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May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 30, 2010

Afghanistan Briefing - 26 May 2010 - Connecting the Population to the Government

This briefing is by British Army Major General Nick Carter. Maj. Gen. Carter is the commanding general of Regional Command-South of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Carter assumed his current duties in November of last year. Last Wednesday he spoke via satellite fromhis headquarters in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, with reporters at the Pentagon.

This and other videos can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

In Afghanistan we are fighting insurgents who use terror as a tactic. Therefore, we should use a counterinsurgency strategy, not counterterror. Raiding and relying on Predator drones is counterterror. While these tactics certainly have a role, by themselves they are a recipe for defeat. The basis of counterinsurgency is protecting the population from the insurgents, not chasing the latter around the countryside. In this briefing Major General Carter discusses elements of the counterinsurgency strategy we are using. I have boldfaced those parts which are the most instructive.

From his opening remarks:

GEN. CARTER: What I thought I'd do for you this evening in Afghanistan -- this morning in Washington, if you like -- is to give you a sense of where we've got to on Operation Moshtarak. When I last spoke to you about it, it was about a week after we had done the launching of the clear phase of the operation. And we now find ourselves at about D-plus-102, so some three months into that phase. ...

Now, the operations that we mounted starting on the 13th of February were designed to reassert Afghan government authority and control over much of central Helmand. They were focused principally on the district of Nad e Ali, where around 100,000 people live; on the district of Marja; and the area of Kariz e Saydi and Badula Qulp, just to the northeast of Marja on that battlefield geometry diagram. And in that area, around 80,000 people live. So we're focused on between 180,000 and 200,000 people.

Now, since the operation was mounted, things have moved on. And in Marja, we find ourselves now in a position where we have a security presence throughout Marja. We have, entirely as we planned to do, conducted a relief of place with the original Afghan National Army troops that did the operation, and replaced them with new Afghan National Army kandaks in full partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps who are based there.
...

You'll find around eight of the 15 schools are open, with teachers. You'll find all the bazaars are functioning. And you'll find a good deal of cash-for-work projects going on under some of the USAID projects, under ASI. And you'll find that the USAID AVIPA Plus projects -- that's the agriculture voucher program -- is working well.

What you'll also find, which is important, is the district governor, one Haji Zahir, who's becoming increasingly assertive and is outreaching to the population, trying to connect himself and therefore the Afghan government to the population. And that's all very positive.

That said, we are not that -- not yet where we need to be. It's very important that Haji Zahir's community council, his shura, becomes genuinely representative of all of the people in Marja. And at the moment, that is not the case.
...

What is also striking -- remember I said we're focusing on central Helmand, of 600,000 people -- is that we now have freedom of movement throughout central Helmand. Again, before the 12th of February, it wasn't possible for Governor Mangal, the provincial governor, to travel from Lashkar Gar to Nad e Ali or to Marja or to Nawa. He can now do that on his own, with his own security detail. Before the 11th of February, he'd have had to have done it in a helicopter to go to Nad e Ali or Nawa, and he couldn't have gone anywhere near Marja at all. Indeed, we didn't even fly helicopters over Marja ourselves.
...

So we're making progress. But in counterinsurgency, it takes time, it takes patience, and it's frustrating. And that is what we see at the moment. But nonetheless, we're going in the right direction.
...

And whilst that is partly a security problem, it's a problem that is political. It's involving impunity and the culture of impunity that has grown up, during the last eight years. And it's also about delivering the sort of stabilization and reconstruction projects which go to the heart of removing the causes of the insurgency.

Now, how do we get to that point? It's about connecting the population to the people, to the government. And that requires building representative governance from the bottom up.
...


Now, clearly, what is needed is for the governor's capacity to increase and for the governor to become connected to his population -- and that is what is happening at the moment

On to the Q & A

The following is based on this McClatchy News article

McChrystal calls Marjah a 'bleeding ulcer' in Afghan campaign
May 24, 2010
by Dion Nissenbaum

MARJAH, Afghanistan -- Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, sat gazing at maps of Marjah as a Marine battalion commander asked him for more time to oust Taliban fighters from a longtime stronghold in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"You've got to be patient," Lt. Col. Brian Christmas told McChrystal. "We've only been here 90 days."

"How many days do you think we have before we run out of support by the international community?" McChrystal replied.

A charged silence settled in the stuffy, crowded chapel tent at the Marine base in the Marjah district.

"I can't tell you, sir," the tall, towheaded, Fort Bragg, N.C., native finally answered.

"I'm telling you," McChrystal said. "We don't have as many days as we'd like."

The operation in Marjah is supposed to be the first blow in a decisive campaign to oust the Taliban from their spiritual homeland in adjacent Kandahar province, one that McChrystal had hoped would bring security and stability to Marjah and begin to convey an "irreversible sense of momentum" in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Instead, a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Barack Obama's plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war.

There aren't enough U.S. and Afghan forces to provide the security that's needed to win the loyalty of wary locals. The Taliban have beheaded Afghans who cooperate with foreigners in a creeping intimidation campaign. The Afghan government hasn't dispatched enough local administrators or trained police to establish credible governance, and now the Taliban have begun their anticipated spring offensive.

"This is a bleeding ulcer right now," McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.

"You don't feel it here," he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, "but I'll tell you, it's a bleeding ulcer outside."

Throughout the day, McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he's under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress.
...

The article generated no small amount of controversy, with US military calling the headline "intellectually dishonest" and demanding that it be changed. See this story for more: McChrystal v. McClatchy

Q General, General McChrystal visited with your region a few days ago and was quoted as talking about the situation -- the public perception of the situation being a bleeding ulcer. He talked about challenging the assumptions on that.

What is your sense? Is it a bleeding ulcer right now? Can you overcome the perception in many quarters of the public that the strategy is not working? Did you tell General McChrystal any changes you'd like to see in the strategy, such as more troops?

GEN. CARTER: Yes. Last Thursday General McChrystal did come down to have a look at what was going on in central Helmand. And I think, importantly, he didn't just look at Marja; he looked at Nad e Ali and he looked at Lashkar Gar, and he looked at the context, as I set it out for you a few moments ago in terms of central Helmand. But of course, what he wanted to see was how all of central Helmand was evolving and how things were or were not improving for the 600,000 people that we're talking about.

And he asked, as you'd expect a professional commander to ask, some difficult questions about whether we were going as quickly as we can. And the answer is that, as the process we went through of all those difficult questions, we all concluded by the end of the day, that we were doing what was needed in the right way, that the strategy was appropriate and that it would deliver results.

But as I said in my opening remarks, we'll have to be patient during the course of the summer watching as the intimidation reduces and the population becomes more on side.

The point, of course, though, is that this is all about perception. And counterinsurgency is about an argument between the forces of the insurgent and the policies of the government. And what the population in central Helmand is doing at the moment is forming a view about whether it's better off with the government and whether it believes that its neighbors, which is often what the Taliban is in political terms, are also going to come across to the side of the government.

And that, I think, is the key point of this, is that it's a political movement, the Taliban. And the extent to which your neighbor is genuinely on side with the government is something that you don't necessarily know. And of course, like all political movements, it takes time for people to be convinced. So what is going on in central Helmand at the moment is people are being convinced.

Now, of course, when General McChrystal referred to Marja as a bleeding ulcer, he was talking about the perception of the outside world. And of course, in the same way that it's important that Afghan perceptions go in the right direction, it's important that the outside world also has the right perceptions. And I think his feeling was that some people in the outside world would regard Marja as being a bleeding ulcer. That's not the way he sees it in theater, nor, indeed, is that the way that the Afghans see it. It's very important, I think, that things are set properly in context.

"Bleeding ulcer." "Perception." "Patience." What do they mean?

The Viet Cong launched what has become known as the Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. Although the VC were defeated on the battlefield, suffering casualties to the point where they were no longer an effective fighting force for the rest of the war, the perception back home was that we were losing the war. The reason for this perception is that the Johnson Administration and military spokesmen had been telling Americans that the war was going well, and so the mere fact the offensive took place seemed by belay that assertion. The Tet Offensive was a tactical victory for the United States, but a strategic defeat.

Conservatives typically complain about this, saying that "we really won and it was the media that misrepresented the situation." This may be true, but it's also irrelevant. We must live with the world as it is, not how we want it to be. Perception is therefore important, and anyone who thinks we can win wars through military means alone without regard to the information-perception-media aspect is fooling only themselves. More, this is nothing new to history. Perception and public support, even in dictatorships, has always been vital. We must win the information war as well as the war on the ground.

Back to the Q & A. There were several questions about "connecting the people to the government," and MG Carter spent some time addressing the subject. We'll quote just this one:

Q General, Luis Martinez, with ABC News. If I could ask you about the operation, the upcoming operation in Kandahar, there's been much stress put on the fact that this is going to be much less of a military operation, and a holistic operation. How do you measure progress if -- you, being a military man -- how do you measure progress of this kind of operation as the months go on.

GEN. CARTER: Well, of course, that's always our challenge, because we have to -- we have to assess it, for two reasons. One, we have to measure progress, so that we know whether or not our strategy is going in the right direction and we can touch on the tiller as appropriate. And of course, the other reason that we have to measure progress is to demonstrate to the doubting Thomas sitting in the room with you that we're going in the right direction.

And that is where it becomes really challenging, because, as I tried to set out in my opening remarks, it's very difficult for you guys and girls to visualize what life is like for the average Afghan, and what it's been like for the last 30 years. So when I talk about freedom of movement and I talk about connecting to the government, and I talk about the range of stock on the shelves of a bazaar becoming more fulsome, and I talk about prices go down, and I talk about the ability for you to take your pomegranates from your orchard in the Arghandab and send them to a marketplace other than in Pakistan, those are things that are probably quite difficult for people to comprehend. But those, of course, are the criteria against which we will judge success, because that is what population-centric counterinsurgency is all about.

In traditional nation-state wars, the center of gravity is the enemy's government and/or armed forces, with more or less weight applied to one or the other depending on the circumstances. In an insurgency the center of gravity is the population. It is not, oddly, the insurgents. Chasing them around the countryside is not the path to success.

As has been said a kazillion times on this blog because it was proven in Iraq under generals Petraeus and Odierno, the path to success lies in three things

  1. Protecting the population
  2. Convincing the people that the countersinsurgents will win
  3. Convincing the people that it is in their best interests for the counterinsurgents will win.

Note that #3 is a cold calculation of self-interest, not some philosophical attachment to Jeffersonian democracy. While the latter would be nice, history shows it isn't going to happen and pushing that doesn't work anyway. As Gen. Carter implied, it's the economy, stupid. It's about being able to live your daily routine in a normal manner, about sending your kids to school, holding a job and being able to go the market and shop in relative safety. Achieve those things and the population will be on your side. The people do not have to like the counterinsurgents, they just have to think they're working for their self interest.

Whether all this works in Afghanistan remains to be see, but from what I can tell in this briefing Gen. Carter understands how to win.


Posted by Tom at 7:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2010

Obama's Foreign Policy Failures

Having perhaps the most naive president in U.S. history, Obama thought that if he apologized enough for past American actions, engaged our adversaries in dialogue, stuck by the internationalist agenda, and insulted our traditional allies, the world would bend to our will. The problem's we faced were due to American arrogance and cowboy Bush's unilateralism. Obama set out to right that wrong.

It hasn't worked. Victor Davis Hanson asks the relevant questions:

I do not think the word "reset" will be used much longer to characterize American foreign policy. Reset from what to what? After all, is Iran closer to getting a bomb or further away than it was a year and a half ago? Are terrorists more or less likely to attack and kill inside the United States? Is Syria now a more or a less helpful player in the Middle East? Is Israel safer or less safe, more or less a U.S. ally? Are Putin and Chávez now more helpful players on the world scene, in appreciation of Obama's olive branches? Does a North Korea or an Iran feel more or less emboldened to run risks in testing the status quo? Is China more or less provocative in the Pacific?

I think we know the answers to those questions.

Iran is closer to getting the bomb than ever. Just this month they struck a deal with Brazil on fuel storage, and the latter may even be working on it's own bomb. They can get away with this because both nations know full well they have nothing to fear from Obama. Obama's policy is to water down what UN sanctions there are.

We've had so many attempted terrorist attacks in and above the United States since Obama took over I can't even keep track. Some seem complacent because none succeeded. If they keep trying, one will.

Syria isn't helpful at all. They're still a conduit for arms to Hezbollah, and are hardly a constructive player in the so-called "peace process."

Obama insults Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the latter's recent visit to the White House, and all-in-all clearly doesn't care a whit for our ally's security.

Putin and Chávez work against us at every opportunity. Neither are cowed.

North Korea just sank a South Korean naval ship, so clearly they're not worried about Obama.

China hasn't slowed down their military buildup, and neither have they proven useful in taming North Korea.

Fortunately, as Hanson points out later in the piece, the American people aren't buying Obama's line any more. He and his party are going down in the polls. While anything can happen, with any luck we'll make enough inroads in Congress this year to stop more of Obama's legislation, and in 2012 make him a one-term president.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

General Petraeus Explains the Intellectual Origins of the Surge

Iraq is not much in the news these days, which must mean we're winning. Afghanistan is sometimes in the news, and there the going is decidedly tough.

On this blog I have examined in some detail the situation in Iraq before and during the surge of forces in Iraq. From 2007 on I covered every press briefing by a combat commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. I reviewed the all important U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, which was written by a team led by then-Lt Gen David Petraeus and released in December of 2006. It became the "bible" of the new strategy that made the surge of troops possible.

In October of 2008 Gen Petraus gave what I called a "how we did it" speech before the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, DC.

All this, however, mostly covered the surge of troops itself, and not the situation predating the surge. It was this time period, specifically ate 2005 through 2006, the General Petraeus covered in a speech on May 6 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC. Excerpts follow:

One recent AEI effort, of course, stands out in particular. In the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept for what came to be known as "the surge." Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additional troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rare think tank products that had a truly strategic impact. ...

At about the same time Team Kagan was authoring its study, President Bush's senior assistant on Iraq, Meghan O'Sullivan, called me at Fort Leavenworth. "What do you think is needed in Iraq?" she asked. "Everything you can get your hands on," I said. On reflection, it would have been a bit more impressive for me to say that, based on complex analysis, precisely five more brigades were required. It might have made my subsequent Senate confirmation hearings a bit easier, too!
...

Change starts, again, with getting the big ideas right. Developing the proper constructs is essential to having the right intellectual foundation for all that follows. And doing so typically requires an ability to think creatively and critically about complex challenges, constantly testing one's assumptions and often embracing new concepts.

In my experience, big ideas don't fall out of a tree and hit you on the head like Newton's apple. Rather, they start as seeds of little ideas that take root and grow. The growth takes place primarily in discussion--spirited, freewheeling, challenging discussion of the kind that Irving Kristol would have enjoyed.
...

Now, while getting the big ideas right is critical, simply developing them is not enough. The big ideas must also be communicated effectively throughout the organization. And this is the second step in the four-step process I described earlier.

Communication should flow in multiple directions to be effective. In the military, it involves communicating downward through leaders and units, upward through the chain of command, and outward through coalition partners, interagency elements, and the press. The most important of these directions is downward--communicating the big ideas throughout the breadth and depth of the organization, and then ensuring they're understood, operationalized, and, ideally, embraced by leaders at all levels.
...

Well, having gotten the big ideas right and having communicated them throughout the organization, the next responsibility of leaders in the process of change is to oversee their implementation. This meant spending time with those turning the big ideas into reality on the ground. And, in 2006 in the United States, it meant, in particular, overhauling the process of how we prepared our units for deployment.

Now, careful oversight should not be taken to imply micromanagement.
...

The final step of the change process is to capture and share lessons and best practices, to use them to refine the big ideas, and to then begin the process all over again.

Enabling this in 2006 was the fact that all of us in uniform had worked hard over the years to ensure that our services were "learning organizations." For example, we'd established lessons learned centers in our organizational structures, routinely conducted after action reviews in the wake of exercises and operations, and developed formal processes to capture and share best practices. These initiatives had long been hugely important to the long term effectiveness of our organizations. And they were--and continue to be--especially important in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, war requires constant learning and adaptation, and that is particularly true in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations. As the COIN Manual observed, the side that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails.
...

I can remember a time when members of our military did not always receive the support they deserved. Two generations ago, we were engaged in war in Southeast Asia. American men and women in uniform fought with skill and valor for the sake of the country they loved and took an oath to defend. Many of them bled, and more than 58,000 of them died. With every one of those casualties, a family and a community were heartbroken, mourning a loss that could never be recovered, whose grief could never fully be assuaged.

But those returning from Vietnam often were not treated as the heroes they were. Recalling that, those of us in the military today are thankful beyond words that the American people seem to have such high regard and affection for their men and women in uniform.

Working with those men and women every day, seeing them perform missions in the toughest of circumstances imaginable, I can tell you that the regard and affection accorded our troopers are fully merited.

Posted by Tom at 8:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2010

Calderon Go Home!

If you don't want to like Arizona's law SB1070, ok don't like it. If you think it violates civil rights, then design your own law that gets rid of illegal aliens.

But don't cheer the President of Mexico while he denounces it on the floor of the U.S. Congress!

It was the Democrats who disgraced themselves by standing and clapping, although a few lefties say some (unnamed) Republicans stood too. More likely though those were student pages standing on the GOP side filling in empty seats since many Republicans didn't attend the speech

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has it right

"It's inappropriate for a head of state to question our laws, especially when the state of Arizona only acted in the best interest of its citizens and with the support of seventy percent of its people," said Hatch in a statement.

Hatch said Arizona was forced to pass the immigration law -- which compels state law enforcement officials to require proper legal residency papers from people they suspect may be in the U.S. illegally -- because of the federal government's failure to stop drug and human smugglers, as well as illegal immigrants, from coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rasmussen says that 71 percent of Arizonans support the law, and a Fox News poll shows that

...65 percent of American voters think states should have right to make their own immigration laws and protect their borders "if they believe the federal government has failed to act," while 32 percent disagree. Moreover, a 52 percent majority favors their own state passing a bill similar to Arizona's new immigration law. Some 31 percent would oppose it and another 18 percent is unsure...

The key provisions of Arizona's immigration law receive significant support. Over two-thirds (65 percent) favor allowing local authorities to question anyone who they think may be in the country illegally, while 76 percent favor allowing local officials to detain anyone who cannot prove their immigration status.

The Democrats are on the wrong side of this issue.

On the right side of the issue, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA04) blasted Calderon and the Democrats who cheered (via Sister Toldjah)

Transcript:

M. Speaker:

I rise to take strong exception to the speech of the President of Mexico while in this chamber today.

The Mexican government has made it very clear for many years that it holds American sovereignty in contempt and President Calderons behavior as a guest of the Congress confirms and underscores this attitude.

It is highly inappropriate for the President of Mexico to lecture Americans on American immigration policy, just as it would be for Americans to lecture Mexico on its laws.

It is obvious that President Calderon does not understand the nature of America or the purpose of our immigration law.

Unlike Mexicos immigration law -- which is brutally exclusionary -- the purpose of Americas law is not to keep people out. It is to assure that as people come to the United States, they do so with the intention of becoming Americans and of raising their children as Americans.

Unlike Mexico, our nation embraces immigration and what makes that possible is assimilation.

A century ago President Teddy Roosevelt put it this way. He said:

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

That is how we have built one great nation from the people of all the nations of the world.

The largest group of immigrants now comes from Mexico. A recent RAND discovered that during most of the 20th Century, while our immigration laws were actually enforced, assimilation worked and made possible the swift attainment of the American dream for millions of immigrants seeking to escape conditions in Mexico.

That is the broader meaning of our nations motto, e pluribus unum from many people, one people, the American people.

But there is now an element in our political structure that seeks to undermine that concept of E Pluribus Unum. It seeks to hyphenate Americans, to develop linguistic divisions, to assign rights and preferences based on race and ethnicity, and to elevate devotion to foreign ideologies and traditions, while at the same time denigrating American culture, American values and American founding principles.

In order to do so, they know that they have to stop the process of assimilation. In order to do that, they must undermine our immigration laws.

It is an outrage that a foreign head of state would appear in this chamber and actively seek to do so. And it is a disgrace that he would be cheered on from the left wing of the White House and by many Democrats in this Congress.

Arizona has not adopted a new immigration law. All it has done is to enforce existing law that President Obama refuses to enforce. It is hardly a radical policy to suggest that if an officer on a routine traffic stop encounters a driver with no drivers license, no passport, and who doesnt speak English, that maybe that individual might be here illegally.

And to those who say we must reform our immigration laws I reply that we dont need to reform them we need to enforce them. Just as every other government does. Just as Mexico does.

Above all, this is a debate of, by and for the American people. If President Calderon wishes to participate in that debate, I invite him to obey our immigration laws, apply for citizenship, do what 600,000 LEGAL immigrants to our nation are doing right now, learn our history and our customs, and become an American. And then he will have every right to participate in that debate.

Until then, I would politely invite him to have the courtesy while a guest of this Congress to abide by the fundamental rules of diplomacy between civilized nations not to meddle in each others domestic debates.


Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2010

05/20/10 News and Headlines Update

Sorry, sorry, not much blogging as I've been so involved in local projects I haven't had time. When I do get to this thing I've been spending my time working on a book review of Kimberley Kagan's The Surge: A Military History. Unfortunately it's going to take another week or so to finish it but if you are interested in that sort of thing make sure to check back.

In the meantime, there are quite a few stories of diverse nature below the fold, so comment away!

Second Amendment

First up is this

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Congress Thursday to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that he said are ending up in the hands of violent drug cartels south of the border, using a highly contentious estimate of U.S. guns seized in Mexico when addressing Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Mr. Calderon said he respects the Second Amendment but argued that violence south of the border spiked in 2004 after the expiration of a U.S. ban on semiautomatic weapons. Echoing statements made by President Obama Wednesday, Mr. Calderon said the U.S. bears some responsibility in propping up the drug trade with its demand for narcotics and supply of guns.

Of course, they don't have a Second Amendment in Mexico, and although the Mexican Constitution allegedly guarantees the right to own firearms, legislation has made it nearly impossible to do so. So it's all a lot of nonsense for him to say he respects it.

But there are a few larger points.

One, liberals are always telling us that we can't sacrifice our civil liberties for the sake of reducing crime. In this case they are mostly right. Once those gun-control freaks an inch and they'll take a mile.

More, the problem has little to do with guns per se. The problems are demand for drugs in the U.S. and the fact that Mexico is just about a failed state. It's run by an oligarchy that has rigged the system to keep the rich people rich and give no one else a chance. They callously boot their poor over the border and then complain when we object.

The simple fact is that any gun ban won't make the slightest dent in the drug trade. Calderon is using it to cover up the corruption of his own government, and liberals in the U.S. will use it as cover for their anti-Second Amendment agenda.

Illegal Immigration

You just can't talk about Mexico without talking about illegal immigration and the story of CNN's Wolf Blitzer's interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon has just about gone viral

Ouch!

Here's a summary of some of the interview:

Citing a Washington Times article explaining Mexican immigration laws that incriminated those who willfully participated in illegal immigration or helped illegal immigrants, Blitzer asked President Calderón to contrast those laws with Arizona's. Calderón replied that, while the Times assessment used to be true, it is no longer, and immigration cannot be illegal in Mexico. "Of course, on the border, we are asking people 'Who are you?'" explained Calderón, and "Once they are inside the country, what the Mexican police do is, of course, enforce the law, but any means immigration is a crime anymore in Mexico... if someone does that, we find them and sending [sic] them back."

In response to that, Blitzer noted that many in the US do not know that Mexico does not criminalize illegal immigration, and reference the older, harsher laws to argue that border states are only trying to do what Mexico does in its lower half, as well.

Blitzer later asks if Mexico checks papers at the border, and Calderon says yes, but when then asked if Mexican police do not go around asking for papers to prove residency, Calderon of course answers no. The coup de grace is when Blitzer follows up by asking him if a Guatemalan who is illegally in Mexico can just go and get a job, and Calderon is forced to answer no.

Yet he demands that we allow Mexicans to come illegally into the U.S. and get jobs.

Illegal Immigration II

Here's a headline good for a laugh Obama urges passage of immigration law
Fears racial profiling by states

Who are all these people kidding who claim that they object to Arizona's law because it allegedly profiles? We all know they're just in favor of illegal immigration.

Here, I'll prove it. My challenge to anyone who claims that they object to Arizona's SB1070 over civil rights issues is this; write your own law that enforces our immigration laws and gets reduces the number of illegals in the country. They never do it.

Leftist Intolerance

Here's a story that struck me today, Scientist booted off oil panel over writing

The Energy Department removed a St. Louis scientist from a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of writings on his website about homosexuality and race relations.

Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was one of five top scientists chosen by the Department of Energy and attended meetings in Houston last week.

Mr. Katz is a leading scientist, but his website postings often touch on social issues. Some of those writings include defenses of "homophobia" and doubts about the value of racial preferences and similar diversity efforts.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Mr. Katz's writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller told the Associated Press. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings.

"Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill," a statement from the Energy Department said. "Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts."

Mr. Katz, reached by phone by The Washington Times, said he had no comment and referred a reporter to official statements.

"There's enough mud being thrown around. I think it would be better if I just referred you to the public record," he said.

The extent of work he performed on the oil-spill recovery effort was not immediately known.

In a website posting titled "In Defense of Homophobia," Mr. Katz wrote that "the human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts."

"Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things," he said.

In another posting, Mr. Katz questioned the value of universities' diversity efforts, saying they show no intellectual diversity and merely ingrain race-based thinking.

"The diversity movement is racist at its core," he writes. "When dealing with people, we should be concerned with intellect, talent, character and accomplishment. People aren't dogs or cattle; race matters only to racists."

When I read the things that Mr Katz wrote I thought "yeah, I believe most of that too."

Just remember, the left loves diversity! And don't you dare say otherwise.

Elena Kagan

We're supposed to believe that Elena Kagan is a moderate, that she's oh-so-smart, yada yada. Well, I don't know about the second part but anyone who believes the former needs to let me know because I've got a nice bridge to sell you.

She'll turn into another proponent of the "living constitution" theory which basically says make it up as you go along to fit your political agenda. Yep, it's Queen of Hearts time, folks, conclusion first, Constitution second. Want to take bets on how may penumbras she'll find over the course of her time on the bench?

Don't believe me? From her masters thesis: "Judges will often try to mold and steer the law in order to promote certain ethical values and achieve certain social ends.... Such activity is not necessarily wrong or invalid."

"Anti-Incumbent? Try Anti-Obama"

Fred Barnes says it's nonsense to think that the mood in this country is anti-incumbent:

The idea that anti-incumbent fever, striking equally at Democrats and Republicans, is the defining feature of the 2010 election is as misguided as last year's notion that President Obama's oratory would tilt the nation in favor of his ambitious agenda. Yet the media, echoing the Obama White House, has adopted anti-incumbency as the all-purpose explanation of this year's political developments...

What demolishes the notion of anti-incumbency as a scourge on both parties are the calculations of credible political analysts--Democrats and Republicans from Charles Cook to Jay Cost to Nathan Silver to James Carville--about the outcome of November's general election. They believe dozens of congressional Democrats either trail Republican challengers or face toss-up races, while fewer than a handful of Republicans are in serious re-election trouble...

If there's a Republican wave in November, Republicans will capture the Senate seats in Kentucky and Arkansas and probably in Pennsylvania as well. The most important political event of the week may have been the revelation that the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, the state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, had falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. That gives a Republican a chance to win in Connecticut, too--and maybe even a Senate majority.

We'll see. I'm not taking anything for granted. We've got a very good Republican congressman where I live in Frank Wolf (VA-10) , but he did vote for TARP which won't play well. I'm going all out to support him this year.

A Bomb South of the Border

Not in Mexico, thank heavens. But Brazil? Who do they have to worry about?

Turns out they've "extending over $1 billion in credit to Iran, in order to boost Brazilian exports to the country" . There goes the sanctions regime.

Above all, there is reason for doubt because of numerous signs that Brazil is working on its own secret nuclear program. The evidence is discussed in a recent paper by German nuclear security expert Hans Rühle. The paper is available in English from the German Council on Foreign Relations here. One point in Rühle's paper is of particular interest in connection with the policies of the current American administration. Rühle notes that in its December 2008 National Defense Strategy, Brazil confirmed its status as a member of the NPT, but also stated that "Brazil will not agree to any additional NPT restrictions until the nuclear weapons states make more progress toward nuclear disarmament." Concretely, Rühle points out, this meant that Brazil would not sign on to the 1997 additional protocol to the NPT allowing for expanded IAEA inspections and, in particular, would refuse to be more forthcoming about its suspect nuclear submarine program.

Brazil's conditioning of NPT cooperation upon the progress made by the existing nuclear powers toward nuclear disarmament reveals how the global "nuclear zero" campaign, of which Barack Obama has made himself the spokesperson, plays into the hands of would-be proliferators. After all, Iran itself has used similar arguments. Moreover, the stated condition for cooperation is entirely vague and flexible. How much "progress" is enough progress?

Another story with additional details here.

Lamest Mascots Ever

We end on a lighter note. Recently unveiled are Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the 2012 Olympics in London

Wenlock and Mandeville

Video and story at The Guardian:

In the end they were neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Nor, as some cynics had predicted, did they resemble white elephants.

Instead, Wenlock and Mandeville, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots, elicited mostly baffled reactions as to just what they were at their unveiling today.

With a metallic finish, a single large eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads and the Olympic rings represented as friendship bracelets on their wrists, they resemble characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation.

Perfectly androgynous, they represent what the UK has become. No wonder the British Empire fell.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 7, 2010

Our Nuclear Stockpile - How Many Weapons and How Usable are They?

Last week the Obama Administration revealed that we have 5,113 nuclear warheads in our arsenal. This was only the second time in U.S. history that the exact number has been released.

This sounds like a lot for the post-war era. Unfortunately, it turns out that the number is both inaccurate and misleading.

DoD Releases Nuclear Stockpile Figures
The Weekly Standard
BY John Noonan
May 4, 2010

Yesterday, the Obama administration released the DoD's official nuclear stockpile figures. For decades, the size and shape of America's atomic arsenal have been deliberately kept secret, and for good reason. There's always been a calculated sense of ambiguity around our nuclear forces and our deterrence strategies, with the logic being that an enemy --if left to speculate about how, when, where, and if we'd use our nukes-- would err on the side of caution and keep his fangs tucked.

Releasing the stockpile tally, which comes in at slightly over 5k warheads, doesn't really endanger national security. But it does provide ample fodder to nuclear disarmament types, most of whom haven't breathed through their noses since yesterday afternoon's announcement. Joe Cirincione, head of the Ploughshares Fund, swiftly took to Twitter with a rather dubious claim: "Good News: US lifts nuclear secrecy. Bad News: We have 5,113 hydrogen bombs ready to use. 1 destroys a city."

When I challenged him on this, Cirincione -- likely unaware that I spent five years in the Air Force as a Minuteman III launch officer -- replied: "Of the 5113 weapons, about half are ready to use in minutes; about half could be used in hours, days, or for some, weeks."

When I challenged him on this, Cirincione -- likely unaware that I spent five years in the Air Force as a Minuteman III launch officer -- replied: "Of the 5113 weapons, about half are ready to use in minutes; about half could be used in hours, days, or for some, weeks."

Let's explore that claim. Half of those bombs are in an inactive state, either waiting to be destroyed or cannibalized to support the operational stockpile. Many of the components on our nuclear weapons haven't been built for two decades, which means that three of the four categories of nuclear warheads are dedicated to supporting the operational force.

And then there's the logistical and planning issues of the "ready to use" argument. Every launcher in our inventory would have to be alerted and fully armed with warheads, all 14 subs would have to be flushed out to launch boxes (we keep around 3-4 on alert), and all of our bombers would have to be fully swapped from conventional support roles, nuclear certified, and armed with a full complement of cruise missiles. Targeteers at U.S. Strategic Command would have to build an entire library of warplans to find aimpoints for the bombs, most of which haven't been operationally certified in years. Disposal plants and storage facilities would have to be emptied in the largest exodus of nuclear weapons in history, but not before thousands of warheads would need to be fitted with parts that no longer exist. Submarine and ground launched missiles would require new targeting data, additional fuel, and extra warheads. Thousands of pages of reference documents and target listings would have to be crafted, and all nuclear crews would have to be fully trained on the new procedures. And, if that string of miracles were to occur, we'd still come up short on launchers to actually deliver the bombs. That we have 5k nuclear warheads ready to be used, even in months, isn't just unlikely -- it's impossible.

After the Cold War ended, the stockpile was kept classified for precisely this reason: politics. Transparency in this sense is not a threat to national security, but the ensuing disarmament fever -- fueled by an ill-informed anti-nuke movement -- certainly could. Our nuclear inventory consists of 5k --soon to be 4600-- bombs for good reason. It keeps the deployed operational force of approximately 800 warheads ticking. So Obama may have declassified the stockpile to build some extra political muscle for his various disarmament initiatives, but instead the president ended up making a superb case for nuclear modernization.

So you see, the issue is a lot more complicated than simply citing a single figure. Let's review some of the points made in the article:


  1. For sound military and political reasons we have not traditionally released the exact number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal.
  2. The Obama Administration claims that the exact figure is 5,113.
  3. Only half of that number are ready for immediate use.
  4. Some of the other half could be readied for use after an uncertain period of time
  5. Some of the other half are effectively unusable.
  6. Nuclear warheads are not fungible, which is to say that they are not all available to fulfill all mission scenarios. The W76 and W88 warheads on a Navy Trident II are capable of one thing, the B-83 and AGM-86B cruise missiles carried by a B-52/B-1 or B-2 another.

Another thing that Mr Cirincione said that is simply not true; "one (hydrogen bomb) destroys a city." A common myth is that all nuclear weapons are more or less the same in destructive power. The truth is that they vary considerably, with the smallest not much more powerful than the largest conventional explosives. Still very powerful to be sure, but not all are "city busters."

Statistics on military weaponry are tricky things. If you look up the F-15 Eagle you'll see that it's maximum speed is listed as 1,650+ mph, combat radius as 1,222 miles, and can carry up to 16,000 lb on it's external pylons.

All true, but it can't do all of them on the same mission. For example, getting to 1,650mph requires a "clean" aircraft (ie carrying nothing), and aerial refueling both before and after the speed attempt. Nuclear weapons aren't much different.

For example, what is termed the "hydrogen" bomb is not a static device that you can sit on a shelf for 20 years, take it off, and be assured it will work. You can, on the other hand, take a bullet or traditional bomb off a shelf where it's been sitting for far more than 20 years and be assured that they will work. For example, tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, makes up (some) of the "hydrogen" in a hydrogen bomb (it's all terribly complicated). Tritium decays and must be replaced at periodic intervals.

Here's the bottom line; maybe we have the right number of warheads in our arsenal right now or we don't. Maybe we need more, maybe less. Maybe we should develop new ones and spend more to ensure the workability of our current ones, or we shouldn't. But simply citing a single figure and comparing that to single figures from other countries is highly misleading.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 6, 2010

The Bureaucratic State

One of the things that so concern we conservatives is the movement of power in our government from democratic institutions to bureaucratic ones. This shift in power has been going on for a long time, but has been brought home by the radicalism of Barack Obama. Conservatives came awake when last December the EPA announced that it would regulate 'emissions' whether Congress passed "climate legislation" allowing them to do so or not.

It has long been a goal of the progressives to get power as far away from democratic institutions as possible and into the hands of "experts" who, they believe, know what is best for you. Western Europe is far ahead of us in this transition. The European Union grants vast powers to unelected bureaucrats far removed from the various legislatures, and mostly unaccountable to them. The bureaucracy hires, fires, and is almost an independent self-sustaining body. One more step and we'll be there.

"The Four Horsemen of Progressivism: Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Herbert Croly" (National Review, digital subscription required) outlined some of the history. Jonah Goldberg laid out more history in Liberal Fascism. Joseph Postrell tells us where we are today in today's Washington Times

Constitution in Decline
The Washington Times
By Joseph Postell
May 6, 2010

It's time to reform our administrative state. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right when she said Congress would have to "pass the health care bill so you can find out what's in it." That's because the health care bill, like most major laws passed by Congress over the past hundred years, isn't really a law. Rather, Obamacare is a series of assignments to bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is emblematic of what scholars call the administrative state, where legislative, executive and judicial powers are delegated to unaccountable experts sequestered in a fourth branch of government.

If we are seeking the most effective means of defending - and restoring - the Constitution, we must pay attention to the rise of the administrative state and the decline of constitutional government in the United States.

The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them.

Our modern administrative state violates these principles. That also is by design, courtesy of the progressives - the original architects of the administrative state. Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson disdained the idea of government "by the people" and sought to replace it with government by the experts. Wilson complained of America's "besetting error of ... trying to do too much by vote." "Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything," he argued.

The progressives sought to circumvent representative government by transferring power from Congress to a newly created fourth branch of government, our modern bureaucracy. Congress would no longer make laws but merely pass bills that consist of assignments to agencies. The actual laws then would be passed by agencies in the form of "rules" carrying the full force of law.

However, Article I of the Constitution requires that "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." This is not optional. The people, through the Constitution, delegate legislative powers to the Congress. Only the people can delegate legislative power, because they are sovereign according to our founding principles. Legislative power cannot be further delegated.

James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 62, "Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?" Todays administrative state violates Madison's principle.

The progressives also had contempt for the Constitution's separation of powers. James Landis, an influential adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, explained that administrative agencies arose in response to "the inadequacy of a simple tripartite form of government to deal with modern problems." Circumventing the separation of powers, these agencies would not only have the power to make laws - they also would be authorized to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and enforce violations of those laws.

Herbert Croly, progressive intellectual and founder of the New Republic, explained that such agencies composed "a fourth department of the government" that "does not fit into the traditional classification of governmental powers. It exercises an authority which is in part executive, in part legislative and in part judicial." Agencies would be "a convenient means of consolidating the divided activities of the government for certain practical social purposes."

The administrative state holds sway today. The overwhelming majority of laws in this country are made not by Congress, but by administrative agencies. They execute their laws and adjudicate alleged violations of their laws through agency-employed hearing officers or administrative law judges. In this fourth branch of government, filled with unelected and unaccountable experts, all three powers of government are consolidated.

But all is not lost. In the minds of the people, the Constitution is still the governing document of this country. Most just haven't paused to ponder how far we have strayed from its structural design. But the political will to return to the Constitution is there, and increasing daily.

Two things are needed urgently. First, we need a public education program explaining the pervasiveness of our administrative state and how it departs from the Constitution's vision.

Second, and more difficult, is a practical road map for restoring the principles of representation and the separation of powers. The question is not necessarily how to make government smaller, but how to get it back under popular control and accountability.

We must devise a strategy to: bar Congress from delegating legislative power to agencies, eliminate the consolidation of all three powers in these agencies and make these agencies accountable to the people.

Such reforms would ensure that the only burdens we suffer are those we impose upon ourselves, with a government over which we, the people, finally have regained control.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 3, 2010

The BP Gulf Oil Spill - Let's be Adults, Please

What a mess.

BP Oil spill April-May 2010

CNN has a video tracker of the spill so you can see how it's grown and where it's headed.

Aol News has the latest

Another week of oil pouring from the seafloor. That is the best-case scenario for the Gulf Coast, where dead sea turtles washed ashore and a massive rust-colored slick continued to swell from an uncontrolled gusher spewing into the water.

BP PLC was preparing a system never tried before at such depths to siphon away the geyser of crude from a blown-out well a mile under Gulf of Mexico waters. However, the plan to lower 74-ton, concrete-and-metal boxes being built to capture the oil and siphon it to a barge waiting at the surface will need at least another six to eight days to get it in place.

Crews continued to lay boom in what increasingly feels like a futile effort to slow down the spill, with all ideas to contain the flow failing so far.

The Washington Post says that the spill is five times bigger than first thought, and might even be bigger than the 11 million gallons that leaked from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

CNN has the best timeline of events, follow the link for photos.

Ok, so what of it? Does or should this spell the end of off-shore drilling?

The short answer is; of course not. You don't ban air travel when a 747 crashes, and you don't drydock all ships when one sinks. There have been aircraft crashes and ships sunk that have cost hundreds or even thousands of lives, but no one would think to stop either.

Oil spills are different, not because of their nature but because of the politics. The left wants to end the use of oil so will and are seizing on this as "proof" that off-short drilling is unsafe and hazardous to the planet. Survey shttp://www.theredhunter.com/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=1573&blog_id=1&saved_changes=1ome of the liberal blogs and they are fairly chortling over the disaster.

Nevermind that just two months ago President Obama himself opened up more waters to off-shore drilling. Don't look for the left to lambaste him for that.

Here's the bottom line; we should continue and even expand off-shore drilling.

The fact is that we need the oil for our economy to function properly, we're not going to reduce it's use anytime soon no matter what we do, and buying it from countries whose rulers hate us isn't exactly helpful.

This editorial at Aol News provides some useful perspective:

In addition, the size and number of oil spills from offshore oil rigs have declined substantially over the past three decades. Prior to the Horizon's destruction, the last substantial spill from an offshore rig was in 1969. And very little oil spilled into the Gulf after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and none damaged shores or wildlife. Unfortunately, the safety systems that prevented massive spills after Katrina and Rita seem to have failed in the case of the Horizon.

By comparison, since 1991, oil tankers have still spilled three times as much oil as offshore platforms and more than twice as much as pipelines.

Of all the sources of petroleum released into the ocean, including natural seeps of oil, offshore platforms put less oil into the ocean than any other. Since 1990, less than one-one thousandth of 1 percent of the oil produced in U.S. state or federal waters has spilled. Furthermore, when tankers leak, run aground or founder and sink, they tend to do so in port or near shore, resulting in more severe environmental damage.

And even if the oil spilled from the Horizon eventually equals the amount spilled by the infamous Exxon Valdez -- and it has so far leaked less than 14 percent of that -- it will still amount to multiple times less oil than spilled in any of the largest 35 spills from oil tankers since the 1970s.

In addition, while the damage and cleanup costs may eventually top billions of dollars, it will still equal only a small percentage of the royalties and taxes paid by offshore oil production to governments each year. It will equal an even smaller percentage of the overall net contribution the industry makes to the economy in terms of jobs and spending.

So yes, let's investigate the accident fully. If there was negligence, let's bring the full weight of the law to bear on those who are responsible. If we need additional regulations, let's put them into place.

But let's not use this as an excuse to rant against 'big oil."

Steve Hayward has it about right, and gives much food for thought , in a post over at NRO's The Corner today:

Judging from the triumphant tone of the e-mails I'm getting from indignant environmentalists about the oil spill in the Gulf, I'd have to say they are having the most fun since the ExxonValdez. After all, the greens were slowly losing ground to expanded domestic oil and gas production, and now they have a catastrophe to reinvigorate their philosophy of No. As many have observed, this spill is the Three Mile Island/Chernobyl of offshore drilling, and will likely set back further offshore drilling for decades, unless we find out there was some truly extraordinary human error, negligence, or unprecedented equipment failure. Even sabotage wouldn't get Big Offshore Oil off the hook; after the 1984 chemical catastrophe in Bhopal, India, was determined to have been an act of sabotage, the political hysteria over chemical plants was unabated.

What is clear is that the overall risk of environmental harm will likely increase from the reaction to this. Why? In the first place, it means we'll import more oil -- by tanker. Over at that other conservative magazine, I offer some thoughts on how the risk of oil spills from tankers is still much larger than the risk from offshore drilling:

If we were truly concerned about minimizing risks of oil spills in the ocean, we'd cut back on shipping oil by tanker. The amount of oil spilled in tanker accidents dwarfs the amount spilled from drilling rig accidents. (The long-term global trend of oil spills from all sources is down, despite the increase in both offshore drilling and oil shipped by tanker.) The Deepwater Horizon spill is on course to match or exceed the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. But the Exxon Valdez spill was only the 35th largest tanker-related spill over the last 40 years. Since the Exxon Valdez, there have been seven larger tanker spills; the ABT Summer disaster off the Angolan coast in 1991 spilled seven times as much oil as the Exxon Valdez, but received hardly any media coverage in the United States. And while it is too early to know how extensive will be the damage to Gulf Coast shoreline ecosystems, it is not too early to expect that many dire predictions will be proven wrong.

"This has been the pattern since the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. A hastily assembled White House panel of experts concluded that it might take 10 to 20 years to stop the still-seeping oil in the Santa Barbara Channel. It took only a few weeks. Another group of experts forecast that with the number of rigs operating in the channel, a similar blowout could be expected to occur on average once a decade. There hasn't been another one in the channel since. Dire predictions of the permanent loss of wildlife and damage to the channel's ecosystem became a daily refrain. But as Time magazine reported five months after the spill, 'dire predictions seem to have been overstated. .  .  . Now, four months later, the channel's ecology seems to have been restored to virtually its natural state.' A multi-volume study by the University of Southern California two years later concluded that 'damage to the biota was not widespread.'

"No energy source is risk-free or environmentally benign; just ask West Virginia coal miners, or check up on the avian mortality of wind power, or the potential disruption of desert ecosystems from proposed large solar power projects, or, indeed, the additional pollution of the Gulf coast from ethanol production. The greatest risk of all is the inability to weigh trade-offs."

Despite what environmentalists wish, this oil spill isn't going to make American quit consuming oil. In the aftermath of this spill, there will over the long term be increased demand for oil from Canadian tar sands (and ultimately from our own huge oil shale deposits out west), whose environmental footprint is much higher than the Gulf spill, and much of the additional oil we will now import will come from nations that are expanding their own offshore drilling to sell it to us. Think Angola is likely to inspect its offshore oil platforms as often as we will?

Let's just be adults in our reaction to this disaster, please.


Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 2, 2010

A Warning on the Iraqi Elections

We've won the war, now we've got to win the peace. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan sound a warning:

The U.S. must defend the integrity of Iraqi elections The Washington Post Frederick and Kimberly Kagan Friday, April 30, 2010

Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama's announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq's election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders' tentative efforts to rein in the "de-Baathification" commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process....

Meanwhile, it is essential to differentiate between the legally sanctioned and internationally monitored mechanisms for Iraqi candidates to challenge election results and the operations of the Accountability and Justice Commission, which reviews candidates' past ties to the outlawed Baath Party.

Before the election, the AJC sought to ban more than 500 candidates it claimed were Baathists. Iraqi courts disqualified some but allowed each to be replaced by members of the electoral lists to which they belonged (akin to allowing the Democratic Party to replace a disqualified Democratic candidate).

Prime Minister Maliki's State of Law List requested that the AJC seek to retroactively disqualify parliamentary candidates it claims were affiliated with the Baath Party -- and annul all votes cast for them. At the commission's recommendation, an Iraqi court moved on Monday to exclude 52 candidates, two of whom won seats -- one with Allawi's Iraqiya list, whose lead over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law List is just two seats. The AJC has put forward more names, including eight who won seats with Allawi's Iraqiya list.

If upheld, these decisions would give Maliki's bloc more seats than Allawi's. If Maliki's list gained four seats, it could potentially form a government with the other major Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, excluding both the Kurds and Sunnis. That result -- surely disastrous for U.S. interests -- would position Maliki as a potential authoritarian ruler, empower the anti-American Sadrists and their Iranian-backed militias and alienate Sunnis while marginalizing the Kurds. If Sunni seats are transferred to Maliki's Shiite list this way, Sunni Arabs would justifiably feel that Shiites had stolen the election.

Unlike preelection rulings to ban candidates, Monday's decision excludes votes already cast. Thousands of Iraqis stand to be disenfranchised even though they cast their ballots correctly and those ballots were counted. Worse, this decision would set a precedent for the AJC to selectively exclude individuals until a government is formed.

Washington should strongly support Iraqi leaders such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Allawi, who have strongly opposed the AJC's illegal effort to manipulate the results. The United States must encourage Iraq's Presidency Council to adhere to the electoral laws and reject the AJC's manipulation. The United States must also ensure that legal processes and court decisions about the elections are not unduly influenced by political or violent intimidation. Above all, the United States must oppose any effort to exclude votes properly cast and counted.

U.S. officials must state clearly that Iraq's government should be formed by Iraqis in Iraq and encourage Iraqis to form a government that ensures real power-sharing and continued political accommodation -- rather than cobbling together a government without any genuine political settlement.

Staying silent is not the same as remaining neutral. This does not mean that Washington should choose a party or prime minister, but the United States must protect the electoral process from politicians (and external actors) seeking to manipulate its outcome.

No reason to hit the panic button, all is not lost, folks, but as the Kagan's say the Administration needs to take action and now.

Frederick W. Kagan is director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Kimberly Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Frederick Kagan was one of the authors of the surge, and is that I cite his wife Kimberly's work often. I've gone though a lot of analysts in the past several years, and many have turned out to be wrong more often than they are right. I cite the Kagan's often because so far they have turned out to be right more often than wrong.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How about this: Your state can legalize "breathing while undocumented" if my state can legalize "breathing while uninsured."

Jonah Goldberg nails it regarding Arizona's S.B. 1070 and liberal hypocrisy

States' Rights (and Wrongs)
How about this: Your state can legalize "breathing while undocumented" if my state can legalize "breathing while uninsured."
National Review
by Jonah Goldberg
April 30, 2010 12:00 A.M.

I've got a proposal for you. I'd call it a "modest proposal" but, thanks to Jonathan Swift, when writers say that, it means they're about to propose something absolutely bonkers to make a satirical point along the lines of "Let's eat Irish babies!" or "Joe Biden should be president!"

My proposal might still be crazy, but it's not satire.

Okay, okay, I can tell you're keen to hear it.

But wait. First, a peeve.

The president and his party jammed through health-care legislation that was objectively unpopular with the American people. It remains unpopular. It stipulates that it is essentially illegal not to have health insurance. A dozen or so states are suing on the grounds that the federal government doesn't have the right to force people to buy health insurance.

The response from backers of Obamacare has been one of sanctimonious outrage and derision. To pick just one example, the current issue of The New Republic features an essay claiming this legal effrontery marks a return of the Confederacy's hated and racist doctrine of nullification. The "new nullifiers," exclaims the preening liberal historian Sean Wilentz, "would have us repudiate the sacrifices of American history -- and subvert the constitutional pillars of American nationhood."

Forget that when George W. Bush was in office, standing athwart the government was all the rage without conjuring any Confederate demons. Liberals talked about Blue State secession from "Jesusland" with condescending glee. The New York Times ran a love letter to the "states' rights left" by contributor Jim Holt arguing that "states' rights has not always been the intellectual property of reactionaries."

But forget all that. Consider that even now there are more than 30 so-called "sanctuary cities" that formally ban their own police from enforcing federal immigration laws or even cooperating with federal officers trying to enforce them. But not a peep about "nullification" from the Wilentzers.

Ditto when it comes to the countless, constitutionally dubious, hippy-dippy "Nuclear Free Zones" that dot the American landscape in defiance of the federal government's fundamental rights to provide for the common defense and ensure interstate commerce.

But -- and you know where this is going -- when the state of Arizona opts to pass a popular law requiring Arizonan officials to comply with and enforce federal law, suddenly all of the usual suspects come completely unglued. Police will be allowed to ask people for their "papers"! Gird your loins for Götterdämmerung!

Forget being a throwback to the Confederacy; the sanctimony choir cries out that Arizona has rematerialized as 1940 Berlin, albeit with a drier climate. Ironic, since the requirement that legal immigrants carry their "papers" at all times was signed into law by FDR that very year.

Linda Greenhouse, longtime Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times and currently a Yale law professor, penned an op-ed for the Times in which she emoted that Arizona has become a Nazi-esque "police state" where it is a crime to be "breathing while undocumented."

Now, I don't want to dwell on Greenhouse's gas, since she not only misread the law, she literally read the wrong law (an earlier draft that was changed before passage, actually).

But that bit about "breathing while undocumented" strikes a chord. Because, you see, under Obamacare, it is now something of a crime to "breath while uninsured," too. In fact, if you really want to hear the government say "Deine papieren, bitte!" just wait until that law is fully implemented, assuming the "new nullifiers" fail.

So here's where that wacky proposal I mentioned earlier comes in. Let's throw it all back to the states. Arizona can be an illegal-immigrant-free zone and New York can hold an open house for everyone. The same goes for health care. States that want universal health care can provide it, including to illegal immigrants (or should I just say "immigrants"?). Other states can let the market rule. The feds would save piles of money that can go to paying off our credit cards (or to antiterrorism, to deal with undocumented New Yorkers/terrorists).

If it were up to me, the feds would still enforce basic civil rights, provide for the common defense and protect interstate commerce (sorry, nuke-free zones!), but beyond that, let freedom reign.

Unfortunately, for progressives who must always have their way, that's crazier than a "Biden 2016" bumper sticker.

Whether "states rights" is important depends on whose ox is being gored.

Posted by Tom at 9:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack