'87 Sir

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama's Last Ditch Throw

While I compared the first Presidential debate to Napoleon's masterful victory at Austerlitz, the last two debates seemed more like the final German Offensive of World War I.

In early 1918, the German war effort was nearing collapse.  Much like the Obama campaign, the Germans were exhausted, mostly bankrupt, and without any new ideas on how to win.  The Germans had spent hundreds of thousands of troops in 1916 waging furious trench warfare against the French at Verdun, attempting to wear down the French with grinding attrition warfare.  The Germans were nearly successful in breaking the will of the French Army, and indeed, in early 1917, the French Army (in typical fashion) nearly disintegrated under German pressure.

Like the German campaign of attrition, the Obamabots spent millions of $$ trying to paint Romney as a mean, stiff, boring old white guy.....and a Mormon!  You know, some weird cult that launches suicide bombers, throws acid at school girls, and hangs homosexuals...oh, wait that's the OTHER quirky little sect located mostly in the Middle East and North Africa.

But, like the Germans, the Obamabots shot their bolt, and like the miraculous stand of the U.S. Marines at Belleau Wood, Mitt Romney survived...and began his own counterattack at the first debate.
Obama, nearly as dismissive of Romney as the highly experienced sturmtruppen were of the Marines, was completely surprised, shocked, and defeated.  Like the Germans of early 1918, this was probably Obama's high water mark--and much like the oceans he was going to heal and recede, Obama's campaign has been in decline ever since.  The situation for Obama has gotten so bad that he tried to play military analyst at the last debate and probably opened himself up for even more Internet memes and ridicule for his "horses and bayonets" stupidity than he did defending Big Bird.  Romney was absolutely right about one thing...Obama has a record, it totally sucks, and nothing he can do or say about "raising taxes", "Investment in green energy" or, "economic patriotism", amounts to anything...what the hell is economic patriotism anyway?  I sure don't see Hollywood stars signing over 90% of their inflated paychecks to the government...does that make them traitors?  Well, probably Jane Fonda and Sean Penn....maybe Michael Moore....even Oliver Stone. 

NOW, Obama and his fellow travelers face the prospect of huge election defeats and have resorted to outright voter fraud and other dirty tricks to try and steal the election....yup STEAL the election....hopefully the groundswell will be enough to ensure the democRATic army of lawyers doesn't change the votes like they tried to do in Florida in 2000.  (YES, I believe that)

SOOO, where do we stand and what do I think?
  • Obama has no new economic ideas.  He is a committed socialist, redistributionist ideologue who KNOWS that all he has to do to fix the economy, reduce the deficit, and become the greatest President ever is to RAISE TAXES....so don't kid yourself folks, Obama wants ALL the "Bush" tax cuts to expire...not just the ones on "rich" Americans, but ALLLLLL of them.
  • Obama doesn't want sequestration to be undone.  Yup, forget his nonsense from the last debate...Obama wants to be able to avoid, avoid, avoid any and all responsibility for making adult and difficult decisions.  The Man-Boy President figures if sequestration goes into effect ALONG with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts it will do three things 1)  It will bring down the deficit, 2) He can gut the military, which ALL democRATs love to do 3) When social programs take the hit, WHICH THEY MUST to have any chance to reduce the deficit in a meaningful way, he can BLAME, BLAME, BLAME Congress and those meany poo-poo head Republicans.  Oh, and he probably thinks there will be enough money to fully implement Obamacare which will now cost at least twice as much as the bull-**it numbers (Obama's favorite phrase) that we were originally told.
  • Obama will get more angry, say more stupid stuff ANNNND, most interestingly, the democRATic party appears to be moving to cover his butt...at least for now...I mean seriously, now the NYT is gonna throw Bill Clinton, patron saint of the modern DemocRATic party, under the bus? Nope, no schadenfreude from me on this....I love it...I always said Bill is all about Bill....and Obama was a fool to trust him...do you really think the Clintons have forgiven and forgotten 2008?  There's a reason people still talk about the Hatfields and McCoys...Hillbillys know how to hold a grudge.
  •  IF Romney wins, and wins convincingly, I expect the entire DemocRATic establishment to run away from Obama like he's a hooker at a convent...he will be shunned, shunned, shunned.  Don't get me wrong, he'll make millions as one of those evil greedy 1%ers he loves to hate, move to his new house in Hawaii...closer to his Indonesian and Kenyan family members, no doubt.    BUT he will become persona non grata for the next four years as the Clintons execute their counteroffensive to retake the DemocRATic party and prepare for Hillary's 2016 run.  Assuming of course, that the whole Benghazi thing doesn't completely blow up in their faces.  Although I expect the Lamestream Media will immediately circle the wagons around Hillary if Obama loses, I hope the new Republican Congress (including the Senate :) will began hearings, subpoenas, and some Frog-walking of people.  OH, and there's still that pesky Fast and Furious crap that seems to be subsiding way too fast for my tastes....
So, that's where I think things stand with less than two weeks to go...soon, very soon, I will make my own prediction....like the great Sarnac...of how the election will turn out....and yes, tasty beverages may be involved....but none of Obama's favorite recreational drug, I assure you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Abraham Lincoln- Tyrant or Savior of the Union?

With the upcoming release of Steven Spielberg's new biopic on Abraham Lincoln scheduled for this fall:

which is primarily based on Doris Kern Goodwin's really outstanding book Team of Rivals:

the debate over Lincoln resumes once again.

Abraham Lincoln remains one of the most controversial Presidents in American History.  So, as someone who LOVES a controversy, I cannot resist weighing in... Was Lincoln a tyrant or savior?  The President who preserved the Union or a dictator who ruthlessly crushed the 10th Amendment and state's rights?

First, let's look at the Lincoln as dictator theory.  I am using two books as sources here, both of which can be accused of being neo-Confederate in their outlook, although that's not a fair characterization.  Each of them attempts to portray Lincoln as trampling the natural right of secession and causing an unnecessary war to strengthen the federal government to either a) protect the industrial north or b) destroy those pesky Southern planters or both.

So, here are the basic themes both books have in common:

1)  Lincoln was a racist who cynically signed the Emancipation Proclamation but didn't really care about the slaves.  (Mostly true)  HOWEVER, Lincoln like many other Northerners probably concluded that slavery as an economic system was on the way out, and if it could be contained to the old South would probably die a natural death as industrialization and the mechanization of agriculture began to move into the South.  Truth be told, Lincoln, like many abolitionists was a little hypocritical.  While they wanted the slaves free, that didn't mean white Northerners wanted them as neighbors.  In contrast to the whiny victimization industry of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, there was a genuine current of racism running through American society prior to the Civil War.  Lincoln was very clear that he had no desire to end slavery where it existed, but was determined to prevent its expansion.  This was not something Southern "fire-eaters" could accept, so the path to war was laid.

2) Lincoln wanted war.  (Not True)  Lincoln most assuredly did not want war and there was a concerted effort to seek political compromise prior to Fort Sumter.  Neither book talks about the Crittendon Compromise, probably the most concerted effort to avoid war.  The fact of the matter is, the central issue of the day--the expansion of slavery into the territories was NOT going to be resolved politically.  Again, in my opinion, the southern slaveholders, whose primary source of wealth was not their plantations or crops but their slaves, was looking at the writing on the wall, so to speak, and knew that unless slavery infinitely expanded, it was going to collapse as an economic system and ergo, so would most of their wealth.  It all comes down to the $$$$$...not politically correct but nonetheless accurate.

3)  Lincoln wanted to vastly expand the role of the Federal government at the expense of the states.  (Unknown).  Yes, that's a weaselly answer, but I was not convinced by DeLorenzo's argument that Lincoln was an eternal Whig who wanted to trample on states rights so he could build the transcontinental railroad.  Yes, there were actually debates in the 1840s and 1850s on the role of the government in "pubic improvements" and spending tax dollars on "infrastructure" projects (sound familiar), but I find it hard to believe any sane person would launch a war in order to advance their pet political projects.  Yes, I said that.   

4)  Lincoln was a dictator that trampled the Constitution (Hardly).  Yes, this is the most controversial statement.  Both authors think that Lincoln acted like a dictator, throwing people in jail without a trial, controlling or muzzling the press, and waging war on Southern civilians.  I have to say that in my opinion, these gentlemen interpret history very differently than I do.  FOR ONCE, I will say that the Civil War was an unprecedented situation in American history, with a large part of the population duly in rebellion against a FREELY elected government.  Maybe not the one the South wanted, but I could snarkly say that if the Democratic Party had not split into Northern and Southern wings, Lincoln may very well have lost the election...ponder that for a second.  As I will show below, the Constitution is kinda vague on dealing with a rebellion and would seem to grant the President pretty wide latitude.  Now these authors will say that only Congress can suspend habeas corpus, and technically they would be correct, but given the state of Congress in the early parts of the war, and the speed (or lack thereof) of communications, it is not unreasonable for Lincoln to have taken action and let Congress catch up...which is pretty much what happened.  Did Lincoln take some extraordinary acts?  Yes..was he a dictator?  Hardly..as I will argue below.

So, now that we have heard from these sources...and I will debate them more later, let's see what the Constitution actually says about the powers of the President to deal with a "rebellion."  As I pointed out in an earlier post, the actual language in the Constitution is pretty vague and does not deal with a lot of specifics except for the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which is pretty clearly spelled out and appears to give the government pretty wide latitude in suspending it.
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.
So, what were Lincoln's views of government, the rebellious states and most importantly, how should persons in the Confederacy be treated, especially military officers and political leaders?

This is not an inconsequential questions as there were Congressmen and Senators that took a more severe view of the South than Lincoln.  The so-called "Radical Republicans" wanted to not only crush the South politically and economically, they wanted to try the senior Confederate leadership, including President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee for treason.  Two interesting articles tell of the eventual resolution of these matters after Lincoln was assassinated.

Secession, Salmon Chase, and the Treason Trial of Jefferson Davis

Lincoln's own words were much more conciliatory and politically savvy. Considering the aftermath of most civil wars from 1700-2000, where the vanquished suffered mass executions, economic ruin, and often ethnic cleansing, the American Civil War ended with an almost miraculous reconciliation within a generation (shown by the fact that both former Confederate and Union generals commanded troops in the Spanish-American War). Most of the credit for this must go to Lincoln, who instinctively knew that a military victory must lead to political reintegration of the south to avoid a long festering sore of an American "Irish Problem" with never ending political violence, insurgency and upheaval.
The Confederate leadership in late 1860 and early 1861 seemed to make decisions almost entirely on emotion, without a lot of regard for the political consequences. Fort Sumter was probably the greatest blunder of all. The Union garrison would likely have surrendered by 15 April without a shot being fired due to a lack of supplies. But the South opened fire, rallied the Union, and launched the war that led to the end of the antebellum South.

It must also be remembered, that by most contemporary accounts, the North may have won the war, but the South won the peace, and, at least for 100 years after the war, most of the history. I am no great proponent of the "
Lost Cause" school of history, but the fact that books like The South Was Right! can still be written today shows that the Confederacy continues to stir strong emotions. The whole period of Reconstruction would present a fascinating case of a successful insurgency where a militarily defeated force nonetheless manages to win the political fight by reinstituting segregation, the political dominance of the WHITE SOUTHERN DEMOCRATIC party, and racial inequality for nearly 90 years. Now I am no touchy-feely liberal, but I would not have wanted to be a black man in the early 1900s South. It does of course kind of annoy me that the modern DemocRATic Party can so successfully whitewash (so to speak) the role of their party in slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation and the opposition to the civil rights movement. But that's another blog post.

SO, this Grouchy Historian will say that Lincoln, while imperfect, was the savior of the Union. I cannot imagine the chaos, despair and anarchy if the South had successfully seceded. The thought of a modern day Balkans in the United States makes me cringe. I think Lincoln did quite well under the circumstances in keeping the country together, ending slavery, and putting America on the path to the country it is today.

AND, if you want to talk about trampling the Constitution and expanding the powers of the Federal government at the expense of the states and the 10th Amendment, I would look more toward Woodrow Wilson, FDR and the turn of the century progressives. Whatever Lincoln did pretty quickly faded into the Gilded Age of American industrialization....what FDR did is STILL haunting us today....but that's another blog post.....

HINT-- Glenn Beck was right on the money...if a little emphatic for some people's sensibilities...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Did Romney smack Obama like Napoleon at Austerlitz?

Napoleon is said to have quoted "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." So what does this have to do with this week's debate?...well it reminds me of the Battle of Austerlitz, probably Napoleon's greatest battlefield victory and one of the most decisive tactical victories in history. 

Much like the Austrians and Russians, Obama and his minions clearly figured that just by showing up (and helped by their ally Jim Lehrer) they would bury Romney with their awesomeness. I mean, after all, Obama was such a smooooth talker that he could convince people that the oceans were receding and the planet healing then he would make short work of the mean-spirited, rich, white, racist, homophobic, bigoted misogynist out-of-touch Romney.

Funny thing is...that didn't happen. Romney was calm, cool, collected, and prepared for whatever Obama might throw at him...and more importantly, he had a plan to not only repel Obama's attacks, but launch his own counterattack. 

Napoleon had a plan too...it also depended upon his opponents acting exactly like they usually did...
Napoleon's plan envisioned that the Allies would throw so many troops to envelop his right flank in order to cut the French communication line from Vienna. As a result, the Allies' center and left flank would be exposed and become vulnerable. In order to encourage them to do so, Napoleon even abandoned the strategic position on the Pratzen Heights, further faking the weakness of his forces and his own nervousness. Meanwhile, Napoleon's main force was to be concealed in a dead ground opposite the Heights. According to the plan, the French troops would attack and recapture the Pratzen Heights, then from the Heights they would launch a decisive assault to the center of the Allied army, cripple them and then encircle them from the rear. 
 This is pretty much how things went on Wednesday...and Obama not only got whupped but appeared completely unprepared for genuine hard questions about his RECORD and PLANS as opposed to his awesomeness and smooth talking...this article is by far the best postscript I have read.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost by Paul A. Rahe

There were many excellent quotes from this article..you should really read the whole thing...but here are a couple of my favorite.
Obama inherited a recession and, without bothering to disguise what he was up to, dedicated himself to exploiting it for the purpose of jamming through a radical program, dear to his party, that never had public support. About the recession, he did nothing, assuming that the economy would bounce back quickly, as it usually does, and that he would get the credit for the recovery. In fact, everything that he did do when he and his party were fully in control -- the looting bill thinly disguised as a stimulus bill, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank -- retarded the recovery by running up the deficit, loading on new taxes, and making it more expensive to do business.
Wow...yup, that pretty much sums it up....as Romney correctly pointed out, Obama spent two years and ALL his political capital passing Obamacare...NOT working on jobs...except for public sector jobs...those indispensable teachers, cops, firefighters and other Dem Union Dues paying folks.

And here is the money quote...so awesome that I am surprised no one else has picked up on it.
For the first time in his life, Barack Obama was cornered. For the first time in his life, he was to be held accountable for his achievements. He was the ultimate affirmative action baby, and he had always been given a free pass. He had always run -- for chairman of the Harvard Law Review, for the Illinois state senate, for the United States Senate, and for the Presidency -- on promise. Now he was an executive running for re-election, and he was going to be held responsible for what he had done and for what he had failed to do. And, to make matters worse, he had been deprived of his security blanket. He did not have a teleprompter to fall back on.

WOWWWWW, the genuine splendiferousness of that quote cannot truly be measured...let me put it up in bold for you....
He was the ultimate affirmative action baby, and he had always been given a free pass. 

But not on Wednesday...Romney attacked up the Pratzen Heights, Obama was forced to retreat...and just like the Austrians and Russians, drowned in the Satschan frozen ponds of his own record (or lack thereof) and the battlefield went to Romney.

So can Romney follow up?  Well that remains to be seen...clearly Obama and his troops are not going to surrender...and this morning's suspicious (at least to me) jobs reports seems like Obama is getting some help from his Labor Department.  I would love to know how they crunch their numbers...are jobs getting better?  I suppose...is the economy getting better?  I hope so...does that 7.8% number seem kinda convenient to stop the Republican mantra of 40+ months of greater than 8% unemployment?  Wellll................you decide.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"It's an unprecedented situation!"....ummm not really...

History can be a funny thing, especially military history.  As I tell my students (yes, your Grouchy Historian actually teaches...not for $71,000 a year, mind you...and I don't wear a Che T-shirt) but I can read and write...and amazingly enough so can my students!!  Oops, I digress again.  As I tell my students, human nature is very much unchanged since ancient times and I find it both amusing and annoying when I hear talking heads say-"It's an unprecedented situation!"  well, no not really Mcchucklenuts, chances are that situation has occurred in history.  Maybe not exactly the same way, but greed, hatred, and my old friends fear, honor, and interest are the same in Greece, Rome, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Libya, and Iran..and the DemocRATic National Convention (whoops, was that my outside voice!).

This is my primary issue with much of the modern, post-structuralist Foucaldian drivel that has infected history.  As I posted before, any idiot that thinks Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, or Thucydides have nothing to say to modern military officers or policy makers is a first-class moron.  Now does this mean that everything from these timeless military thinkers is applicable to 21st century conflict?  Of course not.  Context counts and technology has affected warfare, especially warfare in the last 75 years.  Reading about cavalry operations is not really relevant anymore (although some Green Berets in Afghanistan might think differently)  but understanding the importance of mobility and maneuver on the battlefield certainly is...

Here are some of my specific problems with the "new thinking about military history" spouted by some revisionist historians:

  • The idea that history has to be considered as a series of unique, non-interrelated events-> i.e., history is a discontinuous stream if events that have little or no relationship to each other.  This logically makes no sense for military history.  Cause and effect are, in my opinion, the primary drivers in military and really all forms of historical analysis.  Notwithstanding the so-called "Revolutions in Military History" that are in vogue now, (and to be fair, I do buy into this concept...to an extent) a flank attack would be just a recognizable to Hannibal as it would to Napoleon, or Rommel, or Patton.
  •  If there is a continuity of history, then history can still offer lessons to those who chose to study it with care and discretion.  Critical thinking and contextual understanding remain important tools to comprehending history and making useful comparisons and lesson learned.
So, this brings me to a little volume I keep by my desk...YUP, didn't think I was gonna go out on a limb without a book didja?

For  today's blog post we turn to a recently acquired little volume by one of my favorite strategic thinkers- Dr. Colin S. Gray  Dr. Gray, who has written a bazillion book on war and strategy has penned a pithy little book called Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy that has some wonderful lessons on history, strategy and the study of war.

Each of these forty maxims is short, direct and covers some important aspect of strategic thinking with a clarity that even Joe Biden could ALMOST understand.  Most importantly for me, Dr. Gray covers an extensive range of topics.

Here are some of my favorites:
  • Maxim 36:  Nothing of real importance changes:  Modern history is not modern
But the strategic deeds and misdeeds of the ancients, or even the fairly modern, typically are not regarded as a serious source of evidence for strategic instruction.  This attitude is as prevalent as it is a serious error. 
  • Maxim 37:  History can be misused to "prove" anything
In addition, there are strategists who are truly ill-educated historically, but are unaware of the fact and instead are intensely respectful of such nuggets of convenient purported historical truth as they grasped at an impressionable age.
AND my truly favorite maxim from the book
  • Maxim 14:  If Thucydides, Sun Tzu and Clausewitz did not say it, it probably is not worth saying

    Indeed, people cannot be regarded as educated in strategy unless they are familiar, and more, with these books.  There have been many attempts to write strategic theory for today, but the more earnest the effort to modernize the story, the more certain has been its early intellectual demise.
Needless to say, Dr. Gray has a wonderful writing style with the unique British way of saying "and the horse you rode in on" with a grace Americans never seem to master.

 So why this blog post?...well, I am gearing up to do what I hope is some serious military analysis, book reviews and likely more political snark, but thrown in there, I would like to reexamine the state of history education in America.  As this is a topic near and dear to my heart...and if you ask Amazon, my wallet, it seems a good time to bring things up to date from some earlier posts.

The Study and Use of History in 2011

What will our children learn about history..a real battle for the hearts and minds.

So, strap in...as we move through this painful and never ending political season...which I must admit still DOES NOT compare to how our Founding Fathers waged political war...it's time to become more Historian...less Grouchy....at least until the debates....