Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Thoughts

As Memorial day ebbs into night I would like to spend a few moments considering where our nation is, and where it appears to be going. Each of us has spent this weekend within ourselves, as we saw fit. There were the obligatory rememberences, the mandatory sound bites from the politicians, the barrage of war films on TV, but for many there lingers the pain and anguish of combat past, and the scars from those battles. War is not glorious, and when it is fought without respect for the enemy, and when it is conducted by those who give no regard for life it leaves vast populations crippled, scared, and damaged, both physically and mentally.

During and after the Vietnam conflict American soldiers came home to an unfeeling nation, wrapped up in its own desire to forget the conflict, and as a result we forgot the survivors of that conflict. This time we've convinced ourselves we will remember, but how many have given more than a passing thought during a news story? How many have seen the survivors of a roadside bombing and offered encouragement as they struggle to return to a sense of normalcy?

If you believe in God, pray for all who are savaged in this conflict against evil that they may find peace within themselves and not foster the hate that has caused this outrage against all civilization.

Few words have summarized the sacrifice of Americans as well as Abraham Lincoln's address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never
forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On War, with apolgies to Carl von Clausewitz

With America's failure in Vietnam the US Army returned to the study of strategy, and with the creation of Air-Land Battle doctrine embraced the fundamental precepts espoused by Baron Carl von Clausewitz nearly 150 years earlier. It was intended the understanding of strategy should be fundamental in how the force was shaped to win the next war. At the time, America's number one perceived threat was the Soviet Union, and the concepts of "On War" fit nicely within the context of what the Army wanted to shape itself to. This seemed to be validated by the the overwhelming success in our first Iraq war when we fought an Army trained in Soviet tactics.

What seems to be lost, to most military, in the study of von Clausewitz is the fundamental understanding military operations are ALWAYS subordinate to the political. At the tactical level they may be the most visible projection of political will, but in the strategic they have to support the national political objectives. People who dismiss "On War" as only relevant to full scale conflict seem to think that Baron von Clausewitz failed to understood limited national objectives. I believe he only ran out of time to edit those thoughts before he died. 

Within our political system, the military suffers each time they attempt to get in front of the political objectives. In our current national debate, the politicians do not seem to understand how important a common and agreed political purpose must be. This is especially critical when we have limited national objectives, such as now. For in that time, dissent and debate clouds the true purposes and causes the military leadership to lose focus.

We are in the midst of a long, ambiguous, and cloudy ideological conflict. I believe the dangers in engaging non-state actors, like pirates, or the Taliban, will cause us to overlook the larger political questions of religious coexistence between the Muslim and non-Muslim world. The non-religious will dismiss this as an absurd idea, but where do the terrorists and extremists come from? The average American, and our average politician think the world thinks like us. It does not, and until we understand that and come to grips with how to act with those who don't think as us we are at risk.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Random Thoughts

Why is the news media so fascinated by the first 100 days of a Presidency? I heard one journalist explain it is because Franklin Delano Roosevelt set a bench mark for accomplishments. Funny thing, I don't remember the press raising a big deal on JFK's, LBJ, RMN, or RR's first 100 days, but maybe its because we didn't have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, CNN-HL, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX, BBC, ET AL, trying to fill our 24/7/365 with worthless trivia.

H1N1 -- Wow, after all the discussion on the news this weekend about pandemics and the scourge of the swine flu I am sure we are all going to die.

Vacation Planning and AADD -- right, that will happen!

Golf -- I love the game for its demand on self control and occasional reward of a good shot.

Cats -- can't live with them, can't make slippers out of them.

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" -- I don't think Tennyson ever married!

Saving for a rainy day does not mean you spend each rainy day in the mall!

Obesity -- if you are on a beach and the crowd gathers around and tries to roll you back into the surf, you're obese!

Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment -- I don't think the founding fathers considered assault rifles as necessary for a common defense. If AK-47's are okay, then why not M1A1 tanks for that rush hour commute?

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