Apr 08

(This is an op-ed we tried to submit to the New York Times and Washington Post. For the full story, check out yesterday’s post. With the P5+1 agreeing to a deal on Iran’s nuclear program last week, war with Iran seems much less likely, so we are running the opinion piece here.)

Writing in the Washington Post on March 13, foreign policy analyst Joshua Muravchik told America that the only realistic option to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would be to bomb Iran. On March 26, former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton repeated this argument in the New York Times, under the straightforward headline, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”.

Neither man mentioned the primary cost America would bear in such a war: dead soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

While the US would very likely win a war with Iran, it could easily claim tens of thousands of American lives. Any advocates of war--from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Muravchik to Bolton--shouldn’t just talk about going to war; they should mention the cost, the likely thousands of dead Americans it could take to win. As a veteran who deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq and who knows that over 6,000 Americans died in those two fights, I don’t think this is too much to ask.

Yes, a war with Iran could claim thousands of U.S. lives. In August 2012, I published a paper called, “The Costs of War with Iran: An Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield,” where I used my experience as a former Army intelligence officer to describe the possible options available to Iran in a war with America. While Iran likely couldn’t “beat” the United States, Iran could kill large numbers of U.S. troops and civilians. It could do so in a matter of weeks. And this is something war-hawks never mention.

How could a war with Iran kill 10,000 US soldiers? After studying the U.S. for the last 30 years, Iran learned its lesson: anyone who fights America traditionally will lose. Iran will use asymmetric tactics, including cheap, light weapons to defeat more expensive, heavier conventional U.S. weapons, waging this war across multiple fronts. For example...

...Iran could sink a U.S. aircraft carrier. It learned during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988 that it has little hope of conventionally defeating the U.S. Navy. Instead, it will use shore-launched cruise missiles, fast attack boats, mini-submarines, torpedoes, mines and even suicide boats to cripple, set fire or sink as many American ships as possible. The IRGC Navy can’t beat the U.S. Navy, but it could inflict thousands of casualties in a few hours.

...Iran could fire ballistic missiles at our bases in the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Iraq. They could fire ballistic missiles at Israel or even southern Europe. Iran has the largest ballistic missile inventory in the Middle East. Most of these missiles aren’t very accurate, but they could still kill hundreds if they land in population centers or crowded military bases.

...Iran could launch terror attacks. Iran has funded irregular insurgent groups (like Hezbollah) around the world. It could encourage these types of forces to attack the Green Zone in Iraq, which still houses thousands of American diplomats and civilians. It could use proxies to wage a terror campaign across the Middle East. And, though I think it is unlikely, Iran could use proxies to try to attack Americans or Europeans on their home soil.

...and Iran could escalate the conflict. It could temporarily close the Straits of Hormuz, spiking gas prices. It could foment Shia revolts in Sunni dominated countries, like Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, causing unrest in oil producing nations.

But one option scares me above all else: if Iran provokes the U.S. to invade. Iran knows that an invasion will likely cause the most U.S. deaths since Vietnam. In both landmass and population, Iran is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan put together. Iran has better irregular forces than either of those two countries as well. In short, a ground invasion would quickly become a quagmire.

Anyone advocating for war should have to answer tough questions. I encourage every journalist from every network, from CBS to CNN to Comedy Central to ask the one tough question I implied above: how many lives will this cost? As a voting population, we deserve to know how many lives certain pundits and politicians are willing to sacrifice to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

In my analysis, I believe that every pundit advocating war should be prepared to say this statement, “I believe going to war with Iran is worth the cost of 10,000 American lives.” If they can’t say that, then they don’t have the strength of their own convictions.

Apr 06

For the last two weeks, Michael C and I have been trying to publish an op-ed. (Actually, two different pieces, but we’re still waiting to hear back on one of them.)

This particular op-ed was about war with Iran.

As long time readers know, a few years ago we wrote a paper for the Small Wars Journal outlining the risks of a potential war with Iran. (We also wrote a gigantic, 27 post series, "The Drums Beat Again: The Case Against War with Iran".) Back in 2012 when we wrote the paper, America really seemed to be seriously considering going to war again. Michael C (and myself) did a ton of research and wrote up “War with Iran: An Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield.

At the time, we considered this one of the true pieces of value we could add to the conversation. Plenty of pundits could (and did) speak about going to war; few could (or did) speak about the consequences, especially in terms of lives lost.

But potential war with Iran was replaced by possible wars with Syria, then Russia, and finally Iraq. Again.

Yet the possibility of war with Iran never seems to go away. As anyone following the news knows, many right-wing pundits and neo-conservatives have, in recent weeks, been arguing (once again) that America needs to go to war with Iran. Forty-seven senators wrote an open letter trying to ruin the chances of a nuclear deal, explaining divided government. (Fun tidbit: the Iranian foreign minister has a PhD in International relations from...the University of Denver, so he probably knows how the American government works.) Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress urging America to do more to stop Iran. Finally, Joshua Muravchik wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled, “War with Iran is probably our best option” which bluntly stated what many conservatives had only hinted at:

America needs to bomb Iran.

So we dusted off an op-ed we originally wrote three years ago. Our thesis? That too many pundits advocate for war with Iran without outlining the potential costs. We sent it to the New York Times on March 24th. Two days later, the Times published “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” by John Bolton. No surprise, he didn’t outline the potential costs of war.

This is really unfortunate. As I wrote in January about America’s third potential war in Iraq, the media seems awfully pro-war (or pro-intervention) at times, at least before a war begins. And we believe our op-ed really explains a topic that most journalists ignore in the coverage: what would a war with Iran cost in terms of lives, both U.S. and Iranian?

What’s the worst case scenario?

Fortunately for world security--and unfortunately for us as writers--America, Iran and four additional countries agreed to broad outlines of a framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program. With this, our op-ed has been rendered obsolete. That’s fine by us.

So we’ll be publish the whole op-ed this week on our blog. We still consider the core argument valid: as a country we need to discuss the potential costs of future wars in realistic terms. Considering the deal with Iran still requires final agreements to be reached by the end of June, a war with Iran could still be in our future.

And we should know the potential costs.

Mar 26

(Spoiler Warning: I basically spoil everything in the book and movie of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.)

On Monday, I (Eric C) wrote up a review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, both the film and book. Today, I want to cover some of unique thoughts it inspired.

The Odd Criticism of “Western Decadence”

At the end of the book--massive spoiler warning--Bill Haydon reveals why he became a double agent for the Russians, “He spoke not of the decline of the West, but of it’s death by greed and constipation.” From the film, “It was an aesthetic choice as much as a moral one. The West has become so very ugly.”

Oddly enough, I recently heard a similar thing from a reporter on an Economist podcast, explaining the the Hungarian Prime Minister opposition’s to America and the rest of Europe. In the Prime Minister’s mind, “The West is a bit past it, a bit decadent.”

Russian leader Vladmir Putin feels the same way. From The American Interest, “Putin believes that the West is decadent, weak and divided.” According to the Economist, ISIS recruits are inspired by the same thought, “Boastful combatants post well-scripted videos to attract their foreign peers, promising heaven for those who leave their lives of Western decadence to become ‘martyrs’.” Some Westerners believe the same thing.

It’s an odd idea: that being rich and powerful makes a country “decadent”, a synonym for weak.

Not that I should spend time debating communist or extremist ideology, but this argument is absurd. Prosperity tends to defeat poverty. Wealth creates advantages, not weakness. Perhaps some of the super-wealthy become weak and feeble. Poverty almost always guarantees that someone will become weak and feeble. You just don’t have the resources.

In terms of security, the argument is especially absurd. Prosperity, ironically, creates a better military. It’s like poker. If you have a larger stack of money, you can take more risks, take advantage of opportunities. For example, spending resources--time and money--to train your military. You have the freedom to allow people to spend time training in the Special Forces, and after Israel--another wealthy nation--America has the best special forces in the world.

Or you can spend gobs and gobs of the world’s largest fortune on technological advances for your military. Your country can fly unmanned, small planes over any other country and bomb them.

Wealth, instead of causing weakness, actually makes people harder working, more productive members of society. From David Brooks’ op-ed on Charles Murray’s The Great Divide:

“Republicans claim that America is threatened by a decadent cultural elite that corrupts regular Americans, who love God, country and traditional values. That story is false. The cultural elites live more conservative, traditionalist lives than the cultural masses…

They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.

Murray’s work can be really controversial--especially his work on race--but I agree with this particular argument. To me, the educational opportunities afforded to the rich, well, it clearly gives them a leg up in America. And the world.

Intelligence can be so Pointless       

At some point near the end of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the British discover an operative pretending to be a double agent to a Russian embassy worker who is also pretending to be a double agent to the British. Both sides deliver fake or meaningless information to the other side, pretending that they’re giving them gold. (Meanwhile, one British spy is delivering real intelligence to the Russians.)

It all seems so incredibly pointless.

I didn’t arrive at this conclusion on my own. Doing the aforementioned research on intelligence, I came across two Malcolm Gladwell articles in The New Yorker--both reviewing books on intelligence by Ben Macintyre--that make a very good case for the futility of intelligence. Because both the Germans and the British knew the other side was trying to send them bad intelligence, they ignored good intelligence, then acted on the bad intelligence they wanted to avoid acting on.

It’s a refreshing read. Andy Rooney prepared me for this after reading My War. He has a whole sub-chapter on his distaste for spy craft and its pointlessness. In short, spies spend much of their time looking for other spies. Both sides feed each other disinformation. Even when you get intel, you can’t use it much of the time because it reveals your source.

Sigh.

Mar 25

(Today's guest post is by long-time friend of the blog, Sven Ortmann of Defence and Freedom. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.)

It's simple to start a war, common to win battles, but difficult and rare to complete a war with one's objectives achieved.

This crucial final step ought to be about as simple as the second according to Clausewitzian military theory: All you need to do is win big enough or many enough battles to 'disarm' your opponent (to deny your opponent the ability to resist). A disarmed power yields to your will--that's what the theory implies.

There are several exceptions to this rule which turned all-too many conflicts even messier than anticipated. One such exception has gained a lot of attention in the last about ten years: The opponent could devolve into a lesser state of organization and persist (as a guerilla force, for example). The opposing power might even avoid disarmament by becoming elusive and by keeping the intensity of warfare at a level which doesn't exceed its ability to regenerate its potential for violence: A conflict cooled down just enough to sustain the refusal of offered conditions.

There's a different and historically very powerful case; some wars are fought over a distance which doesn't allow the initially-superior power to force a decision. The despair of non-nomadic invaders of Russia comes to mind. Imperial Japan faced a similar difficulty in its war planning. It did defeat Russia in 1905, but probably only because Russia was politically unstable and at the brink of a thorough revolution. This kept Russia from continuing the land war with a hastened completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Later on, Imperial Japan faced the dilemma that it couldn't possibly bring the US, UK or France to their knees. Even the loss of Singapore was but a small scratch inflicted on the British Empire, and even the British shipyards in isolation would have been able to compensate for a lost “decisive” battle within three to four years. The French could have ignored the loss of Indochina and French Polynesia for decades without agreeing to peace. The US could have ignored the loss of the Philippines and rebuild its fleet in three-year intervals completely.

A Mahanian focus on decisive naval battles, reinforced by the memory of the Battle in the Tsushima Strait, was the Japanese' mental escape from this Sword of Damocles. The Clausewitzian view treats a major victory in a battle of great army concentration (and by theoretical extension, its naval equivalent) as disarming and war-winning because this was true for the relatively small and neighboring powers in Europe. The stubbornness of the people of Spain under the Napoleonic occupation and the ability of the Russians to sacrifice vast areas of land including their biggest city without yielding should have signaled the very limited validity of this view from the very beginning.

The difficulty in reaching a satisfactory completion of war by defeating the enemy's military might coined the 20th century: The British Empire refused to accept defeat because, though inferior on land and in the air, it was able to avert an invasion of England. The asymmetry between a land-centric power and a naval-centric power precluded the Clausewitzian decisive clash of Schwerpunkt forces vs. Schwerpunkt forces and thus a Clausewitzian completion of the war.

Guerillas all over the world followed the Spanish example of averting final defeat and survived as political movements even if temporarily disarmed, rarely ceasing resistance entirely.

And then there's another completion of war, without a decisive battle (though some scholars will stretch the meaning of Schwerpunkt beyond recognition to cover this case): The strategic coup de main, which often precluded a major war with its fait accompli: Often times it's simply not worth or promising enough to wage war when the other power has already grabbed what it wanted.

The Shiites and Sunni of Iraq dealt the real decision of the recent Iraq war by the fait accompli of ethnic cleansing and majority rule, while Americans were being fed stories about harassing attacks with mines that had no real bearing on the outcome:

Such a demographic change will likely last for centuries, whereas the question whether the harassment of convoys with the mine campaign was defeated or not is inconsequential in Iraq today already.

The completion of war after a fait accompli is typically found once some face-saving exit is being left open by the "winner" or created by the loser through sheer narrative manipulation. The recent conflict about the Crimea shows the power of the coup de main and its achievement of a fait accompli: The Ukrainian military wasn't disarmed or incapable of continued resistance; it hadn't even completed gearing up by the time the Ukraine de facto accepted the loss of the Crimea to Russia since reconquest or intervention of the UNSC was out of question.

It is notable that much of the (largely unsuccessful) Western interventionism, such as cruise missile diplomacy, bombings, assassination drone campaigns, military assistance programs and no-fly zones was devoid of a decisive battle, fait accompli or offering the enemy a face-saving exit.

It's no wonder Western scholars of military affairs are bemoaning the difficulty of “successfully” completing a war: The West is thoroughly incompetent at it, while others aren't.

This is something even gold-plated combat aircraft, multi-billion dollar warships, nuclear weapons, UNSC veto powers and the heaviest infantry of the world cannot change.

Sven Ortmann is a German blogger. Since 2007, his blog, “Defence and Freedom,” has covered a range of military, defence policy and economic topics, with more than a million page views. His personal military background is his service in the Luftwaffe. He has guest-blogged at the Small Wars Journal Blog and other blogs on military topics.

Mar 23

(Spoiler Warning: I basically spoil everything in the book and movie of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Then again, it is over 40 years old)

When we started On Violence, Michael C and I had an odd writing arrangement. He would write two posts a week on the military and violence; I would write one post a week on art and violence. (And not just limited to contemporary art, as this post proves.)

At the time, this worked out quite well. I was living in Italy with Michael C, so I had plenty of time to power through books and movies on war, and write up reviews. (It also helped to inspire us on other projects we’re working on…) As time passed, we focused less on art--plus we wrote about everything we needed to write about war memoirs--and I began writing up more military and foreign affairs posts.

Recently, I’ve been able to catch up on some books I’ve been meaning to read (for years now). Researching the intelligence community for a new screenplay we’re writing, I read John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Excited by the book, I re-watched the film for the third time.

Here’s my review: they’re both wonderful. Review over.

What matters more than the what is why: why do the book and the film work so well?

On the surface, the book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, ostensibly, a spy thriller about a retired spy investigating a mole--oddly enough, according to my copy’s introduction, a word invented by John Le Carre--at the top of the British intelligence services. And yes, that is the plot.

But the subplot of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy matters even more. The wife of the main character, George Smiley, has left him and, more importantly, cheated on him with a former friend and colleague. In basically every chapter, Smiley recollects events and puts together puzzle pieces about the main plot, then, at some point, he thinks about his wife Ann and her betrayal. In terms of mental energy, George Smiley spends almost as much time thinking about his wife’s affair as he does the larger mission to find the mole.

(In the same vein, the chapters about Jim Prideaux--a retired spy who was captured by the Russians--spend zero time discussing spy craft, focusing on Prideaux’s relationship with a lonely boy at a boarding school.)

In other words, this spy novel is actually about personal relationships. The two plots work together perfectly, thematically: spies can’t trust anyone; neither can husbands. (For Prideaux, he’s been retired and forgotten, and is both figuratively and literally broken.)

It’s why critics love Le Carre (and other “genre” writers like Ursula K. LeGuin and Elmore Leonard). They write literature even when they write in a “genre”. In my mind, when I view and analyze fiction, I make a distinction between fiction and literature. Fiction describes all writing. Literature, for me, rises above the rest, an esteemed category for the best books, usually defined by the quality of the writing, the characters, and whether or not the book has anything to say about the world we live in. (And like pornography, it’s that thing: I know it when I see it.)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is literature.

On to the film: why does it work so well? First, the wonderful acting, including almost every important British actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Hardy, Simon McBurney, Toby Jones, and, of course, Gary Oldman.

More importantly, the film is paced so well. In short, the film moves slowly and doesn’t explain everything on the first go. It takes a second viewing to understand the subtext and meaning in each distinct scene. I love this. I love this style of filmmaking. I want more complicated films, with lots of details packed into every crevice that you can’t catch on the first viewing.

Great literature often fails on the screen for two reasons. First, great writing often doesn’t translate. Think about the problems filming great stylists like Hemingway.

Second, and more importantly to this film, you lose inner-monologues. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (the novel) bubbles over with plot. It can’t all fit in the film so the director and screenwriter didn’t didn’t even try to force it all in. In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film), we also lose most of the subplot featuring Ann. Yes, one scene hints that Bill has slept with Ann, and other characters ask Smiley about Ann, but we don’t have an inner-monologue running throughout the film. Basically, we can’t hear what Smiley is thinking.

To compensate for this loss of the personal, the film turns one of the characters into a gay man (a nice, subtle touch that humanizes the character as concisely as possible) and adds a flashback--not included in the book--to a New Year’s Eve party that partly fleshes the personal relationships out between the characters. It works, maybe not as well as the book, but then again, they’re different mediums.

But check out both.

Mar 19

(We still have a ton of thoughts on Lt. Col. David Grossman’s “Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves” analogy. To read the entire series, please click here.)

So this is it. Our (probably) last post on the sheepdog analogy, at least in the foreseeable future.

Obviously we had some space limitations in our Slate piece “The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech” We didn’t have room to debunk more of the analogy, without losing focus. So, since we have our own blog, here are some final thoughts:

This is a very troubling analogy...for libertarians and small government conservatives.

Just think, what is the job of a sheepdog?

No, not the fictional sheepdog on this shirt, but a real sheepdog. I’m not a farmer (no surprise), but my sister-in-law once took her border collies to a sheep ranch where they train the sheepdogs. The video she brought back is below.

Notice what you don’t see: wolves. Notice what you do see: a sheepdog herding sheep. Yep, it’s just sheep and an untrained (but instinctual) sheepdog. The sheepdog doesn’t give a damn about wolves. Nope, all it cares about is telling the sheep what to do. That’s right, the sheep want to go left, go right, stop in place, go too fast. The sheepdog says, ‘Nope, you go where my master wants you to go.”

And that my friends, is the ultimate, unintended irony of libertarians (or small government conservatives) embracing the sheep, sheepdog and wolves analogy. They praise the idea of sheepdogs as protectors of freedom, while also worrying that President Obama wants to take their guns and steal their freedom. But presidents don’t steal freedom; sheepdogs do. Police forces and armies steal freedom, not social workers.

The sheepdog, far from being a symbol of liberty, should be the symbol of oppression. Sheepdogs herd the people, telling them what they can or can’t do. They represent fascism, not liberty.

We love unintended ironies.

Structural solutions versus human solutions

This is my (Michael C’s) second least favorite part of the Grossman essay.

“They [parents] can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.”

Grossman is utterly incorrect in his analysis of the situation above. Yes, fires have plummeted in schools, but firefighters aren’t the reason why. Fires have declined across America largely because, as a society, we realized that firemen are a terribly ineffective way to deal with fires. Instead, overhead sprinkler systems douse fires before they spread out of control. Improved construction techniques and improved electrical systems reduce the chances of fires starting in the first place. Same with regulations (yes regulations) banning space heaters or flammable furniture and clothes. In short, America created structural changes to prevent fires in schools. If we hadn’t changed the structures fires occurred in, no amount of firefighters would have helped.

Are there structural changes we could make to prevent school shootings? Absolutely: remove the means of mass murder from society. The above historical analogy about fires versus violence in schools indicates that we need structural changes to prevent school shootings, not more “good guys with guns”.

Occasionally, the entire essay is a “quote behaving badly”.

As long time readers know, we hate “Quotes Behaving Badly”. In our minds, it’s exhibit one of how bad information spreads on the internet.

Quite entertainingly, we can dissect how a quote behaving badly gets birthed. In this case, Grossman quoted Bennett to open his article, people quote Grossman’s essay, but give credit to Bennett. Here are some examples.

Amazing.

Mar 18

(We still have a ton of thoughts on Lt. Col. David Grossman’s “Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves” analogy. To read the entire series, please click here.)

We had a ton of material that didn’t make the Slate piece, and that’s the luxury of having your own blog: we can post it here. But we’re almost finished debunking this analogy, after one last post tomorrow.

Today, we’re criticizing the analogy through its own internal logic. Even assuming society can be neatly divided into three different groups, problems arise. For example...

Wolves believe they’re sheepdogs.

To put this another way--again, using the logic of the analogy that these categories exist--there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature: wolves don’t know they’re wolves. As the old axiom goes, a good villain believes he’s the hero in his own movie. (Every terrorist is a freedom fighter, too.)

If you believe otherwise, you fundamentally misunderstand the enemy you’re fighting. ISIS doesn’t consider themselves wolves. They believe America and the West are wolves. If we don’t know why they’re fighting, we’ll never be able to address the underlying concerns of the movement. And we won’t be able to stop it.

How come wolves can’t become sheep?

Grossman writes that sheepdog-ness is not innate, but a choice. How come that choice doesn’t apply to the wolves? Grossman spends a lot of time convincing sheep to become sheepdogs (i.e. arm themselves) but almost no time writing about rehabilitating the wolves instead of killing them.

Using a simple analogy to paint the world in good versus evil terms does little to solve global problems, and probably more to promote them.

The sheep don’t fear the sheepdog.

One of the many things Grossman gets wrong is the sheep’s fear of the sheepdog. In Grossman’s worldview, the sheep fear the sheepdog because he has sharp teeth. They don’t understand him and wish the sheepdog could de-fang himself.

But as James Fallows wrote last month, “This has become the way we assume the American military will be discussed by politicians and in the press: Overblown, limitless praise, absent the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money.”

In short, soldiers don’t suffer from a lack of praise from the sheep. As we’ve written about before, since the Vietnam war, Americans can’t praise the soldiers enough. Ironically, American Sniper’s box office returns prove it.

To go a step further on the above point, this analogy is just one more way soldiers, veterans and gung-ho supporters of the military bash their critics. If you criticize the military, prepare to get yelled at. And one of the moral justifications is that critics of the military are just sheep who want to de-fang the sheepdog.

Mar 16

We should have a number of updates coming over the next month, starting with today...

Update to Gratitude Theory

In our post, “Don’t Burn Korans, Kill Children or Drop Bomblets That Look Like Candy”, I failed to mention another key “don’t” in a counter-insurgency:

“Don’t pee on the dead bodies of your enemy, take pictures of it and post them on Youtube.”

Marine Sergeant Joseph Chamberlain who did those actions--and got fellow marines and soldiers killed because of it--says he has no regrets. Marines with his attitude have helped lose the war in Afghanistan, and they doesn’t even realize it. Yes, this is a very old update (though we never commented on the “urinating on dead bodies scandal” at the time), so this is that comment: bad marines/soldiers pee on the bodies of their enemies. Their defenders are defending actions that kill Americans.

Also, do these action count as barbaric or savage?

More “Isolationism” Bashing

The National Journal had an excellent article on the specter of “isolationism”. “Phantom Menace: The myth of American isolationism”, by Peter Beinart, just nails the problems with modern politician’s use of “isolationism”. (Check out our take on the term here.) Among a number of great points--from rebutting the idea that America was isolationist in the 20s and 30s to breaking down Rand Paul’s “isolationism”--he closes with this:

“Hawks worried that Barack Obama, or Rand Paul, or the American people have not defended American interests forcefully enough in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, or Iran can make plenty of legitimate arguments. Calling their opponents “isolationists” isn’t one of them. It’s time journalists greet that slur with the same derision they currently reserve for epithets like “socialist,” “fascist,” and “totalitarian.” Then, perhaps, we can have the foreign policy debate America deserves."

Well put.

Remember, China and Russia have spies too…

The New York Review of Books reminds us that--despite the gads of news coverage the media showered on them--Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden had nowhere near the reach, support, and logistics of good old fashioned espionage. Anne Applebaum’s review of Deception should remind Americans clearly of this threat.

Everyday, Russian and Chinese spies attempt to flip U.S. government and business workers to spill secrets and access to U.S. information systems. As we’ve written before, unlike Manning and Snowden and Wikileaks, Russian and Chinese spies don’t publicly release the information they’ve stolen. They’re also much more effective because they’re professionals.

On V Update to PowerPoint

Man, I hate PowerPoint. At this point, it is more irrational than rational. And Jeff Bezos agrees with me. (From Wonkblog, h/t War on the Rocks):

“Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past two weeks. When Jeff holds meetings at Amazon he asks people not to use Powerpoints but to write an essay about their product or program or what the meeting is to be about. For the first 10 or 15 minutes everyone sits and reads the essay. His point is that if you write at length, you have to think first, and he feels the quality of thought you have to do to write at length is greater than the quality of thought to put a Powerpoint together.”

An interesting side note: Michael C now works for Amazon Studios, the original content production arm of Amazon. Michael C don’t miss PowerPoint at all.

Another Call to Purge the Generals

I’ve written before that we don’t hold our bureaucrats in Washington accountable. Most small government Republicans would agree with me on that point. Unlike them, though, I also list the generals and admirals in our military as Washington bureaucrats. Daniel Davis, writing in both the Armed Forces Journal and The Guardian, agrees with me. (He also proposes a novel change in military organization and theory, which I need to research further.)