»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Saturday, January 26th, 2013

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, faithful listeners, it's time once again for our weekly roundup of the world's follies, fallacies, and frivolities from your militarily genial host John Derbyshire.

Yes, militarily. I have things to say about our nation's armed forces. Not without some personal interest: Just six months from now, if all goes according to plan, my son Danny will be down at Fort Benning getting issued his training fatigues. I am naturally concerned about the institution he will find himself in. So what's it going to be like?

02 — Messing with the privates.     Quote from the New York Times, January 23rd, quote:

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is lifting the military's official ban on women in combat, which will open up hundreds of thousands of additional front-line jobs to them, senior defense officials said Wednesday … Defense officials said Mr. Panetta had made the decision on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

End quote. This is a simply terrible idea. For one thing, women in the generality are physically different from men. Here are some random quotes from the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces.

Quote: "The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength."
Quote: "In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man."
Quote: "Using the standard Army Physical Fitness Test … the upper quintile of women at West Point achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom quintile of men."
Quote: "Adopting a male standard of fitness at West Point would mean 70 percent of the women … would be separated as failures at the end of their junior year, only three percent would be eligible for the Recondo badge, and not one would receive the Army Physical Fitness badge."

End quotes; and there's plenty more where they came from. If you want to read a more recent study, I refer you to a paper titled The Report of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission: An Inadequate Basis for Lifting the Exclusion of Women from Direct Ground Combat, published last April by Kingsley R. Browne of Wayne State University Law School.

We are not short of data here. The facts are out there for anyone who wants to confront them, a category of persons that excludes all our politicians and, to their greater shame, every one of our cringing, PC-whipped, careerist military followers — oops, I beg their pardon, I meant to say "leaders." [Laughter.]

All right, Derb, you may say, but you're talking statistics there, as is your annoying wont. What about the outliers — those few exceptional women who can meet military standards of fitness and capability. Shouldn't they be able to serve in combat units?

I myself have never served in a combat unit, so the following is hearsay. It's good quality hearsay, though: My father and father-in-law were both in combat, as were some of my friends. I'm Vietnam generation, remember. I get around, too: the Tuesday before last I sat at dinner next to a guy who had been Secretary of the Navy.

"Unit cohesion" and "combat readiness" are the phrases that come up most often here when you talk to military men. On the first, imagine a unit seething with repressed — and sometimes not so repressed — passions and resentments about who's getting laid and who isn't.

On the second, to take just one example: It takes several months to get a carrier ready for a tour at sea. During those several months the crew of the carrier are arming and provisioning the ship, learning drills, acquiring skills, and getting to know each other and their roles on board the ship. With women in the crew, as is nowadays the case, by the end of those few months of preparation, a good proportion of the female crew members are unfit for duty by virtue, if that's the right expression, by virtue of being pregnant. So when the carrier is ready to sail, it is short-handed. Always. Every carrier, every tour.

And it's not all hearsay. Here's a report from Associated Press dated January 20, headline: Sex Is Major Reason Military Commanders Are Fired. Sample quotes:

At least 30 percent of military commanders fired over the past eight years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships … The statistics from all four military services show that adulterous affairs are more than a four-star foible. From sexual assault and harassment to pornography, drugs and drinking, ethical lapses are an escalating problem for the military's leaders … Eighteen generals and admirals, from one star to four stars, were fired in recent years, and ten of them lost their jobs because of sex-related offenses; two others were done in by alcohol-related problems … The figures show that 255 commanders were fired since 2005, and that 78 of them were felled by sex-related offenses: 32 in the Army, 25 in the Navy, 11 in the Marine Corps and 10 in the Air Force.

Women on warships, women in combat — lousy, stupid, terrible ideas. That's the main issue, and that's my opinion.

There is a meta-issue beyond the main issue, though. New segment …

03 — Fighting on the wrong side.     Here's the meta-issue: Does it matter?

There is no prospect of the U.S.A. having to fight an existential war. Militarily, we bestride the world like a colossus. We have ten aircraft carriers in service. No other nation has more than two. We spend more on our military than the next fifteen countries combined.

And this is the U.S.A., the most geographically secure nation of any significance that has ever existed. We are separated by great oceans from any serious adversaries. Not only are we under no existential threat, we never have been.

The Japanese gave us a fright in 1941, but nobody who looked at the correlation of forces could imagine the threat was existential. Everyone knew the U.S.A. would prevail over Japan. Winston Churchill celebrated with champagne when he heard about Pearl Harbor. Chiang Kai-shek was similarly joyful; although as a teetotal ascetic, he channeled his jubilation into merely playing a gramophone record of Ave Maria. Not even Admiral Yamamoto thought that Japan could win a war with the United States; and not even the most rabid Japanese militarists envisioned an occupation and conquest of the U.S. mainland.

The Soviet ICBM arsenal was an existential threat to us, but not as much of one as ours was to them. Both sides had gamed all possible scenarios, both knew a missile exchange would be mutual suicide, so both refrained.

No other threat to the U.S.A., past or present, even comes close, neocon blather about World War IV notwithstanding. Terrorists may get lucky now and then and kill a few thousand of us. They may even get sensationally lucky and wipe out a city or two with smuggled nukes. That won't end the U.S.A. … though it might end the stupid policy of permitting mass settlement by Muslims in our country. If the U.S.A. dies it will be by suicide, not murder.

So if we degrade our military with these dumb feelgood policies — what Roger Kimball has called "experiments against reality" — what does it matter?

Evelyn Waugh wrote somewhere about "the great carelessness of the rich." Militarily and strategically, geographically, we're mega-rich. We can afford to be careless. We can afford to play silly sociological games with our military establishment. It's not as though enemy landing-craft will be coming ashore on Venice Beach any time soon.

So we've turned our military into a playpen for postmodernist academic theorists, for people who think that "gender" (as they call it) is "socially constructed" (as they say) — basically, a figment of your imagination. They are gibbering nincompoops, of course; but so what? Why does it matter?

If nobody can lay a glove on us, what do we need a big military establishment for anyway? Have not I myself, here on Radio Derb, argued for a smaller one?

Well, here are my answers. Yes, our military is far too big. Why does it need to be so big?

Neocon strategists — sensible ones, like that former Secretary of the Navy I was dining with the other day, not the crazy ones who burble about "Islamofascism" or "our partners, the Afghans," the saner kind of neocon strategists talk about protecting world trade routes and containing rogue states.

Trade-wise I'd reply that it takes two to tango; that if trade routes need protecting, all trading nations should share the burden, which currently is not the case. So far as rogue nations are concerned, I'd say let 'em rogue away until they impinge on our material interests, at which point let's teach 'em a short, sharp, extremely violent lesson. Rubble doesn't make trouble. That doesn't need major military engagement.

It does, though, require a confident and efficient military, however small. Even gunboat diplomacy needs to be done well, if it's not to lead to national humiliation, or to escalate into unnecessarily bigger engagements.

In short, I want our military to be small but good. In even the best possible future, we shall occasionally need our military: not as a welfare service for unwed mothers, or a test bed for crackpot sociological theories, but as a fighting force. I want it to be a good, effective fighting force, that strikes fear into anyone inclined to attack our interests.

In the military and elsewhere, we are actually fighting a war right now: a war against human nature. Trouble is, we're fighting on the wrong side.

04 — The next failed state     Last week's Radio Derb had a Miscellany item about Egypt, whose new leader Mohammed Morsi was embarrassed when some videos came to light of him saying that Jews were descended from apes and pigs.

That was what it was; but having engaged with Egypt there, I thought I'd take a closer look at the place. I kind of wish I hadn't.

Egypt is a big country: thirtieth in the world by land area, bigger than Pakistan or Somalia; and sixteenth in the world by population, bigger than Iran, Britain, or France. It's located smack in the middle of the Arab world, with coastline on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and with black Africa right to its south.

And the place is a mess. The columnist Spengler at Asia Times had a long post this week telling the whole dismal story.

Spengler runs down all the negative indicators, which could hardly be more negative. Egypt's foreign reserves are exhausted. The country can't even buy the oil it needs from brother Arab states. Earlier this month the government cut back oil imports by half; and even before they did that, there were power outages for want of fuel for the power stations. The energy shortage is crippling Egypt's export industry, which was anyway meager — look around your home and count how many Made in Egypt items you have. Tourism has dropped by half since the Arab Spring disturbances began.

Socially the place is miserably backward: 45 percent illiteracy, a 90 percent rate of female genital mutilation, 33 percent of marriages consanguineal. Did I mention total fertility rate? Two point nine four per woman, well above replacement. Half the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

Egypt is negotiating for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, but as usual the IMF is setting conditions: They want Egypt to halve its budget deficit, currently a hemorrhaging fifteen percent of GDP. The IMF cuts would be equivalent to the U.S.A. reducing public spending by a trillion dollars a year.

After laying out these horrible statistics, Spengler delivers the punch line, quote:

No nation the size of Egypt has become ungovernable except as a result of war during the whole of the modern period. The deterioration of the Arab Spring into societal breakdown constitutes a reproach to the Western foreign policy establishment, which could not envision this outcome before, and refuses to consider its consequences now.

So there you have the world's next failed state — the next Somalia, though sixty percent bigger in area and with eight times the population, and closer to the civilized world.

As Spengler says, Mohammed Morsi's "apes and pigs" comment was bad enough in itself; worse is the thought that a man with this medieval mindset, presiding over a population living in this medieval squalor, is the man who has to address this appalling situation.

American legislators are of course clueless, with nothing to offer but vapid windy optimism. A delegation of seven U.S. Senators was actually in Cairo the week before last, led by John McCain, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. In a statement January 17th, Senator McCain said, quote: "For us in the United States, especially in the Congress, the promise of Egyptian revolution is the opportunity it has presented us to recast our relationship with Egypt — to make it a truly strategic partnership between our peoples, our nations, and our elected governments." End quote.

Yup: Who wouldn't want to be locked into "strategic partnership" with a nation so brimful of hope and opportunity, with such an obviously bright future, as Egypt? What could possibly go wrong? My fellow Americans, trust your lawmakers: they know what they're doing.

05 — Bibi squeaks out a win     Since we're in the region, let's take a glance at the election held this week in Israel.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu squeaked out a win in spite of his two-party faction losing eleven seats. This is not what we were told to expect: the polls had him with a healthy lead. That's democracy for you.

To speak of a win in Israeli politics is a bit of a stretch. Under the country's electoral system it's near-impossible for any one party to get a majority of seats in Parliament, so every government is a coalition. Everybody's used to this, so the horse trading is pretty brisk and efficient.

The overall impression from the election is that Israelis are sufficiently un-worried about their existential problem to vote their pocketbooks. Israel's an awfully expensive country to live in — a secondary factor in the settlement movement, by the way. A concrete apartment on a West Bank hilltop with scowling Arabs lobbing rocks at your car when you drive to the supermarket, may not look ideal to you or me, but when you see property prices in Tel Aviv, understanding is easier.

When Israelis are polled, two-thirds of them say they'll accept a Palestinian state, if relations with it are reasonably normal. They just don't see any prospect of that, with the ferociously rejectionist Hamas party securely in charge of the Gaza strip, which is 38 percent of Palestine's population, and the hopelessly corrupt and shambolic Fatah running the West Bank. So until the ice shows some signs of cracking, may as well vote as if Israel were a normal country.

For a lot of Israelis, this meant voting center-left. The middle class in Israel, as in other civilized countries, is under stress, with good jobs hard to find and hard to keep. Israelis want more social security; hence the good showing by political novice Yair Lapid, whose party, the Future Party, is not even one year old. They now have 19 seats in Parliament, second to Bibi Netanyahu's faction, who have 31.

On the other side, the Jewish Home party, which wants to expel Arabs from the West Bank, gained five seats for a total of twelve; so there's still plenty of fed-upness with Arab dishonesty, corruption, and intransigence.

For the rest of the world, the main result of the election is that Netanyahu, having campaigned heavily on national security and national strength, and been rebuffed, is now less likely to try any military adventures against Iran than he was a week ago. Since nobody knew how likely he was to attack Iran before the election, the optimism factor here is hard to compute with any exactitude, but it's surely positive.

06 — The Inauguration in verse and song     Monday saw the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama's second term. If you watched it, you have a greater tolerance for gassy rhetoric than I have.

Also for bad poetry from poets chosen not for the quality of their verse but for the number of boxes they ticked on the affirmative action form. We've previously had black females reading pseudo-verse, so to ring the changes a little, for this inauguration our Diversifier-in-Chief tapped Richard Blanco, a homosexual of Cuban parentage. I'd say that Mr. Blanco is a twofer; but "Blanco" means "white," which I think shaves a bit off his diversity-ness. So a 1.9-er, perhaps. If the poet's name had been Negro, which means "black," he would have got an extra half a diversity point at least, I should think. Or perhaps he would have been shut out from consideration, since "Negro" may be a taboo word. I'm not sure, I've stopped trying to keep up with this stuff.

Anyway, we got a poem of surpassing badness from Mr. Blanco, title "One World, One Song, One Führer." I think that was the title. The thing was so bad I gave over my Taki's Magazine column to it, and I refer you there for details.

As well as the poem we got a song from my relative, Ms. Beyoncé Knowles. Knowles was my mother's maiden name, so I assume that I and Beyoncé are related at some level. The song was well received; but it later turned out that Ms. Knowles had lip-synced it, thereby lowering the stock of the entire Knowles clan, to our collective shame. Naturally I am disgruntled. Worse yet, the Marine Corps Band were only pretending to play in accompaniment: the lady had told them to fake it, too. Is this really what we have come to: The Marine Corps Band in full dress uniforms, playing air guitar? Heaven help us!

A Radio Derb listener, even further from being gruntled than I am, sent in a song expressing his disgruntlement. Am I going to sing it to you? You bet I am. And I promise you, I shall not be lip-syncing. Since I can't actually sing, though, this may quickly degenerate into what our German friends call Sprechstimme, or talking on pitch — what Rex Harrison did in My Fair Lady. Here we go.

Oh, say can you see
My lips moving in sync,
With the words that you hear
Just as if I were singing?
While the band of Marines
Pre-recorded, like me,
Pretend their best game
To this stage they are bringing?

But publicity's glare
In print and on the air
Gave proof, we were shamming
Which just wasn't fair;
For the President's pledge
In the oath we heard him take
Was a far graver fraud
Than our Star-Spangled fake!

[Applause.]

07 — Miscellany.     I'm way over time again, ladies and gents. I do apologize. I shall have to offer a very highly compressed closing miscellany of brief items. Thus:

Imprimis:  Our First Lady Michelle Obama has a new hairstyle, something called "bangs." Given the administration's current obsession with gun control, the First Lady may be trying to signal disagreement with her husband's policy. Yes, I find it hard to believe, too, but we live in hope.

Item:  Janet Napolitano, our winsomely feminine Secretary of Homeland Security, wants us to practice "cyber-hygiene." I confess I couldn't quite follow her meaning. Does she want us to use hand sanitizer before sitting at the keyboard? "Every individual on the net is … a potential, uh, opening," growled the lady, pounding on the podium with a pipe wrench to make her point. "We just want to make sure that everyone remains safe and free," she added, before roaring away on her motorbike. It's all a bit mysterious; but having watched her wield that pipe wrench, I am anxious to comply, once I've figured out what I'm an opening to.

Item:  Here's yet another reason to give Detroit and its environs a wide berth. A McDonald's franchise in that area has paid out $700,000 to some local Muslims who say that the franchise falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law. This is in settlement of a lawsuit brought by a Mr. Ahmed Ahmed, who purchased a chicken sandwich at the place but perceived that the chicken had not been properly blessed before decapitation. A multitude of questions arise. How did Mr. Ahmed know the chicken was improperly blessed? Why was a person so fussy about his food eating at McDonald's? Why do big corporations act like such whimpering pussies in the face of shakedowns like this? Please tell me again about the blessings of diversity? Et cetera, et cetera.

Item:  Finally, spanning the world: In Perth, Australia, an 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest, possibly inspired by Mike Tyson, bit off a fellow clergyman's ear during a row over a parking spot. In New Orleans on Martin Luther King Day, five teenagers were shot in a disturbance on a major street just half an hour after the Martin Luther King parade had passed by. Name of the street where the shooting occurred: Martin Luther King Boulevard. Last but not least, at a zoo in Guangdong Province, China, a man bit an ostrich to death.

08 — Signoff.     And that is it, listeners. I can't detect any particular musical theme in this week's selections, so I'll ask Franz Josef Haydn to play us out with another one of his Derbyshire Marches.

More from Radio Derb next week.

[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]