“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, September 05, 2003

Bollettino

Stanley Weintraub wrote an indictment of General Macauthur in the nineties that was approvingly reviewed in the military journal, Parameters. The reviewer, General Harold Nelson, USA Ret., former US Army Chief of Military History, wrote:

"I next felt the need for a book such as this when we taught case studies in senior leadership at the War College in the 1980s. MacArthur's "genius" was predictably discovered by enthusiastic students each year, and the Inchon operation was inevitably--and appropriately--cited as key supporting evidence. Professor Weintraub does a fine job laying out the importance of MacArthur's intractable commitment to that operation as the main reason it was tried. He spares no praise where praise is deserved. But he goes beyond Inchon, questioning MacArthur's insistence on subsequent amphibious operations against the east coast of the Korean peninsula--a decision that removed combat forces from the pursuit following the liberation of Seoul and weakened UN forces available in North Korea when the Chinese intervened. He also reminds us that MacArthur surrounded himself with "yes men," was terribly vain, and pushed the careers of undeserving subordinates--hardly the traits one would seek in an ideal senior leader.

I next needed this book when I was Chief of Military History for an Army Chief of Staff who was pledging "No more Task Force Smiths." I could dig out the necessary facts and figures on the undermanning and lax training of the Occupation Forces in Japan from James Schnabel's Policy and Direction: The First Year. But that official history put most of the blame on Washington--both the politicians and the Pentagon generals. Weintraub reminds us how much MacArthur was to blame, not only with his hands-off approach to day-to-day issues related to readiness, but in the bluff and bluster he put into his briefings when men such as Army Chief of Staff General Joseph Lawton Collins came to visit his command. Schnabel emphasizes the optimistic reports Collins filed when he returned to Washington. Weintraub reminds us that Collins had been a major when MacArthur was Army Chief of Staff, and that General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, ostensibly MacArthur's boss as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been promoted to lieutenant colonel during those years. He also reminds us that MacArthur "never materialized at field exercises, where pampered and poorly trained garrison soldiers could not figure out how to erect tents, break down a rifle, assemble chow wagons, or maintain themselves in any way without indigenous assistance." Thank God the Army wasn't saddled with any superannuated five-star generals unwilling to be team players when we were saying "No more Task Force Smiths."

Well, one wonders what the future historian will say about Donald Rumsfeld. The Macarthur comparison is apt -- the same vanity, the same play to a certain reactionary crowd, the same court behavior. The yes men, now, are the strategists like Wolfowitz and Feith. And the same utter contempt for anyone who contradicts the faith. One of the many disturbing things about the long Democrat somnolence is that there are no cries for Bush to fire Rumsfeld. Surely if ever a man deserved to be fired, it is a man who has taken upon himself to usurp the function of the state department; whose personal pique at our Atlantic allies is now costing us perhaps an extra billion dollars per week, and probably more; whose ingenuity in stirring up the Macarthur strain in our culture has proven wholly pernicious to any sensible discussion of American interest and strategy in Iraq.

Rumsfeld and his minions are uncomfortably caught between their propaganda and reality. The official line is that the occupation is on course. If that official line were right, Rumsfeld's plan -- diminishing the US troop committment ot 30,000 this month -- would have been implemented. But even the most delusional Pentagon player has dropped that item from the agenda. The other reality -- the financial one -- is looming. No doubt Bush's speech will gingerly prepare the ground for the 60 billion dollar request from Congress. Again, if the progress were 'remarkable" -- as Rumsfeld likes to say -- the oil revenues would already be flowing in at the estimate the Pentagon liked to give in the pre-war period. That estimate was widely accepted at the time -- a sign of that the Pentagon's delusions had become the establishment's -- but it is now obvious that they were nearer lies than mistakes.

It is hard to imagine any "progress" in Iraq as long as it is in the hands of Donald Rumsfeld. It isn't that LI expects Bush to replace him with Susan Sontag. But McCain would be nice.

Of course, given Bush's feeling about McCain, Sontag might be more likely.

Unfortunately, the editorialist's well meaning opinion, that we should be sending more troops to Iraq, is like so many editorialist's opinions: a blandness wrapped around a hollowness. What are these troops to do? If there is a real guerilla war happening in Iraq -- and by now, I think it is obvious there is one -- the troops should be smothering the resources that sustain that war. That means sealing the borders, and it means interdicting the network of small internal forces. To do that wouldn't just require a little increase in American forces -- it would probably take at least 300,000 more.

No, Iraq is not going to regain its sovereignty with 400,000 or even 100,000 American troops roaming around in it. Perhaps a multi-national force would have squelched the beginnings of the guerilla war, but it seems to me that that force is going to face the same problem that the American forces face presently.

The only force that can really face the guerillas is an Iraqi force. The number of soldiers needed to deny insurgent groups resources is about equal to the number disbanded at the end of the war by Rumsfeld's deputy, Bremer. Bremer's decision, a compound of ignorance and hubris, is now blowing back on us. The idea that we are going to change the direction of Iraq in D.C., which is still current in both the belligerent and anti-war camps in this country, is simply false.

It hurts to agree with retired military men -- especially when they have names straight out of Doctor Strangelove -- but the WP article on the coming request for 50 to 60 billion dollars (which will undoubtedly mean 70 to 80 billion dollars -- it is how the Bush administration does its money) ended with these two grafs.


"In a sign of growing friction between Bush and the military establishment, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, a Gulf War commander, said in an interview during the meeting in Arlington that he is hearing an unprecedented amount of concern among retired officers over how the Bush administration has handled Iraq.

"Their criticism focused on Rumsfeld, he added."I've never seen so such discontent among the retired community," Van Riper said. Last week, he said, he was at a breakfast with eight retired generals at which one asked about Rumsfeld, "When are they going to get rid of this guy?""

Indeed.

PS -- The Boeing vote has been delayed, per our post on Darleen Druyun. The WP has reported that an alternative lease plan is being considered.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Bollettino

Various conservatives and Bushites have claimed that too much attention has been paid to pot shot casualties in Iraq. Actually, this is not new -- in Frank Bruni's biography of George W., he shows that Bush sr. went on a 'fact finding' tour of Vietnam in the sixties and came back with the same conclusion -- that basically, difficulties in South Vietnam were being exaggerated. Now, partly this is just the prejudiced eye. And partly it is a fact about modern guerilla warfare -- it operates in eerie synch with the everydayness. Because the kind of warfare that finds its main grammatical component in the 'battle' has tended towards total war, those who have been trained in that tradition simply don't understand the partial war of the guerilla. Shops are open in the cities, electricity runs, most of the time. The observer can rent a car, drive around. However, guerilla wars do not bring with them less casualties than total wars. They bring with them a different kind of casualty ratio -- since the aim is to incrementally break the opponents spirit, the means -- the sudden interjection of violence, and the equally sudden disappearance of the guerilla force. While warfare has always produced more wounded than dead, in guerilla warfare, the numbers of the dead can be, for periods of time, nugatory. The thing to look for is an increasing amount of wounded. This is happening.

The Washington Post has a belated piece on the astonishing injury counts US forces are sustaining in Iraq. It was a surprise to me that last week, 55 American soldiers were wounded. That is a major figure -- it is a Vietnam type figure. The whole article, which also discusses how the military is trying to de-emphasize the nature of the violence it is experiencing in this occupation, is definitely worth reading.

Now, onto Titus Andronicus.
There's an article in the NYT outlining the book by Brian Vickers that makes the case for co-authorship in five of Shakespeare's plays. The case seems reasonable, and was reached through the standard textual editing procedure:


"Examining factors like rhetorical devices, polysyllabic words and metrical habits, scholars have been able to identify reliably an author of a work or part of a work, even when the early editions did not give credit."

Reliably, here, is a weasel word, since we are not talking about a procedure that refers to some standard. It isn't as if someone, reading the Two Noble Kinsmen, said, hey, this sounds like Shakespeare, and then the ms was discovered with the Bard's handwriting. Not that there aren't sensibilities so fine that such a thing is unthinkable -- but there's no sensibility so fine that you could use the word "reliable," At this point, we edge into those criminological pseudo-sciences that are so popular on TV, and so pernicious in court. Vicker's procedure builds on itself. In other words, we are talking about connoiseurship, not science. What is unreasonable about the article is the imputation that doubts about the standard textual editing procedure are always motivated by some heady romantic sense of the individual author:

"Professor Vickers's book also gives a good sense of the opposing forces in the co-authorship debate. On one side are scholars who use ingenious methods to dissect a text for clues to co-authorship. On the other are so-called conservators, who ridicule those efforts and want no deviation from the idea that the entire canon was written by a solitary genius."

Actually, you can think that the texts were co-authored from other, extra-textual cues, and still doubt in specific instances that the case for, say, Titus Andronicus being "two-fifths" George Peele are overwhelming. For a discussion of the attribution to Peele, here's a link.









Sunday, August 31, 2003

Bollettino

In January, Counterpunch's co-editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, wrote an article about Darleen Druyun. Druyun was an acquisitions official for the Air Force. She called herself the Godmother of the C-7, a Boeing aircraft that was perfectly expensive and unnecessary, and thus just the thing to order 100 billion dollars worth of. Except that 100 billion dollars is nothing if you can maximize it by, say, renting the aircraft to the Pentagon. As St. Clair pointed out, Druyun, who served under Clinton as well as Bush, did her best for Boeing. In my father's house are many rooms, Jesus said; a similar principle holds for Boeing with regards to Defense Department employees. As St. Clair reported, Druyun cashed in her chips, resigned from the Pentagon,and floated into a perth at Boeing:



Now she's [Druyun's] stalking bigger game: missile defense, a multi-billion dollar bonanza for defense contractors, with Boeing at the head of the trough."Ms. Druyun is now officially an employee of the company whose interests she so ardently championed while she was supposedly representing the interests of the taxpayers," says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. "This is one of the most egregious examples of the government revolving door in recent memory."Of course, plucking operatives from the halls of the Pentagon is nothing new for Boeing. Over the years, the company has festooned its corporate board and the halls of its lobby shop with a bevy of top brass.Recently, Boeing's board has boasted both former Defense Secretary William Perry and John M. Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2001, Boeing also hired Rudy de Leon, Clinton's Deputy Secretary of Defense, to run its Washington office. Although De Leon is known as a proud hawk and a masterful dealmaker, his hiring may have been a rare misstep for Boeing, since congressional Republicans howled that the company should have picked one of their own from the Pentagon's rolls.

Druyun's patriotic work in behalf of Boeing is now getting a little scrutiny. The story is in U.S. News, it is in Forbes, and it is in the Washington Post. Alas, the WP, DC's paper, is so weak about it that their report misreports Druyun's name, Darleen, as "Darlene." The deal of spending an extra 5 billion dollars renting supplier planes from Boeing through a financial entity controlled by Boeing has aroused the curiosity, and even the wrath, of a Senate Committee chaired by Bush's nemesis, Senator McCain. The committee has released certain documents:

"The documents also illustrate the integral role that Darlene Druyun, now a senior Boeing executive, played in formulating the lease deal while she was the Air Force's principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and management. In one exchange Boeing officials questioned how a change in the lease terms could provide Druyun "political cover. She apparently understands that this may not be the best business case.

"Committee investigators want to know whether Druyun improperly told Boeing that its competitor, Europe's Airbus Industrie, had submitted a bid of $5 million to $17 million lower per plane. An April 2002 e-mail exchange between two Boeing officials, which said Druyun had given the information to Boeing, was turned over to the Defense Department inspector general's office, a congressional source said.Boeing denied that it received proprietary information, and a spokesman for the inspector general's office declined to comment on whether it had begun an inquiry. Aircraft prices are widely available on the Internet, and the e-mail was distributed after the Air Force announced that it would negotiate a deal with Boeing, so the information did not help formulate their initial bid, industry officials said."

A story in Forbes about this same incident refers to US News, which has gone to some length to report on what should be a major scandal. Still, even the US News dares not tell the public what St. Clair revealed in January -- that not only are we dealing with greedy pigs, but that the greedy pigs are selling low quality goods. In other words, the aircraft could potentially endanger the lives of the soldiers this administration loves to death -- when it is photo op time.

Here's how stinky the deal is:

"Such complicated financing was alien to Air Force officials. Boeing's documents make clear that in crafting the financing plan, the Air Force played student to its contractor. "The USAF clearly does not understand financing and has asked for our help to educate them (in layman's terms)," wrote Robert Gordon, the vice president of Boeing Capital Corp., in an E-mail message in December 2001. Indeed, Gordon noted, an Air Force general "made a special comment to thank Boeing for all its work over the past months to try and help this leasing proposal make sense" to the government.

Investigators with the Commerce Committee, however, are not as awestruck. They are examining the financial vehicle that's the linchpin of the deal. "It's an Enron-like entity," says McCain. For one thing, U.S. News finds, there is a built-in conflict of interest in the arrangement because, documents indicate, it gives Boeing oversight of its own deal. Boeing and the Air Force have sold the deal to Congress as a way to save money, but lease terms mean it's impossible to say today how much the government will pay tomorrow. Actual lease payments will be set as planes are delivered, and if interest rates rise more than expected, the government's costs will go up. Boeing's price will also be adjusted up for inflation; Boeing says that's standard procedure. One clause requires the Air Force to pay more if its new tankers spend too much time in the air; the Air Force says the service has negotiated far more flight hours than it will use. Still, Boeing and the Air Force can't shake the criticism that taxpayers are the losers. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office weighed in, saying that leasing the 100 planes will cost as much as $5.6 billion more than if they had been purchased. Boeing rejects the findings as flawed."

According to Druyan's official biography, she started out in D.C. as the procurements person for NASA. In other words, she's been raised in the finest school of boondoggling in the country. A natural, then, to suck up the gravy at Boeing. While it is nice that the mainstream press is coming to this story at the last minute, we do wonder why they couldn't have leaped in January. Or would that have sounded, hmm, unpatriotic?