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Recommended Reading

Top Billing! Zero Hedge  –Taleb On “Skin In The Game” And His Disdain For Public Intellectuals 

Nassim Taleb sits down for a quite extensive interview based around his new book Anti-Fragile. Whether the Black Swan best-seller is philosopher or trader is up to you but the discussion is worth the time as Taleb wonders rigorously from the basic tenets of capitalism – “being more about disincentives that incentives” as failure (he believes) is critical to its success (and is clearly not allowed in our current environment) – to his intellectual influences (and total disdain for the likes of Krugman, Stiglitz, and Friedman – who all espouse grandiose and verbose work with no accountability whatsoever). His fears of large centralized states (such as the US is becoming and Europe is become) being prone to fail along with his libertarianism make for good viewing. However, his fundamental premise that TBTF banks should be nationalized and the critical importance of ‘skin in the game’ for a functioning financial system are all so crucial for the current ‘do no harm’ regime in which we live. Grab a beer (or glass of wine, it is Taleb) and watch…

Via Redmond Weissenberger of the Ludwig von Mises Institute Of Canada,

SWJ Blog Announcing Peter J. Munson’s “War, Welfare & Democracy” and Exemplar, Not Crusader 

….My book is in large part intended to be a corrective to the driving imperative of our foreign policy.

No matter what portion of the ideological spectrum Americans come at world problems from, their views are shaped in a way by the idea of the “end of history.” We think that political development has a single endpoint, that being liberal democracy.


I’m not arguing that there’s a better endpoint.

Instead, I’m arguing that America cannot get the world to that endpoint in the near term. America needs to be more humble in its foreign policies, more realistic than its current expectation of instant modernization without any instability, and more cognizant of the significant challenges it faces in getting its own house in order.

In a phrase, I argue that America should focus more on being an exemplar than a crusader.

First, the world is undergoing a massive wave of change, bringing rapid development and modernization to more people than ever before. I show that this change is intensely destabilizing. It took the West centuries to progress from the corrupt rule of warlords to liberal democracy.

There is no reason to believe that America can remake the world—or even a corner of it—in its image in the course of a few years. We are going to face a period of intensifying instability in the developing world and we need to understand that some things just cannot be neatly managed, much less controlled. We can’t bring on the end of history by using war to spread democracy and the welfare state (used in the academic, not pejorative sense).

Dr. Tdaxp –Science is Real. Measurement is Real. Improvement Is Real and This Too Shall Pass 

Longtime blogfriend Dr. Tdaxp has been on an epistemological tear of late.

Duck of Minerva –Podcast No. 19: Interview with Daniel Drezner and   Lifting the Combat Ban for Women: why the policy change is the right choice

Dr. MacKenzie’s post celebrates a change in policy that is going to be extremely difficult to implement once the military moves beyond the very few female soldiers and Marines who can meet minimum PT standards for combat specialties and are highly motivated to join combat arms. Aside from the issue of qualifying standards (two or one or one new “de-gendered”) the women admitted to combat will still have to shoulder a pack and gear that now can tip the scales at an astronomical 120 lbs and then march and fight under that weight. This is three times the weight of the WWII GI’s kit and more than twice the weight of medieval plate armor. We are going to have to either find very tall and athletic women or expect a very high rate of knee, hip and back injuries during sustained campaigns removing female soldiers from their units. There is also the issue of the difference between sporadic combat seen in COIN with shorter stints “outside the wire” where women have made valorous contributions and the day to day, week to week, month to month grind of total war conventional battles like D-Day, Okinawa, the Bulge or Chosin which have a much different actuarial logic than COIN.  Any conflict of that order will require a mass army based on conscription and not a small,  selective, professional AVF and drafting millions of young women into combat is something to be viewed with skepticism

The Glittering Eye – When You’re Rich They Think You Really Know
Dave takes a very different tack on the Bill Gates op-ed and the utility of measurement than Dr. Tdaxp

Thomas P.M. Barnett –China’s future with a only-child society 

China embarked on the greatest demographic social engineering experiment in history. The results are now with us.

That’s it.

8 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. Justin Boland Says:

    Re: Women in combat. I took that to be a very grim sign, because I did not and do not believe the motivation behind this was egalitarian — DoD are pragmatists, and I assumed this policy move was driven by continued recruiting shortfalls. “Women in combat” seems to be a prelude to a national conversation about resurrecting the Draft.
    I would definitely be interested in knowing why and how my assumptions are wrong, though.

  2. zen Says:

    hi Justin,
    The drive is not due to shortfalls in recruiting. The military is in the process of a fairly brutal downsizing due to budget crunch and a bean-counting desire to curb rising veteran health care costs. The military will be forcibly separating many highly qualified and expensively trained personnel who have no desire to leave the service. The interest in ressurecting a draft, likewise is driven by the same desire to cut longitudinal personnel costs – you can slash recruiting bonuses and GI Bill benefits if you can draft whomever you need. OTOH, the short and medium term conversion costs of returning to a draft are also very, very high for the military which is organized to be run by a selective pool of recuits on a professional basis. The danger in my view is the government fusing a draft with civilian national service to conscript cheap labor for big government projects with only a tiny minority going into the military (the military does not want unwilling draftees, they are a pain to train and discipline and make poor soldiers) such a program would inevitably be administered with abusively with gross favortism toward children of the elite and would be obnoxious to liberty.
    The drivers of women in combat is primarily ideological, a mixture of career opportunity advocacy by the standout class of female officers who believe combat exclusion inhibits their chances from becoming 4 star generals (oddly, many of these exemplars have no personal intention of going in to combat arms at this stage of their careers) and ideological, deriving from gender-feminism of civilian appointees to DACOWITS and liberal MoC and the MSM. Without a draft, very few women will go into combat arms and most of those will be the superacheivers who can meet the current standards or get close enough. They have far more drive than the typical officer or enlistee to perform and advance their careers.  The problem would be a sizable influx of women who cannot make standards who will get “voluntold” into these units for political atmospherics by the service chiefs to please Congress and the bureaucrats. Combat efficiency will suffer with subpar personnel, be they male or female (which is why they don’t allow unqualified men either)

  3. Justin Boland Says:

    Thank you for the comprehensive answer — much appreciated.

  4. carl Says:

    Your phrase “very few women will go into combat arms” is obsolete because very many women are already in combat arms, aboard Navy surface ships and soon in submarines.  We haven’t experienced serious naval combat in almost 70 years and people forget what happens when we do.  Those crews are combat crews.  Many have so thoroughly forgotten that that I am convinced the superzips don’t believe that USN ships ever again will be destroyed thereby drowning, frying or dismembering their crews.  The results of this experiment will first be seen at sea when the next big ocean fight comes.  And it is an experiment.  I never tire of noting that in the history of the world, no big fighting navy has ever sent fighting ships with mixed sex crews into battle.

  5. L. C. Rees Says:

    History suggests that anything endorsed by Bill Gates is doomed to crash:
    Windows NT 2000 XP Vista 7 8 crashed.
    I am the Blue Screen of Death
    No one hears your screams.
    Peter Rothman
    Ceterum censeo Microsoft delendam esse.

  6. zen Says:

    Hi Carl,
    You are absolutely correct. I should have said ” infantry, artillery and armor” instead of “combat arms”. You are further correct that the people running this country do not think in terms of losing a ship in naval battle, even though for more than two thousand years that was a normal and understood risk of naval warfare. You are only incorrect only on one point – this is no experiment. An experiment would indicate that there are empirical results significant enough that they could conceivably lead to a rejection of the hypothesis and a change in policy and that is impossible here. An ideology that is a closed loop does not brake for reality.

  7. carl Says:

    You are right.  It is probably no experiment in this country.  I hope that things could change when the bloody evidence comes in but the superzips won’t be able to see it.  The ideological belief is more important to them than the fate of the country.  No, that isn’t right.  They can’t see beyond the ideology.  They truly can’t see reality.  That is the scary thing.  Our leadership class can’t perceive reality.
    There is precedent for elites refusing to give in to military reality.  In “Conquest” (you have to read that book) if I remember correctly, the Aztecs found their way of war so pleasing, fighting to capture rather than kill, they refused to give it up when confronted by the Conquistadores, who hesitated not the slightest in killing.  That put them at a very great disadvantage and they lost.  No Aztecs around now.
    In that respect, our policy is an experiment still.  That is, it is an experiment by a group of people acting on the stage of world history.  We may not give it up.  But if it doesn’t work, the rest of the humans won’t do it again because the experiment will have failed.  Perhaps if this fails (as I think it will), there will be a whole school of historical scholarship looking at how the Yanks went from having the Navy they had in 1945 to a modestly sized coast guard in less than 100 years.

  8. Jonathan Says:

    Because the women-in-combat decision is essentially political and ideological, everyone involved in administering it will understand that the new program is to be continued despite any negative empirical results. The inevitable outcome will be an overall reduction in standards, though some of the better-run military subgroups will probably develop workarounds to minimize the damage.

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