“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Break out the Anti-Depressants

Pat Buchanan's latest column Broken Army, Broken Empire left me in a bad mood. I chafed when I read his bitter, critical words but just because one doesn’t like the message doesn’t mean it has no value. He leads his column with this perspective:
The insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost fewer U.S. lives than the Filipino insurgency of 1899-1902.

Buchanan’s message is that the Generals have warned that the army is too small and will break without more soldiers. It doesn’t take long for Buchanan’s spittle to fly:

Who do we think we are kidding? America today is like an auto insurance company with the cash on hand to handle one or two fender-benders, but anything beyond that means Chapter 11.

In the Reagan decade, writes national security analyst William Hawkins, the United States had 18 Army divisions. Clinton cut it to 10. Yet, since Reagan, we have not cut commitments, but added to them: in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Gulf and the Taiwan Strait.

The American Imperium is hollow. We have nowhere near the troops to sustain the security commitments and war guarantees we have ladled out. Like the Brits in 1945, ours is an overstretched empire with a sinking currency, whose enemies are salivating at the prospect of being in on the kill.

America may need a larger Army. More imperative is the need for a radical reduction in treaty and war commitments.

It’s not the content of Buchanan’s message that is chafing as much as his bitter acidity and his know it all neo-isolationism. His tone is grating, but his message is depressing.
If our Army is "about broken," has our commander in chief lost his mind when he issues bellicose ultimatums to Tehran? And if our Army is not built to "sustain a long war," are not those people insane who talk wildly of fighting "World War IV"? In World War II, we had 12 million men under arms on V-E Day.
What kind of message does that send to the enemy? Those are harsh words coming from a reputed Republican; a member of the President’s own party. The President is under attack from the left and the right and the Iranians, the Wahhabists, the Baathists, and even bin-Laden from his cave are sure to hear our about our "broken army and broken empire" on CNN International, al-Jazeera and al-Manar.

President Bush can thank his own Generals for pitching that softball to Buchanan who took the opportunity to announce to the world that we are weak, just as bin-Laden said. But Buchanan didn’t make it up. The Generals are saying they can’t do it, the left is ready to leave “yesterday” and the pseudo-realists like Buchanan would never have gone in to begin with. Buchanan, like C4, James Baker and Jimmy Carter have absolutely no affinity for Israel and will toss them overboard without a second thought. The Democrats are ready to flex their muscles in Congress. Unfortunately for them, their razor thin majority will limit them to symbolism more than substance. I expect that we’ll be seeing more counterproductive visits to Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other world despots with whom dialog is deemed critical. Think "dozens of Neville Chamberlains."

To compound the President’s problems, the Republican Party is in disarray and regardless, his political capital with them is probably spent. The lame ducks, Blair and Bush, will probably spend more and more time traveling abroad and focused on foreign affairs.

If the President doesn’t have the new Secretary of Defense bring in all new Generals, we may as well all go on anti-depressants.


  1. "America may need a larger Army. More imperative is the need for a radical reduction in treaty and war commitments."

    We don't need to be in socialist Europe, they have Pooty Poot to watch over them now and keep them warm. We don't need to be in a South Korea that is intent on pursuing their Sunshine Policy as they Stand By Their Man in Pyongyang and hope to change him. We don't need to be in any Gulf State that gives a pass to al-Jezeera and votes with Chavez to curb oil production. We don't need to run counter-terrorism ops on Mindinao for Gloria Arroyo when she couldn't even watch our six with 50 troops. We don't need to escort China's oil through the strait of Hormuz past Iran's coastal batteries when they are busy vetoing every action we try to take against that very same Iran in the UN.

  2. Whit,

    When Buchanan writes that Clinton cut the Army to 10 divisions, he is playing games, while being technically correct. As he well knows, 6 divisions were cut under Bush I, followed by 2 more under Clinton.

    Now, Mr. Bill ranks on my list of suspects just above Mr. Carter. But to attempt to lay the blame on Clinton for the massive downsizing is not helpful. The condition of today's military is a product of a bipartisan effort. It will take a bipartisan effort to fix it.

    For instance, during 2005, the Air Force had its O&M and Personnel bugets reduced by $9 billion to pay for non-defense related Congressional pork projects. Both parties benefited.

    At this writing, my potential great-great-great-great grandchildren are already head-over-heels in hock. Line officers and the troops know that a much larger force is needed. My question: are my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren going to have to pay for that?

    As usual, thanks for a provocative thread!

  3. There is more to Power then money spent, rufus, or there'd be security in Baghdad.

    Having all the best toys is no good if you either cannot or will not use them.

    The Generals say our Army is broken, or on the verge of it.
    According to the Brookings Index of Iraq seems that 25,000 Hadji have fought 140,000 of US to a stand still in Iraq, took 'em 43 months.

    Rollin' into Iran, does not seem likely.
    On to Damascus, well, not today anyway.

    A slow but steady process, advances in managing the battlespace, we are making progress, the water and sewer systems are scheduled to begin construction, we should have Ramadi secure in another decade or so.

    Ollie reports so I can decide.

  4. 3,000 to 4,000 deaths per month is not comparable to NYC.
    Only in one month in NYC, back in Sept of 01, were that many deaths recorded. The US went on a world wide war because of it, a one time event.
    That scale of dying has occurred each month, in Iraq, since last June or July. Not even considering the equivalency factor of 12.

    To compare the two belittles the problems in Iraq, problems that US are responsible to try to stop. Like it or not, we signed on for the job. Our President has pledged the US will not leave without Victory.

    Rudy solved the NYC crime problems, without hugh increases in manpower, but with a different approach to crime.
    Zero Tolerence.
    The same could be done in Baghdad, just have to want to bad enough.

  5. Yeah, rufus was it not just the other day they Iraqi were discussing their "Surplus" of funds and how it should be distributed to the population?

    The entire episode is a marvel of Federal ineptitude.

  6. Fecklessness does not win wars.
    Two Bush admins have chosen to go along with State Dept and Pacifist Generals at great cost to the country all over 1 Tin Pot Dictator.

    Yet some here compare GWB to Churchill, and Hewitt compares his problems with Lincolns.
    Alternate Realities.
    State of Denial.

  7. rufus,

    I know you know that I am not confused about the priority of maintaining the military. My point goes to sacrifice.

  8. That is one way to fight the War, rufus.
    A way I championed three years ago.
    Less US, more them.
    Language skills, etc.
    In all reality we have rejected that path.
    The number is 8, as I recall, of Language proficent people there, working for US, in the Embassy.
    One translator per Marine Bn., in Korea we had two or three translators, per squad.

    So poor performance in network building and intel gathering has left US with fewer choices.
    Firepower could overcome intel failures, it will have to, eventually. The sooner implemented the sooner it would succeed.
    In that habu is right, but millions need not die, tens of thousands do. Each day that passes, the number of the final death toll mounts.

    Perhaps some middle course could work, but even that will result in 50,000 or so of the Six Tribers KIA, to end the Insurgency.

    Two years ago we discussed the then growing problems of the militias. They were discounted.
    Today, Mr Bush's man, Mr Maliki, says al-Sadr is not a problem for his Government. Let's believe him or abandon him. But not try to do both, at once.

  9. doug,

    re: Lincoln v. Bush

    I guess it was a month ago on this site that I presented a list of the generals “fired” by Mr. Lincoln (12?). Each of those generals was a politician in his own right. Each of those generals had highly placed political allies. Each of those generals had a loyal constituency. Therefore, each fired general generated a firestorm of criticism directed at Mr. Lincoln. Anyone who seriously compares the media treatment of Mr. Lincoln to that of Mr. Bush is seriously historically ignorant.

    At this writing, Mr. Bush has yet to fire a general. Now, since even the performance of generals must fall along a standard distribution curve, some of them needed firing.

    By way of comparison, after 3.5 years of Civil War at least 500,000 Americans were dead. Try living with that butcher’s bill and then tell me Mr. Bush has the same weight on his shoulders.

    I do realize, though, that Boomers are entirely unique in their exquisite, delicate perceptions of reality. Nothing of importance occurred prior to the maturing of the Boom.

  10. We've got a long and distinguished history of being outgunned, outmanned, and in peril of having Humpty Dumpty falling and not being able to be put back together.
    I have no doubt our Army and Marines need more fighters. Hell I'd try for another quarter million but that would no doubt require a draft which ain't gonna happen.
    But why can't we take down some of these countries that are fueling the fire in Iraq. Why not bomb Syria into oblivian like we did to Iraq in Gulf I. We bombed and bombed. We could greatly reduce their impact by doing so. But we don't. We could bomb the recalcitrant areas of Iraq, but we don't. DR considers that's a plan outside the scope of reality. We'll it's not, it just takes an order to get it done.
    Why aren't we using the Air Force for other than close air support?
    I sited a piece from The Gates of Vienna blogsite in the last post that tells the story of how the Iraqi's wanted us to war on Saddam.
    All those who believe we can't win are wrong, we simply haven't applied the power we have.

    From the Gates of Vienna article:
    "Simply put Iraq was lost by Americans. Essentially two types of Americans who ruled Iraq in the days and months following the fall of Saddam.
    The first type was what I call the “good guys”! If Americans have one major fault it is that they are so positive and forward looking and good that they have a hard time understanding how evil Evil really is!

    That was the lesson I learned under Saddam. Yes, he was really that evil and yes, in the 21st century there is such evil!

    The good guys, were the “aw shucks” Americans that came into Iraq and did their best to organize, fix and restore Iraq. They could not imagine that anyone would purposely try to work against what clearly the Iraqis wanted.

    It's winnable.

  11. "Two years ago we discussed the then growing problems of the militias. They were discounted.
    Today, Mr Bush's man, Mr Maliki, says al-Sadr is not a problem for his Government. Let's believe him or abandon him. But not try to do both, at once.
    Don't remember how long ago it was, but close to two years, I think, that W had a post that included his assertion that the insurgency was virtually defeated, mopping up was all that remained.
    Some still believe in Virtual Defeats.
    Like Virtual Masterplans, I guess.

  12. Allen,
    Well put summation of Lincoln vs. Bush.
    Some of the Generals who Lincoln didn't fire were also working against him and his entire cabinet thought he was wrong and that they could all do better.
    Where the hell is a modern Grant, Sherman,Lee,Jackson?

  13. Habu,
    Maybe we can virtually bomb Syria back to the stone age in a computer sym and see what happens.
    Pilots would have virtual blood on their hands to start.

  14. Stimson, I think, became a supporter of Lincoln, after being an adversary.

  15. No plan survives in the face of reality. They all get "reviewed" and "adjusted"

  16. Not Stimson obviously one of his contemporary adversaries.

  17. Allen,

    You seem to have an interest in the Civil War. If you're not familiar with General John McClernand's efforts to backdoor Grant during Grants assault on Vicksburg this might be of interest.

    He was a politician before he was a general ..ugh.

  18. Yeah Rufus,
    If it can be analogized Syria is the Ho Chi Minh trail and the secure area from which the enemy gains support and succor and we're not bombing it. To me it makes no sense at all. Our USAF could mincemeat them in a week.

  19. habu_1

    Thank for the praise. Such coming from one with your historical acumen is no small thing.

    Where are our fighting generals? They are O-3s, O-4s, and O-5s. And the great senior NCOs are E-4s, E-5s, and E-6s. They are there!

    I have the greatest personal regard for General Pace. When I saw him during Mr. Rumsfeld's farewell, I was taken aback. My impression was that another ounce of gold braid on his cover, shoulders, or chest would cause an embarrassing teetering fall. Russian field marshals are less gaudy. There has been a change of culture, away from uncluttered efficiency to bloated pageantry.

    Whether this administration or another, at some point the upper echelons of military leadership must be retired. Perhaps, after the next attack on the homeland, a future president will call-up his Eisenhower, Lemay, Arnold, Patton, and Bradley from way below the zone.

    As written earlier (and repetitively):
    ___Sometimes generals influence policy formulation
    ___Always generals influence policy implementation

    There is no scapegoating here. But by any reasonable standard, the United States in Iraq has not been well served by its senior military leadership.

  20. Syria is more analogous to the Parrot's Beak in Cambodia, seems to me.

    As habu says, " makes no sense at all".

    If Mr Bush was going to press the battle home, against the Baathist in Syria or the Mullahs, he'd have done so three years ago, as ripe a time as there ever was going to be.
    Today, many think he'll be changing course in Iraq, while just talk of turning into the wind for a "Surge" causes a Gale of protest. Imagine the crisis of leadership that air raids on Iran or Syria would seemingly cause.
    Only Mr Cheneys' presence would stem talk of impeachment.

    You are right, habu, it is only an order away.

  21. You may like Buchanan or hate him, but how can you argue with certain apparent facts? It comes down to paper over rock, scissors cuts paper and rock breaks scissors.

    1. World opinion has snuck up on us and is more important than we may wish. That affects politics and politics are always over the military. Paper over rock.

    2. The military, although huge in real dollar terms has weapons that are useless. Huge amounts of the military budget go to unwanted and unneeded bases in countries of no strategic importance. Nuclear weapons in Europe and on ships are an effective waste of resources. Military pensions and pork projects suck up huge parts of the military budget. Scissors cut paper.

    3. Anachronistic military alliances and contradictions abound and they squander huge amounts of the resources that are functional. The politics involved pose huge problems in effective allocation of resources. Rock breaks scisssors.

    Buchanan is not the problem. The system is an incoherent compendium bound in contradictions and is unreadable.

    In short, it is all a bunch of bullshit and Buchanan is more right than wrong.

  22. Has been for years, now.

    Gone past five years since 9-11
    & then Afghanistan.
    Comin four years on this Iraq adventure. Mr Bush, he's gettin' short, just 24 months. Mr Blair why he is almost a two digit midget.

    All new Generals come Spring, the current crop movin' on to retirement. So how does that Command Change effect the January Course Correction. Do the "old" guys start the change and then hand off, or do they wait for the "new" Commanders?

  23. DR,

    re: new wine in old skins

    That handoff of command, DR, has been troubling me as well. When is Abizaid out, March or April? The General has made his disenchantment with the developing plan very clear. So, where does he fit? For all that, where do the Commandant and the Chiefs fit? They are reluctant, at best.

    Where's the beef?!

  24. Allen,
    I am glad someone else has noticed the "inflation" in militaria.
    You look at our Chiefs of Staff and other top generals and they have ribbons from shoulder to navel.
    Throw in a JCS badge a couple of PUC's, some wings,rifle badges and they start to all look like Idi Amin Dada
    I have to conclude by saying that I would not put another senior field grade officer or general officer through diplomatic training. Their job is to fight not charm. I'd also change the Department of Defense back to the War Department...maybe that would instill a sense of mission.

  25. Eight Marines were charged Thursday in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians last year during a bloody, door-to-door sweep in the town of Haditha that came after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb.

    In the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the Iraq war, four of the Marines - all enlisted men - were charged with unpremeditated murder.

    The other four were officers who were not there during the killings but were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths.

    The most serious charges were brought against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, a 26-year-old squad leader accused of murdering 12 civilians and ordering the murders of six more inside a house cleared by his squad. He was accused of telling his men to "shoot first and ask questions later," according to court papers released by his attorney.

    The highest-ranking defendant was Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, 42. He was accused of failing to obey an order or regulation, encompassing dereliction of duty.

    At a news conference to announce the charges, military officials would not say what they believe prompted the killings. But investigators have raised the possibility that the men went on a rampage in a fury over the roadside bombing that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso, Texas, and wounded two other Marines.

    Defense attorneys have disputed that, saying their clients were doing what they had been trained to do: responding to a perceived threat with legitimate force. ...

  26. Marking days off the calendar in this clash accomplishes only wearing out the Eberhart #2's.
    Everyone said this was gonna be a long, long engagement, global in scope and challenging.
    So whether it's been longer than WWII or WWI or Korea or Vietnam or whatever is totally irrelevent to the challenge at hand.
    It is a waving the bloody shirt and crying enough, enough, when the jobs not done. It's focus fits our adversaries philosophy of just wait'em out, they'll quit.
    Put the pencil down and pick up a Koran at the book store and take a shit on it. That will send the right message.

  27. The Kremlin has moved decisively to take back ownership of Russia's oil-and-gas assets, taking effective control of Royal Dutch Shell's Sakhalin-2 project and issuing a chilling warning to BP about its future in the country.

    Will BP accede to the demands of the Russian bear
    President Putin personally oversaw the signing of a deal in which Shell will hand over control of Sakhalin to Gazprom, while a key Kremlin official warned BP that it has no choice but to accede to Russian demands with its latest project, or face crippling sanctions. Shell and its Japanese partners accepted a $7.45bn (£3.8bn) cash payment for a stake of 50pc plus one share in the project in the far north-east which was until yesterday the biggest single foreign investment in Russia.
    All eyes will now turn to BP's Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, which is already coming under increased scrutiny from the Kremlin.

    In the latest episode, the head of the federal subsoil agency RosNedra, Anatoly Ledovskikh, has said that TNK-BP must accommodate Gazprom's refusal to let it build a pipeline into China.

    "This is not an objective reason to change the licensing agreement... I very much hope that TNK-BP and Gazprom reach an agreement. They have no choice," he said. ...

  28. And the "Challenge at hand" is?
    Other than assisting the emergence of a democratic government in Iraq.

    Limited to Iraq? Or does it include
    Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, KSA?
    Israel, Eygpt, Sudan?
    Somalia, Nigeria, Venezuela?

    Is the Challenge limited to choice Mohammedans or are we challenged by all those that adhere to the tenents of the Religion of Peace?

    When does the Religion of Peace lose it's Federal designation as a Religion of Peace?
    When is the Ramadan Feast not held at the White House, or should it be?

  29. There are no noncombatants in war. Local populations provide infrastructure support for the active militants.
    Pre-teens are fighting in the jihad in Somalia,Sudan,Ethiopia,Dafur
    Afghanistan. They did the same in Vietnam,Central America and anywhere else you can name.
    A pilot drops a bomb that kills a house full of "civilians" and flys back to base. A grunt, sensing bad juju wastes a house full of "non combatants" and he's locked up and charged.
    I guess the DoD didn't hand out enough buspar to calm the Marines down. Fuck the Iraqi's.

  30. Rufus said, "We spend more on Defense than the REST OF THE WORLD, COMBINED!"

    Not true. "The current (2005) United States military budget is larger than the military budgets of the next fourteen biggest spenders combined"

  31. The challenge is the spread of Islam, the radicalization of South America, and the multiple countries you pointed out DR.
    You have a good take the general outline.
    The quintessence is securing our freedom by not allowing manageable problems to become allowing the entire ME to go nuclear.
    Good question though.

  32. bobalarb,
    Simon Cameron preceeded Edwin Stanton and Lincoln said of Cameron that he was so corrupt the only thing he wouldn't steal was a red hot stove.
    Cameron didn't appreciate the comment but as time went by his fingers were pretty blistered up.

  33. Who recently said this?

    "This is not an Army that was built to sustain 'a long war.'"

  34. Rufus said, "To deter these threats we Must Have the B-2's, the F-22's, the F-35's, the Missile Defense, the 'Boomers,' the Aircraft Carriers capable of delivering "Nuclear Devastation" on moment's notice, and capable of putting F-35's in the air to help defend vital assets such as Fort Greeley, etc."

    You have a good point, but all those programs are being given short shrift and the money used in Iraq so the Army and Marine Corps can drive back and forth between the airport and the Green Zone like ducks at a shooting gallery.

  35. Wheels up early tomorrow..
    Semper Fi

  36. Habu thinks he can make a hovercraft out of his Yugo with hot air.

  37. From Dirty Harry to Dirty Liar. (
    Review of “Letters from Iwo Jima”
    The astonishing transformation of Clint Eastwood...
    In one astonishing scene old Clint has the audacity to show besieged Japanese troops, treating an American prisoner with compassion, giving him their last morphine injections!

  38. Allen said, "By way of comparison, after 3.5 years of Civil War at least 500,000 Americans were dead. Try living with that butcher’s bill and then tell me Mr. Bush has the same weight on his shoulders."

    "Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die. I understand there’s sectarian violence. I also understand that we’re hunting down al Qaeda on a regular basis and we’re bringing them to justice." -- GWB 12-7-06

  39. Doug said, "In one astonishing scene old Clint has the audacity to show besieged Japanese troops, treating an American prisoner with compassion, giving him their last morphine injections!"

    Gosh, that's harder to swallow than "The Longest Day" when John Wayne broke his foot on D-Day and just told his men to lace his boot up real tight so he could keep fighting. Like that would work.

  40. WC,
    He meant he'd keep fighting to get his boot off, the men could engage the enemy w/o him while he struggled.

  41. bobalharb said, "The shoppers are out at Wal-Mart tonight big time--kind of hard not to get in the mood--here's seeing your "White Christmas', and raising you a "Little Drummer
    Boy'. A-rum-tr-drum..."

    If your mother has "ammo" on her Christmas list.. you might be a WalMart customer

    If you get Odor-Eaters as a Christmas present, your wife might be a WalMart customer

    If you give your wife a shotgun for Christmas, you might be a WalMart customer

    If your Christmas tree has a deer stand in it, you might be a WalMart customer

    If your Christmas cards include a Xerox copy of your butt, you might be a WalMart customer

    If Redman Chewing Tobacco sends you a Christmas card, you might be a WalMart customer

    If the reindeer on your lawn at Christmas are pulling a 1974 Mustang GT with no wheels you might be a WalMart customer

  42. “A close aide to the British commander of NATO in Afghanistan has been accused of passing secrets about activities there to Iran.”

    The accused: Corporal Daniel James

    NATO Commander: Lieutenant General David Richards

    British aide in Afghanistan accused of spying for Iran

    If a corporal can be had, can a colonel?

  43. From Tiger at Observanda, who modestly will not plug his excellent site, see:

    CIA exercise reveals consequences of defeat

  44. As the Donald would say, “I’m a class act.”

    You owe me one WC

    H/T Ace

  45. Bobalharb. Thanks for the tip.

    I usually prefer my honey in lingerie but for a change I will try her in sporting goods. Merry Christmas to you and your honey.

  46. Tiger can shamelessly plug his site as often as he likes here at the elephant.

  47. I'll have to goto Wal-Mart more often.

    Trolling for booty at Target has never been fruitful.

  48. This is a bitter-sweet time.

    Today, the postman left a receipt for me in the mailbox. Tomorrow, I will have to run up to the main post office to pick up three silk and wool carpets from Afghanistan, Chanukah presents for my wife, purchased for me by a friend serving downrange. That friend will be CONUS in another two weeks, to the delight of all. That friend has spent 32 years in service to the people of the United States, rising from buck-private to LTC – tough as nails but, like all good leaders, willing to crawl over a mile of broken glass for the troops. In another year or two the eagles will be come. All this is, obviously, cause for joy and thanksgiving.

    Sadly, another friend will be going downrange as replacement. As this is written, my spouse is hot for orders.

    Since all are pros, there is no complaint. All serve with stoic pride. Since I am the godfather and Dutch uncle, I get to do all the bellyaching. We must do better. We owe that to my friends and we owe that to our nation.

  49. Allen, All the best to your warrior friends both coming home and going to theater, and to your warrior wife. What a time these days are for service members and their families. And, for too many troops, for the rest of their lives, per Deuce's post.

    Ppab, available women are all over Walmart and Target, if you learn a store’s layout. Simply

    troll for them in Fishing,
    hunt for them in Sporting Goods,
    scope them out in Guns,
    cruise for them in Automotive,
    try them on for size in Fitting
    check them out at Check-out,
    turn them on in Electronics,
    (don’t go to Cameras, though,
    you might be tempted to be
    negative, expose yourself, or
    get too digital)
    scan them over in Books and
    bend their ear in Tapes and CDs,
    cultivate them in Lawn and Garden,
    cotton to them in Linens,
    be silky smooth to them in
    watch and link up with them in
    find your solemate in Shoes,
    and sweep them off their feet in

    Hint: You can pick up some real dolls in Toys.

  50. Really useful info, lots of thanks for your post.