Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One condition for moral war: success

I believe it was during the Kennedy administration when one of the President's more militarily knowledgeable aides grew tired of his interventionist-minded colleagues always glibly proposing that "a battalion" be dispatched here or there to deal with this or that international crisis, and began challenging the armchair generals with the simple, slightly obnoxious, but entirely fair question, "Do you know what a battalion is?"

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's only bad when they do it

Ever since the patron saint of fiscal conservatism Ronald Reagan and his minion George H. W. Bush tripled the national debt, from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, the GOP has made intellectual flexibility a hallmark of its rhetoric on the subject. A zen-like serenity about the deficit and the debt settles over the party whenever a Republican occupies the White House, to be instantly replaced with hysteria the instant a Democrat is inaugurated.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The very real world of Patrick O'Brian

[an earlier version of this post was deleted through a technical error and so I have had to perform that dreariest of authorial tasks -- attempting to reconstruct from memory something already written . . . apologies for the duplication]

Stephen Budiansky

Leesburg, Va.

Surveying the dreary and wretched state of our politics each morning, I am frequently reminded of the wise words of my friend Lew Lord from Mississippi, who at times like these would announce, "I can't decide whether to shoot myself or go bowling."

One of the undeniable appeals of writing history, military history especially, and military history of a long ago era most of all, is escapism. I should hasten to say that by "escapism" I don't mean romanticism, or the mythologizing of the past.