Friday, July 28, 2006

On Taking a Hiatus: Vacation Always Begets Extra Work

No apologies for not posting: A week away to meet my brand new beautiful granddaughter and visit with her parents in Idaho, has backed up work at the home station out the wazoo, and management has left me in charge while they're away (Bwahahahahahaha!) so it will probably be a couple of weeks before I have time for a substantial post.

It was all worth it though. Here's a few pics as proof. As you can see, the grandbaby is gorgeous, our dogs are still buddies, and a morning on the river was just icing on the cake.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Air Force 'Force Reshaping' Sales Pitch: Part 1

"Sir, you lie to Girls, You don't lie to your troops"
(Apologies to the late Rodney Dangerfield)

This rant is going to start out slow because I don’t want to just cherry pick the offensive material and present it without the ‘total pitch’ AF management wants to sell. Most of the front end of this brief is rather vague ‘Mom and Apple Pie’-like and it closes with a ‘Gipper’ moment, but the middle is absolutely target rich: smoke, mirrors, misdirection, and the legendary chartsmanship for which our Air Force has always been the envy of the rest of the Department of Defense.

Here’s the first two slides after the cover slide (slides 2 & 3). There are quite a few slides in all, including cover, “question” and end slides, so most of the brief will NOT be tackled one-slide-at-a-time.
Slide #2:
Good Question!
And now Slide #3:

Bullet #1 is a good start! – They put the immediate pressing threat right at the top.

Bullet #2 is also a good follow up, because Airmen ARE the Air Force. This is apparently a last vestige of the “Take care of the People and the People Will Take Care of the Mission” legacy from the AF’s first 50 years.

But what is with Bullet #3? This is a goal, not a priority (and perhaps the first hint of the real overarching concern of the AF). A priority would have been the “ready to Fly and Fight” statement at the bottom of the page. What is in bullet #3 is simply activities that the AF believes must occur to be ready to “Fly and Fight” in the future. [A Cautionary Side Note: To those who would argue that bullets 2 & 3 are materially similar because they both deal with 'resources', is to self-identify oneself as a manager and not a leader. If you don't get the difference, you're NOT a leader -- no matter how many stars or stripes you might wear.]

Before the end of this briefing it will become apparent that this slide is (quite properly for a lead-in slide) ambitious: attempting three things at once. First, it attempts to eliminate the Global War On Terrorism as a point of possible contention and frame any debate on the AF’s plans and actions as being about future Air Force capabilities and of no concern to the here and now. Second, it attempts to both assuage the anxiety of the target audience over what changes may come and establish that those changes MUST happen as a point of fact – which is again an attempt to narrow the points of possible contention that would frame any possible debate. Having removed ongoing mission requirements and people issues from the debate, the brief sets the hook: the AF needs new hardware!......and begs the question as to where the money will come from. The stage is set. At a Commander’s Call, in oral form, this slide would be expressed as:
OK people, listen up. We’re going to fight this War on Terrorism and win, OK? That’s a given. And we’re going to do as much as we can to take care of everyone that will be affected by some changes we need to make to ensure our future. But what our plan is really about is making sure we have the tools and resources so we can accomplish our mission in the future.
A very wise LTC once told me long ago: "Always remember Sergeant, everything before the “but” is bullshit."
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Go to Blackfive. Now.

Black Five's in a "dialogue" with some guy named 'Geoff' (IF that is his real name) from the leftish nether regions of the Blogosphere.

Ol' Geoff can't possibly be as far out of the well-travelled byways as I am, but if you stumbled in here go read Uncle Jimbo's post. Now. I hope he got the video working better, but it is still worthwhile though it is out of synch.
Check Six!

War is Ugly, But There’s Uglier

Blogs of War brings us a link to a pretty darned good (heck!- it is great) and very timely piece from Jules Crittenden on possible outcomes from where we stand at this point in history. Included is a slight variation on an old truism:
“War is ugly, but it is not the worst of options”
I agree.

Maybe the Iranian mullahs and sectarian Baathists will reconsider the course they’re steering, or maybe they’ll keep trying to turn ‘now’ into that ‘later’ I talked about (a while back) where we must adjust our view of the Islamism vs. Arabism debate.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hezbollah Rocket Boyz

"The purpose of the [Hezbollah] rockets is not to decorate south Lebanon."
And boy, do they have rockets....probably more than ten thousand of them.

The escalation and nature of the ongoing Hezbollah-Israeli combat didn’t happen by chance. Patrick Devenny (formerly with the now-defunct Moonbat Central) foretold much of what is now going on in the Middle East in the Winter ’06 edition of the Quarterly of the Middle East Forum, including the Syrian and Iranian complicity. His conclusion:
Hezbollah will maintain its rocket arsenal as long as Iran continues its violent opposition to Israel's right to exist, the Assad regime retains control in Syria, and Hezbollah continues to leverage its militia for political power inside Lebanon. Hezbollah may find the threat of its arsenal outweighs its use.
Read it all HERE.

I wonder if Israel is now working towards an early deployment of the THEL-M instead of waiting around until ’08?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

THAAD Test, and Other Good Anti-Missile News

Captain’s Quarters, via a tip from a reader, brings news of the “phenomenal” success of a Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile test.

Although he repeats (only for a short while I'm sure) the source’s incorrect identification of the weapon as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, and he somewhat over-exercises inductive logic in his commentary as to what it all means, the Captain's most central points are (as usual) "spot on". Especially:
1.The ‘technology’ is coming around (there was never any real doubt among those involved: as always, it is only a question of time and money if the laws of physics aren’t being violated)

2.The point that a system will not have to have 100% successful, to be considered successful. To argue otherwise, would be to say that since we can’t save New York and Los Angeles, there’s no value in trying to save either one of them.

3.The capability is absolutely necessary for today and tomorrow in dealing with rogue states and shadow organizations.
Contrast the Captain’s serious and cogent observations with the vacuous arguments (if they could be called ‘arguments’) being put forward against the Captain’s post over at Oliver Willis’site. While Mr. Willis has little more than a ‘yes, but’ moment in the main post, things go downhill from there. Willis’ comments section seems to be bi-polar: almost 50-50 in the early going between the “Hey, this is goodness” and “Hell no it isn’t” camps. The “no it isn’t” crowd is:

1. Spouting soundbites: “Slightly better working crap is still crap.”; “Now they want to make the mistake of the French Maginot line”

2. Propagating myths: “If I remember correctly, one of the early experiments was largely successful due to the homing beacon inside the missile it was trying to shoot down.” (Kudos! At least he/she caveated up front.BTW-- they didn’t remember correctly.)


3. Bringing messages from alternative universes:

“Missile defense is a Pentagon welfare project and a major boondoggle destined for the same scrapheap the Osprey and the Sgt. York (and soon to be the B-2) quietly reside.
Will missile defense ever be proven as 100% effective? - where it just takes one nuclear warhead to make a bad day?” (Earth to Moonbeam: the only system on the scrapheap is the Sgt. York: cancelled due to extended teething problems that were eventually overcome but not before it became politically unviable)
Now, if anyone wants a little MORE good anti-missile news, here’s a brand new press release (with photo) about Skyguard, something we’ve been working on for a while. Think of it as Son of M-THEL, Grandson of THEL.

Update: Dang. I read the Captain's post fairly soon after he put it up. Work rules frown on me using using company computers to blog, so when I got home later that night, I didn't notice one of his readers had already mentioned the Theater-Terminal disconnect. My Apologies.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing, SMSgt Mac!

Hoo boy.
I received the above graphic in response to the one I posted earlier on the stupid new AF uniforms. It must be the most important thing the AF is dealing with now right? Wrong.

If ol' Darth doesn't like what I have to say about the new Imperial Storm Trooper garb, he's really going to have a conniption fit over my next 'project'.

Remember my earlier posts (here, here) concerning AF Force 'Reshaping' BS? Well someone (apologies to all--I forget which of you sent me this in all the piles of other stuff we've been sending around) sent me a copy of the AF's internal 'pep talk' on the subject in a 'Top Ten Questions' powerpoint format. (This is the cover slide)
After viewing it, I unscrewed myself out of the ceiling, and decided bringing this pile of snake oil sales material into the public eye would be good for everyone's soul. Unlike the New York Times, I will be bringing you an unclassified brief, and it's not even marked "FOUO". I'm just sure that in the venues it's been played in so far, no one has raised the BS flag as high as I'm going to raise it here.

Each day that I find time to post,(UPDATE: that is when I get time to do the analysis and THEN post - there is a lot of research and analyses involved in this effort) I'll be presenting part of the briefing and pointing out exactly where and how this short-sighted course of action (dressed up as "visionary") avoids the real problems and sets the AF out looking for "Titanic-grade" icebergs


Parting Comments Concerning Authority of Evidence, Bias, and Utility

There were a mere handful of questions that I had beforehand that were answered by this book. The battle accounts were apparently selected on the merits that they helped prop up their assertions, and provided little more than the authors wanted us to remember.

The authors sometimes sought to minimize the experience of those who were either part of the effort or had an impact on the decision-making process. By way of example, Gordon and Trainor employ “damning with faint praise” against the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, describing him as a “military history buff”(pg 33.). The authors employ similar means against LtGen Ricardo Sanchez in several places, most notably identifying him simply as a "junior three-star general whose last assignment was in Europe".

I found the extensive use of anonymous “present at the briefing/meeting”, "interview with a former x official" and “notes of a participant” references for many of the most contentious issues discomforting. While no doubt some should be kept anonymous for National Security reasons, too many unnamed sources seem to be anonymous just to protect somebody's career. There were many assertions made throughout the book that really should have had citations, but instead were presented as undisputed facts -- usually at the end of a string of common knowledge, expressions of common beliefs, or material with citations.

The index is one of, if not THE, poorest I can remember encountering, and made it very frustrating to relocate a lot of material after I had read ahead.

In Conclusion

Cobra II is too painful a read for the too few to mention nuggets of information that I found useful (and not found elsewhere), to make this book worthwhile. It is tailored to promote the authors' views and not to give a balanced account of the war in Iraq. I found it so fundamentally flawed that I now wonder if I should reread The General’s War with a far more critical eye.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Four More Things That Didn't 'Go Wrong'

Today we parse the remaining 'four things' (of five) where, according to the authors of Cobra II, "we done wrong".

The U.S. Failed to Adapt to Developments on the Battlefield?

This assertion is simply more Monday-morning quarterbacking. It bears writing once again that until we won Baghdad and secured enough of the landscape to mitigate the threat of WMDs, all other threats (rightly) paled in comparison. The authors oversimplify somewhat in asserting that we incorrectly assigned Baghdad as the only real center of gravity, as we viewed the total Baathist party machine as the key center of gravity. It just was also true that control of Baghdad meant control of most of the key parts of the Baathist organization.

The complaint by the authors is somewhat misleading, as they note in their Epilogue that the forces in the field adapted quite well (although, like Prairie Pundit, I believe the authors overstate the impact of the ‘Feyadeen surprise’ and greatly understate the actions taken by CENTCOM). The authors’ real beefs are with General Franks and above. Again, while the authors bemoan that in General Franks’ view, the Feyadeen were “little more than a speed bump on the way to Baghdad”, they fail to prove why he wouldn’t think otherwise. After the war those players who would become major threats became obvious I suppose, but Feyadeen activity was just another data point in a real-time and broadband data stream that battlefield commanders have to consider when deciding action. The authors in effect, assert the odd idea that General Franks fought, and won, the wrong war. Yet if you look back at our objectives for going to war, they have all either come to pass or are moving towards fruition instead of failure. About the best the authors and other war critics can rightfully claim is that we could have (not necessarily would have) ‘done better’ and that we aren’t done ‘yet’. I would suggest they brush up on their Roosevelt (the good one).

The U.S. Relied Too Much on Technological Advancement?

This is the most simple, and simplistic, assertion made in the book. By employing the sound military judgment to minimize exposure of troops to the NBC threat (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical: what we used to call this stuff before the WMD acronym came to exist) through minimizing the number of troops employed and moving faster than the enemy could tolerate, we quickly won the 'conventional' war. This is also in keeping with established military doctrine if I correctly remember my MCSC course on NBC operations.

The authors in their summary concede that the approach taken won the war but, to employ a cliché used by critics on the left but carefully danced around by the authors, ‘failed to win the peace’. Oddly enough, with a slight change in agenda and reprioritization of the facts, the authors could have made a very good case for the Administration’s (and CENTCOM’s) strategy being a sound one up to the point that Paul Bremer, as the Provisional Coalition Authority, decided to override the military’s (and others) strong recommendation to keep and reform the existing Iraqi Army. While this probably would have gone far in suppressing the initial growth of the insurgency(as the authors imply), the authors also then would have to have given more thought to how a different set of problems, threats, and challenges would have surfaced – and they would have, because in war, the Law of Unintended Consequences plays out with every decision a commander makes. In layman’s terms: the enemy always gets a vote in how events will turn out.

The U.S Military ‘Structures’ are Dysfunctional

I actually agree with this assertion, but the authors failed to adequately present their case that it adversely impacted the war. Use of anecdotes to highlight pitfalls, problems, and conflicts in the decision-making process is interesting, but hardly damning. This has always happened with all important decisions: when the consequence of getting a decision wrong is as important as the need to make a decision. This is hardly the first time a strong SecDef, acting in accordance with the desires of the Commander-in-Chief, has dominated the decision-making process, and it won’t be the last. Bemoaning an apparently pliable JCS or CENTCOM that is responsive to the demands of the SecDef is not evidence of a dysfunctional structure in itself. The authors’ case would have been better made by a different book that more thoroughly explored and examined the long-term impact of the Goldwaters-Nichols Act on the military: specifically how the 'Law of Unintended Consequences' produced a more ‘corporate’ military than we should have or desire. Unless your business is killing large numbers of people and changing governments, there are definite limits to the amount of business experience that directly translates to military need. I believe post Clinton-Aspin, we have degenerated too much into a business mentality – Something you would have thought we would have learned before now. As this is the 20th Year (a minimum military career) since Goldwater-Nichols, it would be a good time for such a critical examination, and provide a counterpoint to a lot of the ‘other views’ now out on the subject, and shine a bright light on the Clinton Administration’s SecDef (Aspin) and Congress’ culpability in the problems with how the military operates today.

The authors make a lot of noise about Secretary Rumsfeld’s apparently single-mindedness in minimizing the number of troops involved in the operation, and while not separating the SecDef’s desires from the President’s, they seem to minimize the point that Rumsfeld was operating in accordance with the President’s wishes. This minimization overamplifed and caricaturized the SecDef’s motives and impact on the decision making process.

Another area where the authors overextend their reach is in jazzing up the impact of the apparent marginalization (as they present it) of the State Department in the decision-making process. I would assert that the authors could make the case for the State Department’s self-marginalization, given the recognized need to ‘clean up’ the 'Realpolitic' State Department – not that I would fault Secretary Powell at all: the job may take years beyond the term of this administration, and many Secretaries of State to clean out the Realpolitic deadwood.

One of the ironic points not made in Cobra II is that Secretary Powell, when Chairman of the JCS, had a long-running battle with then-Congressman Les Aspin over force sizing, and when Les Aspin was made Clinton’s SecDef, he slashed defense spending and the military to levels well below what Colin Powell and the DoD had identified as The Base Force: the minimum military required to preserve our superpower status and carry out our superpower responsibilities. It could be said that this step was the first in a downward spiral of capability and force employment that we are still going through today.

The Bush Administration Disdains Nation Building

So, the Bush Administration planned for the Iraqis to be able to reconstruct themselves and remake themselves into a Democracy. So what? The worst that can be said of the outcome is it isn’t happening fast enough (how much due to Bremer’s missteps?) to satisfy critics. How fast would things have to be happening before the critics WOULD be satisfied?

The one 'concept' that first comes to my mind and is most associated with 'Nation Building' is: "Quagmire". One also wonders how “Nation Building” squares with the constant chant from the left: “you can’t impose a democracy”. The Bush Administration had (and has) good practical and political reasons not to be TOO engaged in nation building. It was a course of action selected from among many with many other possible outcomes.

The authors point out that the Administration planned for other nations and NSAs (Non-State Actors, an older and less sugar-coated term for what most call NGOs these days) to provide much of what would be needed in post-war Iraq. Until crunch-time, how were we to know the full scope of the fecklessness and in some cases subversive natures of our so-called ‘traditional’ allies. After all, didn’t we gain imprimatur of the U.N. before we went to war? How much good did that do in the end?

The authors spend a good portion of the book trying to build support for their assertion that the military largely ignored the planning and execution required for conditions after the war, and that things would have been 'better' if only the State Department had been more deeply involved. I would ask the authors: What in the recent history of the State Department would lead you to believe that:
a.The State Department was capable of delivering a winning plan,
b.The State Department could have successfully executed such a plan and,
c.Even if the State Department were capable of creating and carrying out such a plan, would they also be flexible enough to adapt to how the insurgents of all stripes would have adjusted to their plan?
The citation “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” comes to mind.

A minor nit, but illustrative of the kind of devices the authors employed in writing Cobra II, is found in the Epilogue concerning ‘nation building’. They use a trite factoid that the electrical grid was not restored quickly after the war as an example of our inability to provide essential services which somehow made us look weaker than the Iraqi’s believed. In reality, heroic work was done to get the electrical grid back on line as quickly as possible. We had no idea how bad the electrical system infrastructure had deteriorated under Saddam, but we brought electricity back on line as quickly as possible -- and while certain parts of Iraq had received ‘favorable’ treatment before the war, the people living in these areas complained more loudly after the war, because the electrical grid service was restored using a more democratic ‘distribution’ of service. In short, the Sunni Baathist enclaves that were pampered under Saddam didn’t get more power than Shia areas after the war, which now receive MORE electrical power than they did under the Baathist regime. Boo. Hoo.

Tommorow: Part IV (the wrap-up)

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Warning Will Robinson! Agenda Ahead! Warning! Warning!

As a big fan of the authors’ earlier work, The General’s War, I was ready to plunk my money down on this book without knowing anything else about it. While waiting for it to come out, I tried to find out all I could about this new book: eager to learn much once again from Mr. Gordon and Gen. Trainor. This desire is what lead me to listen in on the book release party (audio here) on CSPAN, and as I posted earlier:
Between what one of the authors (Gordon) said and the utterances of the panel of ‘guest’ commentators, I decided to read the book with a much more critical eye.
Gordon indicated in his remarks at the book release that he went in to this effort with no idea what the war in Iraq would bring, just that he knew that he and Gen Trainor could leverage a lot out of the network of contacts developed during the writing of The General’s War. From his remarks, he also indicated that it was much later after the war that the story they tell in Cobra II came together. Contrast this ‘truth’ with opening statement in the foreword to Cobra II:
We wrote this book to provide an inside look at how a military campaign was so successful in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime set the conditions for the insurgency that followed.
Aside from Gordon’s opening remarks, the authors' commentary at the event aligns more closely with the foreword of the book. Combining this discrepancy with the previously noted money trail behind the book that was acknowledged at the release event I believe, reveals this book as primarily a whetstone for one or both of the authors’ axes -- although it is somewhat easier to believe this motive of Gordon than Trainor.

The book begrudgingly acknowledges that General Franks won the war he fought, but asserts that he fought the wrong war (more later on this point) and because of this, the war in Iraq was a failure. Further, the authors assert the ‘failure’ to prevent/control the post-Battle for Baghdad environment was due to five key coalition failures. To the authors’ way of thinking, we:

1. ‘misread’ the foe,
2. failed to ‘adapt to developments’ on the battlefield,
3. relied too much on ‘technological advancement’,
4. have ‘dysfunctional’ military structures, and
5. have an Administration that ‘disdained’ nation building.

Five Failures?

Let us tackle each one of these so-called ‘failures’ individually. To kick off the effort, let's look at the first assertion in this post.

The U.S. ‘Misread’ its Foe?

While acknowledging ‘part’ of the ‘misreading’ was due to poor intelligence on the part of the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the authors are in effect minimizing the impact of ‘poor’ U.S. intelligence. The fact that all of the Western powers had poor intelligence on Iraq was played down throughout the book: acknowledged but never really focused upon or explored. Had this facet been examined more thoroughly, it would have become immediately apparent that perhaps much of what was supposedly ‘mistaken’ concerning Iraq, including the power structure, military capability, and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), was in reality unknowable beforehand. It was ‘unknowable’ because much of the critical ‘truths’ about our foe was and possibly still is locked up inside Saddam Hussein’s punkin’ little, and megalomaniacal, head.

A perfect place to have emphasized this point would have been where the authors recounted regime members revealing (well AFTER the war) that Saddam called his key people in and told them there really were no WMDs just prior to the war. Of course, this would beg the question that if he said he was deceiving them earlier, how would they/we know if he wasn’t deceiving them (and now us through them) from that point in time forward?

Given that Saddam’s revelations to his generals dovetail neatly with records of an unusual and significant amount of military convoy activity to Syria, given allegations that WMDs were winged away in military transport aircraft, given the apparent complicity of certain members of the U.N Security Council in propping up Saddam’s regime under the Oil for Food Program with a motive to cover their tracks, and given the recent declassification of the existence of over 500 WMD warheads and artillery shells that very well could be the drippings left behind in a quick housecleaning, and given that armament stockpiles are still being inventoried, how can we say this matter is settled?

I’ve never been a big fan of conspiracy theories and am reserving judgment as to what this all means – and that is my point: I can recognize when there are sufficient unknowns to reserve, and not rush towards, judgment. The authors of Cobra II should have reserved judgment as well.

One point the authors hammer home every chance they had was that we failed to respond, adapt, adjust (or whatever!) to what Messrs. Gordon and Trainor characterize as the real foe: the Fedayeen. Of course, they do this in a manner that marginalizes the Republican Guard, conveniently avoiding an in-depth analysis as to what the war might have looked like if we hadn’t moved so far and so fast. For example, early in the book one of the most prominent points made concerning the preservation of critical bridges the Coalition forces would need, is that Saddam didn’t want the bridges blown because it would hinder his own actions in maintaining control over his own population after the conflict. This has the effect of minimizing the importance of one of the key coalition objectives, preservation of the bridges, and making that goal look like yet another ‘misread’ on our part. Yet as we move through the book, we learn that in some cases we were lucky and in others we were able to secure bridges before they could be blown because we moved so quickly.

Among the most annoying things about the authors’ efforts is how they consistently marginalize the fact that we (the Coalition) really viewed the threat of WMDs as a 'most serious' threat and primary campaign planning factor. WMDs were, given the circumstances the most important factor weighing in on all aspects of the war planning and the biggest potential threat to our forces and our success.

What would have been the consequences of an alternate reality to what actually occurred? Would we have gotten bogged down and slipped into a war of attrition before we could get to Baghdad? How many more Coalition lives would have been lost than we have lost to date? That answer too is unknowable. But it is undeniable that in dealing with an enemy believed to have WMDs, moving as quickly as possible exposing as few people as possible to danger in order to get the mission done MUST be considered a prudent strategy. The ‘misreading the foe’ canard only looks good post-facto because the use of WMDs didn’t materialize. Thank God.



I apologize for having taken far longer to write up a review of this book than I meant to take. It’s not that I had to mull over the information afterwards to get my brain wrapped around the book, nor was due to my lack of opinion on the book’s merits...

It was because of the “target rich” environment this book provides. I had to really wrestle with coming up with as concise as possible, yet reasonably complete summary of just what is essentially wrong with Cobra II.

If you would care to review more concise and more specialized reviews instead, I highly recommend Victor Davis Hanson’s Commentary piece and PrairiePundit’s thoughts on the subject.

My Cliff's Notes version would read:
The authors make a lot of hay while failing to provide adequate support for many of their assertions, even where I would like to (and do) agree with their end position. Although Victor Davis Hanson (link above) finds Cobra II flawed but worthwhile, I cannot make the same recommendation.

What makes a book “successful” IMHO? aka “A long, slow wade into the deep end”

(Yeah, the rest of this post is a little tedious, but at least you'll know what the standards are....)

I won’t just recommend or keep books because they embody or present a great truth that I want to keep at hand for further study, or just for the renewed enjoyment that comes from revisiting them. I very often recommend or collect books that must be judged, in the final analysis, as complete failures from the author’s "message" point of view. I do this when, though the author(s) fail to make their case, they still provide a wealth of hard data or historical evidence that is in and of itself very useful. It is a quirk of mine to collect books where the author or authors lay out all of the salient points, prove to have an obsession for hard facts, and a knack for finding the most minute of details -- sufficient information for the reader to form their own judgements -- yet still fail to prove their argument.

When this happens it seems almost as if the authors miss the point of what they are writing about. Examples of this that immediately come to mind, that I recommend and keep in my library, are Battleship: The Sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse and The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

Battleship (my book doesn’t have the subtitle on the spine – perhaps it was on the dust jacket) is remarkable for its gripping account of the sinking of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse by the Japanese just days after Pearl Harbor. The author (some editions seem to have a co-author listed) lays out the timelines and all the geographical, operational, technical, political and situational facts in the finest detail. The book reveals the important personalities, command dynamics, and individual actions taken. For all the accuracy in recreating the events of the battle, and in spite of the very specific and accurate title, the book fails because the author’s entire effort reaches beyond the events and builds up to the crowning assertion that because English battleships were vulnerable when used improperly (without any air cover), battleships in general were too vulnerable to airpower and therefore obsolete. The author didn’t even adequately make the case that just under-armed English battleships were obsolete. When I first finished reading this book years ago (1979-80?), I wondered: given the quality and scholarship that went into the book, perhaps there was an editor’s hand involved in an effort to generate sales through pandering to a then-contemporary controversy over plana to reactivate the U.S. Iowa class battleships? (I intend to someday read some other edition and look for differences.)

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy is another wonderful resource that uses a tremendous amount of history and economic data to try and build a case that the US was/is destined to follow in the footsteps of earlier Great Powers that ‘overspent’ the nation’s treasure on defense. The book is worth the price as a primer on the Hapsburg Empire alone, but the author’s attempt to tie the goings on of settled distant history to today’s unsettled ‘future history’ and to draw so direct a corollary between the foibles of past ‘empires’ to the U.S.’s current superpower status is in a word, "farcical".

The cherry-picking of then-current economic information didn’t hold up at the time of the writing and it sure doesn’t hold up in retrospect. Although I suppose the author could make the case he was right about the root cause of the demise of the Soviet Union, his evaluation and presentation of the relative cost of defense for the US was poor: At the time of the writing (and even more so now) it wasn’t a question of whether the US wanted to buy “guns” or “butter”, but rather one of “how many guns” AND “how much butter” do we want to buy at the same time?

These books establish the baseline for what is my lowest-level definition of “worthwhile” non-fiction, and Cobra II does not rise to anywhere near this minimum standard.

Tomorrow: What were the authors' 'aiming' at?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Another Stupid 'Survey': What American Men Think?

According to an Esquire-sponsored 'survey', the "American Man" : "surprise! -- leans slightly to the Left".

1. Don't see it in the responses.
2. Don't know enough about methodology, but at best any conclusions drawn from this 'survey' could only be made concerning men who use the internet:
The Survey of the American Man was conducted exclusively for Esquire by Beta Research Corporation, an independent firm located in Syosset, New York. The 1,083 respondents were randomly selected and are a representative national sample of American men aged 25 and older. They completed the online survey between March 3 and March 7, 2006.

I wonder how badly "God-less Blue-Staters" skewed the outcomes?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Last Cobra II Review Teaser..... Honest!

Well, not that anyone still gives a flying &*^$# anymore, I've finished my comprehensive review of Cobra II - all 3400+ words of it. As soon as I figure out how I want to break it up into separate posts, I'll start pushing it onto the Blog. Maybe in doing so I can whittle it down a little more.....

About That "Failed" Missile Test

Seems everyone sees some good in the failed North Korean long-range missile test, from left-wing moonbats who think it proves there's no real threat, to the rest of the country who thinks it was a setback for the NoKo's and it gives us some breathing room. Well for anyone who might derive some satisfaction from the PRNK failing to get their Taepodong missile downrange, a cautionary note: the missile 'failed' but if the NoKo's learned something from their test, the test was 'successful' to some degree.

The good news is, no matter how good they are, if they really are going to launch another one soon, there is no way they could have evaluated the data from the last launch and made improvements in time to get them on board this next one. A rapid launch of a second test missile could mean a lot of things, such as a parallel technology development program, where there are significant technology differnces between the two missiles, so a failure of one wouldn't neccessarily impact test of another. In a 'turd-world' country like the PRNK, it could also just as easily be because a little despot insists the launch goes ahead anyway.

F-35 Lightning II? I Hope Not, But Expect the Worst

Tomorrow, the first public viewing of the F-35 (versus the earlier 'test & demo' XF-35) with outer finishes applied will be held at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. It isn't a proper 'rollout' IMHO -- more of a controlled media event with 'invitation only' representatives from the workforce present.

Let us hope the rumors are NOT true about the Air Force naming it the "Lightning II" . What a predictable, dull and unimaginative moniker. We had a real trend going for a while: planes were actually receiving NEW names (B-2 'Spirit', EF-18G 'Growler', F-22 'Raptor'). If it has to be a play on the old 'Lightning' (one of my favorite WWII allied aircraft, for reasons that include family ties), make it the 'Chain Lightning' - in honor of a design that never made it into production due to the timely end of WWII, and because of the 'chain' nature of the F-35 and network-centric warfare.

It won't really matter in the end anyway: the pilots and ground crews will have the final say, and if they don't like the 'official' name, they'll give it one they DO like.

UPDATE: Yeah, it's the Lightning II. The AF Chief of Staff dressed it up a little bit in his speech, pointing out that the 'Lightning' name has respect in the States (P-38) AND Great Britain (English Electric - Later BAC - Lightning). But "Chain Lightning" would have done the same thing AND been less humdrum. Plane looks good though! The general public will note a lot of changes from the original platform if they bother to really look at it.

Ken Lay Cheated Justice?

I would say to the author (or more likely the "snazzy-title editor" at Forbes):
Dude...Ken Lay is Dead. Deceased. Gone on to his Great Reward. Finito.

Sure, in the end he doesn't pay a criminal-court-mandated monetary price, and his prison sentence was effectively reduced to 'time-served', dead.

No doubt having paid with his life through the stress of choosing the 'dark side' and getting caught. Now his victims can seek monetary redress EARLIER through civil courts. I hope they find some compensation for their pain and discomfort caused by Ken Lay(et al's) misdeeds.

What is the motivation behind the author's article? Was he planning on milking the story through the appeals process and now he has to work hard to find some other scandal?

I can visualize the author of this Forbe's piece in the 19th Century Wild West:
Died?! Died?! Goll'durn it Sheriff, we rode three days ta' get here from Alkali Flats so weez cuud see us a hangin'! Now I don' care if the varmit IS dead, String 'em up anyways!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Breaking News: Men Think Women Are Sexually Interested When They May Not Actually Be Interested (Duh!)

A 'new’ ‘study’ is out, and Maurice J. Levesque, “an associate professor of psychology at Elon University, in North Carolina” is perplexed by his findings. It seems to me he must have poor research instincts AND low testosterone.

Somebody tell this dweeb about When Harry Met Sally.
Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don't want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.
Sally Albright: That's too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.