American Elephants


Time Passes, Wars Fade into History, and We Fail to Learn the Lessons we Needed to Learn. by The Elephant's Child

higgins
D-Day was 72 years ago, even the youngest survivors are in their 90s, and soon there will be no one at all who was alive then. And wars fade into history, poorly remembered as the historians try to understand how it all happened and what lessons we learned and what lesson we didn’t learn. Fortunately, after WWII we learned that you can’t just pack up and go home. You have to try to put things back together. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t learn any history.

When wars are over, everyone wants to bring the troops home and forget. We came home and disarmed ourselves after World War I, the “war to end all wars.” In 1933, the Army of the United States was 137,000 men — 16th in size in the world. The French army was five million strong. By Pearl Harbor , December 7, 1941, the U.S.Army was 1,640.000, and with U.S. entry into World War II, the army expanded to 8,300.000 officers and men. About 5,000,000 served overseas. By 1948 the army had declined to 554,000 and was totally unprepared for  the North Korean invasion of the South.

We just observed Memorial Day which is a remnant of the Civil War once called Decoration Day, when the surviving families decorated the graves of those who had died in the war. After 150 years, the Confederate Flag under which the South had fought is suddenly deemed too controversial and offensive to be seen. I lost two uncles on each side of the War Between the States.

It was Higgins Boats which led the D-Day invasion of Europe and the island hopping war in the Pacific. Yet how astounding to see, in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, the Normans invading England in 1066 in Higgins boats, and in The Lord of the Rings, it was the Orcs who manned the (admittedly more primitive) Higgins boats. So it is when wars slip into history. We receive our history in Hollywood fashion and the true history disappears forever, and we don’t learn the lessons we needed to learn.



“Why is the World So Dangerous?” by The Elephant's Child

“Herbert  E. Meyer (Herb) served as vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council under President Reagan. He was one of the few people in the 1980’s to perceive that the U.S. and its allies might have turned the corner and were on the way to winning the Cold War.”

You may not have noticed, but the media seldom talks about facts. It’s almost all opinion. Herb Meyer talks facts, and gives you the evidence on which the facts are based.  That original paper: “Why Is The World So Dangerous?” from 1983 has long since been declassified, and is available to be downloaded here. Most of his speeches are different versions of “Why is the World So Dangerous”— because that’s what we need to hear. This one was delivered to the Northwest Business Club on March 9th this year. He gives us his version of history, and explains what we need to know to cope. The address is a little over an hour and worth every minute, so try for some time this weekend. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll think a little differently about the world today. He is a great speaker, funny, charming, and utterly fascinating.

ADDENDUM: If you go to You Tube, there are lots of Herb Meyer’s speeches, many with the same name. I picked this one as one of the most recent. and they are similar because Mr. Meyer has to put you in the right historical frame of mind to grasp the changing nature of the trends. His basic argument does not change, because, well, he’s clearly right, and a little repetition merely reinforces the point.



“Notable & Quotable” by The Elephant's Child

The Wall Street Journal included these lines from the Mayo Clinic’s online entry on narcissistic personality disorder in their “Notable & Quotable” column.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. . . .

[The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5] . . . criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate . . .

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner



Trade Between China and Iran Is Renewed Along the Ancient Silk Road by The Elephant's Child

Silk-Road
Last Monday, the first train to connect China and Iran arrived in Tehran, and it was said that the Silk Road was open again.

Taking up much of the space between China and Iran is the Taklimakan desert, one of the most hostile environments on earth. Almost no vegetation, almost no rainfall, frequent sandstorms, much loss of life. Surrounded by some of the highest mountains,—to the North is the Gobi desert, almost as hostile, but with a few oases, to the South are the Himalayas, Karakorum and Kunlun ranges with only a few dangerous icy passes.

The first meetings of East and West took place somewhere around 125 B.C. Calling it the”Silk Road” is misleading, for there was no one defined route, and certainly no road.  All routes started from Changan, headed up the Gansu corridor and reached Dunhuang 201311111053567950on the edge of the Taklimakan. One route skirted the Northern edge of the Taklimakan at the base of the mountains, the southern route skirted the southern edges. It was not a trade route that existed solely for the purpose of trading in silk, but gold, ivory, exotic animals and plants. Silk was the most remarkable trade good in the West.

Bandits soon learned of the trade routes, and caravans had to arm up, and forts were built along parts of the route. But trade also took place in fashion, religion, art and custom. Religion may have been the most important. Mongols, Buddhists, Muslims, and assorted Chinese dynasties. Silk began to be moved by sea, but there were pirates and hurricanes.

Renewed interest in the Silk Road emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, as the British were interested in consolidating some of the lands north of their Indian territories. There were tantalizing rumors of ancient cities lost in the desert, which led to exploration, discovery, archaeology and treasures carted off to British museums.

The demise of the Silk Road began some six to seven hundred years ago. What new interest will bring is an unknown. There is oil under the desert in some places. There are thirteen different races of people in the area, and now a railroad, a private, not a state operation.

f39ca0087eacb867f987499613ec9e8fa27eade0The train carried 32 containers of commercial products from Zhejiang province and the 5,900 mile trip took 14 days.  This was 30 days shorter than the sea voyage from Shanghai to Bandar Abbas in Iran.  The railway is planned to extend on to Europe. It will leave once a month and the frequency might be increased if necessary. China is Tehran’s top customer for oil exports. The distance is roughly comparable to a trip from San Francisco to New York and back again., though it sounds like more hostile territory.

Chinese President XI Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to build economic ties worth up to $600 billion within the next 10 years. We’ll see what comes of this new trade along the ancient Silk Road.

For more, go to Google Images, enter “the Silk Road” and see all the photographs and maps of ancient sites, forgotten cities, art and religion, and desert.  Fascinating.



Bret Stephens on The Coming Global Disorder by The Elephant's Child

Bret Stephens has been the foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal for nine years. This is a speech he delivered to the David Horowitz Freedom Center Texas Retreat, last June. A very thoughtful speech. It reflects much of the thinking expressed in his 2014 book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder.

It’s perhaps a little long for a Wednesday night when tomorrow is a work day, but do save it to watch when you have time. You will be glad you did.



Impressions From Last Night’s Debate by The Elephant's Child

20151219_blp903I mostly listened to the debate last night on the radio. My CNN connection kept going haywire, so I only saw a small bit on CNN. Apparently that makes a difference. Whatever their political viewpoint, viewers could not help but be impressed with the quality of the Republican field. The discussion was serious, well-informed and lengthy. The candidates were well informed on national security, and on how to deal with ISIS, Syria, Russia, Iran and domestic terrorism with real differences of opinion, which is as it should be.

Several pundits declared Donald Trump the debate winner, but I thought it was clear that he was just not prepared to go beyond his usual bombast. He did manage to tell the audience innumerable times that he was leading the polls, he had the highest approval, he was winning. He just doesn’t understand the very complicated situation, and has no strategy at all.   “I have 41% in the polls” is a brag, not a qualification.

Lindsey Graham was terrific in the earlier debate. He had just been to Iraq again, and spoke to the situation on the ground informed by the troops on the ground.

Carly Fiorina is clearly one of the best informed, and gives the most responsive and responsible answers to questions — yet has not really managed to break through to the top, where she belongs. Her tenure at HP was impressive. She handled some really difficult circumstances with courage, put the company on a path to success, and frankly has a better record of experience than most of the other candidates. I have wondered if , since Republicans are uniformly unimpressed with the “first woman to” idea, and invested in merit and qualifications just can’t get past the fact that candidates for President of the United States have always been men.

Chris Christie excels at tough-talking campaigning. He can be very assertive and very believable. John Kasich corrected from his angry, grumpy appearance at the last debate. Jeb Bush was better, but not breakthrough better.

I am far from picking a candidate, and in spite of the media’s insistence on making this all a horse race and proclaiming winners and losers, most Americans are just getting acquainted with the candidates. I was really enthusiastic at the beginning with so many governors who had real accomplishments in the running — but Scott Walker, Rick Perry and  Bobby Jindal have all dropped out. I am not enthusiastic about one-term senators. Been there, done that. And it didn’t work out well.

 



Paris Agreement, American Leadership, and Pure Fantasy. by The Elephant's Child

The report of the President’s response to the jihadist attack in San Bernardino should give you pause. As soon as he realized that some would classify the killing in San Bernardino as a terrorist attack, he called together his National Security Council and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies to discuss a public relations strategy. A designation of the killing as a terrorist attack would threaten to upset his “strategy” in Syria.

The President of the United States has declared publicly, 22 times, that climate change is a greater threat by far than Islamic terrorism: Jan. 15, 2008; Jan 26, 2000; May 2010; Sept.6, 2012; Jan 23, 2013; Feb. 16, 2014; June, 2014; Sept. 2014; Sept 24, 2014; Oct. 29, 2014; 2015 State of the Union address; Feb. 2015; Feb. 09, 2015, Feb. 10, 2015, April 18, 2015; May, 2015; May 20 2015; July 13, 2015; Defense Dept report, July 29, 2015; Aug 28, 2015; September UN 2015; Sept.28, 2015 at the United Nations, he said “No country can escape the ravages of climate change.”

The Big Climate Meeting: COP 21, has concluded. The negotiators have thrashed out their final details. The agreement will make no difference whatsoever to “climate change,” and the total effects will be another very expensive meeting to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco  next year.

As James Delingpole, who is always correct, said, “All that stuff you’ve read and heard about “time running out,”  “deadlock,” “last minute deals,” — it’s all a charade, everything was pre-ordained. COP is not really about saving the planet, it’s a massive jobs fair for activists, shyster politicians, bureaucrats, and people with otherwise worthless degrees in “sustainability,” “conservation biology,” and “ecology.”

He adds that “No serious person in the world believes in man-made climate change any more. They just don’t. Only people like Secretary of State John Kerry — who has staked the reputation of the Obama presidency on how well it deals with this non-existent problem.” Delingpole adds “If you live by fairies you will die by fairies.”

We said in the beginning that China and India aren’t about to sign on to any plan eliminating or reducing their efforts to industrialize and their need for cheap energy. China is building one new coal-fired power plant every 7 to 10 days, while Japan plans to build 43 coal-fired power projects to replace its Fukushima nuclear plant, which killed 19,000 people and destroyed 150,000 buildings. India has some 500 coal-fired power plants planned.

The stated aim of the meeting was to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2º C. above pre-industrial levels. If all the world’s leading nations stick to the carbon-reduction commitments they will make (which are totally not binding) then they will stave off ‘global warming’ by the end of this century by 17 one hundredths of one degree C. (0.170º C.) That is the “optimistic scenario,” assuming that nobody’s lying.

The annual cost to the global economy is approximately $1.5 trillion. As Ebeneezer Scrooge said, Bah Humbug!

“We met the moment,” Obama said. “We may not live to see the full realization of our achievement but that’s OK,: he said. “What matters is that today we can be more confident this planet will be in better shape for the next generation.”

So there you go. Nothing binding. Opt-outs written in. Totally fake agreement. What more could you ask for, if you are trying to decorate your legacy? But they will have another big meeting next year, and the year after…

Nevertheless, the press, totally invested in saving the earth, as you hear from them constantly, erupted with delight:

(h/t: T. Becket Adams)




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