Top Billing! Maggie’s Farm (Bruce Kesler) – Bloodlands
….Snyder points out: “To dismiss the Nazis or the Soviets as beyond human concern or historical understanding is to fall into their moral trap.” Stalin and Hitler had conscious policies to extract material gain from the people who they thought stood in their way. It was boths’ commonality that had each act so barbarously: “Both the Soviet and Nazi political economies relied upon collectives that controlled social groups and extracted their resources.” Many perpetrators of the horrors, also, had material objectives or just were trying to survive themselves. Snyder says that the millions of deaths tells us as much about the living. “It is not at all obvious that reducing history to morality plays makes anyone moral.” Snyder’s recounting of the murders focuses upon the – to them – practical objectives of Hitler and Stalin: “In colonization, ideology interacts with economics; in administration, it interacts with opportunism and fear.”
The personal vignettes that fill the book, along with the details of the scale of murders, have set every reader back on their heels. No one, no country, is spared the telling of their heroes or devils. Go to Google to see how the learned react to the book. Go to your own soul to see how you react.
Slouching Toward Columbia- The allure of the absolute foe
….The notion of the sort of absolute irregular war had its counterpart in the liberal vision of warfare as punishment of criminality or the neutralization of enemies of humanity writ large. The rise of humanitarian intervention and the War on Terror have been significant drivers of the revival in Schmittian studies, albeit more often by the critical left than Schmitt’s own authoritarian right. The modern U.S. preoccupation with absolute enemies could be posited from two distinct, but now interlinking ways of warfare and preoccupations of enmity.
Inkspots (Jason Fritz) – Ends as wasting assets: time’s negative effect on policy
….One of the many challenges in developing strategy is in the interaction of policy and military plans. As the Grand Poobah of War himself said, “Policy in making use of War avoids all those rigorous conclusions which proceed from its nature; it troubles itself little about final possibilities, confining its attention to immediate probabilities.” Policy concerns itself with the here and now and what the instrument of war can attain for it in the near term. Beyond that we get into the conundrum that Payne lays out for us. Further, the onset of a policy which employs war as a tool establishes desired ends according to the probabilities of the day, from which the military derives its plans. And then a divergence encroaches: process by its nature maintains the policy’s original ends (possibly with some minor adjustments) while military operations must adapt to the enemy and the realities which it faces on the field. As subservient to the policy, the military thus applies ways and means, with input or allocation from the political class, to ends it cannot, should not, or cares not to attain if the mission continues for such a duration that the original ends become obsolete.
….In any case, we have an obligation to maintain our units at the highest readiness and to develop the skills and character of our young Marines and Sailors. Like it or not, our services have adopted a culture and a reality of providing some degree of in loco parentis supervision to our juniors. With that comes some “intrusive leadership.” The commentators above, however, cite the blow to the concept of “special trust and confidence” and to the likely effects on morale as servicemembers are increasingly treated as suspects. This is all true, in my book. But it is not so simple as it seems at first glance. This is not a blow to trust and morale solely because it is an imposition. It is seen that way because it is just one more policy doomed to fail because it is based on institutional moral cowardice, risk averse thinking, and is part of a policy portfolio that is reflective of a lack of priorities. I’ll delve into each of these, but the best summation came from an infantry officer friend of mine: “I get weighed once a month so I don’t get fat. I pee in a bottle once a month so I don’t take drugs. Now I’m going to to have to take a breathalyzer on a regular basis so I don’t come to work drunk. Yet, no one is checking to make sure that I’m competent at my job and am not going to get anyone killed.” There is a lot to discuss in this statement, but don’t start sniping it yet. We are going to take a somewhat circuitous route to get back to the breathalyzer issue, but it all ties together.
….Tweaking the tactics on the ground in South Vietnam would have perhaps inflicted higher losses on the North’s invasion force, may have bought the Saigon government a bit more time, but to what purpose? Would this US tactical success have changed the character of South Vietnam’s ruling elite? Would it have made the people in the South willing to die to save the RVN government? Tactics comes down to the implementation of violence to achieve specific and limited goals which supposedly build on one another to create operational and finally strategic success. Violence has it’s uses, and war is essentially organized violence, but it is not going to build a political community. Outstanding tactical virtuosity still would not have translated into a US victory in Vietnam.
At this point the tendency of tactical myopia leading to grand tactical speculation becomes clear and the reason for it as well. It allows us to avoid what the real main questions are and what failure actually entails.
Registan.net (Christopher Schwartz) -Abai — Strauss on the steppe