Thursday, December 15, 2011
  Beinart's point

In discussing our "victory" in Iraq, Peter Beinart made a good solid point, which I'll extend into Orlov territory.

Beinart says we were able to win WW2 and the Cold War mainly because our industrial economy and culture gave us the advantage. Specifically, we could out-produce the Krauts in 1943 and we could out-compute the Russkis in 1983. In both cases our talent for organizing a decentralized system and our culture of innovation reinforced the purely technical and industrial advantage.

Doesn't work now. We trust our soldiers to carry the torch of competence all by themselves, but we don't give them a platform to build competence on; and we short-sheet our soldiers with inadequate equipment; and we bog them down with insane JAG rules; and finally we force them to become a gay bathhouse.

We're hanging our survival on a single institution, while we simultaneously burn down the single institution.

We can't outproduce anyone now because we've handed our factories to China and allowed our human capital to atrophy. We've lost our decentralized advantage by allowing giant corporations to monopolize, merge and financialize the economy. We no longer have a backbone of mid-sized companies like Willys, big enough for mass action but small enough for flexibility. Instead we have a few giants like Boeing, expert in manipulating Congress for monopolistic advantage but no good at developing new products in a hurry.

We can't outthink anyone because we've allowed our best young math types to be taken by Wall Street, and our best young engineers to grind away on Environmental Compliance and Ergonomic Risk Avoidance and Digital Rights Protections and similar ratshit. They're no longer thinking of new ways to build bridges and dams and generators, only new ways to work around regulations and lawsuits.

We can't outperform anyone physically because we don't get exercise or sun, and because we've destroyed our medical system with monopolies, lawsuits, and insane insurance profits. Now we're adding new Obamacare laws that combine monopolies, lawsuits and insane insurance profits with mind-numbing bureaucracy into an unspeakably suicidal toxin.

Worst of all, we don't even know how fucking dumb and fucking weak and fucking incompetent we are. Like the Soviets under Brezhnev, our stentorian overmodulated propagandists roar over and over and over: USA! USA! WE'RE NUMBER 1! WE'RE NUMBER 1! BEST EDUCATION IN THE WORLD! BEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD! BEST HEALTH CARE IN THE WORLD! BEST INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD!

= = = = =

One paragraph in a story about the Persian drone capture encapsulates both sides of the problem:
In 2009, Taliban forces were able to hack into live video feeds coming from Air Force Predator drones by using commercially-produced hardware. Air Force officials at the time said those gaps did not extend into the aircraft's control systems. Further, service officials claimed the data encryption and security standards built into the U.S. aerial drone fleet couldn't be cracked by the Taliban or any other adversary.

It's bad enough that we can't outcompute Persians, but Persians are smart, sophisticated and well-educated. Worthy adversary, you might say, if you wanted to salve our self-inflicted mortal wound.

Trouble is, we can't even outcompute the Afghan Taliban. But by God, we can proclaim our superiority and call the Taliban "stone-age primitives" all day, while they calmly take over our equipment through digital sabotage.

Yessir, we can beat the holy shit out of the Taliban, or anyone else, on the battlefield of smugness, pigheaded self-satisfaction, and blind self-delusion. We are the Universal Champeeeeens in those categories, and if we ever have to fight a war where smugness, arrogance and self-delusion are winning qualities, we will by God utterly annihilate the enemy.

Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the rest of the world, we have no competitors at all for those qualities.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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