Seth Barrett Tillman: “What I Learned About the United States After Ten Years in Ireland”

This is an anniversary, of sorts, for me. I have now lived in Ireland for ten years. They were ten good years. During that time, I made some friends and worked with colleagues, who later became friends, and befriended some students, who later befriended me. During this time, I made one good decision, and one bad mis-judgment—and the two were related.

Worth reading in full.

Happy Birthday to US

I was patiently waiting for one of the other authors here to put up some sort of post today to celebrate the birthday of these most excellent United States. Seeing nothing, I provide a short story before I wish you a most happy Fourth of July.

Last night I went to a local neighborhood party. It was one of those where the local dads pooled (a lot of) money to purchase various illegally obtained incendiary devices, both terrestrial and aerial. Many treats were served (dish to pass required for admission), and the theme of the party was all stars and stripes. Everyone had stars and stripes attire, the food was all stars and stripes, and the colors of the day were most certainly red, white and blue, down to the host houses hand towels in the bathroom.

Before the municipal sized devices were detonated, much conversation was had. Even though the people were across the political spectrum, all agreed that the idiotic and dunderheaded reaction to covid over the last year was hated by all, and many jokes were made about the higher ups making said terrible decisions. It was refreshing and a great time, without a mask in sight.

The American spirit, at least here in flyover country, is still strong. The national anthem was played before the fireworks, and during the explosions John Philip Sousa music was playing. We have a lot of problems in this country, but at least for one night, it was good to be a proud American. Most media will try to play it down and make all seem terrible. If they want to live in misery, so be it.

Happy Fourth to you all and God Bless America.

Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan

Generatim discite cultus

(Learn the culture proper to each after its kind)

— Virgil, Georgics II

Stephen Biddle, Nonstate Warfare: the Military Methods of Guerrillas, Warlords, and Militias (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021)

one-to-many entity-relationship symbol superposed over map of Martissant, Haiti

By way of making this more than a merely armchair review, I will be discussing the developing situation of state failure in Haiti, which is providing a personally harrowing example of the phenomena theorized and studied in this book. NB: additional situation reports like the one I quote from below will appear at this OCHA webpage.

I. Increasingly Scale-Free Military Activity in the 21st Century

In this follow-up to 2004’s Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (also from Princeton), Stephen Biddle continues to elucidate the many ramifications of the one-to-many relationship which came to dominate the battlefield between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Over that century and in the decades that followed, individual-service weapons increased in rate of fire from a (very) few rounds per minute to ~10 rounds per second, in effective range from ~100 to >300 meters, and in accuracy from (optimistically) 10 to 1.5 milliradians. Say 2½ orders of magnitude improvement in RoF, half an order of magnitude in range, and one order of magnitude in accuracy; multiplying these together to create a sort of index of effectiveness, I get an overall change of 4 orders of magnitude, with stark implications for battlefield environments.

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June Road Trip In the Hill Country

The Daughter Unit and I, with Wee Jamie the Grandson Unit, made a road trip last Saturday – a completely enjoyable outing, even with the necessity of stopping several times to change Wee Jamie’s diapers on the hour-and a half drive to Kingsland on the Llano and Colorado Rivers. He slept for the most part, and excited the admiration of many, who noted the Overwhelming Cuteness of Wee Jamie. His eyes actually opened once or twice during these occasions.

We had an appointment for a presentation ceremony at the American Legion post in Kingsland for me to be presented with a quilt; the ladies of this organization have been working for several years on a project to present a patriotic-themed quilt to every military veteran who can be identified and nominated for one.

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Tiananmen OSINT

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin

[Readers are directed to the end of this post for an explanation of my timing and motivation.

UPDATE 6/5, 11 AM CDT: videos embedded!]

I. Anniversary Reconnoiter

At around nine in the morning local time on the thirtieth anniversary of the “June Fourth Incident,” I began a reconnoiter of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing to observe security measures and, if possible, witness any attempt at commemorating the massacre. I accompanied Dr. Andrew R. Cline, professor of media, journalism, and film at Missouri State University in Springfield. We were part of group of eleven people—four students, two faculty, and five others including me—comprising a “Study Away” program from MSU which had spent the previous twelve days in China, flying into Beijing and taking high-speed trains to Xi’an and Xining, then on via the Qinghai–Tibet railway to Lhasa before flying back to Beijing. Of all days, Tuesday 4 June 2019 was designated a free day for the group: no itinerary—and no guide. The remaining nine group members, as it turned out, had other ideas about what to do that day.

Andy’s motivation was broadly journalistic, garnished with a specific interest in whether any actual Marxists would show up. I went along out of a feeling that I had something of a reputation to uphold, and quickly decided during our approach that I would evaluate the security measures and write up a more quantitative report, although I will also pass along some thoughts about the organizational behaviors involved.

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