RANGER AGAINST WAR: Inconvenient Truth <

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Inconvenient Truth

Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups

that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster

that dictates every move we make.

--"Republicans and our Enemies," Joe Biden

I learned our government must be strong

It's always right and never wrong!

Our leaders are the finest men

And we elect them again and again

--What Did you Learn in School Today?
Tom Paxton

No people ever recognize their dictator

in advance. He never stands for election

on the platform of dictatorship.

He always represents himself as the instrument

[of] the Incorporated National Will

--Dorothy Thompson

For now we see through a glass, darkly

--1 Corinthians 13:12


While shop talk at Ranger usually involves counterinsurgency thinking and does not politick on behalf of any of the candidates, still Ranger is concerned with the '08 Presidential candidates and spends time pondering the vagaries of the campaign.

We have been impressed with the mediocrity of the pool of candidates, which has caused consternation about America's course. After some thought, Ranger concludes that the U.S. is going where it always goes -- the great middlin' course, as we embrace mediocrity in our political leaders.

When thinking of historical examples of Presidential greatness, one is brought to mind of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR. Honorable mentions go to Polk, Truman and perhaps LBJ. But there it is: six names jump out of the history books as great presidential exemplars.

So what does that leave us? That's right, 36 mediocre-to-middling and One Absolute Disaster (OAD) who have served as chief executives of this nation. One could take the scientific view and argue that like a supernova, we are now entering our contraction phase, with the OAD hastening the whittling down to size.

The law of averages and our profound middling tendencies say that our history will be fair-to-middling, all things considered. Pragmatically, we have had quite a few "up times," so we need some down to balance things out; regression towards the mean. We just wish it hadn't happened on our watch.

Obviously America gets the leaders it deserves, and Obama and McCain are what it boils down to in this critical election. Last week proves an example of this apothegm: lame duck George Bush is running around Europe on a farewell tour to cement his reputation, and all he can focus on is Iran.

Here is a news flash: America faces myriad issues of concern to our citizenry, and Iran is on the bottom of the list. We all know President Bush's weaknesses, and they are all overcome by events unless he bombs Iran before leaving office.

The real question Americans should be asking is: Will Obama or McCain address the real issues facing the U.S. citizen daily?

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

probably not. although i take a fairly different viewpoint on the whole centerist/mediocrity thing.

democracy is supposed to be clumsy, and often self-defeating. over and over during the war with sparta, the athenians allowed the whims of the mob to defeat sound judgement. they still almost won.

by all accounts in his time under pershing as a combat commander eisenhower was just about average. he wasn't brilliant or even supremely brave and confident. he was competent. as a staff officer though, he was superb. by the time ww2 came around, he was the perfect man, in the perfect place. having dealt with the macarthurs, pattons, bradleys, clarks, and the navy guys from being on pershing's staff he had the skills he needed to juggle all the competing egos, to counter the caution and plodding of bradley with the dash and elan of patton. to balance the insane egoism of montgomery somehow to a fit purpose for defeating a superbly focused and single minded military machine.

ike was the perfect mediocre guy.

sometimes the real genius is in not fucking stuff up.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 10:47:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB, mediocrity would indeed be an improvement over todays maximum leader.
Eisenhower indeed knew how the system functioned and when to tweak it or not take action. jim

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 11:15:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


A wonderful observation: Ike was indeed the perfect mediocre guy, which worked very well in integrating the General's personalities.

The observation perhaps also recognizes the dynamics of a functional system, namely, a reasoned moderator integrating the best of all approaches (?)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 11:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D-Day was a failed strategy that doomed Eastern Europe. It's terrible for troop morale to start out your invasion with a bloodbath like that. Ike was a political whore, even with the Soviets.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 12:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ark, i believe the cross channel invasion was dictated by the Yalta meetings ie to start a 2nd front to bleed of Nazi forces . This benefitted the Russian offensive actions. Tehran was the nail in the coffin for eastern Europe and East Germany. These decisions were made above Ike's pay grade and he implemented them operationally.
D day was no worse than Iwo /Okinawa/Tarawa.Sometimes terrain is paid for in blood and that's the armies historical role.
Militarily speaking i see no other option than Normandy and that's after 64 years of hind sight. jim

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 2:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're probably right. Sometimes my distaste for war overcomes my reason. And one thing I remember reading about Eisenhower was that he was critical of Truman's nuking Japan because he hated for the U.S. to be the first to use the a-bomb, ande because the Japanese were ready to surrender anyway.Sort of like MacArthur's last political act was to beg Pres. Johnson to stay out of Vietnam. They were definitely generals of conscience.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 3:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 9:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

De Toqueville famously said that democracy lasts until the citizenry alizes it can vote itself largesse out of the public purse. I'd add that it then votes for those bobos that tell it that it's decisions are good and wise.

Do you think someone who tromped onstage and announced "You dumb fuckers have helped hollow out your own economy in pursuit of cheap plastic knick-knacks at the Wal-Mart and have enabled your own rulers to lie and spin you. You have neither willpower nor critical thought and you don't care to use them if you do. Your passion for luxury and ease and your unwillingness to limit your own growth are choking you in the effluvia of your society. If you vote for me I will confront ou with your own slothfulness and deceit and force you to make the hard decisions to change them, or collapse like the civilizations that preceded you"?

Me neither.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 7:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

"Do you think we'd elect someone who tromped onstage and announced..."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 7:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one thing ike did, and did superbly, was logistics.

d-day was an incredible military roll of the dice. the decision to go was made far above his pay grade. without a front in the west, the russians were stuck fighting essentially alone.

from both a strategic and political viewpoint the invasion had to be made.

it was a fine cut slice. for the first six hours it wasn't even certain that a toe hold on the beaches could be made. first there was a fingernail hold, then, whole hands, all bought dearly in blood.

without the inland corridor being opened and held the paratroopers would have been either captured wholesale or simply slaughtered. it was a huge gamble.

once the inland corridor was opened and a small consolidation achieved the brutal and slow hedgerow slugging began. d-day wasn't a truly solid victory for nearly two weeks.

by attacking where he did ike pinned several large units of german and auxilliary troops down, along with cutting the main supply of the southern german troops.

and he kept pouring it on. even while the issue was still undecided he kept ramming troops and equipment through the ever widening gaps until he was confident that the resupply routes by sea were adequately defensible. then he started taking the crossroad towns, and the rivers.

it wasn't artful. it wasn't clever. it was walking up to a strong point and trading haymakers until you could get somebody to slip you brass knuckles. it was taking the hits and the casualties that were deemed neccessary to unleash the full fury of patton's mechanized assault. even with ike's brilliant supply construction patton consistently outran his supplies. once, he even did that on purpose to make a point, taking needless casualties to do so.

macarthur's task in the pacific was a continuous series of d-days. if you were a grunt infantry man (either army or marine) your chances of surviving the war were still best under macarthur.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 10:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ark, pls keep in mind that the allies had an army in soutern France at the time of D Day. This army fought thru Africa/ Italy and was truly battle hardened and experienced. They were a good and handy tool to continue a push thru to Germany but politically Normandy was the answer to Russian concerns. The Brits favored a cross channel invasion since late 42/ early 43 but the Americans wouldn't go for it without gaining more experience. Looked at this way the invasions of Africa, Sicily Italy/Anzio were practice runs for the big show.MB has done a great analysis But it's not coming up. When it does so pls read it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 12:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

TW, we're on the same page.Sometimes a parliamentary system seems more realistic for the American scene. jim

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 12:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

The founders of the United States deliberately rejected a parliamentary system, Jim. They wanted to make George Washington the King, but Washington refused the role. So they struck out the word "King" and wrote in the word "President", gave him most of the powers of a King but struck out the "for life" and wrote in "elected every four years by electors appointed by the states", and voila. The thought was that Washington would be King for the rest of his life (being dutifully re-appointed every four years by the electors appointed by the states). Washington kinda dealt a death-knoll to that particular plan, though, by refusing to run for a third term of office.

Contrast this with a parliamentary democracy, where the Prime Minister is appointed by a coalition of parties in Parliament. In this case the Prime Minister is just one parliamentarian amongst many who happens to have been temporarily elevated to a position of having his hands on the levers of power. If you add in a proportional representation system such as the Israeli Knesset (where Parliamentarians are elected in proportion to the percentage of the vote their party got in the general election), you get true representative democracy where all views -- not just the most popular ones -- are represented.

Not that this is a panacea by any means. Israel's current dysfunctional political system is proof enough of that. But the point, the point... the point is that true democratic systems were known and explicitly rejected by our founding fathers. For better or for worse, George W. Bush has taken hold of the levers of a machine that was built for George Washington, and unlike his predecessor George, he does not have the restraint to keep from pushing and pulling those levers like a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum in a grocery store.

- Badtux the PoliSci Penguin

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 2:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tw said:

I think it's this two party system that gives us these mediocre candidates. Like Chomsky said, it's manufactured consent. Here's your choice, A or B. The system is so rigged that you can't get a third party and the people so indoctrinated by the MSM that they think they are throwing away their vote if they don't vote for A or B!

Meanwhile the special interests have only two candidates to bribe. Any candidate who threatens the status quo of the powerful is immediately marginalized and eliminated from the process.

It's a far cry from democracy my friend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 2:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


They may have rejected a parliamentary system per your comment, but there is nothing dictating a two-party system.
When you enter into multiple parties you are, in effect, becoming parliamentary.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 8:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Actually, the two-party system is mandated by the winner-takes-all nature of Presidential elections. Mathematically speaking, you need 51% of the vote in order to guarantee that you will become President. This is similar to the way that to become Prime Minister you need 51% of the vote in Parliament. The Prime Minister needs to put together a coalition of parties to ensure he gets that 51% of the vote, and so do we here in America. But the thing is, the Presidency isn't multiple choice. So the coalition has to be within the umbrella of a single party identifier. Thus the Christian Coalition Party joins with the Business Party to form the Republican Party, the Moderate Pragmatists Party joins with the Loonie Greenpeacers Party to form the Democratic Party and so on.

This was not predicted by our founding fathers and they were somehow aghast that it worked out this way, but this is just how the math works out. Our "two party system" here in the United States is actually a collection of smaller interest groups that would be parties in a parliamentary system all coming together into ruling coalitions. That is why the Democratic Party resembles more a set of competing interest groups than what would be considered a real political party overseas (and why there's such a vast gulf between the Christopaths and the Bidness Repubs over on the Republican side of the bench). It's just how the math works out, if you want to insure that you get 51% of the vote and thus insure victory. So you get Ron Paul and George W. Bush in the same party, and Dennis Kucinich and Harold Ford Jr. (D-DLC) in the same party, even though they have nothing in common ideologically. It's part of the bargain they make in pursuit of the magic 51% that is set by a winner-takes-all system. It sucks, but short of setting up a parliamentary system with proportional representation like the Knesset, it's what we've got.

- Badtux the PoliSci Penguin

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 9:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

FDChief, there's no problem with the public voting itself largesse out of the public purse in a real democracy, because the public has to itself pay the taxes that fund that largesse, so it tends to be self-limiting -- if they vote themselves too much largesse, they end up paying so much in taxes that it sort of defeats the purpose. Of course, here in the U.S. we've been paying for largesse by printing money recently rather than via taxes, but that is self-limiting also because it creates crippling inflation that again defeats the purpose. So in a true democracy, the majority of the people tend to settle on having government do those things which are necessary for government to do, rather than everything under the sun. For example, police protection, fire protection, libraries, schools, and health insurance are all things that experience has shown are more efficiently provided via government and its economies of scale rather than on the private market. But most folks would not agree to paying taxes in order to, say, run auto plants that provide "free" cars to every American, because a) it would benefit only those Americans who don't already have a car, and b) would require raising taxes to pay for the auto plants. If a government service is not desired by pretty much everybody and provided pretty much universally, in a democracy people tend to balk at it and not want to pay for it, because they believe they have better uses for their money.

So de Toqueville was talkin' out of his cravet. Experience with real democracies world-wide shows that his notion simply isn't applicable in real life. Folks may vote themselves largesse once, but then when they realize that they're paying for it anyhow either via higher taxes or via galloping inflation rendering the benefit worthless, they tend to quit doing so -- thus, e.g. the Thatcher era in Britain where the British government got itself out of the business of building cars and running coal mines and such.

- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 9:38:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...


"It sucks, but short of setting up a parliamentary system with proportional representation like the Knesset, it's what we've got."

There's approximately 70 countries in the world that have some form of proportional representation. Among these the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand and Australia. I get fed up with listening to Bush call America the last bastion of democracy. Unfortunately some people buy that line and look where it's got us.

Great insight Badtux, thanks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 at 6:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[i]macarthur's task in the pacific was a continuous series of d-days.[/i]

No! No! No! MacArthur's strategy was nothing like D-Day. The outstanding feature of the allied victory in the Pacific was the island-hopping strategy MacArthur consistently implemented, which spared the allies many, many more casualties than the a-bombs did at the end. Island-hopping - taking one island and then skipping the next one or few - stranded entrenched Japanese forces and cut off their supply lines without a single allied soldier setting foot on the skipped islands. This is the opposite of D-Day, in which a massive force was thrown up on a single coastline and was mowed down by entrenched enemy forces. Mowed down again and again and again, file after file, until they managed a toehold and fortified it.

My view is that D-Day was a mistaken application of WWI trench warfare, which ignored the fact that there were literally millions of antifascist French who could have been armed and sent out to defend their own country, but Churchill, FDR, and Eisenhower were stuck in an antiquated mode of attrition war that ruined troop morale and slowed the liberation of France and defeat of Germany.

FDR and Eisenhower had not been in combat in WWI, so the worst I can accuse them of is recklessness. But Churchill was in the trenches and should have known better. I maintain that all of Germany and much of Eastern Europe could have been secured had Eisenhower's troops skipped over the coastal defenses, fought for the interior, and funneled arms to French patriots behind the western front.

MacArthur saw plenty of WWI attrition war, even personally leading his men through poison gas unarmed and without a mask. He was thus determined to avoid it happening in the Pacific. And it remains unclear whether or not the Japanese would have surrendered, avoiding a D-Day type scenario, without the nuclear strikes. A demonstration of an a-bomb at an unpopulated site or even a naval quarantine might have worked just as well.

Friday, June 27, 2008 at 7:35:00 PM GMT-5  

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