'87 Sir

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Naval Combat and Tactics

Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat.  Capt. Wayne Hughes, USN (Ret.)  Annapolis:  Naval Institute Press, 2000.  ISBN 978-1-55750-392-3.  Diagrams.  Notes & References.  Bibliography.  Maps.  Index.  Pp. 378.  $34.95.

This is another of those prophetic books I have been reading..and just finished after a long road.  NOTE:  This book is not for amateurs, and requires a comprehensive prerequisite knowledge of naval history, weapons, and tactics.

Capt Hughes has written THE tactical primer for naval tactics in the 21st century.  Although this volume was published in 2000, as an update to his original 1986 Cold War edition, it discusses in some detail many of the tactical and operational issues facing naval planners, strategists and deck plate officers today.

The book begins with a comprehensive survey of naval warfare beginning with the great ships of the line under Lord Nelson, through the era of the big gun battleships and the massive Battle of Jutland, into the transition to aircraft carriers and missiles, and ends with a discussion of satellite surveillance, modern command and control, and the utility of nuclear submarines.  Through each era of naval warfare, Capt Hughes breaks down the tactical issues facing naval commanders, how they attempted to deal with these issues, and the hi and lows of their attempts.

One of the many reasons this book is not for amateurs is that Capt Hughes actually uses mathematical models to highlight the effects of speed, firepower, scouting and reconnaissance, weapons and sensor ranges, and decision making to show the likely outcomes of naval combat and its comparison to real world results.  This modeling, which takes some digesting and contemplation of the graphs and figures provided, makes a compelling case for the "maxims" and real life lessons Capt Hughes tries to provide.

Some of the highlights of this book are the differentiations between land and naval combat, and why strategists and decision makers are likely to be disappointed when trying to apply theories of land warfare to naval combat.  The comparison table on pages 172 and 173 is particularly useful in highlighting the major differences between land and sea warfare.  Succinctly put, there is no wonderful maneuver warfare concept in naval warfare...no Cannae or Vicksburg to surround, outflank or besiege your enemy until they surrender.  Naval combat is the last bastion of attrition warfare where you must sink ships (and submarines) and by definition have a bloody battle to win.  Capt Hughes does point out that attacking an opponents ports and home bases or their highly vulnerable supply and auxiliary ships may aid in your victory, but in the long term, naval combat is about fleet engagements.

The major focus of this book over his earlier edition is the shift from an emphasis on Blue Water big fleet engagements of the Cold War to the much messier and complicated "Green" and "Brown" water coastal operations more likely to occur in the 21st century.  The author describes in great detail the tactical difficulties of operating naval forces in the restricted environment of coastlines (hmmm, such as the Strait of Hormuz or the Taiwan Straits, perhaps) where a local power can supplement meager naval forces with land based air power, cruise missiles, and the new boogy man of naval warfare, Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.

For the serious military or naval analyst or historian, this is a book that should be in your library, read, and digested.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Taxes, Taxes, and more Taxes....and some Judges too.

We continue our discussion of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers this week with number 12.  Some really fascinating stuff here about taxes, revenue and commerce.

Alexander Hamilton begins this paper by discussing the interaction of commerce and government:
The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares. By multiplying the means of gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and copiousness.
As always, my own bold and italics......Hmm, sounds like the colonial version of "Greed is good."  Which of course, I have no problem with since, being the Grouchy Historian, I try to deal with the reality of human nature instead of mushy-headed liberal notions of utopia.  People are inherently greedy and will look out for their own self-interest.  Except for some exceptional holy men and maybe MOMS, I know of very few humans, including yours truly, that don't in most situations look out primarily for number one.  And...our Founding Fathers knew that enlightened self-interest, that is the principles of free enterprise based on honesty, hard work, and reward, tempered by the even application of the rule of law, was the best way to ensure domestic tranquility and keep the money moving, so to speak.

Hamilton continues in a very prophetic passage:
It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of administration inherent in the nature of popular government, coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for extensive collections, and has at length taught the different legislatures the folly of attempting them.
Wow, that passage could certainly be ripped from the headlines.  Indeed, as Hamilton notes, the US government could and did, draw most of its revenue from duties on imports...that is until the PROGRESSIVE Woodrow Wilson oversaw the first imposition of an income tax. Considering the minimal reach of that first income tax, it is, of course astounding how income taxes and DIRECT taxation has flourished in the last 100 years.  Sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, capital gains taxes, oyyyy, the appetite of the various forms of government seem endless, just as Hamilton more or less noted IN THE 1700s.  Goodness knows what they would think today.

So, could the US government exist without taxes?  Well no...but what should it do and who should pay for it?  These seem to be eternal questions for an informed citizenry.  What I find fascinating is that when income taxes were first imposed they were paid ALL at once in a check to the government.  It was FDR, that other hero of the Progressive movement, that began the insidious, hidden payroll deduction to HIDE the effect of taxation to the mass of sheeple.  I mean, CAN you imagine if people had to actually write a check to the government on April 15?  WOW, that would be fun to watch.  I of course, agree with the political wag who said we should make tax day the week before election day...then see what happens.

Not a bad idea, overall.

Continuing on with Anti-Federalist #12, Brutus continues his criticism of the proposed Federal Judiciary and its potential for abuse:

Perhaps the judicial power will not be able, by direct and positive decrees, ever to direct the legislature, because it is not easy to conceive how a question can be brought before them in a course of legal discussion, in which they can give a decision, declaring, that the legislature have certain powers which they have not exercised, and which, in consequence of the determination of the judges, they will be bound to exercise. But it is easy to see, that in their adjudications they may establish certain principles, which being received by the legislature, will enlarge the sphere of their power beyond all bounds. 
This brings to mind the ridiculous statement by Sen Arlen Specter (RINO-PA) during one of the recent Supreme Court Justice confirmations that Roe vs Wade has "SUPER DUPER PRECEDENT" for being an irrevocable law...hmm much like Dred Scott or Plessy versus Ferguson  did before they were overturned...one by war and the other by reality.  But I digress.

Brutus then breaks down the preamble to the Constitution in the context of the judiciary, showing how the unbridled power of an out of control judiciary, combined with a powerful national government, can only end up expanding central power to the detriment of the states and citizens:
The courts therefore will establish it as a rule in explaining the constitution to give it such a construction as will best tend to perfect the union or take from the state governments every power of either making or executing laws. The second object is "to establish justice." This must include not only the idea of instituting the rule of justice, or of making laws which shall be the measure or rule of right, but also of providing for the application of this rule or of administering justice under it. And under this the courts will in their decisions extend the power of the government to all cases they possibly can, or otherwise they will be restricted in doing what appears to be the intent of the constitution they should do, to wit, pass laws and provide for the execution of them, for the general distribution of justice between man and man. 

Clearly Brutus was not a big fan of the idea of "separation of powers" or "checks and balances"  assuming that the national government AS A WHOLE would and could only assume more and more power...which meant the diminution of the states as the primary vehicle of government.

AND, of course, that is exactly what has happened...the complete trampling of state's rights to the point that the Federal Government, in the hands of progressive, liberal, big government activists, fight the states' ability to control their borders, set limits on abortion, or even regulate and utilize their own natural resources.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Wehrmacht at High Tide-1942

Death of the Wehrmact:  The German Campaigns of 1942.  Robert Citino.  Lawrence, KS:  University of Kansas Press, 2007.  ISBN 978-0700615315.  Illustrations.  Notes & References.  Bibliography.  Maps.  Index.  Pp. 431.  $34.95.

Professor Citino is quickly becoming one of my favorite military and operational historians.  Dr. Citino  is currently a fellow of the Barsanti Military History Center at the University of North Texas and is scheduled to be a visiting professor at the US Air Force Academy in 2011.  He is arguably the foremost authority on German military thought and history today.

This volume is not a traditional narrative battle history.  So be forewarned, if that's what you are looking for, you may not enjoy this book as much as I did.  Dr. Citino has written a combination of operational analysis and cultural history of the German Wehrmacht in 1942, shedding light on why German generals made decisions and fought battles in the manner of Bewegungskrieg, or maneuver warfare.  Drawing on his extensive knowledge of both German military history and his study of the operational level of warfare--that nebulous region between traditional strategy and tactics--Dr. Citino weaves a picture of a German General Staff stuck between a strategic rock and hard place in early 1942.  The expected Russian blitzkrieg (a word he studiously avoids) did not crush the Soviet Union, and with the entry of the US into the war, the Germans really found themselves with limited strategic options to bring about a decisive conclusion before the Allies material superiority made itself felt on the battlefield.

Both in the North African desert and steppes of southern Russia, the Wehrmacht showed their forte for armored warfare, particularly the crushing of the British 8th Army at Gazala and the overrunning of the Red Army in the Caucasus.  However, Citino also lays out the strategic shortcomings of German planning, making the devastating case that  horrible decision making by Hitler and his OKW diluted German operational prowess by ignoring several traditional German maxims about waging war, especially the need for a Schwerpunkt or main focus of the military effort to bring about a decisive victory.  Reading between the lines, one can infer from Citino's effort that Stalingrad was clearly a huge waste of resources by the Germans, and this Grouchy Historian can only wander if the Germans could have reached Baku with the 6th Army in the fight, instead of it being ultimately consumed in what became a battle of egos for a city named for a brutal dictator.

More importantly, for all their tactical genius, the Germans consistently ignored the old saw "Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics."  Not to say that commanders like Rommel or Manstein were amateurs, but German commanders were famous for ignoring logistical difficulties in favor of battlefield exploits brought about by shear force of will.  But, again, as Dr. Citino lays out with devastating analysis, the lack of fuel and other supplies slowed down key German efforts and clearly contributed to Rommel's inability to conquer Egypt in summer 1942 and the inability of the 6th Army to capture Stalingrad in the early summer before it became a fortified city.  He is unsparing in his analysis and criticism of how German generals pushed their mobile forces to the breaking point, with seemingly little regard for mundane matters like food, fuel and ammunition resupply.  Ultimately, tactical genius could not overcome geography and logistics, and he ends the book with an account of how the British at El Alamein and the Russians at Stalingrad were able to defeat the Germans with the own brand of modern warfare--although each side defeated the Germans very differently.

If you have a decent understanding of the overall campaign history of 1942, this is a truly excellent book for understanding why the Wehrmacht fought the way it did, how it managed to inflict major defeats on larger opponents and ultimately why these battlefield victories could not achieve overall strategic success.  

Dr. Citino's use of German language sources is truly mind-boggling, and it is easy to see how he intends to fit together a set of books on German military culture through World War II based on his previous work:
The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich (Modern War Studies) 
and his new book...hot off the press and in my little hands:
The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War (Modern War Studies)

I highly, highly recommend this book for the serious reader of World War II history and look forward to sharing my views on the next volume.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Founding Fathers- What did they really say?

A couple of weeks ago, your local Grouchy Historian was invited to take part in a conversation sponsored by some new readers who belong to the Arizona Tea Party.  They have a pretty excellent web site with a very, very lively discussion on the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

Of course, Constitutional history and law are not subjects I am completely comfortable with, so I quickly had to get up to speed.  Enter my favorite place on the Internet, AMAZON, and of course, new books.

So I found this wonderful little gem, The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution.  Although it is a slim volume, it is packed full of so much goodness that it may take three blog posts to cover everything.

Where to begin?  Well, progressives, revisionist historians, and general liberal mischief makers and big government worshippers will say, "Oh, the Constitution, that ancient document was written by a bunch of white, male, slave holding rich men...what do they know?"  OR "Well, the Constitution is very vague, so we don't really know what it means, so let's just make things up the way WE THINK THEY OUGHT TO BE."  Neither of these is true of course, but our public school system is so broken when it comes to teaching history, most students today probably have no idea who James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were...but I bet they know who Caesar Chavez and Che Guevara were.   Sigh, but I digress.....as Mr. McClanahan lays out in clear, very compelling language, we can indeed discover EXACTLY what our Founding Fathers intended each and every Article and Clause of the Constitution to accomplish and how and why they argued about it during the Ratification debates exemplified by the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers which my new Arizona brethren debate with such zeal.

The first thing that I usually do when I read a book on a new topic or from a new author is flip to the bibliography to check the sources.  The author has drawn primarily from the magisterial works  The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution.

The author writes the chapters topically, covering the legislative, executive and judicial branches, followed by some other topics of interest.  What I really like about the book is that the author lets our Founding Fathers do the talking as much as possible, with minimal analysis or pontificating by the author.

So let's dive right in....

The first thing I learned is the background to how Senators were originally chosen.  Clearly the founders had ONE overarching thing in the back of their mind when they formed our wonderful Constitution--What the overall role of the new national government was to be and how it was to relate to the states.  Our Founders jealously guarded the powers of the states, at least most of the Founders did, and the makeup of the Senate was intended to be a major balancing point for the new Federal government.

By having the state legislatures choose Senators, the Founders intended for Senators to represent their STATES first and not the interests of the government or other outside interests.  Of course, not everyone agreed with this plan, and some feared that Senators would become too entwined with the government.   George Mason said-"Is it not probable, that those Gentlemen who will be elected Senators will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of our State?" (p.26)

Hmm, profound, no?  So, now the 17th Amendment becomes more clear to me and why it is not necessarily a good thing, even though Progressives sold it as more democratic means of electing Senators.  I mean I have never done the math, but it appears to me that if we did not have the 17th Amendment, Obamacare, the Porkulus and much of the mischief of this Administration would not have come to pass.  Not to mention a good deal of other Progressive nonsense of the last 100 years or so.

The author also goes into some detail on the "Commerce Clause," "General Welfare Clause," and "Necessary and Proper Clause."  Now, again, I am not a constitutional lawyer or scholar, but I definitely commend the author for stepping through these topics and laying out in pretty clear terms why they were worded as they are and how far we have strayed from their original meeting, in particular how Progressives have distorted and downright LIED about the power that Congress should have.  It is interesting to note that originally Congress was only intended to regulate international and inter-state commerce.  There was never any intent for INTRAstate commerce to be regulated by Congress--that responsibility was to be reserved for the states.  So, for Progressives this is something that can not be tolerated.

The other very interesting discussion concerned the use of paper money and coinage.  Our Founders were very concerned with not only retiring the debt caused by the Revolution, but NOT incurring further debt, at least not lightly.  "Brutus," one of the primary authors of the Anti-Federalist papers, likely to have been Robert Yates, a New York judge, said it best-"I  can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befal this country, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge." (p.52)

Again, pretty darn prophetic huh?  Clearly our current Congresscritters should read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers again, cuz we sure are accumulating debt that we are likely to NEVER, EVER be able to pay back...at least not without becoming the Weimar Republic.  I, for one, do not relish the idea of dragging around wheel barrows of money.

Of course, as a historian, after reading this first section, I can understand why they were written, as our Founding Fathers ASSUMED that everyone clearly understood the division of powers between the states and the national government concerning taxes, commerce, and economic liberty.  Clearly, this is no longer the case.

There is much more to read and learn from this section, most of it material I did not really understand until I digested this section of the book.  Congress is only the first of the three branches of government that has overstepped its boundaries as originally intended.

More on the Executive and Judicial Branches to come....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Federalist #11- GOOOO NAVY

Okay, two topics this week near and dear to me.  Yup, Federalist #11 specifically deals with the need for a strong Navy (woohoo, Go Navy Beat Army, had to say that) and continues the thread begun in Federalist #10 on the role of the new federal government in facilitating and improving commerce.

The Anti-Federalist #11 is another one of those EXTREMELY profound papers decrying the potential for abuse of power of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.  NAH, we'd never have judges legislating from the bench and passing their own weird, made up ideas of rights and social justice...nah....

Federalist #11
So the real purpose of this prose is an 18th century version of trade wars, or the ol' mercantilism.  As usual, in our historical ignorance, we think that trade imbalance, free trade, and opening up new markets are 21st century issues.  They are, of course, but America has been involved in trade disputes, contests for open markets, and hostile trading adversaries since our founding.

"There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too great interference in that carrying trade, which is the support of their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. Those of them which have colonies in America look forward to what this country is capable of becoming, with painful solicitude. They foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from the neighborhood of States, which have all the dispositions, and would possess all the means, requisite to the creation of a powerful marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy of fostering divisions among us, and of depriving us, as far as possible, of an ACTIVE COMMERCE in our own bottoms. This would answer the threefold purpose of preventing our interference in their navigation, of monopolizing the profits of our trade, and of clipping the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness. Did not prudence forbid the detail, it would not be difficult to trace, by facts, the workings of this policy to the cabinets of ministers."

So, what did our founders do...well nothing for a while, then during the late 1790s they decided to unleash the first of our future whup ass naval forces and manly men...or wooden ships and iron men, as it were. 

"To this great national object, a NAVY, union will contribute in various ways. Every institution will grow and flourish in proportion to the quantity and extent of the means concentred towards its formation and support."
As mentioned in my post on Federalist #10, not only were issues occurring with Britain, but when the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars broke out, the US found itself in the uncomfortable position of being on the Naval business end of our erstwhile allies in France during an undeclared naval war.  Then, of course, there was the ongoing fight with the Barbary pirates.  This is a topic of some interest to me, since our ignorant, lefty, mushy schools won't teach the TRUTH about America's on-again, off-again war with Islamic terrorists, pirates, thugs and murders. 

But I digress...needless to say, once America's navy was reborn in the 1790s, it has protected commerce, served America's interests and pretty much kicked the crap out of our enemies for 200 years....an idea I am firmly in favor of...

Anti-Federalist #11.

Hmm, there's so much good stuff here, I don't know where to start...the writer was clearly concerned with the nature of the federal courts, particularly the lifetime nature of judges with little recourse to recall nitwits, commies, and buffoons.

The real effect of this system of government, will therefore be brought home to the feelings of the people, through the medium of the judicial power. It is, moreover, of great importance, to examine with care the nature and extent of the judicial power, because those who are to be vested with it, are to be placed in a situation altogether unprecedented in a free country. They are to be rendered totally independent, both of the people and the legislature, both with respect to their offices and salaries. No errors they may commit can be corrected by any power above them, if any such power there be, nor can they be removed from office for making ever so many erroneous adjudications.
The only causes for which they can be displaced, is, conviction of treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors.
This is only the beginning!  The writer goes on to note that the fairly undefined nature of the judicial branch could very easily lead to abuses and usurpation of power relative to not only the other branches of the government, but, as the Founders always kept in their minds, the power of the STATES.

The judicial power will operate to effect, in the most certain, but yet silent and imperceptible manner, what is evidently the tendency of the constitution: — I mean, an entire subversion of the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the individual states. Every adjudication of the supreme court, on any question that may arise upon the nature and extent of the general government, will affect the limits of the state jurisdiction. In proportion as the former enlarge the exercise of their powers, will that of the latter be restricted.
That the judicial power of the United States, will lean strongly in favour of the general government, and will give such an explanation to the constitution, as will favour an extension of its jurisdiction, is very evident from a variety of considerations.

And, if that isn't enough goodness, the author, being one of those Founders who understood the greedy and sinful nature of man, does not assume that judges are immune from the lure of power and their own SUPERIOR intellect.

Not only will the constitution justify the courts in inclining to this mode of explaining it, but they will be interested in using this latitude of interpretation. Every body of men invested with office are tenacious of power; they feel interested, and hence it has become a kind of maxim, to hand down their offices, with all its rights and privileges, unimpared to their successors; the same principle will influence them to extend their power, and increase their rights; this of itself will operate strongly upon the courts to give such a meaning to the constitution in all cases where it can possibly be done, as will enlarge the sphere of their own authority. Every extension of the power of the general legislature, as well as of the judicial powers, will increase the powers of the courts; and the dignity and importance of the judges, will be in proportion to the extent and magnitude of the powers they exercise. I add, it is highly probable the emolument of the judges will be increased, with the increase of the business they will have to transact and its importance. From these considerations the judges will be interested to extend the powers of the courts, and to construe the constitution as much as possible, in such a way as to favour it; and that they will do it, appears probable.
This power in the judicial, will enable them to mould the government, into almost any shape they please. — The manner in which this may be effected we will hereafter examine.
 Yup, that last sentence is BOLDED and ENLARGED, cuz people need to wake the hell up...we have become a republic with an out of control federal court system, packed with liberal, activist judges who think the Constitution is their plaything, which has become the dominant branch of the government, with little or no recourse to fix things like the US 9th Circuit Court, the most loony, idiotic court in the land.  I am no fan of electing judges, but why the hell couldn't the Senate review and RENEW their appointments every 10 years or so?  That's what this Grouchy Historian would have built into the Constitution.  Judges are here to serve the people, not impose their own weird ideas on their fellow citizens through the power of the bench.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Federalist Papers Wisdom for the Week

This week we have what might be THE most prophetic papers written so far.  The Federalist and Anti-Federalist #10 seem to talk past each other, as one deals with taxes and the other with the dangers of a standing army, but both dealt with issues that were fresh in the minds of the Framers and very serious problems that needed addressing.  As always, it is vital to understand the context in which our Founders work and realize that they were very aware of current events, as it were, that needed to be dealt with.  Of course, being wise beyond their years, they anticipated problems that would prove eternal to our republic.

Federalist #10
This paper opens with addressing the need for a strong union and then dives directly into the meat of why the Constitutional Convention was meeting.  $$$$. Yup, money, money, honey.  Since the Founders were clearly part of the colonial 1%, a fact that likely bothered them not at all, they realized that getting commerce moving, paying off the colonies war debts, and expanding trade and opportunity were their numero uno priorities.  And of course, just like politicians today, they knew that commerce and taxation were interlinked and had to be addressed.  Here is an outstanding quote about property, income distribution, and wealth...hmmm, sound familiar??  The Founding Fathers were very aware of the monetary and debt crisis facing the new country (hmm sound familiar as well?) and knew that if the United STATES did not get their financial house in order, there would be hell to pay.  Good advice, don't you think?

"A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

"The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets."

The italics and bold are mine, by the way...but WOW, were these guys good or what?...it's like they could almost see into the future to know that progressives like Barry O, the OWS morons, and the democRATS in Congress would come along to incite class warfare for their own ends.  And of course, for the historically illiterate among us (that would be most students of public schools and Ivy League schools) there has been income inequality THROUGHOUT HISTORY...oyyy, even Jesus said-"The poor you will always have among you." (Mark 14:7).  But hey, we don't need no stinkin' history...WE KNOW BETTER CUZ WE WANT IT...that seems to be the left's message these days.  The Founding Fathers worked very hard to ensure a level playing field, equal justice under the law, safeguarding against crony capitalism and above all LIBERTY!  They did not promise a chicken in every pot...they expected you to go out and earn your damn chicken.  Again, a Bible verse  "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23)

Anti-Federalist #10

So, the other major topic of the Founders was the issue of a standing army and the power of the new government to potentially make war on the states or coerce them into obedience.  They also feared the potential for a standing army to overthrow the fledgling government like many of the great states of history.  As usual, our Founders had a keen understanding of history and the precedent for Republics to become Dictatorships over time.  In addition, they also had recent experience, or a recent scare as it were.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, the officers of the Continental Army were in a foul mood.  They had not been paid in months or years and many of them were in great debt.  There were serious grumbling about marching to the Congress and demanding what they felt was their due from the politicians who had not bled and sacrificed as they had...hmm, that sounds familiar too.  Only the intervention of George Washington and the legendary story of him pulling out his reading glasses to read a letter to his officers (read Glenn Beck's book Being George Washington for the whole thing) stopped what likely would have been an American military coup. 

Therefore, the Founders were very leery of a standing army with a professional officer corps.

"We are informed, in the faithful pages of history, of such events frequently happening. — Two instances have been mentioned in a former paper. They are so remarkable, that they are worthy of the most careful attention of every lover of freedom. — They are taken from the history of the two most powerful nations that have ever existed in the world; and who are the most renowned, for the freedom they enjoyed, and the excellency of their constitutions: — I mean Rome and Britain.

"In the first, the liberties of the commonwealth was destroyed, and the constitution overturned, by an army, lead by Julius Cesar, who was appointed to the command, by the constitutional authority of that commonwealth. He changed it from a free republic, whose fame had sounded, and is still celebrated by all the world, into that of the most absolute despotism. A standing army effected this change, and a standing army supported it through a succession of ages, which are marked in the annals of history, with the most horrid cruelties, bloodshed, and carnage; — The most devilish, beastly, and unnatural vices, that ever punished or disgraced human nature."

What is interesting to note, to a Navy man as myself, is the Founders appeared to have no problem with a standing Navy.  Unwritten in these proceedings, but certainly in the mind of the Convention was that the new United States were already having pirate problems with the Barbary states...(hmm, Islamic piracy and terrorism in the 18th century, go figure) and the Framers knew a strong navy would be needed to protect America's new commerce.  But more on that later. ")

So, like much of the Constitution, the issue of a standing army was a compromise, and to be honest a pretty unsatisfactory one at that.  The whole militia thing never worked so well, and it would really take the War of 1812 to show that America needed a standing army, not only to fight Indians, but to form the backbone of an expanded volunteer army in case of a real war, which is basically how America fought its wars until the end of World War II.  Our outstanding professional volunteer military is really a Cold War construct of the last 40 years or so and one of the issues many hard core libertarians and nearly ALL progressive liberal pinko commies has is the size our military and our seemingly endless global military commitments.  But, again, more on that topic later.

FOR NOW, suffice it to say, our Founders understood the ETERNAL sinful nature of man, and how there would ALWAYS be have and have nots, and the only truly just way to govern was to give the have nots the best opportunity to become the haves, without taxing the crap out of the haves.  I am sure James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington would NOT have agreed with Barry O that the government should "spread the wealth around."  I think they would have said instead.."Give them Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Abe Lincoln and the Constitution

As we celebrate the birthday of one of America's greatest Presidents, it's instructive to pause and reflect on Lincoln's relationship with the Constitution, a subject I have been reading great deal about lately.

There are two distinctive schools of thought on Lincoln.  One says he was nearly Satan incarnate, a vindictive big government dictator who trampled on the Constitution and the liberty of the Southern Confederacy.  The other believes he was a measured statesman who did what was needed to preserve the Union.

It is beyond the scope of today's post to argue about slavery or succession, the typical controversies that Lincoln is judged on, so let's begin with what powers the Constitution actually gives the President, the Supreme Court, and Congress to maintain order and suppress rebellion.  Keep in mind the effect of Shay's Rebellion on the Founding Fathers and their ultimate desire to keep peace and order.

Article I, Section 8:  To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Article I, Section 9:  The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Article I, Section 10:  No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
Article II, Section 2:  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                                         
Article III, Section 3:  Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Given these fairly squishy and ill-defined powers, it is this Grouchy Historian's opinion that Lincoln's actions were quite reasonable, and I think it's important to keep in mind that historically speaking, the U.S. Civil War was not nearly as bitter and bloody as others in history.  This does not, of course, diminish the sacrifice of the nearly 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers that gave "the last full measure of devotion", but there were no major massacres of Southern Civilians, Sherman's March notwithstanding for those unrepentant Southerners, nor were there any "purges" of Confederate military or civilian leadership after the war.

Lincoln was a master strategist and politician who was probably the best commander-in-chief our country ever had.  He had a keen understanding of the political goal of his military actions and knew that making peace with southern Americans would be necessary after successfully waging war upon them.

His own words show some of Lincoln's impressive political acumen:
"...I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare and make know, that...I am, and at all times shall be, prepared to give Executive aid and assistance to any such people, as soon as the military resistance to the United States shall have been suppressed in any such state, and the people thereof shall have sufficiently returned to the obedience to the Constitution... (Proclamation Concerning Reconstruction, July 8, 1863)
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."  (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.)

So, Happy Birthday President Lincoln and thank you for your service to our country.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sociocultural Intelligence- What is it?

Sociocultural Intelligence.  Kerry Patton.  New York:  Contiuum, 2010.  ISBN 978-1-4411-2848-5.  Illustrations.  Notes & References.  Bibliography.  Index.  Pp. 204.  $35.95.

Sociocultural intelligence or human terrain analysis is a very hot topic today in the military and intelligence communities today.  Being the Grouchy Historian, I figured I'd better find a book or two and read up to see exactly what this new "SOCINT" was all about.  Kerry Patton, an instructor at Henley Putnam University, has written a primer on the subject that answered many of my questions, but did not quite meet my complete expectations.

Mr. Patton starts off well enough, and the case study he presents on Afghanistan was fascinating and very indicative of the challenges intelligence officers face when coming to grips with a completely alien society in a faraway land, where traditional forms of governance, economics, and society do not conform to Western concepts.  However, Mr. Patton doesn't seem to be able to decide if he is writing a narrative history, how to manual, or lessons learned manual and it is occasionally hard to follow the flow of the book.

Where the book did well was explaining the components of SOCINT and how it contrasted and complimented other traditional forms of intelligence in the new security environment dominated by counter terrorism and counter-insurgency.  This is what I was really looking for--sort of a checklist of SOCINT and what it was, and I didn't really get it from this book.

The other place the book shined was the case study.  I would have really preferred that the case study was greatly expanded to offer some actual lessons learned from Afghanistan, where Mr. Patton has obviously spent a great deal of time.  I am a big fan of case studies and I felt this volume missed a tremendous opportunity to use "been there, done that" examples to show the potential for SOCINT in a real world setting, including both the good and bad efforts by Coalition Forces, and even a comparison of SOCINT efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The one place the book really confused me and let me down was the extended discussion on ethics and SOCINT.  By its very nature, intelligence gathering may be considered a hostile act, so worrying about the ethics of interviewing and talking to tribal leaders in a more concerted, logical manner seems like a stretch.  That could just be my own inexperience, but I think this could have been a short paragraph or two instead of an extended chapter.

Mr. Patton has hopefully set the stage for more volumes to follow on this topic as more officers and civilian participants begin to document the history of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 10 years.  SOCINT is here to stay, and how well the U.S. military and intelligence communities master this difficult art of not only knowing your opponent, but where your opponent lives and works, may spell the difference in conducting successful military operations in the 21st century.  This book is recommended, but with reservations.

For additional information on this topic, I recommend: 
Operational Culture for the Warfighter: Principles and Applications

This textbook is a collaboration between the United States Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning and the Marine Corps University. Originally published in May 2009 in limited numbers this book studies the role of cultural awareness in securing operational success in the battlespace. This book is designed to help link concepts of culture to the realities of planning and and executing military operations around the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ten Popes Who Shook the World

Since your Grouchy Historian is Catholic, at least imperfectly, one of my favorite topics is Church history.  This little bite sized volume offers a snapshot of 10 Popes that the author believes changed the history of the Catholic Church and directly or indirectly, the world in which they lived.

Now, getting a group of Catholics to agree on anything is a pretty amazing feat, so choosing 10 Popes for any type of list is fraught with peril.  That of course, assumes you could find a group of Catholics who could even NAME 10 Popes, much less identify what their significant accomplishments or failures were--hmmm, there's my Grouchy Historian side showing.

In any event, this volume makes some not surprising choices, like Peter and John Paul, and mixes them with some lesser known Popes such as Innocent III and Paul III.  Oh, in case you were wondering, Duffy chose Innocent III for his role in the creation of the Dominicans and Franciscans and Paul III for his calling of the Council of Trent and steering of the Church through the Counter-Reformation and the forming of the Jesuits.       

Eamon, who describes himself as a "cradle Catholic" created very short and easy to read chapters for each Pope.  In fact, this book was finished in about 2 hours.  While I don't agree with all of his assessments, this book could and should spark some interest from your average Catholic, who, sadly, does not know much about the history of their Faith or Church.

Interestingly, Eamon, who chose Pius XII as one of his Popes, offers an interesting pseudo-defense of his actions in World War II, which have invited so much vitriol from secular opponents of the Church...Having served under Pope Benedict XV during World War I, Pius was heavily influenced by Benedict's efforts to remain neutral in the conflict in the hope of negotiating a peace between the warring European powers.  Although he was clearly unsuccessful, the Catholic Church emerged from the war with its reputation mostly intact.  Unfortunately, Pius XII tried to steer a similar course in World War II, against a vastly more evil regime in Nazi Germany where reason and negotiation were not effective tools against Hitler.

This issue is likely never to go away, particularly for critics and Monday morning quarterback haters of Catholicism, but Eamon does offer this interesting observation.

Eamon's chapter on JPII is also interesting, where he sorta condemns the Church's stance on condoms, giving AIDS in Africa as an example of the Church being "criminally irresponsible"  for refusing to cave into to modern sexual morality while skipping over the BEHAVIOR that created the "need" for condoms in the first place...but I digress to common sense rather than secular thinking- Hey Baby, if it feels good do it.

Overall, this is a small bite of Church history, but sometimes small bites can lead to bigger feasts. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Federalist Papers--They're back

After a long absence, it's time to re-exam those classics of American political thought- The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.  We now turn our attention to #9.

In the Federalist #9, Alexander Hamilton makes the case for a strong central government to protect against insurrection and domestic unrest.  Likely this is to dredge up memories of the recent Shay's Rebellion an early version of the Tea Party..or maybe Occupy Wall Street, only with muskets.  The framers of the Constitution were terrified of their new country falling into chaos without a strong central government to keep order:
A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.
Funny that our Founding Fathers were using Europe as a model of what NOT TO DO...if only our current political leadership were as wise.

In the Anti-Federalist #9, Brutus (Robert Yates) takes issue with this idea and once again, the Anti-Federalist papers provide a prophetic vision of unchecked federal government power in the hands of unscrupulous men.
The design of civil government is to protect the rights and promote the happiness of the people.

For this end, rulers are invested with powers. But we cannot from hence justly infer that these powers should be unlimited. There are certain rights which mankind possess, over which government ought not to have any controul, because it is not necessary they should, in order to attain the end of its institution. There are certain things which rulers should be absolutely prohibited from doing, because, if they should do them, they would work an injury, not a benefit to the people.
Now, to be fair, and historically correct, many of the issues raised by the Anti-Federalists were addressed in the Bill of Rights.  BUT, what happens if an unscrupulous government or its leaders decide that the Bill of Rights becomes some ancient, outdated idea that needs to be guided by ENLIGHTENED, PROGRESSIVE thinking.

You know what I mean--judges can INVENT a right to privacy that clears the way for unlimited abortion, but local governments can't seem to understand the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms for law abiding citizens.  Or my other personal favorite, liberal progressives ensure that the 1st Amendment allows hippies to burn flags, but can't seem to understand that it also protects the Catholic Church from providing "medical services" that run contrary to our faith? 

Clearly, our Founding Fathers understood the pitfalls of providing too much power to a central government.

Another little hidden nugget in this Paper is the often misunderstood reason why Senators were originally appointed by the state legislature rather than being directly elected, something Progressives made sure was changed in the early 20th century with the 17th Amendment.

The present Congress are restrained from an undue exercise of this power, from this consideration, they know [that] the state legislatures, through whose authority it must be carried into effect, would not comply with the requisition for the purpose, if it was evidently opposed to the public good: the proposed constitution authorizes the legislature to carry their determinations into execution, without the intervention of any other body between them and the people. The Congress under the present form are amenable to, and removable by, the legislatures of the respective states, and are chosen for one year only: the proposed constitution does not make the members of the legislature accountable to, or removeable by the state legislatures at all; and they are chosen, the one house for six, and the other for two years; and cannot be removed until their time of service is expired, let them conduct [themselves] ever so badly.
Once again, those old white slave holders were much smarter than we give them credit for...Congresscritters should ALWAYS be accountable to their state legislatures...imagine what might have happened to Obamacare if some of those squishy Red State Democ-RATS had been looking over their shoulders to their home states instead of thinking about campaign donations from Planned Parenthood.

More to come...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winston Churchill endorses Satan!

Okay, not really, but there is a legend that says when the Nazis invaded Russia in June 1941, all England was waiting to see what Winston Churchill would do.  After all, Winnie was a devoted anti-Communist and apparently hated them only slightly less than the Nazis.  Well, he gave a ringing endorsement in Parliament to support the Russians in their fight and he is quoted as saying, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favorable reference to Satan in Parliament."

Why do I say this?  Well, not to put to fine a point on it, but I hope my fellow conservatives, and erstwhile Republicans realize that our objective here is not party fratricide, but to defeat Barry O, Nancy P, and Dingy Harry in November.  That's right, as much as it sometimes pains me to say it, although Mitt may not be perfect, 4 more years of HOPE AND CHANGE will be disastrous for our country.

Now, I am just cynical enough to know there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, and although I would probably vote for Rick Santorum if he was on the Virginia GOP primary ballot, I will gladly support, endorse and vote for WHOEVER runs against Obama.  PERIOD, end of story....you might say that makes me a Yellow Dog Republican.  But I'm okay with that, because I think, believe, and hope, that with enough fiscally conservative Tea Party Congresscritters, we can hopefully gut, if not outright appeal Obamacare, trim all this ridiculous budget engorgement and finally cut REAL spending in the federal budget and not just pick at the rate of growth.  (I mean, what an insane way of doing business...beginning your budget cycle ASSUMING you get 7% more to start with...I mean who the hell does that in the real world?!)

If this Grouchy Historian was KING for a day, EVERY stinkin' agency in the Federal government would start with ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH, and have to justify every penny they get.  This is known as zero based budgeting and is how my family certainly tries to manage our finances.  I mean we have the mortgages, utilities, and other fixed expenses, but after that...sorry baby, there's only so much Schlitz.  Too bad our Congresscritters can't learn that.

So, as the media breathlessly anoints Obama for his second term, based on those AWESOME unemployment numbers of ONLY 8.3%..as if that's good...remember when George W got HAMMERED for less than 6% unemployment...nope no double standard there.  Of course, those numbers are all LIES, cooked up by shrinking the labor force to make the data fit the conclusion...we used to call that "curve fitting" when I went to Canoe U...but HEY, most Americans are too busy watching American Idol and the Bachelor to notice.

Arghhhh, must be Monday.

Fortunately I have met some fellow travelers in Arizona...more to follow..............it's nice to know someone is out there reading your humble, but Grouchy Historian. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Young Adult Fiction? What is that?

Okay, even the Grouchy Historian needs some light and fluffy reading every once in a while.  SO, my Plus 1 said, "Here you should read these books before the movie comes out."  Being the Grouchy person I am, I said, "Young Adult Fiction, seriously?"  Little did I know how much the crack fiction would affect me.  I read the entire trilogy in 96 hours and had to force myself to stop reading at night so I could sleep.

THE GOOD:  These books are definitely page turners and Ms. Collins has mastered the art of the end of chapter cliff hanger--WTF?--what was that? moments.  The story line is not over done and doesn't get bogged down in details and back story to set up the apocalyptic world of the book.  The style and language are definitely geared toward the YA audience (whatever the heck that is defined as), which of course adds to the page turning feel of these books.  The characters are very well developed and you quickly associate yourself with them and begin to cheer for Katniss and her family.  I also commend Ms. Collins on her ability to carry out the "show don't tell"  aspect of writing fiction--something this wannabe novelist has not even begun to master.

THE BAD:  ARGH, the whole teenage love triangle, angst thing is annoying...although at least in these books, no one sparkles or transforms into a werewolf.

THE UGLY:  I have to say the ending was COMPLETELY unsatisfactory.  The suspense builds through the final book, but I was very let down by the final plot twist and, quite frankly, the epilogue did not end the book well.  This was the only weak point, but it was a MAJOR weak point in this Grouchy Historian's opinion.  Maybe they will change the ending in the movies to give it more drama and a better sense of closure.

OVERALL:  These were a welcome break from the pretty intense reading schedule I have planned for this year.  Although there will no doubt be additional brain candy later, primarily Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, and JD Robb, Suzanne Collins and her trilogy of adventure, sacrifice and courage in the face of certain loud and painful death is highly recommended.

Oh, and for a brief time Amazon had them as free Kindle downloads....I never thought I would be reading a book on my iPhone, iPad and the old fashioned way all at once...but there I was, in the doctor's waiting room, reading Kathiss' adventures on my iPhone...trying not to squint too much.  Hmmmm must be the 21st century.

"May the odds be ever in your favor"