The Rights of Men or the “Rights of Man?”

In the comic book version of history promoted by the left, all Europe groaned under the weight of tyrannical absolute monarchs, who could do whatever they pleased, until the glorious French Revolution recognized the “Rights of Man” (all of which it proceeded to violate). As usual with the Whig interpretation of history, none of it is true.

After the fall of Rome, absolute monarchy was rare in the West until the late 17th and 18th centuries. Kings’ subjects had rights, lots of them, and they were not shy about claiming them. Medieval in origin—the Middle Ages were on the whole a good time, not a bad one—they differed from the “Rights of Man” in fundamental respects. First, they were real, specific, and concrete, not air-fairy promises. I, as a subject, have the right to the products of this field. I have the right to having my grain ground at this mill, at a price not to exceed this much. I have the right not to pay these taxes. I have the right to take certain grievances to the king, in person. I have the right to walk this path (still with us as right-of-way). I have the right, depending on my function in society and thus my class, to serve in the king’s army, or to refuse to serve in his army. If you violate my rights, you will face a dangerous rebellion.

Second, these rights of men (and, differently, women) could neither be established nor withdrawn by law. Rather, they were first established in fact by being exercised, then enshrined in custom, and only finally recognized by law, based on precedent. The rights came first, the law afterward.

This made traditional rights—we know them best as the “rights of Englishmen,” which is what the Americans rebelled to defend in 1776—robust. Because the “Rights of Man” are invented by legislative fiat, they can be easily withdrawn by legislative fiat. Because they depend on the state, they can be withheld by the state. The constitution of the Soviet Union was full of rights, but the same state that created them could and did ignore them. The same thing has occurred in western Europe, where “rights” such as free speech are being withdrawn at the demand of the cultural Marxists. Whatever they deem “hate speech,” which is to say open defiance of cultural Marxism, is now prosecuted.

Before the rise of absolute monarchy in a few places, most prominently France, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, kings had to respect their subjects’ rights. In Spain, a new king, as part of his coronation, had to visit each province, formally swearing to respect that province’s rights. Even in France, the parliaments (which were courts, not legislative bodies) could and regularly did defy the king and block actions he wished to take right up to the catastrophe of 1789. That disaster, the French Revolution, began because the king could not levy new taxes without the approval of the Estates General, which he had to call into session. That was one of his people’s rights.

Ironically, in the 18th century absolute monarchy was not traditional, it was a violation of tradition and its sweeping away. Those promoting it were the equivalents of today’s progressives, not conservatives, who fought to defend traditional rights. Progressives, then as now, wanted an all-powerful central government that could push through their agenda, the people’s rights be damned. In most of Europe, they were not successful in creating the all-powerful monarchs they wanted. In most German states, the Landstände, which were legislatures like France’s Estates General, retained significant power.

Conservatives reject rights created by the wave of a hand, at the demand of some philosopher or ideology (a recent absurdity is “animal rights,” which cannot exist because animals cannot compel us to respect them). That is not because we are against rights, but because we know our rights can neither be created nor legitimately taken away by the state. Something is our “right” because it has been for a long time. Its origin lies in precedent, not politics. If a government violates it, we have the right to rebel and demand its restoration. In both Europe and America, where culturally Marxist governments are violating real rights on a massive basis, rebellion is growing. People want the rights of men, not the evanescent “Rights of Man.”

Why “Judeo-Christian?”

Some readers have inquired why we often use the term “Judeo-Christian” to describe Western culture, instead of just “Christian.” The reason we do so has nothing to do with modern Israel or present-day Judaism. Rather, like much on traditionalRIGHT, it reflects historical accuracy.

Western culture has often been described as a product of Athens and Jerusalem, Athens standing for reason and logic and Jerusalem for monotheism and a moral code. Athens and Jerusalem have often been in tension with each other, and that tension has been one of the sources of Western culture’s dynamism.

While Jesus Christ’s earthly life centered on Jerusalem, the West’s moral code finds its origins there long before he lived. That moral code, including the Ten Commandments, traces to ancient, Old Testament Judaism. So, of course, does monotheism. Western culture is unimaginable without either, much less without both. Hence we describe it as “Judeo-Christian.” Honesty about the historical record demands we do so.

The New Covenant Christ established changes the basis for salvation from following the law laid down in the Old Testament to faith, i.e., accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah and our Savior. However, the Old Testament remains important to Christians as a moral guide. Christ came, as He reminds us, not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. The Ten Commandments remain mandatory for Christians, as do many other broad rules in the Old Testament, such as charitable giving. It is only narrow rules, such as those pertaining to ritual purity or forbidden foods, that fall away. While the New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant, it also incorporates important elements of the Old, enough so that our culture remains Judeo-Christian. Again, that is the clear historical record.

Understanding Western culture as Judeo-Christian is especially important for conservatives because it is perhaps the central reason conservatism rejects fascism (and fascism’s sub-set, National Socialism). At its root, fascism was an attempt to abolish the whole Judeo-Christian heritage of Western culture and return to the value system of the ancient world, where power was the highest good. Athens might have been too soft for fascism; Rome and Sparta were more its inspirations. What astonished the ancient world about Christianity was not that its Savior died and rose from the dead; that was claimed by many mystery cults. What was astonishing, indeed incomprehensible to the ancients, was that Jesus Christ said he came to serve, not to be served. That stood the entire ancient world’s hierarchy of values on its head.

Historical accuracy and intellectual honesty—both enemies of cant—are among traditionalRIGHT’s most important values. Appropriately to this topic, they spring from both Jerusalem and Athens. They are Western, and we uphold them for the same reasons we uphold the rest of the West’s heritage: because they are true, because they are good, and because they are ours. May they always remain so, all ideologies to the contrary.

The View From Olympus 20: Scratch Another State

Several years ago, one of the “causes” favored by the Washington establishment and its globalist partners in the European Union was breaking up the state of Sudan. They prevailed, and through the spending of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and Euros, the facade of a new state was brought forth and named South Sudan. Over the past several weeks, that pseudo-state has dissolved in Fourth Generation war, of the sub-category “war between ethnic groups.”

Quelle surprise! The only real surprise is that the globalist elites are still surprised when their handiwork destroys yet another state. Or at least they pretend to be, pretense being a necessary quality in those who would be members of the establishment. Everyone not playing a game of “let’s pretend” figured out long ago that in an age of Fourth Generation war, when a state is fractured its remnants continue to fracture. The end result is not “democracy” and “human rights” as defined by Jacobins but bottomless chaos and statelessness’s usual outriders, war, plague, famine, and death. None of which counts for anything to the establishment, which justifies itself by its stated intentions, not its usual results.

Meanwhile, back in the Sudan, which is again merely a geographic expression, two ethnic groups, the Nuer and the Dinka, are doing what they have always done, namely killing each other. Why? Because he’s a Dinka and I’m a Nuer, or vice versa. That is war at its most elemental, reaching far back into pre-history. As ground for killing, it is quite enough. With spears and bows replaced by AKs and technicals, the body count is far higher than it used to be. Grafting the products of modernity onto traditional societies usually makes a mess.

Why did the establishment crusade to break up the state of Sudan? Because it was a corrupt, inefficient tyranny. Of course it was: it’s in Africa. There as in much of the world, the options are tyranny or anarchy. The fortunate get an honest and efficient tyranny, but those are few, and none are African. The billions of dollars spent to prop up the Potemkin state of South Sudan mostly went to Swiss bank accounts. Again, that’s Africa. They did not create a state. A piece in the January 1 New York Times reported that, as is the case in all pseudo-states,

Instead of governing through strong institutions, many power brokers and generals in this nation still essentially command their own forces, their loyalties to the government often determined by their cut of the national oil revenues.

“It is an extortion racket with bargaining ongoing on a regular basis, with either violence or the threat of violence” as a form of negotiation, said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

That describes virtually all the pseudo-states the globalist elites have created by their wars against real states: Libya, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan (which under the Taliban became as real a state as Afghanistan can). The chain of serial failure will continue (they really, really want to do Syria but fear the cries of “ a lá lanterne ” from their voters if they do), because the Globalists are Jacobin ideologues and all ideologies demand shutting out reality. Anyone “in” who dissents from Jacobinism is immediately “out.” After all, what’s more important, additional thousands of little brown people dead or your career?

Realism knows that when Fourth Generation war raises its head in a typical corrupt third world tyrany, the best possible outcome is that the tyranny effectively represses it. That is what appears to be happening in Egypt (you can hear the globalists clucking). If both we and the Syrian people are lucky, it may happen in Syria, as badly off as the state there now is. If the public makes it clear to both the American and Europan Establishments that they want to stay out, the state, and with it some measure of order, may still have a chance, even in Africa. Sadly, for the Sudan, it’s already too late.

The View From Olympus 18: Save the A-10!

Since air warfare began in World War I, several constants have emerged. One is that most aircraft are shot down by other aircraft they never saw. Another is that air cooperation with ground forces can have a decisive result while strategic bombing does not.

The US Air Force (and many other air forces) has done an exemplary job of ignoring both of these constants, the first by designing fighter aircraft with poor visibility rearward and the second by emphasizing strategic bombing while neglecting ground support. In recent years, it has accomplished the latter simply by not buying any aircraft that can effectively do ground support missions. No “fast mover” can; the mission cannot be performed at high speeds or from high altitudes. “Fast movers” are much too vulnerable to ground fire to fly low and slow as the mission—especially identifying ground targets as friendly or enemy—requires.

There is one big exception to this picture: the A-10. The A-10 is the world’s best ground attack aircraft, because it was designed from the beginning for this mission and no other. More, it was designed using a wholly different approach from that used for other combat aircraft. The main man behind the A-10 was Pierre Sprey, whom I know well. Pierre was John Boyd’s colleague and closest collaborator through much of John’s life. He designed the A-10 based on combat history. He interviewed many successful ground support pilots, including Hans Ulrich Rudel, the famous Stuka pilot who specialized in busting Russian tanks. The design of the A-10 reflects the aircraft characteristics these men said were most important to performing the ground attack mission. Subtle points were often highly important. I remember Pierre telling me Rudel’s reply when Pierre asked him how he survived when so many other Stuka pilots did not. Rudel said that in making an attack on a tank (with cannon, not bombs), he only flew straight and level for a second and a half. Other pilots usually took a second longer. That second made the difference between life and death.

How does the US Air Force usually design aircraft? Combat history plays no role at all. It and its captive “private” aircraft companies simply throw technology at the barn wall, going with however much sticks. The result is aircraft like the F-111 and its worthy successor, the F-35: hugely expensive turkeys that can perform no mission optimally and cannot do ground support at all.

The A-10 was forced down the Air Force’s throat by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Air Force has always hated it. It has tried to dump the A-10 repeatedly, only to have it come back because we have gotten into a ground war and it was the aircraft the guys on the ground loved.

Now, the Air Force is again trying to get rid of the A-10, from the Air National Guard as well as the active-duty Air Force (if the Marine Corps were smart, it would pick them up from the Air Force as fast as the latter gets rid of them). Because the war in Afghanistan is winding down, it looks as if this attempt may succeed.

It shouldn’t. If we care at all about the soldier or Marine on the ground, we need to save the A-10. The idea that the F-16 or F-35 can substitute for it is a joke.

Fortunately, there is an effort underway in Congress to keep the A-10s. That seems to be the only hope, although I find it difficult to understand why a Secretary of Defense who served on the ground in Vietnam would let the Air Force get away with screwing his successors. If Secretary Hagel does not intervene, then all we can do is hope Congress sees the game that is being played and does its duty.

At some point, the A-10 will wear out and need replacing. When that day comes, Pierre Sprey has given a lot of thought to what its successor should be like. It should keep the A-10’s combat-derived characteristics—slow speed, powerful gun armament, good armor protection for the pilot, heavy redundancy—but have better maneuverability and smaller size. Unless OSD once again puts Pierre in charge of the program, the Air Force will design a “successor” that has none of the characteristics a ground support aircraft requires. The Air Force does not want an aircraft that can do a mission it despises.

What’s Wrong With “Tolerance?”

One of the Left’s most frequent demands is for “tolerance.” It is a popular demand, because most people, myself included, think tolerance broadly a public good. Like anything, it can be carried to excess. One ought not, for example, tolerate boom boxes blasting barbaric music in public places. After all, we don’t force them to listen to Haydn.

Conservatives like tolerance because it helps create a climate of public order and harmony. In intolerant societies, such as Europe during the Reformation, people are quickly at each other’s throats. Conservatives do not like that, especially when it leads to murder, war, arson, destruction of historic art works and the like. During a tour of the Swedish military archives, I was handed a muster list dated 1642. The archivist said, “Turn it over.” On the other side was an illuminated medieval manuscript. The archivist commented, “Most such manuscripts ended up being used for cannon wads. It was the Reformation.”

Regrettably, with “tolerance” as with so many words, the culturally Marxist Left (now almost all of it) is playing tricks. The first, which I noted in an earlier column, is deliberately confusing tolerance with approval. This is most common with reference to “gay liberation.” The Left demands gays be tolerated, which, as with many differences, is the best solution (the old Victorian rule, “Don’t frighten the horses,” facilitates tolerance on both sides). But though they use the word “tolerance,” what they actually demand is approval, which is a very different thing. No Christian can approve sin of any kind; doing so is yet a greater sin, being a sin of the spirit not just the flesh.

So different are tolerance and approval that they are functional opposites. I only need to tolerate things I disapprove. Approval trumps toleration, as a higher degree of positive response (tolerance can be mildly positive or quite negative, in terms of the judgment it subordinates). In turn, to tolerate something I approve makes no sense, because I have no need to do so. I tolerate eating broccoli, but I have no need to tolerate eating an eclair, since I do so with enthusiasm.

By saying “tolerance” when they mean “approval,” the Left plays a game of bait and switch. The goal is to brand anyone who disapproves of sin—almost any sin, it seems—a “bigot.” Perhaps we should respond by remembering the medieval reference to “saints, martyrs, and bigots,” a bigot being someone who cleaves to the truth regardless of how hard he is pressed to abandon it. In the cultural Marxists’ usage, “bigot” is re-acquiring its old meaning.

Cultural Marxism plays a second trick with the world “tolerance,” one that reaches into almost everything it does or advocates. When cultural Marxists demand “tolerance,” what they really mean, in coded speech understood by other cultural Marxists, is “liberating tolerance.” Herbert Marcuse, a member of the Frankfurt School and perhaps the cultural Marxists leading voice in the 1960s, wrote a famous essay with that title. In it, he defined “liberating tolerance” as tolerance for all ideas and movements emanating from the Left, and intolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the right. In other words, when cultural Marxists demand “tolerance,” they are really calling for intolerance toward conservatives and their beliefs.

We see this most clearly on college campuses, where cultural Marxism is most powerful. Students who, for example, show disapproval of homosexuality, or question whether all races or ethnic groups are identical and interchangeable, are often hauled up before some kangaroo court and threatened with discipline, either reading a forced “apology” to whatever politically correct “victim” group they have “offended”–shades of North Korea—or being expelled. In contrast, no one who advocates from a leftist basis, no matter how extreme—as, for example, justifying killing cops—is ever so threatened. That is Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance” at work.

The intellectual dishonesty here is blatant. That cultural Marxists use a common word with a broadly understood meaning, but give it their own coded meaning, which is directly opposite what is commonly understood. It is straight from Orwell: war is peace, hate is love, intolerance of conservatives is tolerance. What cultural Marxists now do on campuses, they hope to do nationwide. Any expression of conservative ideas will be punishable, and the policy will be called “tolerance.” Words themselves can lie.

Conservatives should expose cultural Marxism’s lies embedded in words, and explain its tricks to the wider world. We should also reaffirm the benefits of true tolerance, tolerance as practiced in two of my favorite traditional societies, old England and Prussia. Both were famous for their broad toleration of eccentrics, and both benefited from it. At one point in the 1880s, General Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the Prussian General Staff, ordered the organization to go out and recruit the oddballs and the eccentrics, on the grounds that they usually have the best ideas. That is still true, especially of us eccentrics on the traditional right.

The View From Olympus 17: 1914 In The Pacific?

Several commentators have noticed that the Chinese-Japanese confrontation over the Senkaku Islands, exacerbated by a recent Chinese declaration of an air defense zone that includes the airspace over the Senkakus, which is also part of a similar Japanese zone, offers echoes of the crisis of 1914. The danger now, as then, is that the parties will back into a conflict without intending to do so, but with no way out.

According to the December 4 New York Times, China is now de-escalating, announcing that the zone “will not affect the freedom of overflight, based on international law, of other countries’ aircraft.” That may reflect preparation for Vice President Biden’s visit to Beijing, but I suspect it is based more on China’s timely realization that the situation could soon get out of hand, a lá 1914. That would be in no one’s interest, including China’s.

The US has not handled the crisis well to date. Our overriding interest, trumping all other considerations, is avoiding a war with China—or any other war, given our recent expensive military failures. Regrettably Washington has made it clear that it will stand with Japan, and that it regards the Senkakus as covered by the US-Japanese defense agreement. That leaves us a few errors by China, Japan, or both away from involvement in a war. We would have been wiser to restrain China by saying any attack on Japanese ships or aircraft would involve US forces, but at the same time to restrain Japan by saying the US would not go to war for the islands themselves.

That opportunity having been missed, which should we do now? The question has two answers; one tactical, one strategic. Tactically, given that our objective is to avoid war, we should propose putting the Senkakus under an international mandate—leaving their administration to, say, Sweden—for 50 or 100 years, thus kicking the can so far down the road we’re never likely to see it again. The Chinese, who are trying to establish a very shaky claim, might accept this, because it would undermine Japan’s position that there is no issue: the islands are Japanese. Japan would reject it, unless we could enable the Japanese to save face. How to do that? My proposal would be that we add an uninhabited American rock to the mandate, say, one of the many in the Aleutians. We wouldn’t miss it, and the Swedes would feel right at home. I can see Bismarck smiling at the idea.

Strategically, the 1914-style threat posed by the snit over the Senkakus points to a larger reality: our current position in east Asia has no strategic logic. We have enmeshed ourselves in two quarrels, or perhaps two-and-a-half, where we have no major interests at stake, yet where we could find ourselves in major wars. The first is the stand-off between North and South Korea, the second is the enmity between China and Japan, and the half is the fact that not only do the Chinese hate the Japanese, so do the Koreans, North and South.

The North-South Korean war—there still is no peace treaty, only an armistice—lost all strategic meaning for the United States the day communism fell in the former Soviet Union and the Cold War ended. Who controls Korea is important to Japan, Russia, and presumably the Koreans themselves. It has no more significance for American interests than who controls Bora-Bora. We have this wonderful thing called an ocean between us and them.

The same logic applies to North Korea’s nukes. If we were not involved in affairs on the Korean peninsula, there would be no reason for North Korea to target us. There is little reason in any case, since winging a highly unreliable North Korean rocket our way would result in the quick extinction of North Korea. It is still in our interest to remove what small incentive might be there. More likely is the ugly possibility that events on the Korean peninsula could involve us in another expensive land war. Again, who controls post-Cold War Korea has no strategic significance for the United States. Korea is not worth the bones of a single American grenadier.

We have equally little at stake in what is going to be a long feud between Japan and China, one that at some point will almost certainly result in war. Each party views the other both as a threat and with contempt, historic attitudes that go back centuries. Our alliance with Japan, like so many of our other alliances, benefits only Japan. Without it, she would have to go nuclear. That is a problem for China, Russia, and Korea, but not us. Our overriding interest in a Sino-Japanese war is staying out of it. That means the Japanese alliance is a net debit for the United States, one we should liquidate in an orderly manner.

The half-conflict is between Korea, North and South, and Japan. It may surprise Americans to say so, but this other ancient enmity is also likely to result in war at some point. The aggressor is more likely Korea than Japan—again, North Korea, South Korea, or both (it is the one cause in which the two could happily join). The South Korean Air Force and, especially, Navy are designed more for war with Japan than with North Korea. That is not by accident. All Koreans relish the idea of a war with Japan. It will be only the latest when it comes, in a line that goes back centuries. Only Americans think they can ignore or undo historic hates, an illusion that all too often leaves us caught up in them.

The reason an assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 led to world war is that other European powers, especially but not exclusively Russia, had involved themselves in the Balkans unnecessarily and in ways that contradicted their main interest, which was preserving peace in Europe. The Danube should have formed a fire wall with Balkan wars left to be Balkan wars only. The Pacific should form a similar fire wall for the United States today. Wars are coming in Asia, probably the last major wars among state militaries. Our position should be that of an observer of historical tableaux vivant, not a participant in them.

The View From Olympus 16: Be Thankful for Mr. Karzai

In this Thanksgiving week, all that stands between the United States and a strategic blunder of the first order is Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Each and every one of us should be deeply thankful to him for blocking a long-term security agreement between the US and Afghanistan that makes no sense.

After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, with more than 2000 dead and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, most Americans are looking forward to leaving. Regrettably, the American government is not. It has negotiated a treaty with the Afghan government—the treaty Mr. Karzai now refuses to sign—that would keep us in the graveyard of empires for another ten years. Yes, you read that right. Until 2024, the US would maintain a force of as many as 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. We would also pay the Afghan government at least $8 billion annually, for a total of $80 billion.

Why? The question has no rational answer, in terms of US interests. Everything achievable in Afghanistan was achieved within the first 30 days of US intervention. We pushed the Taliban government out of Kabul, put in power its old opponent, the Northern Alliance, and gave the latter some weapons and some money. That’s all an invader can do.

We have not extended the Afghan government’s authority beyond Kabul, because Afghan governments’ authority almost never runs beyond Kabul (the Taliban government was an exception). We have not defeated the Taliban, because it represents the Pashtun, and the Pashtun are happy to keep fighting anyone and everyone from now until doomsday. We did drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but it quickly found a better base in Pakistan. It had in any case largely worn out its welcome before we intervened.

Having done all we could a dozen years ago, we have remained in country, losing men, spending money and accomplishing nothing of any lasting value. Now, to ice that cake, the US government wants to stay another ten years. If we do, past is prologue: we will lose men, spend money and achieve nothing more than we did in those first 30 days.

The proposed long-term security agreement makes no strategic sense. Regrettably, seen from Washington, it does make political sense, which is why Washington is so eager for Mr. Karzai to sign it. It makes political sense because neither the Obama administration nor the Pentagon want to face the fact that we have lost yet another Fourth Generation war. The question of “Who lost Afghanistan?” terrifies the politicians, as the questions of “Why do we keep losing against guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs?” terrifies the Pentagon. If you were spending a trillion dollars a year and losing, you’d be scared too.

A moral question should trump the political concerns: can we rightly send more American soldiers to their deaths and waste tens of billions of additional dollars so politicians and generals don’t have to face facts? The answer is obvious, but moral issues cut no ice in Washington. The only question politicians—those in uniforms as well as those in suits—ask is, “Is it good for me?”

So the American public is left depending on the whims of President Karzai. His refusal to sign the agreement, despite agreeing to do so, is a weak reed to lean on. A man of readily changeable mind, he will probably change it again and let us make the blunder Washington is eager to make. Mr. Karzai’s mind has been noted to be especially changeable when presented with hard currency.

The real comment here is on the American electorate. It will be too busy with turkey and football to pay attention to a treaty with Afghanistan. It won’t like losing more guys or more money in a bottomless pit. But it won’t care enough up front to prevent it from happening, as it prevented an American attack on Syria just a few months back. Then, it deluged Congress with messages saying, “No more wars.” Now, its answer to extending a losing war for ten more years is “Huh?” Our troops and our pocketbooks deserve better.

The View From Olympus 15: Will the Real Chuck Hagel Please Come Forward?

Years ago, my old colleague Paul Weyrich said to me of then-Senator Chuck Hagel, whom he knew well, “He thinks about the Pentagon the same way you do.”

So far, there has been little sign of that from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. But a piece in the November 7 New York Times, “Cuts Have Hagel Weighing Realigned Military Budget,” suggests the real Chuck Hagel may be making his debut. The Times writes,


The Pentagon has traditionally managed rivalries among services by giving each more or less equal shares of the base military budget.

Today, under pressure from the threat of nearly $1 trillion in forced spending reductions, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the days of automatic, equitable allotment to the Army, Air Force and Navy may be over.

“We’re challenging every past assumption, every past formula,” Mr. Hagel said in an interview.


Such assertions are frequently heard in Washington. Most often, the mountain brings forth a mouse. Minor rearrangements in the deck chairs are presented as major reforms, and business as usual goes on largely untroubled. That will probably be the case here as well.

But what if Secretary Hagel really means what he says? How might he go about challenging every past assumption and formula? He could start by facing a few basic facts the Pentagon does its best to ignore.

First, geography dictates the United States is a sea power, not a land power. Like Great Britain, we are essentially an island. We face no conventional military threat on either our northern or our southern land border, although we face a serious Fourth Generation threat to the south—against which our conventional land forces are entirely useless. In terms of potential threats from other states, all lie overseas.

This means that while we must maintain naval superiority, we have little need for land forces. Neither of our two armies, the United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, are strategic necessities. If both disappeared tomorrow in a large cloud of red ink, we would miss little beyond the Marine guards at our embassies. Militarily, the only capability we would lose would be that of waging land wars overseas—and losing them, as we have proven adept at doing.

In theory, both the Army and the Marine Corps might learn enough lessons from our recent defeats to be able to win in the future. But neither shows any interest in doing so. The senior leadership of the Marines is as intellectually dead as I have seen it in my forty years of working with the Corps. The Army’s situation appears even worse. Testifying recently on Capitol Hill, the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Odierno, in response to a question as to whether the lessons of recent counterinsurgency fighting would be lost as those from Vietnam were, in effect said yes. He replied that in his view, the Army should focus on “combined arms warfare,” which is milspeak for fighting formal battles against the armies of other states. Since land wars against other states are something which, in the face of Fourth Generation war, we should not fight—the losing states will often disintegrate, giving the Fourth Generation, our real enemy, another victory—General Odierno in effect said the Army will have no strategic utility. It will be knights on horseback facing an army of musketeers. We could save money and provide public entertainment by reducing it to a company of actual knights on horseback to tour around the country staging tournaments. Perhaps it could get a gig with Monty Python.

The Times also reported that “Mr. Hagel said he was assessing whether there were savings in relying more on the National Guard and Reserves than on the active-duty armed forces.” The easy answer is yes. A National Guardsman costs about one-third as much as an active-duty soldier.

But there is more than budgetary logic to turning to the Guard and Reserve. The Air Guard and Reserve almost always perform better than the regulars. They are more open to aircraft such as the A-10, the only airplane in our inventory that can effectively support troops on the ground (and which the Air Force is sending to the bone yard). It is hard to think the Air Guard and Reserve, whose members have real jobs in the real world, would be buying an airplane as defective in design as the F-35.

As to the ground Guard, it is far and away the most relevant force we have for Fourth Generation war. Being now 0-4 against Fourth Generation opponents overseas (Lebanon,Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and with both the Army and the Marine Corps committed to learning nothing from their failures, we are probably not going to fight the Fourth Generation overseas again. If we do, we will again lose.

The real Fourth Generation threat is here, on our own soil. It is a threat we must confront, and against which we dare not lose. It manifests itself as a myriad of loyalties to things other than the state: gangs, races and ethnic groups, religions (think Islam), ideologies, “causes,” and so on.

These are at present law enforcement challenges, and it is greatly to a state’s advantage to keep them in that category. If they can break out to the point where they present military threats, threats beyond what law enforcement can handle, they are well on the way to victory over the state.

When law enforcement needs reinforcement, the Guard is where it turns. It is where it should turn, because the deployment of the regular armed forces in support of law enforcement is problematic. It is problematic in terms of dangers to our liberties, in terms of public perception, and in terms of regular soldiers’ skills, which come down to killing people and destroying things. Those are activities the American public does not want to see on American soil.

The National Guard, in contrast, specializes in skills people need and want. The Guard is what rescues them in case of natural disaster. It usually works unarmed. It presents no threat, because it is made up of our own friends and neighbors. The skills Guardsmen carry over from civilian life are an asset to their work in the Guard, especially when their communities face emergencies. Fourth Generation war is above all a contest for legitimacy. Deployment of the Guard enhances the state’s legitimacy, while deployment of the active duty armed forces in domestic emergencies can easily work against it.

So, Mr. Secretary, the logic of the challenge of “every past assumption” waits to serve you. Other than Special Operations Forces, our two land armies represent little but large expense. The same is true for most of the active-duty Air Force. We still need a robust Navy, as islands always do. But beyond SOF, the future of our air and ground forces is to be found in the Reserve and Guard. They also happen to represent enormous budgetary savings compared to active duty forces. Strategy and budgetary pressures for once work in concordance. All you have to do is go with the logical flow. Will the real Chuck Hagel please come forward?

Race or Culture?

Several people associated with traditionalRIGHT recently attended the National Policy Institute conference in Washington, D.C. (I did not go). The conference raised a question they asked me: can America be successful as a multi-racial society?

To answer that question, and many others, conservatives turn to history. History tells us America was successful—well-ordered, safe, and prosperous—in the past, despite being multi-racial and multi-ethnic. However, that America also had something we have lost: a highly successful common culture.

America’s historic culture reflected the origin of its people. It was, from broadest to most specific, Judeo-Christian, white, northern European, and Anglo-Saxon. Most of our early settlers came from Great Britain or Germany. They brought the historic culture of those areas with them, and it became ours.

The United States was highly fortunate, because Anglo-Saxon culture is a functional culture. Despite the blatherings of “multiculturalism,” very few cultures work well over time. Outside the Western tradition, only Chinese culture makes the grade. Even within the West, not all cultures are equal. Northern European culture has created order and prosperity better than southern European culture, at least in the modern period. That is why North America has had a happier history than South America. Even within northern Europe, some cultures work better than others. The top position is occupied by exactly the culture we got: Anglo-Saxon culture. Again, thanks to some accidents of history—North America had little gold to draw the Spaniards—we were lucky.

If our early ethnic origins formed our culture, a development that began in England in the 18th century refined it: the adoption by society as a whole of the values of the middle class. That triumph was marked by the huge success of Richardson’s novel Pamela around 1750; Fielding’s satire written in response and in defense of upper-class values, Shamela, (a far better read), could not stem the tide. Lower-class values held their physical if not moral ground until the Victorians came along. One of their many great achievements was bringing the lower classes to embrace middle-class values and, eventually, behavior. If we look at America in its most successful years, roughly 1890 to 1960, we see a country that was culturally overwhelmingly middle class and, at least in the public square, Anglo-Saxon.

That country was also multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Then as now, America had a substantial black minority. It took longer to adopt middle class values and (again, at least in the public square) Anglo-Saxon behavior, but it did. By the inter-war years, and up into the 1960s, the black urban community was not a bad place. It was safe, for blacks and whites alike. In the 1950s, 80% of black children belonged to families with a married mother and father. Those families’ incomes came from work, not welfare. Most of them kept their houses and yards neat and tidy. They gathered two or three times a day for home-cooked meals. Black women knew how to hold jobs and be good homemakers at the same time. Especially for women and children, the black church played central roles. You will never meet better Christians (or cooks) than the black “church ladies.”

America was also multi-ethnic. Beginning with the Irish and the Italians in the 19th century, Americans’ origins broadened out far beyond their original British and German sources. The process was fraught with difficulties, and beginning in 1920 we limited the number of immigrants to ensure we could acculturate them adequately. But acculturate them we did. So successful were the New York City public schools as agents of acculturation that even in that babble of many tongues, immigrants from places as different from Britain and Germany as the ghettos of Poland and the mountains of Amenia were acculturated in two, sometimes one, generation. At home, in their churches, and in their clubs they might maintain their ethnic traditions, but in the public square most became middle-class Anglo-Saxons. If they wanted to get ahead, they had to.

What has turned America into an increasingly dysfunctional country has not been race or ethnicity, but abandonment of the common culture. “Multiculturalism,” which is a tool cultural Marxists use to destroy their hated enemy, Western culture, has wrecked the place. The virtually unanimous consensus of American elites on the need for all citizens, regardless of race or ethnic origins, to “Americanize,” i.e. to adopt middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture, has been replaced with a doctrine intended to fracture the country. Regrettably, it has succeeded. No one has suffered more from its loss than America’s blacks, where a disastrous culture of instant gratification now holds wide sway.

Conservatives know that what worked in the past can work again. We can again become a well-ordered and prosperous country if we again embrace the common culture we used to share; middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture. Our success was a product of that culture. The first step in brining it back is to overturn the intellectual and political hegemony of cultural Marxism and break “multiculturalism,” its sword.

The View From Olympus 14: The Power of Weakness

One of the most important contributions made by the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld to Fourth Generation war theory (he calls it “non-trinitarian war”) is the power of weakness. It is also one of the most difficult for the US military to understand.

A recent event, the US assassination by drone of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, illustrates both points. The American government hailed the killing as a victory. But in Pakistan, the response was outrage. An article in the November 4 New York Times, “Death by Drone Turns a Villain Into a Martyr,” reported that

Virtually nobody openly welcomed the demise of Mr. Mehsud, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians…

The problem, some analysts say, is that hostility toward the United States may be clouding Pakistanis’ ability to discern their own best interests. In the conflagration over Hakimullah Mehsud’s death, (Boston University professor) Mr. (Adil) Najam said, the government has failed to distinguish between opposition to drone strikes and to the removal of a homicidal, militant enemy.

It’s very destructive that we can’t untangle these two things,” he said. “The reaction has become absolutely absurd.”

Actually, if we understand the power of weakness, the reaction is inevitable. The problem is, almost no one—perhaps no one at all—in the American national security establishment does understand it.

To do so, you must start with Col. John Boyd’s three levels of war: physical, mental, and moral. These do not replace the three traditional levels of war; tactical, operational, and strategic. Rather, Boyd’s three levels and the traditional three levels interact. The best way to think of how they may interact is through a simple nine-box grid, with physical/mental/moral on one axis and tactical/operational/strategic on the other (You will find this grid in the K.u.K. Marine Corps Field Manual FMFM 1-A, here).

The US military focuses virtually all its efforts on one box, the physical/tactical box. This is typical of Second Generation militaries, which visualize war as putting firepower on targets in a contest of attrition. That is why we see killing enemies with drone strikes as victories.

But the physical/tactical box is the weakest on the grid. The most powerful box, where actions decide the outcomes of wars, is the moral/strategic box. That is where intelligent Fourth Generation entities focus their efforts, which is why they usually win, despite being far weaker physically than their state opponents.

In fact, they win at the moral/strategic level not despite the fact that they are physically weak, but at least in part because of it. To onlookers, the two sides appear to be David and Goliath. As can Creveld emphasizes, most Fourth Generation forces are physically very, very weak. They are mostly made up of guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs and bombs made out of chicken manure. State armed forces, in contrast, are armed with things like drones.

Drones may be the weapon with the most moral boomerang effect. A drone strike puts no American in any danger. The operator sits in an air conditioned office on American soil, puts in his shift, then goes home for dinner. If a drone is lost, it’s no big deal. Fourth Generation forces have no weapons that can reach the drone. Drones fly over their heads all the time, and they can do nothing about it. A drone-armed Goliath is enormous, and the Fourth Generation David is tiny, so tiny his situation seems hopeless—as it is at the physical level.

Which is what makes him powerful morally. That is the power of weakness, and one question makes that power clear: in the 3000 or so years the story of David and Goliath has been told, how many listeners have identified with Goliath?

Once we understand the moral level of war, we can easily understand why virtually all Pakistanis now view Mr. Mehsud, a mass murderer, as a martyr. He was killed by Goliath in a fight where he had no chance at all. Not just this drone strike, but all drone strikes have the same effect. We win physically and tactically at the expense of making ourselves a hated monster and thus losing morally and strategically. The drone calls forth its nemesis, the suicide bomber, because people will do anything, including kill themselves, to get back at Goliath.

We may still find it difficult to grasp why Pakistanis would rally to the cause of someone who had murdered thousands of them. Again, van Creveld offers the answer: at the moral level, the weak and the strong face different sets of rules. The weak can kill thousands of civilians without generating outrage because they are so weak. They have no “precision” munitions, they can make no claims of an ability to target him but not her. We boast all the time about how “precise” our weapons, including drones, are. So obviously when we kill civilians, we intended to. Just as a child can get away with behavior an adult cannot, so the weak can get away with actions the strong cannot.

The American military understands none of this. Nor, for the most part, is it interested (SOF may be one exception). It does what it does, namely putting firepower on targets. If that doesn’t work, it loses again, shrugs, and goes on to do the same thing someplace else. So long as the money keeps flowing in, defeat does not seem to concern it, and military theory is irrelevant to it. So the weak keep winning, as around the world, the state withers away.