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January 24, 2014

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Proportionate or not, the bombing did end the war.

...and the beauty of counterfactuals is that since we'll never be able to know if the war could have been ended as quickly without the bombs being dropped in the manner they were, we will forever assure each other that the bombs "ended the war" in a tone of voice that implies that they were necessary simply because they were sufficient.

Were they sufficient to end the war? Sure. History proved that definitively. It did not prove they were necessary, though. Nor can it, really. The question of proportionality should not be cast aside on this basis.

No one ever says, "What sapient said Russell said."

It's wordy and so secondhand.

we will forever assure each other that the bombs "ended the war" in a tone of voice that implies that they were necessary simply because they were sufficient.

The "tone of voice" takes into account the exhaustion with war of those who lived through the 60 to 80 million already dead. They wanted it over, and they thought that this weapon would do it. It did.

...and the beauty of counterfactuals is that since we'll never be able to know if the war could have been ended as quickly without the bombs being dropped in the manner they were, we will forever assure each other that the bombs "ended the war" in a tone of voice that implies that they were necessary simply because they were sufficient.

That wasn't at at what I intended to imply.
Indeed, it's pretty obvious to me that the war would have ended more or less when it did had we refrained from dropping the second bomb on Nagasaki - and yet the apologists almost always make no distinction between Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Nagasaki bomb is of a piece with the firebombing of so many Japanese cities. It indicates a complete disregard for the value of civilian life in the calculation.

While I don't believe that the fire bombings were proportionate, it is nonetheless undeniable that they ended the war without invasion of the Japanese mainland, and it is equally undeniable that both the US leadership and the troops who would have participated in it feared greatly the consequences of such an invasion.

What level of bombing might have been proportionate is an impossible question to answer.
What troubles me most is that the question does not seem even to have been considered, unless the answer was assumed to be the absolute maximum that we were technically capable of.

What troubles me most is that the question does not seem even to have been considered, unless the answer was assumed to be the absolute maximum that we were technically capable of.

In hindsight, there are probably a lot of things that could have been done differently, but the people making the decisions had to deal with what they knew. Their experience told them that the Japanese would rather die than surrender, and that only a spectacular sense of hopelessness on the part of the Japanese would bring about the end of the war. Maybe they were wrong, but they had plenty of reason to believe that. I don't see the point in second guessing the morality of their choices.

As to subsequent wars, there is more to discuss. But even then, the disaster that was WWII guided decisions in how to contain the Soviet Union and China. It all seems so simple now that we live in a world where those wars have been won.

I don't see the point in second guessing the morality of their choices.

Then don't do that.

"It all seems so simple now that we live in a world where those wars have been won."

To whom?

The folks doing the second guessing or the folks who say, " They wanted it over, and they thought that this weapon would do it. It did."

It was very complicated.

There, we agree. ;)

It wouldn't be an open thread for me without an appearance by Dinesh D'Souza:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/douza-obama-2016-campaign-fraud-charges

He suggests the charges against him, not the ones leveled by his former employer, King's College for schtuping while being self-righteous, but the federal election charges, are political payback for his "scholarly" tome and "documentary" which he claims got inside the mind of Barack Obama.

Well, I certainly hope so. It's about time.

That, and for outing gay men at Dartmouth and whatever else this smug, pedantic Brahmin putz/crank/fakir has infected our national blankets with lo these past 30 years.

The word "vermin" comes to mind.

In a Jersey sort of way, I'd like the word to go out nationally from the White House that all bridges in every state across the country suddenly and mysteriously be closed for traffic whenever D'Souza approaches.

I'd like to be the one who manipulates the orange traffic cones, in his case, for insertion into his fundament.

Then don't do that.

Okay.

It was very complicated.

There, we agree. ;)

Yep.

Wrong thread on the Dinesh D'Souza thingy, though every thread seems open.

it's pretty obvious to me that the war would have ended more or less when it did had we refrained from dropping the second bomb on Nagasaki

Nigel, let me restate the point that sapient made. It is "obvious to you" . . . today, with all the advantages of hindsight. Not least, you have the benefit of a lot of information from Japan on how they were seeing things at the time. But knowing what the Allies did a the time? Not so obvious. Not at all.

And unless you restrict yourself to the information that those making the decision in real time actually had, you simply cannot make a judgement on how ethical they were or were not.

Here's an analogy. You are a policeman, going into an area where shots have been fired. And are continuing to be fired. You see a young man running towards you with something roughly gun-sized in his hand. And meanwhile shots are whizzing past your head. Is it ethical at the time to shoot him?

And what do you say a week later, when it turns out that what he was holding was not a gun? Or was a toy gun? Or was a gun, but out of bullets? Or that he was fleeing, and was carrying the gun to get it away from the shooters?

Real easy, sitting back in your chair with more information and lots of time to consider, to condemn the shooting as "unnecessary." Real easy, but wrong.

There actually were a few people critical of civilian bombing at the time, but they were the exception. My sense is that there wasn't much moral agonizing going on at the time when it came to the Japanese. Americans really did try to do precision bombing (by the standards of the time) when they hit Germany--bombing in daylight, not trying to burn cities to the ground. It was the British who tried to burn German cities. In Japan, as Conrad Crane and other historians like John Dower have pointed out, Americans felt a much greater degree of hatred, because of Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March (actually, I'm not sure when Americans learned about that) and all the atrocities and fanaticism that Japanese soldiers and sailors exhibited all through the war. So I don't think there was some carefully thought out moral decision about killing a few hundred thousand innocent civilians to end a war that had killed tens of millions of people--Americans cared about American lives, which was natural enough, and didn't care very much how many Japanese had to die to end the war with as few lives lost on our side as possible. Truman threatened the Japanese with "If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth." Outside of this thread, in virtually every discussion I've ever read or seen about Hiroshima (Tokyo doesn't come up as much), someone says "It was necessary in order to save American lives." That's the main emphasis. Sometimes they'll argue that it killed fewer Japanese lives than an invasion or a prolonged blockade (and as someone who sees harsh sanctions as an assault on civilians, I find that plausible). But usually it's the American lives.

And again, I really wouldn't have expected anything different and probably would have felt the same in their shoes. But it should make us a little hesitant to assume that terrorists are different from us. Which has been one of my themes in this thread--the other being that we tend to use and reuse the justification for killing civilians no matter what the circumstance.

Not least, you have the benefit of a lot of information from Japan on how they were seeing things at the time. But knowing what the Allies did a the time? Not so obvious. Not at all.

Two points...
First, they had a great deal more information than you give them credit for - we knew Russia was about to declare war and we were also able to decrypt the Japanese codes, so we were not entirely ignorant of Japanese thinking.

Secondly, and more significantly, there wasn't even a debate - and there wasn't a warning.
The rationale for no warning or ultimatum prior to Hiroshima (it might not work; they wouldn't believe us anyway) simply did not apply.

There was no pressing need requiring the second bomb to be dropped as soon as it was - any invasion of the mainland would have been months away.

It is as though the lives of fifty thousand or so were less important than waiting another couple.of days.

Hindsight ? Sure.

But most of the above could quite easily have been worked out at the time had anyone been bothered to do so.

On a somewhat related note, the current issue of Harper's has an article on the A-10 . Apparently the Air Force wants to ditch the A-10 and rely on B-1 bombers and jet fighters for close air support, though the A-10 is designed for close air support and enables pilots to fly close enough to potential targets to tell the difference between civilians and Taliban. In telling the story, Cockburn repeats what one sometimes reads--that strategic bombing was highly overrated in WWII and close air support for ground troops was far more important in contributing to victory. The shock of the A-bombs would presumably be the exception to that, but that doesn't come into Cockburn's article, which is mainly about the Air Force prejudice against the unglamorous A-10.

The opening part of the article tells how an Afghan family was killed by a B-1 strike, after A-10 pilots had refused to hit the building, since they were close enough to see that it looked like an ordinary farm building with no sign of any guerilla activity going on.

There's also some criticism of high definition video such as what drones provide--according to (unnamed) Air Force officers quoted in the article it's a poor substitute for the human eye and makes civilian and friendly fire casualties more likely.

Hindsight ? Sure.

We shouldn't be at all critical about things people did in the past, because it was some time ago. And more stuff has happened.

sapient:
Their experience told them that the Japanese would rather die than surrender, and that only a spectacular sense of hopelessness on the part of the Japanese would bring about the end of the war.

Their experience? Was that the only thing at work here?

Also, if they truly thought the Japanese would rather die than surrender, the decision to drop the atomic bombs moves from even potentially understandable or justifiable to absolutely monstrous. I'm aware you're being absolute for brevity in the first clause, but that doesn't change the twin assertion so frequently and unblinkingly made in such discussions that the Japanese people (and/or their command and control structures) were thought to be utterly implacable fanatics who wouldn't surrender for any reason, and yet that the droppers of the bombs knew they would convince them to surrender.

Maybe they were wrong, but they had plenty of reason to believe that. I don't see the point in second guessing the morality of their choices.

Not all of the reasons were good reasons.

Also, as Donald Johnson eloquently observed, the point in second-guessing their morality is because we still have people citing their morality as justification for modern actions. If it was a purely academic question, we would be quibbling about unknowables, but when they stand as a cited moral precedent even now...

wj:
Nigel, let me restate the point that sapient made. It is "obvious to you" . . . today, with all the advantages of hindsight. Not least, you have the benefit of a lot of information from Japan on how they were seeing things at the time. But knowing what the Allies did a the time? Not so obvious. Not at all.

As Nigel pointed out, they knew better than you're letting on. But if we take this at face value, we need to consider it's the hindsight of knowing the bombs were sufficient to force surrender that lets you make a statement like this. It's "obvious" to you that this would be an effective course of action. But knowing what the Allies did at the time? Not so obvious. Not at all.

And unless you restrict yourself to the information that those making the decision in real time actually had, you simply cannot make a judgement on how ethical they were or were not.

As above, this cuts both ways. Also, do you really want to put this forward as a guiding principle? Should we be unable to condemn 2LT Calley for My Li unless we can somehow determine precisely what information he had, and use only that? Can we consider Mengele's morality without first limiting our POV to what he knew... and what he "knew"? That's more than a little reductio ad absurdum but seriously, this is probably not a path you want to go down. Therein lies moral relativity, and self-enforced myopia.

Real easy, sitting back in your chair with more information and lots of time to consider, to condemn the shooting as "unnecessary." Real easy, but wrong.

Not necessarily wrong. Especially since your simplistic scenario fails to address what alternatives were available to the hypothetical peace officer. Also, heat-of-the-moment tactical judgements are not particularly good analogies to strategic decisions. They're not perforce totally unanalogous, but they're not good analogies.

Hogwash! (Unless you were being sarcastic, HSH, in which case I apologize.)

I have no problem with criticizing things people did in the past, provided it is based on what information was available to them at the time.

Just for variety, let's take a really foolish decision where someone lucked out big time. In the late 1400s, educated people knew that the earth was round. More than that, they had a fairly accurate idea of just how big around it was. Which meant, they knew how far they would have to sail westward before they ever reached China. (Further than anyone could carry supplies to survive.)

Yet the King and Queen of Spain were persuaded to finance a nut case who was sure that the earth was much smaller. It was, given what they knew, a really bad decision. Of course, Columbus lucked out and found the Americas for them.

So in hindsight was it a farsighted and wise decision? No -- based on what they knew at the time it was a ridiculous waste of money. (Even though buying a lottery ticket is a terrible investment decision, occasionally it will pay off....)

Nomb, I'm not disputing that the Allies knew a lot of things, like the probability of the USSR entering the war against Japan. My point (obviously not well made) is that they didn't know that Japan was near the point where the High command would decide (or could be persuaded by the Emperor to agree) to surrender. And without knowing what Japan was likely to do, and how much stress would be required to get them to surrender, it is far harder to decide that something is unnecessary.

Donald Johnson:
There's also some criticism of high definition video such as what drones provide--according to (unnamed) Air Force officers quoted in the article it's a poor substitute for the human eye and makes civilian and friendly fire casualties more likely.

First, thanks for the article suggestion. That was an excellent read. I'll admit the line I quote is why I went hunting for the article, so as to contentiously disagree with it - airborne surveillance technology is amazing, and has progressed enormously, and is amazingly informative and capable of preventing the exact sort of tragedy the article's opening anecdote describes. Capable. Not assured to, though. By any means. And the author convinced me his point was a good one; it was the A-10 pilot's "drinking straw" analogy. You can see a truly breathtaking level of detail from an airborne camera... but you naturally zoom in so far that that's all you see. It's severe tunnel vision. So yeah, excellent article, thanks.

Having said that, yeesh. Yeah. The AF hates its legacy CAS role, and that's its least morally questionable role. If they finally manage to kill the A-10... ugh. CAS is not something that strategic air assets should ever be used for, ever.

Apparently the Air Force wants to ditch the A-10 and rely on B-1 bombers and jet fighters for close air support, though the A-10 is designed for close air support and enables pilots to fly close enough to potential targets to tell the difference between civilians and Taliban.

This is a recurring theme. And given that they've just finished dumping a boatload of money into modernizing the A-10, it's probably more likely to happen now than it ever has.

This is my cynical side speaking, naturally.

Keep tabs on HR.3657 and S.1764, as these are both bills to keep the A-10 in inventory, specifically.

I'm a big fan of the airplane, because it does and will continue to do what the F-35 cannot do and never will be able to do.

The B-1's problem is not so much that it's "lumbering" (Cockburn's word), it's more the opposite: it's too fast, and can't spend much time loitering at close range. "Lumbering" would be a word more appropriate to B-52, which is still flying and receiving avionics upgrades.

So: is keeping the A-10 because it's ideal for conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq "fighting the last war", or is it just sensible?

You can see a truly breathtaking level of detail from an airborne camera... but you naturally zoom in so far that that's all you see

Hmmm...I haven't seen all the drone video there is to see, but I haven't seen any that wasn't crap.

But things may have changed. I'd want to be convinced. From my perspective, the problem with drones is you either make them large and capable of dropping weapons with more oomph, which requires you to view the target from further away, or you make them small and hard to spot, which makes the optics and servo control systems small. Make the aperture smaller and you get degraded video, which means the ability to get closer is at least partially if not completely negated; make it larger and you have a larger vehicle that needs more standoff range to remain visually undetected, which means (in general) you still get degraded video.

Airborne optical sensors have improved, but nothing is ever going to give you a better picture than someone hidden a couple of hundred meters away with decent binoculars.

There actually were a few people critical of civilian bombing at the time, but they were the exception. There actually were a few people critical of civilian bombing at the time, but they were the exception.

I'm not sure if Donald is speaking about bombing in general, the firebombing of Tokyo or the atomic bombing, but there were a lot of conservatives who expressed great reservations about the use of Atomic weapons. This is a summary, but there was much more discussion on the various History lists (H-Japan, H-Asia, H-Diplo) that is really difficult to summarize. I think a lot of the discussion centered around Gar Alperovitz's book The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, and the discussions were around 1997 that I read.

Keep tabs on HR.3657 and S.1764, as these are both bills to keep the A-10 in inventory, specifically.

I'm a big fan of the airplane, because it does and will continue to do what the F-35 cannot do and never will be able to do.

Well, the bills are to keep them in the inventory until the F-35 is rolled out in large enough numbers to take their place. Better than nothing, but...

(Sorry, that should be "take their place")

Hogwash! (Unless you were being sarcastic, HSH, in which case I apologize.)

Well, I was being sarcastic, but I would think that would put us at odds on the issue, making your highly charged use of "hogwash" an appropriate response.

In any case, I wasn't really thinking of you when I wrote that. I don't have a problem with considering what they knew and when they knew it, even if there's room for disagreement on what that knowledge actually was.

lj's link to the article summarizing conservative reaction and revulsion to the bombing of Hiroshima is an eyeopener on many fronts.

William F. Buckley, Human Events, the Luce dynasty, etc.

Who knew that crowd would express such progressive, revisionist, politically correct counter views to the bedrock, never-to-be-questioned, facticity of American history, he cracked?

This once again proves to me the entire obsession of today's "conservatives" with the "political correctness" of the Left has been largely a crock of sh*t from the get go.

In another historical vein, which title is politically correct and which is politically incorrect: the long-standing "Battle of Sand Creek", or the more recently christened "Sand Creek Massacre".

Good NPR segment yesterday on that subject.

Maybe we could do a ghost dance and summon up the wraithes of Buckley, Luce, and the long-dead editors of Human Events and have them spit the salt from their mouths so they could enlighten us.

While we're at it, maybe they will tell us how much they loved the Brown vrs Board of Education decision and how they were the real ideological precursors and heirs to the teachings of Martin Luther King.

Everything is just made up as we go along.

I will not countenance criticism of the technical prowess of drone technology:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/tech/innovation/beer-drone-faa/

A very interesting summary, lj.

Note, again, that the decision to bomb Nagasaki is elided completely - even by those who condemned Hiroshima.

:LJ--I meant during the war I don't think there was too much criticism of civilian bombing. I know there were some pacifist types in Great Britain (Vera Brittain for instance) who were critical of it during the war, and also some in the US. But it's my impression most people supported it. I did read Gar Alperowitz during my interest in the revisionist arguments back in the 90's and so recall that there were some conservatives who were revolted by the use of the A-bomb, but my impression this was not a public debate that occurred while the war was going on. For that matter, some years ago Patrick Buchanan criticized the civilian bombing in WWII. Sometime or other Churchill is said to have expressed revulsion at the torching of Korean cities in that war, but I'd have to go looking for the quote (probably in Cumings somewhere). Ironic, since I think Churchill was in favor of bombing Arab tribesmen back in the 20's.

Nombrilisme Vide--I'm glad you found the Harper's piece interesting. I brought it up partly in hopes that you and Slarti would read and comment on it, being the two people who would presumably know most about the subject at this blog. I might actually do something unusual for me--write a brief letter on behalf of a weapons system to my Senators and Congressperson. Weird for me, actually, but if we are going to be involved in stupid wars one might as well use the weapons system that would cut down on the civilian and friendly fire incidents.

"write a brief letter on behalf of a weapons system to my Senators and Congressperson."

The last time I wrote to a Senator about how I disapproved of X, I got a very nicely worded form letter back thanking me for my support of X, and asking for money to fight the good fight on X.

I was...amused.

But I wish you better luck in your quest to save the A-10. It's a good plane, and I don't think we'll be involved in anything other than COIN and police actions anytime soon.

I'll mention that I read Noam Chomsky--if the thought of a Chomsky reader supporting a weapons system doesn't sway them, nothing will.
On second thought, probably best if I don't mention that.

Actually, I was wondering if it matters when one writes letters, and if it does matter, does it matter how many letters one writes on different subjects, and if I should pick and choose very carefully which issues I do write about. I suspect they probably get bombarded by letters from the same people, judging from how it works in the local paper. We get fierce debates over leaf blowers and the Iran sanctions and everything in-between, but it's some of the same people on many of the issues.

Donald:

I have been told by a low level office employer for my congressman (that I know socially, so I reasonably expect its not a load of crap):

Letters and emails get sorted by subject (food stamps), and then by stance (for food stamps, against food stamps).

Policy is influenced by the size of the piles.

But she also said the more effective thing was to call. Calls have to be handled (in that somebody has to politely tell to **** off), and that means you talked to somebody.

Letters go to piles, calls go to people.

To be cynical, it would probably more effective politically to lobby for a new plane that does exactly what the A-10 does (at twice the price at least) than to fight for the fleet of existing ones because there is much money in the former but little in the latter.

"Policy is influenced by the size of the piles."

That explains why so many of them stand on principle.

But she also said the more effective thing was to call.

A call is probably worth 10 letters.

A (personal) letter is probably worth 100 emails.

A (personal) email is worth 1,000 signatures on a chain-email petition.

Anything is better than nothing.

It's a good plane, and I don't think we'll be involved in anything other than COIN and police actions anytime soon.

That doesn't exactly speak in favor of F-35 acquisition, I note.

So. I hate to be pulling too hard for the A-10, given that I work for the company that makes the F-35, but the A-10 is the right tool for the job, IMHO. I actually know (as in: have worked with) a pilot who is a rarity in that he flies both the A-10 and F-16 (naturally, not at the same time) and he loves the Warthog.

I think if you let the people who do CAS for a living decide what platform they'd prefer to use for CAS, you'd probably have an outcome that isn't quite what we're headed for right now.

Anything that inspired this must be kept!

If the brass cared for the opinion of the grunts a lot would look different.
The brass tends to declare problems nails in order to justify the acquisition of pliers that it claims are actually hammers (and cost much more).

That doesn't exactly speak in favor of F-35 acquisition, I note.

Except the A-10 doesn't fly combat air patrol, interdiction, etc. The F-35 is an attempt, as I understand it, to make a multi-service, multi-role aircraft and eventually realize some kind of economies of scale. It may not work as planned, but isn't that the intent?

And isn't the F-35 supposed to be the less expensive air superiority option compared to the F-22?

So: aircraft should be multi-multirole?

Next up: the air superiority/interceptor/CAS/long-range tactical bomber/strike/heavy lift fighter.

The Swiss Army Drone

"flies both the A-10 and F-16 (naturally, not at the same time)"

I was *this close* to having my mind blown...

McK:

That's what they say, anyway. Others probably can talk about it more intelligently than I, but I never really saw that as possible.

My background is aeronautical engineering (although not what I practice). Trying to make something that multi-role sounded incredibly hard. The design space around something like that is just to broad to be really good at anything.

CAS, as I understand it (not well...talked a very little about it in a design class a LONG time ago), is best served by low altitude, long loiter, fairly slow moving aircraft.

From the aerodynamics alone you've already moved away from something that's going to be good in an air superiority role.

Perhaps the best way to look at the "one plane does it all" approach is to look at ships. After all these centuries, nobody is silly enough to try and make a naval vessel which simultaneously is able to do the jobs of a minesweeper, a destroyer, and a cruiser. Let alone an aircraft carrier.

If the one size fits all approach is so great, why hasn't the navy embraced it? I mean, it ought to work just as well there, shouldn't it...?

The F-4 was used on and off carriers and by the Air Force as well as the Navy and Marines. It was a multi-role fighter/bomber/close air support jet.

Unlike the A-10, which is very slow and thus has loiter time and a very short turning radius, the faster jets are more limited in CAS, or so I've read and been told by people who did/do the flying.

Everything is just made up as we go along.

I'm throwing this in every thread, at some point, from now on.

McK, my apologies, I was not clear.

I wasn't talking about using aircraft off of various naval vessels. I was (trying to) talk about the vessels themselves, as another part of warfare that had different equipment (vessels) for different missions.

That doesn't exactly speak in favor of F-35 acquisition.

Nothing much does these days, does it? I've heard of (cough, cough) cost overruns.

What is the infinite time horizon cost of this program?

" cost overruns."

In a government program? Surely not!

wj's note about ships reminds me that perhaps the best thing to do would be to fold the Air Force back into the Army.

"In a government program? Surely not!"

We've privatized everything but the blame.

Lockheed, General Dynamics, General Electric, and Fairchild have shareholders to feed.

let's fold about half the military budget into domestic spending.

cleek,

Let's do it the other way around: start labeling all sorts of domestic programs as "defense spending". It would be a lot easier to pass things through the GOP House that way.

--TP

wj's note about ships reminds me that perhaps the best thing to do would be to fold the Air Force back into the Army.

I'd be willing to see the Navy take some of it. And the Army gets to pick which parts, and no backsies!

let's fold about half the military budget into domestic spending.

Yeah, that works too. But since we're talking about unrealizable counterfactuals, there's absolutely no reason to make this an either-or...

Military families and veterans are recipients of food stamps.

SNAP -- the bulwark against foreign aggression.

start labeling all sorts of domestic programs as "defense spending".

In higher education, they've been doing this for at least half a century. Most of the "area studies" programs (and fellowships for graduate students in those programs) have been at least partially funded by the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) and the National Defense Foreign Languages (NDFL) program.

This actually makes good sense. Having more "experts" in foreign cultures and languages probably helps reduce (marginally) the necessity of our having to "defend" against them by more violent means. Unfortunately, there's no built-in profit in this for "defense" industries, so the logic hasn't resulted in much extension of this principle, so far as I can tell.

ObCaveat - this is how NDEA & NDFL used to work many decades ago. I believe they're still around in some guise or another, but I'm open to correction on this point.

Interesting post sorta-kinda related to the original thread:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-04/learning-from-iraq-katrina-and-other-policy-disasters.html

Interview with someone who teaches a class on policy disasters. Very short, and not very deep, but one line jumped out at me

We all say that the "lessons" of X or Y are whatever, but a "lesson" involves extracting something from one case and applying it to a very different one. That's hard, and easy to do very badly, with terrible effects.

I think a lot of what the discussion became was how WWII shapes our current policy, and how we've extrapolated out from decision X during the war to decisions Y and Z a few decades later.

Humility is good when estimating our ability to extrapolate from one situation to another.

I've been lurking on this thread for days, with most of the observations I considered making (esp. on the A-bomb) having been made by someone else in this lengthy dialogue. As a historian I'm acutely aware of how tricky it is to judge the past in hindsight, but also how easy it is to assume that They Just Did The Best They Could With What They Knew. Good revisionism challenges the latter assumption with evidence pointing toward the conclusion They Could (Should!) Have Known Better.

Gar Alperovitz made useful - if not dispositive - contributions to the debate in this area, by pointing to evidence that Truman et al. could (should?) have known the Japanese were about to surrender anyway. This may or may not be proven - I haven't kept up with the ongoing debate - but it is far more relevant to the topic than assertions that someone had a father (brother, uncle, whatever) who was in the Pacific in 1945 and firmly believed the Bomb won the war and thus may have saved his life. This widespread belief, which I also grew up with, is of social and historical interest in itself, but of no evidentiary value when it comes to assessing what Truman et al. knew or should have known. Yet I see it crop up again and again - "Uncle Jim fought at Iwo Jima and always said that Hiroshima saved his life. He was there, you weren't. So there!" Understandable sentiment, but defective logic.

Also: I may have missed something - it's a long thread - but is it possible that we've discussed the public awareness of various WWII bombing atrocities, including Dresden, all this time without anyone mentioning Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five? I would have thought that for about half of the American reading public, at least, this was the most immediate and memorable account of fire-bombing, and might therefore have affected public perceptions in some way.

Vonnegut was on the tip of my tongue as soon as Dresden came up.

I don't know why I didn't bring it up. It's like not bringing up Picasso's "Guernica" in a discussion of the Spanish Civil War.

I've said everything else.

Good catch, dr ngo.

I would have thought that for about half of the American reading public, at least, this was the most immediate and memorable account of fire-bombing, and might therefore have affected public perceptions in some way.

In my cynical moments, I'm tempted to say that most of the American reading public equates Dresden with Tralfamadore...

wj's note about ships reminds me that perhaps the best thing to do would be to fold the Air Force back into the Army.

Farleyite!!!! And I don't mean James.

"start labeling all sorts of domestic programs as "defense spending"."

The Interstate program, anybody? I know people are probably half kidding, but robust infrastructure is tied very closely with homeland defense.

Farleyite!!!!

I'd not read Farley on this in quite a while, so that discussion looks promising to get back to when I have time. From a superficial first look, and on the subject of things to get back to later, it did already lead me to the USAF COIN manual; if the introductory chapter is anything to judge by, this will be either a trove of subtle comedy gold, or a rapid decent into blissfully blinkered self-satire.

The F-35 is an attempt, as I understand it, to make a multi-service, multi-role aircraft and eventually realize some kind of economies of scale. It may not work as planned, but isn't that the intent?

That was the intent, but I think we're far enough along to make at least a provisional judgment as to whether the attempt was wildly misconceived or not.

I tend to the wildly misconceived conclusion.

(I think everyone might be able to agree on that.)

:-)

Nigel, everybody would agree with "wildly misconcieved". Except all the Congressmen with companies in their district which are working on it. And since the plans were carefully customized to spread the work across as many districts as possible....

Funny that folks here suggested re-categorizing all domestic programs under military appropriations because I just read that John Boehner is trying to convince his caucus to demand that the White House restore cuts in military benefits as the ransom for increasing the debt ceiling.

Think about it.

The Republican Party wants to INCREASE spending or they will force the country to default on the national debt.

Next up, FOX's Bill O'Reilly will beg the President in an interview to slap his (O'Reilly's) surly mouth and tell him -- O-Reilly -- to STFU, and in return, Roger Ailes will endorse Obama for a third term and replace Steve Doocy with the embalmed corpse of Abby Hoffman.

not all spending is equal. a dollar spent on booms and bangs and bloodletting is a better dollar than one spent on filling a boy's empty belly.

G!
O!
P!

And the price of raising the debt ceiling is apparently to be approval of increased spending (and thus raising the deficit). Sometimes the GOP's logic is a bit hard to follow.

The logic is simple. It's all about making rich people richer.

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