Interesting reading for your weekend

Contents

  1. Best comment so far on the surge.
  2. Why do solutions of the second kind not work?
  3. A case study of power and politics today in America
  4.  “Invisible Wounds of War“, RAND (April 2008)
  5. Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath“, Joseph J. Collins, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University (April 2008)

Here they are…

I.  Comment by Reality man to “Surging to Success“, Matthew Yglesias, blogging at The Atlantic (16 April 2008) — Excerpt:

Yglesias:  “We can start taking them out, that is, if progress is made on such minor issues as ‘Basra and the south,’ ‘Local and national elections,’ ‘Refugee return,’ ‘Kirkuk,’ ‘A national oil law,’ and the state of Iraqi Security Forces.  In essence, thanks to the super-duper success of the surge, all we need now is several years of additional war and for all of Iraq’s problems to solve themselves. Mission accomplished!”

Reality man:  “I wonder if there were Japanese generals in August 1945 trying to convince the Emperor that they could continue fighting once they managed to de-nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

II.  By now it is obvious why solutions fo the first kind (new hardware) do not work.  But why do solutions of the second king (ideas about tactics and strategy) not work?  It is not just in military affairs that new ideas alone are not enough…

Economic Survey:  Italy“, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 18 May 2007 — Excerpt, page 37:

There is no lack of ideas, institutional capacity, or good legislation in support of economic reforms in Italy. A main problem is one of implementation, the most common failure in the past.

III.  Power and politics in America:  “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear“, Vanity Fair (May 2008) — “Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics–ruthless legal battles against small farmers –- is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.”

IV.  Invisible Wounds of War“, RAND (April 2008) — Excerpt:

One In Five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer from PTSD or Major Depression. Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment.

As of October 31, 2007, 1,638,817 service members have been deployed to the theaters of operation for Afghanistan (OEF) or Iraq (OIF) since the hostilities began. Of these, approximately, 1.2 million were active component, with 455,009 from the reserve forces  … To provide some perspective on the scope of current military operations, we give statistics on the Vietnam War: Approximately 3.4 million servicemembers, about onethird of them drafted, were deployed to Southeast Asia in support of that war (Department of Veterans Affairs, Public Affairs)

V.  Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath“, Joseph J. Collins, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University (April 2008) — Excerpt:

Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle. As of fall 2007, this conflict has cost the United States over 3,800 dead and over 28,000 wounded. Allied casualties accounted for another 300 dead. Iraqi civilian deaths—mostly at the hands of other Iraqis—may number as high as 82,000. Over 7,500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also been killed. Fifteen percent of the Iraqi population has become refugees or displaced persons. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States now spends over $10 billion per month on the war, and that the total, direct U.S. costs from March 2003 to July 2007 have exceeded $450 billion, all of which has been covered by deficit spending.1 No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans’ benefits or the total impact on Service personnel and materiel.

The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen.2 Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces— especially the Army and Marine Corps—have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please) or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

 

7 thoughts on “Interesting reading for your weekend

  1. If geopolitics (broadly defined) includes the distrust that citizens feel toward their tax-supported law enforcers, perhaps the news story of Michael Burgess is geopolitical, in a Creveldian decline-of-the-state sort of way: “US sheriff charged with raping inmates“, AFP 19 April 2008)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly disagree. I suspect this is a rare event, and this sheriff will probably do serious time. More relevant to your point is the widespread acceptance of male rape in prisons as part of the punishment. Barbaric, dehumanizing, and contrary to the alleged role of prisons as institutions to reform felons — which involves reconciliation of them to our society. That irrationality — indifference of means to the sought-after ends — is characteristic of dying political regimes.

  2. “Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees.”

    That’s the understatement of the month.

    I’ve done a blog entry to show how huge the problem really is: “The standing of the USA in the world” (20 April 2008).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I am not clear about this “moral leadership” thing. Seems a bit dream-like to me.
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    What is the significance of our loss of moral leadership? Also interesting would be comparison of our moral leadership with that of past hegemons: the Spainish Empire under Phillip II, France under Louis XIV, the 18th or 19th century British Empire.

  3. “Relatively little information is available about the quality of mental health care provided in military settings, in large part because DoD has not developed the infrastructure to routinely measure processes or outcomes of care. There have been some efforts to train providers in evidence-based practices, but these efforts have not been broadly disseminated and supported with system redesign.” (Invisible Wounds of War, pp 300)

    When one reads something like this. One can’t help but wonder if the senior leaders of the US armed forces (and any other army for that matter) are not another problem. It smacks of lack of interest. The issue of mental problems caused by war is very old news.

    If what seems to be feet dragging with regards to mental injuries had been the norm in the development of the treatment of “normal” physical battlefield injuries. Then I would fear to think of the number of dead soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan who could have survived and lived well.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That seems a bit harsh. What is your standard of comparison for the militiary health care system? In civilian life we emptied the wards, throwing those incapable of caring for themselves on the street. Our “homeless” population is to a large extent composed of these people. Both left and right found this a right and proper course of action.

  4. Government Authority Is Crossing a Line“, USA Today, 18 April 2008.

    We are fast becoming just one more entry in a long list of pentagon occupied territories. Eight years from now we may be asking, “Who lost the USA?”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Such things do not happen in Heaven, but you must die to get there. They are quite common in almost every society on Earth, however. I think your implied comparison — with an idealic past US when such things did not happen — is not correct.
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    Are such things more or less common now than in the past? In the past most people had no recourse to the courts, and the media gave little attention to such things. Hence I suspect that they were more common. That’s just a guess, however.

  5. “They are quite common in almost every society on Earth, however. I think your implied comparison — with an idealic past US when such things did not happen — is not correct.”

    AFAICT, the exercise of eminent domain was not common in America until the government started getting seriously corrupt and getting into cahoots with railroad robber barons. Further, eminent domain under the color of law is not common everywhere on Earth, AFAICT.

    However, if one compares civil liberties in 1798 USA with 2008 USA, I think it’s evident that the Alien and Sedition Acts weren’t as far-reaching as the Patriot Act.

    Also, I submit that more USA civil servants should treat intra-departmental squabbles as seriously as Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I disagree. Your comparisons are with some idealized dream history of America.

    The standard method 19th century for the rich and powerful to evict people from their land was to hire gunman. The last large-scale incidence of this was (from memory) in 1890’s. It failed like a poor farce, but the gunmen were releasted without trial.

    Similarly, late 19th century strike-breaking was done by hired thugs — sometimes with the aid of police or National Guard.
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    That exercise of political power has shifted to the courts is progress.

  6. In the first place, class warfare is not equal to eminent domain. Eminent domain is when the government forces private owners to sell property for the public good. Class warfare has always been part of American life.

    In the second place, my comment on robber barons isn’t contradicted by your examples. The robber barons started up *before* the War Between the States. Abuse of eminent domain caught its stride right around the War Between the States, and railroad expansion, along with eminent domain, took off afterward.
    See also:
    http://www.nps.gov/archive/fosc/posofsek.htm

  7. “DoD has not developed the infrastructure to routinely measure processes or outcomes of care”.

    After the Vietnam War the lack of effective bureaucratic infrastructure to address this problem comes as a bit of surprise.

    As for health care standards in the Danish Army it’s the same as in the civilian life. Due to the small size of the Danish forces it never made any sense to develop a separate system. Casualties from UN missions and now Afghanistan & Iraq are channelled through our premier hospital, the Rigshospitalet, in Copenhagen. A liaison officer is appointed to keep contact between the army and the soldier & his family. An Army doctor also monitors the treatment carried out at the Rigshospitalet. The army has it’s own specialists with regards to mental problems.

    All other help, say, due to the lose of arms/legs are also covered by the normal welfare system. A soldier is entitled to the same welfare aid as any other citizen suffering from a serious work accident. Additional monetary compensation for injuries is according to the contract and standard practice for the Danish labour market.

    “Our “homeless” population is to a large extent composed of these people. Both left and right found this a right and proper course of action.”

    Well, the same is true for my own country. Of cause the size of the problem may vary.

    A national survey of homelessness from week 6, 2007 by Det Nationale Forskningscenter For Velfærd (roughly translated as the National Research Center for Welfare) showed to following. http://www.sfi.dk/sw51269.asp

    ca. 1 in 1,000 are homeless. A total of 5,253 homeless of whom 552 have to sleep on the streets

    According to the homeless themselves the primary reason was
    Mental illness, 22 %
    Drug addiction, 31 %
    Alcoholism, 33%
    Just been released from prison, 6%
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for this valuable comment. These international comparisons are too rare in American writing (I’m guilty of this, too).

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