(Guest post! Michael Doidge is a historian at the Combat Studies Institute where he created the U.S. Army’s first digitally interactive military history. Here he tells us about how he went about it. With bonus Russian Reversal title!)
During the first days of my MA, my professor asked the incoming classes to go around the room and say something about ourselves. The student sitting next to me casually stated, “I can read and speak several languages.” It was my turn next. I had nothing to follow that act, so I offered a meek and self-deprecating riposte.
“I am also fluent in several languages.”
As expected, the professor asked which ones.
“C, C++, Visual Basic, Java, Pascal…”
The class got a laugh, the nerd in me smiled, and the digital historian working ten years later thinks “And that ain’t bad.”
In March of 2013 the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) released…
Not all deaths in the military come from combat, or during wars:
Interestingly, in the raw numbers, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had death counts that were actually matched or surpassed by those of the military in the early 1980s, when the US was mostly at peace. When the graph is by deaths as a percentage of the active duty military, that changes:
In this case, the percentage of deaths rises higher during the 2000s than it was during the 1980s.
Some of the differences come simply from size. The military of the 2000s was about two-thirds the size of the military of 1980s and thus, by demographics alone, that larger population would see more deaths. But what is most notable is the way that both accidents and homicides have gone down.
Americans describe things as “constitutional,” and “unconstitutional.” They talk about the “Bill of Rights” and the “Second Amendment.” These descriptors seem like they should be timeless or, at least, in consistent use since the beginning of the USA.
Note that both have been used pretty consistently since 1800. There haven’t been great fluctuations. Obviously, this is just one measure, but it seems that Americans have long thought about things as constitutional or unconstitutional.
Here, the story is different. Starting in the New Deal Era, mentions of the Bill of Rights in American books more than doubled, suggesting that as government grew, Americans became much more concerned about individual rights and their guarantees.
“In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase ‘Bill of Rights,’ comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights.”
Here the jump is in the 1930s, not Reconstruction.
But how about the founders? A search of the Federalist Papers for “Bill of Rights” reveals 19 hits, including several lengthy discussions by Hamilton of the English Bill of Rights, the bills of rights in several states, and whether the nascent Constitution needs a Bill of Rights. …
Using the invaluable running tab of votes kept by David Wasserman of the Cook Report, I did a map outlining turnout difference between 2008 and 2012. Blue states are where turnout was higher in 2012, red states are where it was lower. New Hampshire matched its 2008 turnout:
A few comments:
The Atlantic seaboard states with large African-American populations (South Carolina to Maryland) increased their turnout
Western swing states with large Hispanic populations increased their turnout and brought Utah along with them.
The Upper Midwest came out in droves (excepting MI)
New York and New Jersey saw substantial drops, likely due to Sandy
Florida had nearly $170 million advertising dollars spent in it, which may have driven people to the polls (if only to get away from their TVs)
Notably of the swing states, Ohio turnout was down 2.23% from …
Coalition fatalities in Afghanistan by month, since January 2010 (from here):
Fatalities, season-to-season, have been on a steady downward trend since their peak in 2010. Measuring victory and loss in counterinsurgencies in notoriously difficult (for an earlier discussion of this with respect to Iraq, see here), but by this measure and at the moment, the coalition seems to be winning militarily in Afghanistan. Whether that constitutes “victory” in the larger sense requires a much larger political, social, and diplomatic discussion.
Luftbilddatenbank, based on the top floor of Carls’ home just outside Würzburg in the southern state of Bavaria, specializes in finding bombs using old aerial photos. In the last five years, the company has digitized hundreds of thousands of images, developing a database of geographical coordinates and archival reference points that let them request photos of specific locations from collections of wartime photos in Washington, DC, and Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Air Force has more drones and more sensors collecting more data than it has humans to interpret what the electronic tea leaves say. The glut of all that video and still imagery is “unsustainable,” says the Air Force’s top civilian — but it’ll be “years” before the Air Force digs its way out of it.
As the article points out, there are various levels of processing needed. There’s a need for an immediate triage of imagery for time-sensitive operations. If an American unit’s under attack, the imagery that might help them can’t go in the normal processing queue. But there’s also the general processing, that might yield information useful over the medium or long term.
Repurposing a comment I made in this thread, I thought I would run a chart of American military fatalities in Afghanistan. I use American military fatalities “as a quick and dirty way to tell how things are going in a US counterinsurgency effort, figuring that killing an American soldier is always a valuable achievement for an insurgent, that American soldiers (especially in the respective surges) are in harm’s way, that killing one requires mobilizing a certain amount of effort on an insurgency’s part, and that (perhaps most importantly) the Pentagon can’t really fudge the number of deaths (they can with wounded; the definition of “wounded” changed in the middle of the Iraq War to, shock! surprise!, reduce the numbers). It’s not perfect (not nearly so), but it worked pretty well for me looking at Iraq in 2008 and 2009.” Note that this is not a statement about the morality …
The sources available to historians jump exponentially for the post-1945 era. The rise of typewriters, copy machines, computers, and printers created a blizzard of paper that shows no sign of ending. Add into that all the electronic files, email, and the like, not to mention oral history recordings, and historians studying the years after World War II might be forgiven for having a thousand-yard stare and powerful bifocals. Google (which I am using as a generic word for search & indexing of all type. There goes the trademark) has helped some, but has its own problems.
Now comes the flood of video. The Air Force, the linked article notes, collects 6 petabytes (which is technical language for “Holy sh#$%$#%, that’s a lot of data”) of high-definition video per day. Such video could be remarkably useful for military historians (want to watch a combat engagement in real time?) but…
Having ended up with thousands of photographs from an archival research trip to Britain, I returned to the United States and realized that I had to figure out what to do with them. In essence, by using the digital camera, I had transferred the work of sifting, reading, and note-taking the sources from the archive itself to my home. What had been a concentrated effort in the archive, with multiple layers of seeking, finding, and judging all going on at the same time, had become more spread out.
The solution lay in both new tools and new methods. Unlike my earlier approach, I actually planned out ahead of time the process I was going to use to take notes. I would load the pictures into Scrivener, my writing tool of choice at the moment, and take notes on them directly into the program. That way I wouldn’t have to switch back and forth between photo…
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is an associate professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).