Dan Carlin Catch All

I figured Dan had enough fans on this board to create a thread dedicated to his podcasts Hardcore History and Common Sense.

I just finished listening to the latest Hardcore History and the topic really made me think a bit. Essentially he was saying that adversity toughens up a society and if, all things being equal, we entered into a war with our grandparents, they'd trounce us because they were tougher than we are.

In one way, I agree 100%. My grandfather was going up on ladders and doing things like cleaning out his gutters well into his 80s. I pay people to do that for me. I look at his work ethic compared to my own (or worse, to kids today), and I see us getting softer and more entitled with every new generation.

I also believe that the US currently has the best trained and equiped military that has ever been fielded. But since a military is a political tool, does our country have the collective will any more to use the military the way it was used during World War 2?

does our country have the collective will any more to use the military the way it was used during World War 2?

Nope, and that's just the kind of toughness he was talking about disappearing. I don't think anyone today would be prepared to blanket firebomb entire civilian cities for the greater good.

Suggesting that the U.S. doesn't have the collective will to use the military when we've invaded two foreign countries in 10 years strikes me as a little bit of reach. We're probably more ready to bomb another country than any other country on Earth under the assumption that we can get away with it without suffering any harm ourselves.

Also, not willing to firebomb cities? Where were you people in 2001 when people were suggesting we turn Mecca into a sheet of glass if there was another attack?

Nevin73 wrote:
My grandfather was going up on ladders and doing things like cleaning out his gutters well into his 80s.

True, but most of our kindergarten classes can fly predator drones.

I'm with Funken. Suggesting the US is not prepared to use it military since the second world war takes some serious selective reading of history.

And being frank, the US did not have it anywhere near as bad in World War II than many other countries. Actually, I've long held the belief that it took one vicious leader to defeat another in the war and a democracy could never and would never pay the butcher's bill for the Eastern Front. It was a blessing that the Battle of Britain was an air war.

And it all misses the crucial point that 1950's America is held up right across the world as one of the most comfortable times to live.

Also, it's worth noting that Afghans are noted for their toughness. And yet which is the better society in which to live, ours or theirs? The measure of a society's health or success is not necessarily related to how many bales of hay you can throw up to the barn loft or how many enemies you can kill with your hands in battle. We don't live in Ancient Sparta.

Frankly, I'd like to see an ancient spartan warrior try to do 7 hours of mind numbing desk work. He'd go insane.

Depends on what you mean by political will. Do we have the political will to take the sort of casualties we did in Iwo Jima or Okinawa? Almost certainly not. Do we have the political will to drop the sort of ordinance we did on Japan? Well, the answer to that is pretty clear. We did it in Vietnam without even noticing and are getting pretty close to doing it over Iraq and Afghanistan without their being much of any interest among the American public.

We have the political will to project power in spectacular ways so long as we don't have a butcher's bill to pay in the end. And it appears we're willing to pay just about any amount of money to assure we won't have to pay the butcher no matter how careless we are with violent political action (eg: invading Iraq).

Our issue isn't with "will". It's with forethought.

Funkenpants wrote:
Suggesting that the U.S. doesn't have the collective will to use the military when we've invaded two foreign countries in 10 years strikes me as a little bit of reach. We're probably more ready to bomb another country than any other country on Earth under the assumption that we can get away with it without suffering any harm ourselves.

Also, not willing to firebomb cities? Where were you people in 2001 when people were suggesting we turn Mecca into a sheet of glass if there was another attack?

Belligerence is not the same as toughness. The people suggesting we nuke Mecca were bloodthirsty and frightened, not tough, and they wouldn't have to be the ones to actually push the button. Our politicians made the decision to invade even though they don't have to fight, none of their relatives have to fight, and the victims are on the other side of the planet.

You'll also notice that we've been fighting this war for 9 years without claiming victory even though we've got the insurgency massively outgunned. If we were so very tough we could send enough soldiers to finish the job, or flatten the country, or - god forbid - pull out without the crippling fear of Iran and China calling us pussies.

I agree with Carlin, and if he's right then the fact that we spend so much more on defense than other countries should be telling. I have nothing but respect for our soldiers, don't get me wrong. But when I see an Israeli soldier, or a Russian soldier, I can't help but think they're generally a little bit harder. For better or for worse.

And yes, I know we all know that one soldier who chews nails and craps ingots and once took an insurgent stronghold armed with nothing but the femur of the guy guarding the door. I know some thoroughly badass American soldiers myself, and I trust the military of the United States to protect me and my interests. That doesn't mean they're necessarily the "toughest" soldiers in the history of the world, or even in the history of our own country.

Funkenpants wrote:
Also, it's worth noting that Afghans are noted for their toughness. And yet which is the better society in which to live, ours or theirs? The measure of a society's health or success is not necessarily related to how many bales of hay you can throw up to the barn loft or how many enemies you can kill with your hands in battle. We don't live in Ancient Sparta.

Frankly, I'd like to see an ancient spartan warrior try to do 7 hours of mind numbing desk work. He'd go insane.

I think you should listen to Carlin's podcast if you haven't. That was part of Carlin's point. Our society is more comfortable and, by some definitions, "better." That's why we aren't as tough as the Spartans. We don't have to be. You're right that we don't live in ancient Sparta but we do still fight wars and when you're talking about "toughness" as a matter of national defense, it's not the desk jockey you're talking about. It's the soldier who spent most of his life as a desk jockey without going insane, not because he's somehow more stable than the Spartan but because he's less of a career warrior.

US soldiers in WWII were overwhelmingly not career soldiers.

Frankly, I'd like to see an ancient spartan warrior try to do 7 hours of mind numbing desk work. He'd go postal.

Fixed that for you. =P

Also, people growing up in crime, gang and drug laden inner cities are tougher than us too. What does that net them?

We are as tough as we need to be and that can change on a moments notice.

LobsterMobster wrote:
But when I see an Israeli soldier, or a Russian soldier, I can't help but think they're generally a little bit harder. For better or for worse.

In what way?

Robear wrote:
US soldiers in WWII were overwhelmingly not career soldiers.

Their lives were also less comfortable. Maybe "career soldier" was a poor choice of words.

Funkenpants wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:
But when I see an Israeli soldier, or a Russian soldier, I can't help but think they're generally a little bit harder. For better or for worse.

In what way?

Look at any thread in which Israel is mentioned and you'll get examples of how badly they ruined someone's day. They also figured out the fastest and easiest ways to completely destroy you with their bare hands. As for Russia:

IMAGE(http://jeremiejordan.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/bear-cavalry.jpg)

Funkenpants wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:
But when I see an Israeli soldier, or a Russian soldier, I can't help but think they're generally a little bit harder. For better or for worse.

In what way?

I'm with you. Perhaps the average 92Sierra isn't the toughest, snake-eatingest military man around, but I would put our Recon Marines, SEALs, or Rangers against just about anyone on the planet.

I guess it's similar to the Army vs. Marines argument. Which one's more badass? Who knows. It's an uninformed opinion supportable only through anecdotes and emotions.

Though I'm not particularly convinced by the argument that our elite forces are... well... elite. We've got a lot more of those "92Sierra" guys doing a lot more of the grunt work. They're our fighting force. The Recon Marines, the SEALs and the Rangers, I think of them more along the lines of a specific weapon system.

LobsterMobster wrote:
Look at any thread in which Israel is mentioned and you'll get examples of how badly they ruined someone's day.

They developed a big reputation for fighting arab armies in the 1967 and 1973 wars. It sounded very impressive until 1991, when the U.S. invasion of Kuwait showed that arab armies were crap. They have the best equipped, most technologically advance army in the region, but it's not like they spend their days fighting the advanced armies. The toughest opponent in the region is Hezbollah, and how do you even begin comparing those guys to the militaries of industrialized nations?

Paleocon wrote:
I'm with you. Perhaps the average 92Sierra isn't the toughest, snake-eatingest military man around, but I would put our Recon Marines, SEALs, or Rangers against just about anyone on the planet.

I agree, but you can take the elite forces of just about any nation and find uber-dudes of legendary toughness. I don't know where the comparison of "toughness" when it comes to society has any validity, since individual members of society differ so much.

Funkenpants wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:
Look at any thread in which Israel is mentioned and you'll get examples of how badly they ruined someone's day.

They developed a big reputation for fighting arab armies in the 1967 and 1973 wars. It sounded very impressive until 1991, when the U.S. invasion of Kuwait showed that arab armies were crap. They have the best equipped, most technologically advance army in the region, but it's not like they spend their days fighting the advanced armies.

Yup and when the IDF got its head handed to it in the 2006 Lebanon War by the very same style of Arab army we chopped to meat, folks got a far more realistic impression of differing capabilities. Take a good look at how badly the IDF got plastered in 2006 and compare it to the Battle of Second Fallujia. Tell me which army you'd rather have. For me, the answer is simple. Give me the freaking Marines!

Paleocon wrote:
I'm with you. Perhaps the average 92Sierra isn't the toughest, snake-eatingest military man around, but I would put our Recon Marines, SEALs, or Rangers against just about anyone on the planet.

I agree, but you can take the elite forces of just about any nation and find uber-dudes of legendary toughness. I don't know where the comparison of "toughness" when it comes to society has any validity, since individual members of society differ so much.

That's the thing though. Modern militaries are, by nature, highly specialized. The tip of the spear needs to be razor sharp, but the rest of it can't be and must perform equally vital functions.

"Toughness" in an overall military? I'm not sure how useful that is. But when it comes to overall capabilities, there is no military on the planet I'd rather have than ours.

Paleocon wrote:
But when it comes to overall capabilities, there is no military on the planet I'd rather have than ours.

Ours the result of so much lavish spending over the past decades that I'd be surprised if you'd want a different military. It's what makes comparing militaries so difficult. How do you compare a military with a budget of $700+ billion in funding per year with one that has a budget a tenth as large?

Funkenpants wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
But when it comes to overall capabilities, there is no military on the planet I'd rather have than ours.

Ours the result of so much lavish spending over the past decades that I'd be surprised if you'd want a different military. It's what makes comparing militaries so difficult. How do you compare a military with a budget of $700+ billion in funding per year with one that has a budget a tenth as large?

Isn't that at the core of things though?

The American people have the political will to project power so long as the price is paid only in dollars. We have an extremely low tolerance for our own bloodshed and even less if it involves involuntary service. As a result, we seem to have a limitless tolerance for the financial pain caused by spending nearly half of the world's military budget (48% at last count).

I think about this whenever I encounter the budget hawks talking about how we need to "cut the budget", while never daring to touch that third rail of American budget politics: military spending. If you are at all serious about reducing spending, the place to do it is in the military.

The Spetsnaz are badder ass than Green Berets, proven via use of Science!

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
The Spetsnaz are badder ass than Green Berets, proven via use of Science!

I find that show entertaining, but pretty mindless.

A straighter comparison to the Spetnaz would have been either the Recon Marines or the Navy SEALs. The Green Berets are sort of the Jesuits of the US military. They aren't there primarily to go and break things. They infiltrate, earn the trust of the local population, and mess up your ability to operate due to the locals failure to cooperate with you (or actively sabotaging you). They are fluent in multiple languages, skilled in medical and engineering disciplines, and are just as likely to provide clean drinking water, dentistry, and inoculations to the locals as they are to blow up a bridge or assassinate a general.

The Recon Marines and SEALs otoh, have pretty much the same mandate as the Spetnaz: go in under cover of darkness, blow stuff up, kill people, and leave a nasty impression.

And I doubt the Spetnaz would hold up to well to a beatdown from either of them.

Paleocon wrote:
SpacePPoliceman wrote:
The Spetsnaz are badder ass than Green Berets, proven via use of Science!

I find that show entertaining, but pretty mindless.

Whatever, man, they used a guy in a lab coat and a computer. Science!

Paleocon wrote:
The American people have the political will to project power so long as the price is paid only in dollars. We have an extremely low tolerance for our own bloodshed and even less if it involves involuntary service.

You can't compare the will to avoid bloodshed when we're talking about small wars we enter into voluntarily in faraway places for rather debatable goals. I can't think of a modern country that isn't casualty averse in such circumstances. Even the Soviet government felt the need to minimize the reported number of casualties during its war in Afghanistan.

The American public was upset about the number of casualties in the war in the Phillipines at the turn of the century. Only seventeen years later it was willing to suffer thousands of casualties in France to help the British and French defeat the Kaiser (and that was after several years of wanting to stay out of the war- which show you just how quickly public opinion can switch to war mode in a democracy).

Funkenpants wrote:
Suggesting that the U.S. doesn't have the collective will to use the military when we've invaded two foreign countries in 10 years strikes me as a little bit of reach.

Well, part of the context of the Dan Carlin podcast was a war where WE were actually in danger, not just running out and carpetbombing someone.

The thought experiment is what if, on our border, there was a country that was in all ways the same as us except peopled by our WWII generation. Who would win in an all-out, us or them war. Would our society be willing to make the kind of decisions we made in WWII, and with the same level of support from the people?

It was a really great podcast.

He has a knack of starting with a very general and somewhat outrageous statement, and then walking through it in the course of the podcast and explaining it in detail. By the end I'm like, "huh, yeah, I can see where you're coming from."

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
SpacePPoliceman wrote:
The Spetsnaz are badder ass than Green Berets, proven via use of Science!

I find that show entertaining, but pretty mindless.

Whatever, man, they used a guy in a lab coat and a computer. Science!

Right. I like seeing them use all the ancient weapons, but the whole "science" angle adds a goofiness you just don't find in the R. Lee shows.

Ranger Rick wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:
Suggesting that the U.S. doesn't have the collective will to use the military when we've invaded two foreign countries in 10 years strikes me as a little bit of reach.

Well, part of the context of the Dan Carlin podcast was a war where WE were actually in danger, not just running out and carpetbombing someone.

The thought experiment is what if, on our border, there was a country that was in all ways the same as us except peopled by our WWII generation. Who would win in an all-out, us or them war. Would our society be willing to make the kind of decisions we made in WWII, and with the same level of support from the people?

It was a really great podcast.

He has a knack of starting with a very general and somewhat outrageous statement, and then walking through it in the course of the podcast and explaining it in detail. By the end I'm like, "huh, yeah, I can see where you're coming from."

How would they be "in all ways the same as us" whilst being peopled by the WW2 generation? They wouldn't be the same as us if they were peopled by the WW2 generation by definition.

We have arrived at the compromises of our society through a give and take of the environments we've had since that generation. We've created it as much as it has shaped us. If it was the WW2 generation and failed in any way to evolve or change, it would have arrived at a very different society to ours.

Ours is a freer society where blacks vote, women work, and people with slanty eyes aren't sent off to concentration camps. Ours is a richer society where innovation has driven a spectacular degree of wealth that generation could only dream of. Our is a more innovative society where capital flows freely to good ideas and drives success in technologies that generation couldn't conceive of.

As for "toughness", big deal. I'll take our society over theirs any day of the week.

LobsterMobster wrote:
As for Russia:
IMAGE(http://jeremiejordan.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/bear-cavalry.jpg)

I don't have anything to add to the discussion. I'm only reposting for partisans riding bears.

As you read through historical texts from different time periods, and literature throughout the ages, almost every generation says that their grandparents were tougher and that the children of today are even softer than they are. I can guarantee you that the "Greatest Generation" venerated in the original post would have said that their own grandparents were tougher than they were. Even if we're living in a society on a rapid decline into sissyhood, it's at least always been that way.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
As you read through historical texts from different time periods, and literature throughout the ages, almost every generation says that their grandparents were tougher and that the children of today are even softer than they are. I can guarantee you that the "Greatest Generation" venerated in the original post would have said that their own grandparents were tougher than they were. Even if we're living in a society on a rapid decline into sissyhood, it's at least always been that way.

And yet every generation gets their asses handed to them by younger generations of insiders or outsiders. Funny that.

Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather live today than in my grandfather's generation. That's also part of Carin's point.

But aside from military toughness, I really don't see our society doing without to support a war effort, the way the country did in the 40s. Our grandparents did without rubber, copper, certain foodstuffs were scarce, and other resources. While Americans are incredibly generous, we donate our disposable income, not commonplace necessities and whatnot. If another World War started, I can guarrantee that the first thing to be hoarded by the government would be gasoline and oil. So do modern Americans say "We can do it!" and start car pooling or do they scream "Get us out of this war!" so they drive their kids to soccer practice?

Nevin73 wrote:
If another World War started, I can guarrantee that the first thing to be hoarded by the government would be gasoline and oil. So do modern Americans say "We can do it!" and start car pooling or do they scream "Get us out of this war!" so they drive their kids to soccer practice?

Honestly, it depends on the context of the war. If, after 9/11, the President had asked people to halve their gasoline consumption, people would have done it. I believe that any American generation will rise to the moment if they believe that the moment genuinely calls for it. Wars in recent memory have been sold to the American public as quick, painless affairs that necessitated little sacrifice on the part of the average citizen. If the people believe we were entering into an existential conflict, I think you'd see people giving up whatever needed to be surrendered for the sake of the war effort. The problem since World War 2 hasn't so much been that people weren't willing to sacrifice as it is that the American people haven't been broadly convinced of the need for the wars fought or for sacrifices to be made for those wars (and, as was the case following 9/11, have been explicitly told that sacrifice is not necessary).

So who is Dan Carlin? George's less funny brother?