Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bad, but Better than the Alternatives.

A New Push to Roll Back ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

From time immemorial until 1992, the U.S. policy regarding homosexuals in the military amounted to "No way, no how."

Then, one of Clinton's first acts on becoming president was to change "No way, no how" to "Don't ask, don't tell."

As a practical matter, the former policy was a self-defeating exercise in wishful thinking. Mere policy wasn't going to stop homosexuals serving in the military, but that same policy, combined with an overall hostile climate, made gays blackmail security risks, which provided justification for keeping the policy that was the cause of the security problem.

A statutory self-licking ice cream cone, if you will.

"Don't ask, don't tell", a significant climb down from Clinton's goal of eliminating all restrictions on gays in the military, did have the benefits of at least nodding in the direction of reality, thereby removing both the reality and impression of gays as security risks.*

Now, fourteen years on, no small number of general officers are calling for the complete elimination of all barriers to gays serving in the military.
We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” the letter says. “Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish."
Most prominently, Gen Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially opposed to DADT, has changed his mind:
“I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces,” General Shalikashvili wrote. “Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”
Well, maybe.

There are a great many people more qualified to claim that openly serving gays would not undermine unit cohesion: squad, platoon, company, and brigade commanders, for instance. General officers are probably 10 years removed from that environment, and are notoriously likely to get told what they want to hear.

More questionable, though, is the second half of that quote: the good General is, whether he knows it or not, claiming that personnel gains resulting from openly serving gays will outweigh losses by those who, exercising that right to believe whatever they wish, decline to serve in the face of open homosexuality.

If there is a devotional backbone in the US military, conservative Christians form it. No matter how fundamentally mistaken one might believe Biblical injunction against homosexuality to be, it is nonetheless there. It seems a real stretch to assume that further opening the doors to 3% of the US population will outweigh the likely impact on unit cohesion and retention by poking at least 25% of those currently serving.

Any moral equivalence between this and desegregating the armed forces is to give silliness a bear hug. There are no behavioral differences between blacks and whites; skin color signifies nothing with respect to the conformity military service requires.

When the notion that homosexuality is innate, and in no way a moral choice, has so pervaded society that conservative Christians accept it as a matter of course, that will be the time to remove a policy no one any longer cares about.

Until then, just like attempting to impose gay marriage via judicial fiat, it is a bridge too far, way too soon.

(Note: If one wanted a case study for a journalism class of unbalanced reporting, this could easily be Exhibit A.)

____________________________________________

* It did have the perverse effect of providing those whose desire for a "free" medical degree exceeded their integrity to make it all the way through med school before "discovering" they were "gay", after all. Instant discharge, no bill.

33 Comments:

Blogger Bret said...

Well, I can't say that I would've used the phrases "self-licking" and "poking" in such a post, but it does seem hard to believe that allowing gays would help recruiting. Other moral arguments could possibly be made (but not by me).

December 02, 2007 10:41 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Hoist on your own petard, aren't you? Boy, if I were gay and read this, I'd be terrified that someday they really will find that elusive gay gene.

No matter how fundamentally mistaken one might believe Biblical injunction against homosexuality to be, it is nonetheless there.

No, it isn't. Homosexuality, as a condition or proclivity, is not only not condemned, it is only in modern times that it has come to be seen as "innate" and genetically based. Gays have long served valiantly in the military and have always been well-represented in the artistic community, the priesthood and other vocations outside marriage. Your confusion stems from your blithe Freudian assumption that sexual procilivities inevitably will and should be acted upon, and that it is or should be somehow oppressive and illegitimate to try and compel their restraint. That, not attitudes to gayness, is what separates you from the religious perspective, and I am astounded you would throw the entire gay population to the wolves in deference to views you think are barbaric and discriminatory. Are you saying we should all march in Gay Pride Day to show solidarity but then tell them that, sorry, they are two generations away from qualifying for the army?

Have you completely forgotten that for years (beginning with 19th century scientific theories) it was widely assumed by the intellectual community that there were indeed major behavioural differences between blacks and whites that were genetically-based, and therefore could not be overcome, that would have serious negative consequences in an integrated military? Why do you think the Nazis took a strict racial (as opposed to religious) approach to the definition of Jews, an approach that would have been incomprehensible in pre-modern times? It is because they defined Judaism as "genetic' and therefore programmed to result in certain behaviours regardless of what one actually believed. And they thought that definition was as modern, enlightened and rational as you do.

I'll bet all those "fundamentalist" Christians that form the "backbone" of the military (we do have our uses, don't we?) aren't too fussy about those ships coming back to port with a contingent of pregnant sailors, either. So, shall we make a few rules based on human nature in order to provide for a military open to all Americans, or decide that women are genetically programmed and constitutionnally entitled to rut like rabbits and ban them so as not to distract those brave but crazy Christians?

December 03, 2007 3:28 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not 'beginning with 19th c. scientific theories.'

That, at least, is something that historians and literary types can trace. The idea of a 'mudsill race' predates Darwin and is wholly religious.

Repeating and repeating that it was Darwin's fault cannot make it so.

December 03, 2007 8:00 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

No, it isn't. Homosexuality, as a condition or proclivity, is not only not condemned, it is only in modern times that it has come to be seen as "innate" and genetically based.

I would have thought the context of this story -- eliminating the ban on expressed homosexuality in the military -- would have been clue enough that my reference was to the Biblical insistence upon capital punishment for men actively expressing their homosexuality.

There are a great many things about which modernity has changed our view: disease, weather and earthquakes are but a few.

Your confusion stems from your blithe Freudian assumption that sexual procilivities inevitably will and should be acted upon, and that it is or should be somehow oppressive and illegitimate to try and compel their restraint.

No confusion at all. Your position -- without any justification other than a book written by nomadic tribesman scarcely two time zones removed from the stone age -- is that it is completely legitimate to condemn expressed homosexuality regardless of context. That is the religious perspective.

What is worse, the religious perspective is astonishingly selective. There is no end of divine prohibitions you religious moderns either completely ignore, or creatively re-interpret into non-existence.

Yet not this one.

I am astounded you would throw the entire gay population to the wolves in deference to views you think are barbaric and discriminatory. Are you saying we should all march in Gay Pride Day to show solidarity but then tell them that, sorry, they are two generations away from qualifying for the army?

It is called reality. Yes, I clearly think the religious attitude -- that homosexual acts are divinely condemned regardless of context -- is completely unsupportable, barbaric, and immoral.

However, I have no reason to believe the general officers' assessment (and the New York Times gushing portrayal) stands up to anything like critical scrutiny. Unlike American society, the military is extremely conformist, completely disregards freedom of association.

So, it doesn't matter if what I think of the religious attitude is true. IMHO, a significant portion of the military simply does not see it that way. The cost to national security of eliminating DADT far exceeds any putative benefit.

Have you completely forgotten that for years (beginning with 19th century scientific theories) it was widely assumed by the intellectual community that there were indeed major behavioural differences between blacks and whites that were genetically-based, and therefore could not be overcome, that would have serious negative consequences in an integrated military?

What Harry said. (You have heard of Ham, have you not? Mormonism, which predates Darwin, certainly has.)

Had the military attempted full integration before WWII, it would have been a bridge too far, way too soon. WWII proved blacks' ability, thereby helping to bury mistaken notions about their inferiority.

Would that mistaken religious notions be shown the door so quickly.

Why do you think the Nazis took a strict racial (as opposed to religious) approach to the definition of Jews, an approach that would have been incomprehensible in pre-modern times?

Perhaps you could enlighten me as to how Jews themselves define Jewishness.

Or how the Catholic church forbade Jews to intermarry.

I'll bet all those "fundamentalist" Christians that form the "backbone" of the military aren't too fussy about those ships coming back to port with a contingent of pregnant sailors, either.

You bet wrong. Including women in the military has added all kinds of unnecessary problems.

However, the payoff has been a huge increase in potential recruits. There is no such payoff here.

December 03, 2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I am staying far away from the homosexual part of the thread, but Skipper said a mouthful about the heterosexual issues of military recruitment/leadership.

My youngest, whose husband was a Navy sailor until invalided out recently, has a fund of stories about how the boys and girls actually behave.

Reality check. If you're going to learn anything about an army, you gotta ask the privates.

December 04, 2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hey Harry,

Was that you that was quoted (as a reader) by Instapundit? If so congrats, you're somebody now!

December 04, 2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Regarding women in combat, Volokh Conspiracy has two posts in a series, hosted by the author of a recent book on the subject.

He seems not to be impressed.

December 04, 2007 3:35 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

If you're going to learn anything about an army, you gotta ask the privates.

I guess that's why God made sergeants, eh Harry?

December 04, 2007 5:08 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Yeah, that was me. Considerably less than 15 minutes of fame or notoriety.

Sergeants are good, too, Peter, but if privates aren't with the program, nothing else matters.

I never liked the all-volunteer army idea, for many reasons.

One was that the floor became a ceiling.

Another was that volunteer privates don't bitch enough. David Hackworth said he loved draftees because they didn't give a shit about the army and would say what they thought.

A little more of that in all ranks might have saved us from many stupid mistakes in Iraq.

December 04, 2007 8:31 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

How many years did you serve, Harry?

December 04, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

How do female pilots (both military and civilian) compare to male ones?

December 05, 2007 3:01 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Quite right, Harry. The free world won't be safe and the global policeman won't be able to secure our freedom unless you have a conscript military full of bitching privates who don't give a %^&* about the army and say exactly what they think.

December 05, 2007 6:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Truer than you think, Peter, but I am more concerned about the size of the army.

It needs to be much bigger, but it looks as if a volunteer army cannot be much bigger than the one we have, unless we engineer a depression. In that case, we would not be able to afford the bigger one.

Even Romney, the only candidate as far as I know to call for a bigger army, is talking about an extra 100,000, nowhere near enough to make the difference that needs to be made.

December 05, 2007 8:32 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Ali:

How do female pilots (both military and civilian) compare to male ones?

Based upon my three years experience as second in command, and commanding, two pilot training squadrons, I draw these comparisons:

- The overall attrition rate for male and female student pilots is essentially identical

- Roughly 3/4 of the female students finish in the bottom half of their classes (rank ordered by maneuver grades, check ride results, and academics).

- The biggest reason for that difference is formation flying. Hanging in fingertip (translation: darn, but not Thunderbird, close) position during maneuvering up to 120 degrees of bank, +/- 40 degrees of pitch and zero to four Gs was more fun than most female students wanted to have. Their idea of being in position was more akin to "same way, same day". Fortunately, pilot training specializes after the primary phase, so those students who don't belong in fighters go to the T-1 and end up flying mobility (eg C-17) and power projection (eg KC-10) aircraft.

- Nearly all female students who finish high enough in the class standings to choose the T-38 (fighter) track declined to do so. Roughly 70% of men who finish well enough choose fighters. The comparable female rate is less than 10%.

- From a Navy commanders conference presentation, I learned that female pilot candidates do not do as well on aptitude tests. (I also learned -- to my surprise -- these tests are highly predictive of performance in training.)

- At first (late 70s), the AF applied its training standards rather flexibly to female students, until that flexibility killed a student (sometime in 1979 - 1980). Since then, the AF has put PC nonsense behind it. Consequently, gender has not been an issue. DACOWITS tried to make it one when they decided not nearly enough women students were going to fighters (some IPs in my squadron were on the verge of being called to testify); fortunately, having, and adhering to, rigorous and well thought out course training standards put paid to that foolishness.

- The Navy was very late to incorporate a maneuver item file with performance requirements (hat tip: me). See, for example, Laura Hultgren.

As a bottom line kind of judgment, I believe both AF and Navy pilot training applies standards even-handedly (the training failure rates following primary are very, very low), and that all female pilots are as capable of accomplishing their units' missions as are the male pilots. With,however, a few caveats:

- I doubt female F-15 / 16 / 18 pilots could sustain three missions per day of hard combat flying (i.e., with any significant amount of high-g maneuvering). However, their is no near or medium term competitor to force that upon us.

- Pregnancy. So long as women remain a fairly small proportion of the pilot force (there is no prospect of this changing; despite fully open doors and plenty of recruiting, IIRC something less than 6% of new student pilots are female), then the extended down time accompanying pregnancies won't be sufficient to affect the unit's ability to accomplish the mission.

I have yet to fly with a female pilot in the civilian part of my career. In the late 90s, United, in particular, did a lot of quota hiring (i.e., significantly dropped qualification requirements for members of officially aggrieved groups). They paid big time, proving once again that affirmative action only works where the results don't matter.



Harry:

I completely disagree with your comments regarding the AVF. My experience with Army privates is limited (three weeks as a planeload commander during Airborne training). Their bitching ability was not the least impaired.

A little more of that in all ranks might have saved us from many stupid mistakes in Iraq.

The funny thing about combat is its ability to wildly magnify even the most innocuous seeming mistakes. Did we make mistakes in Iraq? Sure. Afghanistan and Desert Storm, too -- although you neglect both those conflicts manned entirely by volunteers.

Compare Iraq to all other wars in which the US has been involved, and I'll bet the presence and impact of mistakes is less -- far less -- than any of them.

In other words, both your premise and consequence are wrong.

an extra 100,000, nowhere near enough to make the difference that needs to be made.

Also wrong. Not only for logistical reasons, but also in terms of strategy and anything like long term thinking.

Just yesterday, the Marines announced they were cutting their buy of mine and ambush resistant vehicles by 25%.

Why?

Because the surge is working.

For a reason that would be sheer genius in the off chance that anyone actually thought of them in advance, rather than stumbling upon them after the fact.

What reason?

The best way to defeat an insurgency is to give it what it asks.

December 06, 2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger David said...

I don't have anything useful to say about DA/DT and am perfectly willing to defer to those with actual experience.

But that does tell use something about where anti-gay bias falls in our scale of social acceptability, along with gender bias and age bias. I would never acquiesce in racial discrimination because of the negative reaction of those who want to discriminate.

December 06, 2007 4:08 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

But that does tell use something about where anti-gay bias falls in our scale of social acceptability, along with gender bias and age bias.

Yes, it does. Viewing expressed homosexuality as a objectively evil makes it distinctly different than the other biases you list.

Similarly, but to a lesser degree, with regard to religious belief, DA/DT applies to non-theists. No one is out making a list and checking it twice regarding who is passing through the doors of the base chapel.

However, leaving a copy of "God is Not Great" on one's desk would not be a good career move. Depending upon the proclivities of your commander, it could be a career killer.

Is and ought are two different things.

No matter what I, Generals, or the NYT (which threw even its minimal standards for balanced reporting into a ditch on this story) might think.

December 06, 2007 6:06 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

skipper, color me unimpressed by our ability to beat an Arab army.

I was talking about strategic leadership.

For example, every competent general knew Shinseki was right and Rumsfeld was wrong. Who spoke up?

By going in without adequate force, in a country that turned out to have hundreds if not thousands of open ammo dumps, we allowed the first phase of the insurgency to arm itself at zero cost.

If we'd secured the battlefield, they'd have had no arms and maybe the insurgency would have died of inanition.

We didn't need first-line assault divisions to do that. Fortress troops would have sufficed, but our military is so fixated on bang-for-the-buck (which is why Bush I had to borrow infantry to fight Gulf War I) that no one would even consider an army with second-line divisions.

I don't think we've had any really strategic thinkers in a uniform since Marshall and Spruance retired.

December 06, 2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

For example, every competent general knew Shinseki was right and Rumsfeld was wrong.

About what?

Rumsfeld was definitely correct about the size of the force required to end Hussein's regime.

If (full disclosure here: I don't know) Shinseki was arguing about the size of the post-invasion force, and their employment -- i.e., controlling the Iraqi army's ammo dumps -- then, by all means, he wins the prize.

Less than that, and he starts looking correct more in the rear view mirror than at the time.

The shortcoming, to the extent there was one, appears to be a lack of post-invasion planning. I am willing to grant that is true. However, this is where human inadequacies come in.

The Taliban were ejected before we invaded Iraq, and post-Taliban Afghanistan, while certainly no paradise, is probably doing about as well as could be expected, considering its recent history. Consequently, occupation planning in Iraq may have been lulled into a false sense of security.

Or the faith motivated in the White House, like a blogger well known to most of us, simply could not conceive that throwing "Abrahamic" in front of "religion" is not proof against nihilistic sectarian slaughter.

Or, the military was so target fixated by the specter of the invasion itself that no one gave sufficient thought to the aftermath.

Or, the logistics behind an additional 100,000 troops was so prohibitive that it was simply a non-starter.

Or, some brilliant Machiavellian strategist with a capacity for monumental short term cynicism, combined with crystal clear long term vision, decided to subject the inevitable Islamist post-invasion reaction to some judo. It may turn out that the best way to defeat an insurgency (or at least one motivated by universalist monotheism) is to allow it some measure of intermittent success. It may well turn out that the events since the surge are the best possible outcome, and one that Shinseki's desired force level might well have prevented.

As an explanation for our post-invasion experience, I am in favor of some weighted combination of the first four. The latter explanation, even if it turns out to be true, is almost certain to be something we stumbled onto blindly.

Who spoke up?

Let me tell you a little AVF Pentagon story. During my tenure there, I was responsible for a program driven by a country - country agreement at the SecState level. Money to support that agreement was added to the Air Force's top line.

However, during the budgeting process, the AF attempted to zero fund some line items for that program.

At those meetings, I told the generals that things would go very badly for the AF should they agree to strike those items. (Several years previously the same thing had happened. The SecDef sent a very public and scathing letter to the SecAF)

They ignored me.

Wanting to avoid a repeat, I told my contact on the SecDef staff what was getting ready to happen.

Two days later, a draft letter from the SecDef found its way to the SecAF's desk.

Being a mere LtCol, in a meeting in another country, getting called out to take a personal call from a 3-star is no fun.

My response? "I told you what was going to happen. Would you rather it be now and under the radar, or later?"

The funding was restored.

Obviously, I have no clear idea what went on in the Pentagon, or how much the White House influenced the whole show. That said, there is simply no grounds for your assertion that reinstating the draft would restore some missing skepticism to planning and execution.

We didn't need first-line assault divisions to do that. Fortress troops would have sufficed, but our military is so fixated on bang-for-the-buck (which is why Bush I had to borrow infantry to fight Gulf War I)

You are completely ignoring whether anyone properly conceived how murderous the Shia - Sunni divide was. Had the Iraqis been more interested in building a civil society than slaughtering each other, we would have retired to isolated outposts, and might well have been gone by now in total, or at least in large part.

The MAL nearly always removes any moral responsibility from Iraqis themselves. Your criticism risks doing the same.

December 07, 2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Even if I grant you all that (and I'm not sure I want to), isn't it kind of a bad thing in an electoral democracy to:

1) not explain to the electorate that you're planning to get their boys blown up?

2) embark on a campaign that, if it works out as well as and in the way you hoped it would, is going to get well over half the country convinced you don't know what you're doing?

The Nye hearings were a sham and a shame, but the military suffered for them all the same. A lot of good American boys ended up dying because of the antimilitarism that we are now seeing reborn, for much the same reasons.

It's one thing not to know the other guy's history. At least we ought to know our own.

December 07, 2007 7:47 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

Yes, it would.

I think there is a fair chance things will work out that way.

And none that it was designed.

That well over half of Americans are convinced the Administration doesn't know what it is doing speaks more of the near-traitorous conduct the MSM and MAL than performance with respect to anything like rational expectations.

In any event, the draft is no solution.

December 07, 2007 10:45 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Good thread.

From my military experience, though 25 years in the rearview mirror may make it obsolete by now, anti-gay bias was not so much a religious thing as it was a macho male thing. I'm not sure that we can ascribe its persistence to religion so much as to human nature. Young men who are not gay generally do not want to be living in close intimate proximity with men they feel may come on to them. Other than that fear, it is a cultural and image thing. Many young men choose the military because it is the most macho profession they can qualify for, and they don't want the macho credentials of their profession watered down by gays. The bonding rituals for young Marines, outside of active duty, seemed to gravitate primarily around lewd, pornographic tales of feminine conquest, coupled with binge drinking. Its a cultural thing.

The AVF is primarily a solution to a political problem. Vietnam demonstrated the political cost of an unpopular war fought with conscripts. If the Iraq war had been fought with conscripts, then Bush would have been voted out in 2004. You didn't see massive Vietnam style protests on college campuses during the Iraq war because none of the college age men had to fear being drafted into it.

But the era of cannon fodder strategy is over. The draft enabled human wave tactics by providing generals with a steady stream of replacements for soldiers killed in useless charges against fixed defenses. When the flow of replacements is restricted, generals have to get creative, and they have. More importantly, the creativity is pushed down the chain of command.

December 08, 2007 2:46 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not so many fixed positions to charge now, but that's not the issue.

In battles between forces evenly matched technologically, it almost always comes down to attrition and bigger battalions.

As we have been told endlessly, the current situation is asymmetrical. So it is.

What is crazy is that we have voluntarily abandoned our force multipliers and given the weaker side an advantage. I don't see that as creative.

December 08, 2007 3:06 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,
I think you're misusing the term "force multiplier". A force multiplier is some technology or tactic that increases the capability of the existing manpower. Adding more manpower is not a force multiplier, since you're not multiplying the capability of the average soldier. Think of it as worker productivity. Adding more workers doesn't increase productivity.

And increasing productivity of existing workers, or soldiers, does require creativity. Adding more workers or soldiers doesn't.

December 09, 2007 8:31 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

I kinda get the feeling that when Harry says "force multipliers", what he means is ucularnay eaponsway.

December 09, 2007 11:43 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I'm not confusing two things, I am identifying two (out of many) different problems.

Back in the draft days, the US had a policy of keeping a big enough army to fight two and a half wars.

Now we're down to a capacity of one -- just barely, if the opponent is very formidable.

Should it come to, say, feeling a necessity to chastise Iran, a bigger army than we have now is the only way to arrange that, short of nukes.

Nukes were adopted to replace infantry, but it works the other way as well.

Artillery makes good force multipliers. But when you put important targets, like mosques, off limits, you're spiking your own guns.

Blockades make excellent force multipliers.

We're not fighting this war seriously. So we're going to lose it.

December 09, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Harry, you don't need more infantry to level mosques. You just point out which ones you want dropped, and the U.S. Air Force will drop them for you, free of charge. The notion that we don't have enough brute force available is just a very strange one coming from you, who I would expect to be conversant with how much stuff one squadron of F-16s can blow up in a normal, liesurely, hundred-sortie week. But that same half of the country that you blame Bush for losing hold of, would be just tickled pink by what you want to try. Duck is right, the constraints are political.

December 09, 2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You're still conflating different problems.

After you blow up the [mosque], you still have to control the ground. That takes soldiers, or gendarmes. Guys on foot.

In 1922, the RAF bombed tents full of women and children, and that sufficed because the English made it clear to the sheikhs that they were prepared to do that over and over, and the sheikhs had no weapons effective at more than arms' length.

The situation is rather more complicated today, and I don't see the USA credibly threatening to kill women and children continuously as a matter of national policy.

We need way more infantry, and we need to loosen up the rules of engagement for the infantry (and other arms) that we already have.

Oh, yeah, and we need to accurately identify who our enemies are.

There are numerous other problems with our grand strategy, theater strategy, tactics, munitions procurement and recruitment. The performance of the military/political leadership is the worst it's been since 1898.

December 09, 2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I find this in Max Hastings' 'Armageddon':

'Exceptional professional skills coupled with absolute ruthlessness rendered many German -- and Russian -- generals repugnant human beings but formidable warriors. The democracies recruited their generals from societies in which military achievement was deemed a doubtful boon, if not an embarrassment. The American and British armies in the Second World War paid a high price for the privilege of the profoundly anti-militaristic ethos of their nations.'

This resonates with me, perhaps because I come from a part of the country that is pro-military and from a family that went to war in almost every generation.

At any rate, the ruthlessness of the American commanders in the Pacific paid dividends, and they were not (except MacArthur) notably repugnant human beings.

I propose, for starters, declaring that the rules of engagement that were in effect during World War II were just fine and we're going to use tnem again, and if HRW and the other crybabies don't like it, we have internment camps set up for them for the duration while the real people get on with business.

I have earlier suggested that disseminating posters through the Muslim lands of Monte Cassino in late 1944 might enlighten them. And us.

December 09, 2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

"The American and British armies in the Second World War paid a high price for the privilege of the profoundly anti-militaristic ethos of their nations."

Well, not as high a price as the intensely pro-military societies of Germany and Japan.

I don't think large-scale, long-term occupation of Muslim countries is something the US is keen on, so I doubt there any moves to boost infantry numbers. The state of the economy being what it is, they'd probably only get them by dramatically lowering entrance standards and recruiting newly arrived Mexicans.

December 10, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I agree with Ali.

I just don't see any conflict -- with one exception -- anywhere that can force us to do anything we don't want to do, or when we don't want to do it.

All societies are essentially three legged stools supported by economics, civil society, and military power.

The economic and civil legs are going to drive the outcome with respect to Islamism; the military leg will mostly reinforce the lesson of the other two.

In essence, our grand strategy is not, primarily, military. For that reason, if no other (and there are plenty others), I am strongly against reinstating the draft.

The one remaining potential conflict is China attempting to retake Taiwan by force.

Presuming we declined to acquiesce to that, our means of resistance would be primarily providing air supremacy over Taiwan, and using submarines to close the strait.

No need for a draft there, either.

December 10, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

No more than we desired to occupy Japan in 1940, but we're still occupying it.

We cannot afford a big army, any more than we could in 1953, because we have plenty of jobs at home that need filling. That circumstance will only increase over the next few years.

And yet . . .

Skipper thinks we can control what happens. I think that is the fundamental mistake of bad strategy: imagining that all you have to prepare for is what you think your opponent will try to do.

Good strategy says, be prepared to deal with whatever your opponent is capable of doing.

It is my belief that a faction of Muslims are intent on poking the lion with a stick again and again, because they believe the lion is a coward.

That might be a miscalculation.

People who might become bystanders when the lion bites might be well advised to disarm the man with the stick, and are better placed to do so than we Americans are. They seem oblivious to their dilemma.

Hastings comments that the Americans seemed not to fight the Germans with the visceral hatred that they did the Japanese. No kiddin'.

It is my belief that if, on Sept. 12, 2001, the American public could have felt it had identified a coherent actor to retaliate against, it would have obliterated it.

Next time, and there will be a next time, no time will be wasted on thoughtful distinctions.

I have said before, but it bears repeating: Only crazy people provoke a Great Satan while simultaneously confiding in GS's humanity and restraint.

By our insane ROE and other appeasement policies, we have only reinforced the delusion that America is not dangerous.

December 10, 2007 11:25 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

No, I don't think we can control what happens. I just don't think there is anything even remotely conceivable that would force us to commit a large number of troops.

There is no Fulda Gap problem anymore, and whatever the Norks get up to, in even their wildest dreams, comes nowhere close to suggesting we alter our force structure.

You say our force structure is capable of fighting only one MRC, and just barely that if the opponent is very formidable.

Who is that opponent?

What is the guaranteed cost of being able to fight 2 MRCs? What are the odds we will actually have to fight two MRCs? Specifics, please.

Should it come to, say, feeling a necessity to chastise Iran, a bigger army than we have now is the only way to arrange that, short of nukes.

Now you have me mystified. The last time I checked, the Iran and Iraq armies fought each other to a trench-warfare stalemate. We subsequently knocked the Iraqi army out of the ballpark with far less trouble than almost anyone expected.

Further, we need not engage Iran's army to chastise Iran; in fact, if there was a less effective means to that end, I certainly can't imagine it. Unless, that is, you can provide a rationale for controlling the ground.

Good strategy says, be prepared to deal with whatever your opponent is capable of doing.

That isn't strategy, that is a goal.

I have no doubt there are still Muslims intent on poking the lion; however, since March 2003 they can no longer, unless they have super best religious delusions, believe the lion is a coward (something the anti-war left is completely unable to take on board as a, if not the, major justification for the war; Somalia was a gift that wasn't going to stop giving, otherwise).

They can make headlines, but they can't do any significant damage.

Unless, that is, they get hold of a nuclear weapon, and torch it off in some Western city.

Then all bets are off.

But we won't be fighting that one with boots on the ground.

December 13, 2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

First, we need the extra infantry now, in Iraq, have done since 2003.

Second, we need more infantry in Afghanistan.

Third, I can easily imagine our wanting to occupy Fars province.

Fourth, I can easily imagine our wanting to send a column, with secured flanks, deep into Pakistan, besides a base force to cover the port(s).

Fifth, it is not true that Muslims since 2003 think we are not toothless. Listen to them. Our RoE have reinforced their every delusion about our willingness to engage in asymmetrical warfare. We still have not hanged even one imam.

As for all bets being off, that should have occurred many years ago.

First, ID your enemy. Second, try to gauge what he can do. Third, counter it.

We have not even gotten to step one.

December 17, 2007 3:32 PM  

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