The Wall Street Journal has a tribute (registration required) to our soldiers. It concludes:
The patriot Thomas Paine once said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, so that my children may have peace." This is a creed many soldiers adhere to quite literally. To a man, the deployed GIs I know tell me they don't want any waffling or hesitation about finishing the job in Iraq. They say it is much less important that the Iraqi war be over soon than that it be successful, and they know that will take time.
Amid the sour soap opera of Jessica Lynch, Americans should remember that there are many U.S. soldiers who displayed real self-sacrificial heroism in the Iraq War. Just among the 82nd Airborne there are men like Medic Alan Babin, who left a covered position and exposed himself on the battlefield to come to the aid of another soldier. He was shot in the abdomen and is now fighting his way back from the loss of numerous organs, several full-body arrests and 20 operations.
When you talk to our wounded soldiers they say, astonishingly, that they don't regret the fight. Almost universally, they say they are anxious to return to their units as soon as possible. Most American warriors subscribe to the words of John Stuart Mill: "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
It's easy for critics on both the left and right to convince themselves that the U.S. is a decadent society, that our young people have gone soft, that we will never have another generation like the men who climbed the cliffs at Normandy. That judgment, I'm here to report, is utterly wrong. We've got soldiers in uniform today whom Americans can trust with any responsibility, any difficulty, any mortal challenge.
At the end of this strenuous year, we give thanks for them.
Also, Mark at Sha Ka Ree has some key Thanksgiving proclamations.
Stephen Green at VodkaPundit gets it right, while talking about people's reactions to the gay marriage issue:
I like sex a lot.
And not just doing it, either. I like pretty pictures of pretty girls in (and out of) pretty clothes. I like the little whiff of sex you get from perfectly innocent flirtation. I like teasing emails from my bride. I like songs about sex. I like getting reminded of sex I'll never have again, when I walk past the counter of some long-forgotten perfume at the department store. Even better, I like the promise of the sex I'll be having later this week, when I walk by the counter that sells Melissa's perfume. I like those random sex thoughts that pop into my head when I'm trying to get some work done.
I like sex as a married man, and I liked sex with women whose last names I wasn't entirely clear on, and I liked all the sex in-between. I like to make love, and sometimes I just like to fuck. I like sex jokes and sex talk and sex sex sex sex sex sex sex.
Now, before you go thinking I'm some oversexed freak (even though you'd be exactly right), there's a lot of sex stuff I don't like. I don't like leers or wolf whistles or grab-ass-without-an-invitation. I don't enjoy sex as a power game. I don't like the risk of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. I don't like anything dealing with anybody either too young or too drunk to make an informed decision – anything that smacks of rape, really.
And I love women. Girls. Babes. Broads, chicks, skirts, fillies, whatever. I'm a leg man, an ass man, and a breast man. I love that line that runs from just behind her earlobe to just off the center of her collarbone. I love the small of her back and the inside of her wrist and the palm of her hand. Ankles, backs of knees, insides of thighs. Short hair, long hair, curly hair, or straight. The little hairs on her arms that stand up when you touch her just right. And the scents! There's not a place a clean woman doesn't smell good (and a healthy, sweaty woman doesn't smell better) – and no two places on no two women smell quite the same. Or even on the same woman. Variety is the spice of life, and endless variety can be found in just one person – if you know how to look.
This article in the Weekly Standard (hat tip: OxBlog) is a nice analysis of Pentagon planning for transformation, except that it just misses the mark. As with the Pentagon's more ambitious planners, who want to build a single, all-powerful Army of a few divisions, with each soldier being the firepower equivalent of a WWII squad (gun geeks, look no further than this), the authors are too focused on a single event of type of warfare.
Our future wars - the next twenty or more years of American conflict abroad - will largely be split between three types of warfare: rapid invasions and consolidations designed to overthrow a government, the resulting occupation and counter-insurgency, and small-scale raiding (via Marines and Special Forces, mostly) designed to hit non-government organizations like al Qaida.
Each of these wars requires a different, but overlapping, set of capabilities. The invasions need a mix of heavy units like 4ID and 1CAV for punch and staying power with medium divisions (the Stryker units, possibly augmented from the current plans) to provide the initial entry and fix the enemy, destroying light forces and forming a corridor for the advance of the heavy units, which would deploy after the medium units. The counter-insurgency wars and occupations require a lot of light units like 10MTN, 101AB and 25ID, with the backing of a few medium units for extra punch when needed. The low-scale wars and raids quietly going after terrorists in non-permissive environments (OK, countries who don't want us there) require a lot of Special Forces and occasionally Marines.
In every case, there is a difference from our current structure, and the Pentagon is right to address this. Yes, we need to avoid the temptation to focus on just one effort (maneuver warfare) and instead take a broad-based approach. Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk do a service by pointing this out. They do a disservice, though, by not following up with what Pentagon efforts are ongoing (or not) in the other areas.
I'm somewhat of a political junkie (no! it's true!), so I take the position that it's never too early to be thinking about the next presidential election. Frankly, I'm depressed and annoyed.
I will state flat out: there is at this point not a single Democratic candidate that I could reasonably vote for. There's usually one at this point, but he always gets taken out during the primaries. (David Boren or Zell Miller should run, so that I could have a Democrat to think about voting for.) While the Democrat economic policies are usually disastrous or irrelevant, and their environmental policies are usually frivolous at best, these can be forgiven as long as they don't have the power to push their agenda through Congress. (The President is powerful in the short term, but aside from Supreme Court nominations, only the Congress can make long-term directional changes for the country.) What cannot be ignored is the default Democrat position that we should disarm, disengage and pray for peace. There are Democrat candidates who don't think this way (Gephardt I believe falls into this category, as apparently does Lieberman), but they don't do anything for me otherwise, and I don't believe that any of them would be able to appoint an administration that would be able to push through an aggressive foreign policy, because the majority of the Democrat party (from which every significant officeholder would come if any of the current candidates were elected) does not agree with that kind of policy.
Since 9/11, I cannot vote for the Libertarian candidate. The Libertarians have made opposition to war abroad a central position of their party. This is their right, but I cannot vote for them for Federal office as long as this is their stance. (If their candidate repudiates this stance, I'll reconsider.) While I'm normally sympathetic to this position, it's simply not a reasonable alternative in the post-9/11 world. I'd like not to find out one day that Baltimore or Seattle or Dallas no longer exists.
I am not sure about George Bush any more. I thought he was mostly harmless, and in some ways useful, prior to 9/11. I think that his handling of the aftermath to 9/11, including the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, were well planned, well run and the right places to be. But in other ways, the President has been a disappointment to me.
First, he has made no attempt to involve Americans in their own defense. We need to form local militias, organize civil defense and disaster preparedness training and so forth. We need to tell Americans not to rely on government for local defense, because the government simply cannot be everywhere (and we don't want them everywhere). While the President cannot directly control this, he has the bully pulpit, and his leadership would go a long way.
Second, the President has done nothing apparent to provide for the long-term war. We will need to be in Iraq, Syria and probably Saudi Arabia before this is over. While occupation of Iraq may well eventually bring freedom there, we cannot expect to get away without significant intervention from neighboring countries who are threatened by the prospect of a peaceful Iraq with a representative government. Right now, we have no way to really threaten, say, Iran, because we don't have the forces to undertake an offensive, while still holding down unrest in Iraq.
But the President has made no move to stand up more divisions. It takes a few years to do this, and instead we've been relying on Reserves and National Guard. Well, the regular Army is going to have a real problem with reenlistment, because they are spending all of their time deployed without any real recovery time, but this is nothing compared to the Reserves and Guard. We have maybe two to three years before we have a hollow force, unless we reduce our overseas commitments (European interventions and Korea would have to be the first to go, probably) or raise new units. We need at least three more divisions available, to ensure that we can continue our current levels in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than another two or three years. We need more than this if we are going to continue those commitments and maintain a force to threaten Iran or Syria or KSA.
Reimposition of the draft would solve the manpower retention problem, but at a huge cost in American values.
But as it is we appear to be doing nothing about this. And this is foursquare the responsibility of the President. I cannot vote for President Bush unless he can show me that he understands this problem and is working to resolve it. As it is, he seems focused on Medicare and similar issues which, while they need attention, could use less governmental involvement, rather than more. Spending $400 billion over 10 years would be fine if it didn't preclude appropriately sizing and aligning the force structure, but I cannot see the tax cuts, the massive new spending proposals and the war effort all getting done. Right now, the war effort seems to be taking third place, and that's a real problem. In fact, it's enough of a problem that right now I cannot see voting for George Bush next year.
So where does that leave me? I guess it leaves me hoping President Bush will start to show some sense about the long-term problem, and trust the American people enough to make it an election issue. At the same time, I'll be looking into the small parties (smaller even than the Libertarians) to see if there's anyone I can support.
UPDATE (11/25): See also Intel Dump. If these numbers are sustained, the two-year timeframe for personnel shortages will be optimistic; we could see the shortage inside of 18 months.
Steven Den Beste has a fantastic post on what it means to be American.
I've had the great privilege, recently, of spending some time with a man born in the USSR, who was employed in a very sensitive position in their government, and who is alive and here in the US today because of the courage of a State Department official. One of the things that he told me is that it is hard to be a Russian and not in Russia - there's too great of a tie to the land. I told him that it is a good thing that he is American, then.
After that, we drank a lot.
The point is, though, that being American is not about where you were born, or to whom you were born, but what you do and who you are. I grew up largely overseas, and most people both in the US and overseas don't seem to understand this. Americans don't understand that other places aren't that way, and non-Americans frequently don't understand that fundamental quality of Americans. Incidentally, this is one reason why I favor immigration and assimilation: it keeps the American spirit fresh and alive, because it provides a constant infusion of examples of the difference between America and everywhere else.
It's really strange: all this time I've been on contract, I've seen more news on TV (Fox and CNN mostly) than I usually get. And I feel much less informed than I normally do.
Oh, I know about the charges against Michael Jackson, and the maneuvering in a half-dozen other trials of note - or at least of notoriety. I know about the various protests against Bush in Britain - although the reason behind them, the logic involved, and in fact the whole point of the protests somewhat escapes me. These must be the dumbest guys Britain can scrape up, because they've produced some very intelligent people, BBC News apparently excepted.
But I don't have a good feel for what's really happening of interest. I was going to say that we should have a news channel that takes a historical view of every story, and tries to fit it into what people will care about in a hundred years (still, in fact, a good idea), but I realized that the blogosphere already provides a great deal of that context. I missed you guys.