Quote of the Day

I don’t think people are thinking overthrow of the government. I think the prevailing sentiment is anarchy, which coincidentally fits right in with law enforcement buying and training sprees.
Bubbling right below the surface, I think there’s an unspoken sense of alarm that there’s a great deal of social unrest, political outrage, economic turmoil, force-fed liberal social spending, a growing sense of cynicism about the effectiveness of our legal system, and the very likely prospect of a major terrorist attack. All managed by an out of control Congress and a dangerously ideological new president while the rest of the world’s economies circle the drain. All things considered, the future is not looking so bright.
In that light, stocking up on guns and ammunition sounds like a common sense act of prudence. It’s not just for right-wing, knuckle-dragging, Bible-thumping hate-filled conservatives any more.

-Commenter 10, “bobdog”, responding to this post.

Clausewitz Book V: In Support of War, Now and Then

Book five was perhaps the most difficult read for me thus far. Clausewitz appears to pause here in his flow of ideas to concentrate on the apocrypha of war. It is in these pages that he gives us his view of how the supporting operations should be conducted, as well as considerations for placement, movement, and troop strengths. Application of most of Clausewitz’ points to modern day is extremely difficult and in most cases takes a good deal of abstract thinking.

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Clever Mathematicians vs. Financial Risk

See here (via here).

This is a timeless issue. The specific risk model under discussion isn’t the central issue. It never is. The central issue is that financial-risk models whose effectiveness depends on the accuracy of their assumptions about the distribution of securities-price movements eventually blow up. This is why “portfolio insurance” failed in (helped to precipitate) the 1987 crash, why Long Term Capital Management blew up, why Fannie Mae’s risk estimates vastly understated the real risk and why countless other “value at risk” schemes cause more problems than they mitigate. In simple terms, these schemes assume that in the event of portfolio losses you will be able to sell off your portfolio incrementally without incurring further large losses. In practice, the very fact that your portfolio is experiencing an extreme decline in value means there are no buyers except at lower prices and that further losses are probably inevitable: if the life boats are all on one side of your supposedly unsinkable ship you may still capsize if the passengers move there en masse. This is human nature and can’t be hedged away by invoking clever math, though clever people keep making this mistake (and will keep making it, because human nature doesn’t change).

In the long run the only reliable way to limit the risk in your market portfolio is to structure it so that you don’t lose money if the impossible happens. But this is expensive (insurance usually is), and it’s always tempting to lower your costs, and raise your short-run returns, by assuming you don’t have to worry about 100-year floods. The problem is that 100-year floods occur in financial markets every five or 10 years.

BTW, this is also why the notion of “stress testing” banks is fatally flawed. You cannot assess the risk of loss in a financial portfolio by asking what happens under conditions of moderate, i.e., likely, financial stress. If there is a systematic fatal weakness, however improbable, in your financial system the markets will eventually find it and the system will blow up.

Federal Tax Credits For Energy Efficient HVAC Equipment

President Obama signed the “stimulus” package into law on February 17.  I prefer the term “porkulus”.

Embedded in that garbage legislation are a mind boggling array of things that really have not much of anything to do with reviving our economy.  Pretty much everybody knows that.

There is a small piece of the “porkulus” that may help you if you are needing to update the mechanical systems of your domicile.

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Time to Play “Guess The Party”!!!

The mayor of a small town in California, a guy named Dean Grose, decided to share an Email with some of his coworkers. The Email was certainly in poor taste, was racist, and the ensuing ruckus has prompted the mayor to announce that he is resigning.

What I can’t figure out is which party the mayor belongs to. There is no mention of his political affiliations anywhere.

Recent history has taught us that this is usually a sign that the troubled politician is a Democrat. It seems that the news media will try to avoid mentioning that a politician in trouble belongs to that particular party, while repeatedly pounding home the affiliation of any Republican that is going through a rough patch. It appears to be an attempt to deliberately associate all Republicans with bad behavior, while at the same time distancing the journalist’s favorite party from any link with corruption or poor judgment.

Don’t believe me? Ace of Spades has been documenting this particular form of bias for some time now. It is amazing how often it crops up.

But I’m not sure that such shenanigans is the case in this case, mainly because I can’t find any mention of Mayor Grose’s political party anywhere. It could be that no one really knows, so the media decided to keep quiet until they found out.

Brain Rinse

“The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.” – Mark Twain

My friend, former Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright, has made several interesting posts on information warfare.

Of all the words he’s written on the subject, the most important quote is this one:

When information arrives, how many folks ask themselves: How was this information acquired? Is it complete? Is it accurate? Is it biased. Is it relevant? Is there enough detail? Do I accept it because it reinforces what I think I know, or do I reject it for the same reason? How can I verify it? How can I test it? If I can’t test and verify the information, do I accept it anyway? If so, why?


Those who fail to ask themselves such questions place themselves and those who depend on them, at a significant disadvantage – they will always be at the mercy of those who can observe the universe critically, adjust their worldview appropriately, decide and act.

I have an affinity for that type of inquiry because I am an accredited professional in information warfare – I hold an MBA with a subspecialty in marketing. Some segment of society wages information warfare on the individual practically every day of his or her life. And the individual wages it right back.

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“Shovel Ready” stimulus

Recently I went to the Chicago Dog show and then down to Hyde Park, where our president used to live, to eat at a restaurant I saw on the show “Check Please” called Calypso. The restaurant was a Caribbean restaurant and the food was excellent. It seemed nice to get some sun and imagine I was in the tropics, if only for a minute.

While driving home on East Hyde Park Boulevard, a major street in Hyde Park, I was driving with a car right beside me and I came up to a monstrous pothole. Since there was someone right next to me I tried to swerve and slow down but still ended up in the hole. The depression was very large and the edges were completely jagged – it was more like a construction site than a pothole.

My tire was flat in a matter of seconds. I pulled over in a residential neighborhood and with the help of some friends along for the ride (I am not a particularly handy guy, although I was game to get out there and do the work) we changed the tire and put on the little spare.

Later I heard that the City of Chicago will reimburse you for pothole damage but I wasn’t able to find the link on their site. I will look into it a bit more but I am not too hopeful that our maze of bureaucracy would be paying me out in my lifetime.

I was looking to get new tires for my car, anyways, since the damn Altima will live forever (it is going on 10 years) so I wasn’t really out much. Glad I didn’t replace the tires FIRST because there was no way any tire could have survived that ditch.

The ironic part of this is that city mayors are scrambling to figure out what to do with the windfall of cash and they can’t even bother to plan to fix a major pothole right near the President’s house.

Cross posted at LITGM

US Government is Now the New Illinois

A while back before the election I wrote a depressingly omniscient post about the future of the US government after the Presidential election and the fact that it would look like Illinois. In Illinois the Democrats run the executive position (governor) and both state houses, and most of the big cities (Chicago) to boot. The post was called “As Illinois Goes, So Goes the Nation

In this post I noted that in Illinois the Democrats were split as follows:

The Democrats here generally split into two camps:

1) Stone-cold redistributionists – these individuals view all people as individuals to be taxed virtually to the brink of death to fund various state schemes
2) Let’s not kill the golden goose – the rest of the Democrats fall into this camp, noting that if you tax everyone to death, they will leave, and there will be no money to fund government programs. Note that they aren’t per-se against these massive programs, they are just being pragmatic in how much they can extract from you before you expire, like a bookie’s enforcer deciding just to break your leg instead of killing you to keep you paying up

I was hoping that some Democrats would emerge as category #2 although I didn’t know of anyone who might fit the bill. Unfortunately the executive branch has come out strongly as type #1, stone cold redistributionists, as summarized below in this ABC News article:

President Obama’s $3.5 trillion budget proposal, the largest in history, presents a dramatic break from policy and a shift in governmental priorities. The administration is attempting to redirect vast sums of money from businesses and wealthier individuals to those with lower incomes and enact ambitious and costly new programs for energy, education and health care.

Only in the senate do we have any hope, and this is just a slight hope, of keeping the pace of the runaway spending train below the absolute top speed possible.

The only positive point out of this entire morass is that at least Republicans are starting to act like Republicans, instead of closet Democrats, and found their spine. I’d much rather vote for a party that is willing to go down with the ship than be craven and flit in the wind with the latest trends. The sorriest one of those was Governor Ryan of Illinois, currently incarcerated, who let everyone off death row and behaved like the wimpiest Democrat ever.


This link is not about a zoological species, but rather about Israel-bashing, anti-Semitism, and political intimidation on an American college campus. It deserves careful reading.

The “rhinoceros” reference is, of course, to Eugene Ionesco’s 1959 play, which is summarized at the link. (The play has also been made into an excellent film, featuring Zero Mostel–this would be a very good time to order it from Netflix or pick it up at a local video store.)

See also my 2002 post on the rise of political violence and intimidation in America.

link via Meryl Yourish

Clausewitz, On War, Book VII: The Attack, the Whole Attack, and Nothing but the Attack

In Book VII, Clausewitz returns to his dialectical logic in framing the nature of “The Attack” by contrasting it with the previous book, “Defense”. He begins Book VII by discriminating between defense (whose strengths “…may not be insurmountable, [but] the cost of surmounting them may be disproportionate.”) and offense.

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The Rust Coast

The speed with which socialism can destroy a region never ceases to stun me. In the 1960s Los Angeles eclipsed New York as the place to be in America to make things happen. And now...

“The Rust Coast” seems an incorrect metaphor as California does not have great industries of steel as did the Great Lake states. Yet, what do film, silicon and aircraft aluminum decay to?  

Whatever we call it, it is the dust of squandered dreams. 

[h/t Instapundit]

[Update: (2009-2-25 3:14pm): Steven Malanga via Instapundit,

But California doesn’t just have a spending problem. Increasingly it also has economic and revenue problems. Even as I write this other neighboring states are running ads in local newspapers inviting California businesses to move their headquarters out of the state. That’s advertising money well spent. A poll of business executives conducted last year by Development Counsellors International, which advises companies on where to locate their facilities, tabbed California as the worst state to do business in.

There are a host of reasons why California has become toxic to business, ranging from the highest personal income tax rate in the country (small business owners are especially hard hit by PITs), to an environmental regulatory regime that has made electricity so expensive businesses simply can’t compete in California. That is one reason why even California-based businesses are expanding elsewhere, from Google, which built a server farm in Oregon, to Intel, which opened a $3 billion factory for producing microprocessors outside of Phoenix.


What Date is It? Part II

From the New York Times:

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980’s.
”From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,” said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ”If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.”

When was this piece of sage advice from the libertarian American Enterprise Institute given? 2009? 2008, 2007? Try September 30, 1999. 

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Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book VI, Ch 6, Balance of Power

Clausewitz starts off this chapter with an extension of the range of resources that the defender has at his disposal, these in addition to those listed in Chapter 3 as being responsible for defensive strategic success.  This includes the militia (which exhibits distinct advantages and limitations as compared to the army; fortresses; the people (as in assisting the army operating on their own territory) which can be armed and become yet another source of power – the people in arms; and finally the defender’s allies.  In describing this last source of the defender’s power, Clausewitz provides his view of the balance of power in Europe:

If we consider the community of states in Europe today, we do not find a systematically regulated balance of power and of spheres of influence, which does not exist and whose existence has often been justifiably denied; but we certainly do find major and minor interests of states and peoples interwoven in the most varied and changeable manner.  Each point of intersection binds and serves to balance one set of interests against the other.  The broad effect of all these fixed points is obviously to give a certain amount of cohesion to the whole.  Any change will necessarily weaken this cohesion to some degree.  The sum total of relations between states thus serves to maintain the stability of the whole rather than to promote change; at least, that tendency will generally be present.

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What Date is It?

From the New York Times:

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis…
Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.
The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios. [emp added]

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are absolutely ground zero for the financial collapse. Most of the major lenders who failed did so because the mortgage securities they brought from the
two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) proved nearly worthless.  

I know what you’re thinking, “It’s too bad Bush didn’t try to fix the problem with the GSEs before the wheels came off.”

The New York Times story is datelined September 11, 2003

The Times give the prized final word to these two clowns:

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”
Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.
”I don’t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,” Mr. Watt said. 

The financial collapse was not caused by unbridled capitalism. It was caused by politicians trying to distort the free market to get something for nothing. Far from being oblivious to the dangers posed by the GSEs, Bush and other Republicans tried to make them work more like free-market companies, but Frank and other Democrats blocked them. Bush failed in four attempts to reform the dangerous GSEs, until last summer when it was far too late. 

The Democrats’ creation of the GSEs and their decades-long coddling of them inflated minor, localized housing booms into a single, massive economy-wrecking bubble. We shouldn’t forget how we got here. 

Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 5: sound advice for small armies

“God is on the side of the biggest battalions”, or so the maxim goes. It was an article of faith for Clausewitz, who wrote that

“The best strategy is always to be very strong; first in general, and then at the decisive point….there is no higher and simpler law of strategy than that of keeping one’s forces concentrated.”

This quote brings together three ideas that are key to understanding Clausewitz’s view of how battles are won: concentrating superior numbers at decisive points.

So, did Clausewitz believe that only big armies have a hope in hell on the battlefield?

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IKC Dog Show Chicago

We have a lot of weighty posts here at Chicago Boyz so I figured I’d post one that was just fun

On Sunday I attended the IKC Chicago dog show at McCormick Center. The fun part of the show is not the judging or the agility contests like they show on TV but it is the fact that you can walk through and see all of the dog owners grooming and preparing their dogs prior to the show. It is also interesting to walk down a row and see lots and lots of dogs of the same breed, even if it is a rare one. I highly recommend attending – pretty much everyone there seemed to be having a good time.

The little dogs and the big dogs are a lot of work to prepare for judging. The effort spent on getting their coats ready to go takes hours.

I use Picasa 3 which is a google product for photo editing and made this you tube video of all my pictures. I originally had “hound dog” by Elvis in the background but You Tube stripped that out so now it is silent – use your own music. It is just a couple of minutes long and very family friendly so watch it with your kids or kids who aren’t yours for that matter. It is about 2 minutes long.

Here is a link to the movie.


The land of double-think and memory hole

Without agreeing with everything he said, I am an unashamed admirer of George Orwell’s, though my favourite writings are not the two famous novels but his various political and literary essays. I find that there is nothing more annoying than watching people reduce this hard-headed and strong-minded writer to mush.

The guilty party in this case is the National Film Theatre, an institution that shows many excellent and entertaining second-rate films from the past, which is good; it also provides notes of unsurpassed silliness that are examples of soggy-left and thoughtless political consensus.

I have lost track of the number of times some American producer, director or actor who had a highly successful career in Britain, on the Continent or, even, back in the United States has been described as being a blameless, liberal victim of “McCarthyite witch hunts”, with complete disregard of the difference between the Senate enquiry that was not in the slightest interested in Hollywood and the House Un-American Activity Committee (HUAC) and equally complete disregard of the fact that most of those “innocent” victims were, in fact, Communists who had preferred to lie on orders from the Party. Nor do we get any explanation as to who, if anybody, actually prevented these people from working in Hollywood studios.

Now it is Orwell’s turn to be dragged into this morass of half-truths and double-think. (He would have understood it very well and railed against the sogginess and dishonesty.)

In April the NFT will be marking the 60th anniversary of the publication of “1984” with films about Orwell, as well as a showing of the famous 1956 version with Edmond O’Brien, the less well-known 1954 TV play with Peter Cushing and the 1984 film with John Hurt. Fine. But what do the notes in the recently sent out programme say?

2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic dystopian vision of Britain.

In Orwell’s re-imagining of British life in the year 1984 the nation has become Airstrip One, a subsidiary of Oceania, one of three global superstates engaged in relentless warfare against one another. London is a fetid, near-derelict metropolis dominated by the monolithic buildings of the ruling Party, its slums battered by rockets fired from enemy states. The collective memory of life before the wars has been all but obliterated by the Party which shapes and monitors the lives of its workers while keeping the disorderly ‘proles’ in a state of controlled ignorance.

Dystopian vision? Re-imagining of British life? Is there not a word missing here, one beginning with the letter “c”? Orwell was not writing a dystopian vision and, while he was re-imagining life in Britain and, to some extent, warning about governments grabbing too much power, he was describing a very precise society.

The shortages, the denunciations, the Inner and Outer Party, the re-writing of history and throwing articles about unpersons into the memory hole, the biographies of imaginary shock workers and, above all, the permanent enemy Emmanuel Goldberg, obviously the figure of Trotsky – these are all aspects of Soviet society, of Communism. Clearly, as far as the NFT and its meandering, never-stepping-out-of-the-box programme organizers, Communism is just one of those unpleasant episodes that have to be thrown down the memory hole. Otherwise the left-wing vision of the world might be polluted.

(Astonishingly enough, this evening I heard an excellent talk given as introduction to Fritz Lang’s “The Testament of Dr Mabuse” by the writer and cinema critic Philip Kemp in which he openly equated Nazism and Stalinism. There were some murmurs in the audience but I could not make out whether these were noises of approval or of people getting the vapours. In my experience, this is a first for the National Film Theatre.)

This is based on a posting on Conservative History Journal blog

Reclaiming the franchise – part deux

If you are so minded, it isn’t hard to determine who should have their vote suspended until they join the world of wealth creation: those who take wealth contributed by others and give nothing in return (except their purchased vote). There are discrete borders.

The public sector is much harder. It is more diverse, for one thing. No one would argue that the emergency services or the military are not well entitled to their vote. We couldn’t do without them. I would also argue that the diplomatic service, by and large, not only performs an essential function – it is the first port of call if a citizen gets into difficulties overseas – but assists in the creation of wealth, in that part of its remit is to facilitate trade. Indeed, the foreign service is essential to any country’s wellbeing.

Most of the government agencies in Britain do perform a reasonable function, although, being socialists, not particularly well. (I don’t knows enough about the current workings within the US Government, but doubtless other Chicago Boyz do …)

But a whole new, utterly useless industry has crept in. Soft, amorphous, nebulous … the human rights, global warming, multiculti and associated industries. They perform no purpose. There is no hunger among the taxpayers for their existence. Yet they are paid out of the taxpayers’ pockets. The diversity industry is one such. It generates no wealth and performs no service other than placing the yoke of social engineering round the neck of the taxpayer. The human rights industry is another one. The social engineering industry is another. Far from being of service to the taxpayer, I would contend that they are destructive, and if they can’t be shut down, the people attending meetings and doing research and writing reports to no purpose should at least be removed from the electoral rolls because they are, essentially, not engaged in wealth creation or the facilitating of wealth creation, or the governance of wealth creation. In other words, they’re passengers.

In Britain, we also have the fascist Health & Safety departments in local governments which essentially seek to ban everything free people could normally engage in. For example, they want to outlaw swings in parks in case a child falls off. They want to ban parents from taking pictures of their children in public, in case they’re not really the parents, but paedophiles. Other examples are legion. But everything is always for a prim-lipped “moral” – therefore, inarguable – reason.

Also in Britain, and doubtless there will be a similar scam, differently named and presented – actually, being American, probably better named and presented – there is something called a quango. The initials stand for something, but who cares. These are “semi-government” think tanks and various advocacy groups. There are over 1100 quangoes in Britain now, like the liberty advocacy agency Liberty. What purpose it serves other than to provide employment for writers of press releases and spokesmen to go on TV talk shows, who knows? They enjoy favoured tax status, meaning, they are part of the government infrastructure.

Advertised jobs for local town and city councils now bristle with words like “Street football coordinator” (I have no idea) and “Real nappy (US: diaper) coordinator” (ditto) ; “Urdu translators”, “Bengali interpreters”, “Human rights managers” and so on. All of whose salaries, perks and pensions will be provided by the generosity of the taxpayer.

This, clearly, is wrong.

For one thing, the right wing taxpayer is being asked to fund a massive leftist Trojan horse. They contribute no wealth, nor the facilitation of creating wealth, and nor do they perform any essential public service. That they should have a vote on their own perpetuation dwells in the realm of lunacy.

Macrogrid and Microgrid

Last week, I picked up a copy of American Scientist on the strength of a couple of interesting-looking articles, one of them relevant to our ongoing discussion of America’s energy future. It contains a graph which, at first glance, looks pretty unbelievable. The graph is title “U.S. electric industry fuel-conversion efficiency,” and it starts in 1880 with an efficiency of 50%. It reaches a peak of nearly 65%, circa 1910, before beginning a long decline to around 30%, at which level it has been from about 1960 to the present.

How can this be? Were the reciprocating steam engines and hand-fired boilers of the early power plants somehow more efficient than modern turbines?

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Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: Chapter 3

Given that there is a lot of material in Book VI worthy of comment, I’ll start with this chapter since it allows us to provide something of a recap of what we have read in On War so far.  On page 90 of his book, Clausewitz – Philosopher of War, Raymond Aron hesitatingly reduces a portion of the general theory to three conceptual pairs: moral/physical, means/end, and attack/defense.  The first refers to the essence of war itself – the clashing wills – which leads to the second pair.  The decision to go to war starts with the defense since the aggressor is more than happy to get what he wants by simply taking it (see Bk VI/Ch 5) .  Attack without resistance is not war, but something else as Clausewitz indicated in Bk I/Ch 1.  Means/ends can be further linked with two additional pairs: military aim/political purpose and strategy/tactics.  Taken together these conceptual pairs constitute the “intelligent” aspects of the general theory, that is leaving out chance, friction (in all its forms) and “objective” Politik.  So with the intelligent aspects, the aspects not responding to intelligence and the various operating principles we come once again to the whole of the general theory, with each concept only understandable in terms of the whole (that is in terms of the general theory).

In reading Chapter 3, which is quite short, we see that Clausewitz mentions all three of the initial conceptual pairs that Aron mentions and expands our understanding of the whole in some significant ways.

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Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Clausewitz on Combined Arms

Chapter Four of Book V of On War is titled “Relationship between the Branches of the Service.” This chapter, however, doesn’t really seek to explain the relationship between the branches (infantry, artillery, and cavalry). Instead, it seeks to explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three branches. The specific relationships between the branches are left for us to intuit.

Clausewitz explains the strengths right off:

“The engagement consists of two essentially different components: the destructive power of firearms, and hand-to-hand, or individual, combat. The latter in turn can be used for either attack or defense (words here employed in an absolute sense, for we are speaking in the broadest of terms). Artillery is effective only through the destructive power of fire; cavalry only by way of individual combat; infantry by both these means.

In hand-to-hand fighting, the essence of defense is to stand fast, as it were, rooted to the ground; whereas movement is the essence of attack. Cavalry is totally incapable of the former, but preeminent in the latter, so is suited only to attack. Infantry is best at standing fast, but does not lack some capacity to move.” (p.285)

Clausewitz then enumerates his thoughts on the combat arms:

“1. Infantry is the most independent of the arms.
2. Artillery has no independence.
3. When one or more arms are combined, infantry is the most important of them.
4. Cavalry is the most easily dispensable arm.
5. A combination of all three confers the greatest strength.” (p.286)

And so Clausewitz starts beating around the Combined Arms bush.

But what is Combined Arms?

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