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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Our Nukes are Worthless Now
The United States has a substantial inventory, so I would guess from press reports though I have no special knowlege of such inventory, of nuclear weapons. We used these to good effect in the cold war with the communists of the world, led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Said Soviets wanted to create a Soviet Republic of America and they were willing to do just about anything to reach that goal. Anything, that is, besides assure their own destruction. Our policy and actions were focused on convincing them that we would annihilate anyone whom we thought would use a nuclear weapon against us, and that we would strike first.

This had the intended effect of keeping the Soviets in check.

But that method no longer works. The Bush administration, as wobbly, socialist, and weak as his father's administration, knows how to start wars but again like his father, doesn't understand how to fight them or win them. Yeah, he talked real big in the beginning, "read my lips, those that aren't for us are against us," but he raised taxes anyways. Oops, I mean that he is placating the enemy and supporters of the enemy, from the Saud family to Hezbollah.

It's very clear now, that we are defenseless from attack by our enemies. We are impotent and can only react to their attacks. They can detonate a nuclear weapon and expect no response of note. Why? Read on to see why.
We no longer have the will to use nuclear weapons or fight an offensive and total war. By its nature, a nuclear weapon can only work against certain targets. Tactical nukes can be used against massed army divisions in the field. We could drop some on a few divisions that are out in the desert or some other isolated area with very few civilians nearby. But our enemies do not mass divisions. They don't have divisions.

Strategic nuclear weapons only work against cities. But what city would we use a nuke on now? If Iran can be named as the guilty party in an attack on us, what city would we bomb there? Our commander in chief would never bomb another country. In the absence of a threat of multiple nuke attacks from a specific country, we could never escalate that quickly to nukes on Teheran. Too many Iranians support us and are oppressed by their government, we are so often told.

But even then, why would Iran be so stupid as to make it clear that their government was responsible for an attack on us? They can continue to fight wars via proxy. Hezbollah is beholden to no nation. They are a government, they control land and people, but they don't allow other nations to identify them as such. Thus, they are nothing. We have so defined war as to exclude us from fighting a war against the worst people that need to have war waged against them. We have made it so we can only fight civilized people.

There is no military advantage to using nukes or fighting total war against an entity that we can't "legally" be at war with. Even if we said we were at war with Al Qaeda or Hezbollah, they don't have legal ownership of cities. Destroying them would be seen by everyone as hitting the wrong target. We wouldn't be denying terrain. We wouldn't be destroying military infrastructure. We wouldn't even be breaking the will of the citizens of the nation we're fighting against because we're not, supposedly, fighting against a nation. Just as Israel was prohibited from fighting against Lebanon, the "official" government, so we would never allow ourselves to fight against our enemies.

We have lost a big part of this war by not setting the rules in our favor. We have allowed our enemy to define himself and the rules we use against him in such a way as to grant him a firm advantage. The enemy can attack when and where he wants. We can only react and try to prevent his attacks. We ourselves have put off limits any assaults on our enemy because we refuse to even identify who our enemy is.

We can't use nukes anymore. We don't have the stomach for the environmental damage. We don't have the stomach to destroy people that we don't call our enemy. We don't have the stomach to be violent. We don't have the stomach to win.

Our enemy knows this. Iran knows that they can create nukes and use them through a proxy -- but even that isn't necessary -- and we will do nothing but react feebly. They know this, they are betting on it. They know that they are the real superpower right now. Power doesn't come from technology or wealth. Power comes from convincing others that you have power.

Our nation's feeble and kind-hearted actions in this war against Islamic Jihad has convinced most of the world that we haven't any power. Islamic Jihad has convinced most of the world that they do.

This better change, or our children will be studying at madrassas.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I don't like Barak Obama, but . . .
I don't like Barak Obama. His politics are antithetical to my own. I suspect that there are virtually no points of public policy that he and I agree on. And being a politician, and of the Democrat/Socialist variety, I suspect that he is less than honest as a man or as a government official. I will never vote for him.

But I admit that he is somewhat respectable as far as politicians go and clearly he is intelligent and articulate. I never want him in office, but if an opponent is in office, I would rather it be him than Cynthia McKinney. Good riddance to her.

There have been some who have suggested, perhaps with tongue in cheek but perhaps not, that the moron McKinney should be supported by her political opponents so that her side of the aisle can be more easily mocked. I don't see it that way.
I want opposing ideas to be supported by the best. I want the fight against socialism to be based on why socialism is bad, not because its proponent is an idiot. Otherwise the reason for opposing socialism gets forgotten, and that is a lesson we cannot afford to forget.

Additionally, although I don't like for the racial divisions in politics, these divisions exist nonetheless and won't be going away soon. I'd much rather that black people, since there is a perceived need for fellow blacks to speak for them, be represented by people more representative of the basic intelligence level of normal human beings than morons like Cynthia McKinney or Marion Barry. Or Nagin. Morons put in the position of being the spokesperson of an entire race only serves to intensify racism and insult everyone, black and non-black.

So, three cheers for the ouster of McKinney. She will no longer be making a mockery of our democratic process.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Under Armor: Is Military Procurement Broken or Fixed? 218_GearStory_sm.png
Life today is much different than it was just 25 years ago, and not just because of the most obvious change, computers. Our entire economy has transformed our expectations for product fulfillment in ways unimagineable back then. Toothpaste came in metal tubes that had to be coiled up with a key and split and leaked. Now you can get dozens of flavors and combinations of features in toothpaste delivered in several ways, none of which require a key nor do they leak. Although we'd long since gotten past Henry Ford's dictum that cars were available in any color so long as it was black, the choices available in buying a car rarely involved much more than picking a color and engine size. 

In the Marines, you were issued your gear. You got a cartrige belt that wasn't very different from the ones issued in the 1940's. You got a pack that was the same as the one issued in Viet Nam. Everything you got you were required to wear and like.

But then things changed. Now, Marines wear what they want, pretty much, so long as it doesn't look "too" inappropriate. I haven't decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I get to use a pistol holster that I like, but I also got led into wearing under armor t-shirts. This could have been a disaster.
Two things have happened in the Marine Corps to influence this circumstance. First, we made "procurement professionals." If I had stayed on active duty, as an aircraft maintenance officer I was sure to go down the pipeline to become a procurement professional, a fate I dreaded. In conjunction with that we created Marine Corps Systems Command, or MarCorSysCom. This was an attempt to keep up with the larger services that had huge arsenals of people who did nothing but overlook development and acquisition of new gear.BR2.gif

Ever since we started with the idea of procurement professionals and MarCorSysCom, and the earlier equivalents in the other services, it has taken longer and cost more to bring new equipment into the military. The MV-22 Osprey was well on the way to being fielded when I was a second lieutenant back in 1986. It's still not fielded, but it's closer now. The current war has been raging for five years now, so I think they're discussing speeding up the process now.

To compensate for the military professionals, the other new development is that someone decided to use our Marines as our Research and Development Team. R&D is pretty important and usually done poorly when it comes to personal gear, freeing up individuals to find good gear has been a huge success. We no longer have strict rules on only wearing and carrying gear that is issued to us. We can buy our own gear so long as it looks military-like. We now have fantastic individual gear, from boots that feel like you're walking on velvet and are very strong and durable at the same time, to pistol holsters and packs that hold up under combat conditions.

Someone at MarCorSysCom watches what the Marines are buying, and if the gear looks okay, they completely bypass the normal procurement system and buy one for everybody. What a deal! So all the guys that like looking like cowboys get to wear leg holsters for their pistols, and yet someone like me who doesn't like straps tugging on my leg, or the 15 step process it requires to take care of bodily functions, can buy a simple holster to tuck my pistol in the small of my back where it is just as easy to reach, but easier to move around with.

This has been brilliant. But there's a problem. Sometimes gear that is inappropriate gets past the system that shouldn't. I'm talking about Under Armor.

As an engineer who did in fact successfully pass my heat transfer class, I have a great appreciation for the principle that makes under armor such a good thing. It wicks up moisture, but doesn't retain it well, allowing it to quickly evaporate. It's fantastic for cooling off in the desert. After suffering in cotton t-shirts that soaked up sweat and held that moisture on your body, I became a convert after trying the one shirt I was issued and bought a bunch of these expensive shirts and wore them everyday in Iraq.

Here's the problem, they're made of a synthetic material. In the past, sythetics were absolutely forbidden to wear in dangerous environments because when exposed to flame they melt, and if they melt into your skin, 2d degree burns become horrific injuries. This was well known by, I thought, everybody. When they authorized us to wear under armor, I assumed that they had found some new miracle fabric that doesn't melt.

Boy was I wrong. Whoever was in the military procurement specialty section that buys clothing seemed to have bypassed all the people who had common sense and knowlege of what I had assumed was common knowlege. Untold numbers of Marines and soldiers have been horribly scarred and live in agony, perhaps for the rest of their lives, because they have no skin on their torsos where their shirts melted.

I like the speedier adoption of good gear. I just wish it could be combined with some semblance of sense and responsibility.

Next time I go to Iraq, or any other deployment, I'll be sure to stick with cotton t-shirts.