Merle Haggard Corollary

The Grim Doctrine, Merle Haggard Corollary

The point about Schumpeter, below, echoes what old Merle was saying here:

The rights that the critic enjoys do not belong to him. They are earned by those who defend the society that allows them to exist. We could even say they are created by those defenders, as those rights exist practically only so long as the society that upholds them exists. The rights must always, newly, be created through defense.

The wealth that permits the critic to live a life of thought and speech arises from a system that also feeds a nation of farmers and working men. The man who uses the benefits American capitalism grants him to undermine it is not merely attacking his own position, which is his to sacrifice if he wishes. He is striking at the security of the rancher and the welder, which is not his to destroy.

The Haggard song warns: "I don't mind them... standing up for what they believe in; but when they're running down this country, they're walking on the fighting side of me." That is just where the fighting side should be. It is located at the point where the critic's criticism ceases to be constructive and wishes to destroy; at the point at which he is no longer speaking of how to build higher on our foundation, but rather charging that the foundation is bad.

Perhaps it is flawed; certainly it was uneven in its justice. Yet the world was flawed, and is still, and any stable foundation must match the stone on which it rests. If imperfect men could make a flawless foundation, its makers would find not one stone of this earth on which it could lay without rocking at every touch.

The rancher and the working man are closer to the edge of our civilization, further from its centers of comfort. They may not always put their thoughts as finely as those who have ever known privilege, but they know better than those what the edge means. The frontiers must be defended. We welcome ideas for improvement in our nation. We will never welcome disdain for what our ancestors built, what our children shall inherit.

Oh, My


Another one via Gwa.45.

What's worse: that they thought this picture would be reassuring, or that -- out of all their tac officers -- they picked the fat guy with the floppy boony hat to stand in the front?

Click on the thing for the full size version.


And This is My...

The Dissident Frogman tries to help his countrymen 'fake the news a bit better.' My favorite line: "So you'll have positive associations with your instructor."

The Peace Racket

The Peace Racket:

Via The Geek w/ a .45, a link to an article worth reading.

We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States.
Is that a problem? We're all in favor of peace, right?
In March, Yusra Moshtat, an associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, and Jan Oberg, director of the foundation, wrote that “words like democracy and freedom are deceptive, cover-ups or Unspeak.” And in a 1997 speech at a Texas peace foundation, Oscar Arias, ex-president of Costa Rica and founder of his own peace foundation, described the American preoccupation with freedom versus tyranny as “obsolete,” “oversimplified,” and above all “dangerous,” because it could lead to war. In other words, if you want to ensure peace, worry less about freedom. Appease tyranny, accept it, embrace it—and there’ll be no more war.
Well, different strokes and all that... Costa Rica, Europeans...
Many students make it clear that they’re ashamed to be American; one of them, listing her aspirations, writes, “I envision myself American, not needing to be embarrassed of it.” They view themselves instead as “global citizens.”

Let's consider this.
The more one considers oneself a global citizen, of course, the less one considers oneself an American citizen whose loyalty is to the Constitution and its freedoms. Each new global citizen, in fact, transfers his loyalty to the Peace Racket. No wonder these students often sound like cultists: “I have pledged my passion, dedication, and undying energy to the World Peace Program and the ongoing fight for a more peaceful world for all people.”
Confer with the post below on where rights come from, and who rightfully exercises them.

This whole movement appears to be attempting to create and motivate a class of people I would have to define as "freeloaders" on the social contract. That seems like a basic problem for society; but what happens when that class is among the wealthiest, and most tied in to the various levers of power? Confer, again, with the recent post on recruitment for PRTs in Iraq among the State Department.

Looks like a problem to me.

Big Debate Day II

Big Debate Day II:

It also turns out there is a debate centered on Megan McArdle's Atlantic Monthly blog about animal rights. This falls in so nicely with yesterday's discussion about dogs that I thought I'd move it to the front page.

I've been following with avid interest Jim Henley's attempt to generate a libertarian theory of animal cruelty law, as well as Julian Sanchez's declaration that there isn't one.

Julian takes what I would say is the typical libertarian view, which is that only rights should be enshrined in law. I shouldn't try to steal someone else's husband, but I am legally forbidden from stealing their car, because they have a property right in the car, but not in the husband. That leaves a boundary question: are animals rights-having creatures?

As with abortion, there's no inherently libertarian answer to that question. But Julian and some of Jim's commenters seem to be taking a fairly hard line: rights are binary (you have them or you don't); and animals, which don't have agency, cannot have rights.

I'd say that there are different classes of rights-holders; babies are persons, but they can't vote, and they do have the right to be supported by the state. (Of course, some libertarians would disagree with that latter, but I'm pretty firm that they do.) So it seems plausible to me that animals could have limited rights--a right not to suffer for our pleasure, say--even though none of them will ever master the lute.

Should animals have that right? Obviously, both Julian (who is a vegetarian) and I, who will only eat animals that are not industrially farmed, have both decided that the suffering of animals matters, morally. But should it matter, legally? Creating new rights is a big deal.

Okay, I'll bite the bullet. As a first principle, you shouldn't be able to burn a sheep alive because it's fun.
Oddly, just last night I was writing up a theory of how rights arise and who ought to have them, as applied to animals. Here it is.
it's a question that ought to be reasoned from first principles. The question is, "What does a dog deserve?" And the answer is:

Jeffery: Something like human rights, given the analogies to human slavery;

Daniel: The right to be protected as property, but disposed of by the owner of that property as he sees fit;

Grim: No rights as such, but certain basic protections.

Each of us is approaching the question from a different foundation. Daniel's is deeply aware of the history of how things have been done in the past. He seeks to recreate what seems like a stable society based on the guidelines of what has worked in the past. Jeffrey is looking toward a future, improved society -- by protecting animal rights more vigorously, he argues, we'll protect human rights more vigorously.

I'm not looking toward the future or to the past, but toward the world as it is. Somewhat like Hobbes, I'm arguing from the nature of the world -- that it is a fearsome and destructive place -- and the necessity of building a society and a frith that can withstand those natural forces, including other men, well enough to make a space in which freedom and peace can exist.

I argue that "rights" arise from that precise contract, and all rights stand on it. In the state of nature, you have no rights in any practical sense -- whatever inalienable rights you may hold from the Creator, they have no force on what happens to you in the world. In order to make a space in which those rights can exist practically, we must make the space and defend it.

Society owes nothing to anyone except to those who are engaged in making that space, defending it once it is made, and keeping it clear internally. They are the ones to whom society belongs.

We see in our society as it exists that there are tremendous problems caused by freeloaders, whether they are the ones who wish to live off the welfare system; or the ones who wish to live off the rich economy we have been able to create in this space, but who are not interested in defending it; or the ones who actually prey on it by making a living in criminal enterprise; and so forth.

These are all classes of people we would like to see diminish; a healthy society will have more people who are engaged in defending the space, improving it, keeping it clear. This is also true of all other societies, which is why I say it is not about past or future. There are different ways of going about this, but that is the core problem of society. It's about Natural Law in the real sense of the term: the law that nature imposes on the world.

What does that view say about dogs? That their ancestors were participants in creating and defending the space; and that they themselves continue to defend it and us. The first dog in the story, for example, was hunting for explosives to prevent soldiers from being killed. Even a small dog in the home warns its master when strangers approach.

Society eats cattle, but might have eaten other things; and the cattle don't actually do anything toward the defense of our society. We use them, as we use crops.

Dogs are not like that. They serve. That means they are owed a kind of honor, and it is a duty of the society to see that they get it.
That was originally a comment to a specific post, and not a fully-considered post of its own. I'd like to make clear that I read the human duties that entitle you to rights fairly broadly: a person who gets a job and works at it steadily is doing enough, even if they don't deserve the special praise due to soldiers.

By the same token, ancestry is important in a narrow sense -- because a society is a project across generations, we have to extend loyalty to those who went before, and those who will come after. We have to be loyal to our fathers, and recognize they deserve the benefits of society even though they may no longer be young enough to produce. We recognize that our children are too young yet, but extend them rights in expectation of their performance of their duties when it is their turn. That, in turn, imposes a real duty on them -- one that, if they do not perform it, means that society has a right to be angry. They have profited from our work, and will show no loyalty in return.

Some people, due to injury or for other reasons, have no capacity to do useful work, but because they are wrapped into these family webs, they belong anyway. We take care of them out of respect for what their fathers did for all of us, or their mothers; and what their children may do, if they have children. This is a distinct problem from "those who wish to live off the welfare system," mentioned as freeloaders, above. The question of just who in society cares for them can be debated, but unlike freeloaders, these people have a legitimate place in society.

As for those who have always enjoyed the benefits of our society, but will not defend it and may seek to undermine it, I am thinking of those people Joseph Schumpeter was talking about.
Schumpeter believed that capitalism would be destroyed by its successes. Capitalism would spawn, he believed, a large intellectual class that made its living by attacking the very bourgeois system of private property and freedom so necessary for the intellectual class's existence.
Those of you who belong to that class know who you are.

In any event, as for animal rights, this basic theory of society suggests that we owe something to animals that serve the society. Dogs do; cats, to some degree, do; horses don't, at this point, but their ancestors were indispensable (and it's possible that their children may be). Other animals do not, and are not owed anything.

I still believe in the personal virtue of kindness toward animals who are not part of the society, but I think that is a personal rather than a social virtue. If I had a bull, he would be the happiest bull in the world. His sons would not be so happy, because they would be castrated while young and slaughtered when they were old enough to provide meat. I would be as kind to both of them as the situation permitted -- but I would not feel I was doing anything wrong in humanely butchering the steer.

Big Debate Day

Big Debate Day:

Today, we're going to join a couple of the big debates swirling through the blogosphere. The first one, which I address first only to get it out of the way quickly, is the debate on masculinity that I had thought would end ages ago now. There is a post from Firedoglake, which was aimed at Protein Wisdom, which drew fire from others, and another round from Protein Wisdom, plus Instapundit (who was earlier attacked by Glenn Greenwald), etc., etc., etc.

So, here's what I have to say about the question of who is masculine. If you're doing it right, the women will tell you. If they don't, you may not be doing it right.

Now, different women want different things, and that's fine. The point is that masculinity has its opposite in femininity. It's about sex more than it's about anything else. It is, therefore, womens' business to define what they find masculine.

You realize what the reverse of that principle is, right? It's men's business to decide what is feminine. That's going to cause some headaches. Nevertheless, it's true -- and accepting that it is true will produce some peace. My wife, before we were married, used to have all the same concerns that most women do about whether or not she was beautiful. When we first began to date, and she began to express those concerns, I told her not to worry about it -- that nature had decided that I should be the judge of feminine beauty, not her, and she could see how I felt about it.

And indeed, that's precisely the case. A woman frets over her beauty, because she can never really be sure of it. A man looks at her, and is sure.

Those who want to define womanhood with no reference to men can try; but I don't think they'll do more than chase each other in a circle for a few more decades, just like they have for the last few. That's my warning to those people arguing about "masculinity" also. Don't bother; it's a waste of your time. The women will let you know when you've got it right. When they see it, they'll be sure.



A new study considers the depth of heartbreak:

"People who are more in love really are a little more upset after a breakup, but their perceptions about how distraught they will be are dramatically overstated when compared to reality," Finkel said.

"At the end of the day it, it is just less bad than you thought."
No man who has ever loved could have written that.

Good Dog

Good Dog:

Via Soldiers Angels, Germany:

Malbern, Ark., native Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Holm, a military working dog handler, rewards Zasko after his canine companion identified homemade explosive materials hidden outside an abandoned building during a patrol of western Baghdad supporting Company C, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Aug 2.

Zasko, a Belgian Malinois, had never been trained to identify homemade-explosive materials, but used a sample as a reference and soon found a cache of approximately 15 pounds.
Of course, Cassidy has her own ideas about what constitutes a good dog.

And of course we'd remiss not to mention the article from the Dallas Morning News, "Cowboys discuss Vick situation."

OK, let's discuss it. In a long-ago interview for Cassidy's place, I was asked after my favorite proverb. I picked this one:
12:10 A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.
"I've always held that you can judge the quality of a man best by meeting his dog," I said in the interview.

Rot, Vick.
Tenet's Pre-9/11 Efforts Faulted

Gee, ya think so?
How to Spy in Iraq

Michael Totten again has an excellent article, this one on the nuts and bolts of what I guess is the softer side of COIN operations in Iraq.
Yeah, I remember those....

The people at the Smoking Gun got their hands on the soldier comments about some new MRE's being fielded by the Army.

Some highlights:
"Don't ever give the stuffed cabbage to a soldier again, even POWs deserve better."

"The vanilla pudding is so good that I ripped it open. Licked the inside and rolled around on top of it like a dog."

It sounds marginally better than the stuff I ate 20 years ago, though. Anybody remember the dehydrated pork patty? Yeccch.


Alright, Grim has given me the go-ahead to take over the movie club for this month. As close readers of the comments know, I have chosen 1776. My idea of a reasonable timeframe is now through next weekend to watch it, with comment threads going up Sunday or Monday - though if any of our redoutable commentators want more time before we start up the conversation, I'm sure they'll let me know.

There are of course many ways to approach this (most excellent and charming) film - comparing it to the history, evaluating it as a play and a musical, discussing fact and fantasy about why some of the scenes were cut, or meditating on the timeless themes of politics, liberty, rights, and compromise that this film brings to the fore. Given Grim's recent interest in the topic of political reconciliation, as related to both Iraq and our own country, I believe that aspect is especially timely. Think as you watch it: how do you handle a situation where, in order to achieve an extremely important goal, you absolutely must make common cause with people whose views are not only alien, but positively ungodly by your own lights?

I'll start a new thread when the time's up, and all kinds of thoughtful commentary will be welcome at that time! (And I expect plenty of it here.) However, comments as to whether Martha Jefferson is, or is not, "hawt" will be summarily deleted.



It's interesting to see the debate referenced here, many of the links of which are worth following. It points to several of the more serious Left-thinking bloggers (as well as several of the less-serious ones) who have turned against the State Department and the rest of the foreign policy community in the wake of the O'Hanlan/Pollack piece. (See also Tigerhawk's entry into the debate). I was aware that the O'H/P piece was producing a lot of heat on the left, but I hadn't realized it had gone quite so far.

There is an interesting point raised in the debate about the "foreign policy clerisy." (See here to drop right in the thick of it.) I'd like to inform the debate from outside it, by pointing to a recent Roundtable discussion with Mr. Reeker of the State Department:

[O]ne of the tricks [in deploying State-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs)] has been to get the right people, the right skills sets, in right away. You'll recall that early on there was some criticism -- I think more from misunderstanding than anything else -- that while the State Department itself wasn't able to stand up and send these people -- and it's true the State Department doesn't have, necessarily, the types of skill sets -- civil engineers or veterinary scientists -- that meet the needs of what that particular region and that provincial reconstruction team are doing towards the development and capacity building in that particular location.

And so while they go out and look for these people, we have been able to tap into the vast resources of the U.S. military -- particularly the Reserve Corps -- and so you can find the specialists and bring them out. And I think that's worked quite well. And slowly, as those people finish their rotation, then we find the others. They're filling that out and more and State Department people, but others -- contractors -- are coming at the same time and they're exploring, you know, looking at who are the best people. They may be third country nationals, in some cases, to bring these guys out, not just a veterinary scientist. You need -- the ambassador says you need a guy that really knows sheep husbandry.
My response was to say, essentially, "We can probably help you find those people," and so I've been involved in a discussion with the folks in Iraq about how State is doing its recruiting. I'm hoping we can start finding Americans to fill these needs, as the PRTs are an important part of bringing stability and prosperity to Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, the discussion has caused me to think a bit about this problem of having a "clerisy," which does in fact seem to be the problem State is having.

Let me phrase the problem this way: Mr. Reeker points to the advantages DOD has, as a nation building organization, in its Reserve Corps. The advantages are broader than that. DOD recruits from all five quintiles of American society; only the poorest quintile is underrepresented, and not substantially so. Almost all members have a high school diploma; almost all officers have a college degree. Everyone goes back to school regularly, either civilian or internal military schools. In addition, there is the Reserve Corps and the National Guard, so that you have people who have fully developed careers and expertise -- from construction to banking -- who are available to you for occasional deployment to do things like what State is trying to do with its PRTs.

State has none of that. State recruits its workers from a narrow range of colleges, and from a narrow class of Americans -- that small group that thinks of "foreign policy" as something you might actually do for a living. Having attended functions at some of those schools -- like Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) -- I can tell you that budding young State Department workers are not in any sense as "diverse" a lot as you will find in the US Military, even at the entry level.

Furthermore, because there is one track -- college with a focus in foreign policy; employment by State; and only after that come any branches, mostly to think tanks aligned with State, or occasionally to other government-oriented careers -- they don't get much more diverse as time goes on.

So you end up with a problem like the PRTs: You know that one of the things you want in every member of the PRT is "foreign policy experience," and so you do your recruiting among people who have that. But the other thing you really need is someone who's made a living working with sheep.

If you can think of that as a two-element Venn Diagram, you'll see the problem. There's a populated set of people with foreign policy experience; there's a populated set with experience with sheep husbandry. Is there anyone to populate the set with both? You might find someone who grew up on a sheep farm before going to Johns Hopkins, but once he got old enough to go to college, he'll have been on the "one track," and will have no further experience in sheep husbandry. And that's a long shot -- more likely, you won't find anyone in the set of people with foreign policy experience who grew up on a sheep farm. What if you need two of them, one for Iraq and one for Afghanistan?

To a degree this is true also for construction workers, etc. There are a few jobs that State does as part of its profile, so you might get people with both "foreign policy experience" and also some useful experience in finance. As far as the skills you need for the PRT mission, though, a lot of them -- as Mr. Reeker has found -- will be difficult to fill.

Not so for the US military. It's a bigger establishment, of course, but the Reserve Corps is a huge advantage. You need a horse doctor? No problem -- we've got one somewhere. You need people who have worked construction for ten years? We've got 'em. You need people who have experience as mayor in a small town? Got 'em.

My critique here is mild compared to others, and I make it from the perspective of wanting to help State find what it needs. Leaving that aside, though, there is quite a bit to be said for what some of the more serious Lefty writers are putting out here. There is a problem with having a "foreign policy clerisy." It's nothing personal; it's just that State needs more economic and intellectual diversity, and more diversity in skills and life experience, than it currently has.

Monday Reading

Monday Reading:

I have a new piece on COIN in response to yesterday's NYT article from the 82nd ABN NCOs.

One of you, who knows who he is, suggested that he might have reason to avoid concealed carry of a firearm, but might do open carry. I once wrote a piece called "To Bear Arms," that I still think is good reading on the subject. It's something I think we should do more of in this country.