White Elephants

At least since 9/11, and possibly since the First Gulf War back in 1991, it has been clear that the most immediate threat facing developed countries is not other developed countries. It is terrorism, guerrilla, insurgencies, asymmetric war, fourth generation war, war among the people, nontrinitarian war (my own favorite term), whatever. Follows a list-–a very partial one, to be sure—of expensive new American weapons and weapon systems, now in various stages of development, all of which have this in common that they are not relevant to the threat in question.

  1. The USAF’s new bomber. America’s last bomber, the B-2, was an absolute disaster. Originally the program, which went back to the late 1980s, was supposed to result in a fleet of 132 aircraft. That figure was later reduced to just 20, plus one used for all kinds of experimental purposes. The machines cost $ 500,000,000 each, which is far more than almost any conceivable target. Some sources, taking development costs into consideration, provide a much higher figure still. Yet so vulnerable are the machines that, when they are not in the air, they need to stay in air-conditioned hangars. That in turn means that they can only be operated from the Continental US and take hours and hours to reach their targets. Nevertheless, fixated on bombers as the USAF has been for so many years, none of these problems have prevented it from going for an even more ambitious program. This is the so-called Next Generation Bomber of which 175 are planned. Suppose, which in view of past experience seems rather unlikely, that anything like this number is in fact produced at a cost of God knows how many dozens and dozens of billions. The contribution to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.
  1. The USAF’s new ICBM. America’s last ICBM, known as the Peacemaker, was deployed from 1986 on (as so often, cost overruns reduced their number from the original 100 to just 50). In 2005 the last of them was decommissioned. Why? The answer is by no means clear. The START II Treaty, which prohibited putting multiple warheads on a single launcher, was already dead. Killed by President G. W. Bush’s decision to go ahead with missile defense, another unbelievably expensive system which to-date has only yielded a handful of launchers totally unable to stop either a Russian or a Chinese attack. Or perhaps it died because running too different ICBM systems, one made up of Peacemakers and the other of the older Minutemans, was too expensive? In any case, the warheads were put on the old Minuteman missiles and the launching crews retrained for operating them; a rare case of fortunes being spent so the old can take the place of the new. And the contribution of all this to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.
  1. The USAF’s new F-35 fighter. Originally it was supposed to be a cheap alternative to the F-22, itself an expensive failure (which is why, out of 750 originally envisaged, only 187 were built). By now, however, each F-35 is expected to cost as much as an F-22. The program has been marked by numerous delays and developmental uncertainties. Only to result in an aircraft that can carry less ordnance than some older ones could. In terms of the critically important thrust to weight ratio it is actually inferior to no fewer than ten different American, Russian, and European fighters. One sometimes feels that the Air Force has forgotten all about the late John Boyd, his concept of energy maneuverability, and the F-16 whose mastermind he was. Instead it has returned to the days when Soviet-built Mig-17s, flown by North Vietnamese pilots, had little difficulty shooting heavier, less maneuverable, American F-105s out of the sky. And the contribution of all this to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.
  1. Ford class carriers. Compared to its predecessors, the Nimitz class carriers, these huge warships (100,000 ton capacity when fully loaded) are said to have an improved nuclear power plant, electromagnetic catapults, and superior stealth characteristics. Originally they were also supposed to be able to generate a larger number of sorties per day, but there now seems to exist some doubt whether that objective will, in fact, be achieved. Early estimates put the cost of each carrier at $ 10.5 billion; now the estimate stands at $ 12.9 billion. And even this “outrageous” (John McCain) increase is most unlikely to be the last word. The carriers’ contribution to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.
  1. The army’s new ground combat vehicle. Originally there was a call for a relatively light vehicle. One capable of being rapidly airlifted to wherever it may be needed so that any trouble might be dealt with before it could spread. What emerged, instead, was an 84-ton monster heavier and more unwieldy than any tank now in existence. One reminiscent of Germany’s projected 100, 188, and 1,000 ton tanks during World War II (see image). Thank God this one was cancelled in mid stride—as, incidentally, Hitler’s tanks also were. Or else the black hole that is the national debt would have been blessed with another white elephant.

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Will they ever learn?

 

*Thanks to my friend Bill Lind, whose work always inspires my own.

To Complain or Not to Complain

5XQHL_V3RWFor those of my readers, the great majority, who are not Israelis, here is a short reminder. Israel today is one of the world’s worst places to be a man. Hardly a day goes by without some more or less senior public (male) figure—heads of state, ministers, MKs, army officers, police officers, businessmen, actors, TV and radio announcers, physicians psychologists, teachers, and professors—being accused of sexual harassment at best and rape at worst. One day one leads a perfectly normal life. On the next, coming totally out of the blue, one finds oneself under fire as a serial sexual offender.

Let me make myself clear: sexual harassment does exist. It has to be dealt with by society and, where necessary, the public prosecution and the court system. But not in the way this is done in Israel, and to a lesser extent many other self-proclaimed “advanced” countries, today. Many of the accusations are anonymous. Coming out of nowhere on one of the social networks, they tend to snowball as other women, like the frogs in Aristophanes’ play of that name, join the unholy chorus. Most of the accusations carry no proof whatsoever; but no sooner do they surface than the man in question is done for, finished, liquidated. Often for life. Even if, as rarely happens, the investigation to which he is subjected ends by the charges being dropped.

Hitting men, especially well known men, with accusations of “sexual harassment” has become a favorite method to settle accounts with them, take away their positions and/or jobs, and wreck their lives. All this is part cause, part consequence, of an entire industry. Its members form a filthy coalition made up of female MKs, feminist organizations, lawyers and public and relations experts. Driven by envy, hatred, an, not least, sheer greed, their sole purpose in life is to punish male “sexual criminals” while assisting female “victims” to avenge themselves and also extort as much money as they can. If necessary by pushing them to complain even against their will.

Worst of all, when matters come to court the ordinary rules and procedures, which in Israel as in all other liberal-democratic countries were originally designed to protect the accused against arbitrary punishment, are violated. This happens not just as a matter of routine but as a matter of course. The accusers’ names may not be published. Evidence is taken from women who claim to have been “victimized” long before the statute of limitation, meaning years and years ago. A woman’s sexual history may not be brought up and used against her; a man’s may and almost always serves as the main basis for convicting him.

Alibis, even such as are produced by the state’s own secret service, are dismissed—as happened, for example, to former President Moshe Katzav who is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for a “rape” he almost certainly did not commit. Dubious evidence based on “suppressed memory” is not only allowed but actively encouraged. There is no penalty for bringing false charges, not even the option of bringing a civil suit against those who do so. Briefly, the goddess of Justice has her eyes wide open and the scales she holds are heavily weighted on one side.

Why things have come to this pass in Israel of all countries is hard to say. At bottom, perhaps the real reason is that Israel is a country born and bred by war, an activity in which women have always played and still play a rather marginal part. Since only Israeli men can defend women against other men—Arab men, as it happens—this fact put a premium on masculinity and even on “male chauvinism.”

The proof of this pudding is in the eating. When the famous feminist Simone de Beauvoir visited Israel just before the 1967 War, the gospel she tried to spread was met with total incomprehension on the part of Israeli women. Three years later Golda Meir, who as it happens was the first female prime minister in any country, gave an interview with the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. In it she called feminists “crazy” and “nuts.”

As the frequency and intensity of the Arab-Israeli wars started diminishing after 1985 or so, though, Israeli feminists, some of the most prominent of whom were US-educated, raised their heads. With the result that, thirty-something years later, Israel has the dubious honor of being the country that leads the world in terms of the percentage of convicted “sex offenders” among all criminals.

But nothing lasts forever. While the situation remains far from satisfactory, over the last few weeks there have been some early signs that Israeli society (and hopefully others as well) is getting sick and tired of the snake it has so eagerly, and so foolishly, embraced to its bosom. The first indications may be found among the so-called “talk-backists.” In Modern Hebrew, a “talk-backist” is a person who responds to newspaper articles as published on the Net. Judging purely by the numbers, as well as by the way the people in question identify themselves, most Israeli men and many Israeli women now feel that things have gone much too far and that some sort of corrective action is urgently required.

There are also some other encouraging signs. Here and there an accused “sex offender” has being acquitted by the courts—something that, until very recently, was almost unheard of. One, held by the police for five days on suspicion of “rape,’ even got the state to pay him 1,000 NIS ($ 250) in compensation! The newly appointed chief of police has announced that, from this point on, anonymous accusations would no longer be looked into. He also refused to fire a policeman accused of “harassing” a woman (who was not part of the police force) before his trial had even started. Notwithstanding the storm of criticism that followed his decisions, he stuck to his guns. And the attorney general, who like the chief of police is new to his job, has said he would look for ways to punish women who had falsely accused men—something which, as things are at present, cannot be done.

And how did the various feminist organizations react to these early attempts to re-institute some kind of sanity? By threatening that, should any of the measures go into effect, women will stop complaining.

To which one can only say, Amen.

Guest Article – Let’s Elect an American President Who Focuses on the Right Things

by

Nicolas Besrggruen*

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The fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Al Qaeda or other jihadi terrorist groups is not going to make or break America. When the West overreacts to their attacks, the jihadis win. We have too often been played by the terrorists, who, like judo fighters, leverage our own strength against us with minimal effort and sustainable capacity. Tragic as it is, the situation in the Middle East is, in the end, a matter for battling local and regional players to settle. Have we not learned from 15 years of war after 9/11, only to see the rise of ISIS, that outside intervention is counterproductive? 

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, two major world powers with distinctly different cultural and political orientations — the U.S. and China — are contending to shape the global order. By lifting itself out of poverty and rising to the top ranks of the world economy, China has enabled other emerging countries to grow and has become an indispensable engine for global prosperity in the decades ahead.

The 21st century will only find peace and security if America and China work together and do not become enemies. To avoid that historic blunder, mutual respect and understanding need to be built through a working relationship between the next U.S. president and China’s President Xi Jinping.

While standing firm on American interests such as cyber defense and opposition to changing borders by force, the next U.S. president must also seek to avert pushing China and Russia into a more formal alliance. Russia, like the U.S. itself, isrefurbishing its nuclear arsenal.

The worst geopolitical development would be for the world to break up once again into rigid bloc systems fortified by a new nuclear arms race. Even if the ethical calculus is not clean, working with Russia is also essential for global security. In many ways, President Putin just wants respect. And the next U.S. president should grant that respect with no less illusions than during the stable years of détente with the Soviet Union.

For the West to remain strong in facing this new competition with the East, the U.S. needs a powerful civilizational ally in Europe. Europe today, however, is no longer functional as a reliable partner. On the contrary, it is paralyzed by every crisis it faces — from Greek debt to refugees — and is disintegrating before our eyes.

As the de facto leader of the West, the next American president should press for a Europe that, at a minimum, federates fiscal and foreign policies, immigration and energy policies — in short, a common Europe that is the other pillar of the West. Otherwise America will have to rely on a series of nations, each too small to matter alone, yet each also hobbled by the straightjacket of being part of a dysfunctional European Union.

There are positive developments for the next American president to capitalize on: The Paris climate accords; lower oil prices; the chance to bring Iran back into the fold of the world; winds of change in Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba; and the olive branch that Indian Prime Minister Modi has extended to Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif in that volatile part of the world.

The next American president will face some of the greatest challenges — but also the biggest opportunities — history has to offer. The coming U.S. election could not be more consequential. Responsible voters should make the right choice by choosing a president who will focus on the right things.

*Nicolas Berggruen is a philanthropist and investor. He is the founder and president of Berggruen Holdings, a private investment company and the Berggruen Institute

“Not-Hot”

The recent celebration of “international women’s day” gave the Israel Defense Force (IDF) an opportunity to publish some figures as to the number of women serving in its ranks and the Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) in which they do so. What makes the question important is the fact that the IDF is the only army in the world to conscript women. Consequently it has more of them, proportionally speaking, than any other. From 1949 to about 1970 it was also the only one which gave them weapons training, albeit one that was purely symbolic. Foreigners attending the annual Independence Day parades, or happening to meet the women as they went on route marches, marveled to see the combination of cleavage and Uzi submachine guns. One which, for reasons Freud might explain, few could resist.

3As Western armed forces, with the American one at their heads, started expanding the role of women beyond administration (secretaries) and medical services (mainly nurses), from 1970 on, the IDF was left behind. Only in the late 1970s, owing to the vast expansion occasioned by the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, did an acute shortage of manpower lead to a reassessment. The next push was given by American-style feminism which reached Israel in the mid-1980s, not long after peace with Egypt was signed. Since then Israeli feminists have been loudly demanding women’s right to serve in any capacity, combat included. Now that the figures have been published we can answer the question, how successful have they been?

First, the background. The IDF active force, including both regulars and conscripts, numbers 176,000 troops. Of those about 30 percent (58,000) are female. The mobilized force, reservists included, numbers 600,000 (on paper). However, since women in spite of recent changes in the law rarely serve in the reserves, their percentage in it is much lower. According to the figures, the total number of female “fighters” in the regular force is said to be 1,593. All are volunteers; unlike men, who are assigned, women only serve in “combat” if and when they want to. In other words, under 3 percent of female soldiers serve in “combat” units.

Women’s inferiority to men in respect to physical strength, aerobic capacity, endurance and, above all, robustness, is obvious to all. The price is paid by their male colleagues; when a female trainee in a mixed unit breaks down, as often happens, guess who is going to carry her and/or her weapons and pack? But the price women have paid for serving in “combat” units has been much higher. Many of the documents in question are classified so as to avoid angering Israeli feminists, an aggressive and often obnoxious lot, by presenting them with the facts. Some, however, have been published by a former student of mine, Colonel (ret.) Raz Sagi.

The picture that emerges is not pretty. Less than 3 percent of IDF “combat troops” are female. However, over the last few years they, or the lawyers acting in their name, have served 10-15 percent of the suits concerning compensation for injuries suffered while on “operational activity” (whatever that may mean). In proportion to their numbers, women sue three to five times more often than men. Sagi’s book bristles with interviews with young women who served as, or trained for, “combat” MOS and were seriously injured, sometimes for life. Such cases are brought before the courts almost every day.

Now let’s take a closer look at what “combat” actually entails. The largest group, 442 out of 1,593, serve in three mixed battalions named “Caracal,” “Leopard,” and “Lions of the Jordan” respectively. In each of these they form 60 percent of the total. What all three have in common is that they are permanently deployed along the borders with Egypt and Jordan. Those in turn have this in common that, over the last forty years, they have seen hardly a shot fired in anger. The remaining women are divided between “combat intelligence collection” (meaning that they look for all kinds of interesting things after the battle is over), border police (meaning that they stand guard against terrorists, as Hadar Cohen, who was mentioned on this blog a few weeks ago, did), civil defense, and artillery.

It so happened that, a day after I completed this article, I watched a clip of artillery troops on a route march. The men, heavily loaded with equipment of all kinds, sweated, grunted and did their best to keep up. One or two female soldiers were marching along, carrying a much smaller pack and looking as if they were on a lark. Whatever they may have been doing there, clearly they were not being tested as the men were. (You can find the clip on https://www.facebook.com/ynetnews/videos/10154114053990572/.)

Neither the infantry, nor the armored corps, nor the engineers, nor the special units, which between them form the bulk of the IDF’s “teeth,” have any women at all. Scant wonder that, during Operation Protective Edge back in the summer of 2014, out of 66 Israeli troops who died not one was female.

Meanwhile the terminology has been changing. Having just celebrated my seventieth birthday, I can remember the time when the term lohem, meaning fighter or warrior, used to be the highest compliment anyone in Israel could receive. Nine cases out of ten, it referred to a soldier, a male one of course, who actually fired at, and was fired on by, the enemy. Now its female form, lohemet, also refers to all the above units, not one of which are meant to face an armed and trained enemy soldier able to fire back. Scant wonder that, in popular slang, the plural form of lohemet, lohamot, is often explained as meaning lo-hamot, “not-hot.”

Why does all this matter? For four reasons. First, as the term “not hot” implies, in Israel as in all other modern countries armed forces the presence of women has contributed to the decline in the prestige of those forces and, with it, their ability to attract high-quality male manpower. Presumably that is why the “Lions” (arayot, in Hebrew) battalion, in spite of being made up mostly of women, is not called leviot “Lionesses.” Or else surely any proper man would have shot himself rather than serve in it.

Second, in Israel as in all other modern countries that presence has led to “gender norming” and, with it, falling standards which, in case of war, could be dangerous. Third, as the above figures show, too many women who, whether out of idealism or sheer penis envy, volunteer to serve in “combat” units are injured, with bad consequences both for themselves and, since they have to be paid pensions, the defense budget. Fourth, outside Israel quite some people, being misinformed about the true state of affairs, still take the IDF as an example to follow.

But this is 2016, not 1967.