'87 Sir

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

History Expounded Upon

When reading the Federalist Papers, it is instructive to understand why they came about and their purpose.  When the newly formed United States convened a Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they were in fact, NOT going to draft a Constitution.  The actual purpose of the Convention was to modify the Articles of Confederation that had been the basis of government among the colonies from around 1776 when they were first drafted.

However, some visionaries such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton did not think the Articles could be successfully modified and proposed writing a completely brand-new document.  This of course, did not sit well with everyone so when it became time to ratify this new Constitution, and an 18th century verbal food-fight erupted.  Now the really spiffy thing is that when these guys had a throw-down, they didn't mess around- they went at each other verbally in a way that our sad, sad current politicians could only aspire.

SO, each Federalist Paper has a corresponding Anti-Federalist Paper and if you can plow through the atrocious spelling and occasional grammar gaffes (at least by 20th century standards, although they are really quite wonderful in their prose and purpose.

Federalist #1 and Anti-Federalist #1 are merely the warm-up acts for the numerous papers that follow and offer point & counter-point for each major ideas of the proposed Constitution.
So here are a couple of quotes to lay out where each side of this argument is coming from:

In this corner the Federalists:
"On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government." 

and in this corner the Anti-Federalists:
"They will use the power, when they have acquired it, to the purposes of gratifying their own interest and ambition, and it is scarcely possible, in a very large republic, to call them to account for their misconduct, or to prevent their abuse of power."

Ha, Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh, eat your hearts out....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grouchy Historian’s Bookshelf

The Library of America has published a number of books on American Literature, Biography and History.  These are some of the nicest books from an actual look and feel perspective that I have in my library.  Two of my favorite are volumes of newspaper columns from World War II.  This of course, was the era when reporters were actually reporters instead of political hacks and editorial writers out to "change the world."  They are very well written and come in fairly bite sized chunks.

Of course, you can't escape the PC influence as the writings of women and African-American reporters are highlighted, but to be fair, the articles do present some lesser known cultural and social aspects of the war not recounted in traditional military histories.  The articles do cover a wide range of topics and feature such well known reporters as Willam Shirer, Edward R. Murrow, and the quintessential war reporter, Ernie Pyle.

They cover the entire chronography of the war, from the Munich Crises to the end of war and all theaters as well.
Overall, although these books may seem a little pricey, they are well worth the cost and make an excellent primary source addition to any World War II historian's library.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Week in Review- Changes in Afghanistan- Changes in the White House?

     Well, the big news of the week is the replacement of Gen McChrystal with Gen Petraeus.  Of course, as many pundits have pointed out, the issue is not REALLY who the Supreme Commander is but what STRATEGY he is attempting to carry out.  As long as this Administration's artificial timetable for withdrawing American troops remains rigidly in place, the Strategy will likely not be successful.  As long as there is a dysfunctional diplomatic and training effort for the Afghan military the strategy will likely not be successful.
      SO, what kind of briar patch has Petraeus just stepped in?  The next few months will tell, but I fear if a significant trend of success is not seen by the Congressional elections, Obama's timetable will stand and the Afghan government will come to some kind of understanding with the Taliban.  THIS is extremely dangerous as it could put additional pressure on Pakistan, which is the real prize for those Islamic nut jobs.

BUT the more interesting story, which will quickly fade away if ABCBSNBCNNMSNBC have anything to say (or not say) is the Blago trial.  Obama is likely a bigger crook than Nixon and the Clintons combined, after all, he learned about politics from the Chicago Democratic machine.  Rahm is gonna go under the bus, no doubt...will that be enough?  Should be fun.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

History Review Wednesday

Wednesday History Review

The Constitution and the Federalist Papers

As any good historian will tell you, primary source documents are the lifeblood of good historical narrative. Our journey begins through the 85 Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers- the original Point-Counterpoint or Crossfire as it were, of American history.

The Constitution of the nation was not assured and our journey through history could have been far, far different, but for the efforts of 55 patriots who spent a sweltering summer in 1787 trying to figure out what the States should become-a loose assembly of independent entities or a united country.

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers were the documents by which our forefathers debated the role of government, rights and liberties and the entire notion of what the United States was and should become. I will provide some commentary on each set of papers for the next few weeks as we explore how our Constitution was debated and continues to be debated today.

Now, of course, with anything the Grouchy Historian does, there is a book list. All are highly recommended, especially for you homeschoolers out there that want to avoid the liberal, secular, revisionist claptrap history that leads to this actual disclaimer used by Wilder Publications in their edition of the Constitution:

“This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work."

This is the version I am reading...no fluff, just the original documents in their own words...ugh, and grammar and spelling too.

An essential book for reading the Constitution.  The Heritage Foundation Guide not only explains the background original intent, but provides relevant case law related to that particular section of the Constitution.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review Monday

Makers of Modern Strategy and Makers of Ancient Strategy

These two books are an essential part of any library for understanding warfare, strategy, and politics.

They are often standard texts for strategy and policy classes and offer a number of unique and insightful essays on the political use of force through the ages.

The 28 essays in Makers of Modern Strategy cover from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. It would be fortunate to update the book from its 1986 publishing date, but as a set of historical case studies, these essays are really timeless.Of particular note are the essays on Clausewitz and Jomini which really show how these two early military strategic writers were influenced by the Napoleonic Wars.

The set of essays covering World War II are also really outstanding. In particular, the essay on German strategy during both World Wars does an excellent job of showing how the German General Staff never had a good plan in either war for fighting on two fronts.

The 10 essays in Makers of Ancient Strategy offer historical insights into the enduring nature of warfare and offer an ancient perspective on modern strategic insights. Although each essay is really well written, it is clear that Prof Hanson directed these essays to the current issues facing the United States in the current military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. This makes the book seem a bit contrived and not as timeless as the earlier volume, but it is fascinating to see how Alexander dealt with nation building or the counter-insurgency tactics of the Romans.

Although each volume stands alone, they are much better as a set. The timeless issues of ends, ways and means; the political-military relationship in war; and even the strategic issues nuclear weapons and deterrence are just as relevant today as they when our ancestors dealt with them.

Keep in mind these volumes are for the serious student or reader. If you have no clue who Clausewitz or Jomini were or what blitzkrieg is, prepare to do a little extra research. Dare I say, Wikipedia could be your friend if you need some additional background.

But the effort is well worth it. These books are fine additions to any political science or history major seeking to understand warfare, and the interaction of politics, strategy and conflict.

**The FCC now requires book reviewers to disclose the following. Book reviews appear regularly on this website. The books I review on this site I freakin' purchase myself (I get Christmas cards from Jeff Bezos) or get from the library. So all opinions are my stinkin' own and if you don't like them then go read something else like Bill Clinton's memoirs  or somesuch tripe.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Naval Warfare and the Operational Art

Naval warfare exhibits all of the characteristics of operational art no less than warfare on land. Concepts of maneuver, mass, firepower and even flank attacks and the indirect approach can be seen in naval combat. The unique feature of naval warfare is the interaction of land, sea and air units to conduct strategic plans and engage in battle.
Just as land warfare had its strategic thinkers and prophets such as Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Jomini, sea power had its own unique thinkers in Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett. Both of these great naval strategists, who published their works at the beginning of the great steel and steam naval era, expanded on traditional writers like Clausewitz to divine the unique characteristics and contributions of naval forces to both strategic success and operational thinking.

The inherent ability of ships to quickly transit great distances, combined with the reach of aircraft carrier strikes and the development of amphibious assault doctrine to assault fortified beaches make naval power even more critical to modern warfare. The U.S. Navy’s recent Naval Operations Concept document shows the clear lineage of both Mahan and Corbett on the role of naval operations in the 21st Century. Mahan and Corbett created their concepts in an era of empires and far-flung coaling stations to support massive battle fleets. The Navy’s modern operational concept has evolved to current geo-political realities, highlighting how naval forces are now the most versatile operational force-able to operate over a vast territory without worrying about global bases or access to overseas ports or infrastructure. Naval forces have also become the first responders to deal with crises and contingencies, remaining away from territorial waters while retaining the capability to project power ashore by either air or missile strike or helicopter and amphibious assault.
Naval power has proven its utility in both peacetime and war, offering unique operational characteristics and capabilities to further a country’s military and diplomatic strategic objectives.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The week in Review

  • A simple definition of leadership is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.

Hmmm, not much of that this week.  Obama's speech about the oil spill was SO bad that one blogger noted that the only thing that was missing from Jimmy Carter's "Malaise" speech of 1979 was the sweater and fireplace.  Not surprising from a President that not only has NO project management training or experience, but is used to getting his way from a compliant media who cries "RACISM" anytime he is challenged.  WELL, an oil slick doesn't care about the color of his skin or who his daddy was or wasn't.  It takes solid engineering, project and crisis management and attention to detail.  NONE of which is evident from this White House, or BP for that matter.

Then there's the news about more layoffs. Nothing surprising about that.  As this article from Art Laffer lays out, things are gonna get much, much worse before they get better.  People and businesses are gonna get RUN OVER when the Bush tax cuts expire, and the dreaded double dip recession is likely to happen...and no more stimulus...right before the 2012 campaign season.  Hmmmm, think Hillary is keeping her options open?

And of course, the South Carolina Democratic Senate primary continues to crack me up.  I mean seriously, the evil, evil Republicans PLANTED the knucklehead guy who won??? I wish the Republicans could be that evil and coordinated.  But now, the Dems want to recall the whole thing...what happened to count all the votes????  Hmmmm, and he's....African-American...hmmmm if he was a Republican I wonder what they would be saying??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Israel and the Sunnis Against Iran?

This story, if true, is exceedingly interesting

Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites

It's no secret that the Saudis and Iranians are waging a little Islamic Cold War for position in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen, and that the Sunni Arab nations do not want the Shia Persians to get a nuclear capability any more than Israel does.

This is not helped by the feckless diplomacy of the Obama Administration, which is continuing down the worthless sanctions road (although to be fair it is the road paved by the Bush Administration), thinking that Mahmoud manutjob gives a rat's about sanctions with Allah wills them to get nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to guide them.

Throw in the transfer of advanced missiles to Hizbullah through Syria and you have the makings of a real powder keg.

SO, in light of all this, what the hell is going on with the flotilla nonsense; The world (and particularly Iran) is watching to see what the U.S. will do about the investigation of the boarding of the Hamas "relief blockade" and whether we will stand by Israel or, in fine Obama Administration fashion, throw them under the bus.

Well it looks like the bus is gonna win out.

Rice Supports International Probe of Israel Flotilla Incident

I mean seriously, who are we gonna get to do this that's "impartial" toward Israel?  Libya?  Cuba?  Russia?  Hey, how about Iran?

Obama is going to cause the next Mideast War.  And he will do it by causing Israel and the Saudis to make common cause (even if covertly) against Iran, Syria and their proxies Hamas and Hizbullah.

And somehow, the Jews will be to blame.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Warfare, History and Society

Victor Davis Hanson's new book The Father of Us All:  War and History is a tour de force collection of his essays, most of them previously published in magazines and on websites, on warfare and history.

Although previously published, Hanson both expands and integrates each essay into a seamless narrative of how both historians and the general public have viewed warfare through the ages.  Hanson makes three particular points that show up in each essay and are well reinforced and expounded upon:
  1. Warfare is, and will be, a part of the human condition, no matter how much some Utopian (and mostly liberal, secular, and humanist) people wish it otherwise.  The use of violence for political ends has always been a part of humanity.  Moreover, no matter how much these same Utopian people want to "negotiate" and "better understand" aggressive and occasionally evil rulers and countries, sometimes, to coin a phrase "a varmint just needs killing" and war is the only way to ultimately preserve the piece.
  2. Wars are messy, often uncontrollable, and seldom end the way that the people that start them intend.  Modern Western societies are have the collective attention span of a sitcom and expect wars to be quick, cheap and not too deadly.  Hanson lays out the rather scathing indictment that no matter how good the means of killing each other has become, ultimately war is about which side has the will, adaptability and stamina to keep killing their enemy.
  3. Finally, and in a topic near and dear to me, the study of war is essential to understanding why it is waged, how to avoid it, if possible and ultimately how to WIN at war.  The West has become pretty soft and flabby and practically no one alive in the West knows what its like to REALLY lose a war.  Even Vietnam, our national trauma, did not threaten our existence as a nation.  But too many historians and other academics think that studying history is, at best, a waste of time, and at worst, a primer for making more wars.  Hanson draws a very fine analogy to the medical profession.  Cancer is an evil menace that kills millions, yet doctors, hospitals, drug companies and national institutions devote vast time and resources to studying cancer in the hope of one day ending it.  Should warfare be the same.
All in all, a very fine book that is accessible to both the beginner and devoted student of military history.  Hanson makes excellent use of examples, footnotes and transitions between essays to keep the narrative moving and engaging.

Highly recommended.

**The FCC now requires book reviewers to disclose the following. Book reviews appear regularly on this website. The books I review on this site I freakin' purchase myself (I get Christmas cards from Jeff Bezos) or get from the library. So all opinions are my stinkin' own and if you don't like them then go read something else like Bill Clinton's memoirs or somesuch tripe.