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On V Update to Old Ideas: PowerPoint and Peeing on Dead Bodies Edition

We should have a number of updates coming over the next month, starting with today...

Update to Gratitude Theory

In our post, “Don’t Burn Korans, Kill Children or Drop Bomblets That Look Like Candy”, I failed to mention another key “don’t” in a counter-insurgency:

“Don’t pee on the dead bodies of your enemy, take pictures of it and post them on Youtube.”

Marine Sergeant Joseph Chamberlain who did those actions--and got fellow marines and soldiers killed because of it--says he has no regrets. Marines with his attitude have helped lose the war in Afghanistan, and they doesn’t even realize it. Yes, this is a very old update (though we never commented on the “urinating on dead bodies scandal” at the time), so this is that comment: bad marines/soldiers pee on the bodies of their enemies. Their defenders are defending actions that kill Americans.

Also, do these action count as barbaric or savage?

More “Isolationism” Bashing

The National Journal had an excellent article on the specter of “isolationism”. “Phantom Menace: The myth of American isolationism”, by Peter Beinart, just nails the problems with modern politician’s use of “isolationism”. (Check out our take on the term here.) Among a number of great points--from rebutting the idea that America was isolationist in the 20s and 30s to breaking down Rand Paul’s “isolationism”--he closes with this:

“Hawks worried that Barack Obama, or Rand Paul, or the American people have not defended American interests forcefully enough in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, or Iran can make plenty of legitimate arguments. Calling their opponents “isolationists” isn’t one of them. It’s time journalists greet that slur with the same derision they currently reserve for epithets like “socialist,” “fascist,” and “totalitarian.” Then, perhaps, we can have the foreign policy debate America deserves."

Well put.

Remember, China and Russia have spies too…

The New York Review of Books reminds us that--despite the gads of news coverage the media showered on them--Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden had nowhere near the reach, support, and logistics of good old fashioned espionage. Anne Applebaum’s review of Deception should remind Americans clearly of this threat.

Everyday, Russian and Chinese spies attempt to flip U.S. government and business workers to spill secrets and access to U.S. information systems. As we’ve written before, unlike Manning and Snowden and Wikileaks, Russian and Chinese spies don’t publicly release the information they’ve stolen. They’re also much more effective because they’re professionals.

On V Update to PowerPoint

Man, I hate PowerPoint. At this point, it is more irrational than rational. And Jeff Bezos agrees with me. (From Wonkblog, h/t War on the Rocks):

“Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past two weeks. When Jeff holds meetings at Amazon he asks people not to use Powerpoints but to write an essay about their product or program or what the meeting is to be about. For the first 10 or 15 minutes everyone sits and reads the essay. His point is that if you write at length, you have to think first, and he feels the quality of thought you have to do to write at length is greater than the quality of thought to put a Powerpoint together.”

An interesting side note: Michael C now works for Amazon Studios, the original content production arm of Amazon. Michael C don’t miss PowerPoint at all.

Another Call to Purge the Generals

I’ve written before that we don’t hold our bureaucrats in Washington accountable. Most small government Republicans would agree with me on that point. Unlike them, though, I also list the generals and admirals in our military as Washington bureaucrats. Daniel Davis, writing in both the Armed Forces Journal and The Guardian, agrees with me. (He also proposes a novel change in military organization and theory, which I need to research further.)

two comments

I agree that the military is a bureaucracy, but I disagree with Davis’ preference for MacGregor’s ideas.
I read his books and there was nothing special in it. No gems whatsoever. I discussed this with people I know and they told me it’s a U.S.-centric thing and MacGregor merely educates Americans in what’s nothing unusual in Europe.
MacGregor furthermore has a U.S.-typic overemphasis on army aviation. A substantial helicopter component in a MANEUVER brigade is nonsense. the logistics demands, ranges and cruise speeds of such machines pretty much dictate an allocation to corps level. You won’t be forced to accept this in small training area brigade vs. regiment mock fights or occupation duties, of course.


I don’t think Chamberlain’s malicious behavior is/was being defended; that behavior was merely a physiological result mobilized and executed for the capacity of severe psychological trauma. I think the individuals are defending (emotionally supporting) Chamberlain because the disparate consequences of interpersonal aggression and armed conflict precipitate such behavior.

Obviously in hindsight, the recorded depiction of Chamberlain’s actions are counterintuitive to applications of nation-building strategic planning, but it is not unimportant that we forget what the effects of sanctioned killing in hostile environments are.