'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This week in history

This is a significant week in world and military history. This week is the crisis week in 1914 that lead to the First World War. After the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke, Europe watched as Austria-Hungary and Serbia did a diplomatic dance. On July 28, 1914, almost 100 years ago, Europe and the world as it was known came to and end as the world descended into a madness that was previously unthinkable. I wonder how many students today are taught about the significance of World War I and how it directly caused Communism, Fascism and even the situation in Middle East as it is known today. After all, if the Ottoman Empire had not be carved up by the British and French, Iraq would not exist as we know it today!

Why is this important today? People say that "war is obsolete because the world is too connected economically and socially" and "we've outgrown war and it's not civilized anymore" Funny thing is, Europe in 1914 was just as interdependent as the US and China or the US and the Middle East are today. Moreover, ALL of the major monarchs in Europe: the Russian Czar, German Kaiser and King of England were all 1st cousins, descendants of Queen Victoria. Nonetheless they went to war for 4 terrible years that left some 10,000,000 soldiers dead and another 20,000,000 wounded (yes, all those zeros belong). We should never be so naive to think that war is obsolete or that our world is so interconnected that wars can't start because of miscommunication, pettiness or just plain bungling. Of course wars can start of legitimate reasons as well and we should never forget that there are people out there who wish is harm just because of who we are. More about WWI later, I am just getting into the next class in my MA program on Joint Land Warfare and we are currently doing an analysis of German and British infantry tactics. GOOD STUFF

I recently acquired a copy of Barbara Tuchman's classic Guns of August. I look forward to reading it when things quiet down.

Pictures from Photos of the Great War

Monday, July 21, 2008

Today in Military History

Today is the anniversary of the 1st Battle of Manassas (the damnyankees call it Bull Run), fought just down the road from me. Like many first battles of a war, it was supposed to be the decisive battle to win the war, only it didn't turn out that way. The Union forces were marching "On to Richmond" to take the Confederate capital and put an end to the young rebellion. However, the Confederate forces were able to use railroads for the first strategic troop movement in American history and brought up reinforcements just in time to stop the Union advance. The famous stand of Thomas Jackson occurred here of course, earning him the sobriquet of "Stonewall" which would follow his through his legendary career.

Map of the Battle, courtesy of Wikipedia

So, what does this battle have to say about today? Most wars do not end in one decisive battle anymore, no matter how neat and tidy we wish them to be. War is not a sitcom where the plot is resolved within 30 minutes so we can go to the next thing in our ADHD world. Unfortunately for the politicians in Washington, our fight with Islamofacism is not likely to end anytime soon. If only we had a Lincoln who would make the unpopular, though necessary decisions to save our republic! Do we have one in either candidate for President. I hope so.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are they fools or hypocrites?

Earler in the week, this headline appeared "Panel calls for new war powers legislation" Full story here with yet another whine about how Congress is not consulted before the President takes military action, blah, blah.

So, here's my question, since our current President, in fact had extensive debate and a Congressional vote before launching Operation Iraqi Freedom (here) and before launching Operation Enduring Freedom (here) what exactly am I missing?

After all, didn't Senators Clinton, Kerry and Obama make known their views on this issue? (except for maybe Obama, since he was not a Senator in either 2001 or 2003, he was too busy listening to Rev. Wright)

I find it particularly distasteful to watch the political preening on this issues. This issue has long been settled. If Congress does not want military action to take place, then cut off the funds for the war. The Democrats have been talking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. Either they have the political guts to end the "unpopular" Iraq War or they don't. After all, the Constitution is pretty clear, and I don't think we really want 545 or so "co-generals" deciding how we fight our wars do we?

Section 2 - Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;

Section 7 - Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto
All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Section 8 - Powers of Congress
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Anyway, at least some good news today. Actual American fighting generals have been promoted to take key leadership positions in CENTCOM. Of course we had to have more preening by the Democrats in the Senate, but in the end, there is no substitute for victory.

(I mean seriously, LGEN Raymond T. Odierno looks like he could personally whip the ENITRE Democratic Senate delegation in a bar fight, doesn't he...I mean can you imagine him in a dark alley with Osama? They would have to identify Osama to his mama by dental records)

It's good to see the U.S. military can still recognize the Grants and Shermans among our top commanders and weed out the McClellans and Burnsides who could kiss butt, but can't really win battles. (Kosovo doesn't really count, in my estimation, since a real general would have won that war with a lot less effort)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Glorious Fourth!

Today is the 4th of July, America's Independence Day. Beyond the absolute joy of cooking EIGHT big pounds of ribs on the grill today with all the fixins', I always reflect on the fact that not only is this day important for what happened in 1776, but what happened in 1863. As mentioned in my previous post, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought between July 1st and 3rd and General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and General Meade's Army of the Potomac were essentially fought out on Independence Day in 1863.
But to the west, General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of Tennessee was finally victorious after a six week siege of the city of Vicksburg. The Spring campaign of 1863 was one of the most daring military operations ever conducted and is considered by many historians, myself included, to be Grant's greatest operational achievement.
The campaign, shown in the link below in a map from Wikipedia was fought over a vast area and was a perfect example of surprise, maneuver and joint Army-Navy Operations

Most of all, the operation cemented Grant's reputation and ensured his eventual rise to command of all the Union armies in 1864.

However, the most important thing to remember today is the sacrifice of all those soldiers so long ago to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2nd Day of Gettysburg

Today is the 2nd day of the Battle of Gettysburg. It's one of the most important battles in American history and I wonder how many college freshmen can remember or even know anything about the largest battle ever fought in North America. 50,000 Americans became casualties over three days of intense combat that was the high water mark of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The 2nd day of battle ended with the climatic fighting around the Little Round Top between the 20th Maine and 15th Alabama regiments.

Chamberlain's Charge from Mort Kunstler

I still remember my last trip to Gettysburg when I was able to smoke a cigar with my friend and fellow Civil War buff at the Little Round Top memorial marker and discuss the battle. Someday I hope to get back there and see how much things have changed.

Some suggested reading on Gettysburg:

Steven Sears has written an excellent one volume history of the battle. A really good overall history and sequel to Sears' books on Antietam, Chancellorsville and the Seven Days.

Henry Pfanz has written the classic account of the 2nd day's fighting.

Finally, a little different book. Gary Gallagher's collection of essay's on combat leadership during the battle.

And finally, two works of fiction. Michael Sharra's Killer Angels is the classic novel of Gettysburg and is still timeless.

Newt Gingrich's alternate history Civil War trilogy begins with Gettysburg, which is a very intriguing look at the potential outcome if Lee had made some different choice. The entire trilogy is highly recommended.