The Personal and Political Ramblings of one guy in Texas.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Text of a Letter to Senators Cornyn and Hutchison 


I am writing today to express my outrage over two different events. The first is the proposed amendment that would give Congress the power to prohibit "desecration" of the American flag. Has there really been such an epidemic of this kind of crime that merits the changing of the very foundation of our laws? I am no flag-burner myself. I am a conservative. But because I am a conservative, I see no reason to go mucking about with the Constitution in order to arrest people for making fools of themselves.

I realize that even appearing to vote in favor of something like flag-burning is hard to do. But I urge you to do so. This is a frivolous piece of lawmaking, a blot on our record for freedom of speech. Please vote against this amendment.

The second matter I need to address is the atrocious Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. City of New London, allowing governments to seize private property on behalf of private developers. This is an outrage. And it is even more of an outrage that Congress is frittering away its time on flag amendments when this sort of nonsense is being approved of by the highest court in the land.

If you feel the need to create a Constitutional Amendment, I suggest you and your colleagues write one that will deal with inane results like Kelo, and leave the handful of fools who feel the need to burn flags to stew in their own juice.



Review: This Kind Of War 

This Kind of War
T.R. Fehrenbach

I was wandering through a bookstore when I came upon this book rather prominently displayed. It so happened that only some weeks before I had observed that I knew little of the Korean War, and needed to find a good book on it.

I found it. TKOW was originally published in 1963, and my edition was reissued in 2000 for the 50th anniversary of that conflict. While its highly likely that new facts have since come to light, the strength of this book comes from its focus, which is not on the higher echelons of generals, presidents and ministers (though they are given their proper examination), but rather on the men in the mud, the platoons, companies and battalions that slogged up and down the hills of Korea.

This is altogether proper, because Korea was an infantryman's war, when that sort of thing was almost thought passe` in the West. There were no massed armored battles. Tanks, while useful (the 150 Russian T-34's the North Korean Army had at the outset were unstoppable by anything in the South Korean military, or the earliest American reinforcements), could not climb the rugged hills. Aircraft could not interdict armies that moved by night and stayed off roads in those days before night-vision goggles, IR sensors, and laser targeting designators.

Men had to climb and hold (or take) the hills. Men had to dig foxholes, carry ammunition to the front lines, patrol the perimeters, and men had to suffer and die under artillery barrages, blizzard, blazing sun, and mass attacks.

He follows the main developments of the war, both political and military, and then drops down close to the action to give you an idea, however distant and muted, what is was like for the men on the lines.

One of Fehrenback's hobby-horses is that of preparedness. Put simply, the US was not prepared to fight the Korean War, either in terms of equipment or psychology. It was prepared to fight World War III, or some other form of crusade. It wasn't ready to fight simply to hold the line. At one point he devotes an entire chapter to the problem, observing that the Korean War required something akin to the old Roman Legion, or British regiment. Those were soldiers loyal to their fellows and their colors, and they would fight and fight well, whether their cause was just or not. Americans quite properly do not like and generally do not want legions, Fehrenbach says, but sometimes they need them. He admits he isn't too sure if this issue can ever be resolved.

Along these same lines, he provides about as sympathetic a portrayal of Douglas Macarthur as is possible while still acknowledging that he was wrong. Macarthur, Ferhenbach argues, having been blooded in the trenches in WWI, held the typical American view that war was awful, but once someone had started one, it should be pursued with all vigor and those in the wrong defeated, completely and totally. The problem was that in late 1950, this pursuit of complete victory (by attacking China once that country's forces had intervened in Korea) might have led to Armageddon. Truman and his advisers rightly regarded this as a bad idea. But it was not popular, and hard to articulate. The author argues that the Truman Administration never did a very good job of explaining what it was trying to achieve in Korea.

The book concentrates on American forces, since they represented the vast majority of non-Korean troops on the UN side. But the ROK's get their due, as do the British and others.

There details that no one not already familiar with the conflict has likely ever heard of, such as the aborted Communist plan to stage a mass breakout from their POW camps, and deliberate destruction of bridges to slow down the North Korean assault -- with civilians still on them.

The books prose is a bit punchy, something like a Mickey Spillane novel might be accused of. Take this section:

That night, the 3/5 Marines were ordered to pass through 2/5 and continue the attack. During the hours of darkness torrential rains began to fall, making both Marines and soldiers miserable through the night.

In the next two days, they were going to make the North Koreans much more miserable.

You can almost hear Bob Facenda, the old voice of NFL Films, narrating lines like that.

There is also a hint of the "noble savage" idea that seeps through here and there when you read about Korean or Chinese peasant troops, who could climb hills all day one three rice balls, or how the Turks survived better in the horrid North Korean/Chinese prison camps because they were unsophisticated and kept discipline.

Still, these are very much quibbles. TKOW is an excellent overview of a war that many people wanted to forget about. Some of its statements seem as if they were written for another war taking place right now. Jammer-Bob sez check it out.

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