American progressives, June 6 2014

D-Day wimpishness.

Two estimable liberal pundits, writing on D-Day:
Kevin Drum:

So give it up. Guantanamo will be here through the end of Obama’s presidency, and quite possibly until its last prisoner dies. It’s fanciful to think anything else.

Ezra Klein:

I don’t believe the United States — or the world — will do nearly enough, nearly fast enough, to hold the rise in temperatures to safe levels. I think we’re f**ed. Or, at the least, I think our grandchildren are f**ed.

On a warship off Omaha beach, morning of June 6, 1944

Ghost of staff officer:
Utah’s all right but Omaha is a disaster. The naval bombardment seems to have left the beach defences intact and we’re up against a much tougher German division than we’d expected. Our boys are stuck on the beach and dying like flies. General, we should call it off, evacuate and pivot to Utah. That will slow us down and stop us from joining up with Monty, but the D-Day objectives are screwed anyway.
Ghost of Omar Bradley:
That’s not why we’re here.
Ghost of GI, floating dead in the surf:
That’s not why I’m here.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

14 thoughts on “American progressives, June 6 2014”

  1. Kevin and Ezra have something right: don't be fooled by false expectations.

    But you are right, don't quit. Don't stop trying if their is a worthwhile goal and a path to success.

    The correct attitude is perhaps to renew hope and adjust effort incrementally, continually review results and look out for new opportunities, and don't get locked into a program that is set up for demoralizing disappointment, but expect many small failures on the way to success.

    1. I don't think it comes from wanting to be avoid fooled by false expectations. I think it's really about taking care to never look naive or unworldly. When public servants fail, which they'll do for a variety of reasons, you never want to be the one left looking like you expected better while the others roll their eyes, laugh at you, and ask "what did you expect?"

  2. The chain of command is kind of different.

    Unless you can send the CEO of Exon/Mobil to run a radar station in the Aleutians, or bust the chair of the House Appropriations Committee to an E-3 I don't see the point.

  3. There's something to be said for optimism. There's also something to be said for realism. I don't intend to stop fighting on either of these issues but I'm certain that Drum is right and I suspect that Klein is, too.

  4. This topic is related to the study that came out recently, finding that ~80% of the population lies to themselves to feel better or to maintain optimism. The payoff is they live longer than the people who don't lie to themselves and thus are pessimistic about outcomes.

    This old ecologist remembers what Aldo Leopold said: "having an ecological education means living in a world of wounds".

  5. "General, we should call it off, evacuate and pivot to Utah. That will slow us down and stop us from joining up with Monty, but the D-Day objectives are screwed anyway."

    Forgive my ignorance, but couldn't people have landed at Utah and swung around behind the Nazis? That doesn't seem the same as just lying back and enjoying the newly warm planet.

    (She said, after a 30-second trip to Wikiland to find out what Utah is. Now I know why no one ever mentions it.)

    Anyhoo, on the larger point you are correct. It's too early to give up, and maybe never is the time.

    I'm still waiting for one of those eccentric zillionaires to create a prize for inventing DIY pollution fighting gadgets. I could buy a thingie to put on my tailpipe for $200, but it doesn't get nearly all the ghgs. So couldn't some kids somewhere tell me how to make my own with an old sock? Some of us can't put up solar panels or buy a Leaf. I would like more options, frankly. You can only cut uses down so far, practically speaking.

    1. The other point about costs is that they have to be calculated correctly. In the case of the Utah landings, the 101st Airborne lightened the casualties for the 4th Infantry landings. Things were light on Utah because the 101st was behind the beach and interfering with German movements behind the beach.

      The 101st casualties (and they were very heavy) have to be counted in the Utah costs. (Similarly, the 82nd casualties ought to be totted to the Omaha landings.)

      1. Similarly, the 82nd casualties ought to be totted to the Omaha landings.

        Why? Both divisions were dropped behind Utah. I'm not sure either of them should be attributed to any particular beach, as it was really a different part of the fight, but if you must they should both be in the ledger for Utah.

    2. Forgive my ignorance, but couldn't people have landed at Utah and swung around behind the Nazis?

      Short answer: no.

      Long answer: It has to do with logistics, the large amount of flooded ground that impeded movement, fire support, and German tactical positions. If there was one beach that absolutely, positively had to be a success for the invasion to work, it was Omaha.

  6. The Germans had flooded the low-lying area in the angle between the Cotentin and the other beaches by damming the Douve, leaving few roads open through Isigny and Carentan. These were hard to capture as things were. I'm no expert, but I understood that the main problem at Utah was the limited number and narrowness of the exit roads to the interior. The Allies had plenty of troops; the key logistical problem after capturing the beaches was landing enough soldiers with the their equipment and consumables and getting them off the beaches. At all events, Bradley's decision to stick it out at Omaha proved absolutely correct. The 29th Division reached Isigny on 8 June, in line with the planned timetable, while the Ist captured Port-en-Bessin to the east and linked up with the British on 9 June.

    1. You're saying that the Utah route was only better in the short run? Now I understand. Thanks!

      I'd like to find a good book on D-Day. Anybody have a favorite?

      1. You're saying that the Utah route was only better in the short run?

        The answer should be, "Not even that." It isn't that the Utah route was better or worse; it was that it was headed in a completely different direction and so they weren't in any way substitutes for each other.

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