History rises

Jerry Pournelle observes that those who know nothing of history cannot learn anything from it:

I am now convinced that no one in power in this nation knows any history whatsoever. Not even the history of the Seventy Years War with Bolshevism or what we call The Cold War – which now may become Cold War One if Barrack Hussein Obama de Santa Anna has his way. The State Department has, I am told, 3000 officers with PH.D.’s. One wonders in what subjects. Certainly not in history….

After the collapse of the Soviet System there was a period in which there was indeed a reset in the relationship between Russia and the United States, as Herman Kahn predicted there would be. Then came the Balkan crisis in which the ancient blood feuds dating back to the 13th Century were revived. That had lasted through the conquests of the Balkans and Hungary in the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, and continued as the Turkish controls began to recede.  Then came the first Balkan Wars with their “Bulgarian Atrocities”, and the gradual liberation of Balkan nations, the brief existence of the Christian Kingdom of Montenegro, consolidation with Serbia, World War I and the dissolution of the Austrian Empire, formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, German occupation of the Balkans, communist Tito vs. Christian monarchist Draza Mihailovich, Tito’s victory and consolidation of Yugoslavia, Tito’s defection from the Soviet bloc and his attempt to play the USSR against the West to his advantage, and the breakup of Yugoslavia at his death. And during all those times the ancient blood feuds and hatreds continued. All contending sides had factions who advocated and used ethnic cleansing as a tactic.

The Russians, as Russians always do – see the origins of The Great War — took the side of the Christian Slavs. This resulted in several standoffs between US and Russian forces, one or which came within minutes of a shooting engagement. The US began bombing Serbs, and US air strikes crippled the economy of the Lower Danube for at least a year. From the Russian view, the US chose sides: against Slavs. The truth of this is not so important as the deep seated belief among many Russians that it is true.The kind of army you have will dictate the kind of foreign policy you have.  The 300 Spartans bought time == just enough for the Spartans and Athenians to win at Plataea. A strategy of Technology is needed; so are Seals and Marines. The United States has been able to depend on the seas as moats behind which we can mobilize, with Big Bill Knudsen’s conversion of Detroit to making cannon, tanks, airplanes, machine guns, rifles, artillery in enormous quantities to arm the conscripted soldiers being trained by the old Regulars, and the Marines held on by their teeth in the South Pacific. But the pace of war has changed, and we no longer have Detroit. We seem to have forgotten some of the lessons of Task Force Smith and Korea. As the pace speeds, the force you must fight with is the force you have at hand and can transport.

Restructuring of the armed forces of the United States is needed, but it is far more complicated than simply fixing numbers and budgets. It also involves the schools and what is taught in them. And entrusting the safety of a Republic to paid soldiers has downsides.  Robert Heinlein and I debated for much of his life over conscription. His view was that any nation that needed conscripts had no right to exist. Mine was closer to Machiavelli’s. Conscription has the many benefits for a Republic, and its effects on liberty are not purely negative.  A nation needs paid professional Legions, but their existence allows them to be sent to wars we might be better off avoiding. Clinton would not have sent conscripts to the Balkans.

On the plus side, it could be worse. A President McCain wouldn’t even think twice before launching a land war in Asia. Sure, Obama’s outsourcing of American foreign policy to Goldman Sachs and their pet neocons of the New American Century is going to lead to a disaster, but at least the bankers understand that too much war is bad for business.

As long as the politicians are held in contempt, and as long as the people don’t get behind them, total war is out of the question. The world leaders to worry about are those who can achieve mental buy-in from the public, because they are the leaders with the potential to spark the global conflagration.