I enjoy reading the blog Al Fin as I have an interest in science even though I have no real scientific knowledge or ability. Sometimes, though, he goes on to other subjects and there we disagree. Below are a couple of places.
AL FIN I
On May 11, 2007 he quoted approvingly from another blog,
The U.S. military currently possesses command of the global commons. Command of the commons is analogous to command of the sea, or in Paul Kennedy’s words, it is analogous to “naval mastery.” The “commons,” in the case of the sea and space, are areas that belong to no one state and that provide access to much of the globe. Airspace does technically belong to the countries below it, but there are few countries that can deny their airspace above 15,000 feet to U.S. warplanes. Command does not mean that other states cannot use the commons in peacetime. Nor does it mean that others cannot acquire military assets that can move through or even exploit them when unhindered by the United States. Command means that the United States gets vastly more military use out of the sea, space, and air than do others; that it can credibly threaten to deny their use to others; and that others would lose a military contest for the commons if they attempted to deny them to the United States. Having lost such a contest, they could not mount another effort for a very long time, and the United States would preserve, restore, and consolidate its hold after such a fight. ...
The United States enjoys the same command of the sea that Britain once did, and it can also move large and heavy forces around the globe. But command of space allows the United States to see across the surface of the world’s landmasses and to gather vast amounts of information. At least on the matter of medium-to-large-scale military developments, the United States can locate and identify military targets with considerable fidelity and communicate this information to offensive forces in a timely fashion. Air power, ashore and afloat, can reach targets deep inland; and with modern precision-guided weaponry, it can often hit and destroy those targets.
He then writes,
"Most people who comment on the state of the world lack even a basic understanding of the firmer layers of reality beneath the media facade."
Yeah, so what. The last part of the last paragraph tells us
“At least on the matter of medium-to-large-scale military developments, the United States can locate and identify military targets with considerable fidelity and communicate this information to offensive forces in a timely fashion. Air power, ashore and afloat, can reach targets deep inland; and with modern precision-guided weaponry, it can often hit and destroy those targets.”
Well, the rest of the world knows that and there are precious few who are interested in taking us on in that realm. That does not mean no one wishes to take us on. A heck of a lot do. They are just more subtle about it. Those planes and ships don't do us much good against the suicide bombers. Anyway, the great beneficiaries of our world service are the Chinese*, who get to safely send all the exports to us and the oil producers who can ship non Texas Texas Tea here without fear of any piratical mishaps. What are we sending out of the country. The jobs don't travel by tanker.
Some may argue that this trade is win win. I am a free trader, but I think there is an analogy with the US auto industry here. The car makers made deals with the workers that insured future costs would be a drag in competing with foreign competition. As we are the only nation seriously paying for the security of the commons, this is a competitive cost we impose on ourselves that leaves us at a disadvantage. Of course there are many other ways we shoot ourselves in the foot. Will our excessive spending across the board lead us to disaster. That is for another day and for the black magicians of the occult craft of economics to discuss.
*I believe Al is on firmer ground as regards China here.
AL FIN II
In the second Al Fin post he presents a youtube video of Uncle Jimbo. Uncle Jimbo is presenting a rant wherein he explains the difference between a peacetime army and the army in time of war. Now, I know I disagree with Uncle Jimbo on the war. I do feel some sympathy with the lad, though. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin and gets to hang out in a la la land. I know what that is like as I get to spend a good deal of time in the Five Colleges area in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts. I believe our adventure in Iraq is stupid. Still, spend enough time in a university town and even though one can't justify the war, you would almost want to support it in the same way that the moralizing about smoking makes me want to take up cigarettes so I can blow smoke in someones face. Of course, he continues to live there, so he must in some way enjoy it.
UJ's little talk is not bad. It reminds me of de Tocqueville's commentary, Causes Which Render Democratic Armies Weaker than Other Armies at the Outset of a Campaign and More Formidable in Protracted Warfare. He is right, the less adept are replaced by those more competent. People move up to where they belong.
Where he is wrong is that de Tocqueville wrote about how, when the peacetime army goes to war, it is at a disadvantage with all the time servers. As the battle rages and the homeland is threatened and other avenues of advancement in the nation are cut off, the military becomes the only outlet for ambitious people to rise. This is not happening here. The bright lad will not forego the position at the hedge fund to serve in Iraq. Yes, we have good men fighting, but one must doubt that there are going to be a lot more gushing out of the pipeline. In fact, we have even increased the number of cat IVs* we are enlisting.
If anything, time in this respect is on the side of the enemy. Poor, uneducated and with few prospects, there is no dearth of lads who do not see a glorious death as that horrible compared to their current meager existence. Amongst that pool of recruits, there are probably many who are officer material and will rise in their society in the way de Tocqueville outlines for a democratic army facing a foe with the potential to dominate its homeland. These unlucky ones will miss out on Jihadi suicide and will have to make do with all the mundane aspects of gathering intelligence, planning strategy and keeping up the level of mayhem. With us there, they have no reason to ever give up.
All wars are different and doing too much Vietnam analogizing is probably unhelpful. Still, if these guys think that a twenty year field exercise in a desert country is going to be in any way a victory, then they have no right to call anyone else a moonbat. That is simply the truth.
*Low scorers on the qualification exam.
Also posted at The Neutralist.