The Best Defense

Could we learn more about grand strategy from the Frenchies than from the English?

That question had never occurred to me until I was driving along the Mass Pike yesterday to the Motel 6 in Springfield, and thinking about Paul Kennedy's analysis of the strategic positions of France and England in the 17th century.

The British strategic situation was relatively easy to discern: As an island, it was clear that it had foremost had to be a seapower. But France had both land and sea to consider. Moreover, like the United States, it had to weigh how to protect two major non-continuous coasts. The result for France, writes Kennedy, "was to cause an ambivalence in national strategy for the next few centuries, for it was never clear to her leaders how much attention could be devoted to building up sea power as opposed to land power."

Anyone know of a good essay that explores this dilemma in the context of the French and the Americans? Does the United States need to be foremost a seapower or a landpower (or an airpower or a cyberpower)? It is like we have five coasts.


The Best Defense

The last American cavalry charge, and the first Taliban WiFi assault -- where is it?

Reacting with alacrity to Monday night's bo-ring debate, my friend Tim Noah had the gumption to find the last American who led a cavalry charge. It was Lt. Edwin P. Ramsey, in January 1942 in the Philippines. (Unless you wanna count 5th SF Group riding with the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan in 2001, but that was more indirect approach, not conventional U.S. forces.)

Horse cavalrymen must have been pretty tough hombres. Lt. Price is now 95 years old, and hanging out in Los Angeles -- not unlike Wyatt Earp did a century ago, I guess. When the Japanese prevailed (temporarily) in the Philippines, Ramsey went underground and became a guerrilla leader.

Two possibly related questions: How many American WiFi signals can you pick up from the middle of Bagram Air Base? (A: 54.) How many Taliban WiFi signals can you pick up? (A: Zero.)

Finally, a little-known bayonet fact: O.P. Smith, one of our greatest generals and one of our most under-rated, once did a study of the use of the bayonet in World War I and concluded it was over-rated. He even interviewed surgeons about the wounds that they saw and concluded that the bayonet was actually used very little. I write a little about this in my new book, which has a chapter on him. Another little-known fact: Smith, though a Marine, studied under George C. Marshall at Fort Benning.