April 12, 2013, 6:50 pm
On this day in history, I note, the South started the Civil War by shelling Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The war, which went on for four years, was over the “peculiar institution” of slavery, and ended with over 350,000 Americans dying (as did over 300,000 Confederates). It was the largest, most violent war in American history and saw the work of the greatest general in American history, Ulysses S. Grant.
April 11, 2013, 9:07 pm
Almost seven decades after the end of the war, residual explosives that were hardly taken seriously for a long time are now coming to light in the North and Baltic Seas. Experts estimate that there are 1.6 million metric tons of conventional and chemical ammunition in German territorial waters alone, unexploded time bombs lying in or on the sea floor. The unexploded ordnance (UXO) includes giant aerial bombs weighing hundreds of kilograms, 15-kilo shells, small high-explosive shells, hand grenades, detonators and ammunition rounds, for a total of more than 50 million individual items.
Nothing like a little mustard gas to spoil your fishing trip.
(h/t Jonathan Beard)
March 20, 2013, 11:35 pm
Ezra Klein is a national treasure. Kenneth Pollack is not. He’s not because of gems like this (which, I’m sorry to say, E.K. brought into)
I supported Kenneth Pollack’s Iraq war.
In 2002, Pollack, a Persian Gulf expert who’d worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, published “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.” Pollack’s argument, in short, was that Saddam Hussein was an unusually reckless, cruel and self-deluded dictator who either had weapons of mass destruction or was very close to attaining them. His past, which included catastrophic wars with Iran and Kuwait, murderous rampages against his own people, erratic personal behavior and a clear aspiration toward regional hegemony, suggested that he wasn’t the sort of tyrant who could be contained or reasoned with, and so Pollack’s reluctant, unhappy conclusion was that he …
March 19, 2013, 2:45 pm
G.S. Newbold, a retired Lieutenant General in the Marines, has an article in Time, entitled “Seven Myths About ‘Women in Combat.’” Like most articles with the word “myth” in the title, it implies that it is offering a clear-eyed and tough look at the issue. What it’s really doing, instead (and unsurprisingly), is giving a fresh coat of paint to the standard line of opposition to women in combat.
I can’t be bothered to do much more than offer a one sentence comment, response, or translation to his myths. I promise no fairness at all. After all, as Lt. Col Newbolt points out gravely, “‘Fair’ is not part of the direct ground combat lexicon,” although I’m unsure if “direct ground combat lexicon” is a book, a language, or a disease.
Here it goes, in order*: 1. No, it’s about women in combat, were you not there for the powerpoint? 2. What’s with this ‘women as wilting flowers who can’t …
February 28, 2013, 2:32 am
Breitbart has the scoop:
Journalists on the campaign trail saw [President Lyndon] Johnson drunkenly board a plane armed with nuclear weapons and then accidentally drop them on the United States. Luckily, by the grace of God, they did not go off.
The day is not lost as long as there’s a Dr. Strangelove reference possible.
February 26, 2013, 9:16 pm
The difficulties of figuring how one side is doing militarily in a war where terrain is less than important are legion, even without allowing for errors:
The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan incorrectly reported a decline in Taliban attacks last year, and officials said Tuesday that there was actually no change in the number of attacks on international troops from 2011 to 2012
The reputed 7% decline previously reported had been the basis for administration statements that the Afghanistan insurgency was on its way out:
In mid-December, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said “violence is down,” in 2012, and that Afghan forces “have gotten much better at providing security” in areas where they have taken the lead role. He said the Taliban can be expected to continue to attack, “but overall they are losing.”
Well, maybe. It’s hard to know, given a lack of information…
January 28, 2013, 4:58 pm
It’s about time. The reality, of course, is that women have been in combat for a long time, and nowhere more than in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the front lines rarely exist except in the most fluid way. This is exemplified by the awarding of Silver Stars–the nation’s third highest medal for valor–to two women, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
I covered a fair bit of this in 2009:
The integration of woman into the armed forces over the last several decades has been a contentious and slow process, with an enormous amount of resistance to the idea of women serving both from within and without the military. The debate over women in the military presaged and in some ways predicted the debate of gays in the military. Women would destroy combat cohesion; they were physically weaker than men and would be unable to handle the physical requirements of military life; the…
January 23, 2013, 6:37 pm
Senator Rand Paul, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today:
Mr. Paul told Secretary Clinton if he had been president at the time of the Benghazi attack that he would have relieved her from her job, for not knowing about appeals for more security.
“I would have relieved you of your post,” he said “I think it’s inexcusable that you did not know about this.”
That is military terminology. Secretary Clinton is not in the military, in the military chain of command, or have any official military connection. She is a civilian official. I wig out about this because it plugs into another bit of annoying militaristic verbal imprecision, the use of “commander in chief.” I would note that these four men–George H.W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama–have something in common. They are not, nor have they ever been, anyone’s commander in chief,…
January 22, 2013, 8:06 pm
I’m going to pick on Jill Lepore a bit, not because I necessarily disagree with her larger point, but because she elides a few things in a way I think awkward. Lepore argues that the US military, is and has been for a long time, too large. She is making Eisenhower’s “military-industrial” complex case, updated for the global war on terror. But she makes some interesting claims:
Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis.
This is true, but misleading. The budget has grown, but so has the GDP, meaning that the defense budget, as a share of the American economy, is lower than at any time since before World War II with the exception of the 1990s. But, fair enough, Lepore’s making the point that the defense budget is quite large, and that’s …
December 30, 2012, 2:26 am
World War I is the war of poetry and literature. Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves are all laureates of that war, official or not. But other wars bring their own visions, as Roy Fisher demonstrates for World War II in his “The Entertainment of War:”
A mile away in the night I had heard the bombs
Sing and then burst themselves between cramped houses
With bright soft flashes and sounds like banging doors;
The last of them crushed the four bodies into the ground,
Scattered the shelter, and blasted my uncle’s corpse
Over the housetop and into the street beyond.
Death is always meaningful to those dying, Fisher thinks, but sometimes not to anyone else:
These were marginal people I had met only rarely
And the end of the whole household meant that no grief was seen;
Never have people seemed so absent from their own deaths.
Fisher “realized a little…
December 21, 2012, 10:03 pm
(Margaret Sankey, a military history colleague of mine who specializes in the 18th century, made a lovely point yesterday about the effect of musket technology on community and so I immediately thought “Guest post!” Here it is).
The muzzle-loader in my hands was really heavy, and I was fumbling with the percussion cap as the sergeant bellowed out drill commands. I completed the step and looked left and right quickly, to see if I had kept up with the colleagues on either side of me, and was relieved to be right with them. After what seemed like interminable tries, no one had dropped caps in the grass, or lagged too far behind, or gotten flustered. We were ready. We were ready.
I’m very familiar with guns. The bolt-action rifle I use for target shooting pushes me…
December 20, 2012, 7:34 pm
Just to remind everyone what the Founders had in mind with “keep and bear arms,” this is a not untypical weapon of the time of the American Constitutional era, the British “Brown Bess:”
Built and used for over a century, the Brown Bess was a .75 smooth-bore musket. In the hands of a well-trained user, it could fire 3-4 shots a minute. It was terribly inaccurate, with a maximum effective range of about 100 yards and, practically speaking, much less. It weighed more than 10 pounds, and stood just under five feet tall. Because it used loose gunpowder, both for firing the shot and for igniting the charge, it was unreliable in all but the best (i.e. least windy and rainy) conditions. When fired, it gave forth a large cloud of smoke both from the front barrel and, less so, from the priming hole at the back, and kicked back with a heavy recoil. Those characteristics often caused…
December 18, 2012, 10:35 am
(Originally from 2009. Worth a republish today)
On this day in history, Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye, a Japanese-American from Hawaii, led his platoon into action near San Terenzo, Italy. Inouye, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, had left his medical studies to enlist in 1943, rising to the rank of Sergeant and then getting a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. The war in Europe would end within the month, but the Germans were still defending their remnant of Italy fiercely. That day…but let Inouye describe the action:
We jumped off at first light. E Company’s objective was Colle Musatello, a high and heavily defended ridge. All three rifle platoons were to be deployed, two moving up in a frontal attack, with my platoon skirting the left flank and coming in from the side. Whichever platoon reached the heights first was to secure them against…
December 8, 2012, 1:06 pm
Yesterday was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, something that has been marked at Edge a number of times (here, here, and here. I may have missed some). There are numerous remembrances around the web as well (though this one, which blames Pearl Harbor on Harry Dexter White (!?) is just farcical.)
Today, I want to take a slightly different tack, by way of following up on H-War’s recent logistics roundtable. Why did Japan feel the need to attack the United States? There was nothing particularly inevitable about it. Japan and the United States had gotten along extremely well during the Boxer Uprising (yes, I know, self-promotion) and Japan had been an ally during World War I. The militarization of the government had increased Japanese regional aggressiveness, though this can be overstated. They had empire in mind even with the previous civilian government and it had not noticeably…
November 29, 2012, 4:26 pm
H-War is running a roundtable on military logistics, both historically, and in the modern world. The introduction (by Jill Russell, the convener) is here, and discusses the importance of studying the movement of materiel:
Shaking off its dull and drab reputation, logistics has arrived upon the
contemporary historical and analytical stage with emphasis and perhaps a small
amount of dash. Nowhere is this point more clear than in the publication of a
work like _The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the
World Economy Bigger_, Marc Levinson’s study arguing the revolutionary changes
wrought by the containerization of global trade. On the world stage, there is a
rising tide of writing on the subject, such as the many articles discussing
logistics as the key issue for any exit from Afghanistan. That logistics is
most assuredly on the ascendant in contemporary military …