Category ►►► Commies
May 28, 2010
Hope and Change From India's Left
In yet another in a long string of bestial attacks in India, "Maoists" derailed a passenger train in West Bengal, headed for Bombay (I refuse to call it "Mombai"), and sent it hurling into a head-on collision with a freight train. At least 71 innocents were slain with another 140 injured (as usual, some of the latter will become the former, changing these figures somewhat):
The attack on the Mumbai-bound train, after rebel fighters last week blew up a bus carrying civilians and police officers, underscores the resilience of the Maoists.
From its inception as an independent democracy, India has experienced different regional rebellions, some now quieted, others persisting, like those in Kashmir and in the country’s northeast.
But the Maoist threat, once taken lightly, has transformed into a very different logistical challenge, with the Maoists spread across several states and police jurisdictions. This has made coordinating a response much more complicated. Maoists have derailed trains, bombed bridges and schools, blocked roads with felled trees, sabotaged pipelines, and raided security patrols, only to melt back into the forest before reinforcements arrive.
Is it just my suspicious nature, or does this read as if reporter Jim Yardley is almost cheering them on?
Note that in every case above, the victims are not specific military, security, or government officials, but always comprise mostly random civilians. The brutality is sickening; what next -- will the Maoists begin eating their victims, and chucking virgins into active volcanos to appease the evil spirits?
Now I wonder whether former interim Communications Director (and wife of President Barack H. Obama's personal attorney) Anita Dunn still considers Mao Tse-Tung one of her two "favorite political philosophers?" *
"By their fruits ye shall know them."
This is the intellectual Left; this is the "action directe" they admire and applaud. This is who runs our country now.
Sure makes me feel proud to be an American.
* In Dunn's Wikipedia page, the notes include a long passage from Dunn's speech in which she declared her favorites; it purports to be a transcript, and from what I can glean, it appears accurate; but there is no link, so buyer beware.
Here is the allegedly more complete quotation from Dunn [I added the paragraphing]:
The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa -- not often coupled with each other, but the two people I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is: you're going to make choices; you're going to challenge; you're going to say why not; you're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before. But here's the deal: These are your choices, they are no one else's.
In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over. Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army, they had the air force, they had everything on their side. And people said, "How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all of the odds against you?" And Mao Zedong said, you know, "You fight your war, and I'll fight mine."
And think about that for a second. You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things and you don't have to follow other peoples choices and paths. Ok? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war, you lay out your own path, you figure out what's right for you. You don't let external definition define how good you are internally, you fight your war, you let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.
Dunn claims her other favorite political philosopher was Mother Teresa, but she did not enthusiastically recite an anecdote about any of the beatified nun's military campaigns.
March 13, 2010
The China Syndrome Counterpunch
One fear that obsesses too many folks is that the People's Republic of China, a.k.a. Red China, "owns" a scandalous chunk of our national debt in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds; and that they will somehow be able to use these holdings to force us to dance to the tune they pipe, turning America into a Chinese vassal state.
When pressed on how they could physically do this, fearmongers suggest China could threaten to dump all their T-bills at bargain-basement prices, driving down the value of the bonds we need to sell to finance our out-of-control spending. The sudden drop in bond values would force us to jack the interest rate through the sky, just to get people to buy them. This in turn is supposed to drive our prime rate into the stratosphere as well, bankrupting the country.
To avoid this scenario -- dubbed the "China Syndrome" by some economists -- we will (so goes the argument) give the Commies anything they demand in the way of foreign and domestic policy and military stand-downs... to appease them, placate them, and keep them from carrying through their extortion.
Beldar has posted a fascinating (as usual) and long (as always) essay on the subject. He comes to the well-founded and irrefutable conclusion that there truly is little to fear from the fact that Commies hold such a huge amount of our debt:
A company's largest shareholder is not much at all like its largest bondholder. He who buys a company's bonds gets to stand at the front of the line, ahead of equity holders (like shareholders), if there's a forced liquidation of the company and a distribution of its net assets. But in exchange, the bond holder generally has to forfeit all rights to participate in the management of the company's business unless and until there's a default by the company on its promise to repay according to the terms of the bond. And the caselaw says that companies owe all sorts of fiduciary and other unwritten, vague, but powerful duties to shareholders, whereas companies own nothing more to their debt holders than the precise minimums to which the companies are specifically committed by explicit written contractual promises to the bondholders....
No matter how many Treasury bonds China buys, it can't somehow "convert" those into a right to cast votes in the U.S. Senate or to give instructions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The holder of an American federal bond has a contractual right, enforceable against the U.S. government under its own laws and in its own courts, to repayment of principal and payment of interest on the exact terms specified in the bond. And that's all it has. [All emphasis is in the original, except for this note that all emphasis is in the original. -- DaH]
But I have another angle on the whole thing. I say it would be absolutely wonderful for us if the Chinese really did enact their eponymous syndrome!
So why am I right and all those professional economists wrong? Because they think like acolytes of the Dismal Science -- that is, dismally -- whereas I think like a novelist.
Here is my scenario:
- Red China threatens us with a China Syndrome unless we sever relations with Taiwan (for example).
- We tell them to go stuff an eggroll.
- They decide to call our "bluff," and they really do dump all their T-bills at, say, half their current value.
- The Federal Reserve jumps into action, working through proxies to buy every dang Treasury Note China sells, as many as we can get our mitts on.
- Now that we have bought back hundreds of billions of dollars of our "debt" for fifty cents on the dollar, we wait for the dust to settle and the market to recover -- then we sell them again for the normal price.
- We send a letter to Beijing, thanking them for their generous donation to the Save Liberty and U.S. Sovereign Health (SLUSSH) fund. With heartfelt thanks, we settle back to enjoy our windfall profit on our own debt instruments.
The moral is simple: Whenever any entity -- whether individual person, giant corporation, or sovereign nation -- buys or sells bonds, equities, derivatives, collectibles, futures, or indeed any other investment instrument on the basis of politics, party, policy, or pique -- that is, whenever one makes investment decisions for any reason other than pure economics -- that entity is going to lose its shirt... along with its coat, tie, pants, and undies.
This Lizardian Rule of Thumb applies to universities that divest their stock in Israeli companies to protest Israel's dealings with the Palestinians; it applies to lefties who dump their mutual funds if they contain Starbucks or Nike stock; and it applies to conservative Christians who will only invest in companies that are run by ministers: You're going to lose a huge wad of your return by letting extraneous circumstances dictate your financial decisions.
Now you may think the trade off is worth it, and who could argue? Just bear in mind that you are donating beaucoup bucks to your favorite cause; if that's all right with you, I certainly don't care. So long as you are aware of what you are doing, and so long as you don't violate any fiduciary responsiblities you may have to shareholders (or moral duties to those who take your advice).
But I doubt that China is really that altruist. They're not going to donate hundreds of billions back to the U.S. just to make a political point. (That what? That they're too stupid to be trusted with monetary decisions?)
So let that be another reassurance that there will be no China Syndrome... at least until and unless we default on our repayment obligations, in which case dumping the bonds would be a purely economic decision anyway!
February 20, 2010
What Makes Lefty Run?
Sachi and I got to talking about the Tea-Party movement, and she asked me why the Left hated the Tea Partiers so much. "They don't," I said; then groping for an explanation of what suddenly seemed so clear, I made a slight correction: "It's the liberals who hate and despise Tea Partiers, mocking them as "tea baggers" and such. The hard-core Left isn't full of hate... it's full of terror: I believe they are more terrified today than they have been since thirty years ago."
The rest of this post is my attempt to analyze my mini-revelation, explain it, and justify it.
The Left is terrified because, more than any other political group, they know a growing popular front when they see one; and they're seeing one now.
A popular front is an extremely broad-based coalition of political forces that normally oppose each other. In rare moments, the stars align, and so do the groups; what results is a mass movement that can wash away the status quo like a burst dam. The movement doesn't have to include all or even a majority of the citizenry; but it is large enough to push aside any countervailing coalition -- which means whatever the front wants, it gets.
Lefties understand the unstoppable raw power of a popular front; that's why their own strategy for seizing control of a country and "communizing" it invariably includes creating a popular front of dissent and protest against the established government, local or colonial. But a popular front needn't be based on leftist ideology; there are several examples in recent history:
- The Khomeinist revolution in Iran depended upon a religious popular front that rose up against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1979.
- The Communist revolution in post-WWII Vietnam was driven by a popular front against colonial France.
- The Communist revolutions in WWI-era Czarist Russia and post-WWII Nationalist China both depended upon international socialist popular fronts that turned into a general uprising against the established State.
- The National Socialist takeover in 1920s-1930s Germany included a popular front against Communism and for German monocultural nationalism and Fascism.
- The French Revolution required a popular front that arose against the jaw-dropping financial and dictatorial excesses of the Bourbon kings.
- And the American Revolution critically depended upon a popular front revolting against the loss of home rule and the attempted subjugation by Mother England, thousands of miles away.
In each case, political groups forged alliances with hereditary enemies that more often fought each other hammer and tooth -- for example, American aristocrats like Washington and Jefferson allying with lawyers and tradesmen (John Adams, Patrick Henry) against British rule. That kind of widespread movement is what defines a popular front.
The Tea Party front is the worst nightmare of the hard-core Left -- a patriotic, small-government, capitalist popular front. While Tea Partiers are not specifically Republican, leftists realize that GOP leaders (Sarah Palin) and candidates (Scott Brown) are far better positioned to appeal to Tea Partiers than are Democrats: All Republicans must do is match their words with deeds; but Democrats would have to (a) repudiate everything they have said and voted for in the past four decades, then (b) convince Tea Partiers that this time they're sincere!
The Scott Brown election is a perfect example of the relentless power of a popular front; I mean the timeline of the election itself, not its consequences. On November 4-8, a Suffolk University poll had Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democrat, ahead of state Sen. Scott Brown by 31% (58-27); in early January, the Boston Globe had her still ahead by 15% (50-35), while even Rasmussen had her 9% ahead (50-41).
Two weeks later, Brown beat Coakley by nearly 5%, 52-47. That represents a swing of 36% in just two months; and there is really nothing else to account for such movement other than a popular front. No terrible scandal engulfed Ms. Coakley, no state of emergency, no powerful or charismatic Republican leader turned the election into a referendum upon him- or herself; in fact, the closest analogy to that last is that Barack H. Obama personally went to Massachusetts two days before the election and campaigned with Coakley.
Tea Parties will likely have only a small (but significant) impact in 2010; what terrifies the prescient Left is the next election. Given another couple of years to build, and assuming nothing happens to destroy it, the popular front could produce a Noachian cataclysm on presidential and congressional elections then... as well as on state and local elections across America, which could lead to generational capitalist hegemony.
If the Tea Parties turn into a full-blown, patriotic-American popular front, which I think likely, Democrats, liberals, and lefties could go from winning it all in 2008 -- to being inundated and immolated by the tsunami of 2012.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
October 15, 2009
Quid Lo Mein
Doesn't President Barack H. Obama have enough bad ideas on his own? Must he also recapitulate every horrific blunder of every Democratic president who came before him?
It's not enough that he adopted Jimmy Carter's Middle-East catastrophe of a foreign policy; now he's kow-towing to the Chinese the same way Bill Clinton did, by sharing our most vital missile technology with Red China:
President Obama recently shifted authority for approving sales to China of missile and space technology from the White House to the Commerce Department -- a move critics say will loosen export controls and potentially benefit Chinese missile development.
We are assured this will not result in any decrease in the rigor with which we guard our most sensitive missile secrets. But if it did, how would we know? A key element Obama altered is the requirement that Congress be notified of any missile-technology transfers:
The presidential notice alters a key provision of the 1999 Defense Authorization Act that required that the president notify Congress whether a transfer of missile and space technology to China would harm the U.S. space-launch industry or help China's missile programs.
The law was passed after a late-1990s scandal involving the U.S. companies Space Systems/Loral and Hughes Electronics Corp.
Both companies improperly shared technology with China and were fined $20 million and $32 million, respectively, by the State Department after a U.S. government investigation concluded that their know-how was used to improve China's long-range nuclear missiles.
Bill Clinton famously accepted $3 million in campaign cash that came (through an easily exposed cut-out) from the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China. And that was just a drop in the bucket of millions of campaign dollars from suspicious sources related to China and Indonesia.
Shortly thereafter, Clinton made several policy changes that China had been demanding for decades. Besides relaxing the rules on technology-sharing, allowing Loral and Hughes to sell extremely sensitive hardware and software to Red China -- for example, allowing them to better simulate nuclear test blasts via software -- Clinton also made clear we would not intervene if China attacked Taiwan and several other concessions.
I highly doubt that the Obamacle will accept any campaign contributions from the PLA -- at least knowingly; considering how seriously the campaign relaxed standards on credit-card donations, he may well accept such donations willy-nilly, perhaps not even knowingly.
But he has his own soft spot that the mandarins can hit with their eyes closed: I don't know for sure whether the Chinese government quietly hinted that, if Obama failed to meet their demand that technology transfers be approved by Commerce, not the White House, then perhaps they would severely cut back on the number of United States Treasury bills they would buy... a multi-hundred billion dollar "loan" that is the only thing currently standing between us and total economic collapse. Maybe Chinese negotiators made no such threat; maybe they thought it would be too "unfair" a bargaining chip, too much like extortion, skulduggery to which Red China would surely never stoop.
Perhaps we can rely upon Barack Obama's word that he will faithfully defend the United States from Chinese hegemony, even if it means the utter ruin of our economy on his watch. Or maybe we can rely upon the Secretary of State to have a completely different and much tougher approach to China than she does to Russia -- or than she and her husband had, as "co-presidents," in the 1990s.
But should we bet our national security on it?
September 22, 2009
Darkness at High Noon: the UnAmericanism of an American Icon
A comment to the previous blogpost, That Big Ol' NEA Scandal... Just Déjà Vu-Du, has taken issue with my characterization of the seminal film High Noon as a deeply unAmerican, even anti-American movie that slanders the American character... at a time when the only form of unAmericanism that was acceptable to the intelligensia in the United States was Communism -- meaning Stalinism, as Josef "Uncle Joe" Stalin didn't die until 1953, at the ripe old age of 74 (evidently, somebody down there liked him).
I noted to the commenter that this was a deep enough question that it couldn't be answered in the comments section but required a follow-up blogpost. In the process, I hope to demonstrate how to "read" the moral character of a movie... which is a completely different process than simply deciding if it was well crafted.
Like nearly everybody else, I like the movie High Noon. I've seen it maybe half a dozen times. It's well written, well acted, lots of tension. But we must distinguish between liking a movie and approving its message (something neocon Michael Medved never seems able to do). By the same criteria above, I like Triumph of the Will; but I'm repelled by its cosmically evil Nazi message.
This is how I feel about the much subtler, but nevertheless morally corrupted and evil movie High Noon: I admire its artistry but am appalled by its vicious anti-American message.
There is a two-pronged test for art that I read somewhere; it boils down to asking two questions:
- What was the artist trying to do?
- Did he do it?
But I've always believed that a third question must be asked, one that is more important than the other two:
- Was it worth doing?
There is no question that all the films I mentioned in the previous post pass the two-prong test: They all set about doing something and actually pull it off. They are all artistic successes -- unless you apply the third test as well; that's where they break down.
One final caveat: In deference to one of the most famous penitents of Communism, Arthur Koestler, I titled this post Darkness at High Noon.
Before publishing, however, I discovered that CNN had already used that title... but in an Orwellian (or perhaps Dickensian) twist of fate, they used it for a documentary defending Carl Foreman, who wrote the screenplay to High Noon! Indeed, the love-letter to Foreman draws the same parallels to High Noon that I draw myself: that Marshal Will Kane represents Foreman himself and all others who continued to spit defiance at the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC) until the bitter end; and that Frank Miller and his mob represent HUAC. (Foreman himself maintained this was what he had in mind.)
The irony, of course, is that Koestler wrote his novel Darkness at Noon two years after quitting the Party (even before the Hitler-Stalin Pact); and the novel is a powerful attack on Communism. It dramatizes the last days of an architect of the 1917 revolution, now imprisoned under sentence of death in a Communist country. To hijack that title for a hagiography of Carl Foreman takes chutzpah indeed.
Thus, in order to reclaim the moral clarity of Arthur Koestler (and also because you can't copyright titles), I shall maintain my title for this blogpost. So there. Now let's dive into the toughest movie position to defend: The case against High Noon for the crime of anti-Americanism. I won't bother footnoting; all of this information is readily available and uncontested: Google it. (Heh, I've always wanted to say that.)
High Noon was always meant to be a parable against "McCarthyism" -- rather, the left-liberal vision of McCarthyism. It was written by Communist Carl Foreman, who was called before HUAC sometime in 1951, while he was actually writing High Noon. In his testimony, he defied the Committee; he admitted to having been a Communist for many years, but he claimed he had become "disillusioned" with it some ten or so years earlier (1942? 1941?). He claimed to have quit, but I don't recall him offering any evidence for this other than his bare claim.
He also refused to name names.
It actually makes a difference when exactly he left the Party, if indeed he ever did; because if he stuck around from 1939 to 1941, then that means he maintained Party discipline even during the Hitler-Stalin Pact, when his beloved Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany. I consider anyone who remained in the Party through those two flip-flops -- or who actually joined while the Commies and the Nazis were allied, like Dalton Trumbo -- to be a hard-core Stalinist. It required very nimble mental and moral gymnastics: Before the Pact, Hitler was the devil incarnate; then in 1939, he became the great patriotic ally against decadent Capitalism; and then in 1941, when Hitler invaded the USSR, he went back to being the focus of all evil.
If a man (or woman) can do that, then he has no moral principles and the conscience of a hyena.
At the time Foreman was writing the screenplay, the "Hollywood Party" was reeling; hearings by HUAC had been in full swing since the late 1940s, and the public was waking up to the viper in its bed.
The Party line during this period was that witnesses before the Committee who had always opposed Communism, such as Gary Cooper, Ronald Reagan, and George Murphy (who fought against Communist influence in Hollywood when he was president of SAG, as did his protégé Reagan), and who "named names" of Communist ringleaders in Hollywood, were just sniveling cowards who had been threatened and intimidated by the Committee and by its allies who created an informal blacklist of Reds.
(In a twist of wonderful irony, one of the most steadfast anti-Communists in Hollywood was Gary Cooper, who starred as Howard Roark in Ayn Rand's the Fountainhead; then just three years later, he played the lead in High Noon! Truly, Coop the Dupe was the man for whom the phrase "useful idiot" was coined.)
Those who fought the Committee had nothing but contempt for the "friendly witnesses;" the Left simply could never accept that courageous people of good will could see Communism as an evil that must be rooted out. But this contempt was nothing compared to the rage against the traitors -- those witnesses who had actually been in the Party, had perhaps defied the Committee by refusing to cooperate once, but had since recanted, returned to testify again and name names. Some former fellow travelers also wrote public repudiations of their earlier position.
Humphrey Bogart is the most conspicuous example. He traveled to Washington in 1947 to protest HUAC, as part of the newly formed Committee for the First Amendment, which also included Lauren Bacall, Gene Kelly, John Huston, and others. There, Bogart railed against the investigations and defended the Hollywood Ten (who were then still eleven, as Bertolt Brecht had not yet fled the country). Bogart insisted the Ten were completely innocent... which is what he and the other liberals in that group had been told by the Left.
But after meeting the Ten (and being harrangued by one of them, doctrinaire Communist John Howard Lawson), Bogie recanted; evidence had by then emerged that the Ten were indeed Stalinists, and that they really did have an ongoing program to insert Communist propaganda into their movies and plays. In his article in Photoplay magazine, “I’m No Communist,” Humphrey Bogart admitted he was duped by the Hollywood Left. It was a serious blow to the cause, as were similar articles by John Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, and others.
This must have been much on Foreman's mind while writing High Noon; he later claimed that he saw himself as Marshal Will Kane, the lone man of integrity standing up to both the sin of commission -- the investigations -- and the sin of omission, those who, in Foreman's view, stood idly by out of fear and did nothing to stop HUAC.
This is what was happening on the national stage when Foreman sat down to adapt the short story "the Tin Star," by John W. Cunningham. I haven't been able to find the text of Cunningham's original; I'd love to read it to see how much of the anti-Americanism was his and how much was Foreman's. My guess is they shared the same low opinion of frontier Americans.
Internal evidence of anti-Americanism
The plot of the movie clearly is an allegory on what a (current or former) Party member would imagine McCarthyism to be like; both Left and Right have agreed on that from the beginning. Villain Frank Miller is coming to town (metaphorically Joseph McCarthy; in practice, the members of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, as McCarthy was a senator, not a member of the House of Reps), having inexplicably been pardoned just before his hanging; he has sworn vengeance on Will Kane (Carl Foreman). Kane tries to rally the townspeople; they agree to help stop Miller (refuse to cooperate with the Committee), but then one by one they chicken out (recant, name names): They're all too afraid to take a stand against him.
The townsfolk all agree with the marshal (Foreman) that Miller must be stopped; but they're all worried what might happen to them and their families if they stand up to the bully. Those despicable, cowardly friendly witnesses! Eventually, Kane must take on all the bad guys alone, while the townspeople (our American ancestors) quake in their boots and hide under the bed (from the "nonexistent" Red Menace).
One reason it has always seemed so clearly an allegory, which nearly all political critics accept, is that the plot is historically false to the period in which it's set. 1900 was the high point of vigilantism in America; it was commonplace for citizens to band together to hunt down criminal suspects. There were not enough lawmen to act as a "police force," which by then some big cities in the East were hiring; frontiersmen had to take matters into their own hands.
Most middle-aged town citizens in the West in 1900 would have been veterans of the various Indian wars that swept the country after the Civil War, either as regular Army, private scouts working for the Army, local militias, or as members of an ad-hoc posse comitatus that would fight against Indian raiders or raid Indian tribes themselves. Everybody had guns; they were as necessary in that part of the country as water, beef, and coffee. And everybody knew how to use them (hunting probably supplemented nearly everyone's food supply).
So how in the world could a whole town of such hard-bitten survivors be so afraid of four measley guys? Why wouldn't they just take care of the problem, one way or another, as they'd been doing all their lives, against both man and beast?
No, it doesn't fit its time period at all; nor does it fit previous Westerns, where the hero could always round up a posse to help him. But it certainly does fit what liberals and lefties imagined to be the "cowardice" of people during the late forties and early fifties, who refused to stand up to the bully investigators hunting for Communist infiltration of both government and key industries, very much including Hollywood.
Aside from the personal factor, there is also a larger thrust of the movie: It's a direct frontal assault upon one of the central organizing myths of American culture. In this case, "myth" does not mean an incorrect or invalid belief; it means a belief that underlies Americans' "sense of self." The belief in question is that of the rugged individualist.
It's a truism, believed by and large on both sides of our northern border, that the fundamental difference between America and Canada is this: The American frontier was tamed by cantankerous, antisocial, extremely self-reliant individuals who went west to escape the clutches of the "big government" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries -- which wouldn't look very big to us today but loomed large in the eyes of pioneers from Daniel Boone to Davy Crockett to the classic Western period of about 1870 through 1900.
The Canadian frontier was tamed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Mounties.
Far from being a false myth, rugged individualism is a historically accurate depiction of most settlers of the West in that time: They fended for themselves because they had to; they solved their own problems, scratched for their own seed, raised their own food, and defended themselves. They didn't "call the cops," because by and large, there were none. (Even today, America is woefully under-policed -- by the standards of Europe.)
When one man could not handle a task, he banded together with the smallest number of friends and neighbors to get the job done. Settlers regularly "lit out" from a settlement when they decided it had become "too citified fer fit livin'." There were always those who welcomed the encroach of civilization, of course; they were the majority. But they came by train, long after those who first walked across the Great Plains, even after those who drove Conestoga wagons.
The Law mosied in later and chased out the remaining rugged individualists.
By 1900, such a sense of self-reliance was firmly established as a critical part of the American character, a major reason it was the age of vigilantism: Locals took care of their own problems, for good or ill. They didn't yell for the cops to come rescue them.
High Noon depicts weasley, knee-knocking townsmen pleading with one man, Will Kane, to save them; the movie utterly slanders the American character as no other Western had ever done. It caricatures our ancestors as not the self-reliant individualists with a deep sense of honor we have always thought them, but as whiny, hypocritical, cowardly vermin who were too afraid to confront evil -- even at odds of twenty-five to one! For Pete's sake, there must have been at least 100 adult males in Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, and only four bad guys.
This is character assassination of the entire United States of America, since the Old West is such an integral part of our national heritage.
A big picture's big picture
This mockery serves not only the narrow agenda of Foreman -- in a snit because the country was turning decisively against Communism in 1951-52, which he probably believed could only be explained by cowardice -- and the cause of dissing our ancestors, but also the larger agenda of the ComIntern (Communist International front). At the very time Foreman was writing the movie, America was engaged in our first true war against Communism, the first real campaign of the Cold War: defending South Korea from invasion by the Communist North.
In 1951-52, victory was still very much uncertain. North Korea had originally been "communized" by the Soviets towards the end of World War II, just like Eastern Europe; by the early 50s, they were allied with Red China as well.
In January 1951, we -- United Nations forces, mostly American -- were nearly driven off the Chosen peninsula; but we rallied and battled our way back north of Seoul. By the end of May, we and the North Korean and Chinese forces were stalemated, neither side being able to oust the other and achieve total control of Korea. (We did, however, ultimately achieve our victory conditions of protecting South Korea.)
Foreman must have intensely followed the back and forth, which occured either during or immediately before he began writing the screenplay. Given his extreme political ideology, he probably was rooting for America to lose... as American lefties have done almost ritualistically ever since the end of the last "good war," when we were allied with the Motherland of Communism. And what could better help "the cause" in Korea than to demoralize the American citizenry and delegitimize the American government?
Some reds from the 1930s used to call themselves "premature anti-fascists;" I maintain that Carl Foreman was a premature Yippie: He unsuccessfully used tactics that would be used to far greater effect just a few years later by the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and other members of the loose leftist coalition of anti-Vietnam War activists.
The final cut
But the consequences of what Foreman tried to bring about in High Noon were dire; in 1952, fascism had already been thoroughly discredited in the United States... which left Communism as the only viable form of anti-Americanism that was acceptable to the intellectual elite. And Communism then still meant Josef Stalin, who had killed tens of millions and was obsessed with infiltrating and overthrowing democracies around the world, including the United States.
By a direct and logical chain of reason then, High Noon was intended to achieve the following:
- Vindicate its screenwriter's (Foreman was also associate producer) stand against HUAC;
- Brand as cowards all those who thwarted the Party's radical agenda;
- Undercut Americans' sense of themselves as exceptional and different from the corrupt and decadent democracies of Europe, which were toppling to Communism one by one;
- Fatally damage the morale of American citizens while we were at war with an expansionist Communist dictatorship backed by both the Soviet Union and Red China;
- Delegitimize our government, which was steadfastly waging that war;
- And ultimately bring about a Red victory in Korea that would be a stepping stone to the communization of all of Asia.
Draw a loop from Eastern Europe, down around Turkey, the Arab states, around India, south of Indonesia, hooking around the Philippines, encompassing Japan, around Siberia, and back across the north to Eastern Europe; that would likely have been the Communist sphere of influence, had we lost the Korean War.
That would have been significantly larger and more powerful than what historically happened; if Korea were a unified "people's republic," I don't see how Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines could have survived as independent countries, not to mention the British city-state of Hong Kong. Such a military defeat might even have emboldened the ChiComs enough to endanger Australia and New Zealand.
Reds would have given virtually anything to have achieved all that. While I assail Carl Foreman's vile anti-Americanism, it's tough not to admire his nerve.
Foreman came close on many of those points, just as his political co-conspirators today try to degrade and smear America anent the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis. Fortunately, as strong as was the Hollywood Party in the mid-twentieth century -- and the Hollywood Ummah today -- its enemies are stronger... but only because we remain vigilant.
That's my story; the prosecution rests. If anyone wants to mount a defense for the movie's moral corruption, be my guest.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery, naturally enough...
That Big Ol' NEA Scandal... Just Déjà Vu-Du
Today saw new posts by Power Line and Patterico's Pontifications on the newest Obamic scandal; in this one, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was nabbed red-handed leaning on "artists" -- rather, those who are so unsuccessful that they must suckle at big government's teat -- to promote the partisan agenda of President Barack H. Obama... presumably with the threat of a cut-off of NEA grants as the "stick," and new, juicy buckets o' bucks as the "carrot."
The prime mover in this case is once again Andrew Breitbart, whose site Big Hollywood is breaking the NEA story -- just as Breitbart's Big Government by and large broke the ACORN story by hosting the first videos of James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles earlier this month.
I think there is no question that Breitbart has the goods on the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, its director Valerie Jarrett (a longtime Obamanista), her deputy director Buffy Wicks, and another federal agency, United We Serve. There is no doubt that the Obamacle is misusing and abusing the public trust, peddling propaganda, and using the threat of government power to coerce (and entice) artists into supporting his partisan agenda
And there is every likelihood that members of the Obama administration -- and perhaps the president himself -- have engaged in criminal behavior that, in a more rational and law-abiding era, might even lead to impeachment.
But such an era would surely not have been the 1930s and 1940s; and therein lies the reason why this particular scandal fills me with ennui: For an earlier president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, pioneered this exact tactic: using literary writers, playwrights, screenwriters, movie directors, producers, actors, radio dramatists, painters and sculptors, songwriters, composers, singers and entire orchestras -- and all the trade unions, professional societies, and literary and artistic guilds associated with the arts -- to advance his own leftist agenda for America.
And critics were not only called "unpatriotic," they were subject to arrest... if the mobs fomented by Roosevelt's New Deal cult didn't tear them limb from limb first. Let's see Barack Obama and his puny New Black Panther Party and SEIU unionistas top that.
Throughout the FDR 30s, Hollywood was pressured into making numerous propaganda promos for the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the primary vehicle of New Deal socialism and vicious anti-Capitalism; these promos starred the biggest names in Hollywood and villified the profit motive, competition, individualism, and liberty in practice (while extolling liberty in name only). But there were also a great many major, A-release features that self-consciously pushed Rooseveltianism slyly, as storyline in mere dramas and comedies.
The Communist (read: Stalinist) Left had so taken over Tinseltown that there was a "redlist" long before there was a blacklist. Anti-Communist actors, such as Adolph Menjou, saw their careers severely damaged. By contrast, lefty producers, directors, and screenwriters benefitted tremendously from their Party affiliation.
And not just Hollywood; painters and sculptors were likewise pressed into service to sell the American people on one of the most radical leftist programs ever foisted upon this country. The very reason those Obama posters from last year's election look so familiar is that the heroic-worker style is copied wholesale from the 1930s New Deal posters.
Songwriters were pressured to sell the NRA and rural electrification and Social Security and all of it. Good Lord, Barack Obama is a pathetic, little wannabe huckster compared to the Master of Evil, he with his mile-wide grin and mile-long cigarette holder.
But the corruption sank even deeper, for it wasn't just American leftism that the president was pushing, using the arts and farces as his populist bulldozer: Roosevelt himself personally ordered Jack Warner (an anti-Communist studio head) to produce a sickening, fawning, bootlicking paeon to Josef "Uncle Joe" Stalin torn from the pages of the journal kept by Roosevelt's hand-picked ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies.
The movie was titled Mission to Moscow (1943)... and I rib you not, you cannot possibly believe what I say about it until you actually see it. We learn that peace-loving Uncle Joe has always been a great friend to America; he tried as hard as he could to bring about peace between the allies and the axis. Russia is full of nothing but happy, contented people -- well fed, free and independent, able to speak their minds on any subject with no threat from the government. (This is in stark contrast to Germany, where everybody suffers under the bootheel of oppression by the Nazis.)
Factories are run by the workers, who labor solely for the good of all. Eventually, we get to the infamous show trials... wherein we discover that all those Trotskyites were really just -- Nazi spies!
The Hitler-Stalin pact goes unremarked in the movie, though it had been signed, sealing the alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and finally abrogated two years before the movie was released; nor does the movie (or book) dwell on the dismemberment of Poland by Germany and -- who was that again? -- and the Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik.
But the most jaw-hinging aspect of Mission to Moscow is its provenance: It was made from the allegedly nonfiction book written in 1941 by Ambassador Davies when he returned from his posting to the Soviet Union; and Davies, an attorney who chaired the FTC under Woodrow Wilson, was personally selected by FDR for that "mission." Ye gods, imagine what peril the nation was in, when a man like that could be sent to one of the most delicate, sensitive diplomatic posts in the known universe.
When I decry Roosevelt defiling the arts by drafting them into his leftist political agenda, I'm not talking about movies made simply to help the war effort; that's mere patriotism. But even deep into the 1940s, FDR pushed Hollywood to release movies that went far beyond "demonizing" the Nazis (if such a thing is possible) and the Imperial Japanese or even praising our ally, the Soviet Union... movies like:
- Keeper of the Flame (1942 -- written by Communist Donald Ogden Stewart in consultation with the Bureau of Motion Pictures in the U.S. Office of War Information): Katherine Hepburn discovers her husband, in concert with a number of veterans, plans a fascist coup d'état. Damn Republicans... they're everywhere!
- Tender Comrade (1943 -- written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Edward Dmytryk, both later members of the "Hollywood Ten"): Ginger Rogers and other wives of servicemen discover the joys of living in communal farms -- just like in the Soviet Union! -- while their husbands are off fighting the Nazis. Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, Dalton Trumbo joined the Party during the Hitler-Stalin pact... such much for him merely being a "premature anti-fascist."
- Song of Russia (1944): An orchestra conductor travels to the USSR shortly before the Nazi invasion -- which means during the pact, of course -- and sees, as Wikipedia so perfectly puts it, "happy, healthy, smiling, free Soviet citizens, blissfully living the Communist dream."
Each of these movies, along with others (e.g., the North Star, 1943) sang the praises not of Russia but of Communism, and worse, of Stalinism. And each of these films was made by studios that were in near constant contact with the U.S. Office of War Information. This was Roosevelt's baby, his conduit to wartime posters, wartime movies, wartime radio, and so on.
It was not used merely to promote patriotism and support for the war; as seen above, it was a powerful federal agency that pushed the graphic arts (fine and pop), literature, movies, drama, and music to support FDR's political agenda and encourage the hysterical Roosevelt-worship that characterized his entire reign. The OWI was established by executive order in 1942 and lasted through the war -- though in 1944, Congress was so disturbed by some of its domestic projects that it defunded, among other elements, the Bureau of Motion Pictures.
But even death did not release the arts community -- not the Bureau's death, nor even FDR's. After Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, his skeletal hands reached and clutched at we the living; the project continued, and we got movies like It's a Wonderful Life (1946) -- in which we discover that the banks should simply forgive all their loans and redistribute the wealth -- and High Noon (1952) -- all the more corrupt and vile for the sheer artistry of its propaganda, and its duping of dim bulb Gary Cooper: Marshal Will Kane must stand alone against Sen. Joseph McCarthy -- er, I mean outlaw Frank Miller -- and the ravening hordes of HUAC... I mean, his two thugs.
The story of High Noon is set in or about 1900, but it makes not the slightest lick of historical sense; if the town was that worried about Miller, they would simply have formed a committee of vigilance, surrounded the train depot, and either ordered Miller to hop back aboard and ride the iron rail to the end of the line... or just blown him to glory with their own rifles and scatterguns. No need to interrupt the marshal's honeymoon.
When I gaze upon the awe-inspiring majesty of the New Deal's corruption of art for political propaganda, not to promote good citizenship and patriotism but specifically to promote the partisan political projects of Franklin Roosevelt, and the joyous brazenness of FDR's blasphemy and heresy within the chapel of freedom and liberty he inherited -- and then I turn my eye to the insignificant insect bites of Obamunism's own arts project... honest to mercy, I just find that my give-a-damn's busted.
Sorry, no red meat on this one. I'll stick with the much more significant and systematic dismantling of ACORN.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
April 6, 2009
Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child
Well, I think we all knew, somewhere in the back of our collective minds, that Barack H. Obama was planning it; most of us just thought it was so ludicrous, so retro, that he would never really propose it.
But now he has. Great leaping horny toads, it's Dr. Helen Caldicott's unilateral nuclear disarmament all over again:
Just hours after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, President Barack Obama called for "a world without nuclear weapons" and said the United States has a “moral responsibility ” to lead the way, as the only nation ever to use them....
The president directly addressed the Cold War history of this former Soviet bloc city, calling the remaining nuclear weapons “the most dangerous legacy” of that era.
He again pointed to history to say that America must lead. “As a nuclear power -- as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon -- the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” he said.
Obama proposed doing so by reducing America’s arsenal, if not altogether eliminating it; hosting a summit on nuclear security; seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and pursuing a new agreement aimed at stopping the production of fissile materials.
Also, he proposes gathering up all vulnerable nuclear material -- or “loose nukes” -- within four years. That’s an issue Obama also worked on in the Senate, with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).
As we all know, the only reason that Russia, Red China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and soon to be North Korea and Iran have nuclear weapons is self defense against the United States... and if only we would unilaterally eliminate our nuclear arsenal -- ¡ Si, su puede! -- these other countries would no longer fear us -- and they will surely follow suit. As the New York Times succinctly sums up the theory:
Mr. Obama said that his administration would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons” in its national security strategy, and would urge other countries to do the same. He pointed to the agreement he reached last week with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia to begin negotiations on reducing warheads and stockpiles, and said the two countries would try to reach an agreement by the end of the year. He also promised to aggressively pursue American ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which in the past has faced strong opposition in Congress.
It is a strategy based on the idea that if the United States shows it is willing to greatly shrink the size of its atomic arsenal, ban nuclear testing and cut off the worldwide production of bomb material, reluctant allies and partners around the world will be more likely to rewrite nuclear treaties and enforce sanctions against North Korea and Iran.
That is, if America weakens itself by unilaterally dumping its nuclear weapons, then other nations will feel more empowered to aggressively enforce already existing sanctions against rogue nations. But why? By definition, "already existing sanctions" already exist; if our allies are not willing to enforce them now, why would they be more willing if we become weaker? Does Obama truly believe that the world defies us because we're too powerful? Does he believe that we're evil, imperialist warmongers oppressing the world, causing them to resist us the way that the Jedi knights resisted the imperial storm troopers of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader?
This is magical thinking at its most emblematic: There is no obvious connection between the United States eliminating its nuclear arsenal and Pakistan following suit -- the latter is far more concerned about India (and vice versa) than about us -- or North Korea and Iran abandoning their own nuke hunt; they see nuclear weapons as their route to power in their own regions or protection against their own enemies. It's silly storytelling, jaw-dropping narcissism, and childish "wishing on a star" to imagine that every other country in the world that has or wants nuclear weapons is only driven by fear of America's nuclear arsenal.
But if there is any other reason why they want to be members of the nuclear club, then our reduction or even complete nuclear disarmament will have no effect upon them at all... except perhaps to encourage them tenfold: It's easy for third-world countries to believe that if they have nukes and we don't, they will no longer be third world -- they will be the first world; they will be the masters!
The childishness of this Obamic policy betokens an equally childish worldview, full of good guys (who are always good) and bad guys (eternally bad), superficial understandings, a view of history based more upon melodrama than reality, and magical thinking.
Heroes and villains as world actors
The One is the Lightbringer, whose devoted acolytes are trying to spread the "good news" around the globe (America alone is too small a stage). There is no "in-between," only a vast sea of unenlightened souls awaiting but a touch, a glance from the Obamacle to fall into the rapture.
The Bad Guy in Chief is George W. Bush, of course; and all Republicans are his henchmen. We are consciously evil, in that we sit around and cackle about our latest evil plans, perhaps chewing on the odd pinky or two. (Note that there is another shadowy group of conspirators who may be the real villains in this piece, "working the machinations behind the scenes," as Louis Farrakhan put it; we'll get to them in a moment.)
The great advantage of such hero-villain thinking is that it forces an automatic devaluing of opposing viewpoints: Of course you don't think government should take over the economy... you're a Republican! You want to kill and eat the poor anyway.
Superficiality as a guiding principle
Obamunism is centrally focused on a series of superficial and (upon analysis) meaningless catch phrases, slogans, and jingoisms: hope, change, the One we have been waiting for, audacity, coming together, post-partisan, post-racial, diplomacy, an end to torture, and so forth. While each of these words or phrases could impart meaning in other contexts, as Barack Obama and his apostles use them, we have no earthly idea what he means. Hope for what? Change from what to what? The One we have been waiting for -- to do what?
Even "diplomacy" is an empty concept by itself: Gandhi practiced diplomacy; so did Hitler.
Bear in mind, the more superficial a policy, the more ill-defined and vague, the less able critics are to attack it. It assumes radically different dimensions in the mind of each person who hears about it... and each tends to envision it in a way that resonates with him, personally, satisfying that specific individual's wish-fulfillment fantasies. It's very, very tough to tell someone that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable; he tends to react emotionally -- and sometimes violently.
The heroic epic as public policy
When Obama and his fellow Democrats recount history (particularly the economic history of the United States and the history of the conflict in the Middle East), it's clear their "understanding" is based not upon what actually happened but upon what should have happened to make things more coherent and plot-driven, like a novel.
We didn't have a financial crash because of foolhardy (and bipartisan) government policy to encourage poor people to buy houses they couldn't afford, regulation and oversight that was badly written by Congress and poorly implemented by several administrations, and increasingly complex financial instruments that few people understand, including those who invented them. No, it's much more gripping if there is a vast banking conspiracy -- or as a disturbingly large number of Obama appointees would see it, a vast Jew-banker conspiracy). The conspiracy (or "lobby") controls everything behind the scenes, like a bad John Grisham melodrama (sorry for the redundancy).
This reductionism is signalled by the use of capitalized terms beginning with "Big," personalizing the enemy without actually naming them: Big Tobacco, Big Carbon, Big Business, Big Money.
And the continual conflict among Arab countries is not driven by a religious interpretation of Islam that demands constant "jihad;" that's boring... and it smacks of racism, too. But if everything bad in the entire region is driven by a single rogue villain (Israel) which causes all the problems for the sole purpose of "taking over" -- an alien presence that exploits the traditional peoples of the region -- well then we have an enemy we can focus upon, a much tighter plot to follow, somebody we can actually defeat!
Conspiracy mongering is always based, at core, on a sense that the universe should really be more coherent, more linear, and more dramatic than it actually is. It should follow literary rules of plot development, causality, a climax, and a satisfying denoument. Here is where Obama's man-crush on Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers becomes the synecdoche of his worldview. It's not very satisfying if blacks are doing badly because they have a lousy culture, or if kids aren't being educated because they have egregious work habits and have never enjoyed thinking. It's much more thrilling if Republican big business has busily been suppressing children's education because they need more worker-drones for capitalist imperialism -- and Whitey has been holding down "people of color" for a thousand years.
(By a curious coincidence, among much of Obama's inner circle, it appears that both plots have the same conspirators, the same villains: Jews. As antisemitism rises across the rest of the globe, it now finds a sympathetic ear at the highest levels of the American government.)
The Childe Left hate and fear complexity and constructive chaos more than anything in the world (just as literal children do); they also project this fear onto the Right, pretending that it is conservatives who embody "black and white" thinking, and liberals are the ones who understand shades of gray... but the Left's actions and policies belie the proclamations of maturity and wisdom.
Waiting for a miracle as grand strategy
Obamunism, and its larger parent New Leftism, deeply believe in the "magic bullet" theory of governance: For every intractable problem, there is a single, simple solution that will solve everything -- which has been missed by generations of previous, unenlightened souls, leaving its discovery to the hero of the saga. Some hitherto unsuspected connection exists between (seemingly unrelated) events A and B; Doing A will, as if by miracle, bring about B:
- Many times in our past, and currently in the rest of the world, governments tightly control the economy via wage and price controls, overtaxation, heavy-handed regulation, union boosterism, and "five-year plans." This has never resulted in an economic renaissance, but generally recession and depression. But wait -- that's because it wasn't done by the One! This time, under the encyclical circulated by Barack Obama, when the government seizes control of the economy, it will cause the greatest economic boom in American, nay world, history... and the world will forever revere Obama as its champion eternal. (Don't ask how; it just will. And of course you're skeptical... you're a capitalist.)
- Unlike all previous diplomatic overtures, when the great man just sits down and talks to his fellow world leaders (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Raul Castro, Ayman Zawahiri) -- when he explains to them that, unlike the previous regime, the current administration doesn't want to conquer and annex their lands, kill their children, and violate their women -- then the light from his heart will shine through, and these national leaders will realize that they need fear America no longer. They will all fall into each other's arms (in a manly way, I mean), have a good cry and a wonderful laugh, and all will be well. Nuclear warheads will be beaten into solar-power plants, war will be obsolete, the Jews will be driven into the sea, and all will live happily ever after. "And guns and swords and uniforms lay scattered on the ground." Barack Hussein Obama is, quite simply, the One that Ahmadinejad has been waiting for.
- Due to stubborn resistance and ignorance, generations have closed their ears and stopped their eyes to the deadly, global peril of man-made climate change. But as soon as Congress enacts the divine vision of the Obamacle -- instantly, the world will cool, the seas will subside, the harvest will be bountiful, and disease and famine will be driven into the void. The word of the king is the blood of the land. We won't even have to wait for the policies to take effect... directly the word is uttered, the Earth will shake, the sky will brighten, and peace and plenty will rain upon all -- equally -- like manna from heaven.
Achievement without effort; success without setback or disappointment; like a Michael Jackson video, Captain Eo points his finger and a bolt of lightning obliterates the bad guy in a puff of CGI. It's magic!
Obamunism - through the eyes of a lizard
It took me a while to realize it, but it's the childishness of Obamunism that irritates me more than any other element... its reduction to heroes and villains, its soap-bubble superficiality, its melodramatic story telling, and the magical thinking that underpins all the rest. Our country is ruled by the inmates of an excessively permissive and progressive preschool.
The entire Obama administration needs a long time-out. Alas, what we're more likely to see is a time-out from history for the entire country... followed by a very rude and deadly awakening.
July 17, 2008
Shock News: Sandinista Ortega Snatches Land for Pals... Again
The reign of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas -- the Stalinists who held that country hostage for 11 years, against whom we supported "Contra" freedom fighters -- came to a strange end in 1990 when Ronald Reagan's "Contra" policy managed to force free elections in Nicaragua (held under Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush), and the Sandinistas were voted out of office. But before leaving, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega seized millions of acres of land and gave it to his friends and allies in the movement... thus committing one of the largest land snatches in Latin American history.
And proving once again -- it seems to need relearning every generation -- that if you scratch a Socialist, you'll turn up a thief.
Those who thought they had finally seen Ortega's backside (especially after the land grab) were stunned when the Nicaraguan people once again elected him as president just two years ago... with a scant 38% of the vote (worse than Clinton!) in a crowded field. But I don't think anybody is shocked in the least that, having once again wormed his way into power, he is back practicing his favorite hobby: Grabbing other people's property for himself:
President Daniel Ortega Saavedra beams from the billboards, promising "Citizens Power" as a solution to Nicaragua’s endemic poverty. "The world’s poor arise!" the signs say. But beneath the billboards, on walls and benches all over town, others have scrawled "No to CPC. No to dictatorship."
The graffiti alludes to Citizens Power Councils -- or C.P.C.’s. In December, Mr. Ortega established the neighborhood committees, which are controlled by his left-wing Sandinista party and administer antipoverty programs, despite a vote against the plan by the National Assembly.
Mr. Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader [former?], maintains that the councils are meant only to let community leaders have a say in where and how government money is spent.
But opposition leaders say the councils are another step in what they call the Ortega administration’s drift toward an authoritarian and secretive government that does not have to answer to the legislature -- mostly because the president controls tens of millions of dollars a year in aid from Venezuela.
Some of the president’s opponents charge that the Citizens Power Councils are nothing more than patronage mills, channeling government largess to supporters of the party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. So a Stalinist thief is once again given the levers of power, and once again he abuses them to enrich himself and his pals; this is news?
But there is much more to this story; for what we are seeing in Nicaragua is stately but relentless "progress" from liberal democracy to Communist dictatorship, yet again under the direct command of the Sandinista Party... with Oogo Chavez as puppetmaster in Venezuela. These putatively private CPCs -- which are funded by low-cost loans from Chavez (and kept strictly off the books), and which are completely dominated by Sandinistas, despite that party's much smaller presence in the National Assembly -- have been given governmental power over many critical aspects of Nicaraguan society; they essentially take the place of government but are completely immune from legislative oversight.
Sandinista President Ortega has given these CPCs control over:
- Distribution of government food aid -- both who receives the food and which stores are picked to supply it; this is a critical function for a country that constantly mambos on the brink of utter economic collapse, and where a great many citizens are literally starving;
- Paving the roads, what few Nicaragua has left after decades of war;
- Approving small-business loans, typically the only funding source standing between poor villagers and welfare;
- Disbursement of free cattle, pigs, and seed stock as welfare for ranchers and farmers -- this way, Ortega gains control of both major sectors of society: the farmers and all other small businesses;
- Vaccinations for Nicaraguan children ('nuff said);
- And reading instruction for the poor, who are typically illiterate.
Overall control of the CPCs is in the hands of Daniel Ortega's communications director, Rosario Murillo; it's an irrelevant coincidence that Ms. Murillo also happens to be Ortega's wife. Council members are not elected; they are appointed by the president (or by his communications director). And while other party members can join the councils, the Sandinistas maintain a huge majority and can outvote everybody else combined.
This raises two interesting academic questions:
- At what point does a private organization, run by the president's wife and funded by a foreign dictator, which seizes control of many functions traditionally associated with government, and which proclaims itself to be the real intermediary between the proletariat and the government, become the de facto new government of Nicaragua?
The rhetoric is quite suggestive:
Jeannette Suazo, a Sandinista, is the chairwoman of the committee in a Managua neighborhood known as September 14th. She insists that aid is handed out without regard to politics, and she said that her committee had four members who belonged to the opposition party [the remaining 11 members, including the chairwoman, are Sandinistas, a nearly 3-1 voting advantage]. All are volunteers and get no pay, though some have government jobs, she said.
“We are the communicators between the people and the government,” she said. “It’s easier to solve these problems with an organized people than with a disorganized people.”
The other academic question:
- How do these "Citizens Power Councils" differ in any significant way from Argentina's Fundación Eva Perón?
To recap, the Sandinistas dominate these "private" councils about 3-1... even though in the National Assembly, the two Sandinista parties together comprise 46%, while the two liberal parties together add up to 53%.
In the election of 2006, Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front received 38% of the vote. Sadly, the two liberal parties, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, split the anti-Sandinista vote, 29% and 27%. Had they unified, they would have had a clear majority of 56%, and Nicaragua would not be headed back towards Communist tyranny and government looting again. (Let that be a lesson to conservatives here who plan to "send a message" by voting for Bob Barr this November.)
This rolling catastrophe really makes one appreciate the hand of the divine that gave Colombia the brilliant Álvaro Uribe Vélez... instead of some Ortega-clone, who would have gotten his financing from either Oogo, the drug lords, or both. Too bad Barack H. Obama and the Democratic Congress are intent upon breaking our word to Colombia by tearing up the Colombian Free Trade Agreement and stamping on it; if we were simply to ratify the treaty, we could sell our own goods in Colombia and support freedom and democracy at the same time. Of course, that's almost certainly the exact reason the Democratic Congress won't even bring CFTA up for a vote.
Perhaps Democrats are hoping they can create some CPCs right here, ready to leap into the fray... just in case John S. McCain "steals the election" from the man who bought and paid for it.
April 13, 2008
Forget It. It's Chinatown... Big Lizards Breaking Bombshell News!
Correction below: Secondary photographic charge refuted, but the primary charge remains; and even the secondary charge remains, albeit by other evidence, not the bottom photograph. See below.
The most iconic photograph from the riots attending the torch-bearing ceremony, the one that has every tongue wagging, is surely this one: A Tibetan supporter violently assaulting a wheelchair-bound woman carrying the torch through Paris.
This one picture came to symbolize the heartless violence of the Tibetan protesters, thus justifying, in many people's minds, the paramilitary troops that China sent to harass, beat, and brutalize the protesters in other countries -- from France and London to the United States to South America:
Violent protester attacks wheelchair-bound torch bearer.
Note especially the bandana this vicious thug wears; it's clearly the Tibetan flag, as you can see from the image below:
For contrast, here is the Chinese Communist flag; the two are quite distinct, and you cannot mistake one for the other:
Rather like the infamous Mohammed al-Durrah photograph, used by the Palestinians to turn the world against Israel by claiming they shot a young boy, this photograph began to turn the world against the victims of Red China's brutal occupation and subsequent attempt at slow genocide.
But wait; that's an odd comparison to make, isn't it? For the al-Durrah footage is now known to be a fake; careful investigation has shown that the Israelis could not possibly have shot the child from the positions they occupied. He had to have been shot by Palestinians -- if he were shot at all.
So the video footage is infamous mostly because it is a clumsy fake, one of the first instances of "Pallywood."
Surely that can't be case with this photo of the Tibetan protester and the lady in the wheelchair; after all, we see him clearly -- and the camera never lies.
There are several Japanese-language blogs I read that are written by Chinese living in Japan. (This may seem like a detour, but it's not, I promise.) I believe the authors are mostly Japanese nationals, but they still have strong ties to China. And of course, they're usually anti-Communist... which is why they don't live in China in the first place.
Mr. Ching is one of them. He often introduces events happening in the Chinese blogosphere.
China has not broadcast any images to the Chinese people of what they are doing in Tibet; but according to Mr. Ching, the Communists did broadcast the image of that wheelchair-bound woman being attacked by a Tibetan protester. A number of Chinese bloggers (in China) were outraged by the attack; they started to look into the identity of the attacker. In the course of their investigation, they found something shocking...
They stumbled across some other photographs: pictures of the attacker, clearly that same Tibetan protester (still wearing his Tibetan-flag bandana), arriving earlier for the festivities -- and marching in the company of a number of Chinese carrying Chinese flags:
Our protester with his actual friends; note the flags.
Is it possible that our "protester" friend is in fact -- a Chinese agent provacateur? That would require us to believe that the Chinese Communists could be so devious and duplicitous as to commit an atrocity, just to blame it on the Tibetan protesters and arouse retroactive justification for the crackdown by the Chinese paramilitaries we talked about in an earlier post.
Bah. That would just be -- too Clintonian.
The Chinese bloggers were still outraged; but when the truth became obvious, they switched targets. Once they posted the photos, and readers began to share the images with their non-blogging friends, public opinion in China also turned around. Now, according to Mr. Ching, Chinese citizens are inflamed by their own government's conspiratorial manipulation of public sentiment.
The plot backfired; and now the Chinese blogosphere is going into overtime. For example, there is also this:
Chinese soldiers holding fake Tibetan monks' robes... I wonder why?
Correction: Benign explanation alert -- but only of the photograph itself. Chinese bloggers evidently stumbled across this picture of Chinese soldiers with monks' robes more than a week ago; and it has actually been explained: The government says that the soldiers were just serving as extras in a movie. Whether or not this is true, the picture is actually old, dating at least from 2003 -- when there was no crackdown in Tibet (that we know of). So it turns out that this last photo does actually have a benign explanation. "Burglarly tools" or not, this one isn't what it seems.
New Question: Has anybody actually seen this alleged 2003 appearance of this photo? The claim is that it's on the back cover of a magazine... but so far, nobody has linked to any such picture. As this is the main piece of evidence "refuting" the idea that the picture was more recent, hence perhaps not as benign as the Chinese government claims, it would be somewhat more convincing with a real link to go with it.
The Chinese government is claiming that the picture was the back cover of the 2003 annual report by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD); however, the index of reports inconveniently shows only the front covers; and the PDF of the 2003 report shows neither cover. Nor does it contain the word "movie," and the only instance of "robe" is unrelated to the Chinese claim. Color us a bit skeptical until we see an actual, physical copy of that report.
So for all readers out there trying to defend the honor of the People's Republic of China -- please post a comment that includes a link to a 2003 website containing that photo. Thanks!
You can start with this blogger, who tries to prove that the picture is just from a movie. Alas, although some of what he says seems plausible (taking into account his obvious anti-conservative bias), none of his claims are linked; so again, it's impossible to verify anything he says. But if anyone can find some links for these claims, we will publish them here in this post.
We are not prepared to say that the photo is actually evidence; but we can say that so far, those claiming that it is from 2003 have not presented any convincing evidence to that effect, either.
However... while that photograph itself appears benign, the charge that the Chinese themselves fomented the rioting to justify a crackdown in advance of the Olympics is now being made by the Dalai Lama. And a Canadian newspaper links to a story reprinted in the Epoch Times (March 27th, 2008) that says the British equivalent to our NSA -- GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters -- believes that the Chinese People's Liberation Army may in fact have staged some of the rioting:
Britain's GCHQ, the government communications agency that electronically monitors half the world from space, has confirmed the claim by the Dalai Lama that agents of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the PLA, posing as monks, triggered the riots that have left hundreds of Tibetans dead or injured.
GCHQ analysts believe the decision was deliberately calculated by the Beijing leadership to provide an excuse to stamp out the simmering unrest in the region, which is already attracting unwelcome world attention in the run-up to the Olympic Games this summer.
(This is reprinted from the G2 Bulletin, which requires a paid subscription to view, alas.)
So while the photograph has been refuted as evidence of anything, the actual substance of the secondary charge is still open.
And there is still no explanation for how the "Tibetan" attacker of the girl in the wheelchair happens to be such pals with supporters of Communist China that they would all march to the demonstration together, surrounded by Chinese Communist flags -- right before rioting against each other.
What follows is the original end of this post; while reading about the photograph, bear the above correction in mind:
This is a group of Chinese soldiers in Tibet. I can't say whether they're in the same paramilitary group as the "jogging-suit Janissaries;" but for some peculiar reason, each of these Chinese soldiers holds in his hands an ersatz Tibetan monk's robe.
Now, far be it from mere bloggers (on either side of the Pacific Rim) to make accusations against the noble fighting men of Red China. But it does occur to us that much of the armed violence committed by China against the Tibetan monks has been justified on the basis that Tibetan monks -- in their robes -- have been "attacking" Chinese civilians in Tibet.
Of course, just because a fellow is caught outside a house at midnight carrying burglary tools doesn't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a burglar. But can anyone think of an innocent reason why a company of Chinese soldiers should each have a Tibetan monk's robe, when they are trying to suppress protest by a bunch of robed Tibetan monks?
China is beginning to discover what Americans -- Dan Rather in particular -- learned to their chagrin some years ago: We live in the age of new media; and in this epoch, we know that cameras lie all the time. They lie about the "death" of a Palestinian boy; they lie about exploding trucks and fraudulent Air National Guard memos... and they can most certainly lie about who really attacked a beautiful, young girl in a wheelchair.
But those infernal recording devices have two edges; where one photo lies, another can reveal the truth.
Truth to the Left is like Kryptonite to Superman. All the lackeys, minions, and lickspittles of Hu Jintao will never be able to live down this blow to their carefully constructed public image -- not just the violence itself, but the repugnant way they have tried to shift the blame to the very victims of that violence.
I wonder; are they starting to regret getting the Olympics after all?
June 20, 2006
What Goes Up Must Come Down... But How?
So here is the syllogism; you supply the conclusion:
- North Korea insists that it has "the right" to launch a test of its new ICBM, the Taepodong-2.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has no intention of abiding by any treaties it may have signed against the proliferation of missile technology; and they are known to be working hard on a nuclear warhead (with a lot of help from the mad Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan) and may indeed already have a few. Now they say they have a right to missiles that can carry those warheads thousands of miles:
North Korea declared Tuesday it has a right to carry out long-range missile tests, despite international calls for the communist state to refrain from launching a rocket believed capable of reaching the United States.
The bristling statement from North Korea to Japanese reporters in Pyongyang came as France and the U.N. secretary-general raised the alarm over what are believed to be the reclusive nation's preparations for a test of the Taepodong-2, with a range of up to 9,300 miles.
In a totally unrelated move, the United States has decided to make a minor change in our defense posture:
- The United States has just activated our ground-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, in addition to the sea-based Aegis BMD system.
We have tested the Aegis extensively, and it has been considered fully operational for a long time now... despite not having been used yet in actual combat, so far as I know:
Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near North Korea as part of the global missile defense and would be among the first sensors that would trigger the use of interceptors, the officials said yesterday.
The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 long-range interceptor missiles, including nine deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was switched from test to operational mode within the past two weeks, the officials said.
All right, so they launch; but where do they launch? What direction, and over what countries?
- The DPRK is not likely to launch an ICBM -- even as a test -- west across China or north across China and Russia; that leaves only east over Japan (which they have done before) or south over Taiwan and the Philippines, all three strong and vital American allies.
So put the three together, and what conclusion do we draw about our course of action? You guessed it:
One senior Bush administration official told The Washington Times that an option being considered would be to shoot down the Taepodong missile with responding interceptors....
White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment when asked if shooting down a launched missile was being considered as an option.
I suspect the only real question here is how likely we are to succeed: attempting to shoot down the Taepodong-2 and missing would be much worse than not trying in the first place; but trying and succeeding might reap huge dividends, as the generals behind North Korean leader Kim Jong Il probably think our BMD system is "all chopstick and no rice" (much like the DPRK food supply).
Proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that we really have it and it actually works might shock them out of their nutty idea that they can threaten us with nuclear missiles and back into at least a working definition of sanity.
But it's a gamble; let's not kid ourselves. Our tests so far have been controlled, in that we've been shooting at American missiles launched by American troops as part of a controlled engineering experiment -- as we should be; that's the correct way to develop a new weapons system. But making the shift to knocking down an actual enemy missile is a whole 'nother layer of complexity.
I believe it will work, so we should do it; still, none of us has access to all the classified data the president does.
But jeepers, would I love to see the collective gasp of a billion people if the NoKos were to launch -- and we were to swat their Taepodong out of the sky like it was a slow-moving fly. It would make my decade!
Sometimes the best thing to do in a "no-win" situation is to give the box a vigorous shake and see how the pieces realign themselves.
April 13, 2006
Argument By Redefinition - Again
So now we have a new "civil war," according to the creative redefinition of the New York Times. This one is in India, of all places -- and the other side of the supposed "civil war" are the Maoist guerillas in the northern mountain regions in the Himalayas, hard up against war-torn Nepal, and the poor, indiginous, central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
The comparison with Nepal is instructive. This is from the introductory paragraph from the Nepal entry of the CIA's World Factbook:
A Maoist insurgency, launched in 1996, has gained traction and is threatening to bring down the regime, especially after a negotiated cease-fire between the Maoists and government forces broke down in August 2003....
In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for "incompetence" after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency....
Citing dissatisfaction with the government's lack of progress in addressing the Maoist insurgency and corruption, the king in February 2005 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, imprisoned party leaders, and assumed power. The King's government subsequently released party leaders and officially ended the state of emergency in May 2005.
Gentle readers, that is what a real civil war plus Communist insurgency looks like. So what does the fighting in India look like, according to the Times?
Mr. Markam's ragtag forces, who hew to Mao's script for a peasant revolution, fought a seemingly lost cause for so long, they were barely taken seriously beyond India's desperately wanting forest belt. But not anymore.
Today the fighting that Mr. Markam has quietly nurtured for 25 years looks increasingly like a civil war, one claiming more and more lives and slowing the industrial growth of a country hungry for the coal, iron and other riches buried in these isolated realms bypassed by India's economic boom.
While the far more powerful Maoist insurgency in neighboring Nepal has received greater attention, the conflict in India, though largely separate, has gained momentum, too. In the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives.
"Mr. Markam" is Gopanna Markam, "company commander" of some Maoist guerilla gang that even the Times admits is "ragtag." Yet Markam and his "company" are the subjects of this puff piece, which reads almost like the Times has become a PR firm for the Indian Communist insurgency. The "article" begins thus:
The gray light of dawn broke over the bamboo forest as the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army prepared for a new day.
With transistor radios tucked under their arms, the soldiers listened to the morning news and brushed their teeth. A few young recruits busied themselves making a remote-control detonator for explosives.
The company commander, Gopanna Markam, patiently shaved.
"We have made the people aware of how to change your life through armed struggle, not the ballot," said Mr. Markam, who is in his mid-40's, describing his troops' accomplishments. "This is a people's war, a protracted people's war."
The rest of the piece drips with respect, even awe at the sincerity and success of this band of brothers:
Mr. Markam and his Maoist forces appear undaunted. They drill in their forest redoubts. They haul villagers to propaganda meetings. They build their own weapons, including crude pistols and mortars.
To see them in their jungle camp, sleeping on tarpaulins, armed with antiquated rifles and pistols, with no real territory under their full control, it is difficult to fathom how they have maintained their movement for so long, let alone expanded it across such a wide swath of the country.
Throughout, the writer -- Somini Sengupta -- takes at face value every wild claim of the Communists, as well as the equally fanciful and agenda-driven claims of local cops hoping for national funding from New Delhi. Whenever he describes some atrocity committed by the Communists -- using "child soldiers," for example -- he partners it with some similar atrocity committed by local anti-Communist insurgents; he plays the "moral equivalency" card like the ace of trump.
Mr. Sengupta's argument is simply to assert that the low level of violence and mayhem caused by the Maoists "looks increasingly like a civil war"... which he can only maintain by redefining the meaning of the term "civil war," just as other liberals do for Iraq.
Here, from the CIA World Factbook's entry on India, is the only reference to "Maoist insurgents." It's found at the end under Transnational Issues:
India maintains a strict border regime to keep out Maoist insurgents and control illegal cross-border activities from Nepal.
Note there is nothing here about the Maoists "threatening the bring down the regime" or India being "unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency."
Is India in an actual "civil war" with the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army? What evidence does Mr. Sengupta muster? After all, if "attacks have become more brazen and better coordinated," as he claims, what kinds of attacks are we talking about?
- The Maoists "robbed two banks and looted arms from a police station" last June;
- In November, they "orchestrated a jailbreak," freeing 300 prisoners and murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "executing") nine security guards;
- In February, they stole 19 tons of explosives from a government warehouse, again murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "killing") nine security guards.
- Later that month, they set off a land mine under a truck convoy, murdering 28 people (at least this time, Mr. Sengupta uses the word "butchering;" but then, this time the victims weren't security guards).
Pardon my local pride, but Southern California street gangs, from the Crips to the Bloods to MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), have done worse than that (albeit with guns, not land mines) in the last eight months... and California has a total population of 36 million, only 3% that of India.
Mr. Sengupta somberly informs us that "in the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives." Later, he refines that calculation: "so far this year, the conflict has killed nearly two Indians a day" (which would be something less than 730). I'm not sure how "nearly" 730 becomes "nearly" 1,000 -- perhaps he has created a new version of addition to compliment his new definition of "civil war." In any event, 730 people killed in India -- even in the sparsely populated regions of the countrh -- is considerably below any threshold of "war" that I would accept, civil or otherwise.
This is the state of debate in what is allegedly the premier news source of the entire class of antique media: there is a "civil war" in India because the Times says so; there is a "civil war" in Iraq because the Old Gray Lady thinks it fit to print that there is. When words are redefined to mean anything you want, they instead wind up meaning nothing at all.
Yes of course; deliberately evocative of the famous "G.K. Chesterton" quotation (which he actually never said, appropriately enough, though he more or less implied it):
When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing... he believes anything.
Nobody would deny that Communist terrorists in India are a serious problem; nobody would deny that it's a crime when an innocent person is murderd, whether by militant Islamists, by Communists, or even by counter-insurgency forces overreacting.
But if we lose the ability to discriminate between the low-level, low-intensity terrorist campaign in India, the bloodier but even less coherent string of terrorist attacks in Iraq -- and the full scale civil wars found in Nepal, Bosnia, and Rwanda, then we lose the ability to respond appropriately to each challenge. Imagine a person who could not discriminate between being verbally insulted, being pushed, and being shot.
Arguing with a liberal is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. They move the goal posts; they lower the bar; they simply cannot help themselves... it's in their natures. See Æsop's fable "the Scorpion and the Frog" -- which, true to the rest of this post, is not actually one of Æsop's fables.
But at least on this side of the aisle, we're honest about our lies!
September 20, 2005
Movement vs. Presence -- Updated with bump
UPDATE: See bottom.
Over on the must-read blog Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico wonders at the timing of North Korea's abrupt about-face on its nuclear-weapons program. For those of you living in Carlsbad Caverns, the Kim Jong-Il regime agreed late yesterday night (or early this morning, depending on whose time zone you prefer) to end their nuclear-weapons development in exchange for basically nothing from the United States -- just the assurance that:
"The United States affirmed that is has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade (North Korea) with nuclear or conventional weapons," according to the statement, assurances echoed by South Korea.
Here is what puzzles Patterico:
In the comments, AMac asks: why are the North Koreans making this concession now? One possible answer is in the linked story:
[U.S. assurance quoted above]
That is a concession that I believe we have been unwilling to make until now. So the relevant question might be: why is the United States making this concession now?
Patterico's question crystalized my own vague sense that something was funny here. Not wrong, necessarily, though of course I am highly skeptical of anything that comes out of the mouth of Kim -- especially in light of the rapid about-face from their previous about-face, now demanding that we first give them light-water reactors before they dismantle their nukes. We'll see if they get stubborn, of if this is just a last-ditch attempt to get something for nothing before finally agreeing to what they already agreed to.
Still, I have the sense that something momentous is motivating below the surface, like floating in the ocean and having a whale swim beneath you. That something is not North Korean: it's American; there is a reason why we're willing to make certain assurances today that we were not willing to make last year.
I'm not worried about North Korea cheating, assuming the deal even goes through; the agreement evidently includes boots on the ground in the DPRK verifying the destruction of their nuclear weapons and weapon-manufacturing facilities. As with Libya, I believe this will either be done honestly -- or else we'll know immediately that it isn't. Since we don't give them anything in advance, there's no particular incentive to cheat. (That's another reason we can't give in to their demands for the reactors: they would get something tangible in exchange for nothing but a promise to cooperate.)
There are some obvious possibilities to answer the "why now?" question: maybe the North Koreans finally figured out that Clinton really isn't president anymore (and won't be in the future -- no, not even via his wife). Maybe they'd gotten themselve in too deep and were just looking for a facesaving way to back out, and the declaration by the U.S. mentioned above finally gave them that. (Asians must save their faces; Americans have to cover their posteriors.)
But that still begs the Patterico question: why were we willing to make such a commitment today but not last year? I believe the real answer to Patterico lies in what Don Rumsfeld has been doing for the last few years (in between fighting a couple of wars and secretly running the White House, timesharing with Dick Cheney, Karen Hughes, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condoleezza Rice, of course): he has been busy with a radical restructuring of the armed forces, in composition, mission, and style of warfighting.
It's tough being a pundit. I don't actually know anything. Well, I know something about mathematics, since that was my field at university; but what I really need to be right now is a military historian, which I emphatically am not. So I'm going to play one on the blogosphere... all you real military historians out there, quick, shield your eyes! (Actually, I would appreciate just the opposite: please correct me where I go awry.)
I'm actually pretty sure of my basic point: Don Rumsfeld has been almost obsessed with reforming and modernizing the American military to fight the wars he envisions for the the twenty-first century... as opposed to what we had in the early 1990s, which was a military organized in 1947 to fight the Warsaw Pact and perhaps the ChiComs -- or when Bush-43 took office in 2001, which was the cut-rate, stripped-down, Clintonized version of the above.
I already had the basic sense, but for the specifics, I'm relying on this April 2004 story on GlobalSecurity.org; the details will evolve, but it's probably more or less accurate still.
Rumsfeld has a vision of what tomorrow's combat will be. In response, he is transforming our military, starting with the 3rd Infantry Division as guinea pigs, into a lighter and faster military with fewer non-combat personnel, organized into smaller units. Instead of focusing on the division as the basic warfighting unit -- say 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- he wants the basic warfighting unit to be the much smaller brigade... in fact, an even smaller version of the brigade. Instead of the classic three brigades per division, Rumsfeld wants four or five per division, plus an aviation brigade of attack helicopters. We currently have ten divisions comprising 33 brigades; the Secretary of Defense wants to have between 43 and 48 brigades.
Thus, instead of 5,000 to 6,000 troops per brigade, we would have 3,500 to 4,000 troops per brigade. Also, technology would take the place of much of the support personnel, so there would be fewer typists, storekeepers, clerks, cooks, and so forth traveling to the war. The brigade, not the division, would become the primary warmaking unit -- the idea being that we do not need to send a division when a modernized, fast, and every bit as lethal brigade will do. For larger conflicts, send several brigades. It gives us more flexibility and faster mobility.
The upshot here is, I believe, a radical change in how the United States responds to global threats. During the Cold War, our basic strategy was presence: we would have bases all over the world, putting a troop presence in every potential hotspot. This served two purposes: first, these American forces in Germany, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and (recently, but no longer) Saudi Arabia acted as "triggers." To roll into Western Europe, for example, the Soviets would first have to attack the American forces in West Germany; this would not only delay them and remove any doubt about intentions, it would give us unassailable casus belli that not even the most dovish liberal in Congress could ignore or reject.
Second, having troops right on the scene meant that we had a force that could (we hoped!) hold off the enemy, or at least delay him for the months it would take to get a major army into the field. Our buildup in the Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield, lasted for four months before we finally attacked... and that was a comparatively small mobilization, compared to what we would have had to do in an all-out World War III in Europe.
But Rumsfeld's vision (it seems to me) is that we would move away from the "presence" model in future wars, relying instead on a strategy of rapid movement. Currently, I think it would take about fifteen days to plant a fully equipped division anywhere in the globe. This is pretty fast (assuming we can actually make it that quickly in a real situation), though not as fast as it ought to be. But if we're only planting a brigade, not an entire division, we could probably get them in much faster... a week, maybe, or even less.
The brigade needs to be tough enough to hold the line until more brigades can arrive, so it needs to be a lean and lethal fighting machine full of experienced soldiers who drop in from above, move too rapidly to be effectively countered, spread massive damage among the enemy, hunt them out in the dark and house to house if necessary, but which can disappear over the horizon like ghosts before enemy forces can truly be brought to bear... only to reappear shortly on another flank.
Donald Rumsfeld, in other words, wants the Mobile Infantry from Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers: heavily armed and armored, veteran shock troops which can be dropped into anywhere on a moment's notice and hold the real estate until more troops can arrive.
If we could do that, it would not be as important to have large numbers of troops everywhere in the world: they need to be forward-deployed... but they wouldn't have to be actually in South Korea, for example, in order to get to the DMZ fast enough to make a difference.
And that may be why the president can now make those assurances to North Korea about what we will actually have in the Korean peninsula: Bush can say, in all honesty, that we don't need to have troops and tanks and especially nukes in country, because Bush knows that if we needed them, we could insert them into the country -- and North Korea could not stop us. What Bush did not and would not say is that we will never have nuclear weapons on the peninsula or that we will never have plans to invade the DPRK: that, after all, depends upon the facts on the ground.
Which should be a good incentive for Kim to keep his word. Assuming he can actually bring himself to give it!
UPDATE Sep 20th, 2005 05:34:
Commenter Teafran, a Marine, makes a very important point :
What is missing from this argument is the lack of Division level support once an area has been shocked and awed. Rumsfield has it right for the initial level of confrontation - the MI hits the ground initiating the kicking ass and takeing names phase, but they are not designed to hold and control an area which clearly is a Division level function for ordinary grunts and MP support.
Wretchard over at the Belmont Club has actually written about this; alas, I cannot recall exactly which post, or I would link it. He noted that the British during the days of the Empire truly understood how to "hold and control an area," not just for a few days or weeks but literally for decades... more than a century in some cases.
What they used was a "colonial corps." Hey, wait a minute! I think I -- yes, I did! I actually wrote about this already, over on Patterico's Pontifications -- and I do have a link. Doh!
Ahem. Wretchard over on the Belmont Club wrote a post called More Men on the Ground 2, in which he discussed this point. As I wrote about Wretchard's post back in May (this is Dafydd quoting Dafydd, not quoting Wretchard),
Wretchard contemplated what it would take actually to carry out the mission we seem to have chosen for ourselves: to institute regime changes around the globe, casting out the most repulsive, venomous dictatorships, the ones that test the will of civilization, in favor of democracies that allow the people of those lands the greatest expression of individual liberty they have ever known. Wretchard noted the obvious: the United States is ill-equipped for what we would really need: a “Colonial Corps” specifically designed for long term occupation of hostile nations, rather like the British army of the nineteenth century....
This Colonian Corps would not be entirely military; it would include administrators, engineers, diplomats, jurists, politicians -- everything needed to tear down the repugnant elements of a terrorist state and build on the ashes the foundations of a modern democratic, liberal state. One presumes it would not be hamstrung by the rampant racism that infested the Raj and other European colonial institutions.
I don't think he put the two ideas together, Mobile Infantry and the Colonial Corps. That was my contribution. I continue quoting myself... one of my favorite pasttimes!
So the question arises: is it possible for a military to be both a Colonial Corps and also a Blitzkrieg Batallion?
Conventional wisdom says no: it would require two entirely separate armed forces, one for colonial occupation, the other for warfighting against technologically sophisticated enemies... and no country could afford both at the same time....
And this is exactly where, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, the “army of one” trendline comes into play. Where is the empowerment of the individual American soldier headed? What is the omega? It is possible in theory that a single, “hyperpowered” soldier of the realistic future could defeat an entire army of today?
....Imagine an army with just one of these soldiers a scant twenty years from now. Now imagine ten of them. Imagine ten thousand “armies of one.”
Ten thousand soldiers is not a lot. It’s a single division. And one extra division of Mobile Infantry would hardly break the bank, leaving plenty of money left over for the Colonial Corps. If we were to go this route, we would end up the first “empire” in the world that conquered only to liberate, colonized only to build independence, and yet still could shake the Earth with our thunderbolts.
Yes, I think we really could do it -- if we wanted badly enough to do so. I'm not even sure I, myself, would want us to go this route.
It wouldn't be cheap; we would likely have to nearly double our military expenditure. But the possibility is there; only the will is problematical. (This is a big enough addition that I'm going to bump this to the top.)
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