Monday, September 22, 2014

A Dangerous Path

On the night of March 9, 1945, 334 B-29 bombers took off from the Mariana Islands on a mission to decimate Tokyo's Shitamachi section in the eastern part of the city.

Each B-29 carried carried 7 tons of incendiary cluster bombs. Each bomb, in turn, released 38 naplam-carrying incendiary bomblets at an altitude of 2,000 feet that spread the effect of the incendiary material over a wide area.

The cluster bombing was directed at an area of Tokyo that was populated by roughly 750,000 people living in cramped quarters in wooden-frame buildings. The area also contained a great number of light industries, so-called "shadow factories", that produced prefabricated war materials and aircraft parts that were supplying the Japanese army.

One of the justifications for the fire bombings was to disrupt the military supply chain that was imbedded within this civilian area that could not otherwise be easily targeted and destroyed. However, breaking the will and resolve of the Japanese people to continue the war effort was certainly a prime objective as well.

The firebombing attack was aided by strong winds (17 mph to 28 mph) the night of March 9 that created a firestorm and conflagration that destroyed 15.8 square miles of the city, left over a million homeless and killed over 100,000.

To put that in perspective, the number of fatalities on that one night was the single deadliest air raid of World War II; killing more people than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Aerial view of Tokyo after the War

In the Civil War in 1864, in just over two weeks time in Virginia. at the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7) and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8-21), over 55,000 young Americans lost their lives on the battlefield.

Battle of the Wilderness
Credit:Harper's Weekly

Both battles had General U.S Grant advancing with vast numbers of Union soldiers in an attempt to break the Confederate lines in a war of attrition based on the Union Army's superior numbers in men and materiel. This led some to start calling him "Butcher Grant" for the number of casualties he took along the way. Of course, this is the same U.S. Grant that defeated the Confederate Army in 1865 and became the President of the United States in 1868.

620,000 Americans lost their lives fighting the Civil War-equal to about 2% of the country's population at the time.

These acts of war involving mass assaults, intimidation and a mindset for total victory are difficult for us to fathom right now. Most of those living today have seen nothing like it in our lifetimes. After all, the Korean War was officially referred to as a "police action" by President Truman. The Vietnam War was fought without Congress ever declaring war on anybody.

Notice that these horrific acts of war described above were separated by roughly 80 years.

Is there significance to that time period between these events?

William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of The Fourth Turning, would argue that it is totally consistent with what one would expect to find at the "Crisis" season of history that we seem to now be in and that Strauss and Howe predicted would be upon us beginning around the middle of the first decade of the 2000's.

What does it all mean?

Strauss and Howe argue that if this plays out like previous Fourth Turnings (as in the Civil War and World War II periods) we will find that ...

"The Crisis mood will dim expectations that multilateral diplomacy and expanding global democracy can keep the world out of trouble". 
"Old Unraveling-era strategies (flexibility, stealth, elite expertise, stand-off weaponry, and surgical goals) will all be replaced by new Crisis-era strategies (mass, intimidation, universal conscription, frontal assault and total victory) more suitable to a fight for civic survival." 
Does any of this sound familiar?

How have we been conducting the wars we have been involved with in the Middle East over the last 20 years?

They have principally been surgical in nature with very limited rules of engagement. We have prided ourselves on our flexible and nimble fighting forces, our stealth bombers and drones, our special forces like the Navy Seals, our use of air power (stand-off weaponry) and surgical strikes.  Even in the Gulf War in the early 1990's, we merely evicted Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait and stopped the war when Iraq was expelled rather than pursuing total victory.

What strategy is President Obama proposing for dealing with ISIS?

More of the same. However, it may be a path to failure as it may not match the evolving attitudes of the American people as the Crisis period continues.

Why do I say this?

I think the emergence of ISIS is changing American attitudes in very profound ways that is only beginning to become evident. The brutality and barbarism of the group, the fact that is is referring to itself as a "state" and its direct threats to the United States have made it a real and tangible threat that
is much easier for the American people to comprehend and understand.

I have seen this first hand with this blog.

I have been writing BeeLine for almost four years. In that time I only had one post that I wrote that got more than 1,000 views. That is, until I wrote "Why ISIS, Not ISIL" , two weeks ago. That post has already gotten over 8,000 views!

How could that happen?

It could only occur if there were a lot of people reading and forwarding that blog post on to others. I generally only have about 100 regular readers of BeeLine, so the only way to get to 8,000 views is for that post to really resonate with people and for those people to be moved to share it with friends and family. Over and over.

Why were people moved to do that?

The only explanation that I can come up with is that post resonated with an American public which is becoming increasingly concerned about the threat of radical Islam. They also appear to be more than a little concerned that the President of the United States may not be fully engaged in his foremost responsibility--protecting the American people. There are questions about his engagement, his motives and his leadership.

There also remain a lot of unanswered questions about Barack Obama that have not been answered even those he has been in office for almost six years. Have we ever had a President of the United States that we have known so little about regarding his background and upbringing? Have we ever had a President of the United States who apparently was raised believing the United States was the bad actor in the world, rather than a force for good? Have we ever had a President of the United States where you were not 100% sure that he had the country's (not his political party, or contributors or friends) best interests at heart?

From the reaction I have gotten to that one blog post, it appears that there are a lot of people who have questions. And the stakes have gotten much bigger.  People might might overlook some of the questions above if we are just talking about issues like abortion, the national debt, the Keystone pipeline or national health care. However, people tend to get much more interested when they start thinking about their safety and security.

This trend has also shown up recently in polling data which shows President Obama's job approval is sinking particularly fast among women. This is significant as women have generally been the core of much of Obama's support.

Obama's approval rating among white women is now only 32%, with a massive 62% disapproving of his job performance. He lost six points just since August according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll.

In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. They now favor Republicans by eight points. That is a 12 point swing in a month!

"Soccer Moms" are becoming "Security Moms".

Mothers are hard-wired to protect their families from danger and disaster of the kind that Strauss and Howe predict is awaiting us. They are wise to be concerned about the man who is leading us down the uncertain path we are on right now that Obama has placed us on.

I was particularly interested in the article today on in which Leon Panetta, who served President Obama as both his CIA Director and Secretary of Defense "sharply criticized the president for failing to address the crisis in Syria earlier. He said that Obama ignored his national security advisors when he failed to arm the Syrian rebels and pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq; actions which led to the rise of ISIS".
Where does the uncertain path we are on right now possibly lead? More from The Fourth Turning...
"Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of the Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war---class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists or superpower war. If there is war it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil---its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured. And it there is total war, it is likely that the most destructive weapons available will be deployed."

However, mothers also deeply about their country and the survival of our way of life .

"Decisive events will occur--events so vast, powerful, and unique that they lie beyond today's wildest hypotheses. These events will inspire great documents and speeches, visions of a new political order being framed. People will discover a hitherto unimagined capacity to fight and die, and to let their children fight and die, for a communal cause. The Spirit of America will return, because there will be no other choice."

I hope all of this is wrong but I discern a creeping realization from many that we are on a dangerous path that will put all of us to the test. And in times like this we need a Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt leading us---not a community organizer who grew up criticizing most everything his country ever did.

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