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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

NASA is Pathetic
NASA, the gathering of bureaucrats and pencil pushers that spend our money sending useless things into space, is pathetic in spending our money and giving us very little in return.

After their initial success in landing on the moon with Apollo 11, they've been going downhill since, with only a few modest successes of note.

Why am I upset about them today? Because we've landed two rovers on Mars and the public knows pitifully little about them.

This photo is pretty much what passes for keeping us informed.
When the last rover, named Pathfinder, landed on Mars the presentation on their website was designed for children. The latest rover landings are no longer childishly presented, but they don't tell us much.

I don't want much, but they've got scores and scores of engineers and scientists, let alone administrative assistants, bean counters and web designers working on this project, yet they don't tell us what is going on.

For example, one of the rovers has malfunctioned. We've had one or two uninformative paragraphs telling us that fact and nothing more. They don't theorize, they don't speculate what went wrong, they don't tell us what they plan to try to fix it. Almost nothing.

This photograph is pretty much what suffices for science. They tell us that it's a great photo, they tell us that geologists are happy to see these rocks, but they don't say why that is.

Okay, we just spent $820 million dollars sending these two craft to the fourth planet from the sun, and all we get are a very few number of pictures. I wish I could get that kind of money without keeping my stockholders informed.

NASA is losing the public relations effort. If they can't articulate why we're spending this money, they will become more and more irrelevent. I expect the reasons to be somewhat esoteric because clearly there is no national security issue with being on Mars, but they can try a bit harder to make it interesting. I'm trying very, very hard to follow what's happening, but they don't provide much info at all.

NASA has become nothing more than a boondoggle for engineers, a bonanza for aerospace contractors, and a vehicle for utopian socialist one-world government projects. Oh, and sometimes its a jingoistic platform for planting our flag around the solar system. I don't mind much of this because that's the way the world goes around, but at least they can get one of their project managers' assistants to write some daily copy on what the heck they're doing on these very visible and potentially dramatic escapades.

But they don't. They treat us like children and expect us to go ooh and aah over a few pictures with no commentary and accept their pronouncements that they're doing something worthwhile. They're pathetic.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Iraq from an Australian Perspective
I just finished reading a very touching essay by an Australian about the war . One of the better quotes is,

The price of freedom is high. You might think you would not sacrifice your life for it, but maybe you don't have to. After all, 20-year-old Americans are doing it for you, every day.

The author, Caroline Overton, made me think again of how privileged we are in the United States. I often wonder at the perspective of others who benefit from what we do, and what they think when we have elections or make new policy.
It must make them anxious whenever we have an election. People in other countries have a significant interest in what we do. After all, our military arsenal includes some extremely potent weapons, we have the ability to wreak havoc on the world, without even deploying any troops. Heck, we don't even need to deploy any aircraft. They have every reason to want us to make rational decisions.

Alternatively, we could take all of our troops back home from wherever they are in the world. All our soldiers, sailors and Marines in Japan could be sent home permanently within a month. There are a good number of Japanese that would dearly love to get ahold of the real estate that we would leave unoccupied, but I suspect that the horror of being outside of our umbrella would also be a matter of great interest to them.

So while we argue back and forth about issues like health care, welfare, immigration, and the price of oil in Peoria, the rest of the world looks on and wonders how we will behave in our stewardship of the Earth.

Yes, we are hated by our enemies, and even by countries that call themselves allies, but no matter whether they like us or what we do, they know that we are the ones keeping the world safe, for better or for ill.

It must feel horrible to be so helpless by not being able to participate in our political process. They must be maddened when they read of us getting side tracked by OJ Simpson or Monica Lewinski when there are more important matters to tend to. They must think us loopy sometimes, and they'd be right.

But the people in those countries are no different than we are. I'll bet there are some twenty year old Australians, or even forty year olds, who want to help out. There must be people whose hearts stir at seeing a brutal dictator being pulled out of a hole in the ground and want to help, but just happen to live in other countries.

I'm not saying that we should let them do so any more freely than they are allowed to already. We can't let anymore Taliban in our military than we already have! We have good cause to be careful whom we allow to be in our military and I don't know that we should change what we do in this regard. Perhaps there will come a time for a foreign legion of sorts, that is we could do like the British did in WWII by equipping and controlling Polish brigades.

Of course, the French Foreign Legion was famous, but not for what we would like to associate with the American military. I wonder if we could do it right.

I don't mean to speak lightly of the Australian or any other nation's military. The Aussies especially have a well equipped military that has fought alongside us in every major conflict we have been in for 100 years. I just wonder if Australians or people from other nations wish that they could have a more direct impact on leading our military. There is surely someone in Australia who has the capabiility of Patton or Bradley, who have fewer opportunities to develop or use those talents without being an American. Maybe there is an Australian Ronald Reagan or a Turkish John Kennedy out there with the ability to garner world wide support for policies that make the world safer and freer. It's possible but more difficult to have that impact from Down Under than from Washington.

So far, the United States has changed the world in many, many ways. Not just with our internal government, but with our international relations as well. Throughout history nations with hegemony have kept control over their neighbors by forcing them to pay tribute. The wealth of those vassal states is bled to feed the avarice of the hegemonic power. The United States is backwards. Our vassals, well let's call them allies, don't pay tribute to us. For the most part we pay them. In Europe, we had the Marshall Plan, and although it has ended and we no longer give to most European nations they became our allies from that program. We now militarily occupy their nations but at no cost to them, we pay them to use their bases and protect them.

Now we've overthrown the Iraqi government and we're paying to rebuild that country.

This is a revolution in international affairs. It's happened before, I'm sure, but not as sustained as what we've doing for the past fifty years. We, the people of the United States, are so prosperous that we have rebuilt Europe, Japan, and much of the Far East. We have learned the lesson that if we make the investment in paying to enable a nation to be free, its citizens will create enough wealth among themselves to bolster our own economy. Rather than beat them down, we built them up and made ourselves stronger as a result. Many of those countries had a long history of prosperity, but there was no guarantee that they would have returned to prosperity without our acquiescence. For instance, the Czechs have historically been very capitalist and prosperous, but under the Soviet boot they were dirt poor. I've known enough Czechs and Slovaks to know how miserable they were until just a few short years ago.

We've helped our allies out a lot over the years, and from some like the Australians we've always gotten enthusiasm for us in return. As a people and a nation, we could not ask for more reliable friends.

And for someone living in Australia, a continent far from most of the rest of the world but still interacting with us economically and culturally, what can they do as individuals to join in and help us? They can't vote. Joining our military is possible but not practical. All they can really do is speak their mind and voice their support.

Thank you, Caroline Overton, Tim Blair and the rest of our Australian friends for speaking up and telling the world your support for us. It means a lot to us. I hope that we never fail to live up to your expectations.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

What is Next in Iraq? Why Would Anyone Ask Lind?

This rant was edited on 1/18/04.

In my last rant, I disagreed with William Lind and discussed his lack of understanding of basic logic, which stems from his need to get paid to tell us how much smarter he is than the rest of the world. First, never trust a man who sucks on a pipe in his official photo. Who smokes pipes anymore? I've nothing against pipes, but clearly for him it is an affectation even though he might enjoy smoking one. Do cigarette smokers have their cigarettes dangling from their mouths in their photos? It's a pathetic ploy to make us regard him in some sort of faux professorial way, and it's a warning klaxon that he's pompous and full of balloon juice.

But I am distracted from my point. In my last rant I said that the war in Iraq is essentially over and the problems that remain are political. I thought that was a clear enough statement, but on reflection it may not be so clear to everyone. Heck, some people even think Lind makes sense, so I'd better explain myself a bit better.
In Iraq our military is faced with an insurgent campaign. Ba'athist hold-outs who want a return to their former privileged positions have been conducting frequent attacks, all of which are impotent in the large view so long as we don't relent. There is a second source of attacks and that is a pan-Islamic fanaticism.

I had said that these attacks will continue until the people making them are converted from their way of thinking, or they are killed. The killing part is the role of the military and Iraqi police. The conversion is not.

The military can contribute to this conversion of thought, but they cannot do it or lead that effort in the long term. This is the arena of ideas, and people with guns are only persuasive against bodies, not minds.

The work of changing and affecting minds is an art practiced by politicians. Our politicians, led for now by the very successful Paul Bremer, need to encourage Iraqi politicians with correct ideologies to speak up and sway the public's way of thinking. There is every indication that most Iraqis favor a secular and free government. We need to find a way to make the people follow leaders that also support this way of thinking.

This is an art. Soldiers and Marines handing out candy bars to children won't do it. It doesn't hurt, and it might even help, but the military cannot do it, except to act as politicians. It is best to let politicians do the politicking, while the military concentrates on providing physical security, and intervening on an immediate basis with humanitarian and engineering assistance.

If our nation fails in Iraq now, it is not because of a failing in the military, it is now purely a function of politics -- and that is never easy, but always necessary. But you can count on politicians to duck any blame, and you can count on self-important think tank wannabes to blame the military for not hiring them for their bad ideas.

Addendum, Jan 18, 2004:

Okay, I've been doing some research on Lind. I knew that he had been around for a while, and now I see that his writings are all over the internet. I was gratified to find an article written by an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel in 1985 that is almost the same as my last rant .

He also hangs out with Holocaust deniers . He doesn't deny the Holocaust happened, but he does believe in an international Jewish conspiracy to destroy Western Civilization.

Like many other racists, he believes the Lost Cause theory that slaves in the south were treated like beloved family members .

There are innumerable sites out there highlighting him and his really bad ideas. I'll leave further research to the initiative of the reader. What is clear is that he is a racist (a term that I use very rarely, but he clearly merits it), muddled-minded man who thinks the best plan in Iraq is to leave no matter what happens.

Why would anyone take him seriously?

Friday, January 16, 2004

It's a Generational Thing
My first boss in the Marine Corps and her husband, also once my boss, sent me this article by William S. Lind and asked for my opinion of it. Since she is a Marine Corps Colonel and a graduate of the Naval War College, I was flattered to be asked. Here's a version of my response.

Mr. Lind is a fuzzy thinker. He creates a false set of definitions, and then uses these to create arguments and conclusions that have little relation to reality. He lives in a think tank and his livelihood depends on him convincing others that he has come up with revolutionary new ways of looking at the world. He is in the business of selling paradigm shifts, and it is wise to look carefully before we buy his wares.

First, I don't like Lind's nomenclature of calling these four "generations" of war, implying a progression of style of warfare. After spending a few pages saying that war has progressed through four generations, he ends by claiming that he said no such thing, that these generations are just styles that come and go. In that characterization, he is closer to the truth but he is still wrong. He doesn't come out and say it outright, but he appears to be among those who would get rid of our heavy military in favor of light, supposedly more mobile forces, forgetting that we just finished winning a war only because we had those heavy forces and the next potential enemies, i.e., Iran, Syria, China, North Korea, won't be impressed by light infantry.

Simply put, here are his "generations:"

1st Gen = Line and column tactics
2nd Gen = Artillery/bombardment tactics
3rd Gen = Maneuver/Blitzkrieg tactics
4th Gen = Culture

Notice that Mr. Lind makes no mention of the importance of siegecraft, a vital part of warfare even today. For the sake of the reader's time, I won't go into it either except to note that it hasn't gone away.

Let's ignore the non sequitur of the fourth generation definition and look at the first three for now. He somehow claims that line and column tactics, in place since time immemorial, were somehow newly in place in the magic year of 1648 because of the Treaty of Westphalia. This is preposterous. The Greek Phalanx, the Roman Legions, and every military since and before used line and column tactics. This is a factor of human nature, and we have not seen the end of line and column tactics. As the numbers of people in a war increase, and the military capability on each side is relatively the same, line and column tactics will be important again. The definition of a line may change as scale of offensive power increases, but the concept is the same. That is, armies may not stand shoulder to shoulder, but the movement of armies in lines and columns, even when inserted via air mobile, truck mobile, or even water mobile conveyence will always be important.

The degree of importance of maintaining these formations changes with the enemy capability, but the concept is the same. That is, in Iraq we had a few very large columns driving into the Iraqi lines. Because our capability was so much higher than the Iraqis, we were able to move with much less concern for integrity of lines or for our lines of communication because the enemy wasn't able to exploit any chink in our lines. Line and column tactics are and will always be the basis of any military action and nothing that I have ever seen changes that reality.

What Mr. Lind calls a second generation is no such thing. Artillery and bombardment only change things in that weaknesses in the enemy can be created for the lines and columns to exploit. Stand off weapons can destroy the enemy lines and columns directly, or the control of those lines by hitting command and control facilities.

Mr. Lind then goes off on a tangent in his discussion of the third generation, being sure to tell us that he is solely responsible for the Marines embracing his ideas of maneuver, and telling us that the only ones to ever understand it fully were the Germans in the Second World War. So once we get past his promotion of his think tank, we can understand that maneuver warfare is not new as a concept per se, and I'm sure he would admit to this.

Alexander the Great used maneuver warfare, as did many other military leaders who were often referred to by Lind or others in extolling its virtues. What has changed is our ability to use maneuver warfare in the face of long range weaponry. Our technology of command and control (C3I or whatever is the latest acronym fad), our long range logistics capability, and our ability to put all our forces on a very mobile platform, have significantly enlarged our mobility envelope. It's the tremendous mobility of our modern military that increases the amount of terrain available to maneuver in. With our current capability, once they are in theater we can essentially maneuver heavy land forces within radii of thousands of miles quickly and easily. Once the troop strength begins to fill the terrain available, and the two opponents are somewhat evenly matched in capability, maneuver becomes less potent, and we're back to static lines with fewer columns.

Photo of Boxster and Tank by Gottfried Hogh

So now we're at today, and Mr. Lind is in need of promoting his think tank again. He accuses the rest of the world with not being as smart as he is, so he volunteers his leadership in forming a seminar. This is nice, except that his ideas are pretty muddled.

He says that we're now in a fourth generation of war. The problem is that his first three generations, which are not progressive developments by his own admission later in the essay, are all about tactics and what he calls the fourth generation is a declaration of the motivation of why a war is fought. He's absolutely correct that this war is culturally and religiously motivated (except that it's not politically correct to ascribe religious motivation to the religious war they are fighting against us), but this changes nothing about tactics.

Mr. Lind claims that we had a failure in Afghanistan because we failed to encircle the enemy. This has nothing to do with fourth generation (whatever that is) and everything to do with our inability to deploy an expeditionary unit larger than a brigade without shipping units overland from seaports. If we failed in basic lines and columns, which he calls first generation, it would have been because we didn't have enough troops. What is his recommended solution? Less mobility. That is, he recommends better foot mobility. This is like wanting to be better at rubbing sticks together when we have a bunch of blow torches at our disposal. I'm not going to argue that we shouldn't have an infantry that can march long distances for sustained periods, but this is not the way to out-maneuver an enemy. Moving by foot puts us in the category of mobility no better than Alexander the Great. In the age of the automobile and aircraft, this is not a long term solution.

Mr. Lind's entire mushy discussion of what he recommends in our new so-called fourth generation of war is correct in calling this a war of culture, but wrong in how to address it.

As with all problems, this one is best solved by correctly identifying its cause. The war in Iraq that we are waging against the Ba'athist regime is largely over. Insurgents will be around for a while, but our tactics and objectives have been effective in neutering the potency of the old regime. They'll still be around for a while, but their time is coming to an end. If that were the only problem, we'd be nearly done. It's mostly a political struggle now.

The problem is that the regime change that we caused has drawn in our real enemies, as the war was designed in some part to do. The real, long term enemy is radical Islam. This is a cultural or religious war. Notice that in southern Iraq now that the Ba'athists wane in power the Shi'ites with Iranian influence are exerting more muscle.

Mr. Lind is correct that this religious war is a war outside of traditional nation state definitions. But that is only because we have let nation states off the hook. We choose not to hold them responsible for the people in their nations. Thus these people are free to develop their organizations and their religious hatred and export their violence to Iraq and to other nations, even our own.

This is now again a political and religious conflict, until we identify the next nation state that we will hold responsible. We have let this overt jihad to be waged against us without a response for nearly three decades now, and it has spread throughout the world. It will take time to conquer it. We are on the right track by felling the regime most likely to support it with overt malice, and by establishing a free government in its place. The risk we face there now is not military in nature, it is political. Solving political problems is much harder.

The will of the people to support us is related to keeping the jihadist movement down. This has nothing to do with military capabilities or "generations" of warfare. This is a war of ideas held in the minds of individuals. These individuals must stop holding these ideas, or we must kill them. So far, we have a lot of people yet to kill or convert. Conversion is painstakingly slow, speeded up only by making holding those ideas more deadly and painful than rejecting them. This will not happen through military tactics, except in invading nations and changing more and more regimes. This is our eventual path. We haven't the resources, or more correctly the will, to do it all at once, our only option is to finish stabilizing Iraq before destroying the next source of our enemies. Our occupation of Iraq allows us to threaten to reach out and do this much more credibly to the other dangerous regimes in the theater. Hopefully, the nation states harboring these religious fanatics will take heed and eliminate these ideas before we get to them next.

Our specific tactics in Iraq for now should be to withdraw from overt presence as much as is feasible and become as unnoticed as possible by the population as we can while at the same time destroying those who subvert the peace.

We need no paradigm shift or Mr. Lind's poor ideas. We need to continue on the general path that we are on. We are winning, slowly but surely, a war that will only be possible to win in toto after generations have passed.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Last Veteran
The last veteran that is known to have been wounded in the Great War has died at the age of 108. A friend of mine in Austin after being told about this, spoke with sadness that the veterans of the Great War, the Korean War, and Viet Nam are slowly disappearing. The following paragraphs are my response to him.

Jack, of course, you forgot WWII, veterans of which are getting harder and harder to spot. I remember talking with an Iwo Jima veteran at the El Toro Officer's club one time. I was all of 23 years old and I tried really hard to be as respectful as possible and pull as much of his story out of him as I could.

He was in the Navy, on an LST or some other type of ship carrying Marines and he told me that he was singled out by the Marines as someone who was especially helpful to them while they were aboard. The night before they disembarked to land on the island, several of the Marines came to him. They explained that most of them wouldn't be alive after the morning was over. If there were a navy officer aboard that was particularly disliked, they would take care of him in a permanent fashion before they left.

My drinking companion told me that although he could name a few martinets in the ship's wardroom, he quickly reassured them that he respected them all and didn't want anything bad to happen to them. Almost fifty years after it happened, he still seemed a bit taken aback by the whole proposition!

That story had a pretty profound effect on me. The way this story was told, with a flourish that my writing can't relate, made me have a bit of a better understanding of what it takes to attack a determined and well-trained enemy. The schools may teach us about brotherhood, camaraderie, and positive leadership, but the truth is that you need men who can kill at the drop of a hat without remorse, and you need hard leaders that can keep them in line. Administrative punishment means little to men who face bullets.

I will always admire those who can deliver the ferociousness that is needed to defend our nation.



Tuesday, January 13, 2004

It's just another example of their real intent
The Americans with Disabilities Act was a noble sounding bad idea when it was first introduced. I was against it then and I'm against it now. Not because I have some antipathy towards cripples (oops, we're not supposed to use that word anymore), but because it's a fraud. The US Supreme Court has made it clear that the only beneficiaries of the ADA are craven politicians seeking power over businesses.
The most important and most reasonable goal of the ADA would be to require that first and foremost that government buildings be accessible to all people. But in Tennessee, a man was arrested for failure to appear in court because he refused to crawl up the stairs or be carried up them.

You know, I would think that access to a court room would be the absolutely very first place that should be ADA compliant.

If I were confined to a wheel chair, I would be afraid to be in a second story building without a safe means of egress. Since government buildings are not required to meet even building codes, it is very reasonable to fear that they are most likely to have a fire or other emergency -- like maybe an angry participant in the judicial process being a bit too proactive in settling his case. If there is a fire, should this gentleman expect that someone is going to carry him down the stairs? I hope they would, but it's reasonable for him to fear that they won't.

So, this man, with reasonable fears for his safety, is arrested because the government doesn't follow the same rules that it requires its tax payers to follow.

It's typical, isn't it?

More of Iraqi Irony
I was watching Ted Koppel tonight, as he accompanied some of the 82nd Airborne on some raids in Iraq. I wish that we were treated so well as the Iraqis have been.
How many times have you watched "Cops" or some other video footage of the police searching a house in the United States? Typically they are searching for some type of powder or vegetable matter that has been (quite unconstitutionally) been declared contriband. What's the typical behavior you see? Cops dressed like Ninjas, battering down a door, shooting at people, screaming, and terrorizing. If they get the wrong house, they have been known to execute the confused homeowner who is simply defending himself from unknown screamers with guns. They often have a farce of knocking on the door and charging in without delay, without giving the occupant time to wake up or even understand who is coming in. They then do a "search" of the premises that is little more than random destruction. If the owner wasn't home, they usually drop a simple note on the floor saying that they were there, they don't bother to clean up the the results of their pillaging, and the victim has no recourse to be compesated so far as I know.

And that's all for just a bit of mind altering powder that affects no one except those who voluntarily use it, and by all accounts it's usually a pleasing effect.

What a dramatic difference it was to watch the US raiding a couple homes in Iraq. They used a saw to cut away a lock, but then they used bull horns announce to the occupants to obey their instructions and that they would enter the home in a number of minutes. They then went inside after their promised delay, and carefully searched the home. They left very careful instructions on how the occupants can be compensated for any damage that may have occurred, and they spoke gently and politely to everyone there.

These soldiers aren't looking for contraband recreational material, they're looking for deadly weapons and ruthless guerrillas. And although you might say that they were on their best behavior because they were being filmed by a television crew, the same is true of the cops on the weekly television show, "Cops." Why aren't those jackboots concerned about the cameras as they enter a house with weapons blazing and screaming as loud as they can? The truth is that these wanna be macho fat boys like the new paramilitary reputation that they have. It makes them feel like they're tough.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The military exists to protect the people, the police exist to control them.

From the contrast of these two search techniques, I can conclude that the Iraqis seem to have more rights recognized than we do. Unlike the US military towards the Iraqis, the police in this country aren't concerned with winning our hearts and minds. They already control us like mice, so they are unconcerned with our reaction to brutal, no-knock searches. They have little compunction against doing military-style assaults on a church in Waco.

Note that these Iraqis don't even pay taxes right now because they don't have a government.

Let's see. They are allowed to have a fully automatic rifle with 30 rounds in each home. They are treated politely by the US military. They don't pay taxes. They do have to submit to searches without a warrant though. And they have thugs threatening them if they cooperate with Americans. So it's not all good for them, but it's something.

Generally the Iraqis are well-educated. If they can't make something good out of this situation, they don't deserve the freedom that we're preparing for them.

Don't mistake my purpose here. I don't want to be an Iraqi. They have it very bad economically, and they have to live in a shattered country. But they are starting with a lot of advantages that I wish that our "free" country still had. Let's hope that they can lose the culture that they've had and create a new and prosperous culture of freedom.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

How to Avoid a War
Okay, I've been talking about war my past couple of rants, and I've accused nations of acting irrationally by pursuing wars that were avoidable. So the natural question to pose is how could these wars have been avoided? Let's stick with the War of 1861 and engage in the dubious business of speculating what might have been done differently.
To better evaluate how the War of 1861 might have been avoided, we first have to pick a date from which to deviate from history, and we have to understand what was done that caused the war after that date. If you go far enough back in time, you can always find ways to avoid anything, but that's no challenge. So let's go to the date of the election of Abraham Lincoln as President and let's turn him into a reasonable man instead of the bloodthirsty dictator that he was. This is a tall order.

What events happened when he was elected that led to the war? When did the war actually start? First, the deep south states seceded immediately upon his being elected. These first states were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The remaining six states, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky didn't secede until after the war started.

When these first seven states seceded, the US military was structured much differently than it is now. The standing army existed, but was quite small. The US had a navy, and it had a small army that was mostly limited to manning shore batteries and forts. The history of how this national military came into existence is interesting in its own right but beyond the scope of this rant. Let's just say that the states did not trust a national military at first, and it took a lot of wrangling to create even this small, and limited military. There were some regular army units but they were also small.

The regular army was so inconspicuous that when John Brown attacked the arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia the nearest army unit was in Fort Monroe, near Norfolk — which is exactly where you would expect to find an army whose primary role was coastal defense. They had to send eighty-seven US Marines from Washington, D.C. under the ad hoc command of Robert E. Lee to deal with him. The US army was designed to man coastal forts and to engage in engineering projects (sounds very Hamiltonian, doesn't it?) and to provide a leadership cadre for the state militias if they were needed. After the war, the army was bigger but the large standing, national army as we know it now did not come into existence until after the First World War. Much of the military in that war were state militias, re-organized into a "rainbow" brigade led by Colonel MacArthur. Most of the rest of the regular army and the Marine Corps was created for that war. But I digress.

When the seven states seceded, all but one of these coastal forts were surrendered to the appropriate state government peacefully. This is because the states considered the land which the forts were on to be their sovereign territory on loan to the United States. The lone exception was Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbor, and Lincoln's refusal to surrender this one fort was the catalyst for starting the war.

Make no mistake about it. Lincoln knew what he was doing. He wanted a war with the seceding states, and he wanted them to fire the first shot. He purposefully chose a fort in South Carolina because the South Carolinians were well known for being hot headed on this issue. Rather than abandon the fort, he sent warships to reprovision it. According to my trusty source, DiLorenzo in his book The Real Lincoln, Bruce Catton explains,

Lincoln had been plainly warned by [his military staffers] that a ship taking provisions to Fort Sumter would be fired on. Now he was sending the ship, with advance notice to the men who had the guns. He was sending warships and soldiers as well . . . If there was going to be a war it would begin over a boat load of salt pork and crackers . . . Not for nothing did Captain Fox remark afterward that it seemed very important to Lincoln that South Carolina "should stand before the civilized world as having fired upon bread."

DiLorenzo further quotes Shelby Foote:

Lincoln had maneuvered [the Confederates] into the position of having either to back down on their threats or else to fire the first shot of the war. What was worse, in the eyes of the world, that first shot would be fired for the immediate purpose of keeping food from hungry men.

So this was the immediate cause of the war. It was only a fort in a sovereign state which no longer wished to be part of a union it voluntarily joined, which was manned by union troops and in need of provisions. As in all tangos and wars, it takes two.

Rather than wait for the resupply ships to arrive, the South Carolinian militia attacked the fort and forcibly took it from the union troops. Virginia, which had already voted against secession, immediately changed course and seceded. Lincoln used this as a pretext for invading Virginia and occupying Maryland and jailing its legislature so that it couldn't vote for secession.

So we have identified the time to go back to, immediately after Lincoln's election, and we have identified what actions started the war. The seceded states, in an irresponsible state of euphoria after having seceded, refused to allow a federal fort in their harbor, and a US president, hell bent for war insisted on further provoking them. How could this have been handled otherwise, and could the entire war have been avoided?

Very clearly, both sides could have backed down from their rhetoric, but that is too much to ask. Either side at this point could have unilaterally avoided the war from starting at this time. On the northern side, Lincoln could have simply surrendered the fort just as all the other forts were surrendered. It had no use to him anymore. It was a static fort and had no offensive capability and resupplying it was difficult and expensive. It could only fire at ships as they passed by and history has shown this to be mostly an inconvenience to shipping traffic. Yes, it could potentially sink ships, but it wasn't very effective in the long run, especially at night. Keeping the fort was a purely symbolic act. It symbolized his desire for war.

On the other hand, South Carolinians were equally thirsty for war. As is natural for a democratic institution that just radically changed its entire government, it had a tendency to act rashly, so perhaps this is the harder change to imagine. But rationally, for the same reason that the fort was mostly useless, South Carolina could have simply blockaded the fort, or even allowed warships to reprovision it. So long as the warships or the fort didn't fire on anyone it really made no difference to them.

If either side had a statesman who wished to avoid a confrontation, the incident at Fort Sumter could have been avoided altogether and it would only be known by historians with arcane lists of forts built by the silly coastal defense construction program.

So, we have shown that there was no real danger to anyone by this fort and it was easily possible to avoid a shoot out over it. We have removed the spark of the war in our imaginative alternate history. But there are three components needed to start a forest fire, heat, fuel, and a spark. This spark is gone, but it's still very hot and dry in the political forest with lots of dead underbrush. Something else has to be done to prevent other sparks from causing a fire.

We now have seven seceded states, Virginia and the other slave states are content to remain in the Union, and Lincoln is perfectly happy to have slave states on his side. Remember, he always said that he didn't care about slavery. But those seven states are quite wealthy, almost exclusively because of agriculture powered by slave labor. In the new industrial world, this was an economy that would be very limited in growth. The cost of maintaining slaves was very expensive because of the fear of slave revolts. In fact, fear of the abolitionist movement inspiring slave revolts was the main reason why these states seceded, according to some historians.

These deep south states had a repulsive institution. The cotton fields had brutal conditions where slaves were treated as subhuman. Slavery is never a good thing, and I am not defending it at all, but these seven states had a slave system that was much worse than anywhere else in the country. Slavery needed to end, and end quickly because it was immoral and inexcusable.

But the war didn't end slavery quickly, and it definitely didn't improve the lives of many former slaves after the war ended. Share cropping was pretty much the same thing, with fewer whippings. The war caused the end of slavery to appear to happen quickly, but it also destroyed 600,000 people and the future of thirteen states.

How could Lincoln have avoided war, freed the slaves, and re-formed the union all at the same time? It would have taken great statesmanship, but if Lincoln had the inspiration or the desire, I think he was talented enough to do it. In some ways, allowing the seven states to remain seceded without provoking South Carolina into attacking Fort Sumter would have worked to everyone's advantage.

How? First, the upper southern states would have stayed in the Union. The lower southern states would become international pariahs. The navy could have concentrated on continuing to chase down slave runners, in cooperation with the British navy. The slavery issue could have been exploited politically to get the British to stop buying cotton from the south, and buy Egyptian cotton instead just as they did when the war started.

With the departure of the extremist slave states, slavery reform could have begun. If they had made it a crime to inflict corporal punishment on slaves without due process in the legal system, slavery would have become too costly to be viable. This would drive the cost of owning slaves up too high to make them worth buying. By removing the seceded states from the Union, the abolitionist movement would have had more strength and would have been able to get these laws enacted throughout the country. By restraining their absolutist zeal, they could have attained their goal almost as fast, with less bloodshed, so long as the seven states were gone.

Many prominent Virginians, for example, often were against slavery (definitely not all) and would have freed their slaves were it legal to do so. Manumission of slaves was illegal because if there were too many free blacks in the population it would have been too hard to detect escaped slaves among them. If all blacks were slaves then identifying slaves is easy. Free slaves in the population makes the cost of keeping slaves higher because of the need to keep better track of them.

I suspect, in my fantasy history, that eventually the seven seceded states would have cooled their tempers, and as their cotton prices dropped from the competition with Egyptian cotton and embargoes against them for their slavery practices, they would have eventually asked to return to the Union. The experiment with secession would have failed.

But what would have been gained, besides not killing so many people? The right to secede would have been maintained. The principle of self-determination, so prominent in the Declaration of Independence, would have stayed with us and all of us would be free. The federal government wouldn't have grown so powerful, for fear of provoking another round of secession. And in the end, secession is the only protection we have from the ever increasing reach of federal power.

Okay, this was really, really long. I doubt anyone reads the whole thing. Here's the conclusion: If either Lincoln or South Carolina had decided to avoid conflict over the useless and meaningless Fort Sumter, and Lincoln had used his political savvy to work with the upper southern states to make slavery less abusive and slowly gave slaves rights under the law, everyone would be much better off, including the slaves who would have been freed in fact, rather than just in name, much sooner.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Is War an Inevitable Feature of Life?
I'd always been taught that as long as there are two people on Earth, that war is inevitable. It is simply the nature of men to fight each other. I think there is some truth to this, especially when we so recently note the tendency for bloodthirsty despots like Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Saddam to oppress their own populations. When Hitlers get in charge then war must be waged.

But I'm reading the second volume of Donald Kagan's analysis of Thucydides now, and a primary theme he presents is that the Peloponnesian War was not inevitable even though Thucydides, after living through the war and having written one of the best histories ever written, claimed that the war couldn't have been avoided. If Thucydides is wrong, perhaps there is hope for us after all.

Thucydides was very thorough in discussing the events leading up to his multi-decade war and he concludes that there was no way that it could have been prevented. Once Athens gained an empire, Sparta was threatened enough by her power and after being prodded by Corinth they invaded Attica and began the war.

Likewise, our War of 1861 (which is the term I now use for the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression) was portrayed by the people of the day as inevitable. The northern states, as I alluded in my last rant, used their political muscle to enact oppressive tariffs that were not well received by the southern states. As the nation expanded west, the controversy over these tariffs went west also. Both the north and the south wanted the new states to favor their economic policies, but unfortunately as often happens in politics the alignment of the new states' policies on economics was tied to their policies on slavery. It being much easier to get the voters attention concerning slavery than economics, the slavery issue became the rallying point that the power seeking politicians exploited on both sides of the issue. The tragedy of that war is that the north was right about ending slavery, and the south was right about ending protectionist, punitive, mercantilist economic policies that bankrupted the southern businesses. Both sides were right and both sides were wrong.

The Cold War is often compared to the Peloponnesian War of 2400 years ago in that the known world was divided into two camps which each had hegemony over their half. But no war resulted. Maybe we're learning?

In 431BC, Pericles in leading the Athenians was too clever by half. He formulated a strategy and policy that could very well have won the war. But he started with the assumption that the war was inevitable. Because of this preconception that war would come someday no matter what, he concentrated on getting the war started and done with before his treasury was depleted. We can't know what else could have happened, but Kagan shows in his tomes that it is entirely reasonable that Athens could have maintained its empire and avoided war by being less provocative and by simply continuing to talk with the Spartans. The war finally began when a Spartan army crossed the Isthmus and approached Attica, Athens' home territory. Rather than attack, the Spartan king Archidamus sent a herald to try to talk one more time. Perhaps this was already too late, but the war could have still been delayed. Instead, Pericles had a law passed that provided a death sentence to anyone who should listen to any heralds from Sparta. Prior to this, though, it was Athens' philosophy that its "allies" must be kept in fear and obedient that caused them to enact punitive measures against Megara and Potidaea, prompting Corinth to agitate against her. Had Athens been more like Sparta and headed a league consisting more of equals than vassals the war could have been avoided. It was the mindset that war was inevitable that caused them to be harsh with their friends and proactive in war with Sparta.

Preventable war? Yes, even to the day before it started, but it required good statesmen with a clear vision of a peaceful cooperative alliance, which Athens thought would be a sign of their personal weakness rather than a strength of Greek culture. Petty philosophy caused the war, it wasn't inevitable no matter what Thucydides says. The war was useless, no one was in danger, yet both sides were substantially weakened and eventually exploited by Persia, Macedonia and Rome. This disastrous war ended any hope that the Greeks would rule that which they created, namely Western Civilization.

Likewise the War of 1861 was preventable. Americans on both sides of the conflict convinced themselves that war was inevitable. There was no danger if no war was fought. Had they simply not started shooting at each other it could have been perpetually avoided. Sure that sounds simplistic, but it's really that simple. No one was invading, plundering or looting until Lincoln was elected. It was a failure of democracy to elect Lincoln to the Presidency just like Athens' democracy failed to prevent Pericles from preparing for inevitable war. In the United States, the failure came in the decade before 1861 when the Northerners allowed themselves to flex their electoral muscle. The majority acted without regard for the minority Southern states and used their political power to transfer tax burdens, caused by corrupt Hamiltonian spending projects to the very states that resisted supporting the projects. The Bill of Rights protected individuals in the minority, but failed to protect the states in the minority.

But the important point is that no leader rose up and extracted the nation from this bi-polar conflict. Had a leader shown up, a totally unnecessary rebellion would have been avoided. Tragically none did. Instead the radical Lincoln was elected which caused the deep southern states to secede immediately. Even then, a good statesman could have avoided war. Instead, while all other US forts in seceded states were turned over to the Confederacy, Lincoln managed to keep Fort Sumter. Lincoln had two choices: Give up the worthless fort and talk with the seceded states calmly and work to reunite the nation by reviewing the causes of the discontent, or he could reinforce the fort and instigate war. He chose the latter.

Until he sent the supplies to Fort Sumter, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and a few other states had not seceded. These states were sympathetic to the economic stance of the southern states, but were hopeful that they could remain with the Union. Lincoln's foolish act caused them to recognize him for the bloodthirsty tyrant that he was and they immediately seceded rather than be a part of a despotic regime. Maryland, as we know, was prevented from voting on secession because Lincoln jailed their legislature and sent troops in to subdue the population before they could vote on the matter.

So we see another incidence of a near universe divided into two poles, resulting in an avoidable and useless war. It never occurs to most people that a war wasn't necessary. The deep southern states could have seceded and we could have lived with it. Or we could have let them secede and then began negotiations to have them return. Remember that slavery was only an ancillary cause of the war, and the northern states were adamant that they were not fighting to end slavery, no matter what the abolitionists wanted.

The Cold War was different, thankfully. The fear of annihilation from nuclear war served to motivate statesmen on both sides to refrain from engaging in an active war. The result is that cooler heads prevailed and the war ended with both sides at peace, and now somewhat friendly.

Of course, some wars are avoidable while others would be wrong to avoid. In the instances I have cited the governments involved are responsible governments (except for after Lincoln was elected) with the best interests of their own survival in mind. The Soviets didn't want millions of people to die. They wanted to have tyrannical control over NATO countries but not at the expense of dying themselves.

In some instances, war is good. When a mad man like Hitler uses war to enslave neighboring countries, a war must be fought. When Lincoln invaded the Confederacy, war had to be fought. If the Soviets ever crossed into West Germany, war would have had to have been fought. When the Islamic world attacks the United States, we must fight.

But those are necessary wars. There is a time when an unnecessary war becomes necessary, but unless a mad man or a despot is in charge, this isn't usually the case. The Peloponnesian War was avoidable until Athens decided to stop talking to Sparta and not relent concerning sanctions against Megara. The War of 1861 was avoidable until Lincoln decided to keep Fort Sumter. In the First World War, the silly entanglements of frivolous alliances caused nations to stop talking and to instead attack with no logic. In all three of these cases a useless and avoidable war was fought and no one won because of the vanity of the leadership of the rivals.

Our current war is not in this category, so for now these comments are merely academic and likely won't be of use for quite a while if we stay focused on destroying the culture of Islam. However, if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the machinations of the European Union, we could easily be drawn into another stupid, useless, and pointless conflict just because of poor statesmanship. France hates us, and has at least since we conquered their Nazi collaborating regime in 1944. War with the Euros is very unlikely I hope, but so far it is the most likely to fit what I've been describing here.

So we need good statesmanship while we destroy fanatical Islam. We need to make sure that we always appear peaceful to the Euros, but we need to encourage divisions among them and keep them from getting the power that might encourage them to do something stupid. So far it appears like this is what we are doing. Spain, Poland, the United Kingdom, the Czechs, etc. are all limiting Euro cohesiveness by recognizing our leadership. Let's hope our government finds a way to keep this going.

Okay, now I'm rambling, I'd better get to sleep.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Lincoln Biographies
I'm watching another biography of the tyrant Abraham Lincoln on PBS now. It's another typical deification of him, with all the regular apologists being interviewed, most notably the known plagiarist, Dorris Kearns Goodman. Of course no one talks about why Lincoln was so hated, no one mentions the politics which caused him to be elected, no one recalls the corruption and no one ever considers that there might have been other ways to resolve the secession of the deep south without bloodshed.

It's just more biased reporting by the victors.
What did Lincoln stand for? His political background consisted of supporting the dying Whig party, which was the worst of conspiracies between business and government. The Whigs believed that the wonderful roads, canals and railroads being built could be done better if only government designed and controlled it all. It was an early attempt at central planning, complete with the corrupt contracts for impossible engineering feats. These programs were so completely disastrous that most states revised their constitutions to specifically forbid any collusion of government with building projects.

Here are some facts countering popular myths about Lincoln and his times (My source is DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln):

The Emancipation Proclamation freed no slaves. William Seward mocked it by saying, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." The London Spectator wrote, "The principle [of the Proclamation] is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States." Of course this is because a President can't enact laws without Congress, so it was a rare instance of him restraining his grasp of power.

Most people are aware of the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing him to jail anyone at any time without charging them with a crime. He jailed almost the entire Maryland legislature, and every newspaper editor who disagreed with his decisions were immediately rounded up and imprisoned for the duration of the war. No wonder he got such good press!

The principle of secession as a right was not questioned by anyone until Lincoln jailed his detractors. DiLorenzo states that, "Until 1861 most commentators, North and South, took it for granted that states had a right to secede. This doctrine was even taught to the cadets at West Point, including all the top commanders on both sides of the conflict during the War between the States."

Unlike every other President, Lincoln didn't even pretend to get a declaration of war. He simply mobilized the State Militias and invaded.

The United States is the only country in the world that fought a war to end slavery. This is often crowed about, that we even fought a war to end slavery, killing 600,000 men in the process. Yet slavery was ended before and after this date by all other countries of the world peacefully. Again we go to DiLorenzo:

Lincoln did pay lip service to various compensated emancipation plans, and he even proposed a compensated emancipation bill (combined with colonization) in 1862. But the man whom historians would later describe as one of the master politicians of all time failed to use his legendary political skills and his rhetorical gifts to do what every other country of the world where slavery once existed had done: end it peacefully, without resort to warfare. That would have been the course taken by a genuine statesman. Even though he assumed dictatorial powers to raise armies and wage war during the first year of his administration, he did not use them to spend tax dollars on compensated emancipation in even a few states.

So what was Lincoln's real agenda? Simply put, it is best stated in his own words:

I presume you all know who I am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's dance. I am in favor of a national bank . . . in favor of the internal improvements system and a high protective tariff. Abraham Lincoln, 1832

Unfortunately, most people today are in favor of a national bank, and surprisingly the other two main aims of the Whigs, and later the Republican party which resuscitated their ideology, are also accepted blithely today. But back in 1832, the idea of using government money for "internal improvements" was recognized for what it was, pure pork and corporate welfare.

His marriage to Mary Todd Lincoln was political in nature, her family was close to Henry Clay, his political mentor. Edgar Lee Masters described Clay as follows:

Clay was the champion of that political system which doles favors to the strong to win and to keep their adherence to the government. His system offered shelter to devious schemes and corrupt enterprises . . . He was the beloved son [figuratively speaking] of Alexander Hamilton with his corrupt funding schemes, his superstitions concerning the advantage of a public debt, and a people taxed to make profits for enterprises that cannot stand alone. His example and his doctrines led to the creation of a party that had no platform to announce, because its principles were plunder and nothing else.

Lincoln supported internal improvements and his most notable achievements in the Illinois legislature were colossal failures. According to his own law partner, William H. Herndon:

The gigantic and stupendous operations of the scheme dazzled the eyes of nearly everybody, but in the end it rolled up a debt so enormous as to impede the otherwise marvelous progress of Illinois. The burdens imposed by this Legislature under the guise of improvements became so monumental in size it is little wonder that at intervals for years afterwards the monster of [debt] repudiation often showed its hideous face above the waves of popular indignation.

George Nicolay and John Hay, later Lincoln's personal secretaries in the White House wrote:

The market was glutted with Illinois bonds; one banker and one broker after another, to whose hands they had been recklessly confided in New York and London, failed, or made away with the proceeds of sales. The system had utterly failed; there was nothing to do but repeal it, stop work on the visionary roads, and endeavor to invent some means of paying the enormous debt. This work taxed the energies of the Legislature in 1839, and for some years after. It was a dismal and disheartening task. Blue Monday had come after these years of intoxication, and a crushing debt rested upon a people who had been deceiving themselves with the fallacy that it would somehow pay itself by acts of the legislature.

Lincoln and his mentor Clay were the principle architects of this disaster. In other words, the people had to pay debts for monster projects that were failures except for one and to Lincoln the only important aspect: Lincoln's business supporters got rich and he was retained in office. It's a method of politicking that the Republicans, who took on the policy of publicly financing internal improvements, used to finance their own power base and keep them in office. In truth the strategy failed because the Whig party was blamed for the calamities that occurred through most of the northern states where the Whigs dominated, and they collapsed as a party. But the people of the Whig Party just reformed into the Republican party with all of the same ideas.

Lincoln's election to the executive branch marked the final victory of the Hamiltonian philosophy epitomized by Hamilton's proposed constitution of a strong, mercantilist central government with a permanent president and no state power. A strong, permanent president with expansive power is exactly how Lincoln reigned as tyrant. Despite the way that Lincoln is portrayed today, his brutal power grab was completely predictable and consistent with everything he said he would do.

This is getting long, so I'm going to stop now. Let me just conclude that Lincoln ruined our federal system and replaced it with a dictatorship, that was only undone by his timely (or should I say tardy?) death. In the meantime, he was responsible for the slaughter of more than half a million men, the destruction and impoverishment of half the nation, and forever robbing us of the right of self-determination. He was an astute politician, he knew that money could be pilfered only for so long, and debt can only be relieved by plunder. I don't think it's too much of an overstatement to say that the debts incurred by the Whigs from their Internal Improvement and used to pay for the political support of corrupt business, with requisite financial support to keep them in office, was only finally paid by destroying the south and plundering their wealth. Taxing them didn't work because they rebelled, he had to extract what he wanted with cannon.

Lincoln was an astute politician, who could have freed the slaves had that been his goal. Instead, he accomplished the goal he promised he would accomplish, and likewise just as he promised the slaves were freed only where he couldn't free them to maintain his control over the nation. The Emancipation Proclamation's only purpose was to encourage slave revolts in the states not yet conquered so that he might more readily conquer them as well, while he used the slaves in the already conquered states to further the war and his attempt at total dictatorship.

So how many people know any of these things about Lincoln? Not many. All we ever learn of him is how mournful he looks in pictures and his pious, self-serving comments about saving the Union which he was doing his level best to destroy. The ideals of the American Revolution were mostly lost.

Lincoln was not in the least bit admirable. He was a tyrant only slightly better than Franco, another tyrant who invaded his own people to overthrow an elected government. Someday, I hope, maybe a few hundred years from now, the truth will be better known.