Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Civilian Authority

Dissension Mutiny In The Ranks
Having watched the push and pull that has gone on between the Bush Administration and groups of Active and Retired military officers since the start of the Iraq war, it has been apparent that there has been significant opposing factions in the senior military corps.  Mackubin T. Owens comments in today's Wall Street Journal, demonstrate that conflict was significant.  As this country winds down our action in Iraq, and during the next Commander in Chief's watch, this is an issue that must be dealt with decisively.

Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq
 The dominant media storyline about the Iraq war holds that the decisions about how to conduct it pitted ignorant civilians -- especially the president and secretary of defense -- against the uniformed military, whose wise and sober advice was cavalierly ignored. The Bush administration's cardinal sin was interference in predominantly military affairs, starting with overruling the military on the size of the force that invaded Iraq in March 2003.
But it's not just the media that peddles this story. As Bob Woodward illustrates in his new book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008," it also resonates among many senior uniformed military officers.
The plausibility of the narrative rests on two questionable principles. The first is that soldiers have the right to a voice in making policy regarding the use of the military instrument -- that indeed they have the right to insist that their views be adopted. The second is that the judgment of soldiers is inherently superior to that of civilians when it comes to military affairs. Both of these principles are at odds with the American practice of civil-military relations, and with the historical record.
In our republic the uniformed military advises the civilian authorities, but has no right to insist that its views be adopted. Of course, uniformed officers have an obligation to stand up to civilian leaders if they think a policy is flawed. They must convey their concerns to civilian policy-makers forcefully and truthfully. But once a policy decision is made, soldiers are obligated to carry it out to the best of their ability, whether their advice is heeded or not.
Moreover, even when it comes to strictly military affairs, soldiers are not necessarily more prescient than civilian policy makers. This is confirmed by the historical record......
Although the conventional narrative about the Iraq war is wrong, its persistence has contributed to the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward's account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.
In one respect, the actions taken by military opponents of the surge, e.g. "foot-dragging," "slow-rolling" and selective leaking are, unfortunately, all-too-characteristic of U.S. civil-military relations during the last decade and a half. But the picture Mr. Woodward draws is far more troubling. Even after the policy had been laid down, the bulk of the senior U.S. military leadership -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the rest of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Abizaid's successor, Adm. William Fallon, actively worked against the implementation of the president's policy.
If Mr. Woodward's account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln's war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president's policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic


Mackubin T. Owens is Professor of Strategy and Force Planning at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. 

Solar Wind

Forget about UVA and UVB, now it's Galactic Cosmic Rays.....

Solar wind weakest since beginning of space age
Ultraviolet image of the sun. The intensity of the sun's million-mile-per-hour solar wind has dropped to its lowest levels since accurate records began half a century ago, scientists say.

The intensity of the sun's million-mile-per-hour solar wind has dropped to its lowest levels since accurate records began half a century ago, scientists say.
Measurements of the cosmic blasts of radiation, ejected from the sun's upper atmosphere, were made with the Ulysses spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The solar wind "inflates a protective bubble, or heliosphere, around the solar system," which protects the inner planets against the radiation from other stars, said Dave McComas, Ulysses' solar wind principal investigator and senior executive director at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
"With the solar wind at an all-time low, there is an excellent chance the heliosphere will diminish in size and strength," said Ed Smith, NASA's Ulysses project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"If that occurs, more galactic cosmic rays will make it into the inner part of our solar system," added Smith.
Scientists say the weakening of solar wind appears to be due to changes in the sun's magnetic field, but the causes of these changes are not known.


A poem for today

The Pennycandystore Beyond the El

The Pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
     fell in love
          with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
              the licorice sticks
          and tootsie rolls
      and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
     and they cried
          Too soon! too soon!
"The Pennycandystore Beyond the El" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from A Coney Island of the Mind. © New Directions Publishing, 1958. 

Listen to it here.... 

Financial Crisis Silver Lining

Economist: Global warming a back-burner issue

Todays economic issues could have an unanticipated silver lining.  With real issues to deal with, like "do I have a job anymore?", or "do I have  enough money to pay my rent and buy food?", the issues that have been on the table for heated national discussion appear to have been re-prioritized.  This shift in attention may provide just the right amount of cool-down to the Global Warming argument that will allow a much needed rational examination and evaluation of the issue by the public.

A Washington D.C. economist says global warming is not America’s most pressing concern in these economically challenged times.
“We have to look at the big picture,” says Margo Thorning, a senior vice president and chief economist with the American Council for Capital Formation. “... I don’t think global warming is our worst problem by far.”
Thorning says electricity is essential for emerging countries working their way out of poverty. And her data shows the increased bulk of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment comes from places like China, India and Africa.
“Global warming is an issue, but to me, it’s less important an issue than alleviating the need for electricity that people have,” Thorning says. “I am interested in people living longer, happier, healthier lives. They need electricity. ... They cannot claw their way out of poverty and abject misery without electricity.”
Thorning says the United States’ sagging economy would take another hit if measures were taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through alternative energy sources.
“People need to be aware of the real costs associated with various policy proposals out there,” says Allen Wright, director of public affairs for Koch Industries.
The shift to other energy sources — like wind or solar — comes with a hefty price tag that would either have to be paid for through higher taxes or an increase of as much as 20 to 30 percent in electricity costs, she estimates. Neither option would boost the economy, she says.
“When you raise electricity prices, that slows production — that makes it harder for companies to stay in business and make money,” Thorning says. “It tends to depress business investment.”
Meanwhile, she says, the average household would have nearly $1,000 less to spend each year if the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill, which stalled on the floor of the U.S. Senate last session, suddenly gained traction.
“Households would have to spend more on electricity and less on clothes, food, health care and fun,” Thorning says. “It’s a drag to have to pay more for energy.”

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