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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

Tribal Counsel
by Steve Sailer
January 25, 2017

Vanity Fair war correspondent Sebastian Junger, codirector of the documentary Restrepo about American soldiers in Afghanistan, points out in his recent book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging that American soldiers currently suffer from the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in human history.

This short book tries to sum up the political lessons Junger has learned from a quarter century of going to and coming home from dangerous places. It’s a work of swashbuckling anthropological theory that tries to answer the question raised by Restrepo: Why do the guys defending a fort in Afghanistan find living in a tiny bunker to be a blast, while coming home to America is so discombobulating for them? …

Junger’s focus in Tribe, however, lies less with what’s wrong with our ex-soldiers than with what’s wrong with the 21st-century American society they return to.

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Books, War 
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I realize the national conversation isn’t supposed to be about the Commander-in-Chief’s strategic decision-making, but I want to peer back deep into the mists of time to March 17, 2011 when I was idly browsing on the Internet only to discover that, with negligible public discussion, much less a Congressional declaration of war, President Obama had launched America into a war with a country that had been considered one of the success stories of recent American diplomacy. In puzzlement, I blogged:

Are We at War with Libya? 

In theory, this shouldn’t be all that hard to blast Gadaffi’s air force and tanks in open desert. There’s a difference between a land war in Asia and a land war in North Africa. We already won one of those 68 years ago, against a better general than anybody working for Gadaffi. 

But, then what happens? I don’t know.

I still don’t know.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming: Let’s Talk About How Mitt Romney Is a Big Doo-Doo Head Instead.

Forty-five years ago, Romeny’s dad, a leading GOP candidate for the 1968 Presidential nomination, came out against the Vietnam War. When asked why he had supported it after returning from a quick visit in 1965, he said he’d been “brainwashed” by the diplomats and generals. This proved the end of his White House hopes. His son drew the lesson that caution in the face of the Establishment was crucial. 

The problem we face on foreign policy is the Establishment monoculture in Washington: in the run-up and follow-up to the Iraq War, many of the sensible people were purged and the loonies rewarded.

Obama is one of the few to benefit from being right: he gave one speech against the Iraq War and got the White House. Howard Dean gave a hundred speeches and got a life of leisure. Hillary Clinton was for the war and got to be Secretary of State.

Today, the acceptable limits of foreign policy discourse in America are set by: 

- The good old military-industrial complex
- Saudi bribery
- Liberal Democratic Zionists
- Right 2 Protect liberal crypto-imperialist/busybodies
- Angry Likudniks
- Quasi-CIA “democracy” endowments that organize color-coded revolutions
- Foreign policy thinktanks (who are more important the more activist the foreign policy)
- White guys who need to serve in the military so they can get affirmative action points to become firemen
- Yahoos who should be apprised that when football isn’t on TV, professional wrestling can always be found year-round, so there’s no need to watch the news
- Oil companies (who are left to quietly play the “Can’t we all just get along?” Rodney King role)

They are all overseen by a national media that sometimes seems most concerned about the looming threat that an isolationist Father Coughlin could arise again.

So, the only feasible foreign policy alternative to stake out is: “The President’s foreign policy isn’t quite crazed enough!”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: War 
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From the New York Times:

Afghan Uproar Casts Shadows on U.S Pullout 

WASHINGTON — American officials sought to reassure both Afghanistan’s government and a domestic audience on Sunday that the United States remained committed to the war after the weekend killing of two American military officers inside the Afghan Interior Ministry and days of deadly anti-American protests. 

But behind the public pronouncements, American officials described a growing concern, even at the highest levels of the Obama administration and Pentagon, about the challenges of pulling off a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan that hinges on the close mentoring and training of army and police forces.

The “challenges of pulling off a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan” seem somewhat exaggerated.

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free 

Things have gotten so wacky that the New Voice of Sanity on Afghanistan is the Newtster, who said to Afghanistan this week: “‘You know, you’re going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life.’”
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Back in the summer of 2006, war with Iran fever swept Washington when Israel got into a dustup with Lebanese Shi’ites dug into Southern Lebanon. I did a lot of research back then and discovered that … well, fewer and fewer people outside Washington are really all that obsessed with war anymore. So, here are my half-dozen year old postings. We now have over a half-decade of history to test who was right and who was wrong in 2006: responsible foreign policy experts or me. So, who was it?
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Personally, I think Krauthammer’s version of these talking points in the Washington Post was more excitingly written up, but the NYT goes with the Mossad version:
From the New York Times:

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Iran’s Achilles’ Heel
By EFRAIM HALEVY 

THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran’s foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies — and its presence there must be ended. … 

… pave the way for Mr. Assad’s downfall.

Once this is achieved, the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.

Those who see this scenario as a daydream should consider the alternative: a post-Assad government still wedded to Iran with its fingers on the buttons controlling long-range Syrian missiles with chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel. This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to prevent it.

Efraim Halevy, a former Israeli national security adviser and ambassador, was director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002. 

Okay, so the threat Syria’s chemical warheads pose to Israel is kind of like the threat that Venezuela poses to Florida. I mean, if Hugo Chavez suddenly decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore and he wanted to be blown up by the American military, he might attack America. Maybe with speedboats loaded with WWI-technology chemical weapons. They could roar right up to Key West and wipe out some discos and t-shirt stands. I mean, why not?

In 2010, Oliver Stone made a documentary where he wandered around Latin America interviewing lefty caudillos. Chavez was the star. As Chavez is showing Stone a corn-processing plant built by Iranian technicians, he deadpans: “This is where we’re building the Iranian atomic bomb … the Corn Bomb.” But Chavez gets a worried look on his face as if he were thinking, “Oh, crap, this is too serious to joke about. If that camera happened to run out of videotape right before my “Corn Bomb” joke, the USAF might blow us up.”

By the way, the CIA World Factbook ranks Venezuela’s military spending as a percent of GDP at 118th in the world. Israel ranks 6th, Syria ranks 11th, and Iran 62nd. But that was back in 2005 because the CIA hasn’t bothered to update the list in a long time. Back in 2006, during the frightening bout of war fever in Washington caused by Israel’s spat with Hezbollah, I wrote a bunch of blog posts citing the CIA’s then-current rankings of military expenditures to show that the most of the world outside the Washington-Tel Aviv corridor was losing interest in war (prefiguring Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature). The CIA has barely updated their list since. And I’ve never seen anybody complain that this vital information isn’t being kept up to date. Nobody seems to care about data. It would just get in the way of all the fun that Krauthammer and the Mossad alumni are having.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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With John McCain issuing a vague death threat against Vladimir Putin following NATO’s hit on Gadaffi, it’s worth considering that McCain is an elder statesman of mainstream Republicanism, while Patrick J. Buchanan is a terrifying extremist. We similarly saw this back in August 2008, when little Georgia, then proposed for membership in NATO, invaded Russian-held territory. McCain responded with bellicose support for the aggressor, while Buchanan thought it was nuts for the U.S. to get militarily involved 600 miles south of Stalingrad.
As I mentioned in my review in VDARE of Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower, Buchanan is one of the few people in Washington who took the end of the Cold War as a signal for anything other than self-congratulation. The struggle with the Soviets meant we had had to do many things that were painful, costly, dangerous, or distasteful; therefore, Buchanan reasoned in the early 1990s, let’s now stop doing them. 
For example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had been an improvisation made necessary by superpower conflict. It had preserved the peace by heightening the stakes to a “balance of terror” via a mutual defense pact. It had done its job, so it was now time to wind it down. 

“As Russia had gone home, some of us urged back then, America should come home, cede NATO and all the U.S. bases in Europe to the Europeans, and become again what UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick called ‘a normal country in a normal time.’ Our foreign policy elites, however, could not accept that the play was closing after a forty-year run …”

That heresy made Buchanan an outcast among the Serious Thinkers, to whom NATO wasn’t an adventure, it was a job. (Brussels is lovely this time of year.) Their slogan became “NATO must go out of area or go out of business.”
Hence, globalist leaders have gone looking far afield for wars, such as bombing Serbia and Libya, to keep NATO “relevant.” The U.S., Buchanan points out, also repeatedly violated its pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev not to expand NATO “one inch to the East,” in return for which the last Soviet leader agreed to West Germany taking over East Germany. Moscow’s resentment of NATO backstabbing was then cited as proof that Moscow has a Bad Attitude, which requires NATO to encroach even more upon their natural sphere of influence.  
But, as Buchanan points out in Suicide of a Superpower, this empire-building-on-autopilot has reached economic, political, and geographic limits. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined. And the strategic logic of expanding NATO to unstable and unimportant countries such as Georgia or Ukraine, as once planned, is derisible. 
There’s the public history of modern Europe that lauds the expensive international institutions that keep bloodthirsty nations from starting new wars, and then there’s the hidden history: Stalin’s massive ethnic cleansing in 1945 of nearly all Germans from Eastern Europe left Europeans with relatively little to fight over (other than their domination by the extra-European superpowers, the Soviet Union and the U.S).
Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times last Sunday does a good job of summing up the Buchananite critique of Pinkerian optimism. (Although Douthat doesn’t mention Buchanan, he does namecheck the Derb). Buchanan and Douthat both cite Jerry Z. Muller, who wrote in 2008:

“The creation of ethnonational states across Europe, a consequence of two world wars and ethnic cleansing, was a precondition of stability, unity, and peace. With no ethnic rivals inside their national homes, European peoples had what they had fought for, and were now prepared to live in peace with their neighbors.”

To say that Buchanan is pessimistic about American foreign policy, however, is to miss the key point: there isn’t much reason to fight. Sure, we should continue to promise to defend Taiwan with our Navy, but are the Chinese really going to try to conquer Taiwan? Both sides are making too much money doing business with each other to have time for a war. 
Or, imagine that a majority in Ukraine decide to reunite with Russia, while a minority rebel. Would the American public agree to fight the Russo-Ukrainian army fighting the rebels? Would we be willing to reimpose the draft to liberate West Ukraine?  (Buchanan helped out way back in 1967 with Richard Nixon’s hugely popular decision to phase out conscription.) Buchanan thinks the idea of the U.S. going to war in the ex-Soviet Union is politically absurd. 
Thank God lunatics like Buchanan are marginalized while thoughtful statesmen like McCain are accorded the respect their wisdom has earned.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: War 
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other “dictators” should feel nervous after the death of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, U.S. Senator John McCain said. 

“I think dictators all over the world, including Bashar al-Assad, maybe even Mr. Putin, maybe some Chinese, maybe all of them, may be a little bit more nervous,” McCain said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. late yesterday. “It’s the spring, not just the Arab spring.”

Maybe McCain really believes that Gadafi’s demise was the result of the spontaneous uprising of democracy-loving Libyan citizens and that, in the big picture of things, the NATO death-from-above airstrike that blasted his escape convoy didn’t have anything to do with Kaffaffee’s lynching a few hours later. But Vladimir Putin didn’t get where he is by being that deluded.

Putin is a bad man. I don’t like him. But, when senior American politicians start issuing vague threats against Putin’s life, allow me to point out pictorially a difference between Qazzafi and Putin. Above you see the kind of hardware that the Colonel had going for him: a statue of a giant fist crushing an American fighter-bomber. Below is a picture of the kind of hardware Putin has going for him:
Putin has about a dozen active boomers: nuclear powered submarines carrying nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles. (Most of them not Hunt for Red October-style Typhoon Class leviathans, but still …) As a general rule of diplomacy, it’s a good idea to restrict making personal death threats to only those national leaders without boomers.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: War 
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In the November issue of The American Conservative, I have a lengthy review of Steven Pinker’s new book. Subscribers can read my review online, or you can buy a paper copy of the magazine at a newsstand for money (a remarkable concept, I realize).
Here is a small excerpt:

Disorder is a dauntingly vast topic. So, we are lucky that Pinker, a Harvard cognitive scientist whose 2002 work The Blank Slate may have been the outstanding book of the last decade, has turned his abundant energy and intelligence to understanding violence. No reductionist, Pinker attributes what he sees as the slow retreat from violence to “six trends” interacting with “five inner demons,” “four better angels,” and “five historical forces.”  

These 20 factors — ranging from the rise of Leviathan to the expansion of empathy and rationality — aren’t really enough to explain trends in violence, but they’re certainly a start. And I can’t think of anybody who could have done a better job. Pinker’s range is extraordinary. For instance, The Better Angels of Our Nature includes the best introduction to brain anatomy that I’ve read. (And Pinker isn’t even all that terribly impressed by fashionable fMRI scans.) Yet, his touch is light. He sums up the research on why marriage makes men behave better with Johnny Cash’s definitive explanatory couplet: “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”  

(And, in case you are wondering, yes, Pinker eventually does quote Edwin Starr’s 1970 Motown hit single: “War! Huh, yeah, what is it good for?” Being Pinker, he presents a long list of the pragmatic uses of war, while remaining in emotional harmony with Starr’s sentiment: “Absolutely nothing!”)

For the parts of my review where I critique Better Angels, well, you can read the review. 
A few points: the topic of violence is gigantic and Pinker’s book is remarkably thorough. So, don’t assume that Pinker hasn’t considered, at length, the various counter-arguments. My galley copy is festooned with my notes to myself in the margin like: “A-ha! P. is ignoring X. That undermines his whole argument.” But then, 400 pages later, Pinker writes something like, “You have probably noticed that so far I haven’t mentioned X, which might seem to undermine my whole argument. But, I have seven responses to X.” 
Second, even though my American Conservative review is about 3,000 words long, I wound up having to leave out lots of good stuff. Some of it then went into my new Taki’s Magazine column comparing Pinker’s book on violence to Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower in light of the violent homicide of Col. Kathafi.
Third, Graham H. Seibert has a good review of Pinker’s book at Amazon.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Books, Crime, War 
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From my column in Taki’s Magazine:

The two big books of the moment are Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (which I reviewed in the November issue of The American Conservative) and Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? (which I reviewed in VDARE). Pinker argues that the future belongs increasingly to peaceful cosmopolitan globalism, while Buchanan claims that ethnonationalism’s universal appeal can ultimately lead to national stabilization.  

How do the two books’ contrasting forecasts look following the spectacularly violent homicide of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi?  

Pinker, the noted Harvard psychology professor, contends (among much else in his 832 pages) that there exists a civilizing process that makes people behave less violently over time. 

Granted, Kathafi’s end turned out to be not quite as Facebookish as the sort of National Defriending that promoters of the Arab Spring had implied. The whole NATO Highway of Death routine followed by militiamen (apparently) executing him point-blank seems a little pre-Twittery …

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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The news that the U.S. military is going to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army in central African reminded me that the U.S. military has had, for a few years now, an organization entitled “Africa Command.” For reasons that need not detain us here, the 2,000 personnel of Africa Command are actually based in Stuttgart*. But you have to admit that “Africa Command” is a pretty cool name. That sounds like a 1966 adventure show that would have come on right after “Johnny Quest” and right before “Daktari.” If I were seven years old again, I would definitely watch “Africa Command.”

* Ruling elites in Africa are jokingly referred to by less privileged Africans as members of the Wabenzi tribe, after their favorite brand of automobile, so perhaps Stuttgart was chosen for its extensive natural resources of Mercedes and Porsches?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: War 
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From Reuters:

President Barack Obama said on Friday he was sending about 100 U.S. military advisers to Uganda to support central African allies pursuing Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and other rebel commanders. … 

“Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he said.

The Bush Administration sent 17 unarmed advisers to Uganda, but Obama is sending 100 armed soldiers. It seems as if Uganda — Yoweri Museveni, Proprietor (since 1986) — is pretty good at invading the Congo, but not so hot at putting down a rebellion led by a dim-witted lunatic.

The War Nerd, John Dolan, profiled America’s newest enemy, the Lord’s Resistance Army, back in 2002:

This week I’m honoring some great Christian killers: the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda. These kids — and they are kids, mostly 13-16 years old — get my vote for funniest army on the planet. … 

There was another, way crazier and more fun: Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Little Joseph came from a very devout Christian family: his aunt Alice founded the LRA and passed it on to him when she died. Aunt Alice started some of the great traditions of the LRA, like telling your troops that if they just wore her special amulets, bullets won’t hurt them. Aunt Alice had everybody in the LRA believing God hisself would be their kevlar vest. This turned out to be untrue, but there was a great escape clause: by the time the chumps found out the amulets didn’t work as advertised, they were DEAD! Now that’s the way to run a complaint department” Thousands of satisfied customers and dissatisfied but uncomplaining corpses. … 

People won’t see this — won’t see how simple and practical the African style of warfare really is. The LRA is at war with the Ugandan Army, but it’s war Central-Africa style. We’re not talking Gettysburg or Verdun here. The idea isn’t to have big battles but to sneak up on an enemy village and kill all the civilians, take their livestock and steal their stuff.

Mr. Anon comments: “It takes a child to raze a village.”

Reporters like to call this “insane,” which is crap. Which would you rather do, get sent off to another continent to fight heavily-armed opponents (war Western-style) or kill the neighbors who wake you every damn morning with their stupid lawnmower (war African-style)? Especially if you can see they’ve got a nice DVD player in there? Personally, I’d much rather kill the neighbors and steal their stuff. And if they’ve got a daughter just hitting puberty — well, that’s just gravy.

I hope the Department of Defense has gotten the malaria drug issue straightened out. Over the last decade, Marines sent to Liberia tend to get malaria at very high rates. There had been complaints about the side effects of the prophylactic drug they are supposed to take, and some think they are skipping it.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Having recently read Steven Pinker’s new The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, it’s interesting to check in on the latest from 2011′s own war. How does this one match up with the great wars of the past?

NATO Commander Says Resilience of Qaddafi Loyalists Is Surprising 

By ERIC SCHMITT 

WASHINGTON — The commander of NATO’s air campaign in Libya has said that hundreds of organized fighters loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi pose a “resilient and fierce” threat in the two remaining pro-Qaddafi strongholds, and are exploiting the urban settings to complicate the alliance’s mission to protect civilians. 

“It’s really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” says Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, center, of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya.  …

General Jodice said a mix of African mercenaries and Qaddafi loyalist troops have successfully sustained command-and-control and supply lines in staunch defense of the cities, despite a NATO air campaign that is now in its seventh month and a multipronged ground assault in Surt by anti-Qaddafi fighters. 

“It’s really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” General Jodice said in a telephone interview on Sunday from his command center just north of Bologna, Italy. We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces. At this point, they might not see a way out.” 

General Jodice’s comments, coming on Sunday as former rebel fighters battled their way into the heart of Surt and then were driven back by sniper and mortar fire, tempered the boasts of anti-Qaddafi forces that Surt would soon be theirs and once again underscored the limitations that have confronted NATO throughout the air campaign. 

NATO’s mandate to protect civilians who are threatened or have come under attack is complicated by the alliance’s caution in striking targets — like buildings where snipers are hiding — that could result in the death or injury of civilians. 

… Strike missions have dropped to about two dozen a day from 50 missions daily, and allied warplanes rarely drop their precision-guided bombs these days, allied officials say. Take the three-day period from last Friday through Sunday, for example. 

On Friday, one vehicle staging area was attacked and destroyed in Surt, according to a NATO statement. On Saturday, there were no strikes. And on Sunday, three armed vehicles in Bani Walid were hit. 

The United States is still flying an array of surveillance planes and remotely piloted Predator drones, particularly near Surt. But General Jodice said there was no coordination or intelligence-sharing between NATO and the anti-Qaddafi fighters, though British and French special forces troops, among other advisers on the ground in Libya, have for months helped train the former rebels and provided them with intelligence. 

The advances by the anti-Qaddafi forces on Sunday came after three days of intense fighting that included some of the Libyan conflict’s bloodiest battles to date. The former rebels seized a convention center and a hospital in Surt, both of which General Jodice said had been used as sniper nests and loyalist command posts.

A convention center?

“The situation is extremely dynamic and NATO continues to monitor and act, when required, to protect civilians from attack or threat of attack.”

The Battle of El-Alamein this ain’t.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Libyan rebels fired at forces loyal to Qaddafi during fierce fighting in downtown Tripoli on Monday. – NYT
Can you actually hit anything firing a gun from above your head? Is the fighting really that “fierce” if you can’t be bothered to get behind the car right next to you and, you know, aim?

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, whose capture the rebels had trumpeted since Sunday, walked as a free man to the Qaddafi-controlled luxury Rixos Hotel in the center of Tripoli early Tuesday, boasting to foreign journalists there that his father’s government was still “in control” and had lured the rebels into a trap, the BBC and news services reported. 

That’s quite a strategy Col. Qatthafi has come up with — luring the enemy into the downtown of your capital. Amazing nobody has ever thought of that ploy before.

His appearance raised significant questions about the credibility of rebel leaders.

I’m shocked to hear of doubts about the credibility of anybody involved in this.

At the moment, whatever is going on in Tripoli is a confusing mess. But my prediction all along has been that once Obama started the “no-fly zone,” he’d keep dropping bombs until Col. Gaddafi is gone. For example, I wrote on March 25:

Yet, the bottom line about what will happen isn’t really all that confusing. What matters most is that Obama has an election coming up in 19 months. He can’t afford to go into the campaign known as The President of the United States Who Started a War with Muammar Gaddafi and Failed to Win. … 

I’m not saying that Obama had this all figured out from the moment he agreed to start the war or that he’s even figured it out after a week, but it will eventually dawn on him that his alternatives are now: 

1) Lose to Crazy America-Hating Terrorist Moamar Khadaffy, or
2) Drop More Bombs. 

So he will choose what’s behind Door #2. 

Of course, after Qadafi is gone, a whole bunch more stuff will happen in Libya, but, seriously, who cares? How much does Obama care about Libya versus how much does he cares about his fabulous career?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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The surrender of Japan in the late summer of 1945 remains one of the more argued-over events in history, even though it happened in the absolute full glare of world attention and it made complete sense. It’s worth going over the various causes once again, in part because it shows how hard it is to figure out why anybody does anything, even something as sensible as not getting atom bombed, invaded, and divided up with the Soviets.

Gareth Cook writes in the Boston Globe in “Why Did the Japanese Surrender?

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa – a highly respected historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara – has marshaled compelling evidence that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan’s surrender. 

I’ve always assumed it was all three that finally broke the will of the Japanese leadership. They had a truly bad week (Hiroshima August 6, Soviet invasion of Manchuria early August 9, Nagasaki midday August 9). And it still took them several more days, plus a giant American conventional bombing raid a few days after Nagasaki, to come to a consensus. And then there was a failed military coup that seized the Imperial Palace for a night. The surrender wasn’t announced until August 15 in Japan (although that was August 14 in Times Square).

The Japanese were nuts in WWII. The rulers had largely risen up through a system in which the non-nuts were assassinated, so their grip on reality was shaky. Their strategic planning boiled down to asserting that the bravery of Japanese soldiers would make Japan win in the end.

The Japanese could still inflict heavy casualties on any invader, and they hoped to convince the Soviet Union, still neutral in the Asian theater, to mediate a settlement with the Americans. Stalin, they calculated, might negotiate more favorable terms in exchange for territory in Asia. It was a long shot, but it made strategic sense. 

As opposed to Stalin just taking Japanese-held territory in northeast Asia with the world’s strongest army? The Japanese had been beaten bad up in the Manchuria-Mongolia-Russia border region by Gen. Zhukov way back in August 1939, and six years later, there was no evidence that a second Soviet-Japanese war would be less of a drubbing. So, what was in it for Stalin to step in on the side of Japan?

The Japanese high command was living in cloud-cuckoo land. And why, exactly, would you want to get Stalin involved in a war you are losing? In contrast, during the last weeks of the war in Europe, everybody in Germany with half-a-brain (e.g., Werner von Braun) had been climbing in their Mercedes and driving west as fast as they could to surrender to Americans or Brits rather than to the Soviets.

On Aug. 6, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped its payload on Hiroshima, leaving the signature mushroom cloud and devastation on the ground, including something on the order of 100,000 killed. (The figures remain disputed, and depend on how the fatalities are counted.) 

As Hasegawa writes in his book “Racing the Enemy,” the Japanese leadership reacted with concern, but not panic. On Aug. 7, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo sent an urgent coded telegram to his ambassador in Moscow, asking him to press for a response to the Japanese request for mediation, which the Soviets had yet to provide. The bombing added a “sense of urgency,” Hasegawa says, but the plan remained the same. 

Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan’s strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan’s traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow. 

By the morning of Aug. 9, the Japanese Supreme War Council was meeting to discuss the terms of surrender. (During the meeting, the second atomic bomb killed tens of thousands at Nagasaki.) On Aug. 15, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. …

“Meeting to discuss the terms of surrender” is misleading. The Japanese had long been willing to discuss “surrender” on highly favorable terms. They didn’t get serious about surrendering until after the Nagasaki bombing.

How is it possible that the Japanese leadership did not react more strongly to many tens of thousands of its citizens being obliterated? 

One answer is that the Japanese leaders were not greatly troubled by civilian causalities. As the Allies loomed, the Japanese people were instructed to sharpen bamboo sticks and prepare to meet the Marines at the beach. 

Yet it was more than callousness. The bomb – horrific as it was – was not as special as Americans have always imagined. In early March, several hundred B-29 Super Fortress bombers dropped incendiary bombs on downtown Tokyo. Some argue that more died in the resulting firestorm than at Hiroshima. People were boiled in the canals. The photos of charred Tokyo and charred Hiroshima are indistinguishable. 

In fact, more than 60 of Japan’s cities had been substantially destroyed by the time of the Hiroshima attack, according to a 2007 International Security article by Wilson, who is a senior fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In the three weeks before Hiroshima, Wilson writes, 25 cities were heavily bombed. 

To us, then, Hiroshima was unique, and the move to atomic weaponry was a great leap, military and moral. But Hasegawa argues the change was incremental. “Once we had accepted strategic bombing as an acceptable weapon of war, the atomic bomb was a very small step,” he says. To Japan’s leaders, Hiroshima was yet another population center leveled, albeit in a novel way. If they didn’t surrender after Tokyo, they weren’t going to after Hiroshima.

Cook is missing the point that it was not the Hiroshima bomb but the Nagasaki bomb that demonstrated that the U.S. could now vaporize cities at will. This isn’t a post-hoc rationalization. The American strategists had assumed that the Japanese militarists would reassure themselves that, well, sure, the Americans had one atomic bomb, but who can afford more than one? Indeed, a Japanese official made just that argument the day after Hiroshima. Thus, the U.S. planned to use two in one week to get the message across that the U.S. could afford as many as it felt like.
I don’t think the story of P-51 pilot and POW Lt. Marcus McDilda is essential to understanding the Japanese surrender, but it is interesting and I hadn’t heard it before:
From “War in the Pacific” by Marine Brig. Gen. Jerome Hagen:

On the evening of August 8, 1945, in Osaka, Japan, several kempei tai (Japanese secret police) were questioning an American flyer wh
o had been shot down earlier in the day. … The questioning intensified as did the beatings. What did he know of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima two days earlier? Absolutely nothing, McDilda responded. 

Believing that they were on to something, the kempei tai brought in a general officer just before midnight to break McDilda. The general demanded that McDilda tell him about the atomic bomb. When McDilda said nothing, the general drew his sword and held it before McDilda’s face. Then he jabbed forward, cutting through McDilda’s lip. Blood streamed down the pilot’s chin and flight suit. The general screamed, “If you don’t tell me about the bomb, I’ll personally cut off your head.” …  According to author William Craig, McDilda embarked upon a lie worthy of the best storyteller: 

“As you know …, when atoms are split, there are a lot of pluses and minuses released. Well, we’ve taken these and put them in a huge container and separated them from each other with a lead shield. When the box is dropped out of a plane, we melt the lead shield and the pluses and minuses come together. When that happens, it causes a tremendous bolt of lightning and all the atmosphere over a city is pushed back! Then when the atmosphere rolls back, it brings about a tremendous thunderclap, which knocks down everything beneath it.” 

When pushed to further describe the bomb, McDilda added that it was about 36 feet long and 24 feet wide. The interrogators were delighted but needed to know one thing more. Where was the next target for the new weapon? McDilda chose the two Japanese cities he could think of and responded, “Kyoto and Tokyo. Tokyo is supposed to be bombed in the next few days.” [In fact, the third atomic bomb was scheduled for August 19, and, yes, Tokyo may well have been the target.] … One of the interrogators left the room and put through a call to the headquarters of the secret police in Tokyo. 

The next morning, McDilda was flown from Osaka to Tokyo where he became a “very important person” to the Japanese secret police. McDilda’s questioner in Tokyo was a civilian who wore a pinstripe suit. “I am a graduate of CCNY College,” he told McDilda, “and most interested in your story about the atomic bomb.” McDilda repeated his story again. After several minutes, the official knew that McDilda was a fake who knew nothing about nuclear fission. When asked why he was telling such a lie, McDilda responded that he had tried, without success, to tell his interrogators that he knew nothing about the bomb but had to invent the lie to stay alive. The Japanese official laughed. McDilda was taken to a cell, given some food, and waited for the unknown. 

McDilda, at the time, had no idea that his lie had saved his life. Shortly after the emperor had broadcast the news of defeat, more than 50 American prisoners at the Osaka secret police headquarters were beheaded by vengeful Japanese soldiers.

The other point that I hadn’t realized until now was that the Soviet agreement to fight the Japanese after defeating the Germans — first made in 1943 and reiterated at Yalta in early 1945, with a specific timeframe of three months after German surrender, which Stalin kept to to the day — was kept secret. The Soviet declaration of war came as a huge surprise to the Japanese regime. 
In the summer of 1945, the Red Army was the reigning world heavyweight champion of armies. But nobody told the Japanese that they were in the Soviet crosshairs. It would seem like the logic of Hasegawa’s argument would be that the big missed opportunity to save lives in 1945 would have been to demoralize the Japanese by publishing the Yalta agreement on Soviet entry into the war against Japan in, say, May 1945. But, that hasn’t been a topic of much discussion, as far as I can tell.
Why keep it secret?
I don’t know. I can make a few guesses, but I’m just guessing.
In fact, the Soviets had signed a five year non-aggression pact with the Japanese in 1941. In early 1945, they had given the official one year notice that it would not be renewed in 1946. Molotov had reassured the Japanese envoy that the nonaggression pact would be in effect until April 1946. 
Presumably, the Soviets kept the Yalta agreement a secret because they wanted to preserve their freedom to maneuver. (The Soviet attack about 36 hours after Hiroshima wasn’t an opportunist post-Hiroshima improvisation. They’d been moving supplies and men for months.)
Also, the Soviets wanted to stage a sneak attack. Indeed, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria might be the all time most effective sneak attack. (Here’s the War Nerd’s appraisal of the terrific performance by the Red Army.) The Soviets violated their treaty with Japan, but nobody cares. The Japanese were losers.
What was America’s incentive to keep the Soviet promise a secret, besides the Soviets wanted it that way? I don’t know. Perhaps the idea was to end the war with the A-bombs before the Soviets got in on the action?
Finally, Truman had apparently amended FDR’s demand of “unconditional surrender” by Japan at the Potsdam Conference on July 26, 1945 to “unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces,” which left the door open to the Emperor staying on as a figurehead. But, it’s not clear that anybody in power in Japan other than a few diplomats picked up on this hint.

In summary, I suspect the atom bombs came as kind of a fortuitous surprise to the Japanese. Honor demanded that they fight the Americans on the beaches and on the landing grounds, but now the Americans had a new superweapon, so it wasn’t as shameful to surrender.

Plus, they got to surrender intact as a country to the U.S. rather than wait and get divided up between the U.S. and the Soviets like Korea and Germany. Considering how close the division of Korea, a minor player relative to Japan, came to causing WWIII in 1951 and how the division of Germany was the cause of the scariest standoff in world history, well, we should all be happy the end came soon.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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The WSJ reports:

North Atlantic Treaty Organization warplanes bombarded targets in Tripoli early Tuesday in what appeared to be the heaviest night of bombing of the Libyan capital since the alliance launched its air campaign against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. 

The airstrikes, which struck around Col. Gadhafi’s residential compound, came as the U.S. invited Libya’s rebel leadership on Tuesday to open a representative office in Washington and NATO moved toward considering adding ground-attack helicopters to its military campaign in hopes of breaking a stalemate between the Libyan leader and rebels seeking to overthrow him. 

A spokesman for the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Royal Air Force Jets attacked a large military vehicle depot within Col. Gadhafi’s Bab Al Aziziyah complex in the center of Libya on Tuesday, as part of a “major” NATO operation over Tripoli. 

Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said during a visit to the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday that he delivered an oral message to members of the rebels’ National Transitional Council from President Barack Obama that promised further support and reiterated America’s position that Col. Gadhafi has “lost legitimacy to rule; he cannot regain control of Libya and he must step down immediately, thereby allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future.”

If Obama really gets addicted to solving his political problems by killing his enemies, Osama, Gaddafi, etc., well, The Paw better keep on him at all times that pimp’s knife.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine Bibi has anything to worry about.

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From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

Robert Redford’s courtroom drama The Conspirator castigates the 1865 trial by a military tribunal of Confederate partisan Mary Surratt for her murky role in John Wilkes Booth’s plot to murder Abraham Lincoln. Redford obviously intends his movie as a parable denouncing George W. Bush’s employment of military tribunals instead of jury trials for Guantanamo Bay prisoners. 

… Still, The Conspirator is of considerable interest, both for its cast’s quality and because the 74-year-old Redford seems to have no idea how unfashionable his view of post-Civil War history has become since he arrived on the New York stage in the late 1950s. The Conspirator reflects the anti-Republican prejudice endemic in history textbooks when Redford was in school. To imply that 21st-century Republicans are deluded by Islamophobia, Redford argues that 1865’s Republicans were crazed by Confederophobia. … 

Everyone says history is written by the victors, but it’s actually written by the historiographers. For the first century after 1865, white Southerners wrote most Civil War histories and almost all the accounts of the subsequent Reconstruction. Their anger over the postwar military occupation was transmitted in two vastly popular movies: 1915’s The Birth of a Nation and 1939’s Gone with the Wind. After FDR’s 1932 victory, white Southerners made up a large fraction of the New Deal coalition. Hence, the liberal Democrats who wrote most mid-century history books pandered to the South’s view of Reconstruction as a grave injustice. 

Only with the rise of blacks in the late 1960s did Reconstruction come under scrutiny. Redford’s movie, set entirely in Washington, DC in 1865, features only one line spoken by an African-American.

Read the whole thing there.

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Patrick J. Buchanan writes in The American Conservative:

On March 26, over a week after [Obama] ordered the strikes on Libya, hitting tanks, anti-aircraft, radar sites, troops and Gadhafi’s own compound in Tripoli, 600 miles away from Benghazi, Obama told the nation he had acted to prevent a “bloodbath” in Benghazi. “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi — a city nearly the size of Charlotte — could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” 

White House Middle East expert Dennis Ross reportedly told foreign policy experts: “We were looking at ‘Srebrenica on steroids’ — the real or imminent possibility that up to 100,000 people could be massacred, and everyone would blame us for it.”

By the way, until leaving in 2009 to join the Obama Administration, Dennis Ross was chairman of the Israeli government’s Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. I doubt if that fact is terribly relevant to America’s latest war, but it is fascinating how the very existence of the JPPPI, much less the JPPPI’s highly interesting publications, is almost never even acknowledged in the U.S. press. As far as I can tell, I’m the only American journalist to review JPPPI’s 2010 book, 2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People

A hundred thousand massacred! And our fault? But that is seven times the body count of Katyn, one of the Stalinist horrors of World War II. Was Benghazi truly about to realize the fate that befell Carthage at the hands of Scipio Africanus, at the close of the Third Punic War? How did the White House come to believe in such a scenario? 

In this low-scale war, the cities of Zwara, Ras Lanuf, Brega, and Ajdabiya have changed hands, some several times. Misrata, the only rebel-held city in the west, has been under siege for seven weeks. Yet in none of these towns has anything like the massacre in the Ivory Coast taken place, let alone Srebrenica. The Guardian’s Saturday report read, “Fierce fighting in Ajdabiya saw at least eight people killed.” 

True, on March 17, Gadhafi said he would show “no mercy.” But as [Stephen] Chapman notes, he was referring to “traitors” who resisted him to the end. And Gadhafi added, “We have left the way open to them.” 

“Escape. Let those who escape go forever.” Gadhafi went on to pledge that “whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected.” 

Perhaps Gadhafi is lying. But there is, as yet, no evidence of any such slaughter in any town his forces have captured. Nor do the paltry forces Gadhafi has mustered to recapture the east — Ajdabiya was attacked by several dozen Toyota trucks — seem capable of putting a city of 700,000 to the sword. 

If the U.S. hadn’t started the war a month ago, the most likely thing that would have happened is that the core group of rebels would have done what they had been doing for the previous week: jump in their cars and flee on down the road from Benghazi to the next city (probably Darnah).

Now, what would have happened to the regular folks who stayed in Benghazi? Well, down through history, bad things often happen to the residents of a city after a long siege, even when the man in charge wants them to be treated well, as Gaddafi claimed to do. But, President Obama’s rationalization for his starting his war immediately, without any public debate, was that there wouldn’t have been a long siege of Benghazi, that it would have fallen within a day or two. 

As for the hard-core rebels, well, there are two possibilities: Kaddafi would have come after them, so they would have fled from Darnah to Tobruk, and from Tobruk they would have headed for the Egyptian border, becoming the problem of the new “democratic” government of Egypt. Or Kaddafi would have bogged down in Benghazi, his supply lines hugely long.

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A reader points out an irony of Obama’s War:

These Libyan rebels need a white messiah, that charismatic person able to lead them to victory: e.g., T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate, Brooks Rajah of Sarawak, Homer Lea.

Those persons still exist? NOT sure.

Not to mention, the white messiahs of Avatar, Dances with Wolves, and The Last Samurai, all of whom David Brooks was so upset over in 2009.
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Daniel Larison of The American Conservative notes:

The arbitrariness of the Libyan intervention has been one of its defining features, but what hasn’t been emphasized enough is its potential to subvert any and all norms governing relations between states. The principle of state sovereignty is something that could only be seen as a major problem by people who have enjoyed so many decades of general peace. Instead of being satisfied with the relative lack of international warfare, interventionists have to keep finding new reasons to initiate wars, and at some point this disrespect for other states’ sovereignty may end up affecting allies more significant than Georgia. Believing that it is acceptable and even mandatory to attack another state on account of its internal conflicts is truly dangerous. It is a constant invitation for the U.S. to enter conflicts it has no reason to join, and it creates an opening for many other governments to exploit when it suits them. In practice, such interventions make it harder for small and weak states to preserve their territorial integrity, and it invites larger and stronger states to exploit their neighbors’ weaknesses and divisions to their advantage.

I would add that the whimsicality of three of America’s last four wars — Serbia, Iraq, and Libya — increases America’s need to stay unquestionably #1 in the world militarily, at our vast expense. Our policy has been: We’re #1, so we can start wars with other sovereign states as long as they are, at minimum, unpopular. In contrast, Switzerland’s traditional policy — We won’t attack you, but if you attack us, we will defeat you — doesn’t require Switzerland to be #1, just strong enough to make invading Switzerland unprofitable for other countries. 
Moreover, the Swiss policy is generalizable like the Golden Rule: don’t starts wars with other countries, and they shouldn’t start wars with you. In contrast, post-Cold War America acts like it believes in the “Golden Rule:” he who has the gold, makes the rules. 
But are we always going to have the gold?
After all these subsequent willy-nilly wars, the Kuwait War of 1991 now seems, in retrospect, a model of statesmanship. Saddam started the war by conquering Kuwait, and George H.W. Bush had reasons of principle (we don’t like aggression across state lines) and pragmatism (we don’t want fewer members of OPEC better cartelizing oil), and we were able to sign up three dozen other countries to accompany us.
But, what happens when someday China is #1? Will they draw their lessons from Old Bush or from Young Bush or Obama?

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A German commenter, Headache, offers an alternative history of the Libyan War, in which it has already been won:

This was France’s war, and if the US and EU had stayed out of it, France would have repeated the Toyota war tactics which so effectively crushed Gadfly in Chad: Mirage air cover coupled with Foreign Legion dressed up as nomads on Toyota pickups with AA guns and Milan anti-tank weapons. This would have been over by now, except Sark would have claimed victory and made Uncle Sucker look stupid.  

So instead, coz the US does not want to be seen as a bully, we now have the ineffective and expensive NFZ, make-believe Obamaesque withdrawal of US planes, and musings about partition, arming the incompetent rebels (who include AQ elements) and other blowback which Ron Paul routinely warns against.

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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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