The other great truth is that whatever we think today regarding the form, type, and location of our next conflict, will be wrong. Our history demonstrates this with great clarity.
    Well then, how do we appropriately organize for the next conflict if both these things are true? There are a number of historical verities that should serve as guides for both our resourcing and our management. In no particular order, but with the whole in mind, here are some key points to consider that have proven historically very valuable in times of war. The historic degree of support for any one or all within the service structures usually indicated the strengths and shortfalls of our prior leadership vision, preparation, and battlefield successes or failures at the time…..
    Read the rest here.
    .
    Nightingale goes on to explain the important variables of technology, intelligence, personnel quality eccentric or maverick thinkers, linguistic and cultural expertise, deployability and leadership. His points are sound and I recommend them with general agreement.
    .
    One area I wish he had spent more time expounding upon was the part “prevailing or not“. We face a major problem here in that the current generation of  American leaders, our bipartisan elite, our ruling class – call them whatever you will – do not seem to care if America wins wars or not.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    On the academic subject of Democracies, Diasporas and nation building attempts via international elite institutions and connections:

    Posted by onparkstreet on 10th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Again, in a hurry so a bunch of comments I posted on Small Wars Journal blog. Various wealthy Ukranian businessmen have deep connections with the democracy promotion foreign relations bureaucracy and leadership. I have also found a whole set of academic literature on the nature of the eastern European immigrant vote and its supposed importance in swing states. An interesting area of scholarship.

    Mr. Pinchuk, 53, is one of Ukraine’s only oligarchs to have deep ties to Washington. Many of the country’s richest businessmen are suspected of having links to organized crime and do not have visas to the United States, much less a relationship with a former and potentially future American president.
     
    Still, Mr. Pinchuk’s image is not without blemish: His father-in-law is Leonid Kuchma, who was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005 and led a government criticized for corruption, nepotism and the murder of dissident journalists. As president, Mr. Kuchma privatized a huge state steel factory and sold it to Mr. Pinchuk’s consortium for about $800 million, which competitors said was a laughably low price.
     
    Since 2006, Mr. Pinchuk has donated roughly $13.1 million to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Mr. Clinton attends Mr. Pinchuk’s annual conferences in the resort city of Yalta, Ukraine, and Mr. Pinchuk attended the former president’s 65th birthday party in Los Angeles.
     
    He was first introduced to Mr. Clinton in 2004 by Mr. Schoen, a New York-based pollster who has advised both Clintons. Mr. Pinchuk immediately began building a friendship with the former president and enthusiastically donating to Mr. Clinton’s causes, including an H.I.V. program that was later expanded into Ukraine.

    Trade Dispute Centers on Ukrainian Executive With Ties to Clintons

    So how and where do we start? Successfully linking military engagements within diplomatic realms means less books by George Patton and more by Henry Kissinger. Currently, you won’t find too many Kissinger books in military curricula. Conversely, you’ll find fewer books on special operations in diplomatic circles. A new operational art will require closing the cognitive gap between engagements and strategy within military and diplomatic practice and culture. This doesn’t require resources. It simply requires will.

    Peace, Art and … Special Operations by Brian S. Petit

    If one were to take unconventional warfare doctrine and look at in two ways (Russian toward Ukraine, and the US/EU toward Ukraine), what would one find and how could various narratives be developed, regardless of whether you support one or the other?

    The military doesn’t control policy but I am intrigued by the “First, Do Harm” attitudes of our foreign policy and how it affects military activity. It’s the strangest thing. It’s also strangely destabilizing and dangerous business and it seems our Western and American traditional bureaucracies are making a messy, multipolar situation worse, IMO. The creation of chaos and disorder in reality; nation building and stability on paper. Very Council on Foreign Relations.

    This “test of the West” must be met with “political and economic sanctions” if Russia proceeds in annexing Crimea, Mr. Durbin said. But he did not elaborate and did not hint at support for any U.S. military action.
     
    The trip is set to last just two days. Mr. Durbin is scheduled to be back in town by March 16, when he is set to meet with — who else? — local Ukrainian community leaders (and voters) here.
     
    It’s worth noting that Mr. Durbin has been a longtime backer of democracy movements in Ukraine and visited there in 2012. He also is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serves on its Subcommittee on European Affairs.

    Dick Durbin heads to Ukraine

    Now, do the same for various constituencies in Russia and European countries, the UK, etc.

    What now is the context within which you would consider some of the military-centric discussion taking place? How well does a focus only on American capabilites reflect reality?

    Great power competition via proxy. If you keep meddling, you may provoke a response you don’t want. And the meddling is by ALL parties. All parties:

    There’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who seems to be on every other panel over the two-day event, and is accompanied by a youthful looking French woman, who sports thigh-high leather boots that match her (also leather) miniskirt perfectly. DSK’s date is not being paid by the hour, another conference attendee confides, she’s a high-level French TV executive.
     
    He speaks in a gentle, almost incomprehensible voice and calls upon political leaders to show some courage to reform governmental institutions. When one attendee asks which world politician might be able to do that, DSK looks around the room and shrugs his shoulders. It’s not attainable, he admits, but it doesn’t stop him from repeating that tired line and others.
     
    “Globalization is a war,” says the man who would now be president of France, if not for allegations that he attempted to rape a New York City hotel maid. “A new kind of war. One that very few parties, especially in the EU, are prepared to fight.” He’s a man of many deep thoughts.
     
    There’s also Gen. David Petraeus, the war hero and former CIA director, who tells me to bug off when I ask for an interview, and at a more gentle moment admits that he’s suffering from a hamstring injury that’s keeping him from running his morning miles. He, too, is hoping to say nothing worthy of being quoted. And he succeeds.
     
    Larry Summers is here, too, in his first public appearance since withdrawing from being considered by President Barack Obama to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. I move in to ask about his withdrawal—was he pushed out by Obama, or did he willingly remove himself from consideration for a job he badly wanted? “I said no,” he screams at the reporter beside me who beats me to the Fed question. “I said no. I said no. I said no. No.”

    Another Yalta Conference

    Posted in International Affairs, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    The Calendar is Not Omnipotent

    Posted by David Foster on 30th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Barack Obama and John Kerry have been ceaselessly lecturing Vlad Putin to the effect that: grabbing territory from other countries just isn’t the sort of thing one does in this twenty-first century, old boy.

    For example, here’s Obama: “…because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country – that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”

    And John Kerry:  ”It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century. You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.”

    The idea that the mere passage of time has some automatic magical effect on national behavior…on human behavior…is simplistic, and more than a little odd.  I don’t know how much history Obama and Kerry actually studied during their college years, but 100 years ago..in early 1914…there were many, many people convinced that a major war could not happen…because we were now in the twentieth century, with international trade and with railroads and steamships and telegraph networks and electric lights and all. And just 25 years after that, quite a few people refused to believe that concentration camps devoted to systematic murder could exist in the advanced mid-20th century, in the heart of Europe.

    Especially simplistic is the idea that, because there had been no military territory-grabs by first-rank powers for a long time, that the era of such territory-grabs was over. George Eliot neatly disposed of this idea many years ago, in a passage in her novel Silas Marner:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

    ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

    Obama also frequently refers to the Cold War, and argues that it is in the past. But the pursuit of force-based territorial gain by nations long predates the Cold War, and it has not always had much to do with economic rationality. The medieval baron with designs on his neighbor’s land didn’t necessarily care about improving his own standard of living, let alone that of his peasants–what he was after, in many cases, was mainly the ego charge of being top dog.

    Human nature was not repealed by the existence of steam engines and electricity in 1914…nor even by the broad Western acceptance of Christianity in that year…nor is it repealed in 2014 by computers and the Internet or by sermons about “multiculturalism” and bumper stickers calling for “coexistence.”

    American Digest just linked a very interesting analysis of the famous “long telegram” sent by George Kennan in 1947: George Kennan, Vladimir Putin, and the Appetites of Men. In this document, Kennan argued that Soviet behavior must be understood not only through the prism of Communist ideology, but also in terms of the desire of leaders to establish and maintain personal power.

    Regarding the current Russian/Crimean situation, the author of the linked article (Tod Worner) says:

    In the current crisis, many will quibble about the historical, geopolitical complexities surrounding the relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. They will debate whether Crimea’s former inclusion in the Russian Empire or Crimea’s restive Russian population justifies secession especially with a strong Russian hand involved. Papers will be written. Conferences will be convened. Experts will be consulted. Perhaps these are all prudent and thoughtful notions to consider and actions to undertake. Perhaps.

    But perhaps we should, like George Kennan, return to the same questions we have been asking about human nature since the beginning of time. Maybe we are, at times, overthinking things. Perhaps we would do well to step back and consider something more fundamental, something more base, something more reliable than the calculus of geopolitics and ideology…Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 23 Comments »