Air Power and War Past and Future; Global Warming on Mars


View from Chaos Manor, Sunday, February 01, 2015


Hatred is a sin, so I must be content with despising the Microsoft team that designed the user interface for Office 10; but despise them I do since they despise users. Things that you could find easily in Office 2007, once you got used to the ribbon, have sunk into a long train of subfolders which make sense only to the despicable designers. Yes, the Ribbon was hard to learn and was itself badly designed for Office 2003 users; but it had a kind of logic, and had not the team that writes Microsoft Help been recruited from an asylum for the mentally challenged it would have been learnable, without much effort; and indeed I learned it although as usual Help was no Help at all.

Now there is another odd logic to learn, and they were clever in removing redundancy so they did not leave the old ways in for those who made the effort to learn them.

I remember when Microsoft had a team of Human Factors engineers who studied how people USED Office; observing volunteers from working offices and other places where Office is used. Those seem now to have been replaced with a team of not very bright sadists. I wonder if they are cheaper?


There is only one thing you need to remember about Microsoft.

They are The Government of Windows and MS Office Applications. Their treatment of Users follows naturally from that.

Bob Holmes


I think I may have stimulated some debate over uses of air power and organization to achieve it, which is what I set out to do. We have a few more comments to publish before we can draw conclusions.

USAF ground support

“I think you confuse effort with work: number of sorties looks good, but what they accomplished is a better measure.”
Not at all. I wanted to address the issue of effort, because the claim was that the Air Force hadn’t made much effort to support the Army because they regarded the CAS mission with contempt. In fact, the Air Force made a major – indeed, staggering – effort to support the Army since 1945. It is hard to see what more the USAF could possibly have done.
As for what the Air Force accomplished, we should ask the shades of countless thousands of German, North Korean, Chinese, North Vietnamese, Iraqi, and Taliban troops who were annihilated by American airpower before they ever had a chance to raise their weapons and aim at an American soldier.
In Korea, USAF air support was lavish and as effective as it could be within the limits of early 1950s technology. CAS came faster and in higher quantities than during WW2. Airpower played a decisive role at several points, e.g. stopping the North Korean assault on the Pusan perimeter and covering the UN retreat after the Chinese attacked. Sure, the Army wanted more CAS and wanted it faster, but that’s always true. Believe me, I sympathize — if bad guys were shooting at me, I’d want all the USAF to send all its planes at once. But in the real world we’d never be able to build the number of aircraft the Army would like to have to support it.

James Perry

That is the point: the aircraft are not designed for the mission. What makes a good air superiority plane does not do the sort of work that the Stuka did in the Fall of France, to use a very old example. And of course a good ground support craft is not much use in dogfights, although in its time the P-47 was in fact able to do multiple missions, interdiction, recce-strike, and air supremacy both in ground strikes and supply interruption and interception and dogfights. But the P-51 turned out to be the escort plane (once it got the super-Rolls engine).

I was part of the Boeing design team for the TFX; we tried to design a multi mission ship, but it was my job to write a paper saying you couldn’t do it: you would end up with a craft that was second place in air to air combat, and there are few prizes for second place. The TFX – also known as the LBJ after 11 military boards chose Boeing but a Texas firm got the contract – became the FB-111, and was a very good recce/strike craft in Viet Nam, but it was not an air superiority ship. Of course the egregious McNamara wanted to make it a strategic bomber too: one weapon fits all. This is treated at length in Strategy of Technology by Possony and Pournelle (1970).

Of course we cannot build all the aircraft the Army wants. We can’t build all the guns and tanks they would like to have. But USAF wants to get rid of the best ground support and recce/strike birds we already have. There is a solution to this, give ground support to the Army and let the Air Force concentrate on strategic bombing, air supremacy, and supply; but USAF has rejected that.

Get the dog out of the manger; if need be get another dog. The nature of war is changing and we face ISIS and others like them; the Army can learn air supremacy, but USAF refuses even to think about supporting the field army, except it is adamant about keeping the mission.

= = = =

Anent Air Power

Dr. Pournelle


I see you have returned to one of your favorite rants: Let’s abolish the Air Force!

I will not engage on that subject for a number of reasons, none of which really matter. I was Air Force and wore the blue proudly, even if it did make me look like a trumped up train conductor. After all, I did not get pride from the uniform. I got it from the blue brotherhood, enlisted and officer, that I served with.

When I was in the Air Force, I said repeatedly in seminars and such that our mission was to support some 19-year-old kid on the ground with an M-16. This made me something of a pariah and may have contributed to the decision to move me out of the cockpit and into engineering.

Anyway, air power is important. I think we agree on that. Whether the USAF or the USAAF does it, the US needs it done.

The US has at least four air forces: the Air Force, the Army air forces (mostly rotary wing), the Navy air forces, and the Marine air forces.

Air forces have five missions: 1) recce, 2) artillery spotting, 3) munitions delivery, 4) transport, and 5) air supremacy. If you know different, please educate me.

To me, the question is not whether the Air Force should be a separate service. The question is how our air forces get those missions done. Like, should we use a manned airplane or an RPV?

Do we need flattops? Can the air missions be performed without big flattops? (The first mission of a carrier air group is to protect its landing field. All else is secondary.)

I liked the A-10, although I never flew one. Had UPT classmates who drove Hogs. Sadly, they were not of my tribe, and I kinda lost touch. But given what PGMs can do launched from drones, do we need to put a man over the battlefield to deliver ordinance on target?

IMO these are things worth thinking about.

To end this missive, again IMO, the only purpose the F-35 serves is to transfer money from the national treasury to Lockheed-Martin. The Marines may have a role for one version, but I do not believe the Air Force model or the Navy model can be justified. Harkens back to McNamara’s statement: ‘Build one airplane and let both the Air Force and the Navy fly it.’ We know how that turned out.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

Well, what you call recce and artillery spotting we called recce/strike, and I don’t see Interdiction – isolating the battle area – in your list, but it will do.

You do know USAF is not going to give up manned aircraft everywhere?

And note McNamara wanted one plane to do all missions. But see Strategy of Technology. Your story of being thought odd because you believe the primary mission is to stand an 18 year old kid with a rifle on the other guy’s command post says it all: the Air Force has lost sight of that. It is true that air supremacy is vital, and the Army does not always understand (until they lose it). We must have that capability; but air supremacy accomplishes nothing if the field army does not advance. We must retake Iraq from ISIS and we cannot do it with F-35’s or with 10,000 drones. And USAF does not get that.

How do we get the modern equivalent of the Stuka in France 1940 back? USAF doesn’t want it, and will not let the Army have it.


USAF Priorities


Good to see you, glad to see you recovering. The amount of your energy budget being taken up by recovery must be annoying the hell out of you – my impression is you’ve been used to getting ungodly amounts of productive time out of a day by disdaining layabout indulgences like naps. Me, absent deadline/crisis adrenalin, I’ve always run out of steam after a few hours then set up for the next round with a nap. I recommend the habit highly for anyone not gifted with the metabolism to routinely just power through. Post-lunch, doubly so. With luck, for you, just a temporary expedient while repairs are underway… For me, it’s a way of life. Anyway, back to the point I was wandering toward when you got tired:

Regarding USAF priorities, General George Kenney’s time running the Southwest Pacific air forces for MacArthur in WW II is instructive.

Kenney was very good at what he did and also got along with MacArthur without being a yes-man (facts possibly related given the disastrous nature of MacArthur’s air efforts before Kenney’s arrival.) (See “MacArthur’s Airman”, Thomas Griffith for the full story.)

Short version: the Southwest Pacific theatre was explicitly a low priority for the US; Europe came first. It was also at the far end of a supply chain that ran across the Pacific the long way. Where Europe saw hundreds then thousands of airplanes, Southwest Pacific saw dozens, eventually hundreds, and had to make do.

Fortunately the Japanese in the theater had similar problems, a long supply chain and other competing priorities. (They also had a problem with not knowing their codes had been broken, alluded to in Neal Stephenson’s wonderful novel Cryptonomicon and covered thoroughly in a book called “MacArthur’s Ultra” by IIRC Edward Drea.) Nevertheless, their air and ground forces were a match (and sometimes more) for what the Allies had and it was a close-run thing well into 1943.

General Kenney focused on two things: Establishing air supremacy, and interdicting Japanese supply lines, particularly seaborne supply. He did both very effectively – ongoing aerial attrition aside, he famously caught hundreds of Japanese aircraft massed on the ground at Hollandia, and the Battle of the Bismark Sea was one of the better-known occasions when he destroyed Japanese shipping – in that case, his Fifth Air Force sank the entire convoy carrying a Japanese infantry division bound for New Guinea. (This incident also showed up in Cryptonomicon.)

Kenney had his priorities: close air support was an afterthought, something you might use your planes for once you’d run out of aerial opposition and the enemy had stopped even trying to send in supplies and reinforcements. He was quite explicit about this: close support of Army formations was the job of artillery, as airplanes were a far more expensive way of delivering explosives than cannon and he didn’t have enough airplanes as it was.

They really did not do close air support in SW Pacific. I asked my uncle, an artillery forward observer officer with the 31st Division at Driniumor River, Wakde, Morotai, and Mindanao, what their procedures were for coordinating close air support, and his answer was, they didn’t have any procedures because it was understood they’d never get close air support. The one mention I’ve found of close air support happening in the theater before the Japanese ran out of airplanes in the region in

’45 involved P-39 pilots of the 35th Group figuring out the night before how best to dive-bomb with their airplanes, then the next day taking out a particularly troublesome mountaintop artillery emplacement under direction from the divisional general on the ground – obviously not a standard procedure.

My point here is not that General Kenney was wrong. Under his circumstances, given his limited theater resources, his priorities look to me to have been correct. His approach led directly to MacArthur’s ability to leapfrog powerful Japanese forces that had been isolated and starved into impotence, arguably shortening the campaign by a year or more and saving a lot of soldiers’ lives.

But Kenney was vastly influential in the direction USAAF then USAF took after the war. (He went on to become the first head of SAC.)

My point is that modern day USAF still has the same priorities and reacts the same way: If there’s a resource shortage, air supremacy and deep interdiction come first, and close air support gets cut to pay for them.

Only the resource shortage is now an organizational artifact, not a theater supply reality. USAF is unable to control costs on new air supremacy/interdiction fighters – $200 million for an F-22? $300 million and climbing for an F-35? *Really*? The result is that hundreds of A-10’s get retired to pay for a couple more F-35’s.

This is insanely organizationally dysfunctional, but I think the solution is obvious: Give the close air support mission and aircraft to the Army, which can better protect the CAS budget from raids by the tactical fighter establishment. Meanwhile, tell USAF that their mission is air supremacy when and where required, that their budget is set, and that they can either produce what’s required or have their bureaucracy gone through with fire and sword till results improve.


Accepting your analysis, what must be done? USAF will always retire hundreds of Warthog to buy another F-35. Always, so long as it exists. And it will never give up a mission. And it even gave up SAC. I worked for USAF most of my high tech career, I admire their people , but I cannot accept their choices.



The Strategic Implications of Iran’s STD Epidemic

by David P. Goldman

Asia Times Online

January 30, 2015

“In the 5th Century BC, the “Persian disease” noted by Hippocrates probably was bubonic plague; in 8th-century Japan, it meant the measles. Today it well might mean chlamydia. Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country’s falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. Iran has become a country radically different from the vision of its theocratic rulers, with prevailing social pathologies quite at odds with the self-image of radical Islam.

“In the 5th Century BC, the “Persian disease” noted by Hippocrates probably was bubonic plague; in 8th-century Japan, it meant the measles. Today it well might mean chlamydia. Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country’s falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. Iran has become a country radically different from the vision of its theocratic rulers, with prevailing social pathologies quite at odds with the self-image of radical Islam.


Unremovable supercookies, 


Some readers will be interested in this:

It’s about unremovable ‘supercookies.’ It looks like Verizon takes the concept of unchecked capitalism’s peddling human flesh on the street to heart.

Such lovelies.



Interplanetary Climate Change NASA’s Hottest Secret. A clip from David Wilcock – YouTube


All nine planets are warming up:

I know nothing about this guy, but I remember reading years ago that other planets are experiencing global warming. Consider this a follow-up.


Just how does CO2 on Earth warm Mars? Yet we find it there, and other planets are warming. We see warming all over the solar system.  I remarked on the brightness changes ten years ago, but climate change is “science.”



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Air Power and Other Matters.


View from Chaos Manor, Saturday, January 31, 2015


Went for a walk to end of the block. Tiring and I will have to buy a speed walker to do more. Mine is a very good indoor walker, and fine on good sidewalks, but horrible in this neighborhood.

Firefox for some reason does not use autocorrect or spell check on this Windows 7 system. It works on the laptop but other things are different there. I even used Uninstall on Firefox, but when I reinstalled it came up with the same settings and add-ons as before and spell check does not work. At all. It is infuriating.

I will be looking for a good speed walker that has a seat; suggestions welcome. It is painful to take a walk with me now. I am slow and so concentrating on not falling that it has to be boring for everyone else around me.

I have many comments and much more to say about Air Power. We will get to some of it shortly.


I took a quick look at what the Air Force has done since 1945, using readily available sources. They have flown about 6.5 million sorties in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and the War on Terror. About 75% of these sorties were in Vietnam (shame we didn’t win that one, eh?). Sorties are a crude metric, especially now that with precision munitions you can hit many more than one target per sortie. For example, the B-1 and B-52 flew 11% of the sorties in the first three months of Enduring Freedom but dropped 75% of the PGMs. Furthermore, the aircraft does not necessarily drop a bomb on every sortie, especially during the War on Terror. Nevertheless, sortie numbers tell you something about what the Air Force actually did.
Contrary to what you might think, the Air Force has spent most of its time supporting our ground troops in the field. Fully 26% of the sorties were close air support or interdiction – i.e., killing enemy troops and destroying their supplies. Another 44% were tactical airlift – not glamorous, but keeps the troops supplied. Recon missions were 12%. Most of those were over South Vietnam, meaning they involved looking for enemy ground troops so we could kill them. That supports the Army. Only 3% of the sorties were counterair missions – but that includes bombing airfields and SAM sites, not just combat air patrol. Another 4% were “strategic bombing”. This generously counts missions over North Vietnam as strategic bombing, although most of the targets were transportation targets so it was really an extension of the interdiction campaign. In sum, 82% of the sorties supported the field army (close air support, interdiction, airlift, recon) while only 7% were “independent” Air Force missions (counterair, strategic bombing).
After WW2, when the USAF dropped a bomb, it was almost always aimed at enemy ground forces:
4 million tons on South Vietnam (i.e., CAS, interdiction)
3 million tons on Laos/Cambodia (i.e., interdiction)
1 million tons on North Vietnam (mostly on transportation and air defense targets)
Desert Storm USAF airstrikes:
64% on the Iraqi Army
3% to cut lines of communication into Kuwait (bridges, etc.)
15% on air defense targets
13% on “strategic” targets (industry, WMD facilities, government control)
4% on SCUDs
Operation Iraqi Freedom USAF airstrikes:
78% on the Iraqi Army
7% on air defenses
15% on “strategic” targets (WMD, government control)
This is not a picture of an Air Force that has forgotten that the purpose of air superiority is to bomb the enemy, or that regards supporting the Army with contempt. If they hate CAS, they sure have done a heck of a lot of it – almost a million sorties! What more could they have done than the astounding efforts they exerted to support the Army in Vietnam and Iraq?
Regarding the P-47 being a “better” close air support aircraft than what we have, I disagree. The USAF used both propeller and jet aircraft in Korea and Vietnam. Yes, the prop planes had more loiter time, but they were less responsive and more vulnerable to ground fire. By the way, despite the advent of jets, the USAF “response time” to an Army CAS request dropped from 3 hours in WW2, to 1 hour in Korea, to 15 minutes in Vietnam, to 10 minutes or less today.
Our fighters are so good that the enemy refuses to fly against them. The Iraqis buried their planes in the ground in 2003 rather than engage us. This is not a reason to stop being good at air combat. If we stop having the best-trained pilots in the best aircraft, the enemy will contest control of the air.
Frankly I think there’s a better argument for abolishing the Army than the Air Force. Every time we have a good Army, a politician does something stupid with it. Oh but land power is decisive and airpower is indecisive? Gimme a break. Nowadays the Army isn’t even allowed to fight decisively, and the enemy knows all they have to do is wait for us to get tired and go away. Better not even to have the option to get stuck in another long, indecisive “stability” operation.
James Perry

I think you confuse effort with work: number of sorties looks good, but what they accomplished is a better measure.  The USAF air support in Korea was awful – compared to their air war in which they justly claimed that our ground forces suffered no casualties from enemy air. Be sure to note the word enemy because on the retreat from the Yalu we suffered plenty of casualties from air attacks as jet planes came in fast with guns and bombs.

I suspect we will continue to disagree, but the designers of future USAF craft are not listening to either of us. You cite impressive numbers; I only know stories from people I trust who say the A10 was very effective so of course USAF doesn’t want it because it is ugly. 

“This is very serious, to accuse people of treason for communicating with Congress,”

Read more here: Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general


Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general

The Air Force is investigating allegations that the No. 2 commander at its prestigious Air Combat Command told lower-ranking officers that talking to members of Con…

View on


Ask Douglas MacArthur

Well MacArthur’s story is more complex.  And for all his genius he didn’t understand air war.  Air supremacy is a vital mission and a lot of ground officers do not understand the necessary targeting philosophy,  



Goering, himself a fighter pilot during WWI, had a firm grasp on the concepts of and need for air superiority. Following the Spanish Civil War, he also had highly skilled single-seater pilots.

What he DIDN’T have was the ability to override the Command Authority.

The Battle of Britain was going in Germany’s favor during the early stages, and the Luftwaffe doctrine was to destroy RAF Fighter Command.

The first bombing campaign was against Fighter Command airfields, because a fighter that can’t land today won’t take off tomorrow.

However, this doctrine didn’t survive the 26 August (1940) retaliatory raid in which the RAF bombed Berlin. Furious, Hitler ordered the unrestricted mass bombing of London and other British cities, and Goering wasn’t able to talk him out of it.

This was where Germany lost the war against the UK, and ultimately the Allies.

With the focus on bombing shifted away from his airfields, Air Vice Marshall Keith Park now had the time to rebuild his runways and move 11 Group fighters back into them (from the fallback fields where they had been moved to get out from under the “Heinkel Umbrella”). They could strike at the German bombers, while the German fighters had significantly less loiter time in the combat area (a lesson that the USAAC had to re-learn, when our fighters arrived without long-range tanks and were unable to stay with the B-17 and B-24 groups over Europe).

Thus, Germany’s defeat is laid squarely at the feet of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, not the Luftwaffe.

There are three types of military plane: fighters, bombers and transports. The A-10 is a bomber (even the gun is intended for attacking ground targets), so it relies on the fighters to sweep the skies for it. The fighters rely on the A-10 to see to it that the enemy tank commander isn’t hosting lunch in the Officers’ Mess when they get back.

OUR National Command Authority is as ignorant as the NSDAP, when it comes to the needs of air superiority and air defense. By cancelling the F-22 builds and shelving the A-10, they put all of our eggs in one basket, guarded by the F-35 — in a role it wasn’t designed for.

If the Republicans can find a presidential candidate whose spine is anything more than the connection between his cranium and rectum, perhaps the F-22 will go back into production and the USAF generals won’t have to sacrifice the A-10 in order to get the F-35 that they’ve been forced to need.

Keep recovering, Jerry!


That is one explanation, but the decision to swat hornets one at a time continued. It may be that Hitler did not understand and forced the decision; but he listened to Goering – to his detriment at Stalingrad – and we don’t really know what happened.  In any event the Battle of Britain showed that fuel stores and planes on the ground air targets than Spitfires in the air.


Why not give the A-10 – the whole CAS mission, for that matter – to the Marines?

They already have their own fixed-wing air arm, and they’re often the beneficiaries of CAS.

Roland Dobbins

Marine Air gives good support to Marines and Navy; it is not so fine at support of the ground Army.  It works; why change it?  But the War Dept. needs air support also. And both need Air Supremacy.


China’s Wind Power Capacity Exceeds Entire UK Power Grid

The third paragraph is the most interesting, but the first two are worth noting:


Installations of wind power in the U.S. surged sixfold last year, making it the largest market for the technology worldwide after China.

The U.S. added 4.7 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity in 2014 compared with 764 megawatts a year earlier, largely due to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in January 2013, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in a statement. Total U.S. onshore wind installations are now 64.2 megawatts.

China remains the biggest market for wind with installations rising a record 38 percent, or 20.7 gigawatts, from a year earlier, according to BNEF. China’s grid-connected wind-energy capacity now is 96 gigawatts, more than that of the entire U.K. power fleet. Wind energy is China’s largest power source after coal and hydropower.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Do not confuse capacity with output. The US has high capacity. So does Germany. Alas that is only when the wind is blowing. The result is brownout where wind is the main supplier. Storage is the problem; and it is lousy. As far as I know there is nothing more efficient than pumped storage — using wind energy to pump water up hill, where it will later run down into a turbine – and that is at best 80% efficient, generally less so, and creates a not very useful lake whose level rises and falls frequently. Look up pumped storage for more. Batteries are obviously less complicated, but also more expensive. China’s investment is not likely to be optimum.


: Fred Reed: ‘It is well known that Paul Bremer, the virtual viceroy of Bagdad after the city’s fall in Gulf I, disbanded the Iraqi army. Less known is that he replaced Mohammed al Aksa, the chief of intelligence, with Abdul dhar es Salaam, *a known Sufi

‘It is well known that Paul Bremer, the virtual viceroy of Bagdad after the city’s fall in Gulf I, disbanded the Iraqi army. Less known is that he replaced Mohammed al Aksa, the chief of intelligence, with Abdul dhar es Salaam, *a known Sufi extremist* with ties to Iranian intelligence.’


Roland Dobbins

Bremer has the loss of Iraq to answer for. H should be made aware of that.


Peggy Noonan’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal is worth your time. America’s foreign policy since 2009 has been a disaster. It is now getting worse. If you have no goal, it is difficult to achieve it.

Something is going on here.

On Tuesday retired Gen. James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command (2010-13) told the Senate Armed Services Committee of his unhappiness at the current conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He said the U.S. is not “adapting to changed circumstances” in the Mideast and must “come out now from our reactive crouch.” Washington needs a “refreshed national strategy”; the White House needs to stop being consumed by specific, daily occurrences that leave it “reacting” to events as if they were isolated and unconnected. He suggested deep bumbling: “Notifying the enemy in advance of our withdrawal dates” and declaring “certain capabilities” off the table is no way to operate.

Sitting beside him was Gen. Jack Keane, also a respected retired four-star, and a former Army vice chief of staff, who said al Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years” and is “beginning to dominate multiple countries.” He called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation” and said we are failing to meet it.

The same day the generals testified, Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast reported that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a retired director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told a Washington conference: “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists.” The audience of military and intelligence professionals applauded. Officials, he continued, are “paralyzed” by the complexity of the problems connected to militant Islam, and so do little, reasoning that “passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies.”

These statements come on the heels of the criticisms from President Obama’s own former secretaries of defense. Robert Gates, in “Duty,” published in January 2014, wrote of a White House-centric foreign policy developed by aides and staffers who are too green or too merely political. One day in a meeting the thought occurred that Mr. Obama “doesn’t trust” the military, “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his.” That’s pretty damning. Leon Panetta , in his 2014 memoir, “Worthy Fights,” said Mr. Obama “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”

No one thinks this administration is the A Team when it comes to foreign affairs, but this is unprecedented push-back from top military and intelligence players. They are fed up, they’re less afraid, they’re retired, and they’re speaking out. We are going to be seeing more of this kind of criticism, not less.

On Thursday came the testimony of three former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger (1973-77), George Shultz (1982-89) and Madeleine Albrigh t (1997-2001). Senators asked them to think aloud about what America’s national-security strategy should be, what approaches are appropriate to the moment. It was good to hear serious, not-green, not-merely-political people give a sense of the big picture. Their comments formed a kind of bookend to the generals’ criticisms.

They seemed to be in agreement on these points:

We are living through a moment of monumental world change.

Old orders are collapsing while any new stability has yet to emerge.

When you’re in uncharted waters your boat must be strong.

If America attempts to disengage from this dangerous world it will only make all the turmoil worse.

Mr. Kissinger observed that in the Mideast, multiple upheavals are unfolding simultaneously—within states, between states, between ethnic and religious groups. Conflicts often merge and produce such a phenomenon as the Islamic State, which in the name of the caliphate is creating a power base to undo all existing patterns.

Mr. Shultz said we are seeing an attack on the state system and the rise of a “different view of how the world should work.” What’s concerning is “the scope of it.”

Mr. Kissinger: “We haven’t faced such diverse crises since the end of the Second World War.” The U.S. is in “a paradoxical situation” in that “by any standard of national capacity . . . we can shape international relations,” but the complexity of the present moment is daunting. The Cold War was more dangerous, but the world we face now is more complicated.

How to proceed in creating a helpful and constructive U.S. posture?

Mr. Shultz said his attitude when secretary of state was, “If you want me in on the landing, include me in the takeoff.” Communication and consensus building between the administration and Congress is key. He added: “The government seems to have forgotten about the idea of ‘execution.’ ” It’s not enough that you say something, you have to do it, make all the pieces work.

When you make a decision, he went on, “stick with it.” Be careful with words. Never make a threat or draw a line you can’t or won’t make good on.

In negotiations, don’t waste time wondering what the other side will accept, keep your eye on what you can and work from there.

Keep the U.S. military strong, peerless, pertinent to current challenges.

Proceed to negotiations with your agenda clear and your strength unquestionable.

Mr. Kissinger: “In our national experience . . . we have trouble doing a national strategy” because we have been secure behind two big oceans. We see ourselves as a people who respond to immediate, specific challenges and then go home. But foreign policy today is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.