Let no more civilians through

December 3rd, 2020

Thousands of Korean refugees in January 1951 were pouring southward, streaming through U.N. lines, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and with them came disguised NKPA:

Muñoz, like all the old hands, had grown wary of infiltrators.

One day he ordered his roadblocks, “Let no more civilians through.”

A sergeant, a recallee who had had to leave his new business and was understandably bitter about it, said, “Captain, I’m not about to shoot civilians.”

Muñoz put hard black eyes on this man. “Sergeant, I realize you’re new. We’ve had experience with this. Some of these ‘civilians’ have inflicted casualties on us, and unless you want to be killed, you’d better watch it.”

One night, while on roadblock guard, the sergeant disappeared. Muñoz figured some “civilians” had probably thrown his body into the deep snows along the road. In spring, thousands of skeletons were found all over the roadsides of Korea, but few of them could be identified.

Social scientific works can be a trove of politically incorrect data

December 2nd, 2020

Many conservatives credulously believe progressives’ claims that the social sciences vindicate liberal ideology, Steve Sailer says, but social scientific works can be a trove of politically incorrect data:

Here are some striking facts gleaned from [A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America, by conventional liberal criminologist Elliott Currie of UC Irvine]:

Between 2000 and 2018…more than 162,000 black Americans lost their lives to violence…the population of a substantial midsize American city — say Jackson, Mississippi….

As Currie admits, the vast majority of black murder victims are unquestionably killed by other blacks. The criminologist offers a lengthy historical explanation of why that is still, in 2020, the fault of whites (as you no doubt would anticipate, FDR’s redlining plays a role), but the 21st-century empirical data in the book is eye-opening:

In the United States today, a young black man has fifteen times the chance of dying from violence as his white counterpart.

Why do murderous blacks and their victims skew so young? Among whites, “hardened criminals” tend to be considerably older than they are among blacks. Does the violence gap between the races decline with age? It’s an unanswered question whether the racial disparity in homicidal tendencies actually diminishes with increasing age, or whether blacks of criminal inclinations simply tend to wind up dead or in prison earlier than whites do.

Currie goes on:

What makes these disparities even more sobering is that the rates of violent death for white men in the United States are themselves quite high by comparison with those of men in other advanced industrial societies…. The current annual homicide death rate for non-Hispanic white men in the United States, at nearly four per 100,000, is more than five times the rate for all German men, and close to twenty times the rate for men in Japan.

Contrary to the usual assumptions that racial gaps are driven by white bigotry, they tend to be smallest in Southern and old Wild West states, and largest where whites are best-behaved, such as in North-Central blue states:

In the state of Illinois, for instance, the homicide death rate for young African-American men (ages fifteen to twenty-nine) has averaged 143 per 100,000 over the course of the twenty-first century, thirty-seven times the rate for white men the same age.

Surely, though, race is less important than sex when it comes to murder rates?

But so strong is the effect of race that a black woman has half again as much chance of dying by homicide as a white man…. Black women lose far more years of life to homicide than to diabetes—a notorious killer of African-American women.

Moreover, among male victims of domestic murders:

What may be more surprising, though, is that intimate partner violence also contributes to the excess risk faced by black men. Among the male victims…the racial imbalance was even more striking than among female ones: nearly half of the men who died in these incidents of intimate partner violence were black.

Flamboyance in itself is worth nothing

December 1st, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach discusses leadership (in This Kind of War):

But the one thing a democracy has in common with a dictatorship is that when there is military failure, heads must roll. Perhaps, as Voltaire remarked, it is not a bad policy, since it tends to encourage the remaining leaders.

[...]

History has tended to prove that, like bishops, generals need a certain flamboyance for public success. Walker had none; he could never have been a public figure, win or lose.

Flamboyance in itself is worth nothing, but when it is coupled with genuine ability, history records the passage of a great leader across the lives of men. It is no accident that the names of Clausewitz, Jomini, von François, or Gruenther — brilliant minds all — are known only to students of warfare, while all the world remembers Ney and his grenadiers, Patton’s pearl-handled pistols, and Matt Ridgway’s taped grenades.

Ridgway was brave:

He was possessed of such personal courage that, caught in artillery shellfire, he was always the first man out of the ditch — a habit that caused his aide, a Medal of Honor winner, once to remark, “Oh, Jesus, I wish the Old Man would wait a little longer!”

This is where the drones came in

November 30th, 2020

Before the war, on a tactical level the Armenian army was superior to the Azeri army:

It had better officers, more motivated soldiers, and a more agile leadership. In all previous wars with Azerbaijan, this proved to be decisive. But Azerbaijan found a way to work around it. This is where the drones came in: they allowed the Azeris to reconnoitre first the Armenian position and then the placement of reserves. Armenian positions then could be extensively shelled with conventional artillery, weakening their defences. Drones then guided the onslaught towards the Armenian reserves, bringing in artillery, multiple-rocket systems with cluster munitions, their own missiles, or using Israeli-made LORA ballistic missiles to destroy bridges or roads linking the reserves with the front. Once the Armenian side was incapable of sending reserves into battle, the Azeri army could move in any number it wished to overwhelm the isolated Armenian positions. This procedure was repeated day after day, chipping one Armenian position away each day and resupplying artillery during the night.

This tactic also worked well in mountainous territory the Armenians thought would be easy to defend. In the mountains, there is only one road connecting the front to the rear, which made it even easier for drones to spot targets. When the battle over Shusha demonstrated that the Armenians would not stand a chance even in this territory, the Armenian army started to disintegrate and Yerevan had no choice than to agree a ceasefire on adverse terms.

They waited until a companion was hit

November 29th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach shares an anecdote (in This Kind of War) that I heard first heard about Russians on the eastern front:

Mount saw that some attacking Chinese had no rifles; as they advanced, they waited until a companion was hit, then took his weapon.

Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft

November 28th, 2020

One of the military lessons from Nagorno-Karabakh is that computers and networks matter:

Like in Syria and Libya, Russian air-defence systems proved to be ineffective against small and slow drones. This has inspired a debate in the West about whether Russian air-defence systems are generally overrated. But this verdict would be premature.

Armenia’s most ‘modern’ air-defence systems, the S-300PT and PS series and the 9K37M Buk-M1, were both developed in the 1980s. While the missiles are still potent, their sensors are designed to detect, identifiy and track fast-moving fighters, and their moving-target indicators disregard small, slow drones. Like many 1980s systems, a lot of computing is predetermined by hardware layout, and reprogramming requires an extensive refit of the entire system, which the Armenians had not done. These systems are also incapable of plot-fusion: accumulating and combining raw radar echoes from different radars into one aggregated situation report. Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft. None of the export versions of Russia’s air-defence systems that it has sold to Syria, Turkey, North Korea, and Iran are capable of plot-fusion. (In the latter two cases, these are disguised as ‘indigenous’ systems like the Raad or Bavar 373.) There is therefore a huge difference in performance between Russian air-defence systems protecting Russian bases in Armenia and Syria and those Russian air-defence systems exported to Armenia and Syria.

Azerbaijan’s drones roamed free because Armenia had no jammer able to interrupt the signals linking the drones to their guidance stations. Only in the last days of the war did Russia use the Krasukha electronic warfare system based at the Armenian city of Gyumri to interdict Azeri deep reconnaissance in Armenia proper. Still, the Azeris also used the Israeli Harop loitering munition, which was able to work under adverse conditions (although at reduced effectiveness) as it does not, unlike drones. require a guidance link. Hence among armies that are likely to prepare to fight wars in the future – not only the US, China, Russia but regional powers such as Turkey, Israel, and South Africa – this experience will certainly prompt further research into artificial intelligence and autonomous lethal weapons systems. Rather than banning this class of ammunition by a prohibitive arms control treaty, as envisioned by Europe, they will experiment with how to make use of the new technologies and best integrate autonomous lethal weapons systems into their combined-arms manoeuvre forces, thereby increasing their operational tempo and effectiveness.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car

November 27th, 2020

One of Iran’s top military nuclear scientists has been killed:

Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror.”

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

It was not a popular ruling, but it saved lives

November 27th, 2020

In the bitter cold of the Korean winter, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), sentries were having trouble staying alert:

It was cold enough to keep a man’s teeth chattering all night long — but Pritchard had learned a lesson earlier in the campaign. At first, every man had been issued a sleeping bag — and this had proved a mistake, fatal for a lot of Americans who could not resist the temptation to crawl in the bag, even on guard, and fall asleep.

The Chinese had learned the expensiveness of bugling and tootling their way into American lines. Now they came quietly, padding on rubber-soled feet. The only way for the outposts to have a chance was to issue only one arctic sleeping bag to each two men. This way, one man would be too miserable to go to sleep, and he would damn well see to it that his buddy didn’t sleep too long.

It was not a popular ruling, but it saved lives.

I don’t discuss Thanksgiving nearly as much as Halloween

November 26th, 2020

I don’t discuss Thanksgiving nearly as much as Halloween:

Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey

November 26th, 2020

Europe should look carefully at the military lessons of the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war;

The course of every war is influenced by the specific political circumstances that trigger it — and this war was no exception. Azerbaijan and Turkey were confident in the success of their offensive action, as Russia had from the onset of the war indicated that it had no intention of assisting the Armenians outside of their recognised borders. Russia also saw Azeri military pressure as a tool to weaken the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who headed the 2018 revolution that removed the old regime. Azeri action would, moreover, be likely to lead Armenia accept previously negotiated “peace plans” that would strengthen Moscow’s geopolitical position. This adverse political situation directly translated into military disadvantages on the battlefield for the Armenians.

Knowing Moscow’s tacit acceptance of a military intervention, Turkey based several F-16 fighters in Azerbaijan in October 2020 as a general deterrent. These were later used to sweep the sky of any Armenian ground-attack aircraft that tried to engage in combat. For its part, Armenia had just received eight Su-30 interceptors from Russia this summer, but did not even try to use them to contest the Azeri drones and F-16. The main reason for this was that Russia wanted Armenia not to enter into a direct confrontation with Turkey proper, and so it kept its aircraft on the ground. Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey. This proved decisive.

And there was always the haunting fear that a bigger war might start, elsewhere

November 25th, 2020

The problem that worried Washington was not what was happening in the frozen wastes of North Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but what was happening in the chancelleries of Communist nations:

“Sir,” [a young lieutenant] asked the briefing officer, “but what do we figure the Communists will do?”

The briefing officer touched his pointer to the floor, looked down. Then he met the lieutenant’s eyes and smiled wryly.

“Son, I don’t have a living clue.”

In Washington, General of the Army Omar Bradley could have said the same. He was certain of only one thing: That a war with the Chinese, on the mainland of Asia, was the wrong war, at the wrong time, with the wrong enemy. The more important men in government tended to agree with him.

[...]

Harry Truman had not altered his basic belief that the United States might engage in general war with the Communist bloc, but it had no reasonable hope of forcing its will over the vast expanse of immense humanity of Eurasia.

[...]

In the last days of November 1950, MacArthur wired Washington: We face an entirely new war … this command has done everything humanly possible within its capabilities but is now faced with conditions beyond its control and strength. MacArthur now wanted to accept Chiang Kai-shek’s offer of Nationalist Chinese troops, but Washington told him such a move would have to be cleared with the U.N. — which was obviously hostile to the idea.

Now, at Christmastime, a new wave of apprehension swept over the American people, for unlike the old wars on the frontier, this one was reported daily by electronic means.

[...]

It must be emphasized that the decision to withdraw from North Korea was a strategic one. Once contact had been broken both in east and west, American and ROK forces were under no immediate pressure forcing them backward. But the stance in the mountains of North Korea was exceedingly perilous with unknown numbers of Chinese in the war. The supply situation had never been good, and the transportation network was completely incapable of standing up under the needs of a large-scale campaign. MacArthur wanted to pull back.

And there was always the haunting fear that a bigger war might start, elsewhere. If the Russians came in, fully, all the men in Korea might be cut off as Russian submarines and air interdicted their lifeline; and forgotten in the general chaos, they might be slaughtered at leisure.

Traffic fatality rates increased during the pandemic

November 24th, 2020

There were fewer cars on the road last spring during the height of the pandemic, but traffic fatality rates increased 30% in the second quarter as evidence suggests drivers engaged in more risky behavior:

Total traffic volume fell 16% during the first half of 2020, NHTSA said in a release, while traffic deaths fell just 3%.

The fatality rate during the second quarter was 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, sharply higher than the first quarter rate of 1.10, which was in line with historical trends.

A second NHTSA study of trauma centers found seriously injured or fatal crash victims took risks during the pandemic that included speeding, driving impaired, and not using their seat belts.

For example, the study revealed a higher prevalence of alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids in crash victims during the quarter compared to the months prior to the pandemic.

American casualties did not come to half one week’s total in the Ardennes campaign

November 23rd, 2020

The action on the Ch’ongch’on and at the reservoir, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), was described as the greatest defeat in American history:

To place the defeat in North Korea in perspective, American casualties during the entire time of action did not come to half one week’s total in the Ardennes campaign, when Germans killed or wounded 27,000 Americans in one seven-day period.

Southern and Western politicians deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy

November 22nd, 2020

Is the country more divided than ever before? The answer is no, Michael Lind explains:

The social and economic divides among white Northerners and white Southerners, Blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants and Jews were much more intense in 1920 than they are today in 2020. What has happened is that the formerly unified, mostly Northern mainline Protestant American establishment has—perhaps temporarily—broken down, allowing the actual diversity of interests and opinions in the United States to be expressed rather than suppressed. If the emerging woke national establishment has its way, however, that diversity of viewpoints and values will soon be suppressed once again, in favor of an intolerant and exclusive doctrine that greatly resembles the old-time Social Gospel from which it is derived.

With the exceptions of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, every American president between 1861 and 1933 was a Republican mainline Protestant from the North or Midwest. The Republican Party, still the Lincoln coalition of Northern industrialists and Yankee Protestants, dominated Congress in the same era. Industry and finance were in the hands of a small number of Northeastern financiers, many of them old-stock Northeastern Protestants like J.P. Morgan. While there were some important Jewish financiers, Jews along with Catholics were kept out of many snobbish Wall Street firms until well after World War II.

The New Deal revolution of the 1930s is badly misunderstood, both politically and culturally, when it is treated as a left-wing rebellion against right-wing capitalism. Fundamentally it represented the partial overthrow of Yankee Protestant hegemony in American society by a coalition of outsiders, chiefly provincial Southern and Western whites and European-American immigrants in the North, many of them Catholic.

The Democratic Party that dominated the United States between the 1930s and the 1980s had a few Yankee progressive members, but it was essentially the old Jacksonian alliance of white Southerners and non-British “white ethnics” in the North. If Harry Truman is understood correctly as a cultural Southerner from Missouri, then with one exception every Democratic president between Roosevelt and Obama was a white Southerner—Truman, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. The one exception was John F. Kennedy, from the other wing of the Jacksonian anti-Yankee alliance of Southerners and Irish Americans. Meanwhile, the Solid South combined with the seniority system ensured that Southerners, many of them segregationists, dominated Congress and the Senate throughout the New Deal era.

Most New Deal Democratic politicians were not anti-capitalist or opposed to industry. They often represented socially conservative local business elites who resented the fact that Northern bankers often would only finance infrastructure projects in the South and West that locked those regions into their assigned roles as resource colonies for factories in the Midwest and Northeast.

To break this neocolonial pattern of Northeastern economic domination, New Deal Democrats used federal state capitalism to industrialize and modernize the Southern and Western periphery, by means of rural electrification cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other hydropower projects, defense production plants assigned to the South and West during World War II, and the interstate highway system (a favorite project of FDR which was only enacted under Eisenhower). In short, Southern and Western politicians and their Northern white ethnic allies who dominated the federal government in the New Deal era deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy.

The sky above the American troops was black with friendly aircraft

November 20th, 2020

The Marines at Yudam-ni were ordered to retreat, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but it would be called an attack to the south:

At Yudam-ni only the wounded and those who could not walk were placed aboard vehicles; many men who were hurt had to walk. Then, the infantry battalions leading the way, the regiments came out through Toktong Pass.

They came out intact, with their jeeps, guns, tractors, and trucks. Strapped to the fenders and hoods of vehicles lay bloody, half-frozen Marines. Others lay across gun barrels, or were carried in ox-drawn sleds taken from Koreans. It was not a motor march. It was a tactical battle most of the way, against Chinese who held the hills in depth. But the Marines came out, for three reasons:

One, Davis’ and Taplett’s men were able to climb the encircling mountains, knock the enemy off the ridges, drive them across the high timber. Moving by night, attacking cross-country in savage terrain and savage weather, these Marines took the Chinese in the flank, and by surprise. In the face of incredible hardship, the Marines were able to mount offensive action — and Barber’s Fox Company, 7th Marines, had been able to hold off two enemy regiments for six days, preventing the Chinese from closing their ring. If Barber had not held, the way would have been much more difficult.

Two, Marine air from the 1st Air Wing near Hamhung, carrier pilots from Philippine Sea and Leyte, and Air Force supply planes flew constantly over the column. Marine aircraft strafed, bombed, and napalmed as close as fifty yards from the leading elements. Marine air, flying so low as to touch the mountains, knocked out roadblock after roadblock, as fast as the Chinese assembled them. Marine pilots volunteered to fly night missions in the dangerous mountains.

Hour after hour, the sky above the American troops was black with friendly aircraft, and without them, in spite of their courage, in spite of all else, the ground troops would never have come out.

Third, General Sung Shih-lun had gambled. In the horrendous terrain, he had never been able to bring his full manpower to bear on the embattled Marines, outnumbered though they were. By pushing his men across the mountains from the Yalu in fourteen days, he had had to leave most of his supply and artillery behind — and as the battle continued day after day, stinging night after night, even Sung Shih-lun’s sturdy peasants neared collapse.

The Chinese had come into Korea well fed and well clothed, but they were without supply, depending on the countryside for future livelihood. Near-starvation and dysentery hit them, too. The hardy Chinese peasant, while brought up to hardship, was no superman. As the Marines neared Hagaru, weary CCF units deserted their peaks under air attack. The Marines found some who had thrown away their arms and who lay huddled together in the snow, freezing and apathetic, trying only to stay alive.