< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: April 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Maps versus Hands

Or, if you prefer, Tom Barnett versus J Smith. In the comments to this post below, regular A9 commenter J Smith hits on something I've thought about for awhile... haven't we seen all this before?

While Smith doesn't take his argument as a foil for Barnett's "New Map", I think the argument serves well in that mold.
That is Barnett's now famous "New Map" using a "core" and "gap" dichotomy to describe the current security of the world (clicking will take you to a low res pdf version). The "Core" is made up of mostly Western or western-like liberal democracies with a free market economy. The "gap" is made up of mostly third world countries. Smith, in the comments mentioned, reduces this to a more simplistic dichotomy: first world versus third world.

The above is a map of colonial N. America circa 1770 (click to see an enlarged view, where you may zoom in with another click). Note the Proclamation Line of 1763 and the eventual Indian Territory border of 1768. Note also the dots of major port cities: the "core" of the colonies if you will. Recall now that Vermont was the first new entrant into the "core", in 1791. Looking at the map above it is easy to see why. For about three decades, the borders of Vermont and the "gap", or Indian territory, had been very well defined.

Looking South one sees why it took so long to get Mississippi and Alabama admitted... they were deep inside the "gap". Indeed, E. Louisiana became part of the "core" before these two areas did. It would require the wholesale liquidation of the Cherokee, the slaughter of the Creek, and the destruction of the Choctaw to make those states "settled", all of which weren't complete until well after the turn of the century.

Barnett and other globalization theorists talk about "soft kills" and "integrating" the gap countries into the "core". But we did that already, here, in America. It wasn't soft either. About the softest "kill" was the legendary purchase of Manhattan; now known to be mostly myth. But that was the exception. For two hundred years, the rule was wholesale slaughter of men, women and children. It isn't pretty. It isn't made for TV. Here is a reminder:
That may look like a nice picture, but if you study it carefully (click to enlarge) you'll see it depicts British soldiers surrounding a village of innocent Indians, with torches lit. The whole village was lit up in flames. This innocent picture depicts this horrible story:
the burning of the fortified Pequot village on the Mystic River in 1637, by English soldiers and their Narragansett and Mohegannative allies. They surprised the sleeping village of several hundred, burned the village to the ground and killed the fleeing natives. Neither women nor children were spared in the massacre. Native allies who had not already fled (not really having the stomach for war) were horrified at the English savagery. Captain John Underhill, who led the slaughter, would later find justification for killing those women and children by citing Kind David's Old Testament genocidal slaughters.
That was the rule. Underhill later perfected this strategy and used it up and down the Northeastern coast. America later perfects this strategy again, and uses it to great effect in the battles for the plains and the West.

Smith chastizes the theorists for not realizing the implications of their theory. And I happen to think Smith is right. None of these theorists wants to face the horror of the reality of their ideas. This is the difference between those that use maps, and those that use their hands. The practical implication of Barnett's thesis, if it is to be successful, is the colonization of much of the third world.

And the practical implication of colonizing the third world is that America will need to once again be "ok" with burning villages, slaughtering women and children, and doing it all at night with no pretext. I don't think the American people have the stomach for that... if you doubt it, just look at what American theorists have the stomach to "draw".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gas Tax Holiday

UPDATE: I'm thinking out loud here, but doesn't this picture belong in Rep. Menendez's press release?

I like Menendez's proposal here. It's pretty clever. First though, if it works for oil, would it work for say... cars? How about diamond engagement rings? I know, totally different tax scheme, but that begs the point. Everyone will like this. But won't they always like it then? Can we add, along with a gas tax holiday, perhaps a more simple tax code? One slightly less "progressive" than the one we see today? Anyway, cheers to Bob for not being afraid to buck the "tax tax, spend spend, elect elect" status quo. If only we could have him break the borrow borrow status quo as well.

One more point, ending the LIFO accounting break is long overdue, and should be universally applied. Tricks like that cost average investors billions of dollars a year, and it becomes an even bigger problem after our fearsome CEOs drive their piggybanks into the ground.

The "Earnings" Gap

Becker and Posner argue persuasively in these back to back posts that income inequality is a) a sign of healthy economic returns and b) not the social problem it is cracked up to be. I wonder though if in a few decades part b) will still be true? As the population grows and our representation levels in the federal government continue to decrease, there will be, at least literally, an "aristocratic" element in American society. Those who can afford lobbyists and big campaign donations will be represented, even moreso than now, while those who cannot will not be represented. I can see such a state of affairs, if allowed to persist, resulting in a rather ugly class schism.

But for now, and for much of the foreseeable future, I agree with both posts. I can only hope that they will apply the same logic to the debate on high gas prices. Though somehow I doubt it. Kudos to Posner for also pointing out the cynical way in which many political groups purposely confuse the issue between poverty and income inequality. I can hear little Johnnie Edwards already using the line.

Nazis and 4GW

Zenpundit has an important and interesting article of a historical nature. This teaser should wet your appetite.
What if Hitler and the Nazis represented not the triumph of the total state but the first harbinger of the nation-state's passing ?
What if?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

(i) Great Lies & Liberal Education Generally

One of the greatest lies ever told is that the march of freedom we’ve witnessed here in America over its 200+ year history is an unqualified good. It is much like the lie we tell our young as they begin their education: that knowledge is an unqualified good.

Both lies can, and do, lead to unfortunate results when left unrestrained.

Democratic conceit can not only lead to mob rule (a misfortune our founders were dedicated to avoiding), but the conceit of freedom can also readily lead to a far more absurd, far more difficult to fix, far more dangerous problem: self-enslavement.

Students of ancient philosophy no doubt are familiar with the problem in a way students of modernity are not. This is a main issue of focus in Plato’s Republic, given an eternal form in the famous “Allegory of the Cave”. The student of modern thought will find the allegory almost quaint, with its deference to “universals” and “eternals” and self-conscious fear of details and particulars. But the student of ancient thought knows something that has been lost on modernity.

Plato’s Republic is a book about education. More specifically, it is a book concerned with the way a society may educate free people without at the same time binding these people in a new set of chains. What America’s Constitution is to the problem of freedom, Plato’s Republic is to the problem of learning.

In other words, the book is about helping us not only see past the shadows, but see past the candle causing them, see past the steep incline behind the candle, and most importantly, have the courage required to face the light of the day outside.

I say “most importantly” because this is the singular aspect of a liberal education which is most un-discussed; but which is itself perhaps the most remarkable trait of the truly liberally educated person: they are not afraid to think on their own.

Dan at tdaxp, Mark at Zenpundit, and various interlocutors at those sites have for the last few months engaged in a dialogue which has touched on the products of liberal education. There has been some confusion in this dialogue, and this post will be my first of five (or four) on this topic.

To help clear up the definition of liberal education, and provide for some more useful ways of using the “tag” (for me, liberal education is that method by which young men and women become independent thinkers and responsible citizens), I will allow one of the world’s foremost experts on liberal education to describe what “it” is:
But that [the young] must not be taught all of the useful arts is evident, once free pursuits have been distinguished from those that are unfree - and also that they must take part only in those useful pursuits that will not make the participant [merely] mechanical.
That was Aristotle in his Politics, expressing the sense that liberal education is, most importantly, for its own sake. Here is what today’s foremost expert on liberal education has to say about that:
It is simply the case that our students almost universally declare their education to have been of the greatest use to them: in keeping them from being merely "mechanical," it has made them both brave and versatile in facing practical problems.
That was Eva Brann, former Dean and current tutor at St. John’s College. She continues, taking issue with what I posited as a definition above, and beginning to reveal the whole of what is meant by the term:
The kind of education I am about to delineate perhaps could not survive if not for the fact that learning undertaken for its own sake - not as a means but as its own end - turns out to be a means to moderate worldly success as well. This circumstance may not be a gratuitous accident but may instead speak to the logic of a world that is after all hospitable to liberal learning. However tempting favorable Graduate Record Examination scores, career statistics, and alumni tracking may be, they are not the right and finally not even the most persuasive defense of an education to which they are merely, if happily, incidental. And though I have great faith in the close relation of thoughtfulness to goodness, even the development of useful citizens should not, I think, be cited among the direct aims of liberal learning; it is an obliquely achieved though ardently desired by-product.
I hope the thoughts expressed here can at least curtail the dialogue somewhat, and help those of us participating in it to be slightly more rigorous with our language. More later.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dear God

I'm no lawyer, but this is big, and disturbing.
According to Fitzgerald's filing, an excerpt of which you'll find below, Libby, 55, testified in 2003 that he provided reporter Judith Miller with information from a classified National Intelligence Estimate after being told by Cheney that Bush "specifically had authorized" him to "disclose certain information in the NIE." Libby also testified that Cheney also specifically directed him to speak to other reporters about information in the classified NIE (which addresses Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction programs) as well as a cable authored by Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The leaking of the classified material was apparently done in an effort to counter claims made by Wilson regarding the White House's justification for invading Iraq. The Fitzgerald filing also notes that Libby told grand jurors that he conferred with David Addington, Cheney's counsel, about the leak directive and that Addington told him "that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document."

4GW and Ambush

The Braddock expedition of 1755 into Ohio country was a logistical masterpiece. Over 100 miles of dense wilderness, all three ridges of the Appalachians, and several major rivers were magnificently overcome by a dedicated force of almost 2,000 British regulars and American recruits.

Braddock should have engaged the French at Fort Duquesne by going through Pennsylvania. But Virginia politicians and shareholders in the Ohio Company needed a road through the Appalachians, and they "convinced" Braddock to make his way through some rather untamed wilderness to engage the French, instead of using Pennsylvania and it's already vast resources.

Though the logicial masterpiece was complete, a force of less than half, comprised of a few "wily frenchmen" and several hundred Indians routed the British and their superior firepower at the Battle of the Monongahela. How did this happen?

Capt. Beaujeu, charged with the defense of the Fort Duquesne, convinced around 300 Indians to abandon their plans of retreat and stay and fight the British. He did this by appealing to their sense of nobility, their ideals of war, and perhaps most of all, by reportedly stripping off his officer's attire and painting himself in the traditional warpaints.

The Indians saw the signs of solidarity, and heard the appeals to avoid dishonoring their ancestors. They fought with Beaujeu, and were a major reason reason for the French success at Monongahela.

At the battle, the Indians scattered around the British in a horseshoe, not forming a single line anywhere. They hid in the hills, behind trees, and in pre dug trenches. They shot and ran to a new location. The British responded in a disciplined fashion. Forming lines and firing volleys on command. But what good is it if 9 men are commanded to shoot into a dark forest at only one of the enemy? The return on that type of return fire can, at best, only be 8 missed shots.

At some point, a group of French regulars deployed at the front of the battle line, and kept the British from outflanking the Indian snipers. Then, as the British at the front retreated, Gen. Braddock sent more up front in support. They collided with one another, adding to confusion and disorientation. A huge mass of disorganized redcoats began to form, and the Indians and Frenchmen in the hills poured lead all over that mass.

There are numerous paralles between this small battle in the French Indian War, and today's current fight in Iraq: business interests dictating military strategy, arrogant commanders unwilling to adopt native tactics, impressive logistical feats countered by inexpensive ruthlessness, superior firepower being turned into an Achilles heel.

What I would like to know though is whether or not the method of attack used by the Indians here meets what is currently held out as "fourth generation warfare".? Remember, the Indians were natives, not Army regulars. They had "teamed up" with French regulars based in the Ohio territory. But perhaps this was much the same as how many "Iraqi insurgents", who are really just natives, have "teamed up" with "al-Qaeda" regulars?

And another question along those lines, is it possible that the entire psychology of "ambush" is really the sine qua non of fourth generation warfare? Do all "natives" always fight in "the Indian mode"?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Zinni Strikes Back

J Smith points out in comments Zinni's latest call for Rumsfeld to go, over here at Mountain Runner. The context is important. Just prior to his appearance on Meet the Press, Sec. of State Rice slimed the military leadership of the US, stating in her trip to Europe that thousands of "tactical" mistakes had been made in the Iraq War. The mainstream press did not pick up that her comment was part of an overall Administration effort to shift the blame from civilian to military leadership. Zinni isn't having it. Good for him.
Integrity and getting on with the mission and doing it right is more important than loyalty. Both are great traits, but integrity, honesty and performance and competence have to outweigh, in this business, loyalty.