Libya And Strategic Deficits

Blake Hounshell’s (remember praktike? he’s a genuine Big Deal now…they grow up so damn fast…) Twitter stream, I’m sent (approvingly) to Dan Nexon’s ‘The Duck of Minerva’ blog, where he writes (approvingly) about the lack of a doctrinal cover for Obama’s intervention in Libya.

Now I have mixed feelings about this intervention; on one hand the lid is coming off the Arab kleptocracies as I discussed back in ’03 – which is a Good Thing. But we have no plans or capabilities in place to compete for the allegiance and affection of the lately-oppressed people whose dictators we supported for a generation – which is a Really Bad Thing.

But here’s Nexon:

That kind of thing makes liberal hawks get all starry eyed. But what makes Libya different than most of the other places where tyrannical governments do nasty things to their citizens isn’t terribly Wilsonsian:

* Qaddafi’s rule over Libya is, on balance, a net negative for US interests;

* The US doesn’t care much for most of his friends either;

* He’s sitting on not insignificant fossil fuel deposits;

* He has no real support among the great powers; and

* The UK, US, and France really, really, really don’t like the guy.

Well, gosh, that’s not very useful. because if that’s good policy, then invading Iraq made perfect sense – and as we all know, the smart kids have all determined that it made no sense (I’m remaining on the fence myself, but I’m neither smart nor a kid).

Here’s the issue; in my work I’m talking to people all the time about the difference between a strategy and a platitude. Platitudes sound a lot like strategies, but there’s a key difference – they don’t help shape action in a meaningful way. So just as science requires that a theory be falsifiable in order to be scientific, strategy has to cover certain actions and not others, and group actions into necessary, good, unnecessary and bad.

And unless the modern foreign-policy commentariat can a) make up a strategy that distinguishes Libya from Iraq (except by saying that for the fact that one is the product of a good president, and one the product of a bad one), or b) determine that Iraq was just as good a strategic idea as Libya – we’re flat out of strategies.

And that’s a Bad Thing. It’s a bad thing first because being able to articulate a strategy is the way that we – the American polity – buy in, and buy in is needed if we’re going to spend $600M/week in these parlous times. It’s also the way that we have a chance to attract all those struggling for liberation – for ideals. What ideals are we trying to project, and how? What are we asking of them to defend those ideals, and what are we prepared to spend in turn?

Like it or not, those are strategic questions. And simply saying that good interventions, like p0rn, are something we know when we see, is nowhere near enough.

Do-over, Nexon? prak?

SFC. Carlos Santos-Silva

Today is the anniversary of his death in Afghanistan, where he served with my son. He is survived by his widow Kristen and son Cameron, and by all those who remember him.

My son was in town this weekend, and last night after dinner he and a guest were talking about his time in Afghanistan. Our guest asked him about good memories, and he talked about the day they were on mounted patrol, drove through a town where they smelled a delicious bakery and all talked about it. On the trip back, SFC. Santos-Silva called a halt, set up a perimeter and overwatch, and walked into the bakery, buying everything on the shelves and some “disgustingly sweet” local energy drink.

They drove back to the COP eating fresh pastry and laughing…


Update: Corrected SFC Santos-Silva’s rank.

About That Whole “Civility” Thing…Althouse Gets Threats

…I think it’s (sadly) already become passe.

Ann Althouse and Meade have been covering the demonstrations in their backyard in Madison.

Today, some Madison jackass using the name Jim Shankman published a threat/blackmail letter on Scrib’ed (probably a violation of the TOS) in which Anne and Meade are instructed to apologize, pay $10,000 to the IWW and other ‘progressive’ organizations (plus free pizza for the protesters!), maintain silence about political issues relating to unions, and stay away from a statue in downtown Madison.

Read the whole piece while it’s up (it’s a massive TOS violation and won’t be there long).

I’ve had a couple people rattle my cage – nothing very serious because I’m not at Althouse’s level of prominence (or maybe because I’m the “Armed” Liberal?).

But this kind of bullying bullshit is far beyond the pale, and while it’s the work of one person – named Jim Shankman – clearly it opens the gates for him, or for someone who reads his drivel (and it’s really bad – a farrago of sexual, political, and economic frustration written by someone who isn’t smart enough to understand that overpaid public-sector workers are making his life as a marginal service worker worse) to tee off on Anne or Meade.

That’s bad.

It’s likely nothing at all except shameful to the guy who wrote and posted it, and to the whopping 82 people who have “liked” it.

This kind of personalized threat is the opposite of what our politics needs right now.

Thomas Lynch 1927 – 2011


My mother’s partner, an Irish physicist who had stories and love enough for ten men. And if that weren’t enough reason to love him, he adored the boys and they adored him.

Have a glass of Knob Creek or Tullamore (neat) and drink to a life damn well lived.

Send More Jets

Uncle Jimbo (in his grown-up persona as Jim Hanson) has a piece in the Washington Examiner highlighting SecDef Gates’ recent comments in which he both pushes for a technologically superior and deep defense structure and says that we should never use it again in Asia or Africa.

Jim is defending the F35 program; I’ve been changing my attitude on that program from critical (we keep building overpriced, less-effective swiss-army-knife defense systems) toward positive (it sure seems to be working – except possibly for the VTOL variant – and we are going to need some better tech pretty darn soon).

More on this in a bit – it’s probably worth trying to think it out in a post.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other, Says Joe Gandelman

Gandelman on pranking Gov. Walker.

Gandelman on pranking NPR.

(note the hair-tugging grief about the future of journalism in the latter post)

I think that if you want to understand the larger implications of both “punk’d” interviews, you need to go read Jeff Jarvis talking about radical transparency (note that his take on the NPR events is colored – badly, I think – by his relationship with NPR).


My mom called at midnight last night.

She never married Tom Lynch; for the last 20 years, they have just been together – having fun, feuding, taking care of each other. And for the last 20 years, he’s been an integral part of our lives, and of the lives of the boys – all of whom adore him.

Tom has a relationship with his own children – I think nine of them – that we don’t completely see; there is history there going back far into their shared past. But his children have this amazing history of success. Colum Lynch of the Washington Post, Niall Lynch of Latham, the televison producers Joey and Tom Lynch…and those are just the ones I know of.

For the last year, mom has been amazingly selfless in caring for Tom as he’s battled with kidney disease, heart disease, and then lung cancer. Then as Tom’s energy and capabilities declined, she had been working with him family to get Tom into an assisted living facility.

Too late.

Last night he fell and broke his hip, and he’s now in the hospital in Santa Monica on a respirator as his condition declines rapidly.

He missed our family birthday dinner two weeks ago – said he didn’t feel well enough to come, and asked us to come by later, not that day. We said “Sure” and made plans to see him after this trip.

Don’t ever do that…go then regardless.

I want to rush home from North Carolina where I write this, but I know that it’s his family’s movie now, and that I need to keep myself – we need to keep ourselves – to the background.

But I can do one thing. Tom was a devout Irish Catholic in the years we knew him, and I can ask all of you to pray for him today.

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