Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conservatism Betrayed: G.W. Bush

I'm wondering where the conservative party went that was called the Republican Party?

I’ve been a lifelong Republican voter. The behavior of the Bush Administration in this latest economic crisis has made me question my allegiance. This calls into question the Country Club wing of the party. I don’t think they can be trusted to govern.

The Republican Party has always been the party of the business interest. And unlike Democrats we understand we do need rich people to create jobs. Amazingly poor people don’t create very many. So the policy is to promote risk and reward, where some people get rich and others not so. And limit the scope of government as the Founding Fathers intended since unlimited government can do unlimited amount of wrong including take our liberties away. That’s the idea anyway. Note all these political ideas come within the context of a Christian ethos, not Confusion or Hindu or Islamic, etc.

The Country Club set has been the moneyed presence behind the party. They have little interest in cultural issues; and give lip service to its crazy religious fanatics like me (kinda like the crazy uncle best avoided). But they need a popular movement like a pro-life message to support their unpopular policies benefitting large multi-national corporations and such. That’s ok, I’ll get mine in the afterlife and more importantly must answer to my behavior here to Almighty God. Of course foolish talk to sophisticated secularists. And the majority of non-church goers don’t vote Republican. They don’t want to be cheated here, since there’s nothing in the after life; better get yours while you can. There’s always talk from the Country Club set that it’s time to ditch the Pro-Life wackos: the most recent example was the candidacy of esteemed Rudolf Guliani, former Mayor of New York, whose get tough stance was wedded with stands on Pro-Abortion and legalizing non-traditional marital relationships. Much touted by the media as the anointed front runner of the Republican Party early in the 2008 campaign, he polled something in the low single digits in the primaries. I guess his Country Club friends didn’t show up to vote for him. And maybe they did but there weren’t that many of them.

Country Clubbers think they can pander to the “Seculars” with a social program here and a concession to “progressive” social policy there. Of course little do they know that a full loaf is better than half and so folks that place Faith in government to mitigate the inequities, i.e. seeing those rich bastards living off the fat getting their justs, will vote for a government that wants to take from the rich and give to the poor like our friends the Democrats. Country Club set simply wants to appear friendly and not so judgmental like those religious fanatics and that won’t be enough. Conservatives want to see life defended and individuals taking responsibility for their decisions.

The Bush administration Supreme Court justice appointments have been commendable. Unfortunately, this leaves the Pro-Life movement only something at a level a kin to a situation prior to a Brown V. Board of Education like ruling, in other words the first baby step towards the Civil Rights movement for the unborn has yet to be taken. So we haven’t even gotten to a Court Ruling yet and Republican Justices have been appointed again and again to virtually no result. There’s some million or two unborn being murdered nonetheless each year. Nothing has been done for the Pro-Life movement despite the generous Judicial appointments. So the prospect of a favorable judicial ruling is the highlight of the administration; that is some day in the future the Supreme Court might recognize that abortion is not an unlimited privilege.

Republicans become a Party without Fiscal Responsibility: once in power they failed to restrain government spending. All the decades of calling the Democrats tax and spend Liberals rings hallow. Republicans became spend like a Liberal party. They have soiled their reputations as the party of fiscal responsibility; this can’t be reclaimed for at least a generation. How can ideals of Conservatism be claimed here?

Tax policy was skewed to the wealthy unlike Reagan who tried to equalize taxes on all income types. Tax policy has virtually removed taxes from un-earned income with rates at zero to 15%. In contrast earned income for the vast majority of the self-employed populace is taxed at 35% to 45%. I bet you’re wondering how that could be. Most folks are in the 15% or 25% Federal income tax bracket then add the 15.3% Self Employment tax and say 5% for state income tax and guess what? You’re paying a giving a very large portion of your income to the government to earn a living.

On the other hand if you’re sitting around with large capital investments say into rental housing spinning off paper losses then you don’t have any deemed income and pay no tax until you sell the investment and once again you’re at tops 15% capital gain rates and maybe zero, same as dividends (taxed at capital gain rates). Ironically, the Self Employment tax helps to support Social Security payments, which are in fact one big income transfer program from one generation to another: the putative Social Security fund to have been built up over generations, depleted long ago by overgenerous entitlements. How can we expect a majority of people to see this as fair?

As been the policy over many Presidents, Republican and Democrat, a policy of a strong dollar was maintained. A strong dollar to finance deficits and provide cheap consumer goods comes at a great cost: the insistence on strong dollar and the vaunted global economy have destroyed our manufacturing base. Eventually, this Great Republic will be behest of the international financial market and currency traders, whose perception of value of the dollar it is. A dramatic decline in the dollar will cause financial disaster; prices would soar, since nothing or little is made here any longer. Ok, I exaggerate. 25% of our economy is from foreign trade. Upon collapse of the dollar, inflation would run rampant as oil and consumer goods would suddenly be priced much higher. I still hear voices that the strong dollar much be maintained with an eye to the oil sheiks, China and Japan, etc. who finance our trade and budget deficits. America is so indebted its already beholden to its lenders. One can’t fault Republicans solely for this one but this policy still values cheap consumer goods over a manufacturing base: needed to give good jobs to citizens of the Republic and not put the Republic at risk to foreign financial powers.

The ultimate outrage was the massive effusion of funds to corporations, best termed as Corporate Welfare, to the tune of over a $trillion dollars in response to faltering financial markets. Suddenly it was deemed necessary to prop up financial corporate America, save them from their own wrong headed moves in contradiction to a risk and reward system. Now it’s a no risk policy and bail you out if you fail system. First Bear Stearns, a stock brokerage firm, gets $30 billion to prop it up. These are engineered by Secretary of Treasury, Henry Paulson, formerly head of Goldman Sachs. Then AIG (insurance) gets rewarded twice once for $ 80 billion then another $50 billion or so for their stupidities with Credit Default Swaps (they would continue to receive billions in 2009); the sale of insurance against bond failure: as it turns out insurance on bad mortgage backed securities that AIG in their genius figured would never default. Ooops! Mortgage backed securities begin to fail and they don’t have the funds to cover the losses.

It seems they’re for capitalism except when it comes to a financial industry which makes bad decisions. These bailouts mentioned above were done independently by the Treasury without oversight. (Note that the $30 billion to bail out Bear Stearns had absolutely no oversight or strings attached; kind of like here’s your $30 billion check, Johnnie, don’t spend it all in one place.) I fail to mention a $100 to 200 billion bail out of the mortgage giants Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. Wait we’re not done yet.

Thence came the mother of bailouts that is the proposal to buy up the $700 billion worth of bad mortgage loans that caused the financial meltdown in the first place. This was presented to the public and the Congress with all the hysteria of an impending financial holocaust a la Great Depression 1929. It was implied without this “remedy” the economy would go into irretrievable collapse and the stock market would sustain massive reverses. Well, the package was rushed through Congress with the approval of both Senatorial presidential candidates as well as President George W. Bush. Then the Stock Market proceeded to lose over 20% of its value despite the Bailout.

Amazingly, after the election the Bush Administration announced it made a mistake it really wasn't going to use the bail out of $700 in the means protrayed; an astounding admission of incompetence. The initial alarm with all the panic that Civilization as we know it will cease to exist if we don't get the bail out money then a month later saying we've changed our mind about this we're not going to use like we said we would.

Now, the underlying subtext is no political party wants to be presiding over another crash of ’29; the Republican Party didn’t get fully back into power for another 60 years. Nonetheless this was a massive shift in policy; a massive intervention into the financial markets far beyond what could have thought to have been envisioned by a conservative party. A Republican opposition would have railed against these measures as socialistic or even worse. But it continues, Paulson decides to give some $25 billions in cash to bolster banks some of whom really didn’t want it, at least as it was reported. (In 2009 these cash payments are done repeatedly to Citi Bank and Bank of America to prop them up… We lose track how much of the taxpayers money gets handed over.)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are governmental sponsored entities (corporations), funded by the Federal government and administered by private management. Their mission was to promote homeownership with below market mortgage loans. Congress with its Community Re-investment Act would force Banks to lend to clients with subpar credit to plow money back into communities. These Government Sponsored Entities (GSE) would buy securities backed by this mortgages, allowing banks to off load these suspect mortgages. When their massive accounting irregularities came to light in 2005 Congress could find no defalcations or even see a need for more scrutiny. Most culpable were House Democrats, many of whom were recipients of extensive campaign contributions, namely Barney Frank and Barbara Waxman, who wondered why this organization’s procedures were called to question at all. Note long time Congressman Barney Frank’s lover was a high level executive with Fanny Mae. Barney was also a campaign finance recipient. Three years later this financial mess came to roost. These are the securities AIG insured and brokerage firms purchased to leverage other investments.

Just as offensive were the truly spectacular salaries that some of the corporate executives that headed these bail out recipients. The newspaper USA Today, Oct 1, 2008, reported bonuses for these departing executives.
• AIG CEO Martin Sullivan received $25.4 million, including $322,000 for private use of corporate aircraft, $153,000 for car and parking, $160,000 for home security and $41,000 for financial planning.
• Former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld got $187 million. (Actually allowed to fail!)
• O'Neal of Merrill Lynch received $66 million, including $357,000 for car services and personal use of aircraft in 2007. (Bought by Bank of America which is now showing signs of failure as well, taxpayers next bailout?)
• Prince of Citigroup made $42 million, including $180,000 for corporate aircraft, ground transportation and security services.
• Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein made $76.2 million, including $233,000 for car and driver services and $61,000 for financial and benefits counseling services. (Not bailed out….yet.)
All deserving chaps, everyone of them, I suppose. The problem being, corporate America gives itself great liberty to “manage” its work force with layoffs in any economic clime (see the forced layoffs in the 1980’s to simply make additional profits and insistence on using foreign employment) and reward management very handsomely indeed as seem above. Corporate Welfare violates this pact with its modern latifundia.
This brings me to foreign policy. Anyone for spending $500 billion to remove a foreign regime, destroy a country then re-build it, namely IRAQ? This is a praiseworthy project. Saddam Hussein was presumed to be a threat to America, with violations of UN resolutions and an all around vicious guy with lots of weapons of mass destruction to pass around to others. Once again in Biblical proportions America destroyed a country on the other side of the global losing a hundred or so soldiers. An incredible historic military feat. Now that the Iraqi house was destroyed, how to build it back up again? Well, being a Democracy the house of Iraq, the Cradle of Civilization some five millennium old, some four millennium before Western Europe could even read, had to be rebuilt to our specs. It’s still being built after some five years. 2008 Presidential Candidate John McCain didn’t mind if it took an hundred. All commendable and I had young men from our block and from our church who dodged bullets and bombs over there and I stand four square behind them. Unlike the 2008 Democratic Presidential candidates both of whom who voted to cutoff funding, much like what was done in Vietnam era, in which the government collapsed under invasion of the North Vietnamese much for lack of funding. This precipitated a reign of communist terror in the region with the loss of several hundred thousands of innocent lives slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and a Communist Regime in South Vietnam so reprehensible with thousands sent to “re-education camps”, many died there, that thousands preferred to flee anyway they could to the endangerment of the lives as the “boat people” testify.
Anyway back to the re-building of Iraq, American Democracy couldn’t just put someone in place aligned with the most powerful segment sympathetic to America in the country, whether Shiite or Sunni and let them knock heads to any resistance: problem solved - no more crazy Saddam with WMD. They had to “Nation build” and create a mini-America there. Years later and hundred of billions of dollars America is still building.
Nonetheless carrying on foreign policy like this is one extremely expensive. It’s difficult for the majority of the public to comprehend and then they vote you out, ala 2006 when both Houses of Congress went Democratic. This was the first vote of no-confidence. The extended campaign in Iraq lost Republicans congress.
America must know its limits and not forget the lessons of the World Wars in the 20th Century upon which large amount of blame can be placed on Great Britain’s policy of hegemony punctuated by continued land grabbing in the Middle East with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War One which was itself precipitated by insistence on Britain’s pre-war hegemony. Germany, a newly formed nation in 1871 with a Constitutional Monarchy, a nation of laws, was exercising its newly attained hegemony in continental Europe and was painted as pernicious warmonger not simply threat to British colonial interests.

A new conservative party may be the only way to go. Question is still open as to who’s going to lead the Republican Party. The conservative wing has no confidence in the current leadership in the former White House or many ci-disant of the Senate. It would be better to lose a few elections until the Pork Barrel Party of Democrats has completely discredited itself. And based on its record in the first month and half with the massive Stimulate Big Government bill of $800 billion jam packed with pork, it may only to the next election that the public will have forgotten the incompetent policies of the party in opposition. Then again the Republican House must be cleaned and if not a new party has to be created.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pickett's Charge: Failure of a Desparate Gamble

There’s little in which to defend Lee’s charge against prepared positions on the Third day of Gettysburg July 1863. It was foolhardy anyway you look at it. The better than three quarter mile march across open ground against those two Federal corps, the First and parts of the Third that held the higher ground. It speaks of Lee’s disrespect for his opponent. Mind you he had time and time again defeated them, as recently as May, 1863 at Chancellorsville.

There was no finer general and man in the Civil War than Bobby Lee. His character was such that men would go anywhere he led. Contrast him with Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who fought in the West, who managed to alienate all around and about him from his senior officers that called for his removal and the front line troops that basically would no longer fight for him as evidenced in the Battle of Chickamauga in November 1863. Here Grant’s troops pinned down in Chattanooga amazingly were able to drive the Confederates off the commanding heights of Missionary Ridge and break the siege of Chattanooga. Bragg was finally removed from command. I’m off point already, lets go back to Lee and Gettysburg.

Between July 1 and 3 Lee cast the dice in hopes of destroying the Federal Army in a Cannae, a decisive annihilation, as the Ancient Romans had suffered under Hannibal in the Carthaginian Wars. The Confederacy couldn’t invest the North. So from the beginning his strategy was a gamble. His army had to live off the land for supplies. There was no thought of a permanent presence in the North and he knew it; nothing like the North was trying to do in the South and had been relatively successful in the West. Lee needed to strike the larger Federal Army in detail; overwhelm a portion of it to gain a decisive victory. The fear was this larger Federal Army could smother the Confederate Army as it did the year before around Richmond with McClellan in 1862.

If you slept through your history lesson (then again they may not even be teaching the Civil War in school any longer) Pickett’s Charge of some 12,700 Confederate troops, under command of General Longstreet including Pettigrew’s, Trimble’s and Pickett’s divisions, was a frontal assault against prepared positions with the Federal infantry having the benefit of high ground on Cemetery Ridge.

In rough figures off the top of my head they would have been crossing some 1000 yards of open ground. The last 400 yards would be under the fire of canister, a tomato juice can size of ball bearings which would be exploded just above the marshaled troops as they march forward by the thousands. Cannon could fire three of these a minute and there were some 80 cannon directed toward the charge. And rifled musket began to be deadly at that range as well. Surprisingly, at what was called later the “Angle”, the Union lines were breached momentarily by the small fraction of what was left of the total number in the charge. The Confederates needed support to hold the breach, which was not forthcoming, and they were driven back. Less than have half made it back; meaning some six or seven thousand casualties, including thousands of prisoners. The charge took something less than an hour.

There have been a couple books with Lee’s Real Plan in the title that surprisingly purport Lee had something up his sleeve that day but it all went array. I don’t have the time to pour over them but one seems to say that Lee was just naturally trying to get the high ground on Cemetery Ridge that the Federals occupied so a charge up the hill made sense. The other seems to place the blame on Jeb Stuart’s failure to push past the Union Cavalry that same afternoon Northeast of the battlefield and disrupt the Federal rear. My apologies to both gentlemen for most likely butchering your theses, however the little I have read doesn’t support either one of those ideas, if my understanding is correct.

Note the purpose of cavalry was for reconnaissance primarily. If the author is correct about having the cavalry become an assault force, I don’t know of any other instance where cavalry was meant to have been used as an assault force against infantry (meaning to say if they were successful at brushing the Federal Cavalry aside); on any given day infantry would wreck attacking cavalry. Union Cavalry General Buford is highly praised for simply delaying for a short while the Confederates approaching Gettysburg from Chambersburg until the Federal Infantry could arrive the morning of the First day of battle. The Confederate cavalry was no where to be seen until late in the Second Day.

The rap against cavalry: “I never saw a dead cavalryman” was mostly true but there’s mitigating circumstances. They were constantly skirmishing with the enemy, many times over the instances in which the infantry would see battle. These cavalry, if they fought pitched battles, would soon be wasted away and cease to be able to perform their scouting and reconnaissance functions.

I’m not sure what the author Lee’s Real Plan had in mind when he mentions firing off of a single cannon in all four directions by Stuart, Confederate General of Cavalry, as a signal to Lee to coordinate attacks, Pickett and Stuart. At this very time the Confederate artillery barrage of Union positions prior to Pickett’s charge was taking place. Nobody over there would have been able to hear it.

If Lee had a plan, it doesn’t appear he told General Longstreet who had very grave reservations about the charge.
He was to have told Lee:

General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position.

Longstreet didn’t even have 15,000; he had some more than 12 thousand. You really have get out on that battlefield and see the expanse across where they would have marched and have to wonder, what was Lee thinking? Longstreet had those same thoughts. I read he even tried to distance himself from responsibility by giving General Alexander, commander of the artillery barrage prior to the charge, the authority to cancel it, if Anderson deemed his barrage ineffective. Anderson, a junior officer, did all he could to place responsibility back onto Longstreet.

As far as the futility of frontal assaults there is an example a half year before. Fredericksburg was fought in December of 1862 with Federal General Burnside using frontal tactics against Lee’s fortified positions much to Union forces futility; they were shooting ducks.

Later in the war in June 1864 at Cold Harbor 1o miles outside of Richmond, Federal troops would attempt to advance on fortified positions; Grant would hear of some 6,000 killed and wounded in a matter of less than an hour and the advance was halted. Orders to renew the assault were ignored. The battle around Richmond and Petersburg would last some 10 months.

A much lesser know frontal assault was made later in the year in December at Franklin, TN by Confederate General Hood where some 19,000 assaulted Union troops over a period of 5 hours; it was a disaster with some 6,000 Confederate casualties and 6 Confederate Generals killed or mortally wounded. The Federal General Schofield withdrew in the night but Confederate troops were decimated. Federal General Sherman was meanwhile marching through Georgia to the inspiration of many of a Civil War novel. General Hood’s army wouldn’t last much longer after that battle. Lee wasn’t the only one who tried these sanguinary charges. And the military genius of the day figured they were worth bloodshed. See the success of a frontal assault up a mountain a the Battle of Chattanooga as the exception that proves the rule.

Lee left much to the discretion of his subordinates, which worked when he had indomitable General Stonewall Jackson, who was killed in May at the victory at Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg Lee remained at his headquarters issuing nary an order the 3rd Day of battle. The hands off style let him down miserably.

On the First day Hill’s corps fought the 1st and 11th Corps at McPherson Ridge, then with the assistance of Ewell’s corps pushed the Union army off McPherson and Missionary Ridges through the town of Gettysburg to the heights and hills southeast of town. Ewell was ordered by Lee to take Cemetery Hill (not to be confused with the long Cemetery Ridge that ran south of it) if practicable, having driven as we said the Federals off Missionary Ridge through Gettysburg. He chose not to attempt to take even it though Brigadier General John B. Gordon felt it was missed opportunity, whose opinion being on the spot holds great authority.

After chasing the Federal troops through Gettysburg, the Confederates were disorganized. They were no longer ordered for battle; they were chasing down Federal prisoners and such. Ewell would have had to quickly re-organize them to continue to attack on the heights which may have not been practical. Only for a short while, a window of an hour or so, were those heights lightly defended. By 5:30 PM there were some 27,000 Federal troops there.

One author suggested that the real failure was Lee’s decision not to send in Anderson’s Division of Hill’s Corps on the right to Ewell’s assistance. A follow up was needed to take the heights; very likely the Confederates didn’t have it in them after a days fighting but without it the re-enforced Federal Army had a commanding position for days 2 and 3 of the battle.

Lee also had suggested to Ewell that he might swing from the left his, current position, to strengthen the Confederate right. A swing of that nature might have made a charge like Pickett’s more formidable. Lee was dissuaded from it for military reasons, one of which was a proposal to invest unoccupied Culp’s Hill. Culp’s Hill would command Cemetery Hill. Once again the window of opportunity was small, a couple hours and before Ewell moved that hill was occupied as well. This is the difference between great generals and the others, knowing when to act decisively. With Lee leaving Ewell where he was on the left, without result as it turned out, this allowed Meade, the Commanding General of the Federal forces, the interior lines in the next two days, meaning to say Federal troop movements left and right would be quicker to supply re-enforcements than the Army of Northern Virginia.

Prior to thee charge Confederates fired the most massive artillery barrage of some 150 to 170 guns of the war. This was to have softened up the Federal positions, but most of the ordinance went over the heads of the lines. In fact General Mead’s headquarters behind the lines were hit; one of his aides was wounded and 16 of their horses were cut down. It was decided to move back from the lines for safety. All in all, the barrage was ineffective.

In addition due to low ammunition artillery couldn’t move up with Pickett’s charge to support it. This is a glaring oversight of the commanding generals, since they were far from supply bases and had been fighting for two days. The question of how much ordinance should have come up. When Pickett asked if it was time to start out Longstreet was too choked up with emotion and simply nodded.

Failure of the campaign began by sending the Confederate Cavalry off, as it ended up, to harass the Union Army not provide reconnaissance and intel. The Confederate Cavalry was lost for 10 days, the eyes and ears of the Army. If Lee was going to be able to hit the Union Army in detail he would have had information as to its whereabouts. The hesitance of Lee on the First day of battle was lack of information and as a result troops weren’t marshaled ahead of time, the Union Army locations being unknown before hand. The Union Army somewhat outnumbered on the First day was able to quickly gather itself with four corps the 12th, 3rd , 2nd and 5th Corps coming up by the end of the First Day. Longstreet’s Corp would arrive on day 2. Note Confederate Corp were much bigger than Union; there were three (3) corps in the Army of Northern Virginia versus seven (7) for the Army of the Potomac about the same size. So on the First day, Confederates had about two thirds (2/3) of its Army and Union two sevenths (2/7).

After the battle the Army of Northern Virginia would no longer be an offensive weapon. The gamble, that this campaign was, might have been the only way to crush the Union Army and break the will of the Northern people, giving the Northern Peace party some credence. Yet with the invasion into the North the Confederate Army was conceived as a threat and with its defeat the North could claim a great victory. The Peace party, the Dixiecrats, was silenced at least for a while.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bomber War over Europe WWII

The massive bombing campaign of WWII over Europe wrecked great destruction over Germany. In Germany numerous cities were flattened. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were killed. Massive amounts of resources were expended to pursue strategic bombing, resources only Britain and America could spare.

In contrast Germany used their aircraft in large part as a Tactical bombing with immediate military results. The Stuka 87 was used extensive against enemy military positions to destroy tanks and such. Strategic bombing needed years to show results although the proponents of it thought otherwise.

The British who began the strategic bombing campaign first by November 1941 in the Butt report determined that the bombers couldn’t find nor hit their targets. Only 30% of the bombings were as close of 5 miles of the target. And they found daylight bombing too costly. With fewer resources than America they went to night bombing.

Area attacks on cities began to be the object; the goal of the bombings became terror against the civilian population. As was found out this only hardens the civilian determination as it did in both in England and Germany. Before the war the idea of strategic bombing was to destroy the countries means to carry on war and shorten wars. In the light of the bloody stalemate of WWI this was seen as a way to relieve war of the butchery with its millions of casualties.

Armadas of airplanes were required to propagate the campaign. Groups up to 1000 airplanes were sent up to reign bombs over German cities. Flying tight formation almost wing tip to tip to concentrate fire power and not allow a small group or single plane to be picked off.

Americans came into the bombing campaign with a thought that it could do daylight pinpoint bombing over strategic industries. B-17 was to have been literally the Flying Fortress able to defend itself against fighter attacks. Problems arose. European skies were overcast much of the time. And thus the Norden bombsites that were to have guided the bombers to their final destination were ineffective. In the bomber campaign of the Battle of Berlin, Royal Air Force here, of the winter of 1943-44 the cloud cover so obscured the target that these bomber groups of 500 or more bombers missed it completely, a city of some millions.

Unescorted daylight bombing was perilous the British had quickly found out. With the Flying Fortress the Amercian airforce thought they could fly into Germany to attack industrial sites with pin point bombing. On August 17th, 1943 USAF fly in force over the Schweinfurt ball bearing plant some 38 were shot down out of 200 hundred. On September 6 they went to Stuttgart and 48 out of 338 were shot down. They came back on October 15 and some 60 bombers were shut down. These type of losses simply couldn't be maintained. But unlike Britain's stated military policy America's was always directed to industrial type targets; in practice due to the inaccuracy of bombing in the war they participated with Britain in their "area" bombing as well.

Despite the fact a vast majority of the bombers got through, even with a kill rate of 5% or so, your highly trained air crew and hugely expensive machinery would be run through in no time. 30% of bomber crew wouldn’t survive 25 bombing trips if the kill rate was 5% which oft times it was higher. Americans lost some 25,000 airmen during the war, that is one tenth the number of Americans killed in WWII.

Bomber groups got bigger thus more defensible and the P-51 and P-47 fighters began to escort the bombers on their entire trip. The P-51's and 47's were superior aircraft to what the Germans could put up and they began to hunt the hunters so to speak as well. During 1944 the German fighters were wiped from the skies at least during day.

Hilter effectively ruined the effectiveness of German fighter defense against these bomber attacks by refusing to put the necessary resources into it. In fact the Me-262 jet plane, meant to have been a fighter plane, was forced to be used as a bomber. This plane could have in use by spring of 1944 but Hitler was always thinking offense: V2 rockets and such. He thought fighters as defensive agents were a waste. Only in late 1944 were the Me-262 began to used as a fighter in much fewer numbers than could have accomplished earlier. The result Germany was eventually overrun. More importantly the arsenal of democracy, United States, was able to massively produce thousands of fighters and bombers to overwhelm Germany.

Hitler’s Germany couldn’t afford to pursue a strategic bombing policy. In its attempt the London blitz in 1940 was carried on over the Fall by fighter bombers that were meant to be able to fly away from their pursuit. Great Britain’s Spitfires fighters fought off the bombers, although thousands of civilians were killed during the bombing, but with increasing destruction of the bombers, the campaign was halted. The biggest failure of the Lutfwaffe was the fact that the Royal Air Force was not driven from the air and thus gain freedom of the skies that would permit invasion by land forces across the Channel.

After all the expenditure of resources its telling that in 1944 Germany produced more armaments after three years of strategic bombing than ever. Much thanks to Albert Speer, whose contribution was held so highly he spent the next 20 years in prison. And of course especially revealing was Britain’s concession to the inaccuracy of strategic bombing by a change to area bombing, which in effect was terror bombing.

Since WWII no nation has targeted cities as was done in WWII. In America’s wars against Iraq great efforts were made to avoid collateral damage, as was the bombing in Kosovo despite the unfortunate collateral casualties.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ideal of Medieval Government

Moderns view Medieval government in a very dim light. The Monarch ruled without restraint, arbitrarily lopping off heads here and there at will and riding roughshod over the serfs. They did nothing but oppress the populace. Life was brutal, short and impoverished. Most of this is true of course, yet not the complete picture. The Medievals had a view of society much different than our own.

Regardless of their capriciousness, the Monarch could only summon a fraction of the nation’s resources. It was limited albeit authoritarian and unrepresentative. Monarchs were beholden to the ruling elite in great part to carryout his wishes. He had no bureaucracy to command. And history shows that the monarchy ever vigilant towards rivals in this ruling elite. And thus many a plot would need to be ferreted out; and folks executed and such. He (or she) didn’t command great resources like populist governments can that enlist the loyalty of masses of people, who commit their talents to it. Kings admittedly were highhanded, yet they held very little power and oversight compared to the modern democratic state which insists on regulation of all areas of life. They either had to hire an army as sometimes seen in the late Middle Ages or enlist the nobility to supply arms. No draft here. Arming the disaffected peasant would be political and social suicide.

And yet the monarch could act much more quickly and more astutely than democratic governments. My contention is that with a figure head of Queen Victoria in the monarchy, the British Empire allows the rise of Prussian Germany; then the Prussians were able to take on their rivals one at a time. First they defeat Austria in 1866 alone then France in 1870. Admittedly, one can argue that the British were more concerned with the Empire as demonstrated by their battle to preserve the Ottoman Empire against Czarist Russia in the Crimean War 1854-56. Possession of the Ottoman Empire threatens Egypt and the route to the Jewel of the Crown, India. Nonetheless, the Prussian Empire, if you will, becomes the most powerful state in Europe and claims the same rights and influence as Britain to colonize and such. Hotly, disputed by the British of course.

But Germany had been fought over for centuries with the knowledge a united Germany would be a very imposing state in Europe. This is what the 30 Years War was fought over (1618-1648). Whether a decisive Monarchy could prevent general conflagration is highly debatable and off point, but what it couldn’t do was galvanize the society for war as could Modern governments. Germany’s unity was destroyed in the 11th Century in a conflict between the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor. Using the weapons of interdict and excommunication Popes garnered the right to appoint Bishops and other clerics and encouraged revolt by the nobility within German states. The resulting civil war and rebellion fractured German unity for centuries.

It takes populist governments to summon the resources of the whole society for good and bad; witness the massive conflicts in the 20th Century. Note it’s the populist governments that have enough weaponry to annihilate not only civilization but life on Earth as it is known today. We live in comfort and relaxation with the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

Medieval Philosophy of government saw society best composed into orders. This idea was derived from the Ancient Philosophers, Plato. Plato's Republic envisioned a well ordered society with three classes of people, Philosophers, the Military class and the merchants and workers. The Philosophers would have the role of guiding the state and educating its members. This idea of government endured and was present as late as 18th Century. King Louis 16th called the Estates General prior to the French Revolution; it was composed of the Nobility, Clergy and the commons, revealing the mindset about the ancient three orders of Medieval good government.

Montesquieu, the 18th Century French Philosophe, most influential to the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution opposed this thinking with the a tri-partite: executive, legislative and judicial model, each counter balancing each other. (Makes sense to us, doesn’t it.) But most governments throughout history have been authoritative not consensual as Modern Democracies are nor counterpoised. Note the example of authoritarian China today, which proves itself to be a very successful government, despite our objections based on Liberal democratic principals of freedom of speech, press and religion.

As I stated, the Medievals, if you will permit, had a much different view of the role of society. Today, we see society dedicated to wealth creation to the comfort and welfare of the populace. The ideal of Medieval society was to edify the subjects to acquisition of Goodness, i.e. promote good character. This had its roots in Ancient Society, the Greek and Roman civilizations that placed great emphasis on character building and reform. Biographies were meant to be examples of individuals worthy of imitation not tell alls for titillation. Now it was understood that ultimate Goodness was Christian Salvation with the required acquisition of virtue. Of course today good character simply implies discipline and nothing towards attainment of some ideal character or quality of the Good.

In large part Medieval society was arranged in these putative orders to promote stability; the implicit understanding that lower classes were incapable of running society. It would have been said that the crew couldn’t possibly guide the ship, lacking knowledge with its multiple and competing voices. The skilled captain was best to steer the course, not mutinous crew. This idea was buttressed by the idea on the idea how the society was best ordered: rulers, rightfully placed in position by the Almighty; the Church, tending to the immortal souls of individuals and the common folk to produce the necessary goods to sustain society.

Society wasn’t designed strictly to create wealth or administer benefits to the greater good of the populace, but to the attainment of eternal verities (which nearly all segments of current society Christian and otherwise dismiss) and ultimately the salvation of immortal souls.

This Medieval ideal has pre-Christian roots. Plato’s The Republic contains the famous allegory of the Cave. In this allegory humanity is seen chained to a wall in a cave. They can only view the shadows of the real objects projected on the wall of a cave. They never see behind them to the outside. Never seeing the real objects outside but simply the shadows, the Cave dwellers were deluded in thinking that the shadows were reality. One individual escapes, runs out the cave entrance and discovers the real world. He comes back to explain his discovery and is killed by the others, as if he were a madman (much like Socrates was executed by Athens in 399 B.C.). In the Platonic world of ideas, truly Real things are not of this world. Thus society would have a view to these Real things, the eternal verities.

The society in this Plato’s Republic was dedicated to promoting the virtues which in turn are meant to lead us to apprehension of the ultimate ideal, The Good. Society would be led by the Philosopher elite who would edify it into striving to obtain the virtues.

I’ve spoken of ideals but reality of Medieval could be far different and almost always was I’m sorry to say. Part of the Modern’s repugnance of the Medieval is its intolerance. Some of the most outrageous instances of intolerance were the outbreaks of pogroms against Jews that occurred throughout the Middle Ages, especially in the aftermath of the Black Plague, a disease that killed over one third of Europe.

Medieval Spain was no exception to this intolerance. Persecution of Jews arose in late 14th and continued on throughout the 15th Century until all Jews were expelled in 1492. A ferocious persecution took place in 1391 which persuaded many Jews to convert; these were termed Conversos. This it would seem to have solved it but there were doubts about the sincerity of the conversions. Spain’s response was what is known as the Spanish Inquisition. Still unconvinced the Monarchy determined to rid themselves of the Jews altogether by a measure of ethnic cleansing. A truly sad episode in history.

In the Middle Ages intolerance manifested itself in another way: witch burnings. Some thousands of individuals, two thirds women, were executed for the practice of witchcraft. This started with the Papal Inquisitions in the late 14th Century. Once in the grips of the Inquisition there was a presumption of guilt and confession was only way to evacuate yourself, but with the practice of witchcraft the penalty was burning. Oddly enough the vast majority of witch burnings occurred in the 16th and 17th Centuries after the Reformation by Protestants. Once again highly regrettable episode in European history. Of course witches were executed in other societies as well, not to condone the practice in any way. And Orthodox Christians, in Eastern Europe and Russia, didn’t see the need to terrorize their members.

Yet, how do they compare in the light of the barbarities of the 20th Century? Death camp? Gulag? Incineration of Cities? death and destruction in the millions. And potential widespread Earth destroying use of nuclear weapons?

One motivation for the witch burnings, besides pure malice and misogynistic intent, lies in the idea that the society had the responsibility to educate, inform and caution its members regarding the care of their immortal souls. Burning would provide a very public warning to other members of society that this was most serious. In the Medieval mind burning the witch could lead to the repentance of the practitioner of bad magic and be a dramatic admonition to the society.

This begs a question: why such intolerance in Medieval Western Europe? First answer of course is the presence throughout history of intolerance across the world. One can point to pre-British Hindu India with its suttee (emolation of the widow on her husband's demise) and the ostracizing of the Intolerables. See the mass murders in the 20th Century of seemingly civilized nations not overlooking the slaughter of the Armenians by the Turk in 1915. Still this is offensive and causes one to wonder, why? Tough question.

In centuries prior there was no need for such draconian methods and as stated Orthodox Christians didn't practice this at all in Eastern Europe or Russia; places not known for their modernity. Charlemagne outlawed the belief in witches, no less, in the 8th century. Witchcraft was not a major concern. The catalyst was the Papal Inquisition but things didn't get frequent until the Protestant Reformation and the burnings were centered in southwest Germany. My theological spin is that the Reformers viewed spiritual transformation of man as ineffectual; he remains fallen and depraved in nature. This meant our spiritual state was virtually crippled. Congress with the spirit world could only be demonic. Those claiming intercourse with it, as witches did, would be much more threatening and suspect than previously. Very important however the Reformation was a religious reform and there was less tolerance of pagan elements in society. Thus in southwestern Germany Roman Catholics participated in witch burning.

A broad conclusion can be sketched out. Western Christianity needed to be mitigated with Enlightenment to cool fervent religious impulses. Being a devout Orthodox christian I don't want to dismiss religious impulses, so I won't agree with secular humanists that humankind is best viewed as the naked ape. I just arrive at the obvious; it's best not to burn your fellow neighbor.

Then again I counter Modern's hedonistic view; whatever turns you on and floats your boat attitude. Character education is greatly needed and the Christian church has carried out this needed task in Western Civilization for nearly two millenium. The Atheistic desire to de-christianize Western civilization will lead to a moral relativistic disaster. Civilization needs moral framework, thus note the rise of Islam in Europe.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: A Medieval Outlook

Medieval government gathered its inspiration from the Platonic philosophy and it idea good government. And this Medieval ideal saw polity as composed of Nobility, the Church and the common man, much like Plato in his Republic saw the ideal government ruled by the philosopher, defended by the military and feed and provided for the merchant and farmer. Each class would have its designated purpose in order to promote the Good.

A society’s purpose was to educate and edify: to promote the goodness of the man and women. The Good was an eternal verity not simply a concept; the acquisition of which ultimately determines ones eternal destiny. Modern society’s purpose is to promote the most widespread well being and pleasure of the citizenry. Stating what would be obvious to a Modern, the greatest value is comfort not preparation for any putative afterlife not to mention any struggles to attain the eternal verities, the highest of which is the Good, which are without question nonexistent to the Modern.

The pursuit of Good led to Nobility of virtue. The ruling class was meant to have Nobility and be noble in their governance. And thus, the Medieval lacked egalitarian sensibilities as well. The common man was deemed one step away from the mob. Uneducated and unrefined, their participation within the polity was unthinkable. How would one allow the ignorant crew of the sailing vessel to participate in sailing the ship? It would be chaos. The ship of state needed a wise captain to navigate the seas: not a mob of brutish crewman to argue over the progress of the vessel. As alien as that is to us look across the ocean to the world’s most vibrant economy: China ruled by “enlightened” authorities. The Medievals would have thought similarly: the Noble authorities had a right and purpose to rule.

Much of this was confirmed to the Nobles in Medieval Society by the vast disparities in education and wealth of the tiny elite (1-3%) in constrast to the lower classes. These folks in the benighted classes would be consigned to a life of grinding poverty. And this was due to the inability of an individual in this technologically challenged society to build wealth. Few could honestly build enough wealth in a lifetime to attain a level of comfort. As a result social order was very restraining to contain expectations: we would say oppressive.

The vast lower class would accurately be viewed as uneducated and brutish and no way ready to take part in governance. See the largest Peasant Riot, before the French Revolution, in 1520’s when the Germans were inspired by Luther. Inspired by his opposition to the Church authorities, widespread riots over Germany took place. Things were near anarchy. Only a brutal suppression by the ruling elite, killing thousands, suppressed it.

Most of us have read, seen or studied Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I saw it again this summer at Shakespeare Fest in Jackson, MI. I love Shakespeare: the language is a beautiful tapestry that transports above mundane dialog into poetry if you will. We are carried into another world: the world becomes a stage.

Like much of Shakespeare, Julius Caesar is a bit confusing even beyond the ofttimes arcane language. Shakespeare is our bridge to Medieval sensibilities. Characters act passionately, shouting and bewailing their fate (the most egregious example is King Lear: Edgar on the heath in the raging storm; who’s literally frothing at the mouth it would seem. Wow! what histrionics!). No detached aloof James Bond type, secret agent in His Majesty characters, here.

But the confusing problem with Julius Caesar is not in the outrageous, unrestrained, excessive emoting which is mostly absent here but figuring out who the hero is. We moderns look to Julius Caesar, and are not sure what to make of him. He represents the populist call for justice and yet a threat to the Republic. Of course mid-ways through the play he’s assassinated in the Senate by a group of senators led by Brutus..

Brutus, where the words brutal and brutality originate, is the betrayer, assassin and murderer. Yet Brutus is our tragic hero, noble and magnanimous. The populace will be portrayed as fickle and Anthony, devotee of Caesar, as cowardly at times, vindictive and manipulative.

Shakespeare has Medieval sensibilities; he is our window and link to the medieval. A break from the medieval he is writing in the common vernacular about non-religious themes: histories, comedies and tragedies for common entertainment not spiritual enlightenment as was seen in the Medieval festival Morality Plays. On to the play.

First scene of Julius Caesar we see a group of boisterous common working men on their way to see Julius Caesar’s triumph over Pompey in the recent Civil War, proclaiming their allegiance to him. They are met by two members of the government who tell them to go home on this laboring day and remind them of their recent allegiance to Pompey and question Caesar’s accomplishments after the Civil War.

Wherefore rejoice?
What conquest brings he [Caesar] home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?
You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,Knew you not Pompey?
Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The livelong day, with patient expectation,To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome:And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,That Tiber trembled underneath her banks,To hear the replication of your sounds

Upon leaving them they vow to do what they can to dispel the popular acclaim for Caesar.

Later Roman Nobles, Brutus, Caesar’s good friend and Cassius gather to muse about this Caesar, so elevated to lofty heights by popular acclaim. Cassius wonders:

Why, man, he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow worldLike a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
And then concludes

Men at some time are masters of their fates:The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

To say that is they lack noble virtues

And he questions the purported greatness of this conqueror and bemoans the fallen Roman character

Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!

A shout is heard and Brutus questions:

What means this shouting? I do fear, the people
Choose Caesar for their king.

So from the beginning scenes the effusive popular support of Caesar and his status as great leader above all of Rome is questioned by the nobles.

Brutus, a confidante of Caesar, is finally persuaded to act in opposition and becomes the leader of a group that will see Julius Caesar meet his bloody demise within the Senate Floor. After the deed Brutus calls for restraint and assures no others will be murdered. A public funeral for Caesar is allowed with honors.

Anthony, Caesar’s devoted follower, cowardly has a flunky call upon the assassins to determine if they will murder him as well if he comes to view the corpse. Upon Anthony’s arrival he tries to ingratiate himself to them. And then when they’ve left him alone with Caesar’s corpse chastises himself for being servile to these vile murderers and vows vengence.

The most famous scene from the play is Julius Caesar’s funeral. First Brutus speaks and explains what the assassins stood for: the Roman Republic and a free Rome.

--Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I lovedRome more. Had you rather Caesar were living anddie all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to liveall free men?

He invites the mob to speak out if he has offended any in killing Caesar to save Rome. The mob shouts their hearty denial, “None, Brutus, None”. The crowd is heard shouting,

“Build a statue of him [Brutus] with his ancestors! Let him be Caesar! The best parts of Caesar are crowned in Brutus! “

Then Anthony brings Caesar’s corpse in. Brutus magnanimously urges the crowd to listen to Anthony.
The crowd is in opposition at first being persuaded by Brutus’ fine words. People in the crowd are heard shouting towards Anthony:

This Caesar was a tyrant.
We are blest that Rome is rid of him.

Then Anthony begins his famous oratory:

“Friends, Romans, Country men, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.”

Of course, a devout follower of Caesar, he does the opposite. He reminds them how Caesar filled the public treasury with ransom and in humility thrice turned down the crown when thrust upon him by popular acclaim.

Anthony reads Caesar’s will to the crowd and they find Caesar wills his fortune to the populace, each getting 75 drachmas and grants his lands as public parks for their recreation. And Anthony mentions how Caesar’s closest friend Brutus, betrayed that friendship by bloody murder. The crowd is called to view the sanguinary stains in Caesar’s toga draped over his corpse and the enormity of the crime is made clear to the crowd. This sets them to a mutinous rage. Thus Shakespeare depicts how easily the mob is swayed, now set against the nobles, including Brutus, who have done this deed.

In contrast to the republicans, who spared all but Caesar, Anthony and Octavius, Caesar’s adopted son who will eventually be Caesar Augustus, Rome’s First Emperor, and Lepidus conspire to compose an enemies list for elimination.
And when Lepidus, co-conspirator leaves the scene, Anthony reveals his duplicity:
Octavious, I have seen more days than you
And though we lay these honours on this man, [Lepidus]
To ease ourselves of divers sland'rous loads,
He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business,
Either led or driven, as we point the way;
And having brought our treasure where we will,
Then take we down his load, and turn him off,
Like to the empty ass, to shake his ears,

And graze in commons.

Several battles scenes ensue and Brutus and his compatriot, Cassius are defeated. Over his corpse Anthony proclaims his nobility:

This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators save only he
Did what they did in envy of great Caesar
He only, in general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them
His life was gentle, and the elements
And so mix’d up in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world of him, “This was a man”.

Brutus is the noble Roman, whose tragedy is played out against Rome's Great man, Julius Caesar and his legacy. Medieval society saw their rulers demonstrating nobility of purpose foremost and Shakespeare shows us that just that in Julius Caesar.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Common Man and the Runaway Jury

One reason Democracies are rare is the fact that the majority is rarely just. The Founding Fathers knew that the mob, who the Greeks called the demos, the assembly, the common man could not be completely relied upon and that is why they devised a republic not government by plebiscite.

Think about it. In the 21st Century with its technology there’s no reason why the populace couldn’t chime in on each import issue by some means of internet or electronic voting on subjects such as the propagation of war, tax issues or other major issues brought to it by the Government. Why isn’t this most popular form of democracy being implemented? The conclusion is obvious.

Today we suffer under the cult of the transcendence of the common man. The fault, it is said, can’t be in the diminished capacity of someone incapable of punching out a vote on a computer card; the right of just anyone to engage themselves in the political process is sacrosanct. We should allow driveling idiots, bless their hearts, without bar to the political process. Of course it was the common man that ran the labor camps of the Gulag. The common man needs the edification of Christian principles to enlighten him. Without it he easily devolves into the beast. With Christian principles we have the worth of labor, self sacrifice, understanding that we are tied to eternal destiny with the prospect of judgment before almighty God. Thus wealth is built through honest labor with a view that our conduct will be subject to judgment in the afterlife. Without Christian Principles we eventually have the guillotine, the Gulag, Auschwitz death camp. (An argument that casts doubt on this thought will be entertained in a later blog.)

Thus we have what is called the Supreme Court to shepherd the populace from democratic excess. The Nine Supreme Magistrates, far more powerful than the British House of Lords yet quite similar, intervened in the name of justice in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954). The Supreme Lords in opposition to the democratic process granted the Afro-American minority civil rights to attend the same schools as others, separate not being equal. The minority was justly rescued from inferior schools. A wrong was righted with due reference to the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. However, this group of Paramount Judges, the least of democratic institution, has used this amendment in areas not in anyways intended by the framers.

The 16th Amendment to the Constitution provided for extension of Civil Rights to all citizens of which the states could no longer deny. This was necessary due to the fallout after the Civil War (1861-5). The slaves had been freed with the 14th Amendment. But Southern states were writing law to deny their Black citizens right of movement and scope of employment, and opportunity, etc. i.e. laws designed to consign Blacks to a position of slavery in all but name. The Brown vs. Board of Education was correctly applied to this amendment. Since then however the Court has extended this Amendment to all aspects of society, such as school prayer and abortion. Very just in the minds of some especially the secular humanist, but very undemocratic. And admittedly based on my criticism of the unbridled common will, the court is seemingly quite needed.

The disgrace of this small band of antiquated lawyers is their nearly complete lack of ethical moorings. They swim in legal waters without reference to religious or philosophical schools of thought or traditions, Judeo-Christian or Western ethical systems. They were meant to follow the Constitution but recent rulings reference everything but. They follow precedent it’s said when convenient and when its not they make up their own rules. The gravest example is Roe versus Wade which overruled nearly two millennium of protection of the unborn, enshrined in Christian jurisprudence.

Just recently another ruling was made about laws regarding private behavior. As offensive as anti-sodomy laws are to the modern sensibilities there’s nothing in the Constitution that speaks to the right to sodomy including the 16th Amendment. It was the Texas legislature’s role in deciding state law regarding such matters. The Supreme ruling makes no reference to the Constitution, mind you. These antiquated lawyers are crusading like a runaway train for modern sensibilities which has no mantra accept tolerance, whose arm reaches to every corner of society. They mean to transform American society to their own liking. This may suit modern tolerant sensibilities but nonetheless this gives a small undemocratic group vast powers to transform society. (I level this criticism cognizant of the fact that I rail against the stupidity of the populace and yet the American populace is more informed, as unlettered as that may be, as to moral Christian principles than the Court.) Let me say LAW IS TOO IMPORTANT TO BE LEFT TO THE LAWYERS. There is little sagacious about a band of jurists who’ve done little but wipe the dust off of old law books, if that, and just as easily ignored, whose scope is frightfully narrow, being essentially ignorant of religious, theological and philosophical ideas and discourse. For the most part this works fine when the Supreme Court restricted itself to narrow disputes on Constitutional issues; today their judicial purview has no limits.

Of course one can make quite the heated argument about narrow versus liberal renderings of the Constitution. The Court ruled narrowly denying civil rights to slaves. The institution of slavery was confirmed under law in the Dred Scott case (1854), which did much to lead America to the Civil War. The agreed they were humans but just didn’t have any rights under the Constitution. They were deemed chattel, property. Of course an entire society, the South, was dependent on exploiting their labor: just as one half of the work force see the need to have the option to able to dispel unwanted bio-mass from their bodies. Neither issue allowed reference to religious and philosophical tradition. Slavery of the Southern ilk was rarely seen in Western Civilization: slavery so severe that the master held complete control over the activities of the servile. The Medieval serf and the peasant knew dues and days of labor but the lives and families were their own. They could run off to the City or Monastery. In large part the Church would have had a say in that, if I guess right. American slavery denied all rights including life to the enslaved and even families were allowed to be broken up and no property was allowed to be owned.

The fault of the Supreme Court is absence of Christian framework and its moral underpinnings. The Supreme Lawyers made an error with Dred Scott with its narrow rendering of rights to Black humans. The 16th Amendment corrected that. Now it’s time for them to render that 16th Amendment strictly. In other words time for the common will to chastise the Court. But this is what I fear, without the diffusion of Christian principles, the common man will have no desire to do so.

I've had time to think the above conclusion about the Taney court's Dred Scott ruling. The Southern relied on the Bible which has no prescriptions against slavery. The Christian Church(es) could not be a prophylactic against this heinous practice. Neither the Roman Church, nor the Protestant could restrain the colonists desire for enslaved labor. It was American Liberalism steeped in a Christian idea that God endowed man with inalienable rights that no government could infringe that brought down slavery. Nonetheless the Court sadly refused to reference Christian principles in its rulling, stating the Negro were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

Should the Court have made a ruling beyond the Constitution to foundation of the document: the equality of humanity? The Constitution gave no protection for the slave and the intent of the Constitution was to do nothing to restrict slavery. Slavery was enshrined in the Constitution and counted as a slave as 3/5 a person for determining the Electoral College. The result was a sad ruling. The difference today is that the Court makes neither reference to Constitution or Judeo-Christian moral framework.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

American Empire?

There are those, especially on the Left, who see modern America, as running an Empire. Basically, they are confusing America’s role after World War II as a major and only player after the fall of Soviet Communism on the world diplomatic stage. Of course, some even mention the Manifest Destiny as being a phase of Empire but expansion is not empire. Empire conquers and rules diverse peoples and uses conquest as a means to fund the Empire and is under control of a powerful King or Czar or leader in the strict sense. Soviet Russia denuded Eastern Europe after WWII; U.S. had the Marshall Plan to revitalize Western Europe: one acting as Empire the other beneficently. The fact is Democracies are particularly bad at running empires.

The primary reason the world isn't predominantly Fascist or Communist is due to fact America, representative democracy, is the most powerful country in the world. It destroyed its enemies in unconditional war and then re-built them as democratic governments. Hitler might have been overthrown by his military as was Mussolini if not for the unconditional surrender doctrine. Roosevelt impulsively arrived at the doctrine at the Casablanca Conference in 1942.The American Democracy was able to summon resources of the society nothing like monarchies could and once summoned they won't countenance half messages. Total unconditional surrender it was and the destruction that accompanied it.

American’s viewed its critical role in the First World War naively; it wasn't to preserve the British Empire's standing in the world, it was told, but to make the world safe for democracy which it did the former but not the latter. The results were just the opposite: with the rise of Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and Communism in Russia. At the outbreak of World War II in the West, in six weeks French Republic fell like a house of cards, barely fighting for itself in the face of the Panzers' Blitzkrieg. Hitler viewed the vitality of democracies in this light and the light of the weak Weimar Republic so unsure of itself, that the Nazi’s took over. And so he viewed the USA with its 20th largest army in the world. Much to his chagrin the American Republic still confident and self assured mustered a vast military machine unlike any in history. The arsenal of Democracy leveled his Dritte Reich.

Now America views itself as a hotbed of racism and bigotry with a history of land grabbing/theft from the native peoples. After the Vietnam War it began to question itself like a drunk after a binge. And it began to question itself and its role as leader in the World. These are questions democracies are very hesitant and frankly very bad at answering.

Let’s face it, Democracies are incapable of running an empire. And left wing attestations or rather illusions that America is running one are wrong headed and silly. Each nation we subdue or influence, we insist our democratic republic view over it. Much like Iran with the Shah, pro American and Western, we shrank from support deeming it oppressive and non democratic. The alternative is Radical fundamentalist revolution just as authoritarian and instead of a pro-American Western leaning regime, virulently opposed to the Great Satan America, and we are left with an enemy not a friend. And Iraq, highly authoritarian and repressive, nonetheless the most modern state in that part of the region, where Christians were free from attack and women were granted rights not given under Islamic Sharia, we destroy militarily and now we are left to clean up at the tune of $500 billion. Diplomacy anyone?

But Democracies only react to crisis. Failure to see the rise of Hitler and Soviet Communism before WWII is one glaring example. Soviet communism much to Hitler’s surprise was able to wage war better than Germany; it could summon even more society's resources to carry on war than Nazi's could. All economic resources were husbanded. When Nazi Germany overran Eastern Russia an area the size of Western Europe, Soviet Russia responded by moving 1500 businesses East beyond the Urals and continued making armaments, guns, tanks, planes. Military justice was draconian; there’s a saying that it took a very brave man to be a coward in the Soviet Army, some thousands were shot in the battle of Stalingrad alone. During the battle, to cross the Volga to get over to Stalingrad was almost suicide in the face of German attacks but to remain was certain summary execution by the Soviet Army. Anyway where was I?

The most extensive empire in history was the British Empire of which U.S. freed itself with much assistance from the French Royalty. The sun was said never set on it at its greatest extent. These folks knew how to run one. Even after WWI they acquired dominion in the Middle East. In fact they carved up the Ottoman Empire that collapsed after WWI, creating the countries like Iraq and Jordan out of its remains, making the world safe for the British Empire. The British had few qualms about knocking heads. The suppressing of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 in India saw summary execution of captured soldiers and sympathetic civilians by the thousands. This meant the official beginning of the Indian Empire, prior to which the British ruled through the East Indian Company, since the British Government was responsible for putting down Indian sub-continents revolt with its numerous Princely states, client states, etc.

British used disaffected minorities as their enforcers, such as the Singh’s in India, the Tutsi’s in East Africa, the Sunni’s in Iraq. Case in point the British ran India, a country of 300 millions, with some 300 hundred thousands. Compare this with American in Iraq with it's 150 Thousands to attempt to subdue a country of 17 millions in the 21st Century. To run an empire it’s best to play smart; U.S. wants to waylay a country as it did in the Iraq wars but this is extremely costly: very stupid. An empire would have spent something less than 500 billion to reduce Iraq. For that much Saddam Hussein could have been paid to leave, or have someone see that Saddam, the madman, come upon an accident. But that wouldn’t have been cricket, but you don’t build empires by playing cricket. Or they might have used Israel to do their bidding but of course that’s not really possible either since the several billions dollar subsidy to Israel each year can’t be done as something contingent but guaranteed to keep a voting block happy. Basically, America has no idea how to run one, as it shouldn’t I realize, but not obvious to the left, Michael Moore included, who see America as this sinister monster.

America is playing world policeman because they found out that planes and aircraft carriers, missiles and warheads cross oceans. As a citizen I would be delighted to have this chore be taken over by someone else. But who? China? Russia? Europe no longer has the will. The next time Saudi Arabia gets invaded (40-50% of known oil reserves) i.e. when Iraq moved into Kuwait they were spitting distance from Saudi Arabia and several other Oil producing countries. America sits on its hands and watches oil be captive to a madman, right? Yes, and there are those who would say we go back to the wind mill and the bicycle. Yes, but the transition would be very, very difficult for a populace used to comfort and ease. Politically it ain’t gonna happen. Political heads would roll. You see it would be crisis time. War America does very well, but empires aren’t run on crisis but decision making of the supreme ruler/emperor. We are talking about running an empire not just winning wars; for empire countries have to be pacified not necessarily transformed into miniature America’s. America’s representative democracy can’t react. Neither could France in the face of Nazi Germany in 1934 when Germany occupied the de-militarized Alsace region fought over since the 30 Years War ending in 1648, when the French took it. Confronted at the time, Hitler's aggression, using cardboard tanks, would have been seen as the bluff it was and his regime would have collapsed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Visit to Gettysburg

I visited Gettysburg Battlefield for 3 days last week. What a Beautifully preserved battlefield! It has the look and feel of a beautiful park. The carnage is forgotten, which would really be too much to experience. But we honor the sacrifice in peace and tranquility that this terrible battle gives us. The statuary is magnificent as well. Not to mention the intricate bas relief on numerous monuments. This inspires in contrast to the cloistered art sheltered in museums away from public life that ofttimes wishes to confuse us and obscure not edify.

One especially interesting site is the Eternal Light Peace memorial on Oak Hill. It's a massive block of granite with a simple bas relief of a pair of female figures representing war and peace with an eagle at their feet on its face of this huge block. These figures enthrall in their simplicity and clarity. The memorial provides a beautiful vista as well. Its a great place to visit even if you don't understand anything about the battle.

Question is what was Lee doing in Pennsylvania? Was it a mistake to invade? The day the battle ended in defeat the fortress at Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered to Grant who would become Lee's nemesis once Grant came East. Could Vicksburg have been saved? There were regiments from all over the Southern Confederacy defending Lee's Virginia in this invasion. The fall of Vicksburg severed the Confederacy and opened the Mississippi. The Midwest, in minor revolt in some segments (There were wide spread Democratic party victories in the Fall Elections of 1862. The opposition was very adverse to the reason the war began to be being carried on: abolition of Slavery not formerly to save the Union. ) in part due to the blockage of the Old Muddy, could once again gain access to the markets in New Orleans. Could a transfer of those troops have saved Vicksburg? Well, the Confederate victory at Chickamagua, GA. in September of 1863 just 2 months later was due in large part to a transfer of Longstreet's corps to General Bragg.

Lee had many reasons for his invasion: to relieve Northern Virginia of another campaign, demonstrate to the North the continued sacrifice needed to defeat the South and persuade peace minded elements to opposition to the War, and most importantly an attempt to destroy the Union army in open battle "in detail" and pounce on the Union army unavoidably stretched out as it attempted to follow and locate the Confederates and protect Washington at the same time. This strategy would permit the Confederates to battle and defeat a smaller portion of an Army that outnumbered Lee's.

The invasion had many problems. Text book military tactics expect that the army on the offense outnumber the defenders ideally by two or three to one. Lee's army was always smaller than the Union. It took troops from other regions of the Southern Confederacy and thus weakened them. It was much easier to defend in this modern war than to attack. Waiting for the Union army to attack and parry their thrusts, would be the safer and more surefire way to fight the North. Nonetheless, Lee was had several victories to his credit and so his strategy was followed.

As the campaign proceeded Lee found that the cavalry didn't provide information about the Union army's whereabouts. The primary reason for cavalry at this time was to shelter the army as it traveled in order to place a fog of ignorance around it and at the same time acquire information about the enemy and its size and position. Stuart, the famed leader of the Confederate cavalry, numbering some thousands mind you, failed utterly in this task on this campaign. Given contradictory orders by Lee, nonetheless Stuart should have realized his main purpose to gather information not simply wreck havoc on the supply lines. Instead he took a weeks tour if you will around the Union army and even "threatened" Washington, D.C. but in fact completely lost touch with the Confederate Army. As a result Lee's army unknowingly bumped into the Union at Gettysburg. The Union army with forced marches was able to gather itself at Gettysburg and sustain the blows from the Confederates. All in all the invasion was one big gamble that failed and yes, maybe it was worth the risk considering the long odds of defeating the industrial North so evidently overpowering in comparison to the agrarian South. But still a failure.

To top it off there is the folly of the attack against fortified positions at Cemetery Ridge on the third day. Known as Pickett's charge, this attack was a foolhardy and tragic undertaking. On the third day of battle Lee sends some 12,000 troops over a mile of open ground after an ineffectual artillery bombardment against the entrenched Union central sector on Cemetery Ridge. This was against the advice of his Senior Lieutenant, Longstreet. Only some 5,500 come back with thousands killed, wounded, captured. Mind you Union General Burnside failed at this tactic at Fredericksburg some six months before but didn't have enough sense to give up until 16 tries against Confederate positions. This charge was a gamble to break the Union in the center. Now at the same time Stuart, was to have threatened the Union rear, fought and was repulsed by the Union cavalry. His defeat was not critical. His role would have been to harass the broken Union elements after Lee breaks the center.

The three day battle was lost on the first day when two Confederate Corps had driven the 1st and the Union retreating through Gettysburg. General Ewell, Second Corps, allowed them to regroup their forces on Cemetery Hill. This is where General Lee missed Stonewall Jackson decisive aggressiveness, who was killed at Chancellorsville some two months before. Lee's orders to Ewell, leaving his Lieutenant leeway (no pun intended), were to attack the Union forces on Cemetery Hill Southeast of Gettysburg "if practical". Ewell, once again suffering from lack of information due to an absent Cavalry, didn't know if other elements of the Union army lurked close by. These in fact were close in Slocum's 12th corp only six miles south. He, being Regular Army, chose to ignore pleas from the elements under attack (he could hear the sounds of battle), preferring to wait on orders from his superior, General Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac, in Taneytown 12 miles away from Gettysburg.

Longstreet, who opposed the invasion in the first place, wanted to restrain from attacking the Union army in prepared positions. His strategy was to try to slide between the Union army Washington. Maybe Lee understood he'd lost his chance to attack the enemy in detail and so his only chance of gaining something out of this campaign was to risk a roll of the dice by trying to break the Union Army at some point. Note the Union army had the benefit of interior lines and could and did move troops back and forth to support areas under attack.

Some days later in retreat from Gettysburg, the Army of Virginia, greatly reduced in size, was held up for days at Williamsport, MD waiting for the Potomac river to recede after heavy rains; their pontoon bridge had been destroyed by Union elements. They of course were retreating back to Virginia. General Meade dallied, fearful, it would seem of attacking entrenched positions, mind you, and the Confederates were allowed to escape back to safety. Here is Lee placing his Army at grave risk but Lee knew Meade and so it wasn't the risk it appears to us, I'm guessing. And my point about defensive war reinforced, while Lee's army was a fraction of the Federal, the risk of attacking entrenched positions seemed too great.

Lee took a gamble he could bring the Union army to a Cannae, a complete defeat. Part of his strategic aim was to enbolden the Peace party in the North with a dramatic defeat of the Union army. Invasion of the North did just the opposite; the Peace party was discredited with the prospect of invasion and further discounted by the defeat and repulse of the the Army of the Potomac. Instead the news the day after the Battle on July 4 was the fall of Vicksburg on the Mississippi; General Grant had forced the surrender of the fortress and its 30,000 troops .

As an offensive weapon the Army of the Potomac was blunted. It would not carry an offensive champaign again. Approximately 30,000 thousand troops were lost to this Southern army. Thousands of the wounded who might have been returned to this Army were left on the battlefield and captured. The officer core was decimated from Regimental officers up to Corp.

Of course a great deal of speculation could be made about what might have happened without the invasion of Pennsylvania. The South was pinned against Richmond the year before by McClellan. Only by gymnastics by Lee was the South able to drive the Federals from Richmond. Taking the risk of placing most of his army against McClellan's right wing and leaving his right flank greatly out numbered was he able to drive McClellan away from the capital, Richmond. McClellan all the while believing he was up against a superior foe and being overly cautious retreated back down the James Peninsula whence he came. There's a good chance that a more determined foe could have captured Richmond; yet, it took Grant nearly a year to do it in 1864-65. And others have questioned the idea of Richmond being made the Capital when Birmingham or some other City in the deep South might have been more defensible. I mention this since loss of Richmond might not have held such importance, leaving troops free to defend elsewhere. Without a major victory before the 1864 elections with the Fall of Atlanta, who knows how much longer the North would have stuck with it. Lincoln could have been voted out and McClellan, his opponent and former General of the Potomac, might have been more amenable to negotiation.