Back In the USSR

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Admittedly, evidence has been thin in recent years that the Russians secretly won the Cold War—limited mainly to the Pope's failure to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima and the large number of American ignoramuses who think vodka is the coolest booze you can possibly drink.

But here's a surprise: evidence that old-fashioned Soviet-style "wave" tactical doctrine—complete with heavy equipment, ground-hungry exploitation, slow-but-total advance, and political cooperation from locals—is coming back into fashion. From a Wall Street Journal article by Greg Jaffe:

Now, the escalating insurgency in Iraq is showing that lightning assaults can quickly topple a regime—but also unleash problems for which small, fast, high-tech U.S. forces are ill-equipped.

"We're realizing strategic victory is about a lot more than annihilating the enemy," says one senior defense official in Mr. Rumsfeld's office. Victory also requires winning the support of locals and tracking down insurgents, who can easily elude advanced surveillance technology and precision strikes. In some cases, a slower, more methodical attack, one that allows U.S. troops to stabilize one area and hold it up as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country, could produce better results, according to emerging Army thinking.

Whole article, which will be posted for a few more days at Formerly Deja News, here. Don't be put off by my own strained Soviet analogy; though this whole article may just be some sort of proxy assault by opponents of Secretary Rumsfeld's lean and mean doctrine, it's got some pretty interesting details. I wonder how universally applicable the Iraq experience really is: Lean and mean seemed to work pretty well in Afghanistan (and heavy and slow, as the Russkies learned, didn't).

NEXT: It's Over, Tim. It's Over. Let's Go Home.

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  1. So, Tim, what exactly is the coolest booze you can possibly drink?

  2. Does that mean we’ll get new music out of the B-52s or Joy Division? 🙂

  3. E. Steven: I’ll take Scotch, Bourbon, Irish Whiskey, Kentucky or even humble Canadian Whiskey before bothering with any of the clear stuff. If you’re talking Martinis, I, like Warren Zevon, would rather feel bad than not feel anything at all, so gin it is.

    I suppose there’s no problem with vodka in the various vodka-specific drinks: Screwdrivers, Cosmopolitans, “Infusions” and so on-though these are all pretty low on my list of preferences. The problem with vodka is that it’s the John Kerry of booze, favored precisely because it’s odorless, colorless, and flavorless; it gives no offense and little pleasure. It’s especially dismaying that there’s now this whole Vodka Culture of people who (having forgotten or never known that they’re usually drinking gin cocktails with vodka training wheels) convince themselves there’s some huge difference between Stolies, Belvedere, Finlandia, and whatever you can get for a fiver at Trader Joe’s.

    Vodka has been good for advertising though. Nothing stirs a marketer’s creativity like trying to create brand distinctions where all the brands are equally bland.

  4. Hm, interesting. However, vodka can be a good choice, when pairing with some devilishly expensive food that one doesn’t want to overpower the tase of. I generally prefer an ultra smooth ice-cold vodka, such as Absolut Level, when eating oysters or caviar. The transparency or, if you wish, the Kerryishness of the vodka provides a nice alcoholic window through which to enjoy those delicasies.

    Having said that, as far as pure driniking is concerned, gin is a far more complex and very underrated liquor. I tend to like the strong Dutch stuff, but a current favorite is the Scottish Hendrick’s which comes in a bitchin’ medicine bottle and is flavored with rose petals and cucumbers.

    Though, if we’re talking the grownup stuff, I don’t think one can do better than a simple Rye. Mixed with a little ginger ale and a lot of ice, it is the perfect highball, good enough for Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, your parents and you.

  5. Hm, interesting. However, vodka can be a good choice, when pairing with some devilishly expensive food that one doesn’t want to overpower the tase of. I generally prefer an ultra smooth ice-cold vodka, such as Absolut Level, when eating oysters or caviar. The transparency or, if you wish, the Kerryishness of the vodka provides a nice alcoholic window through which to enjoy those delicasies.

    No argument there. There are no bad boozes, only bad drinkers.

  6. Hey, I like vodka! When I’m not drinking Bobmbay Sapphire gin, Middleton whiskey, or Glenfiddich single-malt scotcth, vodka is the wya to go. WEspecially if it’s included in one of the delicisious Bloody Marys prepared by one of the hot hot hot barmaids at a certain bar in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis.

    (I just had a wine and four beers at our office building’s holiday party, and ratehr low alcohowl tolerance, so please excuese me if I say something i shouldn’t like how much I want to give a full-body naked lip-and-tongue massage to Valerie Bertinielli. I’m am completelty trutful when I say this.)

  7. I always thought of Scotch and Whiskey as the George W. Bush of booze.

    Hard to swallow, but once you buy into the Manichean doctrines of its enthusiasts you almost want to believe that you’re in a far superior kind of stupor than those other guys.

  8. Mixed with a little ginger ale and a lot of ice, it is the perfect highball, good enough for Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, your parents and you.

    And that is the perfect blurb, worthy of The Official Preppy Handbook or the J. Peterman catalogue. (Actually I suspect the Peterman style was borrowed/stolen from the 80s Banana Republic catalogues.)

    PS. Friends don’t let friends type drunk.

  9. How ironic this thread is about how to kill people slowly–the Russian way vs. quickly–the American way–juxtaposed with how to kill oneself slowly with alcohol.

    Can we survive until the winter solstice for chrissakes? (The annual “light at the end of the tunnel.”)

    Tonight I, a Scots-Irish Tennessee Squire and owner of one square inch of scrub land in Lynchburg, TN, am poisoning myself with scotch. Go figger.

    Can we all make it a New Years’ Resolution to try to discourage our various governments from killing people–slowly or any other way?

  10. “PS. Friends don’t let friends type drunk.”

    Lisa B.,
    What? Are you Ms. Santy Klaus? Zipping thither and yon to plunk your fetching, if pasty posterior onto the keyboards of the rank and file here on H&R?

    I have some milk and cookies for you!

  11. I used to dislike vodka too — until a Russian friend provided my brother and me with a bottle apiece that he’d personally imported from the Motherland. Their vodka really does taste better than ours. I’m told it has to do with whether the spirit is made from rice or from wheat, though at this late date I can’t remember which is which.

  12. Each to his own tipple. I love Irish whiskey, even if it doesn’t love me. I’m better off sticking to a pint or 3.

    As for the article, linking to someone’s posting of a copyrighted WSJ article on USENET is uncool. Does anyone at Reason support copyright at all, anymore?

    Kevin

  13. I’m sober now. Sorry, everybody.

  14. i thought vodka was made from potatoes.

  15. There is a difference between vodkas, though not necessarily between brands. The majority of vodkas today seem to be grain based with a completely invisible flavour and a harsh finish.

    Potato is the way to go. I personally drink Glacier, made from the potatoes of Idaho Mormon farmers, and it has a delicate sweet aftertaste and is painfully smooth. Chopin is much the same way.

    In Afghanistan we already had a decently strong, NATIVE (shouted for emphasis) army / insurgency on the ground which would happily act as our agents in the fight. Hence our ability to win with limited forces.

    This self-same strategy would have worked in ’91 if Bush One had been willing to work with the Shia/Kurds and given them air support / special forces action. Saddam could have been overthrown with relatively minimal US support and there wouldn’t have been much of an occupation afterwards.

    However, with no armed native support on the ground with the exception of the Kurds (the only quiet area in the current situation), the Soviet-esque response would have been better in the current fight. There still would have been an insurgency but it would have been much weaker with 500,000 boots in country.

    So maybe the axiom should be: fast and light when there’s armed local support; slow and heavy when there’s not.

  16. As for the article, linking to someone’s posting of a copyrighted WSJ article on USENET is uncool. Does anyone at Reason support copyright at all, anymore?

    I support copyright, but a) the article was USENETted by somebody else and will only be archived for a couple days; we only reprinted two grafs, which is well within the bounds of fair use; and b) The Wall Street Journal Online version ripped me off for a year’s worth of service that I didn’t order and never used, so anything I can do to take it out of their hide…

  17. My stomach has seen too much abuse from bad grocery-store (> 40 proof) whiskey to tolerate much of it anymore. (We got drunk more on the absolute nasty taste more than the alcohol, which we called the Arrff.) Now, when partaking of a Guinness or some other beer, I’ll sip the best Scotch I have on hand. Lately, I’ve also moved over to White Russians, more because of Big Lebowski than anything else.

    The other topic seems to be like saying, “You shouldn’t kill your next-door neighbor, but if you were to; this is the way to do it.” If our country still knew the way the whole defense thing should work, we’d be on the other side of that argument (if somebody would be crazy enough to try and invade).

  18. Nothin’ beats a nice Scotch, but there’s nothin’ wrong with a White Russian.

    …especially if she has really big…

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