View 817 Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.

Syrian Freedom Fighters


When I was growing up, there was war in Europe before I understood much about international affairs. Somewhere in first grade I heard of George Washington, and since there was national debate over US involvement in putting an end to German aggression, opponents of US involvement in that affair warned us against entangling alliances and involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. But then came Pearl Harbor and all such debates ended. The goal after that was converting the US industrial economy into Freedom’s Forge ( , one of the most mazing stories of the last century. During the Depression the US built the Empire State Building and Hoover Dam; from 1940 to 1943 America converted to war production and produced more war goods than all the allies plus all the Axis put together. One hundred and thirty merchant ships a month; tens of thousands of aircraft, tanks, machine guns, artillery pieces and ammunition, trucks, Jeeps, mess kits, uniforms, boots, transportation system to get them to the war area; they flowed endlessly from Detroit, Willow Run, Richmond California, hundreds of other places, most of which are now mired in unemployment.

Yet through all of that remained the memory that Washington had warned us against being involved in the territorial disputes of Europe, and against entangling alliances that would involve us in those disputes. Europe was Europe, and we did not need to be involved.

Pearl Harbor convinced us otherwise, and after World War II ended and we had begun to convert back to a peacetime economy, the Berlin Blockade and then the invasion of South Korea convinced us that we had better pay attention to international politics, since international politics was certainly paying attention to us.

I grew up a Cold Warrior. My contributions to the Cold War were small with two exceptions: Strategy of Technology, which remains instructive to this day even if the examples are Cold War, not realist politics; and the “kitchen cabinet” reports on missile defense. Gene Roddenberry, no Cold Warrior himself, accused us of trying to “break the Soviet Union” with the Strategic Defense Initiative, and of course had done the right analysis: the idea was to confront the USSR with a number of equally unpleasant alternatives, all of them leading to its downfall without the detonation of any nuked anywhere. A lot of strategists considered this impossible, and those born after about 1980 will not remember the cold fear of nuclear war, the very rational Survivalist movement which feared that the efforts of the Cold Warriors would fail, and the days when there were 26,000 deliverable nuclear warheads aimed at the United State; of the time when young men and women sat twenty-four hours a day in a warcrete hardened command post, waiting for the Klaxon. EWO. EWO. Emergency War Orders, Emergency War Orders. I have a message in five parts. Message Begins. TANGO. XRAY …

But in 1990 the world changed, and the USSR, which had world domination as its goal, was replaced by – well, no one quite knew what it was replaced by. Herman Kahn had predicted before his death in 1983 that if we could avoid a nuclear war in the death throes of the USSR, Russia would revert to what it had always been, a regional power with pan-Slavic interests, and a natural ally of the United States as our relationship with Europe changed from military savior to economic competitor.

Today the President of the United States told Russia that “You are a regional power. The United States is the only super power.” He did not add that the US spends more on its defenses than the rest of the world put together; nor did he mention that our attempts to project that power into the territorial disputes of the Middle East – Kuwait, to begin with – have not always turned out well; we have withdrawn from Iraq leaving an illegal Kurdish Republic which under Obama’s logic Baghdad has every right to repossess, and when we withdraw from Afghanistan it is not settled just how far from Kabul the writ of the President we have installed there will run. Our Navy is now under 300 warships and sinking. In World War Two we launched, crewed, and deployed that many ships in a single month. But that was in another time.

And so we initiate a new Cold War, but one of words. We insult the President of Russia and do him small injuries when it is not clear what we demand to make our wasp stings stop. He will not relinquish the Crimea. The last time the West tried to pry the Crimea out of the fingers of the masters of the Kremlin, it took an army.

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

If you have not read it lately, it will do you good to do so:

But we no longer have the means to send a light brigade to the Crimea. Indeed we don’t have a light brigade at all.

No more light infantry.

The US no longer has ‘light infantry’ regardless of the title of any unit…

And we continue to relearn lessons already learned:

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

Of course I know the Light Brigade was cavalry, not infantry. And when you finish reading Tennyson, try Kipling on what happened to those heroes.  Democracies are not kind to their heroes.

The President threatens to do harm to President Putin and his friends, and to Russia. President Clinton made the same error in the Balkans, and in fact actually sent US forces into a region where the blood feuds stem from five hundred years, to confront Pan-Slavic Russia in the very place where Russian Slavophiles caused Russia to mobilize in defense of the Slavs, Germany to mobilize lest a mobilized Russia sweep into Prussia, and the Guns of August began. But of course nothing like that happens now. We participated in the latest Balkan War from 15,000 feet. In this next encounter we will fight with banknotes and property seizures. But Russians remember insults for a hundred years and more.

God Save Us.


We have forgotten much of what we knew about a strategy of technology; yet in these times of Moore’s Law, it is much more difficult to remain the only superpower. Is there anyone who believes the Russians are not capable of programming computers and designing chips? That they have not the mathematicians?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I’m having to read between the lines a little bit, but it appears the Navy’s procurement of Hellfire and Tomahawks are being zeroed out over the next two years in favor of research and development of a new system.

While these systems ARE a bit long in the tooth, they are more than adequate in their current roles, I believe. Given the immense amount of trouble the F-35 program is having, I’m reluctant to zero out any production in favor of untested systems.


Brian P.

A proper Strategy of Technology takes account of the need for doctrines and training as well as for testing of the technology. Schriever built that into the old Systems Command, but that is long gone. Meanwhile the President taunts the Russian who believes himself regent for the tsar.



It is time to do a mail bag, but we have a dinner appointment tonight, and this fits here reasonably well:

Bunny inspectors and bear busters 

Dear Dr. Pournelle

If I’m reading this story correctly, the USFS set up a sting operation to nab poachers. Only they couldn’t find any poachers, so they resorted to entrapment. Of those who went to trial, anyone who actually took it to a jury seems to have been acquitted. Meanwhile, the USFS employees in question have been decorated for their role in the action.

There was a time when being a police officer was something to be proud of. I hope we can make that the case again, and part of that is to ratchet down the overweening power of various federal agencies.


Brian P.

Whatever it takes to ensure the loyalty of the troops.



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




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