Category Archives: History

Learning from the past

Martin van Creveld looks at the experience of women in the Israel Defense Forces

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld looks at the revolution in military affairs (the real one) — the integration of women into western armed forces. The Israel Defense Forces has the most experience with this, and their experience can help us understand our future. These are scraps of data, useful only because we have so little. What have been the roles of women in guerrilla forces? What are the comparative injury and disability rates of women and men in front-line units and jobs? Their comparative costs? Eventually we will get answers.

The Karakal Battalion of the IDF

The Karakal Battalion of the IDF, 13 November 2007. Published by the IDF under a Creative Commons license.

Not-Hot

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 7 April 2016
Posted with his generous permission

The recent celebration of “international women’s day” gave the Israel Defense Force (IDF) an opportunity to publish some figures as to the number of women serving in its ranks and the Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) in which they do so. What makes the question important is the fact that the IDF is the only army in the world to conscript women. Consequently it has more of them, proportionally speaking, than any other. From 1949 to about 1970 it was also the only one which gave them weapons training, albeit one that was purely symbolic. Foreigners attending the annual Independence Day parades, or happening to meet the women as they went on route marches, marveled to see the combination of cleavage and Uzi submachine guns. One which, for reasons Freud might explain, few could resist.

As Western armed forces, with the American one at their heads, started expanding the role of women beyond administration (secretaries) and medical services (mainly nurses), from 1970 on, the IDF was left behind. Only in the late 1970s, owing to the vast expansion occasioned by the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, did an acute shortage of manpower lead to a reassessment. The next push was given by American-style feminism which reached Israel in the mid-1980s, not long after peace with Egypt was signed. Since then Israeli feminists have been loudly demanding women’s right to serve in any capacity, combat included. Now that the figures have been published we can answer the question, how successful have they been?

First, the background. The IDF active force, including both regulars and conscripts, numbers 176,000 troops. Of those about 30% (58,000) are female. The mobilized force, reservists included, numbers 600,000 (on paper). However, since women in spite of recent changes in the law rarely serve in the reserves, their percentage in it is much lower. According to the figures, the total number of female “fighters” in the regular force is said to be 1,593. All are volunteers; unlike men, who are assigned, women only serve in “combat” if and when they want to. In other words, under 3% of female soldiers serve in “combat” units.

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What the press won’t tell you about Trump and populism

Summary: Populism’s resurgence has, as always, terrified our ruling elites and their servants. Since most journalists don’t understand it, Campaign 2016 is a series of surprises to them. This excerpt from Walter Russell Mead’s famous essay about Andrew Jackson’s populism is a first step to doing so. First, populism is almost as old as the Republic (2016 is just its latest resurgence). Second, populism is different from conservatism…

Two populists: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump

From the early stirrings of his campaign, the similarities between Trump and Andrew Jackson were obvious — as seen in these superficial articles by PBS and The New York Post, and this recent one in the NYT. Trump’s isolationist foreign policy (but bellicose towards threats), his hostility to both Wall Street bankers and minorities, his concern for the poor, his appeal to national greatness — these astonished our elites in 1830 and again each time populism arises. They despised Jackson in 1830 as they despise Trump today.

Since the foolish rebuttals have failed to derail Trump’s campaign (e.g., running silly pictures of Trump, mocking his soundbites while ignoring his policies, and authoritarian condemnations), let’s try understanding what’s happening before our now-standard recourse to hysteria (so aptly mocked on South Park). Populism is crude, nativist, — and racist (our original sin that has tainted almost everything from the Founding to the New Deal). But it addresses ills in America that our leaders enjoy, so our political gurus work to keep you from learning about populism and its latest expression via Donald Trump.

The populist resurgence will not end with Trump in November. To better understand it I recommend starting with Walter Russell Mead’s seminal essay explaining the strengths and weakness of populism — as one of the four core Americn political traditions. It’s a must-read to understand the surprising rise of Trump.

Excerpt from “The Jacksonian Tradition

Walter Russell Mead in The National Interest, Winter 1999/2000

The School of Andrew Jackson

With the ever ready help of the brilliant Martin Van Buren, he took American politics from the era of silk stockings into the smoke-filled room. Every political party since his presidency has drawn on the symbolism, the institutions and the instruments of power that Jackson pioneered.

… His political movement — or, more accurately, the community of political feeling that he wielded into an instrument of power — remains in many ways the most important in American politics. Solidly Democratic through the Truman administration (a tradition commemorated in the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners that are still the high points on Democratic Party calendars in many cities and states), Jacksonian America shifted toward the Republican Party under Richard Nixon — the most important political change in American life since the Second World War. The future of Jacksonian political allegiance will be one of the keys to the politics of the twenty-first century.

Suspicious of untrammeled federal power (Waco), skeptical about the prospects for domestic and foreign do-gooding (welfare at home, foreign aid abroad), opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies), Jacksonians constitute a large political interest.

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Playing The Bubble Game: Investing In The 21st Century

Summary: Investment commentary these days overflows with mentions of bubbles. The concept is vital to understanding our economy yet encrusted with myths in the minds of most investors. This post cuts through those to the known history and theory of bubbles. As usual with economics, this gives us clues about the future – but only clues.  {Second of two posts today.}

  • We’re in an era of bubbles, but they’re masked by myths.
  • Understanding their history and dynamics can guide our investing.
  • Bubbles create high risks not easily managed.
  • Failure to prepare for these risks has created serious losses, and will do so again.

Bubbles

Bubbles in history

“You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man.”
Title of W. C. Fields’ 1940 movie, harshly and cynically describing the essence of bubbles.

Bubbles are an inherent aspect of free market systems, easily produced in classroom exercises. Whether managing a nation or a portfolio, they must be understood.

Those who lived through the giant 19th century UK and US investment bubbles would find our bubbles quite familiar. Journalist and promoter Charles Mackay participated in several, and the scars from them led to his bitter polemic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds. See more about this history in “Charles Mackay’s own extraordinary popular delusions and the Railway Mania” by the brilliant Andrew Odlyzko (Prof Mathematics, U MN).

Then and now, bubbles have common characteristics.…

Read the rest at Seeking Alpha. Post your comments there.