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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Clausewitz, like eating bacon...never becomes common for me....

One of my favorite websites is The Diplomat.  A wonderful and often controversial collection of short, pithy posts about politics and diplomacy in the Far East, Pacific, and South Asia regions, it is a really excellent source of news and commentary.

And occasionally...military history.  While surfing the site the other day I came upon this little nugget

Now, normally I would be all over this like white on rice---because even more than revisionist history and turkey bacon, I despise know-it-all "strategic analysts" that take it upon themselves to trash my man Karl (or Carl, whatever) and I have lobbed plenty of typeface at them on this blog.

Just Can't Get Away from Clausewitz

Foucault, Clausewitz, Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, my!

 Of course I calmed down a little when I saw it was written by Dr.  James Holmes, a naval analyst that I do admire and appreciate.

SO, I read the article with an open mind and...was....intrigued. Not by what he said, but because I felt he could have said sooooo much more....Clausewitz is like my favorite buffet at Harrah's in New Orleans...there's always more to digest.

Here is Dr. Holmes basic thesis:

Clausewitz’s masterwork On War proclaims — uniformly — that war is a mere continuation of policy “with other means” (mit anderen Mitteln), or sometimes “with the addition of other means” (mit Einmischung anderer Mitteln). Nowhere in On War or his prefatory notes does the Prussian write “by” other means.

Yet this false quotation refuses to die. “By,” “with,” who cares? Well, any student or practitioner of warfare should. Substituting a two-letter for a four-letter word makes a big difference in how Westerners conceive of war. And as Clausewitz teaches, grasping the nature of war in general — and of the particular war we’re contemplating — constitutes the first, most fundamental, most crucial act of statecraft. Get the basics wrong and grim consequences follow.

Okay, so what?  Is the whole "by" or "with" a big deal....MAYBE....it depends

Dr. Holmes concludes with a pretty good dissertation about Clausewitz' theories on war, statecraft, and diplomacy, but doesn't really drive anything home for me...one of the challenges of a short web article I guess.

Pursuing political objectives “with” other means connotes adding a new implement — namely armed force — to a mix of diplomatic, economic, and informational implements rather than dropping them to pick up the sword. War operates under a distinctive martial grammar, in other words, but the logic of policy remains in charge even after combat is joined. In this Clausewitzian view, strategic competition falls somewhere along a continuum from peacetime diplomacy to high-end armed conflict. The divide between war and peace can get blurry.  
  Okay, I am certainly down with this concept. For Clausewitz, as with all late 18th and early 19th century military men, politics and war were inexorably linked.  Military men and politicians alike considered the PRIMARY duty of the monarch/government  was the conduct of war, diplomacy,  and peace, as it were. Wars were fought with regularity, usual for limited objectives, and were often preceded and followed by intense discussions about this province or that territory forfeited by the loser to the winner. 

This, of course, was one of the reasons that Clausewitz and his contemporaries were totally flummoxed by Napoleon---ol' Nappy went for the jugular and aimed for the total whup ass of his opponent....The last time the French really got the better of the Germans.

To be clear, Dr. Holmes is correct in his assertion that Clausewitz spent most of his magnum opus expounding on the differences between theoretical and realistic war, including his famous "Trinity of chance, reason, and violence"  and his axiom-"Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult."  

This was part of Enlightenment thinking I guess...discuss the theoretical, then describe the limits of its application in the real world. The trick to reading Clausewitz, besides reading it at least 4 or 5 times (sigh) is to be able to carefully discern his points separating the theoretical limits of war with the actual application to the human factor...which Clausewitz, being a man ahead of his time, was quick to recognize..unlike his contemporary Jomini who wanted to make everything in war about science and mathematics...use the right formula with the right inputs and WHAMOO victory is assured...only not so much.  

My man Clausewitz well understood the psychological factors in war and was the first to clearly state in his own book that no formula or certainty exists in war.  HOWEVER, he was wise enough to say a good general reads and studies military history....

So, hopefully he will continue this discussion...the theology of Clausewitz, to misuse a term, bears much discussion, thoughtful consideration and constant questioning of assumptions--anything that sparks more discussion of Clausewitz is fine by me.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

The best trilogy of WWII in Europe...period.

I just finished what is...in my opinion, the finest history of World War II in Europe from 1942-1945...period.

Rick Atkinson, former reporter for the Washington Post and 2-time Pulitzer Prize winner (one of them for the first volume in this series) has written what I consider the magnum opus of military history on America's involvement in the liberation of Europe.

This trilogy will become to World War II what Shelby Foote's masterpiece on the Civil War is to the history of that conflict--the definitive must-read account of the greatest and most costly conflict ever waged by the United States.

Ok, enough gushing right? Well, I can't say enough. These books are magnificent on every level: the depth of research, the prose and narrative, the outstanding maps (never to be under estimated, I love maps and hound any history book, especially military history that has poor or nonexistent maps), and the willingness of Mr. Atkinson to address heretofore unspoken aspects of popular or official histories of the war. 

Some of these are expected, even if not previously expanded upon in official histories--the constant bickering and clash of personalities within the Allied high command (British Field Marshall Montgomery comes off as "that British sumbitch" as my father used to call him...and that's being charitable), and Atkinson pulls no punches in describing the often petty arguments that threatened Allied unity.

Other unsavory topics are also honestly discussed, including the often rampant drinking, screwing, and looting of GIs across Europe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the "Greatest Generation" was not above a bit of seamy behavior...which certainly doesn't diminish their heroism and in fact, makes what they did even more remarkable because they were not mythical supermen, but ordinary men who were both cowards and heroes, and sometimes just wanted a hot meal, bottle of hooch, and to get laid after intense and deadly combat.

To put things in proper perspective, the sheer scale of the combat that many of these men endured is remarkable. Many of these men served for three years overseas and saw combat in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, often serving for months in continuous combat. Mr. Atkinson does an excellent job of weaving individual stories of personalities into the narrative, relating the march of participants across many campaigns and theaters of war, where often the only relief from combat was serious injury or death.

Even though each volume runs to over 700 pages with notes and bibliography, Mr. Atkinson's magnificent prose makes these truly a joy to read. I know I have written individual reviews of two of these volumes before:

Day of Battle

Guns of Last Light

But I had to take the opportunity to read all three of them together...and wow, that is so much better...you can really get a sense of the progression of the American war machine from the bumbling amateurs of Kasserine Pass to the awesome killing machine of the Battle of the Bulge.

So, if you enjoy well written World War II history, this trilogy should be on your bookshelf.


'Nuff said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What do Abraham Lincoln and Buddy the Elf have in common?....

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Abraham Lincoln

Clearly this is not a favorite saying of Barrack Obama or the Democratic Party these days....
Or as my not so favorite elf says.

Yup, not that you would know it from the sycophants of the modern liberal media, but the entire Obama Administration has been built on lies and half-truths...and now...SIX years later, their curtain of deceit is finally falling away.

Sadly, it's too late, as the Golfer-in-Chief still has two years to try and rule by executive edict and race-baiting, but at least maybe....just maybe, Americans will be more skeptical of the media election by acclamation of Hillary "kill all Bill's bimbos and let God sort them out" Clinton.

Of course, none of this comes as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention and who doesn't consider John Stewart, Stephen Colbert or ABCBSMSNBCNN a viable news source.

For those of us paying attention, we always knew that the entire Democratic establishment lied, lied, and lied some more to pass Obamacare, and they still had to use dubious parliamentary maneuvering to pass it in the dead of night.

Now of course, the truth really does come out in the form of TV interviews of a prime Obamacare architect saying..to paraphrase Nancy "Where's my Botox" Pelosi--"We had to lie about the bill to pass the bill to see what we lied about putting in it."

"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes," he said during a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania in October, 2013. "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the 'stupidity of the American voter' or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.....In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which explicitly said that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed," he said. "You can't do it politically, you just literally cannot do it. It's not only transparent financing but also transparent spending."
Of course, the usual lefty crowd have no problem with these lies...

It's true that the average Joe didn't know anything about this, but not because the average Joe is stupid. It's because most people simply don't pay attention to this stuff even slightly. The fraction of the electorate that cares about the minutiae of policymaking could be stored in a pickle jar. That's just life.
So America, since we're too stupid and don't pay attention enough to be brilliant policy wonks like liberals...well we got a fast one pulled on us, huh?

Not that we are paying attention, because most of us just found out our health insurance is not less expensive, has higher deductibles, and less access to doctors and hospitals---Let's pick our favorite Obamacare lie, shall we?

1) Obamacare won't pay for abortions or force anyone to pay for abortions

2) If you like your doctor or health insurance plan, you can keep it

3) It will reduce your premium by $2500

4) It will cost LESS THAN $1T over 10 years.

5) All of the above

I pick 5....yup they were all lies.

How about another excellent Obama lie---Benghazi was all about a video...OSAMA IS DEAD AND GM IS ALIVE!

Yea, that was one of my favorites too...just a stupid enough bumper sticker phrase that even "Lunch bucket" Joe Biden could remember it.

Now of course, the ugly truth comes out...ISIS was forming, Syria was falling apart and Iraq was descending into chaos...OH, yea and Libya, that awesome "lead from behind" unconstitutional war that Obama started, as opposed to that warmongering George W Bush, yea Libya's coming apart at the seams too.

So now we read that "Commando" Barry Obama is going to send troops back to Anbar Province Iraq...you know that awful, awful, bad place that no patriotic left-leaning American wanted anything to do with to.......fight ISIS and those pesky Islamic "extremists"  (oh, liberals wonder, why do they hate us so?)   The same ISIS murdering thugs that had the temerity to interfere with Obama's tee time by beheading an American journalist....at least as long as it took Barry "Par Five" Obama to change from his business suit to his golf pants.  

ANNNDDD, just because Barry and his socialist, collectivist minions want to take over and censor the Internet...yup...cuz dissent cannot be tolerated in the Worker's Paradise...can't have anyone not worshipping the Anointed Affirmative Action One...we have an announcement by Barry "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" Obama to...wait for it...regulate the Internet as a "common carrier" service.

Now, not that I have anything against Net Neutrality as a concept...I am just skeptical of three-lettered government agencies...IRS, EPA, NSA, FEC, FCC trying to decide what is or isn't in the public good.

Yup the nexus of the FCC declaring the Internet a "common carrier" combined with the DEMOCRATIC member of the FEC wanting to regulate political speech on blogs (oops, think they mean me?) is just a little unsettling, given this Administration's record of persecution of dissent and desire to impose North Korean-level political correctness on average Americans like yours truly.

So. let's stop kidding ourselves. Liberals lie because they think the rest of us are stupid...and racist...and xenophobic, and misogynist...and well, because they are just smarter and better than us so we need to just sit down, shut up, and let them tell us what to do, what to think, what to say and who to hate....

NOPE, don't think so...the wool fell from this Grouchy Historian's eyes a long time ago. I don't trust any Democrat these days;

Joke---How can you tell when a Democrat is lying....THEIR LIPS ARE MOVING

Oldie but goodie...about the only fun thing about watching liberals lie is when they lie to cover up the lies they told in the first place...which can lead to some pretty interesting mangling of the English language...remember the old joke about the man caught in bed with another woman by his wife---"WHO are are going to believe...me or your eyes?"

Well, I for one, have my eyes wide open and can only hope that enough decent Americans will put  fear into the rest of the Democratic Party that Obama is about to Thelma and Louise them right over the cliff and stop his executive order dictatorship...nahhhhhhhhhhhhh, who am I kidding....