October 4, 2013, 5:37 pm
Galrahn, over at Information Dissemination, suggests that the Obama administration never had any intent of striking at Syria:
These two pictures combined tell us something important: The President of the United States never intended to conduct military strikes against Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21st. He was bluffing. The President was never playing chess, but he was never playing checkers either; President Obama was playing poker.
His analysis is based on looking at US military capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. To mount a strike on Syria would have required ships with substantial amount of firepower, either in the form of cruise missiles or aircraft. The latter was unlikely, as the Syrian air defenses could be expected to inflict casualties on manned aircraft, a political problem for President Obama. That limits the use of air…
October 3, 2013, 1:30 pm
“We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
–Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-IN.
To steal one of Brad DeLong’s memes, why, oh why, can’t we have a better Republican party?
October 1, 2013, 10:00 am
An article at Salon notes that American soldiers and marines have anthropomorphized their battlefield robots, bestowing both names and emotions upon them:
As the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have unfolded, the military has been expanding its use of robots on the battlefield. Often, these mechanical helpmates are deployed to carry out high-risk tasks related to the inspection, detection, and defusing of explosives. Their benefits are obvious: They save human lives, cannot be harmed by biological or chemical weapons, and don’t get tired or emotional. But are soldiers becoming too invested in their AI buddies? And could such sentimental attachment cloud their decision-making?
Julie Carpenter, a recent Ph.D. in education from the University of Washington, will explore this question in an upcoming book about human/robot interrelations. She interviewed 23 explosive ordnance personnel—2…
September 30, 2013, 1:23 pm
Ah, company towns raise their heads again:
“We had to sleep on the floor in overcrowded apartments,” said Allen, while paying their boss rent that sometimes exceeded the low wages and limited hours he provided them. “After getting a paycheck of zero dollars and zero cents” due to rent being deducted, said Allen, “we would still be getting texts from his wife saying that we still have balance of x amount” in remaining rent unpaid. When workers began organizing, he said, “we were threatened in writing from our boss.”
Company towns, like Pullman, Chicago, at least (sometimes) had a progressive (if paternalistic) sense of improving the workers’ lives. Today’s story isn’t quite the full company town experience, but it shares the essential problem: giving entirely too much leverage over workers to the company, with the firm serving as both employer and landlord. The…
September 27, 2013, 5:15 pm
The Northwest Passage is open for cargo:
A large sea freighter completed a voyage through the hazardous Arctic Northwest Passage for the first time on Friday as global warming opens routes that mariners have wanted for centuries.
The quest for the Northwest Passage has been going on for centuries, and has even been immortalized in a TV series. Now, global warming has opened up the route. While smaller ships have managed the trip before, the Nordic Orion is the largest cargo ship to make it.
Henry Hudson would be pleased, if anyone knew where he was.
September 19, 2013, 9:34 pm
A 1907 photograph of American warships:
“Uncle Sam’s Peace Doves”: ships being readied for Teddy Roosevelt to send them around the world. The Great White Fleet, as they later came to be known, were new American warships,
on a mission of peace, and a mission of warning. America was powerful, now.
The warning was particularly for Japan, who had lately beaten the Russians soundly in the Russo-Japanese War, and who, Teddy Roosevelt thought, might need to have their memories refreshed. “I thought it a good idea,” Roosevelt said, “that the Japanese should know that there were fleets of the white races which were totally different from the fleet of [the Russians].”
September 11, 2013, 7:19 pm
Lovely spot for a canal you’ve got there
The world began in 1945. Or so many American pundits would have you believe. The predisposition is actually a bit more complicated than that: American history, pundit-style, often starts with the Revolution and Founding Fathers, jumps briefly to the Civil War (Gettysburg!), and then segues directly to Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and then the Cold War. That tendency has been on display in the Syria debate. James Fallows points to a Walter Shapiro article on President Obama’s decision to go to Congress for approval over Syria, which starts Presidential “evisceration” of Congress’ war-making abilities with Harry Truman:
For more than six decades, the war-making powers of Congress have been eviscerated by presidents of both parties. Which brings us back to Truman, who in 1950 balked at asking a Congress weary after World War II for approval to…
September 9, 2013, 2:53 pm
(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…
September 3, 2013, 7:08 pm
(Guest Post! David Fitzpatrick is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who taught military history at the United States Military Academy and who now teaches United States history at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)
Yesterday, while enjoying a football game in The Big House with 112,000 of my closest friends, President Obama took the relatively unprecedented step of moving away from the precipice and stating that he was going to ask Congress for authority to attack Syria. The question of whether or not he already had that authority under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, or under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is now rendered moot. Yet, a more interesting and somewhat philosophical question remains: why was the use of chemical weapons by Syria a “red line” for the president? Why is there near-universal outrage now when there has been…
August 29, 2013, 8:55 pm
Burning the White House, 1814
Dan Drezner posted a list of his nominations for the 10 worst foreign policy decisions in American history, using William Shatner’s The Transformed Man recording as a measure of appalling awfulness:
In honor of the above clip, what are the “Shatners” of American foreign policy? I mean, what are the true clusterf*cks that constrained U.S. actions, haunted future generations of American policymakers, and wreaked the greatest costs on the rest of the world?
The list is good, but post-World War I centric. I’d like to nominate a few from earlier:
1) Taking the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. At one stroke it sucked the United States into the eastern Pacific, put us athwart the lines of supply for Japanese raw materials and basically helped lead to World War II. All for a decision that President McKinley claimed he made by pulling an …
August 27, 2013, 7:21 pm
The USA Today points out recently that the number of Medals of Honor in Iraq and Afghanistan seem low by historical comparison:
Critics say 12 Medals of Honor are far too few, given the 2.5 million Americans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that left nearly 7,000 of them dead and about 50,000 wounded. And it is too few in striking comparison with the 137 awarded for actions in the Korean War, 249 in Vietnam and 467 in World War II, they say. “We feel the number is still low, and we support a DoD (Department of Defense) review to find out why … (and) how we can get true heroes recognized for their service on the battlefield,” says Jay Agg, communication director for the 180,000-member veterans group AmVets.
I’ve weighed in on this before and Bob Gates, when he was Secretary of Defense, seems to have pushed the military to nominate more candidates for the MOH.
August 22, 2013, 8:02 pm
Maddux was so dominating, he practically eliminated the need to hold mound conferences.
“One time,” [Leo] Mazzone [the Braves pitching coach] said with a laugh, “he said to me, ‘Come on out and visit me. I haven’t seen you [on the mound] in a couple of months.’ He said, ‘You know, Leo, it gets kind of lonely out there. So why don’t you come out and visit me in the sixth inning.’
“So sure enough, he’s shutting out the Mets, and he looks in the dugout with one out in the sixth. And Bobby [Cox] says to me, ‘Mad Dog is looking for you. Go out there and make sure he’s all right.’ So I go out there and he says, ‘I’m glad you came out. My catcher doesn’t speak English. I’m tired of talking to Chipper. So it was nice of you to come out here. You got anything you need to ask me?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you planning on going seven tonight or all nine?’”*
I also love that Maddux,…
August 20, 2013, 5:20 pm
So, what happened while this blog* was on vacation?
Hmm (I started to use the list tag from HTML, but it just looked so 1990s):
1. The American Historical Association came out (as historical associations are wont to do) with a fairly mild statement about not forcing graduate students to dispense their dissertations to all and sundry before they’d, you know, had a chance to publish. This statement came at the intersection of about seven different hot button topics: the catastrophic state of the academic job market, the collapse of academic publishing, the overproduction of Ph.Ds, the power of the intertubes, open access, digital scholarship, and probably a few I’m forgetting. Because of this intersectionality,** there was an immediate outcry on the blogs (including Edge co-founder, Eric Rauchway) and twitter (with hashtag!), condemning the reactionary mandarins of the AHA for failing…
August 16, 2013, 2:06 pm
The suicide rate in the military has been in the news over the last few years. Last year’s total number of suicides, 349, were higher than the number of combat fatalities for the year. More members of the military killed themselves than were killed by their official enemies. The traditional explanation for this has been that the stress of war and repeated deployments away from family has taken its toll. See, e.g., here. A new article in The Journal of the American Medical Association can’t find that linkage:
The findings from this study are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated with increased suicide risk. Instead, the risk factors associated with suicide in this military population are consistent with civilian populations, including…
August 15, 2013, 4:10 am
Having returned from my vacation (the Jersey shore; very restful. To keep up my military history credentials, I went and took a look at Bunker 223:
It’s not actually terribly interesting as it looks mostly like a giant hunk of concrete from the outside and it’s not possible to get inside), I was drawn into a conversation (on Facebook) about Robert E. Lee and treason (sparked by this article). During the course of it, I found an article in the Times from 1864 called “The Chivalry of the Rebel General Lee” that had a quite remarkable statement about Lee and treason:
The simple truth is that the very fact of a soldier’s abandoning his flag involves an abandonment of character. LEE received his military education from the Government, had been constantly honored and trusted by the Government, and it was the extreme of perfidy in him to turn traitor against the Government. The soul…