Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mao’s Mandate of Heaven and the Dynastic Cycle

Chinese history in general and Chinese military history specifically has been characterized by certain trends that continue to this day. Those who would be emperors contested to receive the “Mandate of Heaven.”1 “Now this Mandate is not equivalent to fate or destiny, it is more of an imperative. Humans are free to rule unjustly, they are free to harm the people they rule over; their rule, however, will come to a swift end as Heaven passes on its mandate to another family. It is made evident by the fortunes of war.”2 Once success in battle had confirmed that the victor has received the Mandate, he moved to consolidate and extend his power. Inevitably, those who accepted the mandate of heaven to legitimize their power must have also been willing to accept its transient nature.

Those who have power and use it to establish a dynasty, will eventually lose this power. Sometimes over just a short period of time, and sometimes after centuries have passed, dynasties have found that Heaven gives and Heaven takes away.

“Mandate of Heaven” often turned on various factors that included: bad harvests, natural disasters, fortunate happenstance in combat, poor governance, corruption by the ruling elite or any other number of factors. So often, natural catastrophes mark the downfall of dynasties because those with the “Mandate of Heaven” were expected to look after the well-being of the people. Natural disasters, for which there were inadequate preparations, caused suffering and eroded the legitimacy of the dynasty in power. In fact, it had become something of a self fulfilling prophesy. “When Chinese statesmen thought they discerned the classic symptoms of dynastic decline, they qualified the support they gave to the ruling house and this contributed to its ultimate collapse.” Even though the “Mandate of Heaven” may be explained away as a psychological phenomenon, for many Chinese, the “Mandate of Heaven” is still a reality.

Informed by the idea of the “Mandate of Heaven,” it can be argued that the Chinese Communists have become something of a dynasty with Mao Tse Tung being the father of the dynastic line. Mao himself explicitly endorsed at least the ascendant part of the Mandate: “China will certainly go over to socialism in the future; that is an irresistible law.”3 But Mao had more than just the desire to bring socialism to the people, he also had heroic visions of himself. In 1936, Mao wrote a poem in which he gave the world a preview of his self assessment as the hero of China, above all others in history:

What a beauty this mountain and river,
Enticing countless heroes to vie and toil.
Regrettably, Emperor Qin Shihuang and Emperor Han Wudi were
deficient in literary taste.
Emperor Tang Taizong and Emperor Song Taizu lacked
Pride of an era, Genghis Khan, was only good at shooting
vultures with his bow.
They are all bygones.
Only today is one in the presence of the true hero.4

The Chinese people and the Chinese Communists accepted Mao’s view of history because it was so deeply rooted in their Confucian consciousness. “The eschatology is never seriously questioned, because to the Chinese Communist Party, it is the inevitable result of history.”5 Steven Mosher was even more explicit when he described China’s perception of its destiny: “The leader of the Chinese Communist Party believed that China’s historical greatness, no less than Communism’s universalism, demanded the reconstruction of the Qing empire that had collapsed nearly 40 years before. Lost territories must be recaptured, straying vassals must be recovered, and one-time tributary states must once again be forced to follow Beijing’s lead. Military action-engaging the Japanese invaders, defeating the Nationalists, and capturing the cities—had delivered China into his hands. Now military action would restore the empire.”6

A way to end the cycle of the “Mandate of Heaven” would be to give the people a say in their leadership. Since the “Mandate of Heaven” has been dependent on the emperor ruling in such a way that the welfare of the people is the leader’s primary concern, then the form of government which gives ultimate say to the people would be the culmination of the political theory. The Nationalists learned this lesson while on Taiwan and were able to change rulers without slaughtering the preceding government. Mao had different ideas.

Mao’s certainty was that socialism would be the answer to ensure the permanence of his dynasty, but Mao-style socialism has been repudiated by the current Chinese leadership in pursuit of a different, more successful style of authoritarianism. Clearly, Mao’s vision was not the right answer, and so far, given the internal strife in China, the Hu Jian Tao-style of rule is not the answer either. It is an open question if China itself will learn the lesson that Taiwan’s leaders have learned.

Once Mao assumed power, he implemented actions similar to those that other dynastic emperors attempted in order to retain power. Generally, emperors attempted to extend their control and power through technological advancement, internal improvements, internal repression, and military adventurism. These strategies, singularly, or in some combination, were the broad policy goals of Chinese emperors throughout history. Mao’s successors may have given up on Mao’s peculiar brand of socialism but they continue to pursue his traditional dynastic policies today.
The first instinct of those who founded new dynasties has been to extend and solidify power. Since no dynasty gave up power to its successor willingly, emperors found it imperative to devise the means to defend their rule. Emperors had to raise armies and assert their authority in all regions. There was no political mechanism for redress of grievances, and no way to dislodge an incompetent or unjust ruler. A challenger to the throne who would rule China in the place of the emperor ultimately had only one choice, to drive the ruling emperor from power by force. Dynasties succumbed to challengers who arose from within their own disaffected military force or from outside invaders.

All Chinese dynasties shared the same fate, if not the same path to that fate. At some point, and for some reason, the reign of the dynasty in power ended. One of two conditions prevailed after the fall of the previous dynasty, either chaos, or a new dynasty. If what succeeded the dynasty was chaos, eventually a strong regional power would assume power and attempt to exert his will on the rest of China. If a new dynasty followed quickly on the fall of the previous dynasty, that new emperor likewise sought to assert his rule.

Once he had power, the new emperor sought to entrench his political power by expanding the military into all geographic areas and into all aspects of life. The classic example of this was the Ming Dynasty. The Ming used force to pacify regions in or near China and then install a compliant chieftain who would keep the peace, but remain loyal to the central dynasty. Eventually, if the region remained quiescent, the Ming would send a non-military bureaucrat to administer the area to ensure that taxes flowed. The Ming insisted that bureaucrats used the Manchu language for official business, but were not as concerned that the local inhabitants learn a common language. In fact, the Manchus learned that they could pit one region against another if necessary to keep either or both from becoming a power to rival the central Manchu authority.

Mao Tse Tung emulated the Manchu. What Mao was perhaps most astute in learning was the necessity to rule China ruthlessly in order to stay in power. Mao, in an address in Hankou set out his famous formulation about the genesis of political influence: “From now on, we should pay the greatest attention to military affairs. We must know that political power is obtained out of the barrel of a gun.”7 Mao’s epigram about political power being dependent on military prowess recognized a central pillar of all Chinese dynasties. “Military organization and mobilization, conceptualizations of who was friend and ally, which sections of the population were assigned military tasks, and the position of the military in the larger bureaucratic framework helped define the Chinese world. Warding off foreign predators, mounting military expeditions and suppressing domestic challengers were regular activities of all dynasties.”8

The impulse to extend the army to all facets of life indicated the dynastic emperors’ belief that the only way to serve the people, to justify the “Mandate of Heaven,” was to control and dominate the actions of the people. Mao believed this and his successors shared this belief. Li Ximing, of the Beijing Party Committee exhorted the troops preparing to enforce the will of the Communist leadership by massacring unarmed students in Tiananmen Square by saying: “You came to the capital to enforce martial law. You have contributed greatly to security and order in the capital and to stabilization of the entire country. You are undertaking a sacred mission, and history will record your achievements.”9

Mao also learned that in order for his dynasty to retain power and continue into the future, he personally had to put into place all the mechanisms of power that successful emperors since the Sui Dynasty had adopted. Mao’s problems and those of his successors were not so different from “...those of the traditional emperors. He has to make sure that the second in command will not amass too much power, that his bureaucrats are compliant and do not abuse their powers outrageously, and that local officials will not become too independent.”10 Mao constructed a system, like those of the emperors who preceded him, that allowed him to retain ultimate power. “In the PRC political system, all powers are concentrated in the hands of the paramount leader. Every secondary leader is in charge of a limited range of affairs, and ultimately responsible directly to the paramount leader alone.”11

Mao exercised similar control over his military, in order to prevent any regional commander from gaining power and threatening the dynasty. One measure he adopted was to order rotation, in 1973, among eight of his eleven regional commanders to prevent any from establishing a personal power base.12 Even 24 years into his rule, Mao still demonstrated the need to undermine subordinates who might build a base of power from which to challenge him.

Some dynasties attempted to better the lot of their people through technological advancement. According to the ancient texts, technological advancement was a requirement for good government. The Da Yu Mo which dates from sometime around 100BC, stated that: “The morality and ability of a king are shown through the excellent governance of the country. The excellent governance must improve the living of the people. Improvement of the living of people must develop the technology of handicrafts related to water, metal, wood, soil, and crop. (These are a summary of important handicrafts.)”13 Da Yu, the first emperor, came to power because of his devotion to technological advancement. “A famous example is Da Yu, who was a specialist of water conservancy and was successful in controlling very big floods in his time. He had a crucial influence on the country. Then he won popular support and became the first king of the first dynasty of China.”14 The Sui Dynasty was notable among these dynasties interested in extending technology as they were the first to construct a canal of sufficient length and depth to transport goods and personnel between regions.

The development of technology in China went along in concert with the development of agriculture and military prowess. According to Confucian tenets, there was no other reason to develop technology than to make fields more fertile and improve the military to take better care of the people. Thus, there is consonance between the “Mandate of Heaven,” and the Confucian belief system that permeated China. “So, dynasty after dynasty, emperors after emperors paid great heed to the farms of Chinese countryside, giving incentives to agriculture productions and calculating the estimates of each year’s agricultural taxes, building great canals for farmland, building dams to prevent flood, and building Great Wall to protect the interior farmlands. Yet because nothing but food, military, and confidence of the people were on the menu of the government, as quoted by the Master Confucius, everything else was considered as corruptly decadent.”15 Dynasties pursued technological advancement out of a number of desires including the desire to feed and protect the people, to preserve the Mandate of Heaven, and to fulfill the Confucian mandate.

The primary example of a dynasty pursuing improvements in military technology was the Yongle dynasty. After assuming power by defeating Jianwen, Zhu Di ordered a major expansion in shipbuilding and overseas engagement. The proximate reason for the expansion was to construct a fleet of vessels large enough and powerful enough to chase down the contestant to the throne who was thought to have fled overseas. Zhu Di himself had hit upon the idea of sending a fleet to find and destroy Jianwen. However, Zhu Di was astute enough to discern the connection between the advancement of naval technology, trade, and the relative prosperity of the coastal cities. Zhu Di envisioned that his magnificent fleet would by its presence and grandness convince other regional potentates of his legitimacy and power. “Certainly the magnificence of the so-called treasure fleet seemed to have been designed to convince any foreign ruler who might be harboring the deposed emperor just who the rightful occupant of the dragon throne was. And it probably wasn’t far the emperor’s mind that the imperial treasury, depleted by a long civil war, was in need of replenishment by foreign trade.”16 The advancement of technology, in this case, naval technology, had three goals: the first was to enrich the treasury; the second, to extending political power in the region; and the third was to better the lot of the people. Meeting these goals confirmed the dynasty’s “Mandate of Heaven,” which was something particularly important to an emperor newly ascended to the throne.

Just as Zhu Yi sought to improve his technology and benefit his rule and his people, so too did Mao. While Zhu Yi ordered the building of a navy which produced the concomitant effects of technological advancement and economic benefit, Mao pursued two separate tracks. Mao sought agricultural reform while at the same time attempting to acquire the technology for nuclear weapons. Domestically, Mao attempted to better the lives of his people by providing them adequate food and an economy that would provide for their necessities. He called his personal plan to ensure the betterment of the Chinese people the “Great Leap Forward.” Mao decreed that his plan be implemented and pushed upon the people against the tepid protests of his top advisors. By ignoring 600 years of history, during which time the farmers of China had by and large been able to feed the people of China, Mao, without anyone to contradict him, set about to improve China’s agriculture and economics based on his own vision of agriculture and technology.

Mao personally rallied the people of China to enact the tenets of the plan. Those who did not accept the plan willingly were forced to accept the Great Leap Forward regardless of their reservations, on pain of death. “During 1957 and 1958 Mao Zedong was seized by a vision that economic development in China could proceed rapidly in leaps and bounds by relying on improvisation and mass spontaneity, rather than moderately by the planned and gradual way pursued during the First Five Year Plan (1FYP, 1953-7). Mao singlehandedly initiated the Great Leap Forward (GLP), pushing his views relentlessly, and his changing ideas and preferences shaped the momentous events of 1958 to 1960.”17

Given the decision making process, or lack of it, that went into the implementation of the Great Leap Forward, Mao acted as the emperor of his own dynasty. He had solidified his power, made all subordinates report directly to him, and began to enact his own ideas. He personally conceived and implemented the Great Leap Forward. Mao’s Great Leap Forward herded China’s peasants onto collective farms founded on land seized from land-owners. All members of the farm collectively held the materials of production as well as the farm and draft animals. To facilitate steel production, Mao directed that every backyard have a steel-making furnace.
Stalin’s experience with a similar policy that had proved so disastrous might have given Mao pause, had he seriously considered the example. However, Mao had a vision and had the “Mandate of Heaven” to make the right decisions for the people. The collective farms Mao implemented resulted in a decrease in economic production as people slaughtered plow animals rather than allow them to be collectivized without recompense. The backyard furnaces produced metal of little economic value, yet used up precious and dwindling supplies of fuel required to fire the furnaces. Unfortunately, for many in China, the decisions made by Mao were ruinous. Chan’s reference to the momentous events referred to the millions who died to fulfill Mao’s dynastic vision.

Many new emperors, once they had seized the “Mandate of Heaven,” immediately sought to extend or strengthen their hold on power by launching attacks against rivals internal or external to China. Khublai Khan, when he finally seized and held power in the north of China, turned his attention to his rivals, the Song, in the south of China. After defeating the Song, Khublai Khan decided to extend his influence outside of China by invading Japan. Khublai Khan incorporated Song naval technology into his fleet that he used twice in unsuccessful attempts to invade and conquer Japan.

Mao’s foreign policy was similar to that of Khublai Khan. Mao moved rapidly to consolidate his internal power by mopping up and destroying remnants of the Nationalist Army and repressing internal non-Chinese populations, notably the Tibetans, who resisted his rule. He threw his forces into combat against the Americans on the Korean peninsula to keep the US Army from marching into Manchuria. Once Mao was secure internally, and relatively free of external threats, Mao began to menace his neighbors. He fought border engagements against the Soviet Union and India and learned something vital about his conventional forces and his ability to project power. Mao discovered that overwhelming conventional force was effective in regional confrontations, but would not be worth much in projecting power. While Mao was initially ambivalent about nuclear weapons, he changed his assessment once it occurred to him that he could not have hegemony in Asia unless he pursued the powerful new weapons technology represented by nuclear weapons.

With conventional forces, Mao enjoyed initial success when he made the decision in 1950 to send his armies across the Yalu River into North Korea to confront the Americans. American forces had flanked the North Koreans at Inchon which relieved the pressure Kim was exerting on the combined forces inside the Pusan perimeter. The rapidity with which the Americans had erased the North Korean’s advantage and had rolled up the North Korean forces shocked and alarmed Mao. Rather than allow another conquering imperial power to march through Manchuria, he committed hundreds of thousands of troops to counter the Americans. Although successful in driving the US back to the status quo ante, the cost in troops and materiel was high. Nonetheless, Mao saw his confrontation with the US as a victory in that he was able to defeat or at least fight the technologically superior Americans to a stalemate.

Mao and the Chinese brought this confidence born of military success into the confrontation with the Indians along their shared border in the Himalayas. When negotiations to demarcate the border and regarding Indian support for the Dalai Lama broke down, China decided to attack India. “This operation was ostensibly designed to teach India a lesson for her perceived support to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan resistance. The border dispute was a pretext conveniently exploited by the Chinese to launch a swift and sudden invasion (that caught the Indians totally by surprise), inflict a humiliating local defeat and then stage a magnanimous unilateral withdrawal that was designed to underline the impotence of the victim nation.”18 Mao wanted the Indians, and by extension, the rest of China’s neighbors, to recognize China as the primary power in Asia.

Mao wanted to demonstrate in Asia that China’s concerns and interests must be accommodated lest China’s neighbors be forced to face a humiliating invasion at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

During the period when the PLA was teaching India a lesson with conventional forces, China was also attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Mao made many dismissive and bizarre statements about nuclear weapons during the 50’s, ostensibly to make it seem as though China was not interested in atomic weapons. Mao expressed the view that even if nuclear bombs were used on China, it would “hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, although it might be major event for the solar system.” On another occasion, he dismissed nuclear weapons as nothing but a “paper tiger.”19 However, it turned out that these statements by Mao were intended to deceive and misdirect the enemy, just as Sun Tzu, generations previously, had advised commanders to do.

Ultimately, China acquired the needed nuclear weapons. “Chinese leaders have long been acutely aware of the geopolitical importance of nuclear weapons and China’s vulnerability to nuclear threats. As a result, China launched a nuclear weapons program in January 1955. The initial Chinese program relied heavily on Soviet technical assistance, the Soviet Union ultimately reneged on a secret agreement to provide China with design information and a sample atomic bomb. As a result, China was forced to rely on its own scientific capabilities and technological infrastructure. These efforts ultimately produced a successful test of a highly enriched uranium fission bomb in October 1964 and a hydrogen bomb in June 1967.”20

In the years after the test of China’s first nuclear weapon, Deng Xiao Ping, one of Mao’s remain cohort from the victory over the Nationalists, started a war against another of China’s neighbors. In 1979, the People’s Liberation Army massed troops on the border of Vietnam, in response to Vietnam’s leadership’s threatened invasion of the Chinese client, Cambodia. Unable to offer logistical assistance or troops to Cambodia, Deng ordered the PLA to invade Vietnam to relieve the pressure on the Cambodia border. Bakshi argued that China’s invasion of Vietnam was another instance of China’s limited war/teach a lesson doctrine promulgated by Mao during the Sino-Indian Crisis of 1962.21 While Bakshi is correct in this assessment, the difference in the Vietnam conflict from the Indian invasion was that China did not actually win as convincing a victory as they had earlier. It was not even clear that China won any victory at all. The PLA did manage to advance into the Vietnamese border region but in the course of the invasion, the PLA suffered high losses and then withdrew, without appreciably altering the strategic balance in Southeast Asia. Vietnam did not learn the lesson that China wanted to teach about regional hegemony, but there are other lessons to learn from China’s adventure.

The first of the lessons that can be gleaned from the Sino-Vietnam conflict of 1979 is the fallacy of the “teach a lesson” doctrine. “Teach a lesson” only works when the country “learning” the lesson agrees to the education. In 1962, India agreed that they had been taught a lesson; in 1979, Vietnam did not. A more recent, non-Chinese example, emphasized this point. In 2001, al Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States, killing more than 3000 civilians, knocking down the World Trade Towers, and seriously disrupting the US economy. This was a classic “teach a lesson” operation, since there was no attempt to hold territory or capture anything other than the initiative. This mission ultimately proved to be a failure, in that the US in response launched a disproportionate attack on terrorist strongholds around the world that disrupted operations and killed many in the senior leadership. Whatever lesson the aggressor wanted to teach was lost in the response by the victim.

The second lesson is that this invasion of Vietnam, in 1979, was the last time Chinese troops conducted a “live” operation against anyone except unarmed students. Additionally, the Sino-Vietnam War was 17 years after the PLA’s last major engagement. The Sino-Vietnam conflict exposed serious gaps in PLA readiness, logistics and coordination, especially when compared to the experienced Vietnam Army. The time between the Vietnam conflict, and whatever the Chinese Communist leadership has planned is thirty-seven years and counting. Essentially, the PLA has had one engagement lasting approximately one month in the last 44 years. That is a long time for an expeditionary army to go without action and still expect to victorious. The various types of missions that the PLA might be called on to perform in the near future such as: a limited cross-border conflict, a large scale amphibious raid, or a division or larger sized para-drop synchronized with a missile strike, all require officers with a great deal of skill. This skill has not been evident of late. “American sailors are constantly exposed to examples of the poor training and leadership in the Chinese navy, whenever they encounter Chinese warships at sea. Foreigners living in China, and speaking Chinese, can pick up lots of anecdotes about the ineptitude and corruption found in the military. It's all rather taken for granted. But in wartime, this sort of thing would mean enormous problems for the troops, when they attempted to fight.”22 Given the inherent difficulties in such operations listed above and the lack of experience in their officer corps and the lack of veteran troops, it is not surprising that, of late, the PLA has been more adept at rattling its sabers than using them.

Given the long gap in time between operations, there is one final lesson to be gleaned from the China’s last war. The dynasty of the Chinese Communists established by Mao, is laboring under the same constraints that have afflicted Communist regimes since the Bolsheviks defeated the Czar in 1917. Communist dictatorships found it necessary to decentralize war-making ability while centralizing power. Therefore, only the founder of the Communist dictatorship, or one of his original cohorts, can single-handedly initiate a cross border war. Subsequent generations of Communists have been thwarted in their ambitions to expand their power externally for two reasons. First, they lack the unquestioned authority that stemmed from the dynamic personality of the main revolutionary. Without the authority of a single emperor, the highest levels of leadership must make decisions as a group.

The communal decision-making structure that inevitably arose to fill the void left upon the demise of the founder of the revolution prevents precipitous action. Succeeding generations of Communists found it necessary to work collectively since no one individual in the ruling politburo has been able to exert as much authority as could the founder of the Communist dynasty. Anyone who has been on a committee of any sort knows how hard it is to collectively decide to take decisive action. The high stakes involved for the Communist Chinese ruling politburo in committing the PLA to a war it might lose, make taking decisive action even more problematic. The dynamics of collective decision-making and the high stakes have made it impossible for second and third generation Communist dynasties to take the decision to prosecute cross-border war. It is unlikely that China, given the lack of experience of its armed forces and its decision making structure, will be the first to break this trend.

Chinese dynasties, of which Mao’s China is the most recent, acquire the “Mandate of Heaven” to legitimate its rule. Along with the Mandate comes the responsibility to protect the people from natural and man-made threats. When the dynasty fails in this responsibility, the “Mandate of Heaven” will be withdrawn, and the regime will fall. This has been the pattern throughout Chinese history, and given the way in which Mao acquired power and the way he and his successors have ruled, the dynastic cycle will continue to turn.

1 Richard Hooker, “T’ien Ming: The Mandate of Heaven.” (accessed 11 May 2006); available from; Internet.
2 David Graff, Military History of China. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002), 41.
3 Mao Tse Tung, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967), 243.
4 Fu Zhengyuan, Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 187.
5 Alan R Kluver, Legitimating the Chinese Economic Reforms: A Rhetoric of Myth and Orthodoxy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 31.
6 Steven W. Mosher, “Does the PRC Have a Grand Strategy of Hegemony?” [testimony presented to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations] (Washington: US House of Representatives, 14 Feb 2006, accessed 12 May 2006); available from; Internet.
7 Phillip Short, Mao: A Life. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 203.
8 Hans Van De Hen, Warfare in Chinese History. (London: Brill, 2000), 11.
9 Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link, Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese Leadership’s Decision to Use Force Against Their Own People – In Their Own Words. (New York: Public Affairs Books, 2002), 302.
10 Fu, Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics, 217.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid., 250.
13 Alan K.L. Chan, Perspectives on East Asia Science, Technology, and Medicine. (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2003), 53.
14 Ibid., 55.
15 Chen Gu, In Search of the New Way. (College Station, TX: Publishing, 2003), 36.
16 Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 74.
17 Alfred L Chan, Mao’s Crusade: Politics and Policy Implementation in China’s Great Leap Forward. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 3.
18 G. D. Bakshi, “The Sino-Vietnam War-1979: Case Study in Limited Wars,” Indian Defence Review, Vol 14 (July-September 2000, accessed 13 May 06); available from; Internet.
19 Chen Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 190.
20 Alexander Millar, Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Emergent Threats in an Evolving Security Environment. (Dulles, VA: Brassey’s, 2003), 117.
21 Bakshi, “The Sino-Vietnam War-1979: Case Study in Limited Wars,” Internet.
22 Jim Dunnigan, “Illusion of Military Power.” Strategy Page, November 8, 2005; available from; Internet; accessed 14 May 2006.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Laura and me

Listening to your visceral reaction to Ann Coulter, and your stumbling, "I think they are good people, even though they are liberal; can't we all get along" response to her reinforces an opinion about you that has been nagging at me for years.

I think that you are playing us.

You pretend to have these conservative views, but then you pal around with all these liberals, and tell them not to get too upset by the things you say, since you are just bilking the rubes on a lark. Yet, when confronted by the views of a real conservative, you blanch and stumble around, refuse to engage her arguments, and appeal to feelings. Just like the liberal I suspect you are.

I like you Laura, but I am tired of being played.

Her staff’s response to me:
1. Laura put her neck on the line as an 18 yr old college student at Dartmouth when she edited The Dartmouth Review, got sued by liberal professors for millions of dollars (eventually won).
2. Speechwriter in the Reagan White House.
3. Clerked for Clarence Thomas.
4. Launched the first conservative cable show EVER on MSNBC
5. Launched the first and biggest female hosted conservative radio talk show in the country.
6. Wrote The Hillary Trap, exposing Hillary's ABSURD political views.
7. Wrote the NYT bestseller Shut Up & Sing--telling the idiot elite left to shut up or put up (evidence that their ideas work).
8. Has called out Kristin Breitweiser ON HER POLITICAL INANITY for three years--without calling her a "harpie" or saying she would "be upset if her
husband came back."
9. Travelled to Iraq to support our troops and tell their stories six months after chemo, and right after Bob Woodruff was blown up there, with his same unit.
10. Yeah, she's a total sell-out.
11. Ann Coulter has a role. Laura has a role -- and demonstrates it every single day for 3 hrs a day to millions of listeners. There is room in the world for both.

My response:
A resume isn't an argument, and where you see bona fides, others see shrewd positioning. When 99% of your fellow journalists and DJs are liberal knuckleheads, the smart "conservative" will stand out and get the gigs. Ask John Stossel about that.

Here is one you can ask her to comment on; where does she stand on gay marriage? I suspect that is one issue a genuine conservative would be happy to opine about but which about which she would have a hard time concealing her real feelings.

Since I did not say "sell out," yet you put it in quotes in response #10 tells me you are hearing this point of view from many others. Whether she is conservative or not is ultimately not that important, rather, it matters how she is perceived by those who listen, and whether we will buy the things she endorses. I for one, don't and won't.

Have a nice weekend

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bonds, Grimsley, the Clueless Press and the Feds

Jason Grimsley, a pitcher for a number of teams for 16 years in the major leagues, got caught up in a Federal investigation that reaches into money laundering, wire fraud, abuse of the mails, and drug trafficking all related to baseball players using steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). I have a couple of observations:

How lame is the media that sends numerous reporters to every game that is played in major league baseball, who live with and travel with the players they cover, and yet did not have an inkling that illicit drug use was so pervasive in clubhouses that there were coffee makers labeled “Leaded” for the ones that contained amphetamines? Or were these reporters so complicit with illegality in the clubhouse that they deliberately did not report what they knew, for whatever reason?

Barry Bonds should be very afraid. According to the affidavit that the lead investigator on this case (who, not incidentally, is an IRS Agent) Grimsley attracted the attention of investigators when they developed information that he was going to receive HGH in the mail from a supplier. The investigator received a warrant to search Grimsley’s home on the theory that he possesses illegal drugs, has distributed illegal drugs to other players for profit, and then laundered the money. The Feds attempted to get Grimsley to collect evidence against Barry Bonds in exchange for leniency, and when he would not cooperate in that effort, they publicly exposed him. The reason Bonds should be afraid is that this entire task force of DEA, FBI, IRS, Customs, Postal Inspectors and US Attorneys are looking to make a case against Bonds and are strong arming associates of his to do it. I would say he is in deep kimchi. To Bonds illustrious titles of “wife beater” and “bad sport,” we can add “tax cheat,” “drug user” and “fraud.”

And yet, even with all these Federal law enforcement agencies, all over the US, looking into one person, who is also watched every day by scores of credentialed media, we read not a word of suspicion or analysis in any newspaper or on any sports show about what might be forthcoming. It is as if the paying news consumer would not be interested to know that virtually everyone playing baseball, including the “best player in this generation” is juiced up. Unless someone hands a press release to one of these high paid, clueless windbags in the media describing the location of his own ass with an included map, he would not be able to find it even with both hands.

Sports journalism is a disgrace. Barry Bonds is a disgrace. Baseball needs to clean house, and soon.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Party Control of the Chinese Military

The Chinese Communists recognized that they had, and still have, the same problem that bedeviled dynastic leaders throughout Chinese history. That problem is how to maintain sufficiently strong forces in all regions of the country yet maintain centralized control to prevent any one army from becoming so strong as to challenge central rule.

The solution has been to inculcate the entire army with the notion that the army does not serve the state, but rather, serves the interests of the Communist Party. Mao himself wrote that “Our principle is that the party controls the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to control the party." Guided by this principle, the officers of the Army were selected by the Communist Party more for their commitment to the party than for their military acumen. Additionally, Mao and the Communist Party assembled a parallel organization of military commissars who reported directly to the party and who ensured that the officers and men maintained their allegiance to the party. This system produced the results Mao wanted, but not because of the wisdom of the structure. Rather, Mao and his leadership cohort had a high level of mutual trust and commitment that recognized the supremacy of the Communist party. As this senior level of leadership began dying off, the men who replaced them did not share the experiences and outlook that would allow Mao’s system to perpetuate.

In recent years, the military has become more assertive in pursuit of its own prerogatives. As the military has become less fettered by the dictates of the party and has become more professional, the military has developed domestic and foreign policies independent of those desired by the CCP. Additionally, the regional groupings of the PLA have developed their own policies, with some regions developing in ways that make them more amenable to central control, and others, less so.

In 1989, the locally garrisoned troops of the 38th Army Group commander was relieved because his troops lacked the stomach to fire on their fellow Beijing ren. The Chinese Communist Party called up the 27th Army Group, a more reliable army, with roots that went back the 8th Route Army, filled out with provincial troops who spoke a dialect of Mandarin almost unintelligible by the Beijing residents in Tiananmen Square. In simple terms, the 38th was loyal to the nation, the 27th was loyal to the party.

There was a much touted initiative promulgated by Jiang
Zemin in 1998 that the PLA was to divest itself of all businesses and return to the barracks. There is doubt whether the Army has actually taken this step. The fact that the Army was so heavily involved in business ventures, and may still be, albeit in a camouflaged fashion, has implications for the party’s control. The party’s inability to force the Army to divest its business holdings is further evidence that the Army does not necessarily take orders from the party, and retains its advantage of firepower. It seems that the Mao’s principle of party control of the military may be in the process of inverting.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Marriage Amendment

An argument against the Marriage Amendment at the Volokh Conspiracy and my response:

There are four main arguments against the FMA. First, a constitutional amendment is unnecessary because federal and state laws, combined with the present state of the relevant constitutional doctrines, already make court-ordered nationwide same-sex marriage unlikely for the foreseeable future. An amendment banning same-sex marriage is a solution in search of a problem.

Is it possible to couch this “argument” in any more weasel words? Present state of relevant Constitutional doctrines make same sex marriage unlikely for foreseeable future. Forgive me if I don’t think these hollow assurances/blatherings from some law professor will keep a future supreme court from finding the penumumbras of emanations in the constitution mandating all states accept “gay marriage.”

Second, a constitutional amendment defining marriage would be a radical intrusion on the nation's founding commitment to federalism in an area traditionally reserved for state regulation, family law. There has been no showing that federalism has been unworkable in the area of family law.

Except that it isn’t, as Steve T pointed out with regard Utah’s statehood.

Third, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would be an unprecedented form of amendment, cutting short an ongoing national debate over what privileges and benefits, if any, ought to be conferred on same-sex couples and preventing democratic processes from recognizing more individual rights.

Going through the process of amending the constitution to preserve the unique status and importance of marriage to our nation and society is undemocratic? This “argument” is nonsensical.

Fourth, the amendment as proposed is constitutional overkill that reaches well beyond the stated concerns of its proponents, foreclosing not just courts but also state legislatures from recognizing same-sex marriages and perhaps other forms of legal support for same-sex relationships. Whatever one thinks of same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, no person who cares about our Constitution and public policy should support this unnecessary, radical, unprecedented, and overly broad departure from the nation's traditions and history.

This argument is the same as the first one, in that it assumes that future courts won’t do with gay marriage what Berger et al did with abortion. The only thing that will prevent gay marriage in the US is to write a prohibition to it in the constitution in unambiguous language. Arguing otherwise shows cluelessness or disingenuousness about jurisprudence in America in 2006.

Make no mistake, given current legal scholarship and supreme court interpretations, supporters of marriage have lost this debate. There is no legal justification not to call a contract between two men a marriage. You can be sure, in our lifetimes, this will come to pass. Unless we enact a constitutional amendment to remove marriage from interpretation by the courts, gays will be allowed to “get married” and enjoy the benefits that society has heretofore conferred on married couples. Absent this amendment, in twenty years, when we have a culture replete with gay marriage, polygamy, group marriages, and men marrying their grandsons to control inheritance, we will wonder how we got to this point. Or, more tragically, we won’t ask any questions at all, accepting those contracts as normal, and instead, wonder why society has gone to hell.