Monday, February 14, 2005

I thought as a blogging warm-up I'd make a few comments on what caught my atttention today.

Over at Liberals Against Terrorism, Armchair General lives up to his moniker, faulting Rumsfeld for failing to force the armed services to adopt a common uniform as a symbol ( or evidence) of commitment to " jointness". AG wrote:

"Now you might say, "So what? they're adapting to specific environments in which they expect to operate." Maybe. My viewpoint is that the services have always hated to be joint; they will always tell you that they can determine what's best for their own service interests, and they're partly right. However, this independance in the selection of their combat uniforms indicates two things - first, they don't care about the costs of developing, purchasing, and maintaining four different sets of fatigues, as opposed to the generally lower costs of having one type of uniform. Good news for overseas textile companies, bad news for people that have to buy their own uniform. More seriously, I would think that this just inspires the idea that each service is unique and special, and that fosters more interservice rivalry and infighting."

Even a great blog can have an off day. This post was simply foolishness. While it is indeed true that you would have lower marginal costs with a common field dress for all the services the cost in esprit de corps would be extremely high while acheiving a savings of pennies. I'm sure the Army was going to save a few nickels by giving the black beret of the Rangers to all the cooks, secretaries and buck privates on K.P. but the near-revolt of the elite trigger-pullers demonstrated how damaging to morale such McNamaraesque parsimony can be.

Unit cohesion and a sense of sacrifice are built around such martial distinctions as patches, stripes, chevrons, heraldric symbols and the like. Men will fight and die because of the idea that their service, their division, their brigade, their company " is unique and special". Military history is replete with examples of units from the Spartans at Thermopylae to Navy SEALS in Iraq that fulfil that role and distinguishing them from the herd is a part of the warrior culture. " Jointness" is better expressed in such elements as communications equipment and military doctrines that cultivate interservice teamwork while letting each unit do what is designed to do well.

The second thing that caught my eye was that militant centrist Purplestater at Centerfeud and edgy libertarian ( and fellow Rule-Set Resetter) TM Lutas hit the same point today.
TM was more concise so here's his post in full:

"Progressive Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals

TCS is running a neat article called Anti-Powerfulism examining the strange reactive stance of the Left to President Bush's "almost revolutionary program". It seems to me that we're facing a very new phenomenon, the phenomenon of the reactionary left and the progressive right. Whether it's going to be sustainable is a big question. Either the progressives on the left will come up with a competing positive agenda to Bush's or they will leave the left, loving progress more than the label. That fracture would geld the left and stick them in permanent minority status. The right has fracture issues to as Patrick Buchanan has shown with his championing a reactionary paleoconservatism that is downright grumpy.

The rest of the world must be horribly confused. "

Purplestater developed his argument at length so you should go read his post in full but here is a snippet:

"We live in a strange age in which the elections held in a country recently liberated from a monstrous and barbaric dictatorship were criticized because they resulted from an "imperialist intervention" by the "fascist US regime" - but terrorists attempting to destabilize that country and prevent popular elections through threats of violence are called "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen" by voices of the Left like last year's international media darling, Michael Moore.

The Left used to claim to be on the side of democracy and the will of the people (as long as those people weren't under Soviet domination), and against fascism and oppression. Now that the post 9/11 Right has taken up the cause of liberation (for admittedly self-interested and pragmatic reasons), the Left is suddenly on the side of "stability", even as dictatorships around the world are being shaken to their foundations."

The Left has become, at least psychologically, a vanguard movement. Millionaire Hollywood socialists, tenured radicals and activist lawyers from law schools steeped in histories of WASP white shoe privilege. What does George Soros or Cass Sunstein have in common with anybody trying to raise kids in a modest three-flat bungalow in Chicago or a double-wide in some Georgia hamlet ?

Could you write more on George Soros? I remember reading his Open Society essays in the 1990s, being thrilled during George and Ukraine, and very hopeful when I hear about his work the rest of the Former Soviet Union.

Is George Soros is being tarnished by his American associates? Everywhere else he is so adept at creating cross-ideology alliances. His unfortunate choice of friends in American politics is a puzzle.
hi Dan,

George Soros...hmm...here goes

Soros is an international currency speculator of great skill. That skill earned him a great deal of unpopularity in semi-authoritarian countries that were trying to liberalize their markets yet still have the state manipulate them. Soros was their poster boy for the market puncturing that particular " have your cake & eat it too" balloon. He also wrote checks to dissident organizations pushing the democracy envelope in those same regimes, further aggravating those rulers.

Soros made a great show of anti-Bush grandstanding and check-writing in the last election cycle and Bush is even more unpopular with most of those regimes than Soros is. There are far, far, more effective and quiet ways for a billionaire to influence the American political process with money. Soros went about spending in probably the least efficient and strategic and most noisily obnoxious way possible.

I'm pretty sure he knew that too and intended, in the long run, to achieve nothing substantively while looking like the Anti-Bush sugar Daddy. This was Soros trolling to rebuild his overseas image to take himself out of the antiglobo bullseye.

Bush's policies - spreading markets and rule of law in the long run but creating market uncertainty in the short - are ultimately very helpful to guys like Soros so why try to get rid of him ?

The other explanation is that Soros is as politically naive as he is financially sophisticated and is an egomaniac to boot. I have trouble buying that one but it is possible.
I think you miss my point - I'm not as concerned about the cost of fabric (although you do, I think, underestimate the price differences of DLA's ordering millions of fatigues a year and their point of view on economies of scale) as I am the mindset.

You say "Jointness is better expressed in such elements as communications equipment and military doctrines that cultivate interservice teamwork while letting each unit do what is designed to do well." Well, here's the thing - the services don't like joint, they write joint doctrine to be all-encompassing of all four services' unique views and practices instead of refining it from a top-down, slimmer joint aspect. Here it is, what, 20 years after Grenada and we still can't get the four services to use one version of GCCS or use one standard logistics reporting format.

I merely meant that this uniform issue is indicative of the deeper feelings within the four services. I don't fault Rumsfeld for not forcing them to go standard, just that Rumsfeld's goal of going joint appears to be weakening as a result of this symptom.
The name game...

It is confusing trying to get a grasp on the American political landscape since the names we use often mean the opposite of what the various factions are supporting.

There is nothing progessive about Progressives. They are rather stasists/statists, and quite regressive.

There isn't much liberal about Liberals. They are welfare-statist, democratic socialists.

We have Democrats who opposed democracy in Iraq, try to undermine democratic decision-making by resorting to judicial fiat, and who despise the demos as being stupid and beneath them.

We have Conservatives who are promoting some of the most radical, audacious, forward-looking policies that are not conservative at all.

I consider myself a classical liberal, which is a completely inadequate term. Because it makes it seem as if I support some old set of ideas that belong in a museum. It certainly doesn't capture Hayek's Party of Life or Postrel's Dynamism.

It is very difficult to make sense of our political reality and to find a place within it with all these up-side-down meanings to these terms.


Can't say I disagree.

" Liberal" I think was kept as a brand - calling yourself a Social-Democrat/Democratic-Socialist doesn't sell very well in the US.

The Right has never been a unified party in the last half-century so much as separate but intertwining threads with a common set of political adversaries.
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