A Democratic Military

In keeping with my emphasis on looking for a Democratic security policy, I found (on Blue Force) that the Center for American Progress has released a proposed Democratic Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) (note – pdf).

It’s interesting; the core is really three points:

First, rescaling the Administration’s ‘1-4-2-1′ policy (1 x defend the United States; 4 x deter aggression in 4 regional centers; 2 x regional combat operations; 1 x decisively win one of those two) into a ‘1-1-2-3′ policy, which they define as “a military that gives first priority to protecting the homeland, can fight and win one major regional conflict, can engage in
two simultaneous substantial peacekeeping and stabilization missions and can deter conflicts in three regions.”

Second, aggressively limiting the U.S. Nuclear arsenal. I don’t know nearly enough about the current U.S. nuclear status or policy (yet) to opine.

Finally, aggressively planning to use the military for domestic security – both pro-actively and in response to possible terrorist actions.

I’ll suggest that the key is “The Pentagon must reintroduce elements of a “threat-based” model that guided its thinking in the immediate post-Cold War period.” Basically, this reads as though the goal is to throttle back the Defense budget and re-enjoy the “peace dividend.”

I hope that’s not what they’re really suggesting…

I do – firmly – agree that we need to think hard about the kind of military we are going to have four years from now.

And I agree with them (CAP) that we need to look hard at Cold-War type programs. They list:

* F/A-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet, which is an unnecessary and costly
supplement to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

* SSN-774 Virginia class submarine, which offers few technological
advantages yet substantially higher costs in comparison with existing

* DD(X) Destroyer, which suffers from innumerable technological
difficulties and ballooning costs without offering any true advantage
over the Littoral Combat Ship.

* V-22 Osprey, which has caused numerous training deaths and
excessive cost overruns and which suffers from unresolved
development issues while offering only marginal advantages over
existing helicopters.

* C-130J transport aircraft, which provides no additional capabilities over
existing transport aircraft and suffers from severe technological flaws.

* Offensive space-based weapons, which can be easily disrupted, are of
no use in low-tech asymmetric conflict, and are far more expensive than
existing technologies while offering few additional strike capabilities.

* Further deployment of the National Missile Defense System, which
offers unproven technology at exceptionally high costs to defend against
a highly unlikely nuclear missile strike against the United States.

I’m not entirely sure about offensive space-based weapons – it depends a bit on how they are defined. I definitely agree that a National Missile Defense System should not be deployed – until it’s passed a lot more tests. I fully support continued research, and eventual deployment of a demonstrably effective system.

The reality is that what we will need in the future decade looks a lot more like Kagan’s ‘Imperial Grunts’ and the civil affairs folks we have in Iraq than the massive, technologically cutting-edge systems we deployed against the industrial and technoical might of the Soviets.

Kagan describes it:

An approach that informally combines humanitarianism with intelligence gathering in order to achieve low-cost partial victories is what imperialism in the early twenty-first century demands.

The Basilan operation was a case of American troops’ applying lessons and techniques learned from their experience of occupation in the Philippines a hundred years before. Although the invasion and conquest of the Philippine Islands from 1898 to 1913 became infamous to posterity for its human-rights violations, those violations were but one aspect of a larger military situation that featured individual garrison commanders pacifying remote rural areas with civil-affairs projects that separated the local population from the insurgents. It is that second legacy of which the U.S. military rightly remains proud, and from which it draws lessons in this new imperial age of small wars.

The most crucial tactical lesson of the Philippines war is that the smaller the unit, and the farther forward it is deployed among the indigenous population, the more it can accomplish. This is a lesson that turns imperial overstretch on its head. Though one big deployment like that in Iraq can overstretch our military, deployments in many dozens of countries involving relatively small numbers of highly trained people will not.

But the Basilan intervention is more pertinent as a model for future operations elsewhere than for what it finally achieved. For example, if the United States and Pakistan are ever to pacify the radicalized tribal agencies of the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands, it will have to be through a variation on how Special Forces operated in Basilan; direct action alone will not be enough.

The readers of this site may not support the exact plans proposed by CAP; they propose a military repurposed to defend and clean up afterwards when the defense breaks down.

But neither can we afford a military unable to project the kind of force and nonlethal presence required to win the kinds of wars we are likely to face in the next decade, ragerdless of the neat systems and contracts that it may own. The CAP proposal is a step toward a national dialog defining that kind of military; we ought to extend that discussion here and try to come to a conclusion of our own.

Yes, I Admit It, I’m A Marxist

Between planning nuclear wars, burning embassies, plain old blaspheming, and accusing each other of being stupid, dishonest, or deranged, the quality of discourse has been strained somewhat.

I’d rather we laughed at ourselves and each other – it’s a good way to get over ourselves. Frequent commenter Daniel Markham is doing something about it.

Call for Authors

Tired of having the same old argument every day with your left/right war/antiwar conservative/liberal friends? Able to make a joke? How about writing some political humor?

I’ve started a new blog www.news2lose.com which is going to be political satire. I don’t care what side of the political fence you are on, if you are able to laugh at yourself and others we’d like to hear it! A spirit of self-deprecation is required — if you want to bash Michael Moore or Dick Cheney have fun with it, but have some class too.

Email me at DanielBMarkham AT hotmail.com for a tryout. If you can write some funny stuff, or at least something different, maybe folks will like hearing about it. This is NOT a commercial venture, just a place to play and have fun. If we can write a few stories a week that make fun of the political climate we are in, maybe we all can loosen up a bit.

I’ll drink to that, as Groucho would have said. And yes, I am a Marxist…Groucho, Harpo, Chico AND Zeppo. There. I’ve admitted it.

Blue on Blue: Comments on the Blue Force Blog

I’ve been watching the ‘Blue Force‘ blog for a while, figuring “hey, maybe theres an ally here.”

I’m not thrilled so far, because the emphasis seems to be less on how to develop a genuine Democratic set of policies around the conflict we’re in (the one that’s broader than the war in Iraq), than in figuring out ‘framing’ exercises for Democratic candidates that inoculate them against the issue – i.e. the Iraq and Afghanistan vets running for office as Democrats.

John Kerry was a genuine soldier – whether you think he was a hero or not, he certainly served credibly – and his handlers made the same mistake, thinking that a service record alone would wrap a Democratic lack of coherent policy in a uniform and make it look strong.

That’s kind of like putting a big spoiler on an economy car and thinking that makes it a race car.What’s needed is an independent effort by Democrats to think through and create a set of policies to address the challenges we’re facing today. These policies need to go past the Jimmy Carter apologetics, to some understanding of how we address the simple fact that people in the world are perfectly prepared to use force and violence against us.

What’s also needed – both from a policy perspective, and a politics one – is to make it clear that these policies are being identified and proposed not for partisan advantage, but because we think they are the best policies to follow.

Which is why I was so deeply disappointed today to see this post:

Unnecessary Worrying About Iran’s Nukes
Submitted by Jason Sigger on Mon, 02/06/2006 – 3:50am.

One might understand the right wing’s concern about Iran’s nuclear weapons and the Bush administration’s rhetoric about not being able to accept a nuclear-armed Iran, but the question has to be asked. Why are the left-wing bloggers at Washington Monthly and Daily Kos echoing the administration’s lines?

Boy, this is wrong on just so many levels.

On a basic one, let me propose this: if the core of Democratic foreign policy and military policy is to be devised to oppose Bush, and make him look bad – as opposed to opposing our enemies and making them look bad – the right-wing point that the progressives see Bush as a bigger enemy than Bin laden is just proved again. By the same people who have taken on themselves the nominal responsibility of creating a national-security policy for the Democratic Party.

I’m working on a longer post about just such a policy, but somehow I don’t think I’ll be quite as interested in what these guys have to say about it. I know commenter Chris won’t be happy about that…

Diebold Refs

I may not be an expert on football, but watching the Super Bowl at my brother’s house seemed to – most of all – have been a potentially great (i.e. close and exciting) game marred by horrible officiating. He is an expert in football, and he was apoplectic.

The Steeler’s first touchdown – questionable. The Seahawk’s first touchdown called back for pass interference – not questionable, but a bit of a BS call. The Seahawk’s second touchdown called back for holding – where? – a horrible call. The Seahawk’s QB called for clipping when he was really tackling – bad call. We agreed that if the Seahawk’s QB’s loss of the ball in the 4th quarter (it popped out when he hit the ground on a run) was called a fumble, we’d turn off the game. Fortunately, the call was reversed on review.

Annoying, at best.

A Conference I’m Planning To Attend

Here’s a conference that will revolutionize your thinking about software development and organizational development as well…Waterfall 2006:

After years of being disparaged by some in the software development community, the waterfall process is back with a vengeance. You’ve always known a good waterfall-based process is the right way to develop software projects. Come to the Waterfall 2006 conference and see how a sequential development process can benefit your next project. Learn how slow, deliberate handoffs (with signatures!) between groups can slow the rate of change on any project so that development teams have more time to spend on anticipating user needs through big, upfront design.

Sessions include:

* Pair Managing: Two Managers per Programmer by Jim Highsmith
* Two-Phase Waterfall: Implementation Considered Harmful by Robert C. Martin
* User Interaction: It Was Hard to Build, It Should Be Hard to Use by Jeff Patton
* FIT Testing In When You Can; Otherwise Skip It by Ward Cunningham
* The Joy of Silence: Cube Farm Designs That Cut Out Conversation by Alistair Cockburn
* Making Outsourcing Work: One Team Member per Continent by Babu Bhatt
* User Stories and Other Lies Users Tell Us by Mike Cohn
* Defect-full Code: Ensuring Future Income with Maintenance Contracts by Kay Pentecost
* Pragmatic Project Chores: How to Do Everything Manually, Over and Over Again by Mike Clark
* The Role of Governance in Process Maturity: We’re Lawyers, and We’re Here To Help by Jackie Chiles
* If It Was Good Enough for Shakespeare: A Fresh Look at the Need for Talent in Software Engineering by Rob Styles

I haven’t been able to register yet…

We’re sorry but registration is not yet ready. Our software developers have a really wonderful design. They’re almost done entering it into it a UML tool. They’ve told us not to worry and that finishing it will be “trivial” because “all that’s left is the coding.”

The Media And The Boy In The Bubble (Me)

I’m still a bit gobsmacked by what I watched on TV last night – not Bush’s speech, which was serviceable and ultimately kind of forgettable – but by watching the media commentators talk about the war and the politics surrounding it.

I’ve been kind of “a boy in a bubble” as far as media is concerned. The last time we had television in our house, the winter Olympics were in Nagano and I wound up going on Jeopardy.

I stopped reading Time and Newsweek and U.S. News maybe fifteen years ago, except on visits to the doctor’s office, and I don’t listen to talk radio. Somehow in my late 30’s, time came to be precious to me and all of those things began (along with reading trash fiction and watching bad movies) to seem like a waste of time.So I’ve really gotten my news from newspapers, the occasional magazine (Atlantic and Harper’s for years, until Harpers fell into insanity, the Economist when I can afford it, Foreign Affairs, Scientific American, Nature, and a passel of car and motorcycle magazines. I’ll insert a plug for “Cook’s Illustrated,” hands-down the best cooking magazine I know of.) and now the Net. And I read books. Lots of books.

So I’m still reeling from watching the commentators on TV last night. I stayed up till 11:30 watching CNN and MSNBC and Fox and C-SPAN, and the world set out by the talking heads on the channels is so freaking different from the world that I see based on what I’ve looked at that I’m honestly not sure how to react.

I want to just dismiss them as delusional, but I think I need to do some thinking and looking before I do.

I will say this – if this represents the tone of mainstream media political commentary, I can’t believe Bush has any support at all. That’s another mystery that needs digging into.

Charge The Guns Or Build Tanks?

In light of the horrible Democratic performance tonight, I thought I’d get this post out…

So down on the Joel Stein thread, there’re some commenters tossing me some chin music which may be worth reading.

Y’know, the last few posts Armed Liberal’s done here really cut to the quick of why I tend to find his pretense of being a common-sense moderate more than a little suspect.

And we were off into a long comment thread about yours truly. One one hand, my role in the real world isn’t important enough that it means that much to successfully dissect my ideas. On the other, since I think that I’ve found a community in blogging – the comment thread has a few fellow Democrats who see things my way – it’s worth half an hour for me to go through the thread and make a few points.

On the one hand, we’ve got this current post, where one guy writing for the LA Times does an editorial making the argument that enthusiastic support for the troops really does imply support for the war in Iraq, and that if you don’t support the war in Iraq, then you should avoid lionizing the troops themselves. It’s not an argument I personally buy into, but I generally don’t see what’s so horrifying about it to war supporters, since many of them have already been making that argument from the other direction – that, since supporting the troops means supporting the war, you must support the war to properly support the troops.

Regardless, this editorial is an opportunity for AL to stand up and cast doubt on the party and ideology he continually claims to still support at some level. Joel Stein is a self-admitted member of liberal elite who’s not gung-ho for the troops? Then a pox on the entire Democratic party, by way of a 112-year-old Teddy Roosevelt essay!

Here’s where we call in rockclimbing ‘the crux move.’ The problem is simple to me; on one hand I think the position is reprehensible, but there are a lot of views I don’t like. The issue is first whether this is a position that is likely to be one that attracts voters; and second, if it did attract voters, would it be good policy? People vote for parties because of the people associated with it – do they trust, respect, and like them? Do they believe they can lead them to the future they are promising? Do they believe that it’s a future worth having if they get there? So what does this column by Joel Stein tell us about where liberals want to take us? Ands does it paint liberals as people worth following?

On the other hand, we had yesterday’s post where, after two or three years of thousands of liberals consistently making the argument that there are real, systemic problems with the Bush administration’s approach to torture issues, AL finally takes note that, hey, maybe there’s more here than a few bad apples. His response is to say that he need to think about it, and that supporters of the war need to take a stand on the issue… but there’s no indication of what stand, exactly, he proposes war supporters take, nor is there anything nearly approaching the garment-tearing that he suggests Stein’s column should trigger on the lefty side.

Donno, I’ve been saying for a pretty long time that there are unavoidably bad consequences to doing the kind of things we’re doing. Bad stuff is going to happen. Some of it by accident, some by hazard, some because people are human and fallible. Now if you study history at all, and look back to World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, the reality is that torture – as we’re defining it in Iraq and Afghanistan – isn’t in the same league, ballpark, or sport as what the Good Guys did then. Is it as good as it should be? No. Is it as good as I thought it was? No. Does this single issue devalue everything that I thought the war is supposed to accomplish? Mmmm. Nope.

So, to recap: years of systemic torture is something Republicans need to think about and take a stand on. Eventually. Last week’s Joel Stein column means Teddy Roosevelt hates the modern Democratic party.

I repeat: the guy who publicly posts stuff like this increasingly doesn’t feel like any flavor of “liberal” to me.

Here I’ve gotta call bullshit. I took a stand when I wrote my post. It may not have been as vehement or definite a position as Chris wishes I would have taken, but I’ll also suggest that Chris – who wants to see the war ended and Bush defeated as primary issues – sees the world differently than I do – who sees succeeding in the conflict with the jihadis as the primary issue. Each of us picks the aspect of the news that reinforces the issue we care about.

Chris goes on.

I understand your point. I think you’re missing my point – that what you’re doing is, at best, naive, and at worst disingenuous.

You keep harping on the idea that the Democrats are under the sway of these radical extremists, and that said extremists are destroying the party’s effectiveness. The first part of that statement is debatable, but even taking it as true for the sake of argument, how does that make the Democrats any different from the Republicans, who are at least as influenced by the worst elements of their party? Are you somehow under the impression that Tom Delay, Grover Norquist, and James Dobson are appealing figures to most of the country, or that they don’t hold considerable sway over the right wing?

I don’t think the first point – “that the Democrats are under the sway of these radical extremists, and that said extremists are destroying the party’s effectiveness” – is at all debatable – Kerry posting diaries on Kos, Cindy Sheehan as a guest of a Democratic lawmaker at the State of the Union, – how in the world can you suggest that “these radical extremists” aren’t sitting at the front of the bus?

If you were taking equal time to trash both sides, that’d lend some credence to your claim that you’re doing this in hopes that the Dems will improve themselves, but the only Republicans I’ve seen you trash lately are Cal state GOP folks – you seem to go out of your way not to directly critique Bush. That’s not gonna endear you to actual Democrats – i.e., the people who you need to convince if you actually want things to change.

Hey, let me restate something. The way for the Democrats to win isn’t to stand up and charge over the tops of trenches into the machine guns, but to build tanks. Forgive me for not signing on as cannon fodder.

Likewise, the fact that you’re hanging out here at WoC – a place increasingly populated with guys like Jim Rockford above, who already profoundly dislike the Democrats – rather than arguing with guys like Kevin Drum or even, horror of horrors, Matt Yglesias, doesn’t suggest that you’re likely to meet with much success. It’s like bitching about unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry at a vegetarian restaurant – it’s not really gonna change anything with the people who matter. All it really seems to do is validate the increasingly bad opinion of a bunch of guys who were prejudiced towards the left to begin with. You’ve said in the past that it helps you focus your ideas to post things out here, but if you’re increasingly divorced and anathema to actual Democrats, what good are focused ideas gonna do?

I argue with Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias a lot – less in the last few months, but what you’re really asking, I’m guessing, why I don’t hang out with the kids over there. Party an accident of history – Joe invited me, and Kevin didn’t. But in reality, I think I’d have been chased away from TAPPed even if I had been invited over there.

Lastly, I personally find your priorities to be utterly bizarre for a supposed liberal. You claim to support progressive values, but what “pisses you off” isn’t the actual setbacks that Bush has dealt those values, it’s the fact that the Democratic party isn’t purged of the people you disagree with. You claim that Stein and his ilk are to blame, but given how close the ’04 election was, I’d argue that had a handful of people such as yourself not been so persuaded by the FUD directed at John Kerry, all this talk about electoral oblivion would be directed entirely towards the GOP. Instead you supported Bush… and again, it’s not even that you’re pretending that Bush is perfect, but that you by and large refuse to discuss any issues you might have with the guy, preferring instead to “deflect” talk of torture and avoid blogging about it because you “feel it’s somehow expected of you”. And any damage done to progressive values is the fault of those damn progressives in LA and Manhattan and the Bay Area, and nothing to do with how you, y’know, actually voted.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. Damage done to those progressive values in the last decade of Republican power is directly attributable to the craven, abject failure of the liberal Democrats to manage to mount a sustainable defense. Didn’t you read the post when I asked if Brian Leiter wanted to kill poor people? The Democratic Party as constituted today is the modern version of the Italian army. Expensive, attractive, and useless.

Color me unconvinced, AL. Make no mistake, I think you’re a nice guy, and probably do believe in a lot of lefty stuff… but your words and actions seem to undercut your beliefs, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to keep pointing that out until you can show how what I’ve written above is incorrect or unreasonable.

Well, I’ll try harder to convince you, because when I can enlarge the constituency for building tanks, we might actually win.

Commenter Andy jumps in.


I have come to the conclusion that it is of little or no value to view AL’s positions in the context of any alleged political ideology…primarily because I don’t think his views represent a coherent philosophy for the following reasons.

One criticism I have of his blogging is that he trying to represent himself as an important segment of the “center-left” who should be heavily courted by the Dems. This “hook” is supposed to be why anyone should pay attention to what he says. It is the cyber-electoral equivalent of hiking up your skirt to hitch a ride.

But if anything, he has only convinced me that the slice of the political spectrum he represents is small and electorally unattractive (i.e., he’s got hairy legs). Two pieces of evidence support this view: 1) His choice to post on this particular Pro-war blog populated largely by principled conservative/libertarian wing Republicans and lukewarm Bush supporters who are mostly thoughtful and well-tempered, themselves a rare and endangered political breed; and 2) His posts are rarely, if ever, linked to from elsewhere in the blogosphere.

I’m not trying to slam on the dude, really, but his claim to be representative of an important voting sector does not seem to be borne out by even a cursory look at the available evidence (which does not include the supportive anecdotal testimony that he occasionally receives from a fellow WofC poster).

Well, Andy you’re saying things that are empirically verifiable. How do you think the Democrats will do in 06? Let’s have a little bet; what do you think the net change will be in the House and Senate, given how insignificant my little cohort looks? ready to step up and show me what the Kossaks can do?

Oh, and for grins, Technorati will give you an idea of how often I’m linked from elsewhere in the blogosphere (hey, I do have an ego…)

Time Says We’ve Lost

Time’s Iraq correspondent – Michael Ware – is speaking on CNN right now, and he’s flatly declaring that Iraq is a lost cause.

“The great lie of his address is the success in Iraq – the only way out is alternative energy.”

Here’s an interesting question – is he right, and are those like me, who may talk to a few Iraqis and read military bloggers and think we’re doing better than CNN and Time show us – flatly wrong?

Or, is it that he’s wrong, and those – like, say Matthew Yglesias, who read mainstream analysis and think we’re doing worse than CNN and Time show us – wrong?

An interesting question.

[Update: Tucker Carlson (?) on CNBC thinks the only issue is whether we’re too embarassed in our loss. ]

SOTU, Media, Blogging

It’s just darn amusing to me that the two bloggers on CNN tonight (did I mention that we got television for the Winter Olympics? Bring on the ice dancing, baby…) are Andrew Sullivan and Arianna Huffington?

I mean how much more ‘bloggie’ can you get than a journalist publishing on Time Magazine and Arianna?

Arianna is holding hands with Cindy Sheehan and pushing the party to take Bush on about Iraq…more on this later.