McGenius McRaven, Trump, Strategy, and Forever Wars

So ADM McRaven doesn’t like Trump’s foreign policy. That’s OK since it limits the opportunity for special operators to die for the deep state or maybe nothing at all. And that is his problem, I think. He has been seduced by the power, glamour, money, and respect generated by the ‘forever wars’. There’s a reason that as far back as when I was in ROTC, it was common knowledge to never trust an officer above lieutenant colonel – they were often (far from always) more concerned with their career than they were with either the mission or the troops. Anybody think this has changed?

And even more to the point, does anybody who thinks even close to objectively, think that US foreign policy since about late 2001~2003 has served America well? Bueller? Bueller? Yeah, that’s what I think too. I’m very proud of our military, as all know, it is by far the best in the world. But that doesn’t mean that every well in every shithole in the world needs American troops. maybe we should let them solve (or not solve) their problems their way unless they threaten us seriously.

There is a pretty good article on The Federalist about this, which should be read widely. One snippet.

Even during times of hyper-partisanship, the military remains the most-trusted institution in America by a wide margin. But trust can be undermined if the services are viewed as yet another partisan institution. As Duke University law professor and retired Air Force Deputy Judge Advocate General Charles Dunlap recently explained:

…that sterling reputation is much-based [sic] on the public’s belief that the military, unlike so many other entities these days, is an altruistic organization impartially focused on serving the Nation’s interests. Because the military normally stays apolitical, something too rarely found in today’s hyper-polarized environment, I don’t think it’s perceived as yet another self-serving interest group.

Yep. And as for McCraven, if he believes Trump is screwing up, well there is a traditional way for generals to say so – he can run for president, like McClellan and MacArthur, I doubt he gets far, but that’s his option. Otherwise, it’s just idle bitching, of no more account, and perhaps less, than mine during the Reign of Error.

Over at The American Spectator, Andrew J. Bacevich has some thoughts on Trump’s strategic thinking, as well. Here’s a bit:

However infelicitous his phrasing, Trump promises to revive an approach to war to which Ulysses S. Grant and Franklin Roosevelt adhered back when they demanded that their adversaries surrender unconditionally. He is echoing Douglas MacArthur, who famously declared that: ‘There is no substitute for victory.’ He is harkening back to the canonical lessons of Vietnam as articulated by Reagan-era defense secretary Caspar Weinberger who in 1984 insisted that US troops would never again go into battle unless the nation had a ‘clear intention of winning’. He is even doing a fair imitation of George W. Bush, who in announcing the 2003 invasion of Iraq assured his fellow citizens that in the ensuing campaign ‘We will accept no outcome but victory’.

Once upon a time, the American way of war was all about winning. Today it has come to mean something quite different. Once the United States fought wars to end them. Today it seemingly fights wars to perpetuate them.

To his credit, Trump has apparently intuited that there’s something amiss here. For this Commander-in-Chief, any war that drags on and on is by definition a failure.

Other than the gratuitous swipe at Trump’s language, he’s right here (there are a lot of those swipes in the article, they’re best ignored because there is a fair amount of sense, as well.)

I’m inclined to think that Grant (he really means Lincoln, but he probably thinks Grant is held in lower regard) and FDR did pretty good as wartime Presidents. Trump could choose far worse models.

In short, it’s time for the US to stop mucking about in everybody’s business for little to no reason. It was fine to feed the Yazidi on that mountain a few years ago, but tell me again why we invaded Libya, or have troops in the sand of Syria. Or packing the hill of Afghanistan for that matter. Time to come home,   China is a lot more important, and maybe some of these genius strategic thinkers could fix the military procurement system. Or they could retire and STFD and STFU and live on their millions extracted from the blood of young Americans, and nearly everybody else in the world.

The difference between McRaven, the rest of the deep state and Trump? Teddy Roosevelt said it for the ages.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The Immortal Memory

The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oi...

Image via Wikipedia

If you wish to accuse me of being a bit tardy, I will accede. This perennial post of mine, most years since the very first, should have been yesterday’s post. I simply forgot. So unlike in naval combat, in blogging late is better than never.


If you remember, I referred a while back to President Jefferson’s open letter regarding the return of Louisiana to France from Spain, where he commented that “on that day we shall have to marry ourselves to the British fleet and people”, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark”. This is the day that France (and Spain) would forever lose control of the sea to Great Britain.

Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea.

That battle is Trafalgar. The battle was fought off of the south-west coast of Spain between the British Squadron with 27 Ships-of-the-Line and the combined French and Spanish fleets with 33.

The Franco-Spanish fleet was under orders to sail for Brest to help accomplish the invasion of England, which was, by far, Napoleon’s most steadfast enemy.

Remember these were sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind. and at Trafalgar, there was very little. The French and especially the Spanish were short-handed and had to fill their ship’s companies with soldiers. The British on the other hand had been blockading the coast for years and had been drilled mercilessly. Their commander, himself, had not been off the flagship for more than two years.

Alfred Thayer Mahan in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History puts it this way: “Those distant, storm-tossed ships, never seen by the Grande Armee, were all that stood between it and world domination.

And so today, in 1805, the battle was joined. The British had the weather gage and a very unusual plan. Because of the light wind, they would divide their battle line in two, with each squadron approaching the Franco-Spanish line at an acute angle. With a well-trained enemy, this would have been nearly suicidal but, under these conditions it allowed the British to engage the entire fleet and win the battle in a single day.

The British were under the command of a man who had had his introduction to naval war in the American Revolution, he fought in several minor battles off Toulon, was integral in the capture of Corsica, was captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. At the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he lost his right arm, he won a decisive victory over the French at The Battle of the Nile and against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen.

At Trafalgar the British fleet went into battle with this signal flying from the flagship:

That flagship is, of course, the HMS Victory, which is now the oldest naval ship in regular commission in the world.


An aside, the second oldest, USS Constitution (and the oldest afloat) was launched on 21 October 1797. Over last weekend she sailed across Boston Harbor to Fort Independence on Castle Island where she fired a twenty-one gun salute, as she returned she also fired a salute at Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard, where she was built. Here she is, afloat and underway

CASEY SCOULAR/U.S. NAVY


The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim

as it is inscribed on his coffin in St. Paul’s cathedral, for he was killed by a French marine during the battle.

The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s passing Russian squadron, which saluted on learning of the death.

King George III, upon receiving the news, is reported to have said, in tears, “We have lost more than we have won”.

And the Times reported:

We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.

For us, as Americans, much of the development of our country, the end of slavery, and the freedom of all American republics from, the Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego owe their self-government to the victory by Lord Nelson and the continuing efforts throughout the nineteenth century of the Royal Navy.

Even today, we note that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the new British strike carrier is working up off the coast of North America, as she learns in cooperation with our navy, how to project force in the twenty-first century

And so tonight in the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies, and at least in some places in the United States Navy and even in other navies and places will be drunk the one naval toast that is drunk in total silence:

The Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and those who fell with him”

The traditional music to follow the toast is: Rule Britannia.

 

Syria, Turkey, the Kurds

Well, we talked about the President’s Kurdish strategy yesterday. Like some of you, I was supportive but a bit worried. We just plainly cannot go around the world interfering in every conflict, no matter how rich it makes the military-industrial complex. As is usual, as soon as I talked a bit about it, the situation changed. How? the Kurds struck a deal with Syria. That to me makes far more sense. If anything in the mid-east makes much sense at all. Seraphim Hanisch writing in The Duran is quite a bit more positive than I am, so let’s take a look.

President Trump was right again. According to a new Fox News piece published late Sunday evening, Kurdish forces negotiated a deal with Damascus to face off Turkey’s offensive. Russia is involved in the dealmaking as well.

The New York Times reported that the deal– which was announced Sunday evening– would enable President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to attempt to regain a foothold in the country’s northeast. The Kurdish fighters had few options after the United States abandoned them, and it had been anticipated they would turn to Assad’s government for support.

“An agreement has been reached with the Syrian government — whose duty it is to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty — for the Syrian Army to enter and deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to help the SDF stop this aggression” by Turkey, the SDF said in a statement.

The Washington Post reported that the deal was reached after three days of negotiations between the Kurdish forces, Russian envoys and Damascus. […]

The media is portraying this as a Terrible, Awful, Not-so-Good, Unbelievably bad move for Trump who, as the American MSM, now even including Matt Drudge and more and more people even from Fox News will be happy to tell you, is facing the early termination of his Presidency with a growing level of “support” for impeachment and removal from office, per the Compleat Fake Impeachment Scandal.

These anti-Trump forces – basically globalists, secular humanists, represented in a very large number by the ranks of US Representatives and Senators in our own government, and reinforced by the severely biased globalist, secular humanist-biased Western press – are engaged in all-out waragainst the American president.

However, President Trump is playing the long game, and as usual, the foreign policy moves he makes (when he does so unfettered by “advisers”) are practical, needful, and nearly perfect. He is not afraid to gamble as he did with this Turkey / Kurd situation.

I don’t know about you, but I see little in that to argue with. In fact, the howl that went up from all the usual (globalist) suspects told me it was probably an excellent idea. I’m not very enamored of Russia’s involvement, to be honest, but Syria even with the support of others in the neighborhood, probably isn’t big enough to carry the ball alone. The best thing is that those 50-100 American special forces are not in the line of fire.

There are reports that Turkish troops/auxiliaries are killing civilians, including women and children. That probably helped precipitate the deal. It’s also normal Turkish practice, they practically invented ethnic cleansing. In this case, they are bringing opposition to them into the field, and that too is good. Erdogan is getting much too big for his britches and needs a lesson.

President Trump spoke about this situation the other day:

The Monday Roundup

A lot of (what I think is) good thinking showed up over the weekend. So let’s take a look at it. In American Thinker, Shoshana Bryen tells us that Trump’s foreign policy is “more money, less military’“.

One way to understand Trump administration foreign policy is to understand that it is more comfortable with the currency of currency than the currency of American soldiers abroad.  That isn’t always the best approach, since many of America’s adversaries are wedded to military interventions — including grossly illegal ones.  And how the United States reassures its allies that it is not abandoning the playing field to soldiers on the other side is of inestimable importance.

But since money appears central to administration thinking, consider China, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Trump administration.

That’s an interesting thought, and while I agree that it is not always the best approach, it’s not a terrible default idea – the soldiers are still about, but money is cheaper (for us, anyway) than blood.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, appears to have a stiffer spine, as befits the government of the United States.  It has gone straight after what China cares about most: energy, espionage, and the surveillance of its people. […]

And Huawei, the Chinese tech company, is looking to be running low on American semiconductors and other parts for its 5G network, raising questions about its ability to maintain global dominance in telecommunications — and industrial and national security spying.  Huawei can substitute its own parts in the network for American parts, but The Washington Post reports that “analysts have said a Huawei operating system would have a tough time competing globally with Google and its popular Gmail and Chrome apps[.] … Huawei chief executive Ren said the U.S. blockade was causing a large drop in Huawei’s smartphone sales outside of China.”

See what I mean, this may or may not have completely desirable results, but it’s a lot better than getting our people in the way of the Chinese Communists. It also leads into our next article, also from American Thinker by Robert Arvay, who asks is Trump leading Xi and Kim into a death trap.

A dictatorship is nothing more than an organized crime mob on steroids.  The head of state must brutally suppress (read: murder) anyone and everyone who poses even a remote threat to his power.  Dictators do not get voted out of office.  They get carried out, feet first.

Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea (the title of chairman is a euphemism), is exceedingly paranoid.  Paranoia in a dictator is not a disorder; it is a necessary survival mechanism.  Kim not only murders anyone and everyone whom he even suspects of disloyalty, but takes nonlethal measures as well.  He even takes his own toilet with him wherever he travels, in order to prevent his DNA from falling into the hands of analysts who might deduce his physical infirmities. […]

The dictator, then, must carefully balance his threats and promises.  His acolytes must fear him.  Indeed, they must be constantly terrorized by the dictator’s ruthless exercise of authority.  However, the dictator must be exceedingly careful in how much terror he can impose.  Terror keeps him alive.  Panic can kill him. […]

Finally, this is what brings us to the ingenious method by which President Trump is deftly maneuvering both Kim and Xi into their potential death traps.  Both men are surrounded by loyalists who are not only terrorized, but also richly rewarded for their continued loyalty.  Once those rewards stop, once the dictator shows weakness, once he is defeated by a stronger enemy, the loyalists might panic.

Now mind, I doubt the President has thought all this out as clearly as the author writes, but Trump has been around the block a few times with some not overly nice guys, corrupt bureaucrats, even more corrupt unions and I imagine he learned some ways to get things done since he got things done.

Finally, yesterday, in 1775, something new was seen on the sea, for it was the birthdate of the American Navy. From that first salute at Stasia, to gunsmoke off Flamborough Head on the east coast of England, to a commendation from Lord Nelson himself, to the famous single-ship actions, to the destruction of two Spanish fleets, to Midway, Leyte Gulf, the successful submarine campaign, to Inchon, to the disaster relief provided by the fleet and the hospital ships, and right down to this week, the Navy has done it all and done America proud.

None of what we talked about today, or will in the future would be possible without the evident power of the United States Navy.

He who controls the sea controls the trade of the world,

He who controls the trade of the world controls the wealth of the world.

Sir Walter Raleigh and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Happy Birthday, Navy!

In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

Arms of the Portuguese Prince Henry, the Navig...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Columbus Day has come. And again we celebrate the (re)discovery of the New World. And look what has been erected on that discovery! If you didn’t know; Columbus was a student of Prince Henry the Navigator’s school.

Those students made almost all of the voyages of discovery from the Iberian Peninsula. By the way, Prince Henry of  Portugal was the Grandson of John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster. The English always make it into these stories of the sea, don’t they?

So we know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But why? His crews were afraid of starving or falling off the edge of the world. His ships were ridiculously small. What exactly was the point? Nobody in Portugal had even heard of Brazil, nor were they all that enthused about an overseas empire. So, why?

Trade, that’s why. Everybody knew where India and China were (at least all the cool cats that knew the world was round). They had since Marco Polo made that remarkable trip, if not before. They liked the silk and other good things that came from China. But there was a problem.

You see there were pirates in the Mediterranean, then one had to get through the totalitarian Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Persians, and various and sundry other Islamic States. If you remember Spain had just managed to reconquer Spain from the Moslems and just plain didn’t want anything to do with them. So they decided to take a shortcut and sail west to go east. Yeah, their calculations were off a bit about the size of the world, but that’s why.

Now let’s think about this a little, Spain went way out of its way to avoid the clowns and founded both the New World and New Spain in the process: and got themselves into a shooting war with England that would eventually cost them their world power status. See A Cloud Smaller Than a Fist.

A few hundred years later, the United States won its Independence from Great Britain. The United States’ very first war was a regime change in Tripoli. There are still Islamic pirates, they still hold slaves and all in all they are still living in the 7th Century. And still today, Iran threatens war on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Some things never change.

Only now with their oil wealth, instead of modernizing and improving their people’s lives and such, they seem intent on conquering the world and seem to believe the world will use its modernity to help

They have found some fellow travelers, who had best hope they lose because they aren’t going to enjoy winning for long. Ask the survivors of the Kingdom of the Visigoths in about 1000 AD.

So there you have it. The cause of Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue.

In Other News:

  • General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry) and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.

  • On the morning of October 12, 1915, the 49-year-old British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels, Belgium.

Before World War I began in 1914, Cavell served for a number of years as the matron of a nurse’s training school in Brussels. After the city was captured and occupied by the Germans in the first month of the war, Cavell chose to remain at her post, tending to German soldiers and Belgians alike. In August 1915, German authorities arrested her and accused her of helping British and French prisoners-of-war, as well as Belgians hoping to serve with the Allied armies, to escape Belgium for neutral Holland. As I wrote on the centenary of her execution, here, there was no doubt at all of her guilt. And you can watch (no sound BTW) the procession for her state funeral at Norwich Cathedral in 1919 here.

  • On this day in 1776, British Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe lead a force of 4,000 troops aboard some 90 flat-boats up New York’s East River toward Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in Westchester County, in an effort to encircle General George Washington and the Patriot force stationed at Harlem Heights.

This was the largest British amphibious attack before Normandy.

After hearing of the British landing at Throg’s Neck, Washington ordered a contingent of troops from the Pennsylvania regiment to destroy the bridge leading from the peninsula to the Westchester mainland. The destruction of the bridge stranded Clinton and his men at Throg’s Neck for six days before they were loaded back onto their vessels and continued up the East River toward Pell Point.

  • On this day in 1946, Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63.

All courtesy of This Day In History.

 

The American Cincinnatus

George Washington
mountvernon.org

Before we start, a question for our readers. Do you prefer when I write about current events, or when I rummage about in our national attic, as I have been doing this week? I won’t say I’ll necessarily abide by what you say, often I write about what interests me at the moment. That’s likely to continue, but perhaps the emphasis could be one or the other, or even a combination, as we’ve sometimes done, applying the lessons of history to things today. Hartley did indeed say, “History is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. But that doesn’t exclude us from learning lessons there either. Let me know what you think in comments.


At the end of last July in Law and Liberty,  Matthew J. Franck wrote a fascinating account of John Marshall’s admiration (and biography of) George Washington.

George Washington resigned his commission as the commander in chief of the Continental Army in a public appearance before the Confederation Congress (then sitting in Annapolis) on December 23, 1783, in his own words “commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God.” Eleven days later, from Richmond, Virginia, John Marshall, a former captain in the 7th Virginia Regiment now married, settled down, and practicing law, wrote to his old friend and fellow veteran James Monroe:

At length then the military career of the greatest Man on earth is closed. May happiness attend him wherever he goes. May he long enjoy those blessings he has secured to his Country. When I speak or think of that superior Man my full heart overflows with gratitude. May he ever experience from his Countrymen those attentions which such sentiments of themselves produce.

Marshall’s veneration of Washington was not unusual among the officers and men who had served under the commanding general. What may have been unusual was the extent to which Marshall’s admiration remained durably undimmed to the end of his own long life more than a half century later.

Nor was it confined to Americans, George III himself, asked John Adams, then Minister to the Court of St. James, what he would do. Adams told him that Washington would return to his farm. The King then said, “Then he will be the greatest man in the world.” This is also where the phrase “The American Cincinnatus”  comes from. In memory of the great Roman general who twice did the same thing, only to suffer persecution.

This last edition, first published posthumously in 1838, is the one brought back into print by Liberty Fund in 2000, edited by scholars Robert Faulkner and Paul Carrese. As Faulkner says in his foreword, “Marshall’s Life of Washington is political history as well as biography. . . . the only comprehensive account by a great statesman of the full founding of the United States.” This is history lived by the author, more Thucydides or Xenophon than Plutarch. And so Marshall, who could remember well the temper of the times, remarks of the beginnings of the Revolution:

Although the original and single object of the war on the part of the colonies was a redress of grievances, the progress of public opinion towards independence, though slow, was certain. . . . To profess allegiance and attachment to a monarch with whom they were at open war, was an absurdity too great to be of long continuance.

Which is something we Americans tend to forget. Back in 1776 very few really wanted Independency as Samuel Adams was wont to call it. They wanted their grievances addressed. They were, in fact, proud of being British. And yes, that is why it bears striking parallels to both Brexit and Trump’s election.

That’s probably enough from me. I would like you to read the linked article, and I’d like you to join me in shortly buying the book, as these things go these days, it’s not particularly expensive.

I’ll leave you with this thought though, as we watch both Washington and London engage im such vituperative arguments.

In one respect, Marshall’s Washington makes for very sobering reading today. We tend to think of George Washington as the Marble Man—all looked up to him, and he merited every encomium bestowed on him. There is much truth in this; he was, after all, the only man ever elected President effectively by acclamation—and twice! But Marshall does not omit another truth: that there were plenty of people eager to bring him down, even among his own countrymen. Rival generals and suspicious congressmen during the Revolution schemed to displace him at the head of the army. As President, Washington had a “honeymoon” that lasted less than two years; then the knives came out, first for men like Hamilton who were his advisers and his instruments, and by the end, for Washington himself.

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