“The War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted in battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate.”
― Winston Churchill discussing World War I

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wow, maybe the internet does make you stupid..........

So during my morning surfing, I came across this article.

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

Needless to say, your Grouchy Historian was shocked and intrigued.  How can this be so?  But, after reading the article...it follows with the general dumbing down of America, particularly the digital generation that I have written about before...we are raising a generation of Americans that can't write more than 140 characters, think Jon Stewart is a legitimate news source, and thought that Barrack Obama was gonna give them free health care, a free college education, and free legalized marijuana. 

So, after digging into this article a little, I became even more frightened.

Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.....There is concern that young children’s affinity and often mastery of their parents’ devices could stunt the development of deep reading skills.
This is how sound byte politics--- "War on Women"..."No Blood for Oil"..."Down with the 1%" gets started...ignorant peasants that can be manipulated by divisive politics.  No ability for critical thought, analysis of conflicting information...just the next cool video on YouTube.  Obviously reading, like many other cognitive activities, needs to be practiced:

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read....Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on...The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.
Wow, that's a scary, scary thought.  But maybe there is hope.  Because our brains are infinitely adaptable...well, maybe not liberal brains, they can never accept that capitalism works, men and women are different and turkey bacon is NOT bacon, perhaps our brains can be retrained to accept both worlds:

Already, there is some intriguing research that looks at that question. A 2012 Israeli study of engineering students — who grew up in the world of screens — looked at their comprehension while reading the same text on screen and in print when under time pressure to complete the task.

The students believed they did better on screen. They were wrong. Their comprehension and learning was better on paper.

Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly and that the differences should be dealt with in education, particularly with school-aged children. There are advantages to both ways of reading. There is potential for a bi-literate brain.
A bi-literate brain...hmmm...we'll see.  I have not completely bought into the whole e-reader thing myself...I am a dinosaur who loves books and paper, and bookmarks...real bookmarks not a file.

But the article overall is scary, we are creating a generation of technically savvy DRONES who can't read deeply, think critically, or discern truth from propaganda.  Which has the unfortunate side effect of making them very susceptible to influence by lefty liberal tree hugging teachers, professors, and other progressive agitators who spout simplistic slogans of 140 characters or less. 

Think about it...how many students read Wealth of Nations?  Or Machiavelli?  Or Animal Farm?  Not as many as play Candy Crush I bet...and that is how civilizations fall.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

History may not repeat itself...but is sure does cover the same ground.

So, as part of my summer reading program, which, yes, I am starting in April, I have decided to tackle two magisterial and awesome Trilogies--David Glantz' Stalingrad series (actually 4 books, cuz this guy can't write anything less than 800 pages, so Book 3 comes in two parts...like that stinkin' Hunger Games final movie); and Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy.  Now yours truly absolutely GUSHED over the final volume of this series in my awesome NYJB review and made it one of my favorite books of 2013.  So, why read it again?  Well, now that the entire trilogy is completed, I thought it might be interesting to get a perspective on the entire European Theater of War (at least from the Western Allies perspective).

I would, of course, LOVE to have some enterprising historian who speaks Russian and German to write an equivalent trilogy-style narrative on the Eastern Front from 1941-1945...which would no doubt then merge to become the definitive history of the war to defeat Nazi Germany.

BUT, while I wait patiently, I decided to plow ahead and learn more about the most decisive battle of the Russian Campaign--the 11 month struggle on the steppes that began with German offensive of 1942--Operation Blue--intended to sweep through Ukraine and into the Russian Caucasus to capture Russia's oil fields and knock Stalin's Red Army out of the war--and ended with the destruction of Germany's Sixth Army and the stopping of the rising Nazi tide.  Places like Rostov, Kiev, the Dnieper River, and other locations in Russia and the Ukraine figure prominently in this book, just like on CNN and MSDNC, where they have to get out their Sesame Street big book of foreign places to find them on the map.

Speaking of maps, the Royal United Service Institute, a British think tank, has done some substantive work on the whole Russia-Ukraine standoff, including this pretty awesome map showing potential avenues of invasion for Putin's Legions:

Now from a historical point of view, what's interesting to see is the familiarity of the territory to students of the World War II Eastern Front:  Kharkov (Karkiv, if you prefer), Rostov, Sevastapol, Kiev (or Kyiv, whatever)  and...far in the east---Volgograd (or as Putin may so rename it...STALINGRAD)...yes history is a finicky mistress.  The question of course, is how far would the newly reformed Red Army (I mean what else can you call it?!) go into Ukraine?

This is, of course the big question...if Putin just wants to bite off a chunk, maybe he avoids direct conflict in the cities and sweeps around the eastern provinces with the heavy Russian minorities and lets his masked and hooded stormtroopers take over the cities.  Certainly, after their previous experience in Grozny in 1994-1995, the Red Army will not want to fight large numbers of pissed off Ukrainians in the city streets...even Putin doesn't want THAT on YouTube.   OR, maybe just because the West has been shown for the moral and physical cowards that they are (mom jeans and bike helmets do not a decisive President make...I mean seriously, can you see Ronald Reagan wearing mom jeans or a helmet as he rode horses on his ranch?) ....sigh.....but I digress again.

Things are calm for the moment...but Russia still has lots of troops on the border and is continuing to stir up trouble....meanwhile the biggest crisis in Washington is................the phony women's pay scandal and exactly how big a liar Eric Holder is...............and how deep the corruption and Obama worshiping at the IRS is.................and........sadly bacon prices are likely to go up...that is sad....the other issues, sad, but not unexpected from the corrupt, Chicago style DemocRATic government.

It's enough to even make Field Marshal Manstein give up..........

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Can't escape history...even in the vast Pacific Ocean

The Diplomat is one of my new favorite websites.  Along with the Small Wars Journal, which I have blogged about before, they are my go to websites for world events news every day...seriously, you don't think I read the DailyKos or the HuffPo do you?

One of the major topics of discussion is the current situation in the South and East China Seas and the strategic matchup between the USN and Chinese navy, popularly known as the Peoples Liberation Army Navy or PLAN (don't ask me, I'm not  a Mao worshipper, unlike some lefty Democrats and I didn't name it).

And of course a major part of this discussion is not Michelle's kabillion dollar junket to China on our dime or the bungling Asian foreign policy of this Administration (seriously Caroline Kennedy is the Ambassador to Japan---why?) but the notion of China whipping out a little "counter-intervention" whoopass on the US while conquering whatever reefs, shoals, islets, and islands it wishes from their various neighbors...all in the name of...you guessed it...oil and gas thought to be on the bottom of the South and East China Sea....hmmm, maybe we could just sic RFK, Jr  and Matt Damon on those evil Chinese state owned oil companies...that'll show 'em.

Pretty Good graphic from the WaPo---who knew?

BUT, I digress.  As a response to the rise of Chinese maritime power, our fearless fundraiser-in-chief and insurance salesman is devising the so-called "rebalance to Asia" and America's new "Air-Sea Battle" concept (ASB) meant to counter China's increasingly capable navy and Air Force and ensuring that the US still remains the preeminent power in Asia, the current Apple Dumpling Gang of fools notwithstanding.

This is a broad topic that will be explored in several posts during the coming year.  WHY, you ask?  Because---like many security and strategy issues talked about today, it's not new.  

Yup, I said it...the issues facing the USAF/USN today in the Pacific have been faced in the past...funny how that works...ahhh, history, I love you so.  

I speak of two specific instances--the pre-WWII planning done by the Navy as part of the War Plan Orange process and the 1970s-1980s challenge from the Soviet Navy that created Reagan's "Maritime Strategy."  (Oh, how I miss him so.)

Here are some of the better articles The Diplomat has had on the issues faced by the USN/USAF today:

The Air-Sea Battle Debate Heats Up

Is Air-Sea Battle Irrelevant?

Air-Sea Battle: A Dangerous Way to Deal with China

Is AirSea Battle Obsolete?

AND, there are many good articles and papers on the whole ASB concept:

Air Sea Battle for Dummies

Official DoD Paper

<Pretty much the genesis of the whole thing!>   AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept  

But as I read these articles, it doesn't seem like there's anything new ---my favorite new saying certainly seems to apply-"Been there, done that, got the T-shirt; everything else is just re-runs."

Of course, the military of the 1930s and 1940s were actually on the rise as America began to stir to meet an existential threat; with the current crop of corrupt pacifists if office, the US military faces an additional challenge as it is hacked away to pay for Obamacare and unfunded mandates.

But from a historical perspective, it is worth exploring how the Navy of old met this challenge--fighting across great spaces of ocean against a hostile and capable foe to defeat their navy, bomb their homeland, and win a war.