The View From Olympus 24: The Navy Commits Intellectual Seppuku

The December, 2013 issue of the Naval Institute’s Proceedings contains an article, “Don’t Say Goodbye to Intellectual Diversity” by Lt. Alexander P. Smith, that should receive wide attention but probably won’t. It warns of a policy change in Navy officer recruiting that adds up to intellectual suicide. Lt. Smith writes, “Starting next year, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with minimal studies in the humanities … As a result of the new policy, a high school senior’s best chance of obtaining a Navy scholarship is to apply for Tiers 1 and 2 (engineering, hard sciences, and math), since CNO guidance specifies that not less than 85 percent of incoming officers will come from this restricted pool.”

Lt. Smith rightly bemoans this loss of intellectual diversity, the only diversity that has real importance. But the problem is much worse than that. An armed service dominated by engineers and other science types will not be able to think militarily.

The engineering way of thinking and the military way of thinking are not merely different. They are opposites. Engineering, math, and other sciences depend on analysis of hard data. Before you make a decision, you are careful to gather all the facts, however long that may take. The facts are then carefully analyzed, again without much regard for the time required. Multiple actors check and re-check each others’ work. Lowest-common-denominator, committee-consensus decisions are usually the safest course. Anything that is not hard data is rejected. Hunches have no place in designing a bridge.

Making military decisions in time of war could not be more different. Intuition, educated guessing, hunches, and the like are major players. Hard facts are few; most information is incomplete and ambiguous, and part of it is always wrong, but the decision-maker cannot know how much or which parts. Creativity is more important than analysis. So is synthesis: putting parts together in new ways. Committee-consensus, lowest-common-denominator decisions are usually the worst options. Time is precious, and a less-than-optimal decision now often produces better results than a better decision later. Decisions made by one or two people are often preferable to those with many participants. There is good reason why Clausewitz warned against councils of war.

There is a direct correlation between the type of education an officer receives and his ability to think militarily. An education in the humanities, especially history and literature, is the best preparation for thinking militarily. An education in engineering, math, and hard science is the worst. Are there engineers who can think creatively? Yes. But there aren’t many.

The problem has yet another layer. Engineering, math, and science tend to draw certain types of people. Humanities draw different types. The first are inward-focused, rule-bound, risk-averse, and bureaucratic. The outward-focused, improvisational risk-takers who hate bureaucracy and embrace Verantwortungsfreudigkeit—joy in making decisions and taking responsibility—are usually drawn to the humanities. Von Moltke is only one of many historical examples. He painted, he wrote poetry, he was deeply interested in antiquities, touring the Middle East to see them, and, as the saying at the time went, he knew how to be silent in six languages.

An anecdote: In the 1970s, I had the privilege of having dinner with General Hermann Balck, a truly great commander, one of the few German generals who really had Fingerspitzengefuhl (the Allies had fewer). John Boyd was also at the dinner table. At one point, Boyd said to General Balck, “You know, General, with your very quick reactions, you would have been a great fighter pilot.” Balck’s instant response was “Ich bin kein Techniker”—“I am not a technician.” It was the only time I saw Boyd get shot down.

The navy has suffered for decades from too many technicians and too few tacticians (and strategists), thanks to Rickover’s baleful influence on the Naval Academy. He wanted nuclear engineers, so he made Annapolis into even more of an engineering school than it already was (all the service academies are biased toward engineering). This was counterbalanced by Naval ROTC graduates, more of whom came out of the humanities. Now, that pipeline will be shut.

The result will be a Navy that does splendidly in peacetime. It may be able to do well enough in war, so long as events unfold slowly and the enemy offers up few surprises. But if a U.S. Navy completely controlled by engineers ever faces a competent opponent, one who frequently does the unexpected and drives events at a rapid tempo, it will come apart, the same way the strong, technically skilled French Army of 1940 came apart. Like that French Army, the U.S. Navy will be revealed as militarily incompetent.

It won’t be necessary for China or anyone else to destroy our Navy some time in the future. It is committing intellectual seppuku now.

The View From Olympus 23: The Iranian Bomb

Several weeks ago I wrote about a clear and present danger to America’s security, a U.S. Senate Bill entitled The Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013. Not only would the bill endanger the current negotiations with Iran by applying new sanctions, it would pre-commit the U.S. to war with Iran if Israel attacks that country. You read that right: we would be in not if Iran attacks Israel, but if Israel attacks Iran. In effect, the bill hands Bibi Netanyahu a legal right to declare war on behalf of the United States.

Fortunately, the bill appears to be losing support in the Senate. Senators are facing the fact that their constituents do not want America to fight another war anytime soon.

But some analysis of Iran’s nuclear program may also point to reasons why we should not go to war over it. Does Iran want nuclear weapons? Undoubtedly it does, if they can be had at not too high a price. But it also appears—and this is the conclusion of our intelligence agencies, for whatever that is worth—Iran has decided the price is too high, at least for the foreseeable future. So instead of building a bomb, Iran has decided to learn how to build a bomb as well as delivery systems for it. Then it will halt its nuclear program, beyond what it needs for civilian purposes, mostly power generation. Under international law, Iran has the right to civilian uses of nuclear energy.

All this is fairly well known. Where most current analysis falls short is in its assumptions as to why Iran wants a bomb. It is assumed the purposes of an Iranian bomb are to deter an attack by the United States and either to deter the same from the Israelis or to launch a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear attack on Israel.

These assumptions are open to question. Not being blind to American politics, the Iranians surely know the only thing that would bring an American attack is getting a bomb. There is zero chance that an American president could ape George Bush and launch an all-out invasion of Iran to achieve “regime change.” The American people would quickly let Congress know what they thought about such an adventure, as we saw when President Obama made noises about attacking Syria. The American people have had it with wars of choice on the other side of the world that send their kids home in body bags or crippled for life and cost trillions of dollars we don’t have. So an Iranian bomb, instead of reducing the danger of an American attack, would create it.

Similarly, were Iran to lob a nuke on Tel Aviv, it would commit suicide. Israel not only has about 500 nuclear weapons, plus delivery systems that would survive an Iranian attack, the Israeli mind-set is such that its retaliation for an Iranian nuclear strike would be annihilating. 3000 years of Persian history and culture would be wiped off the map and out of history. Americans may not be much aware of Persian history and culture, but Iranians very much are. And, as in the case of the U.S., Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would raise both the likelihood and the legitimacy of an Israeli attack on Iran. So once again, building a bomb would reduce Iran’s security, not enhance it.

So why would Iran want a bomb? Because Pakistan has one.

From an Iranian perspective, Iran’s principle threat today is neither the U.S. nor Israel, but Sunni Islam. Iran, as the leading Shiite state, is at war with the Sunnis—real shooting war, not metaphorical war. That is Tehran’s top priority, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni. Shiites are regularly murdered in Pakistan. Sunni suicide bombers sometimes blow themselves up in Shiite mosques in Pakistan in the middle of worship services. Sunnis, many of them, regard Shiites as “worse than infidels,” because they claim to be Muslims but, from Sunni perspective, are heretics. Wars inside a religion can be even more brutal than wars between religions.

And Sunni Pakistan has the bomb. In fact, it has several hundred nuclear weapons, with sophisticated delivery systems for them. From an Iranian perspective, letting the Sunnis have a bomb while the Shiites don’t is a problem. It may be a far bigger problem to them than either Israel or the United States.

I have heard this analysis from area specialists, but it never seems to make it into the American debate about an Iranian bomb. If it is correct, it puts the question of an American attack on Iran in a very different light. Do we need, or want, to involve ourselves in the Islamic civil war between Sunnis and Shiites? To pose the question is to answer it: obviously not. Let them fight each other until doomsday, preferably with vast casualties on both sides. The energy they expend fighting each other is energy they do not have to attack us.

Were the Senate to consider this argument, I think there is little chance it would vote to give Mr. Netanyahu a blank check to take the United States to war with Iran. Is your Senator aware of it? You might want to send him a copy of this column.

The View From Olympus 22: His Majesty’s Birthday

January 27 is the birthday of my liege lord and reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II, so as usual I telephoned him to offer my felicitations. Frequently I find him just returned from some madcap adventure. This year was different.

“Happy birthday, Hoheit. I trust you have been celebrating in good form. A ride in a Zeppelin-Staaken R-7, perhaps?”

“Thank you. Actually, you find me in the Garnisonkirche here in Potsdam. They called me to the Fernsprecher in the rector’s office. As I’m sure you know, in Heaven all churches are Anglican.”

“Well, of course they are. In Heaven everyone’s upper class. What other church could they possibly attend? But may I enquire why you are in church on your birthday?”

“I find myself spending a good deal of time in church now. This year marks the hundredth anniversary of that vast civilizational catastrophe you know as World War I. Our culture, Western culture, in effect put a gun to its head and blew its brains out. Everything since has merely been the twitching of the corpse.”

“If I may ask a somewhat delicate question of Your Majesty, how much responsibility do you, in hindsight, bear for that disaster?”

“Your President Wilson’s closest advisor, Colonel House, spent a great deal of time with me in 1914. As he subsequently wrote to Wilson, in 1914 I neither wanted war nor expected war. I was know derisively in Germany as the “Peace Kaiser” because in one crisis after another I insisted Germany back down to preserve peace. My error in 1914 was not insisting Austria back down, even though she was in the right. Germany was encircled with enemies at that point, and my advisors were terrified that if we did not support Vienna we would lose our last ally. My instinct was to overrule them, but I didn’t. That was my error all too often, before and during the war.”

“If I may say so, Your Majesty was almost always wiser than your advisors.”

“Thank you, but that means I wasn’t stupid, but weak. That may be a fair verdict. I was no Frederick the Great. But remember, he was an absolute monarch, and I was a constitutional monarch. Often, my cabinet simply ignored me.”

“Your Majesty will be pleased to hear that according to a piece in the January 18 Financial Times, the German public no longer accepts the canard, invented by the Versailles Treaty, that Germany caused World War I.”

“Heaven rejoices that the German people are beginning, just beginning, to rediscover the truth about the history of their country. Except for the thirteen short years of the Third Reich, Germany was a normal country. Germans have as much right to be proud of their history, and the history of their military, as any other people. It is shameful the way the Bundeswehr is forbidden virtually the whole history of the German armed forces, except the few short years of the War of National Liberation from Napoleon. This is due in large part to the influence of the Frankfurt School, as you well know.”

“Indeed. Cultural Marxism is even stronger in Germany than in the United States. But let me ask, if I may, about another influence, that of the Fischer Thesis. What is your response to Fischer’s charge that World War I was the inevitable culmination of a German plan to become a world power?”

“The Fischer Thesis is an example of ideological history. Ideology dictated the conclusion, that the Second Reich was merely a forerunner of the Third—utter nonsense—and then Fischer erected a sand castle of evidence to prove it. That sand castle all stood on one event, a single late-night tabagie where I and some of my senior advisors, especially some General Staff officers, got drunk on anxiety, hubris, and perhaps a few other things as well. As you have observed with the U.S. military, a roomful of officers can late at night turn into a room full of twelve-year-old boys. The discussion had no effect whatsoever on policy. It dissolved in the next morning’s light. The Fischer Thesis dissolves with it. Germany had no master plan to conquer the world. It is pure invention, by a German Left that wants to teach Germans to hate Germany.”

“I can happily inform Your Majesty that the German people are beginning to reject the Left’s version of German history. Financial Times reported that only 19% of Germans now believe Germany bore ‘chief responsibility’ for World War I. 58% said each of the Powers was to blame.”

“That 58% is right. My cousin Nicky was yesterday lamenting the role he played in July 1914. Like me, he could have stopped it but didn’t.”

“What does your other cousin, King George of Great Britain, say about it?”

“I don’t know. He’s not here. He was something of a rotter, you know.”

“He and Winston both.”

“Winston’s not here, either. Oh, I think he’ll get here, eventually. But he has to spend some time in the servants’ hall first. In fact, now that you’ve made me think of him, I’ll ring and have him bring me up a pot of good English tea.”

“A suitable beverage for celebrating your birthday in this penitential year. I thank Your Majesty for his time and insight. I always suspected Fischer conjured up his facts. Now we know. Until next year, Hoch Hohenzollern!”

Deutschland hoch in Ehre, dann und jetzt! May the German people ever so regard it. Goodbye!”

The View From Olympus 21: Terrorist Attack

One of the more obvious facts about our country’s situation is that we cannot afford another war. We cannot afford it financially. Another massive explosion of debt (the Iraq war cost three trillion, including veteran’s care, and Afghanistan is on its way to two trillion) could bring about the collapse of American government paper, and with it the dollar. The consequences of that would be far more dire than the actions of any foreign “threats.”

We cannot afford another war militarily either, because our recent record suggests we will probably lose. Unless someone is foolish enough to take us on in Second Generation war, our Second Generation military will suffer another defeat. Like other Second Generation armed services, it cannot beat the Third Generation without overwhelming material superiority. It cannot defeat Fourth Generation opponents even with huge material superiority. Since more and more wars are Fourth Generation, our only rational option is to stay out of them, at least until we either reform our obsolescent services or simply send them home and save some money.

For several years, the most likely new war facing us has been a war with Iran. Such a war might begin as a Second Generation air and sea war, which we would win. But a defeated Iran would be likely to come apart as a state, facing us with yet another region of stateless disorder. Regardless whether or not we intervened on the ground at that point, the forces of 4GW would have another win.

It should therefore not be too great a reach in logic, even for Congress, to grasp the fact that we need to avoid war with Iran. The Obama administration has grasped it, and is currently doing an admirable job of war-avoidance. There is a genuine prospect of not only a nuclear agreement with Iran, but of a whole new strategic relationship, one that would push an Iranian war completely off the table.

Now comes the curious part: a bi-partisan coalition of senators and congressmen is doing everything in its power to sabotage the deal with Iran and put us back on the course to war. A 52-page Senate bill (that’s a short one), the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, would impose a whole new set of economic sanctions on Iran. Its passage would run a strong risk of killing the negotiations. Iran could only remain at the table if it agreed to swallow a major and public humiliation. The Iranian government may not do that; it may be politically unable to do that even if it wants to.

And oh, by the way, the Senate bill requires the United States to provide military support to Israel if it attacks Iran. Not if Israel is attacked by Iran; we are in another Mideast war if Israel itself is the attacker. And they say Kaiser Wilhelm II gave a “blank check” to Vienna in 1914…

This provision of the Senate bill points to the most important fact about it: it was de facto written in Tel Aviv. It was sponsored by Israel’s Likud government, it serves that foreign government, and it threatens to take the United States to war for the interests of Israel against our own interests.

How could such a thing happen? Because almost all members of Congress live in mortal terror of the Israeli lobby. Every Senator or Representative who has dared to take the lobby on has lost his seat. It pours enormous amounts of money into funding his opposition, and he loses. The Israeli lobby owns Congress like a kid owns a yo-yo, and it plays with it in the same way.

Given the multitude of disasters involvement in another war would probably bring to this country, the Israeli lobby’s push for the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 is nothing less than a terrorist attack. Its weapons are money and votes, not bombs, but the effects could easily be the same: thousands of Americans dead and billions (or trillions) of money lost. The damage to our economy could be fatal. And in the end, the Fourth Generation would win another victory.

Lose-lose is seldom wise policy. Is there a chance the American people could wake up on this one, the way they did to stop an attack in Syria?

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaOSwYF9hIo

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.