'87 Sir

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

FDR Thanksgiving Proclamation- November 1942

 It's good to know that at some point in our history, our Presidents truly believed in the power of prayer and respected our military.  'Nuff said.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day
November 26, 1942 By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.

The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.

In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.

It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven.

I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

"He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency: in the armed services and the merchant marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways, and airways; in other places of public service to the Nation; and in our homes.

Now, Therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite the attention of the people to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day; and I request that both Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, and New Year's Day, January 1, 1943, be observed in prayer, publicly and privately.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Strategic thought from the masters--Clausewitz, Jomini, Moltke...and Tolstoy?

So, continuing with our excellent book club, the sections on Clausewtiz and Jomini are solid, if not outstanding.  However, a couple of interesting dynamics that occurred to me are the ying and yang of the art and science of war and the ability of a general, even a great general to truly influence what occurs on the battlefield once the first shot is fired.

Dr. Freedman makes the case that Jomini and Clausewitz viewed war very differently.  If anyone actually perused Jomini's Art of War (seriously, these guys need to come up with some more original titles), it's sometimes like reading a geometry textbook.  Although both writers emphasized similar themes, no doubt the results of their experiences in the Napoleonic Wars, they proscribe very different ways to achieve the Holy Grail of the battlefield --critical mass at the critical point of the battle.  Clausewitz definitely viewed war as more messy and uncontrollable once battle was engaged (that pesky friction thing), and would not have recommended a "cookbook" approach to military strategy.  Jomini was more "scientific" and seemed to think that if you maneuvered your troops in a certain way in reaction to certain situations, victory could almost always be assured.  Of course, the challenge for a 19th century general, with no staff, little usable intelligence, and the command and control span of his horse and a few aides was to know where to commit your precious reserves, when to attack, and when to retreat.

Along those lines, Tolstoy gets thrown in the mix to shake up conventional wisdom.  No doubt Dr. Freedman does this to show that not EVERYONE in the 19th century, or even early 20th century believed in the utility of strategy to war.  Tolstoy, who was not a general, nonetheless makes a number of comments on war in his masterpiece War and Peace,which apparently has a cameo appearance by ol' Karl himself.  The provocative notion Tolstoy presents is that strategy is so fluid, with so many variables caused by human nature, that's its worthless to even try to think strategically.  Maybe Tolstoy just takes "friction" to its extreme ends, but he seems a little hysterical. 

NOW, I will say that the problem with strategy, and strategists...especially at the political level, is the assumption that your opponent will do JUST what you want them to and react JUST like you think they will.  They don't, of course, listen to Clausewitz when he tells them that fundamentally, war is a HUMAN act, between humans that think, react, evolve, and change, often quickly and in directions never imagined by their opponent. 

A good strategy will have the ability to vary the ways and means to achieve the desired ends and will be flexible enough to react while keeping the end goal in sight.  This, of course, also assumes that the chosen ends can be achieved within the available means, another problem that both politicians and generals have trouble understanding.  So, while Tolstoy was a little dramatic (hey, he's Russian, what can I say), the fundamental problem isn't strategy as an art or science, but strategy as a delusion where wishful thinking and invalid assumptions lead to an inflexible plan that can't be implemented or if implemented, can't be changed to meet different circumstances.

This is where Moltke enters the stage...Prussia/Germany was probably never better served than by the team of Bismarck and Moltke, two giants that changed Europe and the world forever and probably the greatest political/military team in Germany's history.  Moltke was the ultimate strategist, keeping ends, ways, and means aligned, and always ensuring the strategy could be implemented at the tactical and operational level by subordinates who could adapt to the reality on the ground, while still working toward the commander's overall goal.  The trifecta of wars in 1864, 1866, and 1870 that united modern Germany into the military and economic juggernaut of the first half of the 20 century were masterpieces of limited war, although Moltke agreed with the concept somewhat less than Bismarck which served to unite the German people while avoiding a general European war.  Moltke's genius was not merely strategic, but operational, as he realized the potential of the railroad and telegraph to give Prussia a unique ability to quickly mobilize its army and attack before their rivals were even fully prepared for combat.

Excellent sections, with some thought provoking material.  As an introduction to the challenges of the major militaries of Europe grappling with the social and military changes to war wrought by Napoleon with the introduction of major new technologies, including naval technologies, Dr. Freedman does an excellent job summarizing the contributions of these great masters.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Machiavelli, does he get a bad rap unfairly?

So we continue with my new FAVORITE book on Strategy...

In the next section, Dr. Freedman offers another perspective on Machiavelli, arguably the world's first political pundit and talking head. For a good chunk of history, old Niccolo got a pretty bad rap for advocating an amoral, realpolitik style of rule.

It is kind of ironic how much grief Niccolo got considering that amoral politics seem to be a staple of the "if you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance" Administration, but I digress.

In real terms, I think this book gives Machiavelli a pretty balanced look.  Realpolitik strategy can appear pretty cold-hearted at times, but in the real world, where nations undertake diplomacy and war to further their own interests-"Hey, it's nothing personal, it's just strategy." Seems pretty straightforward.

In terms of domestic politics, old Niccolo hits things pretty much on the head too..his maxim that "It's better to be feared than loved," can be taken to an extreme of course, as any good IRS agent investigating the Tea Party can tell you, but for the most part real leadership sometimes requires taking the citizenry in directions they don't necessarily want to go for the good of the people....which would not be how Obamacare is working out...remember for the GOOD of the people is the key phrase.  When the prince has taken his kingdom into uncharted waters, he'd better have a good navigator to get them where he wants to go, not his wife's college roommate's company...ooops, I digress again.  In addition, although Machiavelli was a hard-nosed pragmatist, he also warned his "prince" that unduly annoying the people was not a good idea either...you now like lying to them about "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your health care plan."

For the most part, in the modern world, in spite of happy terms like "mulitlateralism," "multi-polar world," and "coalition of the willing," countries are going to look out for themselves.  Machiavelli was just honest enough to say this, and a few other things, that might make fuzzy headed "can't we all just get along" progressives gnash their teeth, but for those of us who can think clearly, he has just written down what everyone is thinking.  The business of American strategy and foreign policy should be to look out for American interests, not the interests of the UN, IAEA, Iran, Syria...well you get the idea.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Strategy in the Ancient World

So Dr. Freedman begins his discussion of strategy with the Bible...which is fascinating stuff, but I am saving that for a comparison of the strategic thinking of God versus Satan...yes that's right he actually does a comparison of the strategy of God and Satan...that is some academic chops.

But let us turn to the Ancient Greeks, who provide an endless fodder for the study of strategic thought, primarily divided between the concepts of strength versus guile.

There is a fascinating few pages on the debates between the Greeks, primarily Athens and Sparta, on the merits of trickery, both military and political, to achieve strategic goals-a debate that would not be out of place today.

A couple of points stand out...clearly the idea that there is very little we can learn from history and that every problem mankind faces is "unprecedented" rings very hollow. First, the debate between "strength and guile" really seem to me to be a variation of the "firepower versus maneuver" debate that endlessly rages among practitioners of the military art. Or, put another way, is it more "manly" to fight wars and battles of attrition or to use maneuver to so confuse and disorient your opponent that they surrender or run away? Well, like many questions in history and strategy, the answer is-"It depends." Not a very satisfying answer to be sure, but strategic challenges are rarely clear cut. As Dr. Freeman points out, the Ancient Greeks struggled with these issues, which for them were truly life or death decisions.

Second, in addition to the whole firepower vs maneuver question, the Ancient Greeks also struggled with an ancient version of asymmetric warfare, currently a topic all the rage among military pundits and historians. One of my favorite strategists, the timeless Thucydides, points out that at the beginning of the Peleponesian Wars, the leader of Athens, the great and wise Pericles, deliberately avoided a direct confrontation with the juggernaut that was the Spartan Army and decided to use Athens superior naval power to conduct raids on Sparta and her allies to wear them down. His strategy may have had a good chance to succeed if he hadn't been killed by a plague that swept Athens. Pericles replacement by less thoughtful leaders soon put Athens on the slippery slope to bad politics, bad strategy, and eventual defeat.

FINALLY, on a political note, I have finally discovered the secret to why so many progressive liberals think the way they do...they're merely using the Socratic method...or as one of my favorite movies pronounce it "SO-CRATES...excellent!" At the end of this section Dr. Freeman discusses the relative merits of modern philosophy a al Socrates and Plato and provides an interesting quote on Plato's belief on the right of the wise and noble, properly educated "elite" to rule the peasants:
"The rulers must have supreme power to decide what was wise and just...We want one single, grand lie which will be believed by everybody--including the rulers ideally, but failing that, the rest of the city....The noble lie was a white lie on......communities had to be educated into a belief in social harmony and a conviction that the existing order was natural."  (p.40)
Hmmm, that could almost come from the mouth of any 21st century social progressive statist....you fool, who are you to judge what kind of health care you will get...only the wise and benevolent Obama Administration will decide what's good for you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Harsh truths about 2014 and 2016

Ok, so the mandatory 72 hour breathless "Oh, God, Oh God We're all going to die!" waiting period is over.  Yes, one of my favorite lines from Firefly, a libertarians favorite show.  So now we can get around to the usual comparison of war and politics, a al Clausewtiz style.

SO, to start with Terry McAweful, un-indicted crook, money man, and overall schmoozer extraordinaire has won the governorship of Virigina, my home state.  I am still a little at a loss to accept the fact that a fundamentally decent, honest man (Ken) could lose to such a schmuck, but in the cold light of day, some honest real politik assessments must be made beyond the shallow offerings of the media pundits.  Some of these might be harsh, but that doesn't make them less true.

#1---(MOST IMPORTANT) To the modern Democratic party, politics, elections, and campaigning are a blood sport with no limits on the amount of mud to be slung.  They want to win and will do ANYTHING, SAY ANYTHING to do so, no matter how untrue.  As Clausewitz would say, the Democrats wage complete and total war without any limits on truth or facts.  Republicans better understand that-Democrat strategy numero uno is ...pick a lie, make it big, stick to it, and pretty soon low information morons will believe it.

For example......there is no legal way for any Republican to outlaw birth control or abortion.  PERIOD. (I really mean that, unlike the current administration).  The fact that any female voter would even begin to believe that is kinda hard to fathom.  BUT, it works and works well...now I know that some pro-life Republicans want to limit partial-birth and late term abortions, but the FUNDAMENTAL "right" to kill your unborn child in the womb, is, sadly, as much a law as Dred Scott, Plessy versus Ferguson or any other excellent laws passed by the Supreme Court (like the one that Obamacare is Constitutional because it is, in fact, a tax).  So, Republicans better get out in front of this "War on Women" BS NOW NOW NOW.  Plenty of commercials stating that women are welcome to pay for their own birth control and abortions would at least alleviate the worst effects of this nonsense, while also at least placating the base that we (conservatives) shouldn't have to pay for women's "Sex in the City" choices....you want to be pro-choice and keep people out of your bedroom?  FINE, then stay the hell out of my wallet to pay for it...sounds fair.

In the mean time #1 blends into #2...Get over the whole "REPUBLICANS ARE MEAN" crap.  Democrats will NEVER stop calling Republicans misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, puppy eating meanie poo poo heads...so STRIKE BACK and call them the CROOKED, FASCIST, HYPOCRITICAL, MORONS they are.

My biggest complaint about the 2008 and 2012 Republican campaigns were not the candidates...although they were not my favorite, but the fact that the ENTIRE party was so afraid to attack Barrack Hussein Obama as the crooked, socialist, dope smoking, Chicago thug, inexperienced light weight that he was.  Shoot, Hillary landed more punches on him in the primary than McCain did on the campaign.  All because Republicans didn't want to appear "racist" by attacking Obama on his past, his record, his inexperience, his loopy ideas.  WELL GUESS WHAT, they are going to call you racist anyway...and guess what, if Hillary runs, they will call you a "woman hater" for attacking her on Benghazi, the Middle East, Fast and Furious, whatever. 

So grow a pair Republicans, and get prepared for a knife fight in a phone booth, because that's Democratic politics.  Nice guys never win in politics these days.  Democrats can NEVER win on issues...like Obamacare, raising taxes, regulating soda sizes, etc, so they always resort to character attacks.  What the Republicans need is another Lee Atwater....one good Willie Horton moment and Hillary is toast.  WHOA, WILLIE HORTON, does that make me a racist?  Nope, it's called hard ball politics...I would have Benghazi placards at every Hillary rally and I would tie Hillary to Obama every way I could.

Once we find a candidate that doesn't care what the NYTWAPONBCABCCBSCNNMSDNC media complex think about him, we might have a chance....they had better have a thick skin and be willing to fight back and call Democrats out on their crap....otherwise the "War on Women" meme will win every time.

You may be able to reason with the voters, but Republicans can NEVER reason with Democrats in a political campaign.  Be prepared to spend big, sling mud, and defend yourself vigorously while launching everything you can at your opponent.

 It's not polite and certainly will turn some voters off, but that's the way it is...in World War 2 the allies were just as willing to carpet bomb German cities as the Germans were English cities...we'd better get our bombers ready and be willing to fight the hard fight against not only the Democratic party and their direct supporters, but their cheerleaders in the media, Hollywood, academia and every other lefty institution.

Politics is war....there are no points for second place....

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another highly anticipated brain break

So, the final of my long-awaited, long library waiting list brain break books arrived this weekend and was quickly consumed like a box of Ding-Dongs.  Ok, yes, we had a box of those too...Go Hostess!

So I have to say, I was skeptical of this book at the beginning, but it turned out to be one of my favorite JD Robb books in recent memory.  She takes a real mystery thriller risk by making it pretty darn obvious who the killer is (no spoiler here) and the book really morphs into a "chase the psychopath" tale, which is very, very well done. 

The pace, tension and usual outstanding character development  make this a real pager turner.  And, of course the usual witty banter between Eve and Roarke that really makes them a welcome member of my bedside table twice a year.  I was worried this series was really losing its luster, especially after 36...yup, 36 titles.  But I am very happy to say that there seems to always be some new surprise that JD nee Nora Roberts can pull out of the hat.  The only small nit I had was that one of the things I was looking forward to with this book is extended time with Roarke's Irish family..after all the book is set during Thanksgiving.  The actual time with the family story was disappointingly small.  Hopefully she will fix this problem in a future book...I hopefully foresee a wonderful plot line that takes Eve and Roarke to Ireland...are you listening JD?

Anyway, if you are a fan, pick this one up....it is a quick nugget of escapism and fun.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Obamacare...will it be the Pearl Harbor of progressive liberalism?

So now that the whole shutdown kerfuffle is over...and the inevitable recriminations have settled and food has been thrown...where does American politics stand?

An interesting question about which practically all columnists and pundits, both left and right have an opinion....some of them interesting and thought provoking, many of them bizarre wishful thinking, particularly in the pages of the NYT, DailyKos, Daily Beast, and other left leaning websites.

However, your friendly Grouchy Historian believes, along with a majority of pundits, that the shutdown debacle...and let's be honest, for the Republican leadership and Tea Party, it was a debacle...like soldiers in World War I hurling themselves by battalions into machine gun nests...it was in the end an unwinnable fight. All the Dems had to do was sit and wait because they held all the cards...or at least the Republicans weren't really willing to pay the price of "defaulting" on the debt, which I think is an artificial construct anyway...kinda like our whole national debt. I mean seriously what the hell is $17 TRILLION dollars mean to the average American? After a few hundred billion..doesn't it all become monopoly money anyway? Does any sane, rational person think this country will EVER pay back $17T in debt? I don't think so...So Harry and Barry figured they had the Republicans on the run...the demise of the Tea Party was at hand....but not so fast.

The total and complete screw up of the Obamacare website and the ensuing "Apple Dumpling Gang" management of the crisis by the White House have, at least for the average American, quickly swamped the fallout from the shutdown...and ironically, given the Tea Party gang a little credibility for questioning the ENTIRE premise of Obamacare in the first place.

I picture Obamacare as the Pearl Harbor of progressive liberalism.....and here's why. In 1941 the Japanese attacked the US Pacific Fleet and destroyed most of the old battleships in port, but missed the aircraft carriers, storage and maintenance facilities, and MOST importantly, did not destroy the US Pacific Fleet's oil storage, which would have been almost as bad as sinking an aircraft carrier or two. True the Japanese were able to conquer most of the Pacific and run wild for about six to nine months, but in the words of ADM Yamamoto, it awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.

I compare this to Obamacare for two reasons--1) Obama and the Democrats ALMOST got what they wanted. UNIVERSAL SINGLE-PAYER healthcare...a al European socialized medicine. They came pretty close, but like the Japanese couldn't quite close the deal with their "government option" which was nothing more than a Trojan Horse to drive private insurers out of business. I mean seriously, does anyone think the Democrats wanted anything else? But they couldn't get the votes in their OWN party...That's right, NO Republican voted for this monstrosity, and quite frankly it didn't matter. However, to keep enough of the party faithful in line to march off the cliff (which many did in 2010), the watered down Obamacare was neither a wholesale takeover or real market-based reform. Now, the choice Republicans have will be to oppose or defacto support Obamacare...and with Tea Partyers fired up, I don't see Republicans running as "moderates" in the 2014 primaries...at least on this issue.

2) People are PISSED OFF. Yup, forget the whole website nonsense, this is the calm before the storm. Although the individual marketplace offers a lot of heart wrenching and head shaking stories of premiums going up dramatically, deductibles going up, and coverage going down...the real storm hasn't even arrived. When COMPANIES and UNIONS start screwing with the coverage for their members and employees, well, Obama will retreat to golf course and never be seen again until January 20, 2017, when he rides off to the rubber chicken circuit. Congressmen better buff up their resumes, especially Democratic ones, because even though Obama managed to push this off until after 2014, it's gonna come back to bite them sooner or later...before 2016.

I mean there isn't enough lipstick in my local Walmart to hide this pig...no matter what nonsense spews from the word processors of liberals saying..."Well of course you lost your old insurance coverage..it wasn't GOOD ENOUGH for you." I mean really, I'm sure a lot of 20-something men want to pay 100% more than their old plan for pre-natal care and sex change operations.

Even some liberal Obama lovers are figuring out that HEY, Obamacare isn't free healthcare--morons, you gotta pay for it. Which warms my little schadenfreude heart.

AND of course, there are the lies, lies, lies that have been told and will now live on YouTube forever...and we haven't even gotten warmed up about those either. In addition to losing your old insurance plan, wait until folks lose their doctors, hospitals and other providers that either won't be in the NEW superwhamadyne Obamacare-approved plan or just say "Screw this" and leave the medical profession altogether. THAT will be interesting to watch.

Of course, ideology aside, what will most concern those pesky, wishy-washy "independent" voters is a basic question of competence. After all, if the mighty and benevolent FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can't even get a website running after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, what else are they screwing up?

Yes, this is a teachable moment...if only the right person was able to start the discussion.

Liberals have been running around spewing their usual nonsense about how those evil, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, puppy eating tea baggers want to DESTROY THE GOVERNMENT and turn America into, oh, I don't know Chicago? Detroit?

No, most people realize that government is needed, but here's three questions ALL Americans should ask themselves...and most importantly, questions our elected knuckleheads should be asking:

1. What do we, the American people think government should do? This applies to Federal, State and Local government. What functions are specifically outlined in the Constitution? A pesky question, but one that should be asked...even Obama hasn't done away with it yet...even though he mostly ignores it when it suits his purposes.

2. Of those functions, which are best done where? I.E.,should the Federal government be dabbling in education, agriculture, commerce or is that best done at the state or local level?

3. WHAT are we, the American people, willing to PAY for those things?
These are not inconsequential questions...in spite of the lunacy of the progressive left that thinks government programs create jobs or increase the economy, every dollar spent by government at ANY level comes from citizen's pockets...and I am willing to bet any WORKING American will tell you they could spend that $ for their family if the taxman wasn't taking it. Taxes are money removed from private hands and placed in government hands...period...no wealth is created, except for politicians and lobbyists, and no lasting value is created.

NOW, there are exceptions of course. Roads, bridges, etc do provide a positive gain and are massive projects that can really only be done by government, so that's fine, let's have that discussion.

But, what about everything else? I find it more than a little disturbing when Democrats, particularly the LOONEY LOONEY left say that ANY CUT WHATSOVER to government spending is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, except for defense spending of course...and even that isn't really cut, they just want to switch it over to food stamps, Head Start, etc.

I find it absurd that absolutely NO social program can ever be touched. This is why, although it has sucked for everyone, I think sequestration has been such a success and is currently driving the left insane...it cuts everything...not very thoughtfully to be sure, but it has at least put some real brakes on Obama and his endless credit card.

More on that later....that's my little historical analogy today. I agree with the pundits who say the Republicans should just sit back and watch Obamacare come unglued...then they can step in with some MAJOR changes and offer to fix things...and this time they will be in the drivers set, especially if they keep the House and/or pick up the Senate in 2014. Obama is gonna finally start thinking about his legacy soon (snort) and although he doesn't give two cents about what happens to his fellow Democrats, he will care if his "SIGNATURE" LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT" becomes the equivalent of the progressive Edsel...or worse (or better) begins to call into question the entire notion of the Federal government having so much accumulated power over every aspect of the American economy and citizens.

Could Obamacare be the Pearl Harbor that awakens the American people to what progressive, creeping socialism and statism has done?  Do we have the courage to demand our politicians ROLL BACK the endless regulations and command economy?

Time will tell.....now back to our regularly scheduled book reviews and strategy discussions.