Sunday, September 29, 2013


We all have things in our pasts that have directed us toward where and what we are today.  Everything we are at any given instant is the summation of events from our past.  Our lives are chalkboards from which nothing can ever be erased – covered over by later events, but never erased.

When I was in the second grade, at La Mesa Elementary School, in Albuquerque, NM, in 1955, my classmates and I were learning to read.  I took to it like a duck to water.  Even our rudimentary grasp of the written word opened up unfathomable universes to us – our parents could no longer write notes with the expectation that we wouldn’t find out what they said.  Magazines, newspapers, billboards, cereal boxes, and a million other media were suddenly exposed to us.  Given what a pack of filthy-minded wretches we were, even at that age, the metaphor of getting a glimpse of the wonders beneath a stripper’s cloak is not out of place.  The written word is a drug, so addictive and mind-altering as to dwarf meth, cocaine, and all the other substances that may seem to stretch, but actually pervert the consciousness.


So, all that heavy epistemological stuff aside, we discovered all kinds of things that had been right under our noses.  Trenchant in my life were two such discoveries.  First was the fact that my initials spell war.  Wessley Alvis Rodgers.  I was named for my mom’s great uncle on her dad’s side, Henry Wessley Hyatt, and her dad, Alvis Graves.  My classmates cared not a fig for all that, though;  they’d found something to tease me about.  All day, every day at school, at play after school, and even in the school league baseball we played in the summer, I got teased about war.  My reaction was not altogether unpredictable.  I thought, “If they want me to be warlike, by thunder, I’ll give ‘em war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.”  (Of course, I hadn’t read such bellicose hyperbole at that time, but the emotion was the same.)

I became the most blood-thirsty little creep you ever saw.  Everything in my school work had to do with war:  the sentences I wrote for my spelling words, the pictures I drew in art class, the songs I sang on the playground…  I immersed myself in war, and became a poster boy for gun control and Ritalin, though only the former existed at the time.  (My first schoolyard fist fight was over gun control in the 3rd grade.  My second was in the 5th grade, when some damnyankee insulted Texas.)  Late in my 2nd grade year, I got a copy of Adolf Galland’s “The First and the Last,” a history of the Luftwaffe in WWII.  I have no idea on earth where I got it, but when my classmates were finding the Dick and Jane books growing old, I was up to my eyeballs in Goering’s perfidy, Hitler’s lunacy, and the hundred-proof fumes that reek from good aviation writing.  My Boy Scout handbooks were defaced with warlike slogans, especially those relating to the Southern Confederacy and the Texas War for Independence.

It got so bad that, in my 6th grade year, Mom and Dad sat me down and had a serious talk with me about how horrible war is, and how it is nothing to make light of or joke about.  It was years before I really understood what they were talking about.  Dad was Marine veteran of the Pacific fighting, most notably on Iwo Jima, and Mom had lost several relatives, friends, and, though she never opened up to me about it, I think a lover or two in the war.  I can now only imaging the distress I must have caused them with my fetish.

Two things happened in high school that had a positive effect on the course of my life by directly influencing my fascination with war.  One came from my world history teacher, Mrs. Barbara Murdoch.  Rather than beat me up about my foolishness, she used it as leverage to change my direction, as a judo practicant uses the momentum of his opponent against him.  She pointed out that an interest in war is okay, but if I were to study war, I should study the entire subject.  “Huh?” I probably said, staring at her like a cow at a new gate.  She said that if I were to really understand war, and become a master of the subject, I needed to understand, not just the campaigns and battles, but the causes and effects of war.  All wars have causes, no matter how irrational or contrived, and those causes enable the student to understand much more clearly the prosecution of the war.  Then, all wars have effects, which all too often are the causes of the next war.

I was blown away!  With a few sentences, Mrs. Murdoch had dynamited the walls I’d built around my mind, and exposed me to horizons I’d never imagined.  It didn’t dawn on my for several years that if you study the causes of wars, the wars, and the results of wars, that’s pretty much the totality of history.

The second thing that happened in high school was that I found a book of excerpts from the best writing about the War Between the States.  It might have been Catton, or even Chamberlain, but at some point, I was struck dumb by the courage and persistence of those soldiers.  Suddenly, war was not a lot of gunsmoke and blood; it was a revelation of the very greatest traits of humanity – and, yes, of the worst, but the real power is in the former.  How could those men have gone back, day after day, for four years, to the same unspeakable butchery they’d seen a dozen times before?  From that point on, the real wonder of war, for me, was not that so many died, but that so many offered themselves up for what they believed in, and that so many survived and prospered in their later years.  (I have heard furious fire, where the roar of 30,000 rifles blended into a single Niagara of sound – an unarticulated roar, in which individual shots, even the gut-shaking bellow of individual cannon, were lost in the river, and I have been stricken by the thought that any had survived, at all.  The miracle of war is not the death, but the life, and that realization has been central to my philosophy and my study of history for nigh 40 years.)


I said there were two things that happened that year.  The second was the discovery by my classmates that my middle name, Alvis, was very close to the first name of a good-lookin’ kid from Tupelo, Mississippi who hit the big time in rock and roll that year.  As with my initials, they teased me ceaselessly about Elvis.  I couldn’t even walk into the cafeteria without hearing hoots and catcalls, and the boys squealing, “Ooohh!  Elvis!  Come kiss me!” like the teenage girls we saw on the news.  (Not all of us had TV at the time.  We didn’t get our first one until ’56.)

For some reason, I reacted to this teasing in a manner opposite to how I reacted to the war business.  I decided that I hated rock and roll and everything and everyone associated with it.  Oh! How I loathed every bar and every note of every rock and roll song ever written!  Regards rock and roll, I became the exact opposite to what I was regards war.

That attitude lasted until I was in my 20’s, when I softened enough to tap my toe to “Great Balls of Fire,” or sway just a little to some of the love songs.  I now enjoy quite a bit of the old rock and roll, and some of the newer stuff.  Metal has never held any attraction to me, but I really do enjoy some of the rest of it.  I’m pathetically ignorant of the history of the genre and its artists.  “Have I ever listened to Cream?  Shoot, I don’t even drink it in my coffee.”

My earliest musical memories are of the big bands.  Mom and Dad loved that music, especially Glenn Miller.  But Mom was a Texas gal, and had no qualms at all about singing along with Bob Wills and the like.  When Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man” came out, Mom flipped for it.  We listened to that LP over and over, until I can not only sing the words, but “boom-boom-thump” the drum part and “teow-te-teow-tooowww” the guitar licks.  I still love every tune on that album.  It broadened my musical tastes considerably.

While in the Marines in the late ‘60’s, I was heavily into the country music of that time, and even got into a few bar fights with guys who preferred soul music or rock. To this day, I shudder whenever I hear rap music because when Rap Brown was doing his thing, and the foundations of rap were being laid, the only people who listened to that stuff used to shoot at me with live ammunition and distressing frequency, which left a very resilient bad taste in my mouth.  In the late 70’s I got interested in classical music and listened to that almost exclusively for a few years, and military band music, including bagpipes, has been a favorite – much to the horror of my wives and kids. 


Now here’s the point of all this blather.  I responded to childhood teasing on two subjects in opposite ways, and that has done much to set the direction of my life.  But how might I have turned out if I’d responded differently?  What if I’d hated war and loved rock and roll?  What a different man I’d have become!  Shoot, I’d probably have died of syphilis or whites in Haight Ashbury, and never have become a man, at all!

Some things in our lives are trivial, and some are crucial.  My reaction to teasing turned out to have been crucial, though no one could have predicted it at the time.  (Well, there were those who predicted my fascination with war would have landed me on death row somewhere.)  The catch is that we can’t tell which will be which until much later in our lives.  We make the best decisions we can, and we go on down the road.  Trying to second guess the Master’s plan for us – or fate, if you prefer – will make you nuts, and can effectively paralyze you.  It’s sort of like Heisenberg’s principle:  you can’t know everything there is to know about something without affecting it so that what you thought was true, isn’t, precisely because you tried to know it.  Yeah H. makes my teeth itch sometimes, too.

Don’t let the fact that you can’t know what is important and what isn’t change what you do.  Do your best, and treat everything as if it were important – on an analog scale of importance and urgency, of course!  Because every decision you make has the potential of making you a warmonger or an acidhead, take none of them lightly, but don’t obsess and try to see every detail of the road ahead.  At some point, you will be deliciously surprised, and maybe disappointed, but that’s okay. 

It’s called life.  Live it. Go ahead.  I dare you

Sunday, September 22, 2013


There is much talk of "the gun control debate." There should be no debate. Here's my version of the conversation, which, you will notice, is not a debate.

Liberal: "I want to take away your gun."

Me: "Well, you can't have it. I've done nothing..."

Liberal (escalating volume): "But if nobody had..."

Me (very quietly, glaring into his eyes): "Shut up. Shut up. There is no discussison here. It's mine. I've never done anything wrong with it or hurt anyone with it...."

Liberal (louder and more shrill): "It's your fault thousands of children are dying eve..."

Me (Really, REALLY lound, and really close): "I told you to shut the f*** up, you soulless sonofab****! It's mine. I've done nothing wrong with it, and you can't have it. Now shut up and get out of my face or fill your hand!"

Liberal (really shrill and whining): "But I have a right to..."

Me (quiet again, growling, even closer): "You have a right to think whatever you want, but you don't have a right to take my gun. Now shut up and get out of my face or fill your hand. Do you hear me? Shut up or fill your hand. There is no debate. There's peace or there's a gunfight, then there's peace. I don't give a damn about converting you. You are too stupid be allowed off leash, anyway."

That's about how it should go. Would we have a slavery debate? Well, yes, come to think of it, with the junta's refusal to enforce the border, I guess we are having a slavery debate.

Would we have a 1st amendment deb... Well, yeah, I guess we're having one of those, too. How about a 5th amendment debate.... Hmmm. Ditto and ditto.

Come to think of it, all of our rights are up for debate and restriction. About the only ones that aren't are the rights of international trespassers to our money, our schools, our emergency medicine... and... I guess the rights of Muslims to beat their daughters and wives to death whenever they choose.

And that, right there, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, is why the 2nd amendment is up for debate and restriction
Sic Semper Tyrannus

Friday, September 13, 2013


Since my service in Vietnam, I’ve been very interested in insurrection, guerilla war, “asymmetrical war,” and the whole paradigm of a war on terror.  Some months ago, I wrote an essay on this blog called, “Rebellion and Folly.”  This is something of a followup to that essay.

It is a truism that any guerilla action must have the support of at least a large percentage of the population.  But such action requires other things, too. 

1:         It requires what von Clausewitz called, “the economy of force,” or the principle of bringing one’s greatest strength against the enemy’s greatest weakness, which is probably a good working definition of “asymmetrical war.” 

2:         It requires that the guerilla force (May I abbreviate “GF?”) be decentralized, or scattered, so that the enemy can’t use economy of force on it. 

3:         It requires, as a corollary to decentralization, a means of communication, so the GF can alert troops to travel to a point of concentration.

4:         As a corollary to both the previous points, it requires that the GF have a means of transportation that is stealthy enough to avoid detection and interdiction, but able to move enough people far enough and fast enough to get there before the battle is over. 

5:         Finally, it requires that the GF take charge of the operational tempo; the smaller force must be able to pick the time, the ground, and the objective.

That last one is really the object of all the others.  If the GF allows the enemy to pick the time, the ground, and the objective of any action, it surrenders, by definition, its ability to use economy of force.  The GF then finds itself in the position of being where a larger, generally better armed enemy expects it to be.  When this happens, the asymmetry goes over to the enemy’s side, and the GF gets clobbered.

Only by being able to communicate with scattered forces and bring them to the fight can the GF actually take control of the operational tempo.  These should not be viewed as unrelated abstractions, but as spokes of a wheel, or sides of a box.  Each of these points is worthy of a book, and I don’t have time to do that.  What I’d like to do here is analyze potential actions by an enemy, and explore how a GF might counter such tactics.

SCENARIO:  A politically active, extremely vocal, and effective leader of the GF is targeted for removal.  The conflict has not escalated to the point where he might simply be shot, and the authorities have not gained sufficient control over the population to allow them any egregiously offensive action.  They know that the GF is very dangerous, and they understand points one through five.  They have the advantages of open movement, surveillance equipment, and communication. 

They watch the leader until they have documented his patterns:  where he lives, where he works, where he shops, and the routes and times he travels between these points.  Pertinent information on his friends and family is also gathered.  When the authorities are ready, they move.  Because of their resources, they put a half-dozen armed “police” in a nondescript van or SUV.  It is parked at the curb on a lightly-travelled residential street the leader uses to get home – and the nearer his home, the better.  Another vehicle is marked to resemble a city or county police vehicle, and positioned to swing in behind the leader a block before he turns onto the residential street.  (The bad guys’ following the good guys for blocks is baloney.  They may be crazy, but they are seldom stupid.)

As the leader turns that last corner, the trailing vehicle turns on his flashing lights and siren.  The leader pulls to the curb, kills his engine, and gets out his registration.  An officer from the trailing vehicle approaches and engages him verbally. As armed men suddenly spill out of the van, the officer at the car door draws his weapon and covers the leader at very close range.  In a matter of seconds, the leader is out of his car, handcuffed, and put in one of the other vehicles.  A search of his car is guaranteed to find some contraband, which is used as an excuse to search his house.  Within two minutes of the leader stopping his car, the “police” are kicking their way into his house.  His family is handcuffed and intimidated.  Any firearms in the house are seized, along with his computers, correspondence, personal papers, two-way radios, and address books.

Within 30 minutes or less, the leader is on his way to jail and much of his property is in the possession of the authorities.  They will hold him for weeks, then release him on what amounts to house arrest or parole, in which he is denied freedom of movement and every interaction with other people is documented and investigated.  His property is never returned, or if it is, his computers are erased and his firearms rendered unusable.  He is never charged, so there will never be a trial to determine guilt or find the authorities in violation of any law.

Next week, the same thing happens in another city, and in another the week after that. One leader may be pulled out of line at a DWI checkpoint.  Another may walk into his house and find his wife and children with guns to their heads.  Word of these arrests will not get out.  There may be whispers or rumors, but they will be dismissed and discredited by the propaganda organs that are all controlled by the authorities

So.  Because of the speed at which these operations occurred, there was no chance for any GF units to communicate, much less to concentrate.  The seizure of families gave the authorities effective shields against any but the most ambitious sniper, but that sniper would never be on the scene, anyway. The asymmetry of force is 100% with the authorities.  By the time the GF concentrated enough force to do anything, they were in the position of storming a police station or whatever government fortress to which the leaders had been taken.  It may be days before they are even aware of the events.

In many cases, the members of a GF will be honest, law abiding citizens, possessing no desire to just shoot agents of the authorities.  Many will be held back by moral considerations and a loathing to kill except in self-defense.  Others will be held back by an entirely justified fear of being attacked by overwhelming force.  Some will be waiting for someone else to start the shooting war.  At some point, the GF will have lost so many leaders and organizers that it will be crippled.

The question, then, is this:  how can a GF prevent this sort of slow erosion of its cadre? I can think of two ways:  (1) travel in groups large enough to offer resistance sufficiently substantial to give the authorities pause, which would destroy the GF’s anonymity and leave control of the tempo to the authorities.  (2) Use tactics to lure enemy squads into ambushes that could be assembled, sprung, and dispersed very quickly. 

The former would mean utter defeat for the GF, and very quickly.  The latter would be impossible without communication and transportation, both of which would be very dangerous if the authorities have an overwhelming superiority in monitoring over-the-air communication, and the means of pouncing on vehicles moving on streets or highways.  This will lead to a rapid escalation in hostile action, and the GF that embarks on this course had better be ready to “go big or stay home.”

13 Sept., 2013