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    Yet Another Overworked Metaphor For Understanding American Foreign Policy

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 20th March 2011 (All posts by )

    If the Government of these United States was truly engaged in a War on Drugs, it would avoid building precision guided munitions designed to target individual midnight tokers. Instead, the USG would concentrate on one particularly dangerous narcotic that floods United States markets from time to time: Wilsonianism.

    When the 15-20 Americans (on a good day) that think about current U.S. foreign policy in the light of past U.S. foreign policy, their use of the term “Wilsonianism” embraces three out of four of the “New Testament” of Walter McDougall’s American foreign policy traditions:

    (5) Progressive Imperialism (comprising Navalism, Overseas Bases, and the Open Door Policy)
    Born 1898, reaffirmed or enlarged 1901-17, 1940-41, 1949 to the present
    Annexation of Spanish islands, Panama Canal Zone and Roosevelt Corollary, Pacific and Caribbean naval bases, FDR’s hemispheric defense, Truman, Eisenhower, Carter, and Bush doctrines, and foreign bases and global power projection during and since the Cold War, Gulf War I, NATO expansion, and GWOT
    (6) Wilsonianism, or Liberal Internationalism (as more accurately called)
    Born 1918, reaffirmed or redefined 1921-29, 1940-46, 1977-79, 1993-2000, 2009-?
    Wilson’s 14 Points and League of Nations Covenant, Hughes’s and Kellogg’s 1920s engagement in Asia and Europe, FDR’s Atlantic Charter and United Nations, Carter’s human rights agenda, Clinton’s Enlargement and Assertive Multilateralism, Obama’s Engagement (?)
    (8) Global Meliorism (aka Democratization, Nation-Building, Foreign Aid and Development)
    Born 1899 and practiced et seriatim, esp. 1901-23, 1944-52, 1961-68, 1977-80, 2003-09
    McKinley’s Philippines Speech, Wilson’s “Idea of America” and War Message, Hoover’s Relief Programs, FDR’s Bretton Woods and UNRRA, Marshall’s Plan and Truman’s Point Four in Inaugural, Kennedy’s Inaugural and May 25, 1961, address, The “Best and Brightest” strategy in South Vietnam and Third World, Carter’s Third World agenda, G. W. Bush’s “democratization of the Middle East”

    Three of McDougall’s four “Old Testament” foreign policy traditions are often offered up as Wilsonianism’s evil nemesis under terms like “realism” or “isolationism” (depending upon who you ask):

    (1) Independence, Unity, and Liberty At Home, or “Exceptionalism” (as properly understood)
    Born 1776, reasserted 1796, 1800, 1812, 1821, 1848, 1863 et seriatim until 1898
    Declaration of Independence, Tom Paine’s Common Sense, Washington’s Farewell, John Quincy Adams’ Fourth of July Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, etc.
    (2) Unilateralism, or “Isolationism” (as mistakenly derided)
    Born 1796, reasserted 1801, 1812, 1885, 1917, 1920, et seriatim to 1947
    Washington’s Great Rule, Jefferson’s Inaugural, Cleveland’s Inaugural, Wilson’s War Message, Reservations about League of Nations, Borah’s self-definition, etc.
    (3) The American System, or Monroe Doctrine (as commonly called)
    Born 1783, codified 1823, reaffirmed or enlarged 1841, 1861, 1895, 1904, 1941, 1962
    Tom Paine, Treaty of Paris, Monroe’s Message to Congress, Tyler’s Corollary, Union Blockade, Olney’s “14-inch gun,” Roosevelt Corollary, etc.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, International Affairs | 2 Comments »

    David Brooks’ Leash

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 17th March 2011 (All posts by )

    One of the most prominent examples of experimental genetics is the infamous domesticated silver fox:

    The domesticated silver fox …is a domesticated form of the silver morph of the red fox. As a result of selective breeding, the new foxes not only became tamer, but more dog-like as well…
    Domesticated foxes exhibit both behavioral and physiological changes from their wild forebears. They are friendlier with humans, put their ears down (like dogs), wag their tails when happy, and vocalize, and bark like domesticated dogs. As a consequence of breeding, they also developed color patterns like domesticated dogs and lost their distinctive musky ‘fox smell’…
    The experiment was initiated by scientists hoping to produce easier to handle fur animals and who were interested in the topic of domestication and the process by which wolves became tame domesticated dogs. They saw some retention of juvenile traits by adult dogs, both morphological ones, such as skulls that were unusually broad for their length, and behavioral ones, such as whining, barking, and submission…
    [Project founder Dmitry] Belyaev believed that the key factor selected for [in the] domestication of dogs was not size or reproduction, but behavior; specifically, amenability to domestication, or tameability. He selected for low flight distance, that is, the distance one can approach the animal before it runs away. By selecting this behavior it mimics what happened through natural selection in the ancestral past of dogs. More than any other quality, Belyaev believed, tameability must have determined how well an animal would adapt to life among humans. Because behavior is rooted in biology, selecting for tameness and against aggression means selecting for physiological changes in the systems that govern the body’s hormones and neurochemicals. Belyaev decided to test his theory by domesticating foxes; in particular, the silver fox, a dark color form of the red fox. He placed a population of them in the same process of domestication, and he decided to submit this population to a strong selection pressure for inherent tameness.
    The result is that Russian scientists now have a number of domesticated foxes that are fundamentally different in temperament and behavior from their wild forebears. Some important changes in physiology and morphology are now visible, such as mottled or spotted colored fur. Many scientists believe that these changes related to selecting for tameness are caused by lower adrenaline production in the new breed, which causes these physiological changes in a very small number of generations, thus allowing for these new genetic offshoots not present in the original species.

    Bryant Gumbel once observed of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his relationship with late NFL Players Union head Gene Upshaw:

    Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw’s leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch.

    While watching this TEDtalk by New York Times columnist David Brooks, I thought of silver foxes, Gene Upshaw, and how David Brooks would be the ideal sire for a selective breeding program to produce a tamer right-winger. Generation after generation, you’d just have to breed for floppy ears, wagging tails, and low flight distance and you’d eventually end up with a more amenable Loyal Opposition. American politics would be a simple matter of showing your successor where you kept David Brooks’ leash.

    For the record, Brooks does take some well-aimed potshots at his TEDset/Davos-set masters. But his digs are in that long tradition of peasant humor where the serf was allowed to let off some steam while the lord of the manor reached for his knout to give the recalcitrant peasant a good whipping.

    I’m confident the next generation of TED-ready, Davos-approved conservative will offer less lip.

    And have floppier ears.

    [props Isegoria]

    Posted in Bioethics | 17 Comments »

    Embracing the Crazy

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 16th March 2011 (All posts by )

    Only two strategic practitioners have covered themselves with glory in the past month:

    If we accept Professor Lawrence Friedman’s recent proposition that “strategy is the creation of power”, both now and in the present, than no one has strategized better than Mad Mo and Crazy Carlos. They both show an intuitive grasp of this piece of ancient strategic maxim: if all you have is the Crazy, be the Crazy.

    Your enemies will be so mesmerized by someone showing the Crazy in public that they’ll be drawn into your trap like lemmings to a lemming-zapper.

    Mad Mo and Crazy Carlos look to be having the last laugh.

    An honorable mention goes to Saddam Hussein, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, and James Tiberius Clapper. While Saddam and Kaddaffi are proven losers in making war on the people of other countries, they’ve done banner work making war on the people of their own countries. Odierno successfully drew on Saddam’s plan for crushing a revolt in Baghdad during the battle for that city in 2008:

    At about the same time Odierno was targeting the Baghdad beltway, he tasked his staff to find out how Saddam Hussein had defended Baghdad against the many secret cells and gangs that wanted to upend his regime. The answer came back: Saddam had always maintained a complex perimeter around Baghdad that on paper looked like a series of concentric circles. Saddam had posted his Republican Guard in various towns that ringed the capital, and inside the city, he had stationed his Special Republican Guard. If it had worked for Saddam, thought Petraeus and Odierno, it might work for them against the insurgents.

    Saddam peaked before his time. He might have made a living as a COIN lecturer at COIN seminars with a few different career choices.

    Hosni Mubarak was apparently trying to run a play from the Saddam playbook too but he’s no Muammar Qaddaffi.

    James Tiberius Clapper wins his asterisk for accidentally speaking the truth in a congressional hearing. Take pity on Clapper when he’s begging for COIN around downtown Washington after losing his own battle of the beltway.

    The president may have made the list if he’d merely repeated the line “We expect all parties to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which they are a signatory.” and refused to do anything more without a UN Security Council Resolution. Unfortunately BO gave into political pressure and indulged in his Nerd Quotes Eighties Action Movie Lines schtick which always falls flat. If he’d ducked behind the principle of Wilsonian collective security he would have achieved the only certain strategic result Wilsonian collective security ever guarantees: collective inaction.

    And that’s what his strategy was all along.

    Maybe he’ll have better luck with his NCAA bracket picks.

    Posted in Morality and Philosphy | 9 Comments »

    All Quiet on the Western Front

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 28th February 2011 (All posts by )

    Corporal Frank Buckles, U.S. Army

    Corporal Frank Buckles, U.S. Army

    World War I: a War so Great that it demanded a sequel.

    One that topped the original.

    In bloodshed.

    Long after the guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the one thousand nine hundred and eighteenth year since the year Dennis the Small misidentified as the year Our Lord came in the flesh, the war raged on the in the memory of those caught up in the collective madness that consumed Western Christendom. The last living soldier who experienced World War I died today.

    Frank Buckles was 110 years old when he died. He was 16 1/2 when he lied about his age in order to join the U.S. Army:

    “I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps,” he said. “The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21.”
    Buckles returned a week later.
    “I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21,” he said with a grin. “I passed the inspection … but he told me I just wasn’t heavy enough.”
    Then he tried the Navy, whose recruiter told Buckles he was flat-footed.
    Buckles wouldn’t quit. In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate.
    “I told him birth certificates were not made in Missouri when I was born, that the record was in a family Bible. I said, ‘You don’t want me to bring the family Bible down, do you?'” Buckles said with a laugh. “He said, ‘OK, we’ll take you.'”
    He enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, serial number 15577.

    His war service wasn’t the end of Buckles’ adventures:

    In the 1940s, Buckles worked for a shipping company in Manila, Philippines. He was captured by the Japanese in 1942, and spent the next three and a half years in the Los Baños prison camp. He became malnourished, with a weight below 100 lb, and developed beriberi, yet led his fellow inmates in calisthenics. He was rescued on February 23, 1945.

    Buckles married after the war and moved to the farm in West Virginia where he passed away today:

    When asked about the secret of his long life, Buckles replied: “Hope,” adding, “[W]hen you start to die… don’t.” He also said the reason he had lived so long was that, “I never got in a hurry.”

    Posted in History, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    World’s First 3-D Computer Animation

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Robert Ingebretson, a friend of mine from high school, posted this video of the world’s first 3-D computer animation.

    His father, the elder Robert Ingebretsen, was an important pioneer in the development of digital audio. Earlier he’d been a classmate of Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull at the University of Utah in the early 1970s. During that era, the U. was a hotbed of computer and digital graphic, audio, and video innovation. Its computer science department produced important pioneers in the field like Ingebretsen, Catmull, and Adobe founder John Warnock.

    Ingebretsen helped Catmull make this 3-D computer animation in 1972:

    The film fell into my hands because Ed and my dad were good friends and office mates at the University of Utah in the 1970s where they were both pursuing upper graduate degrees in computer science. My dad was focused on digital audio and Ed (of course) on computer graphics. Either because of their friendship or possibly because they were renting time on the same computer, my dad ended up being responsible for the 3D morphing titles at the beginning and end of the film (his credit is at 6:15). I guess that entitled him to a copy of the 8mm reel (it was rendered to actual film; this, of course, predated any kind of real time digital playback by many years).
    A couple of years ago, Ed was speaking at the University of Utah (giving, I believe, some version of this talk) and ran into my uncle. They talked about my dad and that resulted in Ed inviting a handful of us to take a tour of Pixar.
    A few months later we took a plane to SFO for the tour. I sort of expected to shake Ed’s hand and then take a tour with an intern. It wasn’t like that at all. Ed spent an hour with us. It was amazing and incredibly personal. He shared stories about the early days, gave advice about managing creativity, told stories about Steve Jobs, shared thoughts about the transition to Disney and even told stories about my dad.

    Catmull later worked for Star Wars director George Lucas’ special effects shop Industrial Light and Magic. While there Catmull was instrumental in making the first computer generated animation used in a motion picture. A few years later ILM’s computer graphics division, along with Catmull, was purchased by a washed up former Silicon Valley executive turned cult leader noted for his obsessive concern for typography.

    Posted in Film, Tech | 4 Comments »

    Reagan Roundtable: The Cold War Ends

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 13th February 2011 (All posts by )

    I pity the fool. I pity 'em.

    I pity the fool. I pity 'em.

    It is altogether fitting that Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the USSR with hate only to kill it with love.

    American public discourse offers us two major explanations for the end of the Cold War. One explanation was, “the Soviet Union didn’t fall, it was pushed.” The opposing explanation holds that a tau neutrino fired from a neutron star on the far side of the Andromeda Galaxy 2.6 million years ago that collided with one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s synapses on June 24, 1959 had more to do with the end of the Cold War than either the United States or President Ronald Reagan.

    Some observers (kind according to their own lights) take a more moderate course. They’ll concede that Reagan had something to do with the end of the Cold War. Perhaps mesmerized by the sight of his own reflection looking back at him from Gorby’s shiny bald head, the senile old dinosaur was stunned into a quiescence sufficient to allow Gorby to let peace break out without the hurdle of Reagan’s habitual warmongering. Under other circumstances, Reagan would wake up, eat his Wheaties, break out a map, and plan which bastion of worker’s solidarity he would besiege that day. Gorby’s charm and skill in handling this wild rampaging elephant of imperialist plutocracy was only just enough to overcome even the power of the Breakfast of Champions and end the Cold War.

    Others concede that Reagan was more than a patsy skillfully played by a smooth talking Commie. Instead, he was a patsy skillfully played by a smooth talking State Department. In this version, George Schultz and other enlightened diplomats slowly weaned Reagan away from the Precambrian depths of his native Birchery and convinced him that speaking softly was more constructive than his unthinking waving of a big stick. The mandarins of Foggy Bottom supplied the script and Reagan, secretly yearning the direction of Hollywood days of yore, performed his role with all the aplomb a B-movie actor could summon. Reagan was convinced that the diminutive Gorby was Bonzo. It was his job to put the little bald chimp to bed with all the tender care a leading man could devote to an expensive studio prop. If Gorbachev happened to outshine him, it was all in good fun. Reagan understood in the light of the timeless wisdom of W.C. Fields: “Never work with animals or children”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Reagan Centenary, Russia | 3 Comments »

    Reagan Roundtable: Growing Up Reagan

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 6th February 2011 (All posts by )

    Mr. President

    Mr. President

    I blame many things.

    For one thing, the 1970s were good to my family. Oil prices were high. While a stumbling block for most American families, my father was a geologist specializing in domestic petroleum exploration. Due to the oil shock, his skills were in high demand. He was well paid and our family prospered. We had all the Star Wars action figures that money could buy.

    The 1980s were less kind. The price of oil plunged and soon there was no need for geologists specializing in domestic petroleum exploration. Indeed, an entire generation would pass before that skill set was in demand again. By then it was too late. My father never worked in his field again, subsisting on the occasional odd job or failed business scheme until he was well past retirement age. Things were tight for years afterward.

    Another thing: much of my initial self-education came from a 1964 set of Collier’s Encyclopedias my parents had purchased right after they first got married. It was a good investment from my perspective. After I developed an interest in military history, the trusty encyclopedias became a more useful source of knowledge on military history topics than my parents or siblings limited knowledge (or interest) in the subject. As an accidental side effect, I developed a wide range of historical knowledge (for a pre-adolescent). As Bartholomew J. Simpson once observed, acquiring facts through study and retaining them in memory is like a whole new way to cheat.

    However, there was a vacuüm. My knowledge of history after 1964 was limited to personal experience, what I read in the papers or saw on the TV news, or picked up through anecdotes from family and friends. The second half of the 1960s and the 1970s were a historical black hole. I was completely oblivious to the existence of the Great Society, hippies, Vietnam, Watergate, the Oil Shock, malaise, or other events of that period.

    Perhaps I was blessed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Reagan Centenary | 4 Comments »

    Hu’s On First

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 18th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Consider the Gap to be closed…

    Meeting of the Minds

    Core: I got my job because I have a remarkable talent for reading a teleprompter.

    Gap: That’s interesting. I got my job because I have a remarkable talent for killing Tibetans.

    Surprises can always happen…

    Posted in China, Personal Narrative, Speeches, That's NOT Funny | 3 Comments »

    The Dangling Grand Bargain

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 14th January 2011 (All posts by )

    The thirst for a magic bullet is profoundly American. In war, the magic bullet manifests itself in the antiseptic wonder weapons that promise to transform conflict into a harmless, contact-free sporting event. In politics, the magic bullet manifests itself as something like a 2,000+ page health care reform law. In finance, it manifests itself as the AAA rated senior tranche in a collateralized debt obligation (CDO).

    In diplomacy, the manifestation of magic bulletry is the “grand bargain”. Every diplomat’s secret desire is making the agreement to end all agreements and conducting the negotiation to end all negotiations. As a magic bullet, the grand bargain would kill all diplomatic disputes for all time, Unfortunately, over every aspiring 1648 or 1815 hangs the long shadow of 1919. Versailles was intended to be the magic bullet to end all magic bullets. Instead, it became the magic bullet that wasn’t. Inasmuch as it possessed magic, it was the magic to ricochet off its intended target and right back at its originators.

    In today’s West, dominated by those high on the heady drug of global meliorism, the mere act of talking has somehow become an end unto itself. Whether it’s a “peace process”, “six-party talks”, “quartet”, “agreed framework”, “security council resolution”, or some other high-falutin’ hogwash, Western diplomacy resembles is more the decrepit liturgy of a dying baroque cult than the hard-nosed power brokering beloved by naïve realists. Like a general who puts the desperate lunge for a tactically decisive battle above stodgy strategic logic, a diplomat who puts talking, negotiating, and agreements first puts the tactical cart before the strategic horse.

    Strategy seeks to convert power into control to achieve purpose. The ideal was outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 31:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, National Security, That's NOT Funny | 8 Comments »

    Butterfly Effect

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 11th January 2011 (All posts by )



    Because of the real risk that a butterfly might flap its wings in China and thereby trigger a hurricane that might kill a member of our legislative branch, I propose that we outlaw butterflies.

    Think of it as a sort of preventive war on butterflies.

    Posted in Americas | Comments Off on Butterfly Effect

    Anatomy of an Trinitarian OODA Wave

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    The anatomy of a trinitarian OODA wave:

    Trinitarian OODA Wave
    Trinitarian OODA Wave
    1. New information is observed.
      Stage 1
      Stage 1
    2. This new information is funneled into the input end of a bow tie architecture.
      Stage 2
      Stage 2
    3. To orient is to throw away. New information is compressed into a tacit orientation that draws on primordial (even blind) natural forces like culture, genes, and previous experience. The compressive pressure of these forces, expressed in a cycle of analysis and synthesis, tear new information down to its basic symbolic representation and reassemble it as a simplified storyline. Their particular configuration of orientation is the tacit component of purpose.
      Stage 3
      Stage 3

      Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, National Security | Comments Off on Anatomy of an Trinitarian OODA Wave

    John and Carl, Sittin’ Under a Tree…

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 20th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Disembodied Floating Clausewitz Head

    Disembodied Floating Clausewitz Head

    Genghis John

    Genghis John

    Recent outbreaks in the ongoing Cold War between advocates of Maj.Gen. Carl von Clausewitz, KPB and advocates of Col. John Boyd, USAF (ret) coincided with other outbreaks between supporters of Sun Wu and Clausewitz. Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that all such outbreaks would vanish into the maw of the Dread Zenpundit Comment Filter (DZCF), the same vortex that swallows <p>, <br / >, and other innocent HTML tags, never to be seen again. Yet, if these debates must rage until every tag destroyed by the DZCF is paid for by yet another tag marking up yet another piece of rhetorical excess, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    I won’t attempt to reconcile Sun-tzu and Clausewitz. That calling was fulfilled by the late Michael Handel in his Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought with an aplomb that is far beyond my poor power to add or detract. However, I will second Adam Elkus’ efforts in pointing out where the frameworks of Clausewitz and Boyd coincide.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Diversions, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Purple Hearts

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 7th December 2010 (All posts by )

    From Wikipedia:

    During World War II, nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the estimated casualties resulting from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock.[2] There are so many in surplus that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers in the field.[2]

    Good job, atom bomb.

    Good Boy!

    Good Boy!

    Posted in History, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    From the Pen of William Seward: One More Thanksgiving Message

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 25th November 2010 (All posts by )

    This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.


    Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”


    Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.


    The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.


    By the President of the United States of America.


    A Proclamation.


    The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.


    In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.


    Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.


    No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.


    It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.


    In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.


    Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.


    By the President: Abraham Lincoln


    William H. Seward,

    Secretary of State

    Posted in History, Holidays | 1 Comment »

    Vapors of a Infernal Machine: Towards a General Theory of Strategy

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 14th November 2010 (All posts by )


    This is the threefold path of strategy:

    1. power: the possibility of friendly conditions
    2. control: conditions friendly to aspiration
    3. purpose: an aspiration for how things should be

    Power is converted into control to achieve purpose. This is 97% of any general theory of strategy. The rest is details.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments »

    Systems Building

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 9th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Recently, a personal computer I built around seven years ago for one of my older brothers died. All heads turned to me since I’m “Uncle Computer Guy” (as my older nephews occasionally call me). Since I have evolved from lowly PC technician to the higher life form of software engineer, I was somewhat reluctant but filial piety won out.

    Confucius would be proud.

    Out of the back of a bottom drawer came my old computer repair kit, primarily consisting of the primary tools of the trade: a magnetized Philips head screwdriver and a giant flat head screwdriver. These days, most screws on a desktop computer are Philips head, making the Philips head screwdriver the one absolute necessity for PC hardware repair. My personal belief is that the giant flat head screwdriver is also necessary but not for screws. It’s primary purpose is prying apart stubbornly attached components.

    Most of the other tools sold in an over-the-counter PC repair toolkit like they used to sell at CompUSA are redundant. Not that I haven’t had to use other tools on occasion. Once I needed to install a 4 speed CD-ROM in an old Compaq that my dentist had inherited. It had been a corporate workstation so there was a lock on the back of the case to keep all of those employees who love messing with PC hardware during business hours. I had to use a hacksaw to open the case. Other proprietary cases were almost equally nightmarish, taking hours not to actually deal with the hardware but with the nightmares of industrial design that they’d encased the hardware in. Proprietary PC manufacturers seemed to be in a constant race with each other as to who could come up with the most idiotically designed and poorly manufactured computer case.

    When I was building systems for people a decade ago, most of the time I would force them to buy a better quality case than they would get from a proprietary PC vendor like Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or Dell. My observations of contemporary proprietary systems hasn’t improved my opinion of these companies’ industrial design skills. While Apple’s industrial design for cases remains unmatched, industrial design by PC manufacturers remains consistently and bafflingly poor. Though many earlier Apple cases are equally awful from a PC repair perspective, Apple towers in the Jobs era have been excellent. The ideal computer case can be summed up in one word: foldout.

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    Posted in Tech | 9 Comments »

    The Looming Numbers

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 11th September 2010 (All posts by )

    On this day:

    • 9 AD: Hermann marks the outer circuit of the Roman Empire.
    • 1297: The English overload a bridge and get themselves walloped by a bunch of blue painted, skirt-wearing savages shouting “FREEDOM!!!” English driven from Scotland.
    • 1609: The Reconquista is completed when the last Moors are driven from al-Andulus. Hudson finds his River.
    • 1611: Turenne is born.
    • 1649: The English bring peace to Ireland.
    • 1683: Jan Sobieski prepares to drive the Turk from central Europe.
    • 1697: Eugene of Savoy drives the Turk from central Europe.
    • 1708: The cliché that starting a land war in Asia is bad for your health begins.
    • 1709: The bloodiest battle of the eighteenth century: as usual, a French defeat.
    • 1775: Benedict Arnold goes an entire march without betraying anyone.
    • 1776: The American Revolution does not come to an end.
    • 1777: The American Revolution still doesn’t come to an end.
    • 1786: The overthrow of the United States of America begins, followed by the birth of the United States of America.
    • 1789: Alexander Hamilton begins his destruction of the British Empire.
    • 1814: The United States is not destroyed. No one outside Canada notices.
    • 1829: Mexico finally wins its independence and celebrates by overthrowing a government.
    • 1847: Susannah doesn’t cry for me.
    • 1888: Being dead, Sarmiento can neither govern or populate.
    • 1914: High tide of Australian imperialism.
    • 1919: America invades Honduras. No one outside Canada notices.
    • 1922: British Empire acquires a terminal case of indigestion. Hamilton smiles.
    • 1941: The military industrial complex acquires its first of five sides.
    • 1944: Americans reach Germany, like the looks of the place, and move in for the next 67 years.
    • 1948: The father of Pakistan dies.
    • 1950: The father of holism dies.
    • 1965: The Great Ophthalmologist is born.
    • 1973: Communists overthrown by monetarists.
    • 1978: Land apparently brings peace. George Markov dies, killed by a poison umbrella.
    • 1985: Pete Rose breaks Ty Cobb’s career hits record.
    • 1987: Lorne Greene dies.
    • 1989: The Iron Curtain begins unraveling.
    • 1996: The only successful government California ever knew becomes part of the Union Pacific Railroad.
    • 1997: The Scots, inspired by a movie, drive the English from Scotland. Again. Hamilton smiles. Again.
    • 2001: 2,977 Americans are murdered in cold blood as the centerpiece of a takfiri propaganda of the deed.

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    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »

    Worth Reading: Richelieu and Olivares

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 27th August 2010 (All posts by )

    This guy you know:


    He’s the winner. Through the efforts of Dumas, he found an unforeseen afterlife as a major literary and film villain who constantly twirled his mustache and plotted against a pesky Gascon and his indomitable friends.

    This guy you don’t know:

    Count-Duke of Olivares

    He’s the loser. No Dumas or even his cheap Spanish equivalent found him worthy of commemoration.

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    Posted in Book Notes, History | 5 Comments »

    Afghanistan 2050: Walking and Chewing Gum at the Same Time

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 18th August 2010 (All posts by )

    In fiscal 2010, the U.S. government will spend between $880 billion and $1.03 trillion dollars on defense (depending upon how you finagle the numbers). This is, in a much ballyhooed percentage, around half of the world’s known defense spending. It is also between 6% and 7% of the $14,597.7 trillion U.S. GDP (as of the second quarter of 2010).

    The United States of America has a population ~301,237,703 (give or take a few million). The U.S. Department of Defense directly employs ~700,000 civilians, ~1,418,542 active duty military personnel, ~1,458,500 reserve duty personnel, and who knows how many contractors. The U.S. has ~72,715,332 men and ~71,638,785 women of military age (between the ages of 18-49). Of these, an estimated ~59,413,358 men and ~59,187,183 women are actually fit for military service. An estimated ~2,186,440 men and ~2,079,688 women reach the usual minimum military age of 18 every year. The Selective Service has information on ~15 million men between 18 and 25 years of age, the first cohort that would eligible for conscription if a draft was reinstated.

    The percentage of U.S. military personnel classifiable as combat personnel was about 25% of all forces engaged in Iraq in 2005. Very very very crudely applying the same percentage to the above manpower numbers, this means that the U.S. has about ~354,635 active and ~364,625 reserve combat personnel for a grand total of ~719,260 combat personnel. If we figure that only ~12.15 million (81%) of the 15 million men in the Selective Service database are fit for military service and that 100% were drafted (!), that would add another ~3.03 million combat personnel (25%). If we further strain credulity and expand that to the full ~59,413,358 males fit for military service and conscripted 100% of them (!!!), it would produce an additional ~14,853,339 combat personnel. There would be about ~546,610 replacements available yearly assuming 100% of young men eligible for military service were drafted, about a ~3% possible replacement rate annually.

    Given even a conservative reading of such information and ignoring such small obstacles as resource constraints, political reality, or public opinion, why is it that so many defense commentators suggest that the United States military, especially the U.S. Army, can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?

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    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 2 Comments »

    Afghanistan 2050: The Future’s Just Not That Into You

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    EEvn beefoor thu 80 Yeerz ‘ Woor ended, selfkonfidenz fyuuld bii FIL luld 3 Reepublik intuu unuthr rownd uv intrvenshnz, thoo theez reemaand dwoorft bii thu intrvenshnz uv thu preeceedng rownd. Startng with Grenaadu (BR43), this finl rownd inkluuded intrventshnz in thu fyuuchr KPS (SAU (BR46-BR37), Gron Kooloombeeu (BR37), Ispanyoolu (BR32)) az wel az owtsiid it (EEtheeoopeeu (BR35-BR34, BR25-BR15), Srveeu (BR31-BR14), Midl EEzt (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), sentrl Wrld IIland (BR25-BR14)). Az 2 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 2 Korekshn, 3 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 3 Korekshn. Thu xpeereeunz uv theez intrvenshnz, howevr, led tuu frthr deevelopmentz in popuulaashn kontrool and roobotikz.

    –  Birth and Deth uv 3 Republiks, R21


    [Legacy encoding: Even before the Eighty Years’ War ended, self-confidence fueled by FIL lulled the Third Republic into another round of interventions, though these remained dwarfed by the interventions of the preceding round. Starting with Grenada (BR43), this final round included interventions in the future CPZ  (CAU (BR46-BR37, Gran Colombia (BR37), Hispaniola (BR32)) as well as outside it (Ethiopia (BR35-BR34 and BR25-BR15), Servia (BR31-BR14), the Middle East (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), central World Island (BR25-BR14)). As the Second Republic’s final interventions ended after the Second Correction, the Third Republic’s final interventions ended after the Third Correction. The experience of these interventions, however, led to further developments in population control and robotics.


    Birth and Death of Three Republics, R21]

    On the outbreak of the War with Spain, Commodore Dewey and the American Consul at Singapore had helped a Philippine leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, return to Luzon to lead a revolt against the Spanish authority. Aguinaldo succeeded so well that he and his forces were besieging Manila when American troops occupied the city.


    The Filipinos wanted independence, not merely a transfer of sovereignty to a new foreign master. When it became obvious that the United States intended to impose its own authority, Aguinaldo and his forces raised anew the standards of revolt on February 4, 1899. So stubbornly did the Filipinos fight that McKinley eventually had to send some 70,000 troops to the islands, and before “pacification” was completed, American commanders had resorted to the same primitive tactics that the Spanish had unsuccessfully employed in Cuba. Aguinaldo’s capture on March 23, 1901 signaled the end of resistance and the beginning of a long era of peaceful development of the islands.


    American Epoch: A History of the United States Since the 1890’s
    Volume I 1897-1920
    Arthur S. Link with the collaboration of William B. Catton

    This third excerpt is from a college textbook my dad used in college in the mid-1960’s. It was written about 50 years after the Philippine Insurrection by the leading authority of the time on noted war criminal Thomas Woodrow Wilson in collaboration with the son of another famous historian who himself was a college professor. The war they were writing about was the largest foreign insurgency the U.S. Army faced between Wounded Knee and Vietnam. It lasted, with varying degrees of intensity, from June 2, 1899 to June 15, 1913, at fourteen years one of the longest wars ever fought by the United States. 4,165 Americans lost their lives, mostly from disease, and another 3,000 were wounded. About 2000 native Filipino auxiliaries were also killed. About 34,000 to 1 million Filipino citizens were killed along with 12,000 to 20,000 insurgents.

    Estimates vary.

    And yet it merited only a few paragraphs fifty years later. Today, it’s forgotten in the United States.

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    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 6 Comments »

    An Uncomfortable Intimacy

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 4th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Following up on Lex’s point

    For most of the course of human events, mankind lived in tribes. Behavior was regulated by intimate and persistent relationships, many with blood relations. The prolonged development required by human children assumed prolonged immersion in a cultural torrent fed by close physical proximity to fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and the occasional stray outsider. Through this immersion, acceptable behavior was impressed on a child’s mind through a mix of deliberate and accidental lessons cumulatively applied over decades. When personal survival depended entirely on face to face relationships with others, the incentive to conform to what the tribe found acceptable was strong.

    As Peter Turchin discussed in War and Peace and War, every human group, including tribes, is made up of three kinds of people:

    • knave: puts individual interests before group interests
    • saint: puts group interests before individual interests
    • moralist: conditionally puts individual interests before group interests

    If moralists can punish knaves for not pursuing group interests, they will willingly put group interests ahead of their individual interests. If moralists can’t punish knaves, they opt out of pursuing group interests and only pursue their individual interests.

    Since any human group is roughly ¼ knave, ¼ saint, and ½ moralist, this potentially pits ¾ of the group against the knaves. Within a tribe, knaves face an additional problem: the size of a tribe is usually smaller than Dunbar’s number. Dunbar’s number is the “number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained” within the limits of the human mind. If group size is less than Dunbar’s number (around 150 people), moralists can know who’s a knave and who isn’t, allowing them to monitor and punish known knaves.

    Consistent face to face intimacy with saints or moralists makes knavery difficult.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment | 23 Comments »

    This is Profoundly Stupid…

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 12th July 2010 (All posts by )

    The city of Philadelphia, Pennslyvania is home to USS Olympia:

    USS Olympia was a protected cruiser in the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War. She is most notable for being the flagship of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay. The cruiser continued in service throughout World War I and was decommissioned in 1922. As of 2010, Olympia is a museum ship at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Olympia is the world’s oldest steel warship still afloat.

    Not for long, it seems:

    Now the Olympia – the last surviving vessel from that 1898 conflict – could face an ignoble end as an artificial reef off Cape May if a new benefactor cannot be found.
    The Independence Seaport Museum and the Navy have already checked with officials of New Jersey’s Artificial Reef Program on the possibility of sinking the ship, once a source of national pride.
    “Another option would be scrapping Olympia,” said James McLane, interim president of the museum, which owns the ship and is adjacent to it at Penn’s Landing. “But the Navy has told us that ‘reefing’ is better because it would allow divers to go down on it and would preserve Olympia.”
    The museum can no longer afford the ship’s upkeep, McLane said. At least $20 million is needed to tow, restore, interpret, and endow the deteriorating vessel.

    Fortunately, as Dmitri Rotov points out, the state of Pennsylvania has its priorities straight:

    Tough economic times – but the $20 million needed to rehab the Olympia is exactly the amount allocated in the new state budget for an Arlen Specter library and a John Murtha “Center for Public Policy.”

    Posted in Military Affairs, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    Worth Reading: Special Operations and Strategy: From World War II to the War on Terrorism

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 2nd July 2010 (All posts by )

    Politics trickles down while tactics trickles up.

    That’s especially true of military factions. Take retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor. Macgregor has three claims to fame:

    • He was in command of 2nd Squadron, 2nd Calvary when it ran into a wing of the Iraqi Republican Guard during Operation Desert Storm. His squadron destroyed an entire enemy brigade in forty minutes in what has become known as the Battle of 73 Easting.
    • He wrote a book advocating a massive reorganization of the U.S. Army called Breaking the Phalanx. It made him very popular with the top brass. As popular as a bad rash.
    • He created the core operational concept for the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    Macgregor is a man who speaks his mind and means what he says. He is an unabashed and unapologetic U.S. Army Armor officer. If you don’t know what an unabashed and unapologetic Armor officer looks like, Macgregor spends over an hour in this lecture at Chicago’s own Pritzker Military Library putting the mind of a U.S. Army Armor officer on exhibit. Macgregor’s variant on the Armor worldview is tactical in that his intra-service politics have become “tacticized” and it’s political in that his tactics have become politicized.

    In his lecture, Macgregor strongly implies that the counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare waged in Iraq and Afghanistan is a conspiracy by the U.S. Army’s light infantry against his beloved Armor. This is because COIN requires large numbers of “boots on the ground” which means that resources are being diverted from Armor to the light infantry. An unspoken subtext of Macgregor’s implications are that Armor (and its officers) are losing power to those treacherous light infantry officers.

    Since the division of power is the essence of politics, this means that the debate between Armor and light infantry is political even though Armor and light infantry are both Army and they are only distinguished from each other light by their tactical roles. Ironically, a tactical distinction has created a political fault line. This makes the formation of strategy, which has to link tactics and politics, much more difficult. If a chosen strategy favors Armor, as Macgregor advocates, or if it favors COIN, as advocated by Macgregor’s chosen arch-nemesis David Petraeus, the formation of strategy is reduced to sweeping up the debris left over after a vicious struggle between competing factions whose living depends on their particular tactical vision being funded. Strategy ends up being shaped by politics from above and tactics from below, leaving it politicized and tacticized but not strategized.

    Of course Macgregor’s advocacy can’t be reduced to purely political calculations. Armor, like any human community, has its own narratives and its own culture. If you drink the Kool Aid they serve at the company picnic for long enough, eventually you’ll start to think like the Kool Aid. Culture is shaped by the nature of an organization, its role, and its need for resources. Narratives that attract resources to their organizations tend to thrive. Narratives that don’t tend to wither away. Macgregor, like any American armor advocate dating back to George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower (Patton led the first American tank corps into battle during World War I while Eisenhower (much to his frustration) led the stateside armor training at Gettysburg, PA), has learned what sells:

    Easy Button

    Easy Button

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    Posted in Book Notes, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »

    Don’t Trust Any General Over 50?

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 28th June 2010 (All posts by )

    Over at the (American) Civil War Bookshelf, Dmitri Rotov posts on Generals who faint and raises this point:

    General Mansfield

    General Mansfield

    General Petraeus will be 58 in November. General Mansfield was 58 when he was killed in battle. Mansfield, shown right, had not fainted up to that point, at least not on the record. He is the oldest looking general I have ever seen. The Civil War reader, first encountering Mansfield, asks, “What the hell?” The newspaper reader, encountering Petraeus, thinks “How youthful and fit.”
    Petraeus and Mansfield. One slogs around all day in Maryland or Virginia mud, heat, and frost in heavy boots and wool clothing as a kind of daily fitness program; the other mans a desk in Floridian air conditioned comfort between inspections, briefings, and rounds of self-imposed exercise.
    None of this is intended to slight Petraeus but to make the point that one can run, jump, exercise, whatever, and it will not change that one is 58 years old. Fainting or worse are possible. Forget about 60 being the new 40. Mansfield was remarkable – exceptional – and no basis for broad army policy.
    Joe Hooker was our fain[t]ingest [American Civil War] general but his faints were accompanied by blood loss and concussion. Remember how you thought he was a geezer in the summer of 1862 at 47 years of age? That’s 11 years younger than Petraeus, 11 years older than McClellan.
    And speaking of older generals, how old do you make Lee in the summer of 1862? He was 55, three years younger than Petraeus. Lee – another exception and no basis for policy.
    In J.F.C. Fuller‘s book Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure, he names three pillars of generalship: courage, creative intelligence, and physical fitness and he attributes all three to “the attributes of youth rather than middle age.” He does not find courage and creative intelligence among middle aged officers as a rule, and he would be dismayed at the current leadership of the U.S. military.
    Under Petraeus, directing the Iraq war, we find Ray Odierno, 56. Under Petraeus, directing the Afghanistan war, we find Stanley McChrystal, 55. At the top, this is an army of Mansfields. We love Mansfield but is this a good thing?

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    Posted in Military Affairs | 12 Comments »

    The Cure For Spills, Peaks, and Crazy Foreigners…

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 10th June 2010 (All posts by )

    Howard Bloom argues that America needs a space vision. Like solar power…FROM OUTER SPACE!

    Space Solar

    Space Solar

    Bloom argues that space solar power is the solution to America’s energy needs. With space solar power, this nation would put satellites in orbit around the Earth. These satellites would collect the plentiful  solar power in space that’s just sitting there unused, ready to reduce your power bill, convert it into healthy radiation, and beam that radiation back to the Earth where it can be converted into power. Space solar power would have no problem with spills, weather, eminent domain, NIMBY, waste, Indian attack, pollution, or allergies. Other than the small technology, engineering, and financial hurdles, Bloom faces one massive hurdle in convincing the American people that this is the vision for them: the term solar power.

    When the average red-blooded American hears the term solar power, they think of one thing:

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    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Science, Space | 12 Comments »