Thursday, February 26, 2009

Comments on Belmont Club "Nazis!"

Carter dreadful as he was, and he really was, did fund programs for strategic modernization that bore fruit under Reagan. BHO is emptying the pipeline. He is ensuring our long term strategic decline. A reduction in end strength personnel numbers hurts because it can make us unable to respond to a crisis and it reduces the institutional pool of knowledge needed to train future warriors but that can be overcome. Given the lead times needed to develop major weapons systems and new technologies Obama's evisceration of the Pentagon's procurement plans will leave us crippled for decades to come. Whoever becomes President in 2016 will likely face a world at war and will not have the tools to meet his responsibilities.

Even in the 1940s some weapons that magically appeared when the Arsenal of Democracy ramped up had been designed and planned for 5 years or more. Now for ships, aircraft and major ground combat systems it takes 15 years or more to get a response to a need into production. Attempting to speed that up with systems that are vastly more complicated than the equivalents of 70 years ago will only increase the probability of fraud waste and failure.

The lazy game of attacking the Pentagon budget is always done this way. First Congress mandates a series of expensive and conflicting operational demands. Second Congress makes clear to the Pentagon that they will have to meet their future needs with fewer active programs since building more single issue platforms would mean running more programs. Also more less capable platforms would mean that each would face a greater risk of sustaining loss in combat. The financial cost would go down but the human risk would increase. So Congress at that stage orders the Pentagon to design fewer more expensive platforms, to "save money" and "protect the troops." Then Congress cuts the number of end units to be purchased in order to "save money." This increases the cost per unit that is then planned for. Remember the cost of much of the design work is allocated to the units eventually purchased. The reduction in numbers planned for usually happens more than once. The redesign and rebidding of the program delays it by at least 5 years. Along the way various design changes are earmarked or otherwise inserted into the program. Guaranteed that Senator Byrd and Congressman Murtha have a go at it along the way. Congress then explodes in fury at the unexpected surging cost of the program. Thumb sucking articles are written pointing out that the proposed system is now to expensive to ever risk in combat. The NY Times or Bill Moyers report that a manager once had a sexual harassment complaint. The program is delayed for an extra 5 years in response to requirements arising from a Quadrennial review. More outside studies are produced arguing that the program is now an expensive dinosaur that does not meet anticipated future strategic needs. After billions have been spent building one or two prototypes the program is canceled. Various officials and politicians announce that vast sums have been saved.

To Michael J Totten (after he responded to criticism of Christopher Hitchens),
Thank you Sir for providing us with the vicarious satisfaction of seeing the complacently snarky publicly slapped. Woody Allen’s best moment (leaving aside “I practice a lot on my own” and setting aside issues like pederasty and incest, but I digress) was when he pulled Marshall McCluhan from behind the signboard to deflate the windbag in Annie Hall. We all dream of witnessing such moments.

To be clear I also questioned Mr Hitchens judgement and expressed concern about his putting his companions in danger but when people applaud Hitchens willingness to challenge the nazis without his dissolving in self pity after being beaten I think it is poor form to criticize them for doing so. If Mr Hitchens companions, who were there and were placed in harm’s way, choose to fault him then that is a different matter.

To my mind after someone you know gets a beating under such circumstances a gentleman responds by offering a clean towel, a dry martini, and a subdued inquiry “Was that wise?”

Upon further consideration I think that the above mentioned expression of concern could elicit one of two proper responses.
1) "No, and I apologize." The apology being for causing his friends any worry or grief.
2) "No, but it was worth it." In that case a friend accepts that and does not feel the same need to have expressed worry, even though it is assumed, or expect an apology for having been made to do so.

In both cases the issue of the risk that companions were exposed to by not being warned in advance is a separate topic.

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