'87 Sir

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

More summer brain candy

Ok, I admit it...I really love these books...yes, ROMANTIC SUSPENSE...or whatever you want to call it.  I can't wait for the twice-yearly dose of Eve Dallas goodness to hit my local library.  So, how, you may ask, can a bacon eating, testosterone laden, grouchy historian read anything labeled ROMANTIC...well, sit back son, and I will tell you.

First, to be honest, the plot of these books is pretty formulaic, but that's okay.  I haven't read a really great plot twist in these books since the whole ICOVE story line.  It goes like this...bad guy commits murder, Eve Dallas gets case, Eve Dallas solves case, bad guy gets justice...the end.  Pretty basic right...that's the basis of any crime thriller.  SO what sets these books apart?

Well, in my opinion, the mixture of sci-fi, thriller, and chick lit is all done in masterful balance so that none of the genres dominate the story, but all fit together to create a believable world of 2060 that I wouldn't mind living in, even though it isn't all that far apart from today's society.  Little tidbit here, Nora Roberts (AKA JD Robb) is a big lib gun control proponent...so in Eve's world there is a "Gun Ban"...nope none of that pesky 2nd Amendment to worry about...and yet people still get murdered in gruesome ways.  An unconscious acknowledgment that human nature doesn't really change...guns or no guns...if someone wants to kill someone out of rage, greed, lust, or whatever...it's still gonna happen.  Shoot, in one of her recent books Eve even had to investigate an act of 21st century mass murder using a WMD....hmmm.

But I digress.  What makes these books work...and work so well for over THIRTY titles are three things:
  1. The secondary characters--Nora does the best secondary characters I have ever read...Peabody, McNabb, Mavis, and even Trina are all marvelous inhabitants of Eve and Roarke's world.  It is almost comical to watch big, bad Eve Dallas reduced to a quivering puddle at the thought of a Trina makeover.  But these characters are endearing and so important to the narrative of the series.
  2. The witty banter.  I really envy Nora's ability to write dialogue, especially the witty repartee between Eve and Roarke.  Absolutely great...the by-play between Eve and Peabody is also fabulous...I can hear it in my head when I read...like the greatest cop buddy TV (or vid) shows of old.
  3. The enduring story lines...the background of Eve and Roark's upbringing (or lack thereof) cuts across all these books and gives a great depth to the characters.  Although to the average person, even me, it seems like Eve and Roarke had especially HARD upbringings, Nora weaves them into the overall narrative of the series that it doesn't come across as cliched.  The struggle Eve has to overcome her fear about human relationships (ohh, am I talking about relationships?) has been fascinating to watch over the years.  
So, that's about it...nothing tricky here, just straightforward good writing and sticking to what works.  Can't argue with that...or if you do, Eve will just stun and cuff you.....

Yes, I wrote that...but what were you thinking?

My one wish...a SUPERBUNDLE of Eve Dallas for Kindle...who has room for 30+ books?  Might take up the space where my 13 volume set of Confederate Military History sits...can't have that....

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

American Strategy from 1781-1991: The Durability of the Democratic Process and Constitution

 As we continue the summer look at strategy, it's time to turn to three of the major players in the Cold War...starting with the U.S. 

The analyses of American strategy presented show many common themes from 1783-1991. During these 200 years, both the Constitution and American society and culture have dominated American strategic thought, for better or worse. In addition, the unique factors of geography and circumstances have also influenced American strategy. When war has come, America has bent, but not broken some of the institutions and maxims of the Constitution to successfully wage war, and until 1945, returned to the status quo fairly quickly, shedding the wartime cloak needed to achieve victory. 
As all the essays agree, the Constitution, with its separation of powers designed to prevent a military capable of either implementing or siding with a dictatorship, remains the most significant influence on American strategy.

However, the provisions for the President’s role as commander-in-chief have gradually evolved from George Washington’s first term and during our two greatest crises, the Civil War and World War II, the U.S. was blessed (depending on your interpretation) with two strong chief executives that assumed near dictatorial powers. During the Civil War, Lincoln came about as close to a dictator as the U.S. would see, actually suspending habeas corpus and jailing opposition political leaders and newspapers during the course of the war. Franklin Roosevelt also planned and conducted strategy with little input from the Congress and mobilized large portions of the economy and society with little input from either the legislative and judicial branch. Even with these actions, successful American strategy did not emerge quickly, and in Lincoln’s case, it took almost three years, until Grant’s appointment as general in chief on early 1864, before the Union really made a strategic plan that incorporated their entire military might. Similarly, Roosevelt’s focus on Germany as the primary threat to America was not popular with many Americans eager to avenge Pearl Harbor, but it was a necessary decision made by a strong Chief Executive who needed to keep Britain and Russia in the war.[1] 

 From 1783-1914, U.S. strategy making was also significantly influenced by the role of geography and the lack of any real threat to American security. As Maslowski makes clear in his essay, the sheer geographical separation of the U.S. from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean and the lack of any real military enemy on the continent, made it possible for the U.S. to essentially ignore any large standing military or strategic planning for war and simply improvise a solution when war came.[2]

The U.S. had little trouble defeating the Indians, Mexicans and Spanish to conquer all of North America and could rely on ill-trained militia and improvised strategies for most military situations. The exception to this was the Civil War, where both North and South attempted to craft both a grand and theater strategy to defeat an equally determined foe. Although neither side was especially successful on either the grand or operational strategic level through most of the war, the North’s superior material resources did allow the painful development of Lincoln as a commander-in-chief and U.S. Grant to rise to the top of Union command in time to finally mobilize the Union armies with a coherent, although not always well implemented, strategy in the spring of 1864.[3] 

The aftermath of World War II and the rise of the Cold War brought the first real effort and a systematic process of strategic planning and thought as well as the need for a large standing military. The subsequent 50 years continued to show the influence of the Constitution and political and societal input into strategy as Congress periodically asserted more authority over foreign policy, defense planning and, in come cases, most notably Vietnam, the actual conduct of war. As Gray’s essay showed, there was a great deal of debate, repackaging and consternation over strategy during the Cold War, but through it all the American democratic process worked to maintain NATO, contain the USSR and provide a strategic balance of power. Congress and the President did have sharp disagreements over the growing power of the Executive to commit America to military action, culminating in the War Powers Act, but for the most part, the Constitution process for planning and waging war has functioned, even during the current conflict in Iraq, which was authorized by a vote in Congress and extensively debated through the Congressional budget process.[4]

Although some would debate the amount of power our departing President has exercised from September 11, for the most part the process of strategy making has continued to function according to the Constitution and the American political process.

[1] Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox and Alvin Bernstein, ed., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States and War (New York: Cambridge University Press: 1994), 210-211, 226, 235, 237, 240, 435, 455. 
[2] Ibid., 207. 
[3] Ibid., 235-241. 
[4] Ibid., 584-585, 610-613.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First of my summer brain candy

So after plowing through so much excellent history the first few months of the year, I needed a bit of a brain break.  I decided to turn to my favorite literary genre, Alternate History.

Now, as I have previously written, I really enjoy a well written, well thought out, and realistic alternate history book, and I actually think they could serve as good teaching tools if properly used.  Most "professional" historians have a general disdain bordering on snobbery for these types of books, but that's okay, because most of them think Obama's the greatest President of the last 50 years.

Anyway, I first read Robert Conroy's debut novel 1901 several years ago, and quite frankly felt a little disappointed.  It was okay, but not great, and I thought the premise of the book was a little....well...out there...after all, the Germans invade the U.S.?  Figure the odds.

However, I like to keep an open mind, so I choose two of his latest books from the library.  Some small spoilers ahead...but not too bad.

 Himmler's War takes an interesting twist on the "What if Hitler died in 1944?" twist by not using the usual story line of the July 20 plot succeeding, but rather killing Hitler off in a random air strike.  The resulting coup by Heinrich Himmler has some subtle but significant changes as the German Army begins fighting a stubborn delaying action that alters, but does not change the ultimate outcome of the war.  Conroy does a pretty good job of showing how the ultimate outcome was never really in doubt, just the ultimate cost, which is why this was a pretty good book.
1945 has an even better, and more realistic, plot twist.  Most Americans, being highly ignorant of history, don't realize how close the ending of World War II came to disaster.  A cabal of Japanese officers tried to overthrow Emperor Hirohito before he could surrender the Japanese to the Americans and ALMOST succeeded.  As Conroy excellently shows, a minor change of heart by a key Japanese general could have had huge consequences.  This book is based on a lot of recent research about the ACTUAL situation and correlation of Japanese and American forces in August 1945 and shows that even the vaunted American atomic bomb was a one-shot wonder that would have had limited actual utility in an invasion of Japan.  This is an excellent book that shows how close the Japanese nation came to virtual annihilation.

I have to say I enjoyed both books a lot.  Conroy has progressed a long way, in my opinion, in his character development, descriptive writing, and the depth of his research.  He does an excellent job of integrating actual historical figures with his fictional characters, and the small tweaks he makes to history cause some fascinating down stream effects. 

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Conroy's work...he has moved up a notch on my scale of writers in my favorite genre.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, and like millions of Americans, I am enjoying the day off with some manly lawn mowing, lots of war movies, and some quality time with my +1.

However, I started my day off with Mass at our local parish to pray for the souls of all those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I hope everyone continues to pray for our servicemen and women serving overseeas.

Abraham Lincoln said it best:

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Germany--trapped by geography?

So, now our discussion continues with one of the most interesting countries to study from a strategy perspective- Germany.  There have been many fantastic books on German strategy and operational art, several of my favorites by Robert Citino that have been reviewed on this blog about the German Wehrmacht in 1942 and 1943.  He also has a book entirely dedicated to the "German way of war" that is still in my reading list.
Operational Art or Strategy? A Comparison of the Second and Third Reich

 The strategic challenges faced by modern Germany are unique among the case studies of the Early Modern and Modern era. Unlike England, the United States or even France, Germany was surrounded by potential adversaries in Central Europe and from the beginning of the Prussian Empire; the need to either avoid or quickly win a multi-front war was a foremost factor in strategic planning and thought. In addition, the nature of the modern German state presented unique cultural and political factors not found in the other countries studied, which also had a profound influence on strategic thinking and war planning, particularly in Wilhelmine Germany. The constant grappling of ends and means was a requirement for Germany, which added to complexity of strategic planning. Ultimately both Imperial and Nazi Germany were not successful at strategy through a lack of planning and strategic foresight rather than random circumstances. Although the Germany military was operationally superior to its adversaries in both world wars, the lack of an overall strategic plan kept tactical success from becoming strategic victory. 

Bett’s critique on complexity and linearity in strategy certainly had many examples in this case study. One of the salient features of Prussian military thought was that any war had to be short and decisive because Prussian society could not tolerate a protracted struggle either economically or socially. Therefore Prussian, and later German military thought was dominated by the well-orchestrated decisive battle to quickly destroy the enemy army and bring about a swift peace on the victor’s terms. Bismarck was probably the quintessential Clausewitzian strategist, fighting short well planned wars with Denmark, Austria and France to accomplish clear objectives leading to the ultimate goal of a united German Empire dominated by Prussia that could coexist peacefully with its neighbors. Although the French clearly wanted revenge for their drubbing in 1870, the Austrians eventually became German allies in World War I. More importantly, Bismarck had a keen understanding of the limits of the military power of the new Germany and made the requisite adjustments in means and ends to provide German security and avoid warfare he could not control. Bismarck greatest strength was not his military thinking, but his diplomacy, which created the alliance with Russia and avoided a potential two-front war, the nightmare scenario for German military planners.[1]

Unfortunately for Germany, after Bismarck’s departure, the Kaiser and his army seemed to epitomize the misguided notion that all warfare could be reduced to railroad timetables and mobilization schedules with no uncertainty or friction. They also disdained diplomacy and allowed the network of alliances collapse, especially the all-important Russian treaty. Because of internal political issues, primarily the need to maintain the Prussian and Junker dominance of the army and its officer corps, the Germans were never able to truly match the means required for the anticipated two-front war prior to 1914 with either a realistic strategy or a complete understanding of modern industrial warfare. Like their French and British counterparts, pre-World War I German generals and politicians did not understand the implication of firepower and defensive warfare or what total warfare would require economically, although the Germans did seem to have an inkling of the societal pressures it might involve. The German failure to realistically determine how to fight a two front war, coupled with their complete lack of cooperation with their primary ally, Austria-Hungary made World War I an industrial war of attrition that Germany could not win. In addition, the complexity of the Schlieffen Plan almost ensured its ultimate failure. Although the Germans developed new operational and tactical means to restore the offensive on the Western Front, their sturmtruppen tactics could not overcome America’s entrance into the war.[2]

Nazi Germany did no better at strategic planning, although Hitler avoided a two-front war at the onset of World War II, which allowed him to concentrate all of Germany’s might against the Western Allies in 1940. But Nazi Germany had no realistic political goals in mind other than the conquest of Lebensraum at the expense of Poland and Russia and once Hitler declared war on the United States in December 1941, Germany again faced a two-front war of attrition it could not win. The nature of the Nazi regime made limited warfare impossible and the Allied insistence on unconditional surrender guaranteed total war between the Allied and Axis powers. Although Germany was able to win significant battlefield victories through the operational and tactical ability of the Wehrmacht, they could not achieve a lasting victory.[3]

In both World Wars, the Germans tried to substitute operational prowess for strategic planning and the results were almost preordained- the Germans lost World War I at the Marne in 1914 and World War II at the gates of Moscow in 1941. There was a great deal of reaction to events by Germany, but very little randomness. Like the other case studies presented, the Germans were ultimately responsible for the choices made and not made and the resulting consequences.

[1] Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox and Alvin Bernstein, ed., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States and War (New York: Cambridge University Press: 1994), 249-251. 
[2] Ibid., 252, 257-258, 260, 273. 
[3] Ibid., 381, 390-392.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Summer Strategy--from the Brits...

This week we turn to Britain...which is an interesting case study...and perhaps a lesson for America?

British Strategy from 1700-1945: Consistency Amid Decline 

The British system of government and political process produced a fair degree of success at planning and conducting grand strategy. Although the British Empire gradually succumbed to the weight of two world wars and the general decline in colonialism, the British governmental system did remarkable job of staving off the fall of Britain from a global power status as long as possible. 
When examining the British success at strategy through the prism of ends, ways and means, it is important to note that the overarching strategic goals or ends of British foreign and military policy were essentially unchanged during all three of the major eras of conflict: the defense of the British Isles, the maintaining of a “balance of power” to prevent any one European power from dominating the continent and the security of British trade and commerce, both within the Empire and with other nations.[1] 

 The way the Britain attempted to conduct this strategy was also remarkably unchanged for the 200 year period: reliance on a strong navy, creation of an alliance structure to prevent any one country from becoming the dominant power on the Continent, development of efficient banking and commerce to provide funding to pay for allies, and the creation of a small but highly professional army that could provide the “tipping point” for the alliance in a time of war. The process by which England came to this strategy was, however, not the product of concerted or consistent strategic thought during any of the time periods examined, and there was a great deal of compromise and political give and take, particularly concerning the size and role of the British Army in foreign and defense policy, but the basic military and diplomatic construct of British strategy also remained very consistent for over 200 years.[2] 

Providing the ends to conduct their chosen strategy was one of the major challenges the British faced and ultimately proved the Achilles Heel to the maintenance of their long-term status as a world power. Until the British developed an efficient central banking system, they rarely had the resources to implement a concerted strategy and were often forced to change their strategy to match ends and means. As the British constantly needed to balance ends and means, the advantage of their governmental system as it evolved from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, was that discussion and comprise were, for the most part, able to reign in overambitious plans before they dragged the British into unwinnable situations. The British system of government and economy were able to provide the financing to allow Britain to become the premier world power before World War I, far beyond their proportional land mass or population compared to other European powers.[3] 

Unfortunately, the Empire and later Commonwealth that provided the resources to become a major world power also proved a burden to strategic planning and when necessary, war planning, since Britain had to take into account not only the need to defend the British Isles, but far-fling colonies such as India and Australia. As both World War I and World War II would show, the need to maintain the required military power to defend territory across the globe against strong emerging powers such as Germany and Japan would prove too much for British resources to support, contributing to Britain’s decline as a world power by 1945.[4] 

 In addition to their need to maintain their colonies, the British had to make difficult decisions about their alliances that also complicated their strategic planning. Beginning with the War of the Spanish Succession, the British attempted to be the balancing force in European security, attempting to reign in first French and later German hegemony over the Continent. The British had mixed success at controlling the strategy of their many alliances; with British politicians not always understanding that alliances did not mean countries would forgo their own national interests and would not always follow British strategic direction. Britain did have a remarkable influence over strategy during World War II considering the proportionate weight of American power, particularly as the war moved into 1944 and the Normandy invasion. This influence is almost certainly a tribute to the statesmanship of Winston Churchill, the last and greatest in a number of influential Prime Ministers that were able to get the maximum effect from the British bureaucracy and parliamentary system of government.[5] 

However, much like their French and Spanish counterparts, the British did make several stumbles in their strategic planning, particularly in the time between the world wars that had lasting consequences and clearly limited some options for their successors. The most crucial of these decisions concerned the role and strength of their land forces and later, their air forces as well. The desire to avoid a large standing army before World War I left England critically short of divisions when the Germans attacked in 1914 and most of the small, but highly professional BEF was destroyed by the end of the year. By the time the British could field an army capable of large-scale offensive action in 1916, these new volunteers did not have the tactical and operational capability of their German opponents and were slaughtered in the Somme. Between the wars, the British desire for pacifism, combined with a complete misunderstanding of Nazi intentions nearly left Britain defenseless, and only the late mobilization, combined with a good deal of luck, bad decisions by the Germans, and Churchill’s relentless determination prevented a British defeat in the summer of 1940. 
Despite an occasionally halting effort, an unrealistic desire to maintain their Empire after World War I and the occasional misunderstanding of how alliances worked, the British system of strategic planning was reasonably successful through 1914. Although the British, like their fellow Europeans, did not completely understand the implications of the rise of America and Soviet Russia as potential world powers, they were able to achieve most of their strategic goals until they could no longer provide the means to meet their strategic ends. The parliamentary system that evolved from their form of monarchy was far from perfect and often sowed strategic confusion, but it did have one redeeming feature- “…no matter how willfully naïve Anglo-American democracies can be, they do permit the replacement of incompetent leadership.”[6] 

[1] Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox and Alvin Bernstein, ed., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States and War (New York: Cambridge University Press: 1994), 151, 279-281. 
[2] Ibid., 152, 163, 298. 
[3] Ibid., 154, 159 
[4] Paul Kennedy, ed., Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 57-60. 
[5] Kennedy, 21, 45-46; Murray, 165-166, 302, 423-426. 
[6] Murray, 398.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's not the crime, it's the coverup....no really it is the crime

Like many Americans, I was outraged and saddened at yesterday's Benghazi hearings...sad that four Americans had to needlessly die and outraged that this Administration, actively aided and abetted by their anally-attached sycophants in the legacy liberal media engaged in a coverup to ensure the President's re-election...MAKE NO MISTAKE...this entire sordid affair was about getting Obama reelected...period..finito...end of story....a greater example of craven political calculation will likely never be seen again in American foreign policy.

Five Key Points from May 8 Benghazi Hearing

However, I think there is more afoot here.  In addition to trying to keep alive the lie that "Osama is dead and GM is alive"--Joey Biden's favorite catchphrase...combined with the media narrative that "Obama got Osama"..as if Barry jumped out of the lead Seal Team Six helicopter spraying lead at those evil terrorists...the bigger issue is the Obama's Administrations coming IMPLOSION of the Middle East, typified by the HUGE foreign policy success of Libya..followed by the equally awesome success in Syria....

This is another narrative the media has relentlessly peddled on the low-information, pot smoking, unemployed Obama voter--Obama got rid of a ruthless dictator, just as George Bush did, but with NO American casualties or boots on the ground..."Oooo, isn't he dreamy" swoons Chris Matthews AGAIN....however, not so much if you are a practitioner of realpolitik like my man Otto von Bismarck.

AND, most importantly, why haven't the terrorists who attacked our Embassy..and killed our Ambassador died in a fiery explosion caused by a drone strike (God knows Obama isn't afraid of those) or in a hail of lead from US Special Operations Forces?  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT question of all.  If Obama wants to be a bad-ass...then he needs to keep being a bad-ass or he will become just like his last Democratic predecessor...a has been Milquetoast who did not revenge the Mogadishu Debacle...which was a major contributing factor in Osama's plan for 9/11/01.

SO, let's address these point by point with my emphasis shown:

1. Libya is imploding:

The Libyan militiamen who have besieged two ministries in Tripoli for more than a week appear determined to press their protests to squeeze more concessions from the government, analysts say.
Initially these armed groups called for the adoption of a law to bar officials who served under the ousted regime of Moamer Gathafi from government and political posts.
Under intense pressure from the groups, the General National Congress voted through the law on Sunday.
But now some of these groups are pushing ahead with demonstrations and openly demanding the head of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan as well.
These militias say they are the "Thuwar" (revolutionaries) who battled Gathafi's troops until the fall of his regime in October 2011.
But in reality, they are a motley mix of "armed fighters and civilians with varying political beliefs, motivated by personal ambition, even if their stated goal is to 'correct the revolution' they believe has been skewed by the presence of former Gathafi collaborators in the administration," said political analyst Issam Zubeir.
Libyan militias fighting to hold on to their grip on power
But once you scratch beneath the surface, it becomes evident that the rule of law and respect for human rights are still out of reach in Libya. Many militias refuse to disarm and come under the umbrella of the authorities, and remain in control of detention facilities and other strategic locations. In recent days, militias surrounded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, barring anyone from entering the building, and briefly detained a journalist who was covering the incident. Armed with rifles and machine guns, they demanded the enactment of the Political Isolation Law, currently under review by the General National Congress (GNC), and the resignation of the Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz, who they claimed had failed to remove ambassadors appointed by former administrations.
The running joke made by many people we met in Libya is that the only way to get protection from abuses by a militia is to seek the help of another militia. A human rights organization thrown out of its Tripoli office by an armed militia has now moved its headquarters to a different militia’s base area.
 So, there's the first lie...things are not going well in Libya...and don't even get me started on the disaster that will become Syria......Obama is no doubt hoping that will limp along until January 20, 2017...then some other poor schmuck (preferably Republican, I'm sure) can deal with it as he hits the links to the everlasting adulation of lefty historians.

2.  Why haven't the terrorists who attacked us died a horrible, gruesome death?

Well, this is the great unanswered question...part of the problem could be the fact that our "ally" was embarrassed when, after telling HIM that we knew it was a terrorist attack...the Administration's mouthpiece..Susan Rice, no doubt doing Obama's dirty work in anticipation of being the first black woman Secretary of State (apparently Condi Rice didn't count) pushed the totally BS story about the YouTube video induced riot...complete with mortars and RPGs...or it could be that if they vigorously went after the terrorists, they might have to explain how Al Qaeda was alive and well and TAKING over large chunks of Libya..an embarrassing thing to talk about 4 weeks before the election....after all Sandra Fluke's free birth control was much more important to the future of America

SO, what happens now?  Well predictably, the loony left will rant, rave, obfuscate and use the "Hey Republicans did it too, meme"

But this is nonsense...Obama IS President, so the questions remain:  what did he know, what did he do about it, and WHAT DID HE TELL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?

It is becoming apparent that Obama and his minions engaged in a deliberate lie, coverup, and continued lie to conceal the fact that an attack occurred, it was a terrorist attack...Al Qaeda was not dead...as Mali just showed. and the world is in fact, not safe even with Osama dead.  Oh, and the entire Middle East is coming unglued...including IRAQ..which Obama retreated from ASAP to declare that victory to his lefty base before the election..

This of course might interfere with Obama's plan to gut the military to try and save his soon to be a huge freakin' train-wreck Obamacare.  

OH, and again, don't even get me started on how Obama is going to pull another 1975 Saigon on Afghanistan and Iraq.....that's another post....

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Summer Strategy goodness....

OOPS, silly me...I forgot that everything is always about context. SO, our summer discussion is taken from a fantastic book (of course) of essays on historical looks at problems in grand strategy. Williamson Murray is one of my favorite writers of military history and strategy and the breadth and depth of his writing is truly amazing. This book was used in one of my MA courses from American Military University and was really outstanding...now on with the next session. WHY am I writing about this? Well, strategy, especially Grand Strategy is an elusive topic...kinda like truth and the Obama Administration, and it's hard to get right...as we are finding out. And, like bacon, strategy never goes out of style, the U.S. is just now starting to think about what happens next after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end? AND, most of all strategy is about allocating scarce resources to achieve your country's diplomatic and national security objectives, which again are in the news today.

BUT, these are not new problems...history can teach us a lot...if we are willing to learn and not be distracted by gay basketball players, the latest food-fight over gun control, or worry about which Kardashian sister is knocked up by which thug NBA player....

Now I know that putting together France and anything military is kinda like putting olive oil on your ice cream...but the French did some serious butt kicking in Mali and were, at one point in history, the dominant power in Europe until the Germans decided to work together and march down the Champs de Elysse every 40 years or so....

Here are my thoughts on France.

The Cart Before the Horse: How Warfare Drove Strategy in Early Modern and Modern France 

The case studies presented on strategy in 17th and 20th century France, show how strategy is often influenced by the nature and act of war itself. In both centuries French strategy was influenced by current or past warfare to a significant degree beyond rational planning to meet rational political objectives. 
Louis XIV was motivated by personal desires that affected his strategy beyond sound political and military planning. The desire for glorie, or as the Spanish monarch Philip II called it, reputation drove Louis' desire for war almost for its own sake in order to secure France's place among European powers. During the early years of his reign his desire for war and conquest caused him to wage war against most of his neighbors without a lot of strategic forethought, causing severe long-term consequences for his reign and France. France, like Hapsburg Spain, suffered from many of the problems of an aristocracy and absolute monarchy in decision making and financial planning to meet the commitments of a large war machine. Once France was able to successfully conquer new territory to satiate Louis quest, the need to defend these conquests took on a life of its own and forced French strategy to become very similar to the early, failed Hapsburg strategy of defense of territory at all cost to prevent a loss of glory for the dynasty. France was constantly waging what Louis viewed as defensive wars to protect his realm. [1] 

Two additional results of Louis constant warfare also had a significant influence over French strategy in the late 17th century. The constant waging of long wars weakened the French treasury while forcing Louis to maintain large standing armies. In order to keep these armies in the field logistically, the French were forced to build large magazines, or fortresses, to provide food and fodder for the army, and the French were forced to maintain a strategy of “forward deployment” of their forces to ravage enemy territory to provide supplies versus their own countryside and peasants. This made it challenging for Louis to negotiate or even keep a lasting peace with his neighbors, which continued a constant state of warfare, causing further reduction of French resources in a vicious cycle that weakened the entire French monarchy. [2] 

Concurrent with this need to maintain his armies on other countries forage, Louis' strategic thinking was also influenced by the rise of positional warfare and the engineering and building of large fortifications to both protected his frontier and provide bases from which his army could sally into enemy territory. The new fortresses designed by the engineer Vauban allowed Louis to ring the French eastern frontier and provide protection along the most likely invasion routes into France. Unfortunately, these routes were also the invasion and raiding routes into his neighbors, so although Louis and France saw his strategy as primarily defensive in nature, that was not how the other European powers viewed French strategy. In addition, the need to defend these fortifications tied down a significant number of French troops, limiting Louis strategic options and forcing the need to maintain a large army.[3]

Louis inability to set rational goals that could be met with the means available were overly influenced by what Clausewitz would call the non-rational need for achievement of military victory in warfare, without a thought to achieving political victory and a lasting peace, constantly antagonizing the other powers of Europe and leading to France's eventual bankruptcy and the fall of the Bourbon dynasty. 

 French strategy between the World Wars was a classic case of preparing to fight the last war and French strategy prior to 1940 was almost completely driven by a desire to avoid the mistakes and casualties of World War I rather than a rational understanding of the political and military threat posed by Nazi Germany. The formulation of French strategy also shows how the influence of domestic politics and the internal political view of war as an instrument of policy can have an adverse effect on strategy. France, like many of the other European powers, was traumatized by the slaughter and destruction of World War I and this institutional memory had a profound influence on French grand and military strategy during the 1920s and 1930s, with disastrous effects when the Germans finally attacked in May 1940. 
The first factor that drove French strategy was a realization that even though Germany had been defeated in 1918, it had not been destroyed and another European war was likely, particularly after the rise of the Nazis in the late 1930. Mindful of the failures of the early French offensives of 1914, the French strategy became almost exclusively defensive in nature, designed to fight tightly controlled battles of attrition that would favor the defense. This strategy was also driven by political struggles within France during the interwar years, particularly the role of the army in society and a desire to avoid war at nearly any cost.[4] 

The French strategy was also influence by the rise of alliance warfare and the attendant compromises needed to wage coalition warfare. In both World Wars, the French were keenly aware of their need for allies to encircle Germany and force a two front war. This was particularly true before 1939, when the French were very aware of the relative weakness in manpower compared to Germany, as well as the new measure of military prowess, air power. Prior to 1940, Britain and Belgium were the primary allies needed to maintain France's defenses and fight a forward deployed battle off French soil. However, the French were not able to drive these alliances to suit their strategic needs and their lack of military power and willingness to use it prevented the strong coalition action that might have stopped Hitler prior to September 1939. Even when war broke out, the Dutch, Belgians, French and British did not create a coordinated military strategy that would have enhanced their chances of stopping the German offensive when it came. The French desire to create alliances prevented what might have been the extension of the Maginot Line to the sea, cutting off and essentially abandoning Belgium, but allowing a shorter front and perhaps providing the French with the strategic reserve they lacked in 1940. The French desire to fight a defensive war and coupled with a desire to fight a forward defense in Belgium, limited their strategic options and not only gave the Germans the initiative, but left the French vulnerable to the German thrust through the Ardennes without sufficient reserves, particularly armored reserves, to counterattack into the German flank.[5] 
In both case studies, the nature of warfare being waged had a profound influence on the strategic decisions made by the French. In addition, the French were unable to change their strategic course, either through ignorance or inertia.  The formation of strategy is often not a rational process; earlier decisions imprison statesmen within the logic of their choices and finally impose policies and actions that those leaders would have preferred to avoid.

[1] Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox and Alvin Bernstein, ed., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States and War (New York: Cambridge University Press: 1994), 178-179, 184-185, 187. 
[2] Murray, et al., 190-191. 
[3] Murray, et al., 193-195. 
[4] Paul Kennedy, ed., Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 129, 131, 143. 
[5] Murray, et al., 467, 483, 489-490. 
[6] Murray, et al., 196. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hey, don't believe my rants about history...here is a real historian

Donald Kagan, one of the finest historians of the 20th century and a prolific writer on Ancient Greece, made his final farewell to the "hallowed halls of academia" recently.  Dr. Kagan, who apparently pulls no punches and does not bend over to political correctness, probably could see that it was time to go.

Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. Curricula are "individualized, unfocused and scattered." On campus, he said, "I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness." Rare are "faculty with atypical views," he charged. "Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values." He counseled schools to adopt "a common core of studies" in the history, literature and philosophy "of our culture." By "our" he means Western. [emphasis mine]
WOW, WOW, WOW...I couldn't have said it better myself.  The intellectual void being pushed on the American people...and most importantly on thousands of American parents sending their kids of to the Marxist, eco-secular, morally corrupt institutions known as the "modern" American university should read this essay.  Dr. Kagan has stated what has been obvious to this Grouchy Historian for a long time...I mean look at any "college" humanities or history department and you'll find courses of African-American history, Asian-American history, one-legged Puerto Rican lesbian history....but NO core classes to teach about WESTERN FREAKIN' civilization.  No matter what the "revisionist" historians want to convince everyone (and are sadly succeeding as America continues to dumb down to American Idol, Jersey Shore, and the Bachelor) America was shaped by the Ancient Greeks.  AND, those same Founding Fathers (ooops, there's that dirty group of gun tottin', slave holdin' white men) were responsible for creating the Republic that is under attack today.

But...let's hear Dr. Kagan some more...
As he looks at his Yale colleagues today, he says, "you can't find members of the faculty who have different opinions." I point at him. "Not anymore!" he says and laughs. The allure of "freedom" and "irresponsibility" were too strong to resist, he says.
The end result of that, and the reason American graduates are considered WOEFULLY unprepared for the real life of work after college is they can't THINK, can't WRITE, and can't think CRITICALLY, because then WAIT A MINUTE, they might questions the "settled science" of global warming (how's that May snowfall working for Denver?) or they might question the difference between "Crony Capitalism" and "Free Enterprise"  which are not the same as Socialism...OR my goodness they might actually consider America a force for good in the world and not Satan incarnate.   College students are indoctrinated...and are taught not to question or they get smacked by pinko commie America hating professors who worship at the altar of Ward Churchill and Howard Zinn. 

A final thought from Dr. Kagan:
"The essence of liberty, which is at the root of a liberal education, is that meaningful freedom means that you have choices to make," Mr. Kagan says. "At the university, there must be intellectual variety. If you don't have [that], it's not only that you are deprived of knowing some of the things you might know. It's that you are deprived of testing the things that you do know or do think you know or believe in, so that your knowledge is superficial."
 YUP, superficial...that would describe most of the talking heads on the left...who quickly devolve into name calling and race baiting when their arguments begin to crumble under reality.

This is a fantastic article and well worth the read.

Friday, May 3, 2013

SOOOO much history, so little time.

Random thoughts...

It never occurred to me HOW much military history is going on right now...

  • 200th anniversary of Napoleonic Wars...argh 1813...uhhh. the Battle of Leipzig?
  • 200th anniversary of the War of 1812...when we last fought Canada, eh?
  • 150th anniversary of the Civil War...1863 style...a major year in the war...argh...how am I gonna get to Gettysburg this year.
  • coming up on the 100th anniversary of World War I...wow...my great-grandfather was alive during WWI...hmmm...that makes me old and grouchy.
  • 30 years since Beirut and Grenada, my introductions to war since they happened while I was a midshipman at Canoe U....and still unreported and unappreciated for what the represented in American military history.
  • and...the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War..still one of the most poorly analyzed and covered wars in American history..mostly due to the pinko-commie liberal bent of the media and historians...sadly, even some military historians......something that is only now being corrected...sort of...slowly...
The amount of new and improved...and dare I say revisionist scholarship being done is really amazing...and I am happy to be around and read it...when I can...

SO many books...so little time....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Economy tanks...HEY look at this brave gay basketball player....

WARNING...political viewpoints ahead...if you are an Obama supporter...stop reading now cuz it's gonna send you into an apoplectic Chris Matthews kinda spittle-fest...

OKAY, I warned you.

So, the story goes that the Roman Emperors, as they engaged in endless orgies, banquets and general "It's good to be the king" kinda activities, placated the peasants with "bread and circuses" in attempt to keep their inferiors satiated with food and entertainment so they wouldn't ask "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"....glad to see the Obama White House has some sense of history: 

Obama's $2.5M Hotel and 'Vehicle Rental' Tab on Last Mexico Trip

Clearly this is now the operational construct of the Obama White House. Given the fact that the economy continues to limp along...with no REAL job or economic recovery in sight, this Administration (or Gangter Group, as it were) needs to talk about ANYTHING but Joe Biden's favorite three-letter word--jobs, jobs, jobs.

Spring Slowdown Paints Ugly Picture for Jobs: ADP- What's interesting about this story is that it's from CNBC...which apparently hasn't gotten the word from MSDNC that you shouldn't report bad news...unless you blame W or the Republicans...or the Koch Brothers...more on that later..

OR there's this lovely news...

'Real' Jobless Rate Still Above 10% In Most States-Also interestingly enough from CNBC...hmmm, I predict a little house cleaning there...they will probably hire crack economists like Paul Krugman and Michael Moore. However, it's nice to see that some folks are waking up to the chicanery in Washington to KEEP OBAMA LOOKING GOOD..no matter what the pesky reality is....

While the government said the GDP revisions will present a more encompassing look at the economy, critics are howling that the changes are an attempt to mask weak growth and rationalize more debt.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise they are going to change the way this number is reported," said Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies. "When GDP numbers are chronically bad [averaging just 1.45 percent in the last two quarters] and the labor force participation rate is perpetually falling, our government will do the same thing they did for the inflation data—tinker with the formula until you get the desired result," he said.

HA, ya think...there is no such thing as government statistics anymore...it's all LIES, LIES, and more LIES to protect the exalted Dear Leader....I mean seriously, if Mitt Romney was in the White House, do you think the Lamestream Obama Rectal Diving Media would be trying to spin 3% growth as anything but a disaster? Hmmph, I didn't think so.

However, it's nice to know the AP is still firmly cranially anally implanted...

Survey: Private employers add just 119K in April- Now granted, that's not a happy headline, but they make up for it by towing the Democratic line and blaming it on government spending cuts...OH, and maybe a little bit on those pesky payroll tax hikes and gee, maybe, ya think...that OBAMACARE thing...
Zandi said that hiring is being affected by an increase in Social Security taxes at the beginning of the year and across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1. Along with higher taxes on wealthier Americans, which also took effect Jan. 1, the tax increases and spending cuts could subtract 1.5 percentage points from growth this year, he said.That's the biggest government drag on the economy since the end of World War II, he said.Health care reform may also be a reason some employers are holding back, Zandi said. Companies with 50 or more employees in 2013 have to provide insurance for their workers next year.
BUT, hey, forget about a crappy job market just in time for another college graduation season (although to be fair, since most of those young morons voted for him, sympathy is hard to come by...cause and effect can be a real bitch sometimes)...and don't even bother talking about that failing real estate market

U.S. Homeownership Rate Falls to Lowest Since 1995

NOPE, let's talk about something of vital interest to Americans struggling to make ends meet and hopefully get their 20-somethings out of the house before we die...like yours truly....

Athletes out of the closet but prejudice lingers

YUP, GAY PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES...that's what's important to our President and the chatteratzi in this country....are you !@#*(&#$*(& kidding me?????

It's bad enough we had to endure the overwrought huffing and puffing about a gun control measure that was clearly going to fall....or watch our foreign policy implode over the incompetence and neglect of this Administration as the Middle East BURNS....

NOPE, now we get to be lectured by the politically correct class and our superiors (you know steller folks like Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, and Rachel Maddow...people who would last about 30 seconds in a zombie apocalypse...except for Maddow, she would genuinely scare the zombies...just sayin') about how we need to embrace diversity among our professional athletes...

Well, I DON'T care who the hell is sleeping with who in the NBA, NFL, NHL, WNBA, or EIEO for that matter. They are all overpayed whiny bratz as far as I'm concerned that have not a shred of class or decency compared to a Roger Staubach, Dan Marino, or even Terry Bradshaw...so a pox on all their houses.

What really disturbes me (can you tell?) is that fact that Obamacare will DESTROY what tintsy-whensy economic growth we have...and keep the job market crappy for decades to come.....

Obamacare’s Tax Hike Train Wreck

Yup, Obama and the DemocRATS who passed this pile of sh++ by legislative fiat are now trying to hide, distract, deny, deceive, and outright LIE to minimize the impact of this legislation (I use that word loosely) to hope it doesn't destroy them in 2014. I mean seriously, the DemocRATS will deserve the shellacking I hope they get, cuz OBAMA CAN'T SAVE them in 2014...even if he wanted to or cared...which is another post...as predicted by many pundits, including myself, the DemocRATic Party is gonna OWN THIS ALL THE WAY...they can try and blame Republicans...and especially Republican governors for the train wreck...but watch the states that see the highest insurance premium increases....I will bet they will be BLUE states all they way...another bitch session of cause and effect, huh?

Ok, that felt better....I have been building up to that the last few weeks....

Now back to our regularly scheduled history and strategy discussions................

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Summer Reruns?

No, not really...although I am anxiously awaiting the summer round of TV...I digress. I was looking through some of my old files for my MA program...and I was struck at how those topics were and remain incredibly timely...hmmmm history and strategy never goes out of style....unlike bell bottoms and boy bands...but I digress again. One thing that struck me is that Western students of military history and strategy don't study the East enough...especially the Chinese. This of course, is very topical for anyone studying military issues these days.

SO here are some of my thoughts on Chinese strategy and a comparison of the Ancient Chinese and Ancient Greeks from a class on National Strategy and Political Goals:

Culture and Strategy: Getting the “Message” Across

The role of culture, coercion and their end result, communication, are a vital but often neglected part of strategy formulation. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, if you don’t understand your opponent at least as well as yourself, your strategy is likely to be unsuccessful. This is especially important when a country is trying to achieve a goal short of the complete destruction of their enemy. 
When a power wages limited warfare, it is important to ensure their opponent gets the “message” on why violence is being used and what actions are required to bring the conflict to a close. As shown in several of our case studies, this is often easier said than done. In many cases, there is a complete misunderstanding between what each side in a conflict is trying to achieve, unless the goal is “stark rather than subtle—for example, Surrender or die.” [1]

The Chinese strategy for dealing with the Mongol steppe horseman is a clear example of cultural blinders preventing the creation and implementation of a successful military and political strategy for dealing with a major security problem. Because the Chinese could never completely reconcile the cultural differences between the steppe and settled civilizations of 14th-17th century China, the biases and assumptions made by the Ming dynasty officials did not present practical solutions to their long-term security needs. [2] 

The Chinese could have greatly simplified their military problems with the Mongols by understanding the economic causes of the conflict and establishing commerce with the steppe people. However, the periodic Chinese xenophobia against “barbarians” prevented a realistic understanding of why attacks on the northern provinces occurred and how to prevent them. The Chinese of this time period also had their own internal political and cultural issues as well. The institutionalized division of power and responsibility on military and security issues designed to avoid a threat to the Emperor also ensured there was no long-term coherent policy for dealing with the steppe raiders. This internal political issue was also influenced by a Chinese military culture where war was a necessary evil that could severely deplete the resources of a state and should be avoided if possible. This cultural conflict of refusing to deal with the Mongols diplomatically while eschewing the prolonged warfare needed to suppress them only ensured that successive Ming strategies were always in turmoil. Because the Chinese would or could not understand the Mongols because of their internal and external cultural biases, the final chosen solution was to simply build a series of static fortifications or “walls” to contain the problem without really solving it. [3] 

The lack of success for the Athenian strategy during the Peloponnesian Wars can also be attributed to cultural bias an misunderstanding of communications and coercion. The Athenians attempted to wage a limited war to wear down the Spartans by avoiding a pitched land battle and using a strategy of attrition to achieve a favorable negotiated settlement. Unfortunately, the Spartans refused to cooperate and continued to wage war beyond what the Athenians expected, causing a change in strategy and an eventual overreach, leading to the disastrous Athenian Expedition. 
Additional examples can be found in current warfare as well. Betts’ discussion of America in Vietnam is probably the best example in modern warfare of how cultural misunderstanding prevents the implementation of a successful strategy. But the current American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan also highlights the need to understand the culture where military operations occur.

[1] Richard K. Betts, "Is Strategy an Illusion?," International Security (Harvard University) 25, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 5-50 
[2] Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox and Alvin Bernstein, ed., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States and War (New York: Cambridge University Press: 1994), 88. 
[3] Murray, et. al., 109-110.