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On the Importance of Strategy in War & Politics

In between researching for my dissertation and writing this blog, I try to take some time each day to read a book related to my latest intellectual interests.  Currently, fascinated by the similarities one period in classical history, the fall of the Roman Republic, and my favorite period in American history, the founding of our republic, I am alternating between books on each period.

What amazes me is the sheer level of talent present at both those periods.  Just as there was a greater concentration of some of the most gifted American leaders in the revolutionary period than at any other time in our history*, so was there a similar concentration of wise (but not always noble) Romans in the last years of their republic–and the first of their empire.

Of course, the contrast is that one nation saw its republic extinguished as it gained strength in the world while the other saw a republic born in circumstances adverse to the development of a new nation.

About the conspirators who assassinated Cæsar now nearly 2,053 years ago in his Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician, Anthony Everitt writes that they had “no plans for the aftermath of the assassination:”

The Dictator had maintained, if only in form, the constitutional proprieties and Brutus and his friends judged that, once he had been removed, nobody would seriously try to prevent the Republic from slipping back into gear.  Their assumption was that the constitution would simply and automatically resume its function.  The Senate would have little difficulty in taking over the reins of power.  This was not an unreasonable analysis and was confirmed in the event–for the time being.

History shows us how wrong that assumption was be. You need a strategy if you want to win.  You can’t expect things to happen on their own.

One of the reasons George Washington succeeded where Marcus Brutus (and his fellow conspirators) failed is that he had a strategy for managing American losses in the Revolutionary War. And now via Jennifer Rubin, we learn that, in its current war against Hamas terrorists, Israel seems to have learned from Brutus’s failure and Washington’s success:

This time, Israeli military commanders are leading from the front, not trying to direct the infantry from television screens. This time, the military has clear plans, in stages, drawn up with a year’s preparation. This time, there is no illusion about winning a war only from the air.

The Israeli military has clear plans. It has a strategy for victory. Something which Norm Coleman lacked in the Minnesota recount. And John McCain in the most recent presidential campaign.


*When I have a moment, I wil track down Joseph Ellis’ remarks to that end.

On Customer Service & Computer Repair

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:12 pm - January 7, 2009.
Filed under: Blogging,LA Stories,Technology

In the past few days, I really grew to appreciate the value of good customer service.  I had to run a lot of little errands, buying necessities for my apartment, a DVD or two for my entertainment, oil for my car, books for my education and gifts for nieces and nephews celebrating their birthdays.

I was amazed at the number of stores I visited where I received excellent customer service.  The friendliness of my reception made those tedious tasks less trying.  It was in stark contrast to the chilly service I frequently receive at commercial establishments in the Hollywood area.

The greatest irony of this recent cycle of errands is that the one store where I normally get the best service was the only place this time where the staff seemed indifferent to my concerns.  Perhaps this was because the owner (and his wife) was absent from the toy store where I stop first when shopping for gifts for my nieces and nephews.  (I have patronized this shop for as long as I’ve been in LA and will definitely return.  The man who runs the place was born to run a toy store.)  The teenager working there Monday night was clueless about the newest Thomas engine which one of my three-year-old nephews just had to have.

Thanks to an amazingly friendly woman at the Toys ‘R Us on La Cienega, I was able to find just that engine which he will soon have.  🙂

The customer service which most impressed me was that of the folks at


Where Democrats (& I) Agree with W (& his predecessors)

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 5:45 pm - January 7, 2009.
Filed under: Patriotism

Today, while hosting his soon-to-be successor and his living predecessors, President George W. Bush said on behalf of the former chief executives and himself said to the president-elect, “One message that I have, and I think we all share, is that we want you to succeed. . . .  Whether we’re Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country.

That said, four years ago, how many leading Democrats said they wanted Bush to succeed in his second term and acted to effect that wish?

Harry Reid Losing Control?

Welcome Instapundit Readers!!

The last time I remember reading something on the left-wing blog firedoglake, I found it so offensive I didn’t think I’d ever return to the website.  Well, just a few moments ago, while scanning Instapundit, I followed Glenn’s link JANE HAMSHER: I want to play poker with Harry Reid to a post there which pretty much reflected my views on how the corrupt Democratic Governor of Illinois rolled his party’s leader in the US Senate.

Of course, Jane Hamsher has a style entirely different from my own.  And, I gotta admit, despite her politics, she’s a lot of fun to read, well, at least, in this post.

With his party enjoying the largest Senate majority in over thirty years, you’d think Reid would be having a field day as Democratic leader.  But, Hamsher shows how the ham-handed Harry has had his hat handed to him by the appointee of a hapless governor disowned by his own party:  “A seventy-one year old dude who hasn’t held office for 14 years, appointed by a crook, takes the Senate Majority Leader to the cleaners.

Read the whole thing.  It’s witty and on the money.

Rhetorically, Obama Proposes Conservative Change

Today, in announcing his choice of Nancy Killefer as “Chief Performance Officer”, President-elect Barack Obama echoed Ronald Reagan in describing the type of change he intends to bring to Washington:

We committed to change the way our government in Washington does business so that we’re no longer squandering billions of tax dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or interest group. We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done.

Even in good times, Washington can’t afford to continue these bad practices. In bad times, it’s absolutely imperative that Washington stop them and restore confidence that our government is on the side of taxpayers and everyday Americans.

The president-elect thus promises to do what the man he will replace in thirteen days has failed to do, root out wasteful government spending.  But, even as he proposes to eliminate wasteful programs, he warns of “trillion dollar deficits [becoming] a reality for years to come.”

With his multi-hundred billion dollar stimulus package, he will make real those deficits.  His policies are thus at odds with verbal commitment to fiscal discipline.  By contrast, the Gipper, whose type of change the president-elect favors (rhetorically at least) came to office during similarly difficult economic times and proposed cutting rather than increasing domestic outlays.

Holding the line on federal spending and cutting taxes, Ronald Reagan helped promote an economic expansion which lasted for approximately a quarter-century.

I am delighted the the president-elect recognizes the need to cut government waste, an issue near and dear to the hearts of the Republican rank and file, yet neglected by the great majority of our elected leaders for the past eight, if not ten, years.  And I’m heartened that Obama “will ban earmarks” from his stimulus package.

But, it’s that stimulus package which undermines Obama’s rhetorical commitment to curbing government waste.  Should he abandon that stimulus package or at the very least offer one with corresponding cuts in bloated federal programs thus acting on this promise to cut government waste, he could reshape the political landscape, making the Democrats the party of fiscal discipline.

Given the GOP’s failure to curtial — or even contain — domestic spending, the President-elect has an incredible opportunity, yet he faces a Democratic Congress which favors more and more federal intervention in the economy and is not likely to look favorably on the elimination of any government programs.


“May God exterminate Hamas!”

Posted by Average Gay Joe at 8:23 am - January 7, 2009.
Filed under: Post 9-11 America,War On Terror

Given the barbaric fascination Hamas has with such things as crucifixion and the lead-up to this conflict, this cry from a grieving Palestinian mother over the loss of her daughter is understandable.

h/t – The Jawa Report

Make no mistake: Hamas is responsible for the violence and loss of life in this conflict, not Israel. They have tortured and murdered hundreds of their own people, Israelis and others for years now. There is no agreement, no ceasefire, nothing that they haven’t violated in their quest for Israel’s destruction. Peace cannot be had with a group like Hamas. This Palestinian mother is right: Hamas must be exterminated.

— John (Average Gay Joe)