Category Archives: Defense

Generals and Presidents

Americans seem to have a kind of Roman relationship with our military leaders. America’s three most important wars are probably the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. In all three cases, the commanding general was subsequently elected as a two term president (Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower). Continue reading


At Least Obama Got a Warrant

600px-National_Security_AgencyFrom 2001 to 2007, the Bush Administration secretly collected and analyzed telephone records without a warrant. Telecom companies probably broke the law by cooperating with the surveillance program, which led to a controversial law to grant the phone companies immunity for their role in this surveillance. Continue reading

What is the Republican theory of the case on Benghazi?

Gregory Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Libya. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Gregory Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Libya. (Cliff Owen/AP)

This week’s House hearings on the Benghazi attack bolster the claim that Susan Rice was providing an account of the attacks as a spontaneous demonstration that the Obama Administration already knew to be unlikely. The star witness was Gregory Hicks, who was the ranking official under Ambassador Chris Stevens at the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Hicks testified that his immediate conclusion was that this was a terrorist attack, which was also the early conclusion of the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Continue reading

Where to start cutting military spending: 10 different camouflage uniforms

“You fall in the damn water and you’re wearing water-colored camouflage. What the hell is that?”

That’s from an unidentified Navy sailor pointing out the problems with the Navy’s blue camouflage uniforms, one of ten different types of camouflage used by the U.S. military. There used to be just two patterns – green for forests and brown for deserts. Then the services decided they each needed their own camouflage patterns, and paid to develop and outfit their personnel with the ten varieties we have today.

That's going to catch the eye.

That’s going to catch the eye. (Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a lot to shake your head at here, but the Navy’s blue uniforms really take the cake. Even if the sailors blend in, the big grey ship is going to stand out. As the sailor points out above, all the blue uniforms are is a safety hazard.

A lot of this seems to come back to service pride – the Marines refused to share their design – and also the desire for commanders to make a mark on their institution. I once heard the explanation that new uniform designs are a visible way to have an accomplishment, when changing deep institutional biases might just lead to failure and frustration.

But if the military can spend all this money on fashion, it does suggest that there’s room to cut the defense budget.