Unlike the old Imperial Japanese Army, the CCF understood the lessons of firepower

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachIt was the CCF, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), that changed the most:

By 1953 the clumsy peasant armies, which had pushed masses of men through the valley to the sound of horns and bugles, were no more.

There had been no rotation in the CCF, and the painful lessons of modern ground warfare had been pushed home.


Unlike the old Imperial Japanese Army, the CCF understood the lessons of firepower, and did not repeat their failures.

After 1951, the Chinese soldier again became the phantom he had been in the North Korean hills. His fortifications and fieldworks, built with unstinted labor, almost always surpassed the American. Harassed by ever-present air power, he went completely underground, and he learned to move stealthily, and by night. He became furtive, fast, and skilled at deception.

He could pad noiselessly through the dark and assemble a battalion within U.N. lines before it was seen or heard, and fade away again before daybreak. He became adept at the ambush of American patrols, which could often be heard coming hundreds of yards away, and in the dark, deep valleys, more and more the honors went to him.

He rarely lost prisoners now, a matter of concern to American Intelligence. He proved he could slip small parties into U.N> lines and drag U.S. soldiers screaming from their bunks. While Americans continued to hate the dark, he loved the night as a friend, and made us of it.

He came onto the heavily defended U.N. hills and outposts like a phantom, and often took them within minutes. He could rarely hold them, however, under the quickly massed and superior fires of American artillery, and the grinding attacks launched against him by day, under artillery, air, and armor cover.

The average person processes three liters of water each day

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

The human body uses 30% to 50% less water per day than other primates:

The study compared the water turnover of 309 people with a range of lifestyles, from farmers and hunter-gatherers to office workers, with that of 72 apes living in zoos and sanctuaries.


When they added up all the inputs and outputs, they found that the average person processes some three liters, or 12 cups, of water each day. A chimpanzee or gorilla living in a zoo goes through twice that much.

Pontzer says the researchers were surprised by the results because, among primates, humans have an amazing ability to sweat. Per square inch of skin, “humans have 10 times as many sweat glands as chimpanzees do,” Pontzer said.


But the researchers controlled for differences in climate, body size, and factors like activity level and calories burned per day. So they concluded the water-savings for humans were real, and not just a function of where individuals lived or how physically active they were.


One hypothesis, suggested by the data, is that our body’s thirst response was re-tuned so that, overall, we crave less water per calorie compared with our ape relatives. Even as babies, long before our first solid food, the water-to-calories ratio of human breast milk is 25% less than the milks of other great apes.

Another possibility lies in front of our face: Fossil evidence suggests that, about 1.6 million years ago, with the inception of Homo erectus, humans started developing a more prominent nose. Our cousins gorillas and chimpanzees have much flatter noses.

Our nasal passages help conserve water by cooling and condensing the water vapor from exhaled air, turning it back into liquid on the inside of our nose where it can be reabsorbed.

Having a nose that sticks out more may have helped early humans retain more moisture with each breath.

They continually bled away their best men through rotation

Monday, March 29th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe American Army changed the least, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), from 1951 onward:

The men came and went; the faces changed, for the United States divisions had one great disadvantage compared to the other combatants — they continually bled away their best men through rotation. Because of rotation, quality tended to remains static. The division retained the basic excellences developed in 1951: good weapon handling, superior communications, and superb artillery and superb artillery direction. But the troops were shot through with green men and remained somewhat clumsy and heavy-footed to the last, and their patrolling left something to be desired.

The new men arrived with legs unequal to the steep Korean slopes, and by the time they had learned to patrol the windy hills and deep valleys of no man’s land, they had become casualties, or had enough points to go home.

But it’s not valuable, and it never has been

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

You can almost hear the quiver in their NPR voice as they ask, Is plastic recycling a lie?

Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

“To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.”

Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state.

But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it.

“I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.”

But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.

A firm foot should have been kept on the Communist neck

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachBy 1953, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), almost every troop leader in the Far East held the opinion that continuing the war under present conditions was not only wasteful but verging on criminal:

Now generals said freely that it had been a mistake to remove the terrible pressure from the Communist armies in 1951. They did not say the U.N. should have marched to the Yalu — though many believed it — but they agreed that a firm foot should have been kept on the Communist neck until a signature was on the dotted line at Kaesong.

In retrospect, it seems beyond question that because the West brought naivete concerning Communist motives and methods to the conference table thousands more men that necessary were maimed and killed. If the U.N. had approached the table with a hard eye instead of a sigh of relief, in fighting stance instead of immediate relaxation the changes are high that peace could have been attained in 1951.

The dangers were demonstrated to great effect a few years ago during a unit exercise

Friday, March 26th, 2021

At Fort Bragg, 1st Special Forces Command is building an Information Warfare Center that will specialize in “influence artillery rounds”:

“Cyber is another delivery system. It’s a platform, like an artillery piece that you can deliver influence rounds through,” Croot said. “There’s an information revolution that has occurred, and things move faster than we’ve ever seen before, and it’s hard to change mindsets of people and systems and processes to be able to move at the speed of information.”

It also has a more defensive role, described in more down-to-earth terms:

This also includes training forces on how to reduce their digital attack surfaces while deployed and even in garrison in the U.S.
The dangers were demonstrated to great effect a few years ago during a unit exercise, Croot explained. Prior to deploying to the exercise in the U.S., the commander told his unit he wanted everyone off social media a full month prior.

One day into the exercise, the commander laid out how many people the unit had deployed, what base they came from, where they were going, what their mission was and where their families lived, all from their digital footprints, Croot said.

“If you want to be terrified, sit and see and watch a picture of a family member up on a Facebook post talking about you and where you work and where you’re going,” he said. “This is real, and it absolutely is something that we have got to take seriously from a home station force protection perspective, let alone at the edge.”

Pinpricks next to the wounds of the world’s great battles

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachCompared to Gettysburg, Bastogne, or Verdun, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), the outpost battles that erupted across Korea from time to time were skirmishes, pinpricks next to the wounds of the world’s great battles:

But on the bodies of troops actually engaged the casualties were exceedingly high. When companies are reduced to forty men, and platoons to six or seven, to the men in them it is hardly limited war.

The hill battles along an unmoving line were costing the United States casualties at the rate of thirty thousand a year.

This number was still less than the annual traffic toll. But while Americans are well conditioned to death on the highways, they are not ready to accept death on the battlefield for apparently futile reason.

Affirmative action in higher education is supposed to be a free lunch

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Arnold Kling discusses the academic corruption from affirmative action:

Taking the pool of high school graduates as given, it is very hard to give African-Americans the comfort of being fully qualified for admission to a selective college as part of a large cohort of qualified African-American students. They can either be part of a small cohort or part of a large cohort that includes less-qualified students.


But my view is that college is not the place to try to fix racial inequalities. The attempt to fix these inequalities has to take place much earlier in young people’s lives, so that more black students graduate high school with strong educational backgrounds.

Affirmative action in higher education is supposed to be a free lunch. You can reduce social inequality and improve race relations without corrupting our standards. My guess is that you corrupt your standards without reducing social inequality, and you make race relations worse. If I am correct, then the unintended consequences of affirmative action have been severely adverse.

The Korean War poured billions of American dollars into the Japanese economy

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachIn Japan, the Korean War was always close, T. R. Fehrenbach says (in This Kind of War), but always far away:

While the Korean people were inevitably the real losers of the war, the Japanese became the true winner. The Korean War poured billions of American dollars into the Japanese economy.

Millions of Americans passed through Japan, moving to and from the combat zones. These had money in amounts unbelievable to the Nipponese — and the Japanese, among the world’s most industrious people, soon found Americans would spend it for almost anything, if given the opportunity.


All Americans, passing through, found that good Canadian whisky was $1.50 a fifth, and drinks a quarter U.S. a throw. As one officer said, happily, “At these prices I can’t afford to stay sober!”


The Japanese could not be blamed for turning their nation into a huge red-light district, for what the customer with money wants, he always gets.

The big money, and the prosperity that flushed the Japanese economy, however, came from American arms expenditures. American military procurement officers found Japanese industry — far more capable and efficient than it is generally given credit for — could produce almost anything needed at the front — and much cheaper than it could be made in the States and sent across the Pacific.

Thousand of American military vehicles, damaged or worn out in Korea, were rebuilt in Japanese shops, some as many as three times, far more cheaply than they could have been replaced. The Japanese, under contract, could manufacture ammunition, tools, equipment, almost anything. They could produce millions of tons of food for Koreans and Americans in FECOM. All in all, the Japanese economy hummed. They made big money.

The benefits did not all accrue to the Japanese, however.

Without its solid industrial base in Japan, in privileged sanctuary from the battles, the United States would have found it as difficult to fight the Korean War as it would have been to land on Normandy on D-Day, had Britain not been there.

(This Kind of War was originally published in 1963.)

College no longer helps men to make the transition to adulthood

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

One source of academic corruption, Arnold Kling notes, is our emasculated culture, which Joyce F. Benenson and Henry Markovits discuss in Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes:

She and Roy Baumeister are the rare social scientists who see that (a) men and women differ on average in their behavioral tendencies and (b) male tendencies are not all bad.

Her book is grounded in observations of young boys and girls. My memories of my boyhood align perfectly with her picture of boys, and with the song lyrics above. We played team sports without supervision, put a lot of effort into setting rules, and competed to demonstrate skill. When we weren’t playing sports, we imagined ourselves fighting the “bad guys,” either in the Old West or in World War II.

One of her ideas is that men have a social strategy that works well in war: organize unrelated males, fight other groups overtly according to rules, then reconcile after battle. Women have a social strategy that works well for protecting their individual health and the health of their children: emphasize safety, covertly undermine the status of unrelated females, and exclude rivals rather than reconcile with them.

This leads me to speculate on the consequences of adding a lot of women to formerly male domains. Over the past several decades, a number of important institutions that were formerly almost exclusively male now include many women: academia, journalism, politics, and management positions in organizations. These institutions increasingly are discarding the values that sustained them when the female presence was less.

1. The older culture saw differential rewards as just when based on performance. The newer culture sees differential rewards as unjust.

2. The older culture sought people who demonstrate the most competence. The newer culture seeks to nurture those who are at a disadvantage.

3. The older culture admires those who seek to stand out. The newer culture disdains such people.

4. The older culture uses proportional punishment that is predictable based on known rules. The newer culture suddenly turns against a target and permanently banishes the alleged violator, based on the latest moral fashions.

5. The older culture valued open debate. The newer culture seeks to curtail speech it regards as dangerous.

6. The older culture saw liberty as essential to a good society. The newer culture sees conformity as essential to a good society.

7. The older culture was oriented toward achievement. The newer culture is oriented toward safety. Hence, we cannot complete major construction projects, like bridges, as efficiently as we used to.


College no longer helps men to make the transition to adulthood. It keeps them sheltered and controlled, and after graduation they end up living with their parents.

This has always been the defensive weakness of a mercantile society

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe average man of the infantry companies was a selectee, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), and rapidly, he was becoming a special sort of selectee:

The first draft call, in the summer of 1950, was a vacuum cleaner — sprung without warning, it took skilled and unskilled alike, high-school senior and college teacher together; there was no time to escape.

The Army got a great number of highly skilled men, which it badly needed. Throughout all history, only the pinch of poverty or the pressure of the draft board has made men in large numbers enter the ranks; this has always been the defensive weakness of a mercantile society, whether Carthage, Britain, or America. But by 1951, there was little poverty, and the draft pressures had relaxed.

Thousands of young men, with no stomach for infantry war, entered other services to avoid it, generally in the following priority: Coast Guard, which could pick and choose the best; then Navy and Air Force, where skills were more at a premium, and combat dangers — in this particular war — less. The Marine Corps, which had written some of its most glorious history at Changjin, and which kept its standards high, had difficulty recruiting up to authorized strength. For as one high-school student, who had been at the reservoir as a reservist, returned to his old school and said: “For God’s sake, watch where you enlist — the Marines will kill you!”

There was exemption for students, and anyone who could get into college and keep his marks up, or join ROTC, had it made. Parenthood — even ex post facto — was a good out.

Understandably, with an unpopular war that had little public enthusiasm or support, the quality of men left over for the Infantry declined.

By May 1952, of over 5,000 new trainees entering the 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas, slightly over half had Army General Classification scores of 80 or under — by Army standards unfit for training at any Army school, including cooks and bakers. It seemed an unmistakable trend that only those too stupid to figure an out were coming into the ground forces.

The General Classification Test was designed to have a mean score of 100, like an IQ test, but with a standard deviation of 20, rather than 15.

Teaching is emotionally rewarding only if your students want to learn

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

Government money has played a role in the decline of quality in academia, Arnold Kling argues:

Programs like the GI bill and student loan programs have swelled the ranks of college students. Programs like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities have dumped huge amounts of money into higher education. The net effect has been harmful.

The conventional wisdom, which comes from college professors, is the exact opposite. They argue that we should be putting more young people through higher education than we do. That funding for research produces great positive externalities and we should do more of it. The same with funding for the humanities.

Average returns to higher education have gone up. But some of this has been due to government-engineered regulations that require firms to be bureaucratized for compliance purposes. Both the regulators and the corporate bureaucrats have college degrees.

More important, at the margin, we are sending people to college who do not belong there. This is demonstrated by low graduation rates as well as a significant number of graduates working at jobs that do not use anything they learned in college. Credentialism is out of control. Somebody could learn to be a physical therapist as an apprentice, but instead many states require a Ph.D for new PT’s.

The expansion of higher education increased the demand for professors. In the 1960s and 1970s, graduate schools cranked up the volume of post-graduate degrees. The results were excessive, in two senses. A lot of mediocre intellects acquired advanced degrees. And a lot of people with advanced degrees could not obtain full-time academic positions.

Expansion also lowered the quality of classrooms at all but the very top colleges. Teaching is emotionally rewarding only if your students want to learn. But most of the students that we send to college these days are not highly motivated learners. Below the top tier in higher education (the best 150 colleges, plus or minus), a typical class has poorly motivated students in a class taught by disappointed professors.

If W. Bentley MacLeod and Miguel Urquiola are correct that the U.S. already had the leading research universities before World War II, then the postwar government programs were not necessarily responsible for the growth of research. Instead, it is plausible that government money bureaucratized and homogenized research. Of course, now that government provides so much of the funding for research, professors are loathe to bite the hand that feeds them.

It’s hard to know how many infections resulted

Friday, March 19th, 2021

A junior doctor in the UK explains that the Covid pandemic didn’t feel real there in the first few months of 2020:

Then in early March it began to feel far more real. We’d had one confirmed Covid case in my hospital so far when I went to review a patient in Accident and Emergency. He’d had a fall here in England while on holiday from Milan — the epicentre of Europe’s outbreak — and needed an operation to fix a fracture.

I asked the A&E consultant if he had screened the man for any Covid symptoms and he laughed, admonishing me — semi-jokingly — for my “racism” against Italians. I suggested that we should isolate him until we had tested for the virus, to be on the safe side.

At this point I was told sharply “whatever next? We test everyone who walks through the doors for covid?” Looking back, that comment feels entirely absurd — today, of course, every patient has a rapid Covid swab before they are admitted to the hospital — but a year ago such an idea didn’t even occur to anyone.

While it was not within my powers to question a senior A&E doctor, I was able to suggest to my surgical consultant that the patient should be isolated “just in case”. We moved him from the open ward, alongside all of the other elderly patients with fractures, to a side room.

At the time tests were hard to get and results took 48hrs, although our hospital had developed a more informal 24-hour test which was “not yet clinically validated”. The result came back negative, although in block capitals underneath the result was written DO NOT DEISOLATE PATIENT UNTIL FORMAL 48h TEST. And so… we deisolated the patient immediately, because, so I was told, “He has a fracture that we need to fix. He’s got no symptoms anyway!”

The following day the result of the clinically-validated second test came back — the patient had coronavirus. By this point he had already been intubated and ventilated in theatres, itself an aerosol-generating procedure, and on several separate open bays full of patients. It’s hard to know how many infections resulted; how many deaths.

It’s worth remembering at this stage that masks were strictly Not Allowed when reviewing patients, unless they had either tested positive or had symptoms, and had also recently returned from China, Italy or Iran. When we were assessing our Italian patient in A&E, we were told sternly to remove our masks, lest we “scare the patients and other staff”.

My colleague, who had reviewed the patient with me, developed a cough several days later. Initially she stayed at work, since she had neither shortness of breath nor fever; when she called in sick the next day, many of the consultants laughed at how she had clearly been scared by her Covid contact, and was being ridiculous to not work through her “mild cold”. She was later admitted to our hospital with moderate “Covid pneumonitis”, as we would now say, requiring oxygen to help her breathe.

They often preside, wisely and temperately, over their liquidation

Friday, March 19th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachPragmatists create no new ways of life, T. R. Fehrenbach reminds us (in This Kind of War):

[T]hey found no new religions, nor do they become martyrs to them. They believe in balance, compromise, adjustment. They distrust enthusiasms; they trust what works.

They make good politician, excellent bankers, superb diplomats.

They never build empires, either of the earth or of the spirit.

They often preside, wisely and temperately, over their liquidation.

Pragmatists did not land at Plymouth Rock, nor did they “pledge their lives, property, and sacred honor,” at Philadelphia.

Containment, forged in the forties and carried through the fifties and into the sixties, was a pragmatic policy. It was necessary, for there is a time for defense, even as there is a season for all things. But it was sterile; it could afford only time, and time, of itself, solves some problems, but not many.

Days of work led to the decision to do nothing at all

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

Nada Bakos explains (in The Targeter) how the CIA and SOF followed different paradigms:

Or, by simple process of elimination, would going after a certain target automatically finger the source on the ground who’d provided us the information, thereby blowing an Agency asset? Sometimes days of work to identify a target led to the decision to do nothing at all.


Couriers don’t have the same ability to hide as their elusive superiors do. Those middlemen made easier targets for the less experienced staffers to identify.


We had been watching him for months and had decided that he was more useful outside of our custody because of the intelligence we were collecting. He had a few dating profiles in the various countries in which he was working.


Just as the CIA — the most hallowed intelligence agency in the world — responded to the attacks by stepping outside its established comfort zone and growing its paramilitary capabilities, McChrystal wanted SOF to expand its intelligence capabilities.


Actionable, life-threatening intelligence collected by the CIA can be immediately shared with the military. But in order for the Agency to share strategic intelligence derived from human assets, CIA protocol dictates that the information has to be scrubbed clean of any detectable clues that might give away the source’s identity. Adhering to that standard is something the Agency takes very seriously — and unlike, say, supplementing official cables with a little back-channel communication to a teammate in the field, jeopardizing an asset’s safety is a line you simply don’t cross.


The military doesn’t recruit and train its intelligence personnel the same way the CIA does.


They had terrific soldiers, and we were eager to use whatever information they could gather by kicking down doors, but they simply weren’t seeing the same information we were.


I wanted to disrupt and degrade Zarqawi’s group systematically in as few steps as possible. In most cases, I led my team to find shura council members, operations leaders, access players — bomb builders, mission planners, regional leaders, couriers, and perhaps some of Al Qaida in Iraq’s recruiters. In 2003 we had already developed a good idea of who those people were using multiple sources, and it was only a matter of time before we pinpointed where they were as well.


SOF was taking a more horizontal approach, looking for insertion points where they could find them. Boom-boom-boom: they were daisy-chaining, grabbing a player and then going after the next viable target that guy knew.


Burrowing through to an inner circle like Zarqawi’s, I believed, required the insight that Agency teams achieve only after years of analysis, human intelligence gathering, technical collection, and assistance from foreign partners.


We saw very quickly that the SOF military-style vision led to their misunderstanding individuals’ roles within Zarqawi’s network — if those individuals were part of the network at all. SOF commanders later told reporters that they were hitting the right individuals and raiding the right homes only around 50 percent of the time — and that they were satisfied with that.


By late 2004, we could see SOF approaches in Iraq becoming a quintessential example of how a tactical military operation can directly oppose a larger counterterrorism strategy. By necessity we had to allow some bad guys to continue to operate, because a slash-and-burn approach does not make trust and intelligence sharing possible. This meant keeping bad actors in place for the time being so they could inadvertently continue providing the CIA with valuable intelligence.

I understand that highly trained operators find that approach disagreeable. But my team got equally tired of SOF complaining, “Why don’t you have any new information for us?” and having to respond, “Well, the other day you killed the guy we were getting the information from.”