Category Archives: History

Learning from the past

50 years ago the Battle at Ia Drang began our war in Vietnam. What have we learned since then?

Summary: Fifty years ago today American troops fought their first major battle in Vietnam. The lessons both sides learned from the battle set the course of the war. History shows whose analysis proved more accurate. We have concluded the first phase of our post-9/11 wars, proving that we’ve forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. As the next phase begins we have the opportunity to do better. But only if we begin to learn from our experiences.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Soldier at Ia Drang. Major Crandall's UH-1D in the background.

Soldiers at Ia Drang. Major Crandall’s UH-1D in the background. US Army photo.

On this day in 1965 the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) flew to the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, initiating the first major battle between the North Vietnamese and American armies. This marked our transition from advisers to direct combatants.

Fifty years later we again have lessons from battles fought by our military in a distant land. Again all sides devise plans for the future. Lest we forgot, Ia Drang holds profound lessons for us today.

The quotes in this post come from one of the great works about the Vietnam War: We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, by Harold G. Moore (Lt. General, US Army, retired) and journalist Joseph L. Galloway. I strongly recommend reading it.  For more information about the battle, see the Wikipedia entry.

What happened at Ia Drang?

Ia Drang tested the new concept of air assault, in which helicopters inserted troops to a distant battlefield, then supplied and extracted them. During that four day “test” 234 American men died, “more Americans than were killed in any regiment, North or South, at the Battle of Gettysburg, and far more than were killed in combat in the entire Persian Gulf War.” Both sides drew optimistic conclusions from the result.

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A Chinese general sees a ruthless America striving to contain his nation’s growth

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. These give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. In part 3 he gives his big picture view of the decade’s global geopolitics. As in part 2, he sees the US as a ruthless hegemon in decline — fighting to maintain its control over the world by containing its greatest rival: China. There’s enough truth in this to worry everybody; these struggles often end badly.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part three
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission

C. Now, It Is Time to Harvest China

It was as precise as the tide; the U.S. dollar was strong for six years. Then, in 2002, it started getting weak. Following the same pattern, it stayed weak for ten years. In 2012, the Americans started to prepare to make it strong. They used the same approach: create a regional crisis for other people.

Therefore, we saw that several events happened in relation to China: the Cheonan sinking event {2010}, the dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands in Chinese), and the dispute over Scarborough Shoal (the Huangyan Island in Chinese). {The latter two are long-standing disputes.} All these happened during this period. The conflict between China and the Philippians over Huangyan Island and the conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, might not appear to have much to do with the U.S. dollar index, but was it really that case? Why did it happen exactly in the tenth year of the U.S. dollar being weak?

Unfortunately, the U.S. played with too much fire [in its own mortgage market] earlier and got itself into a financial crisis in 2008. This delayed the timing of the U.S. dollar’s hike a bit.

If we acknowledge that there is a U.S. dollar index cycle and the Americans use this cycle to harvest from other countries, then we can conclude that it was time for the Americans to harvest China. Why? Because China had obtained the largest amount of investment from the world. The size of China’s economy was no longer the size of a single county; it was even bigger than the whole of Latin America and about the same size as East Asia’s economy.

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A Chinese general judges America’s leadership of the world economy

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. They give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. Here the General looks at America’s leadership of the world economy, and its effects on emerging nations. He judges us harshly.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part 2
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission.

B. The Relationship between the U.S. Dollar Index Cycle and the Global Economy

This financial economy (using money to make money) is much easier than the real (industry-based) economy. Why will it bother with manufacturing industries that have only low value-adding capabilities? Since August 15, 1971, the U.S. has gradually stopped its real economy and moved into a virtual economy. It has become an “empty” economy state. Today’s U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has reached US$18 trillion, but only $5 trillion is from the real economy.

… Many people think that imperialism stopped after the U.K. became weak. Actually, the U.S. has conducted a hidden imperialism through the U.S. dollar and has made other countries its financial colony.

… A lot of U.S. dollars went to Latin America … {creating} the economic boom in Latin America in the 1970s. The U.S. dollar index started climbing in 1979. Dollars flew back to the U.S. and other regions received fewer dollars. Latin America’s economy boomed due to an ample supply of dollar investment, but this suddenly stopped as its investments dried up.

… The Latin American economy dropped to the bottom. … Some {Americans} took the money they just made and went back to Latin America to buy the good assets whose prices had just fallen to the ground. The U.S. harvested handsomely from Latin America’s economy.

If this had happened only once, it could be argued as a small probability event. As it has occurred repeatedly, it indicates an intended pattern.

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The American Empire, as seen by a Major General of the PLA

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. These give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. Like any good speech, it grows more interesting as it unfolds. In part one the general describes the foundation of America’s Empire. A brief analysis follows the text.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part one
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission.

A. The First Financial Empire in History

… On August 15, 1971, when the U.S. dollar stopped being pegged to gold, the dollar ship threw away its anchor, which was gold.

Let’s take a step back. In July 1944, to help the U.S. to take over the currency hegemony from the British Empire, President Roosevelt pushed for three world systems: the political system – the United Nations; the trade system – the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which later became the World Trade Organization (WTO); and the currency financial system – the Bretton Woods system.

The Americans’ desire was to establish the U.S. dollar’s hegemony over the world via the Bretton Woods system. However, from 1944 to 1971, the dollar didn’t gain that power. What blocked the dollar? It was gold.

When the Bretton Woods system was set up, the U.S. promised the world that the U.S. dollar would be pegged to gold while every other country’s currency could peg to the dollar. One ounce of gold was fixed at US$35. With this promise, the U.S. couldn’t do anything according to its own will. In other words, the Americans couldn’t print an unlimited number of dollars. Whenever it printed a dollar bill, it had to add one additional ounce of gold into its treasury as a reserve.

The U.S. made that promise to the world because it held 80% of the world’s gold reserve at that time. The Americans thought that, with that much gold in hand, it was enough to support the U.S. dollar’s credibility.

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On Labor Day remember those who worked and bled to create the middle class

Summary: We take the growth of a prosperous middle class as the just due of Americans. In fact generations of union activism played the largest role in creating it, it existed for only a few generations, and now dies. On this Labor Day let’s revisit the lost history of the union movement, and consider lessons we can learn from it.

“To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines. To realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen. To be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father. To know these things is to understand what American labor means.”

— Adlai Stevenson’s speech to the American Federation of Labor in NYC on 22 Sept. 1952.

Union: bargain or beg

Contents

  1. The rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class.
  2. Throwing away what as gained over 150 years.
  3. For More Information.
  4. A note from our past.

 

(1) Rise & Fall of America’s Middle Class

Since 1990 wages are falling as a share of Gross Domestic Income (GDI); profits are rising. The reasons are complex, the result has by now become unmistakable: a shift of our national income from return on labor to return on capital. Since the nation’s wealth is so highly concentrated, the result is rising inequality of income.

Wages as a share of Gross Domestic Income: down and falling. The actual picture for workers is far worse than this, since these “wages” includes the vast sums paid to senior corporate managers — sums beyond anything seen until 1980s.

FRED: wages' share of gross domestic income

Profits as a share of Gross Domestic Income: the long drop reversed, like so many things, during the 1980s. Since then it’s been a holiday for plutocrats.

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William Lind: a voice from the past explains our broken army

Summary: We applaud the heroism and sacrifices of our troops, but remain blind to the incapacity of our army. Here William Lind explains our military’s core problem and how to fix it. Only our intervention will make this possible (excerpt through crushing defeat, as happened to Prussia).

“The spirit of the army is the spirit of its officers.”
— Attributed to Prussian General Ernst von Rüchel (1754-1823).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666). The National Gallery.

 

A Voice From the Past

By William S. Lind

From traditionalRIGHT
25 August 2015

Here with their generous permission

 

Last year, friends gave me a splendid Christmas present in the form of all ten volumes of The Diary of Samuel Pepys covering the years 1660-1670. (As if that were insufficient, they accompanied it with a richly decorated chamber pot for the Imperial Library). Pepys, a civilian, was primarily responsible for developing the first modern naval administration, which turned a collection of ships into the Royal Navy.

The diary’s entry for July 4, 1663, touches on a broader matter. After visiting a general muster of the King’s Guards, Pepys wrote,

Where a goodly sight to see so many fine horse and officers, and the King, Duke (of York) and others come by a-horseback . . . (I) did stand to see the horse and foot march by and discharge their guns, to show a French Marquesse (for whom this muster was caused) the goodness of our firemen; which endeed was very good . . . yet methought all these gay men are not soldiers that must do the King’s business, it being such as these that lost the old King (Charles I) all he had and were beat by the most ordinary fellows that could be.

Pepys’ theme, the defeat of parade-ground armies by “most ordinary fellows”, is an old one. It appears to be unknown to our own military, or, more likely, they know it but cannot conceive it applies to them.

But it does. With all their vastly expensive equipment, they can put on a wonderful show, shows such as Gulf War I and the initial phase of Gulf War II. But once they no longer face another king’s Royal Guards and come up against those ordinary fellows, they lose. The U.S. Marines, who put on a show all the time, and a very convincing one, are now 0-4 against guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs. Pepys’ age-old theme repeats itself.

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Martin van Creveld sees the Rise and Fall of History, followed by Amnesia

Summary: Martin van Creveld looks at one of the great phenomena of our time, one which has seriously damaged our world — the death of history (the study of history). He describes how it happens. See the posts at the end for examples of its ill effects.

Minerva's Owl

 

The Fall and Rise of History

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 16 July 2014

Posted with his permission

I well remember the time when I fell in love with history. This was 1956 and I was ten years old, living with my parents in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. While rummaging in a storage room, I came across a book with the title (in Dutch), World-History in a Nutshell. Greatly impressed by the story of the small, but brave, ancient Greek people fighting and defeating the far more numerous Persian army, I quickly read it from cover to cover. Much later I learnt that the volume was part of a series issued by the Dutch ministry of education and updated every few years. To the best of my memory the one in my hands did mention World War I but not Hitler; hence it must have dated to the 1920s when my parents went to school.

It was World-History in a Nutshell and the wonderful tales it contained that made me decide I wanted to study history. In 1964 this wish took me to the Hebrew University where I started thinking seriously about what I was trying to do. From beginning to end, my aim was always to understand what happened and why it happened. Though it took me a long time to realize the fact, in doing so I, like countless other modern historians, was following in the footsteps of the German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831).

The Rise of History

Hegel’s most important propositions, as I came to understand them, could be summed up as follows.

  1. The past had a real, objective existence. It was, so to speak, solidified present, more or less covered by the sands of time; which meant that, given sufficient effort was devoted to removing the sand, “the truth” about it could be discovered.
  2. In the main it consisted not of the more or less accidental, more or less cranky deeds of individuals but was pushed ever-onward by vast, mostly anonymous, spiritual, economic — this was Marx’s particular contribution — social and technological forces none could control. Men and women were carried along by it like corks floating on a stream; now using it to swim in the right direction, now vainly trying to resist it and being overwhelmed by it.
  3. The past mattered. It was only by studying the past that both individuals and groups of every kind could gain an understanding as to who they were, where they had come from, and where they wanted to go and might be going.

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