Archive for the 'History' Category

May 24 2016

Blind squirrels and acorns

Do sometimes get together.

If you have been coming here for a decent interval you know that I hold both the National Review and the Weekly Standard in utter contempt. I read them to find out how the ill informed voter thinks and to find satire worthy materials. But every so often they produce something praise-worthy and they deserve credit where it is due.

So lets all take a gander at William "The Bloody" Kristol's gem of Shakespere quotes about He, Trump. Enjoy the acorn.

But as to the competition: I asked, "What lines of Shakespeare best characterize Donald Trump?" I stipulated that you'd get no credit for comparing Trump's campaign to "a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing." (Macbeth Act V Scene v) That one was just too obvious.

What did you all come up with? Lots of apt Shakespearean descriptions for Trump's campaign or the man himself. I feel I've done a good deed in enticing many of you back to Shakespeare (if you'd ever been away). In any case, here are a few apt and brief contributions (after all, "brevity is the soul of wit").

Regarding the outcome of New York's primary (and probably tomorrow's contests as well):

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 3 Scene ii)

Regarding Trump's disparagement of John McCain and other POW's:

"He jests at scars that never felt a wound." (Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene ii)

Regarding Trump himself:

"An infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality." (All's Well That Ends Well Act III Scene vi)

And:

"The empty vessel makes the greatest sound." (Henry V, Act IV Scene iv)

And:

"Masters, do not forget to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass." (Much Ado About Nothing Act V Scene i)

And regarding the appropriate response to Trump:

"Never, never, never, never, never!" (King Lear V iii)

 

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Jun 09 2015

USS Liberty

Published by under History

As I have mentioned I travel to the land of milk and honey quite a bit. One of the messages I continually hear is about how Israel is surrounded and always under attack. And I don't really dispute it-having been on the road twice when the sirens went off and rockets were inbound. ( True Story).

But there was also the time that Israel was the attacker. Yesterday being June 8th, it is probably worth remembering:

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean.

Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded.

Later Israel apologized for what it claimed to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. It said that it had believed the ship to be hostile Egyptian naval vessel. US President Lyndon Johnson was privately furious but publicly the White House chose not to challenge the word of its closest Middle East ally and accepted that the attack had been a catastrophic accident.

 

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In the years since then, there has been a lot of talk of conspiracies and cover-ups. I don't know who is right, but I know Israelis don't like to talk about it.

As for the truth about a cover-up, I don't know and will not speculate. But it is worth remembering that 34 men died that day. God grant them rest and peace.

 

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Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.

 

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And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).

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As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)

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A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).

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Nov 12 2014

But I thought we lost the war during Obama’s West Point speech?

LTG Daniel Bolger (Citadel Class of 1978) has a very good book out chronicling the truth that a whole lot of people don't want to admit. For them, the wars were lost when the President of the United States decided to :1) not hang US troops out to dry with a worthless Iraqi government when they refused to negotiate on a SOFA treaty and 2) the day Obama gave a speech at West Point that acknowledged what many Americans already knew-that there was a limit to how much we could do for people who over the last 8 years had proven themselves completely worthless and unworthy of the sacrifices being made  on their behalf. And that a lot of Americans were sick of it.

Fortunately for us, there are some military professionals, who actually fought in the war, who know better:

As a senior commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, I lost 80 soldiers. Despite their sacrifices, and those of thousands more, all we have to show for it are two failed wars. This fact eats at me every day, and Veterans Day is tougher than most.

As veterans, we tell ourselves it was all worth it. The grim butchery of war hovers out of sight and out of mind, an unwelcome guest at the dignified ceremonies. Instead, we talk of devotion to duty and noble sacrifice. We salute the soldiers at Omaha Beach, the sailors at Leyte Gulf, the airmen in the skies over Berlin and the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, and we’re not wrong to do so. The military thrives on tales of valor. In our volunteer armed forces, such stirring examples keep bringing young men and women through the recruiters’ door. As we used to say in the First Cavalry Division, they want to “live the legend.” In the military, we love our legends.

Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.  (Emphasis mine-SS)

 

 

Clearly this will get many "surgeaholics" riled up. Devotees of the theory of ever continuing warfare, and of never blaming the people of Iraq or Afghanistan themselves for the mistakes they made,  just does not fit the narrative. Troublesome facts are not the things they wish to hear:

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that. What went wrong in Iraq and in Afghanistan isn’t the stuff of legend. It won’t bring people into the recruiting office, or make for good speeches on Veterans Day. Reserve those honors for the brave men and women who bear the burdens of combat. That said, those who served deserve an accounting from the generals. What happened? How? And, especially, why? It has to be a public assessment, nonpartisan and not left to the military. (We tend to grade ourselves on the curve.) Something along the lines of the 9/11 Commission is in order. We owe that to our veterans and our fellow citizens

Reviews for Bolger's book, Why We Lost, are mixed-I agree with his conclusion- while I agree also with those who think he doesn't place enough strategic blame with our top level civilian leadership. Furthermore, its clear he thinks we had to invade-and that is a conclusion that is not borne out by history. The invasion of Iraq is the biggest Foreign Policy mistake in the last 30 years. Nonetheless he gives an objective and necessary telling of how we far exceeded our original needs and objectives after 9-11 and plunged into a global rat hole. That alone makes it worth the read.

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Jul 10 2014

Recent Reading

On the trip over to Normandy-I had forgotten to charge my I-Pad. So I grabbed a book from the shelf to read on the train. Boy am I glad I did. It was an honor to re-immerse myself in this book.

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Schlesinger, a life long liberal, was also an outstanding historian. And a superb writer. He never struck a mismatched key. For the writing alone-this book is worth a read, but more importantly, it is a stirring defense of humanity in government, and the willingness to adopt a creed other than that which inhabits the current GOP: " I got mine, fuck you!"

One of the most interesting things about reading the letters of Arthur Schlesinger is the quality of the discussion between him and those like Joseph and Stewart Alsop and many others. They held differing view points-but because they had the shared experience of a demanding education, and having to actually earn their way onto a writing staff-and live under an editor, the quality of what they produced was far superior to what the intellectual children, who presume to even think they have a right to sit at the grown ups table, produce now. The Krauthamers, Chunky Bobo, the plagiarist Malkin, all the members of the Liars Club-cretins like William Jacobsen, John Hinderaker, Mark Steyn, 3/4 of the blogosphere ( especially the mil-blogs)-what they produce is trash when held up in comparison to the quality of the writing that went forth from the great writers of the 50's and 60's. Near the end of his life Schlesinger saw this decline of intellectual rigor-and rightly chastised it, particularly those who fell for the shame that was what he called "Gingrichism" in the mid 90's. Altogether great history-a story the above listed children can not even begin to appreciate.

This is worth the money to buy.

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Jan 30 2014

Countdown to catastrophe

Published by under History

Better late than never, I always say.

Today in 1914 and this week in 1914 the following things happened:

                 Jan 22nd – Paul Claudel's "L'échange," premieres in Paris

                Jan 24th – Opera "Madeleine," premieres in NYC

                Jan 26th – 600 Dutch textile workers go on strike

                Jan 26th – Vatican puts Belgian Nobel winner Maeterlinck's works in their index

                Jan 28th – 1st Millrose Games (athletics) held (NYC)

                Author and Nobel Laureate Gerhart Hauptmann ‘s Der Bogen des Odysseus was on premere in Berlin.

                Jan 28th – Beverly Hills, Ca, is incorporated. ( Much to the rest of the country’s regret.

In Austria-Hungary , the country was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire, and the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). The Austro-Hungarian Empire consisted of two monarchies (Austria and Hungary), and two autonomous countries: Polish Galicia within the Austrian Empire (from 1867) and Croatia within the Kingdom of Hungary (from 1868). Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sandžak-Raška were under Austro-Hungarian military occupation between 1878 and 1908, when the former was fully annexed and the latter was ceded to the Ottoman Empire. The Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary was Franz Josef, who had been on the throne since 1867. Carl Bechtold was the Minister President of Austria. The deaths of Franz Joseph's brother, Maximilian (1867), and his only son, Rudolf made the Emperor's nephew, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne. ( You will hear that name again. 🙂    ).

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Jan 10 2014

Going down a sinkhole…….

Is still a bad thing-no matter how many times you do it.

The usual suspects have come out, and seized upon Robert Gates’ new book to criticize the effort to get the US out of the worthless hellhole that is Afghanistan, and to rewrite the history of the US fiasco in Iraq.  I find the tenor of the comments interesting, if more than a little bit predictable.

First, I think it is most important that the specific quote be examined in the context of the text around them. Gates was and is a person who moves deliberately, does not waste words, and I like to think of him as a consummate professional. Certainly he made a far better SECDEF than his worthless predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld-who ranks right down there with McNamara in terms of overall mediocrity.

Furthermore, it is particularly important to remember who is out there fronting for these criticisms right now: Bob Woodward and William “The Bloody” Kristol, neither of whom can be consider to be exactly “objective” observers. As Charles Pierce notes:

I mean, is there any possible reason to criticize the president because he injured the rather peripatetic fee-fee of Saint David Petraeus, or to find it unprecedented that a president might wonder whether or not a war he inherited — and, yes, supported, as a candidate — wasn't ultimately a futile proposition, or whether his generals were giving him the straight dope. I guarantee you, back in the 1860's, Woodward would have been the go-to stenographer for all those incompetent generals who Lincoln fired. (George McClellan would have loved him.) In the 1950's, Woodward would have been MacArthur's first phone call after Harry Truman canned his ass.

The other important thing to remember about Bob Gates is that a Democratic president thought keeping him on as Secretary of Defense would be a smart, centrist, bipartisan move that would be applauded on the op-ed pages, and by important people. Like, one supposes, Bob Woodward, who now occupies as space in the dingbatosphere far beyond mere journalism.

And, no matter how professional Gates is-he is still a Republican. Who has served a series of Republican presidents and made more than a couple of mistakes himself.

Or does no one remember Iran Contra anymore?

When Obama came into office-he was committed to getting us out of the hell hole that is Iraq. (Which was just as well since there was no prospect that an American troop presence would ever have resulted in social peace there) He had campaigned on the idea that Iraq was a colossal mistake and it diverted resources from the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  DOD was supposed to give him a menu of options for pursuing “victory”. In the end they only gave him the same tired old formula. A plan for a troop escalation of 40,000 and an open-ended big war to “prove” David Petraeus’s theories of counter-insurgency. Petraeus’ sexual proclivities were as yet unknown-so he still enjoyed sainthood status.  This even though, in Iraq, he was part of the problem long before he became the solution. And when examined in detail-the surge did nothing that it was supposed to have done. ( As is being proved every day now in that useless nation). So what he said carried a lot of weight-and going against them was not a politically expedient move.

Now, even Gates’ critics acknowledge that on the whole, he was a very positive force at the Pentagon and for the nation. He appears to have helped prevent Dick Cheney and the Neocons from attacking Iran. He warned against the seductive character of drone warfare, and wants a court to sign off on drone strikes. He said he thought any military commander who wanted to take US troops into another big ground war should have his head examined. And he tried to rein in the Pentagon’s off the rail procurement processes, which have led to such fiascos as the Little Crappy Ship.

Plus, these criticisms are more than a little self-serving. They seek to completely ignore the fact that by 2009, in general, the public had had it with war without end, and was tired of the wars in general, and Iraq in particular.  As is typical for your fan of Bush’s peculiar brand of liberation theology, it ignores the real people who were causing the failure of said policy, namely the people of Afghanistan themselves. Andrew Bacevich quite correctly pointed out that there was a distance between “American actions and America's interests is becoming increasingly difficult to discern. The fundamental incoherence of U.S. strategy becomes ever more apparent. Worst of all, there is no end in sight.”. It appears to me, at first glance (and I will need to read the book), that contrary to what the neocon apologists say, it is probably Obama that got the assessment right. He understood the public mood and had no real reason to trust the folks giving him advice-especially since they had a vested interest in seeing the wars continue. “It is further understandable that Obama entertained the severest doubts about the feasibility of Petraeus’s big counter-insurgency push. At best, he was willing to give it a try.”

Events have proven the naysayers correct-the Afghans excelled at screwing away opportunities presented to them. Petreaus is gone into obscurity, and Afghanistan has increasingly become synonymous with the overall failure of the so called “War on Terror”.  Public opinion, rightfully so, wants us out-and the sooner we get out,  the better for America. Probably not for Afghanistan, but they made their choice. Now they should have to live with it.

You have to conclude that Gates resents Obama for outmaneuvering him and some of the more gung ho officers. Obama didn’t intend to go on fighting and nation-building in Afghanistan forever. Indeed, US forces are no longer in the lead in military operations and soon they’ll be gone or be little more than troop trainers.

If anything, Obama could be faulted for giving the COIN (“counter-insurgency”) officers the benefit of the doubt and playing along with their completely unrealistic plans. He should have listened to Joe Biden, who has long experience in foreign policy and is most often right (unlike Gates). If Gates is right and Obama distrusted the generals pitching them and was skeptical of the strategy itself, it has to increase your estimation of Obama. Our estimation of Gates, in contrast, can only fall because of his disloyalty and his naive approach to Afghanistan.

 

 

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Jan 06 2014

There was never a chance………..

Phib, in one of his repeated themes, bemoans the fact that we did not give ourselves a chance to "succeed" in Afghanistan. "All it required was about another four-five years of patience. Of course, that 4-5 from now is based on an alternative history where we did not announce our retreat in DEC 09 … but what is, is. District by district "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" was a solid way to do it – but just as it was getting roots as the surge soaked in, we stopped feeding it. The following results will be sadly predictable."

Complete and total horseshit.

This is a peculiarly American disease where we always place the blame everywhere but where it really lies. This is how we get pundits like William "The Bloody" Kristol- who,  incidentally, could not be bothered to serve one day in his miserable life, but is more than willing to send other people's children to die for his right to earn six figures a year-advocating war with out end in the Middle East.

Didn't give it enough time? We will have been in that Godforsaken country for over 13 years. How much f*cking time do we need? Or more correctly, how many chances do the Afghans get before we tell them to go f*ck themselves?

Two facts here are really important. One, the clock did not stop ticking in Afghanistan just because we invaded Iraq. So the very idea that we could "just pick up where we left off" and somehow, magically we would have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, by spending ten plus years-losing Americans-to create what? And two, the patience of the American people is not unlimited-and we are long past the point of patience with any of the wars for most reasonable Americans.

A land of people who refuse to help themselves. This, by the way is backed up by over a 100 years of Afghan history. This is what we are getting today, it is what we would have gotten 10 years from now-it will pretty much always be that way as long as the country is saddled with albatross of Islam.

Want to know the day we "lost" Afghanistan? March 19,  2003. That's the day the United States in one of the most stupid moves in its history, foolishly invaded a land that had not attacked it, and in the process metastized what was a essentially a localized disturbance into the world's blood stream. One could even make the point that we could look further back-to the point where a man like George Bush, under the advice of some pretty questionable characters, decided that the United States could somehow accomplish the impossible and eliminate terrorism from the earth. Rather than pursue the vengeance that our public opinion required in the aftermath of 9-11, the grey hair allowed himself to be diverted into what has now quite well been proven, to be a worthless, damn fool ideological crusade.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.

Oh sure, Bin Laden is dead, but as it turned out, that had nothing to do with clear, hold, and build. And Al Queda has been disrupted-but again, that happened with out years of counterinsurgency. We have lost over 6000 fine Americans dead and almost 50,000 wounded for the "right" to stay in a backward nation from over a decade, however. What did they suffer for?

Nothing of value Phib. Nothing of value. And that was true in 2009, as assuredly as it is today. Put the blame where it belongs and leave it there-on the Afghan people.

Now that is what I will drink more over. The  tendency on the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of some Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home in the US.

Starting with the idea that we can somehow "fix" people who are unfixable.

 

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Jan 05 2014

Countdown to catastrophe-January 5th, 1914

Back in 1914:

Henry Ford, unlike his current day counterparts, recognized that a well paid work force made for a better workforce-and more consumers. So wages were doubled from $2.40/9-hr day to $5.00/8-hr day.

George Reeves, the actor who would play Superman in the 1950's was born. So too was  Nicolas de Staël, a French-Russian painter.

In France, in 1914, the leadership of France rested with President Raymond Poincare , and Prime Minister Rene Viviani.  In 1914 she was the second largest colonial power in the World and the largest in Africa. She had, on paper anyway, the largest Army in Europe. France was allied with Britain and Russia  as part of the Triple Entente. In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions (777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops) in 21 regional corps, with attached cavalry and field-artillery units. Most these troops were deployed inside France with the bulk along the eastern frontier as part of Plan 17. France also had the ability to muster a further 2.9 million men during a crisis-and did so in the summer of 1914. France was itching to get back Alsace and Lorraine, territories they lost in 1870-and regarded as "French".

 

 

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Jan 03 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-3 January 1914

Today on the path to war:

The musical "Sari" opened in New York City.

Jean Louvel, Flemish pianist/conductor/composer was born today. ( As an aside J.R.R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892).

 Stephane Raoul Pugno, composer, dies at 62

In Britain, at this time, King George the V was the King of Great Britain and Emperor of India. HH Asquith, a liberal,  was the Prime Minister. The major issues of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, increasing labor strife, demands by women to vote, and the management of the Britain's vast world wide empire.

And finally-as a matter of background-in an event that was to have lasting implications all the way up to World War I, in 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church. 

 

 

 


 

HH Asquith, a liberal was the Prime Minister
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