Finally, a Rational Foreign Policy

So, are you having trouble figuring out Trump’s foreign policy? Yeah, it’s different than we are used to. Bookworm had an article the other day, that made a fair amount of sense.

When the Great War (now known as World War I) erupted in 1914, dragging Europe from the pinnacle of civilization into an abyss of mindless killing, President Woodrow Wilson was resolute: America would not enter into this foreign war.

Americans themselves had no desire to be drawn into the war, although the country quickly divided into camps supporting the two sides in the battle. Those supporting England, France, Belgium, and Russia (the Allies) only slightly outnumbered the huge German-American population that put its moral weight behind Germany, Austro-Hungary, and a few other central European nations (the Central Powers).

Traditional American foreign policy there, essentially none of our business, root for the side that you like, and do business with all comers. Book notices and she’s right, the Allies bought an awful lot more stuff than the Germans and bought a lot of it on borrowed American money. It got to the point that the Allies losing would likely have caused a depression in the US. (So did the Allies winning eventually, in 1921, but Coolidge’s policies were so good, that it was a blip, except, maybe for farmers.)

That more than anything else is what forced America into the war, it was decidedly in the American interest for Britain and France to win. It’s not unique in American history, either, the British blockade of Napoleonic France is one of the causes of the War of 1812. In both cases, there were other reasons as well, but these stand out. Don’t forget, we had a little quasi-war with France earlier, again cause by interference in trade. For that matter, if Lincoln hadn’t had a cool head on his shoulders, things like the CSS Alabama could have drawn Britain into the Civil War.

But Wilson wasn’t about to go to war for American trade. Wilson was a lot of things, almost none of them good.

Faced with an unspeakable reason for entering the war, Wilson instead came up with a high-flown moral doctrine justifying America’s entry into the war. And so the Wilson doctrine was born (emphasis mine):

We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Which is essentially lovely…bullshit. We went into the Great War for perfectly good reasons, but England wasn’t all that much more democratic than Imperial Germany. It became so, of course, but much of that was the result of the war.

Biggest trouble was that Wilson believed it, and because he did, he got shunted aside at the peace conference after the armistice, and very little of his program happened, and what did, was the parts that would lead to trouble, like the Balkans.

And as Book says, almost every war we’ve stumbled into in the last century, except World War II, has been because we have believed this myth, that we were fighting to make ‘the world safe for democracy’. And World War II, itself, was likely caused because of the vindictive treaty that ended the Great War, where Wilson was shunted to the side, even if he was the representative of the most powerful country there. It’s been true, all the way to Iraq II.

Obama held a different belief, almost a mirror image. As near as I can tell he saw his mission to make the world safe from America. He’s a true believer in the revisionist school, that the US (and the UK) have never done anything that was good for anybody but themselves. Well, we’ve disproved that plenty, but that is what they’re still teaching in the schools.

But what is Trump’s principle? I think it’s the traditional 19th-century American foreign policy, updated for the times. He’s not likely to go about regime-changing without really good cause, nor does he believe, I suspect, in the stupid ‘Pottery Barn Rule’. No more Iraqs are likely.

But he’s not afraid to use the military, as we saw in Syria when somebody does something that threatens America. And yes, chemical weapons do threaten America, especially in a country overrun with every sort of Islamic terrorist there is. The same is true for North Korea, threatening to nuke the US, or our allies, is enough to get you in trouble, and Trump doesn’t appear to pull his punches.

The key thing for America, as it is for Britain, as it has been since Good Queen Bess was on the throne, is freedom of the seas. We are trading nations, and these are our highways, and if they keep it up, sooner or later the PRC is going to run afoul of that, but they are smarter than the average bear, so maybe they’ll figure it out. See also my Sea Lines of Communication.

In short, Trump’s foreign policy looks very much like traditional American (and British) foreign policy, not looking for trouble, but it’s unwise to poke lions and eagles, you just might get hurt.

Dana Loesch Takes Aim, Ralph, and Sumdood

Make popcorn, make a lot of popcorn, because the United States’ largest and most effective civil rights group, the NRA has decided to take on that gray purveyor of fake news, the New York Times.

How refreshing!

Then there’s Ralph. One of the blogs I enjoy most is The Adaptive Curmudgeon, perhaps because we are brothers from another mother or something, because he so often corrals what I’m thinking, often better than I do. Such it is with Ralph.

[…] There’s a significant portion of the populace that gets frustrated when President Trump’s (he won folks!) ideas are fed into the bureaucracy and emerge with a treatment somewhere along a spectrum from ignored, through mangled, and into misdirected. There’s another portion that thinks “thank God the system is correcting against lunacy” and applaud a spectrum from moderate, through adapt, and into mitigate. Same actions, different point of view. People’s opinions invert with laser-like speed whenever a new party takes the reins. That’s your big tell. It’s not fully real.

Never forget; one man’s “gridlock” is another man’s “cautious and measured approach”. Furthermore “bipartisan” can mean a “widely agreed upon common sense solution” or it can mean “a stampede of lemmings”. Sometimes it means “witch hunt”. Same activity, different point of view.

This all leads to my reaction to dark utterances about the nefarious “shadow government” or “deep state”. There’s less than meets the eye. If you’re worried about that particular evil, let it go.

Yes, of course, there’s internal resistance to a new president. People don’t like change. I get it. I’m still pissed about automatic transmissions and fuel injected engines. Change is hard. […]

Keep going, this is some of the best stuff, I’ve read in years. How do I know? When the story of a fictional bureaucrat inspires comments that range from Hannah Arendt on Himmler, to Chesterton speaking as the devil, the movie Brazil, read this, and I mean the whole thing well your education is not complete until you have, hit the tip jar too, eloquence should be rewarded. And that brings us to the final thing mentioned in that article, the legend of Sumdood. You really shouldn’t go through life ignorant of one of the largest of American legends.

“So what happened, man?” I ask the guy as I shine a penlight into his eyes, checking his pupillary responses.

“Got hit,” mumbles the guy, stating the obvious. With one hand, he’s holding the absorbent gauze pad I’ve given him against the big laceration on the side of his head, as he absentmindedly tugs his shorts up with the other. Not too far up, mind you – just enough to perch precariously on his ass cheeks and still leave about four inches of boxers showing. Scalp wound and abrasions be damned, he has street fashion to consider.

“I meant, what happened exactly,” I explain patiently, suppressing the urge to roll my eyes. I palpate the back of his neck. “What did they hit you with, and did you get knocked out?”

“Hell no!” he blurts indignantly, pulling away. He starts getting wound up, because now he has a story to tell. He gestures animatedly to the porch behind him, and to his buddies currently being interviewed by the police. There is a small crowd gathered on the street. “See, I was just sittin‘ here, kickin‘ it with my peeps, noamsayne? Mindin‘ my own, noamsayne? And then…”

No doubt there were seven of them, far too many for you and your homies to defeat in a stand-up, fair fight.

“Then, dude just drops the brick and runs off!”

Whoa, just one guy! He must have been a baaaaaaaad ass…

“Did you get a look at this guy?” I ask. “Would you recognize him again?” Immediately, his eyes turn shifty and evasive.

“Nah man, I ain’t ever seen dude before,” he lies. “He just some dude.”

Sumdood?” I ask with sharpened interest. “You say Sumdood jumped you?”

He’s close, I can feel it. I knew it when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I got out of the rig. Evil lurks nearby.

“Yeah man,” the guy confirms. “Some dude.”

“There he is, over there!” the guy’s girlfriend says helpfully, pointing toward the crowd, “just standin‘ over there like he ain’t did nuthin‘!”

Shhh, don’t point at him!” I hiss, pulling her arm down. “Just be cool, a’ight?”

Aww girl, that ain’t him,” the guy says, feigning disgust. “Siddown and shut yo mouf.” […]

Take the time, read those links, you need this information.

Ancient Laws, Modern Wars

Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of some ancient learning, and helps us apply it to the present day.

After eight years of withdrawal, what rules should the U.S. follow to effectively reassert itself in world affairs? The most dangerous moments in foreign affairs often come after a major power seeks to reassert its lost deterrence. The United States may be entering just such a perilous transitional period.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446471/military-deterrence-trumps-leadership-abroad-principles-foreign-policy […]

1. Avoid making verbal threats that are not serious and backed up by force. After eight years of pseudo-red lines, step-over lines, deadlines, and “game changers,” American ultimatums without consequences have no currency and will only invite further aggression.
2. The unlikely is not impossible. Weaker powers can and do start wars. Japan in December 1941 attacked the world’s two largest navies based on the false impression that great powers which sought to avoid war did so because they were weak. That current American military power is overwhelming does not mean delusional nations will always agree that it is so — or that it will be used.
3. Big wars can start from small beginnings. No one thought an obscure Austrian archduke’s assassination in 1914 would lead to some 18 million dead by 1918. Consider any possible military engagement a precursor to far more. Have a backup plan — and another backup plan for the backup plan.
4. Do not confuse tactics with strategy. Successfully shooting down a rogue airplane, blowing up an incoming speedboat, or taking an ISIS-held Syrian city is not the same as finding a way to win and end a war. Strategic victory is time-consuming and usually involves drawing on economic, political, and cultural superiority as well as military success to ensure that a defeated opponent stays defeated — and agrees that further aggression is counterproductive.

via Military Deterrence & Trump’s Leadership Abroad: Principles for Foreign Policy | National Review Read the whole thing.™

There’s more there and they are all true, useful, and important. One that we Americans are very prone to is number four above. It’s always a problem, where is the dividing line. There is a murky area in there as well that some theorists coming after Clausewitz refer to as the ‘operational’. While I see their point, which is valid, these theories are already too complex, so it is best to do our best to maintain a sharp clear line.

If they are doing their job, the TLAM strike in Syria in Syria was strategic. It may or may not deter Hasan, although that is certainly desirable, but it depends on his calculus of survival. If he thinks he is more likely to survive by doing such things, he will. He is, after all, a man of weak morals, caught in a corner. He will do his best to survive, just as Saddam did.

But the point of that strike, which occurred while the President was having dinner with the Chinese Premier, was not Syria. It was Iran and North Korea, and it was notice to their sponsor states, Russia and China, that we were quite unhappy, and that the eagle just might scream in other parts of the world.

It’s important to realize that the United States, while it may be possible to destroy it, it can only be destroyed by what is essentially a nation level suicide-bombing, and only Russia (and maybe China) can do it. America’s only real enemies are internal. And that too has precedent, especially with Rome. Are we there? I don’t think so, but there are troubling signs.

My reading is that the first signs of decline are corruption, venality, and a deterioration of will. I do see these signs in abundance, and we would be wise to check our course. Or maybe we did, and that why we have Trump.

The Stupidity of United

So, this happened

And so, United unleashed a pretty good Twitter Storm worldwide. And they deserve it for simple stupidity.

Sure they overbook, and it’s understandable why they do. Sean Davis gave us a pretty good explanation of how it works. An empty seat is decidedly lost revenue, never to be recovered. Although JetBlue, the low-cost carrier doesn’t, never has, and say they never will.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist had a bit to say about it yesterday.

United has confirmed that they overbooked the flight and dragged a passenger off when they didn’t get enough volunteers. United had previously offered money — up to $800 — for passengers to voluntarily get off the flight. The passengers who needed to be seated were United employees who needed to get to another destination in order to work a flight there, apparently. But when $800 wasn’t enough to get volunteers, they chose to take a man seated on his flight with a ticket he paid for and remove him forcibly. Now they’re facing a social media backlash as a result.

People already are upset with how undignified air travel has become, even if it is relatively cheaper than air travel decades ago. United was also recently embroiled in a (frankly stupid) public relations problem for enforcing its employee dress code on girls who were flying on employee passes. Now this. Being dragged off a plane by brutish security guards for the crime of purchasing a ticket and taking your seat when the airline boarded is something that just doesn’t look good.

But why didn’t United just do the simple thing of understanding that the money it was offering was insufficient and needed to be raised? Laura Begley Broom just wrote in Forbes, “Why Delta Air Lines Paid Me $11,000 Not To Fly To Florida This Weekend.” She was caught up in the recent storm-caused travel delays. While Delta tried to take volunteers for lower amounts, she and her husband negotiated a better deal for their first flight delay. Then they did it again for a second delay. Then they negotiated an additional $1,000 per family member to cancel their trip altogether.

Each step of the way, according to Broom, Delta understood that giving this family nearly $4,000 cash money was cheaper than dealing with an untenably complicated situation.

United should have simply started offering more money. If $800 wasn’t enough, what about $1,000? If $1,000 wasn’t enough, how about $1,200? They were receiving real-time information about price setting and they weren’t responsive to it. Now they’ll suffer much more through negative public relations and earned bad media. A bit of knowledge of economics might have helped them.

She’s right, that’s a free market solution to the problem, at some point, some passenger would have decided that the price would have been sufficient for the inconvenience. Instead, they managed to look stupid (which undoubtedly whoever decided this is) to thousands of people all over the world, who will henceforth do their damnedest NOT to fly the once ‘friendly skies’. Yeah, I remember when it was a pleasant experience, but I’m old, the planes were 707s and Convair 880s. Seen one lately?

Instead, they forced the issue, removing a passenger for “for the crime of purchasing a ticket and taking your seat when the airline boarded”. It’s really hard to see how they could be this stupid, especially so that they could move some employees to work another flight, so probably not even a paying passenger.

Not the first time I’ve compared air travel in the United States to emigrant class in the old west, and I doubt it’ll be the last, you’ve also heard me refer to it as “cattle class”.

Why is this so stupid? One the passenger they removed surely has a bad taste in his mouth from the experience (likely a lawsuit pending as well). But the real cost of this is in the thousands of people who will try their best to avoid United at all costs, or even flying, which has become almost more of a hassle than the time saved is worth. That’s not all down to the airlines, the kabuki theatre of security bears a lot of blame as well. But the airlines get plenty of blame as well. Interestingly, last night I was listening to BBC Norfolk, a local station in Norwich, England. This was one of their lead stories. Real good job there, United.

UAL managed to save a few thousand bucks here at the cost of untold thousands, perhaps millions. And being held up as a horrible example, worldwide. That’s a cost of flouting the free market by a very stupid corporation. And they deserve every bit of it.

Hello, Amtrack.

And an update: United’s market cap has fallen $830 million, with a 3.7 percent drop in share price, according to MarketWatch.

Swamp Status: Undrained

Well, how about some videos on our problems?

or this

This, however, I do like quite a lot

If you’ve never visited our National Battlefield Parks, you really should. These are some of the places where our history was made. Names that ring down history, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Harper’s Ferry, Little Big Horn, and so many others. If your reflective in these places, you can almost still see the shades of the soldiers. And you know, it’s something uniquely American, nobody else has ever done this. It’s very moving and very cool.

Day late and a Dollar Short

Story of my life. But I had nothing yesterday for April Fool’s day. But this showed up, and I like it. Remy. Enjoy!

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