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Belmont Club

The Sad Life of Sergeant Franklin Rock

June 25th, 2014 - 4:50 pm

The classic comic book hero Sgt. Franklin John Rock eventually died, according to the canon, in the European Theater of Operation “on the last day of the war by the last enemy bullet fired”. He was not invincible, in fact the miracle was that he lasted that long.

Sgt Rock was doomed by the “curse of competence”, which all of us know. Jamie Tinker defines it as “when a person is talented, recognized as a great performer [he is] rewarded with… more work.” In Franklin Rock’s case the reward for being good at taking out one Nazi machine gun pillbox was to be assigned to take the next one, and the next, and the next … That grave was waiting for him. It was a miracle Rock made it to VE Day Minus One.

The metaphorical Sergeant Rock lived somewhat longer. Victor Davis Hanson describes his almost superhuman struggle: “we forget that since World War II, the global order has largely been determined by U.S. engagement. The historically rare state of prosperity and peace that defined the postwar world were due to past U.S. vigilance and sacrifice.” This geopolitical master sergeant has been taking one pillbox after the other since World War II.

America — as Sergeant Rock — reformed Germany, created modern Europe, set the stage for the Pacific peace.  It created the modern world.

Germany in the last 150 years has been at the center of three European wars, winning one, losing another, and destroying much of Europe and itself in the third. Yet present-day Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. It is a global leader in high technology and industrial craftsmanship. For seventy years Germany, even after its second historic unification in 1989, has not translated such economic preeminence into military power, much less aggression. In fact, the strategic status quo of postwar Europe—with Britain and France, and their relatively smaller and weaker economies, as the continent’s two sole nuclear powers—remains mostly unquestioned.

That strange fact is due almost entirely to the U.S.-led NATO’s determination to protect the Eastern flank of Europe from potential enemies, to reassure Germany that it need not rearm to enjoy pan-European influence, and to quietly support the European nuclear monopolies of Britain and France. While the U.S. has always talked up the American-inspired United Nations, its first allegiance has always been to assure liberal democratic states in Europe of unshakeable American support. Any weakening of the latter might send Europe back into the tumultuous twentieth century.

A similar paradox exists in Asia. Pakistan and North Korea are two of the weakest economies and most unstable political systems in the region. Yet both nations are nuclear—despite rather than because of U.S.-led efforts at nonproliferation. In comparison, by any logical measure, far wealthier and more sophisticated states like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and perhaps the Philippines should all be nuclear, given their expertise, dangerous locales, and the looming shadows of three proud, and sometime aggressive nations—China, India, and Russia—in their midst. Yet none have. That fact too is largely because of American security guarantees.

And as recompense they gave him one pillbox after the other. But now he’s dead. He died on the last day of the Pax Americana. By his headstone stands Private Gomer Obama, the new squad leader.

Try Moving to Mars

Try Moving to Mars

The good news is that nobody calls “Obama to the front” any more. Poland grudgingly says the US is “still” and important ally, though it’s foreign minister candidly called its alliance under the Obama administration “worthless”. Japan is re-arming. Angela and Francois are dealing with Vladimir while John Kerry begs the Kurds to save Iraq. The reason nobody asks Obama to rush forward is everybody knows that he’s likely to get everyone killed.  The word’s out. For Pete’s sake, just let him play golf. It’s safer that way.

In place of Rock’s inspirational leadership the new motto among allies is “never volunteer for nothing”. When faced with resistance, say ‘what pillbox Lieutenant, I don’ts see no pillbox? Do you Moe?’

As al-Qaeda’s car bomb blitz starts up in Nigeria, as Putin takes apart Ukraine, as Isis drives through Iraq, the watchword is: don’t notice nothing. Because no screwup goes unrewarded. With Private Gomer as squad leader, all the goldbricks will get the cushy jobs. And all the volunteers will wind up like Frank Rock. By contrast Susan Rice’s career will be meteoric. The IRS commish can only be promoted. Recently the Daily Caller noted that the people behind the failed Oregon Health Care exchange got bonuses. Recently news outlets reported that an Obamacare contractor, SERCO, was paying people to do literally nothing. It is still hiring, naturally. There can never be enough people doing nothing.

Smart foreign policy used to be represented by France, which is selling an aircraft carrier to Russia “defying calls from the U.S. and other Western allies to keep the vessel out of the Kremlin’s hands.” The Obama administration, has learned to emulate Paris, to its credit. It is buying Russian helicopters for Afghanistan’s government, which will soon enough be in the hands of the Taliban, just like the Iraqi Humvees which are being driven around by Isis.

And when it all goes bad, Gomer can say. It’s all that guy Rock’s fault. Though Sergeant Rock would be appalled he’s dead. He can’t answer any of the accusations. But he’d still be alive if hadn’t been caught up in the sucker’s game of taking one pillbox after the other, while Gomer wrote up the unit after action reports back at headquarters.

The only way to escape the curse of competence is to privatize the costs and benefits of endeavor. In a world where Rock goes off on his own and Gomer does the same, their relative competences will determine their fates. Where Rock and Gomer are in the same unit, it is Rock who takes the risks and Gomer who gets the credit.

You have to separate the fates. Everybody who has roomed with goof-offs know how it works. The guy who washes the dishes is left with the pile. He may try to ignore the growing pile in the sink, but his roommates know that sooner or later the pile of unwashed plates will get to him.  So they stack it on, eventually claiming it is “their right to have clean dishes.” They picket the apartment. They chant outside his bedroom at night. The only way out is to room by yourself. Only then can you say goodbye to the dirty dishes and escape the Curse of Competence.

This was what the early immigrants to America tried at the outset. They tried to room by themselves. But sea and air travel caught up with America and now even people south of the border have moved in to the new apartment.  Perhaps the only escape from the Curse of Competence is perfecting cheap interplanetary travel; in getting away so far, outcomes are mapped to choices. For the Curse of Competence killed Rock in the end and only bought America grief.

But in the event, maybe not even Mars is far enough. Here’s the prediction. On the day Sergeant Rock’s descendants go to Mars everyone will want to go there too.


Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality
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Top Rated Comments   
No night to go into. Unless you mean the Long Night.

Folks, THIS is OUR World War II. We're going to have to go all out.

Saw this on Neo-Neocon's blog:

RickZ says --

"I must confess: I’m not in flyover country, I’m in NYC with my own self-professed commie mayor, Bill de Bolshevik.

"On the way out the building this morning, I had a brief but enlightening, and scary, conversation with another tenant whom I’ve only seen but never really spoken with before.

"He’s from Russia. He told me that 20 + years ago, he told people the US was finished. They thought he was crazy back then. Even he admits that without what once was the US, the world has no hope.

"He sees it like I see it: We are in the middle of a communist revolution. As we parted, I told him we were counter-revolutionaries, a term he quite easily understood. He laughed and agreed with me.

"He knew more about our government than many born here, especially the LIVs, a/k/a the Free Sh*t Army. He agreed that the media is a propaganda organ, or as I said, ”In Izvestia (the news) there is no Pravda (truth) and in Pravda there is no Izvestia.” Quite surprised him that I knew that quote.

"He acknowledged that he didn’t know what to do nor where to go with this country gone and he, like myself, think it’s over. At this point, to throw off the communist shackles of a unaccountable bureaucracy gone wild is going to take serious bloodshed. I guess we’re both going down with the ship, but on our feet."
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment

THE TWENTY PERCENT

It is said that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Who does the other 20%? I do and you do. Or at least I did.

I’m proud to say my working life was spent among the twenty
Percent of those who built the USA
We built the towers, laid the rails that gave a life of plenty
To everyone who lives here yet today
We built the ships and built the planes that guaranteed the freedom
Of millions whom we never even met
We didn’t care who they might be, be tweedle-dee or dee-dum
And never thought to put them in our debt
But we’re still here and going strong, though not among our leaders
Who seem to think that they’re the world’s elite
But you and I, we know full well that they’re just bottom feeders
Without us working stiffs they’ve naught to eat
We need to understand that Sergeant Rock’s alive and kicking
That MG42 is oiled and primed
He’ll take that nest again and smile and come out safe and ticking
For everything is measured, weighed and timed
This too shall pass, the gauntlet run, so goes the ancient saying
Incompetents and harridans alike
Will slink away, the White House cleansed, they hear the bloodhounds baying
And very soon the midnight chimes will strike

4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah. This lady Ayn Rand used to go on about something like that.

The beauty of capitalism is that sometimes, the rewards go to the competent. The ugliness of socialism is that the rewards NEVER go to the competent, by dogma they should not do so. Nor, as you point out, the punishments.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (86)
All Comments   (86)
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John Koskinen looks like the Christian Szell character ("Der Weiss Angel") in "Marathon Man." I wonder if he carries a spring-loaded stiletto strapped to his forearm. Wouldn't be surprised if he did. He has a sinister countenance.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
My reaction as well. His face looks like plastic - without pores. His eye openings and mouth look like they were carved out of his plastic visage, and his acerbic responses are dismissive, disingenuous, and snarky. Watch for his tongue action next time he testifies. If you never see it, it is because he is not listening.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you were a fly on the wall during this guy's private meetings, you'd have a heart attack at what you were hearing. You'd fall off the wall and this guy's tongue would shoot and grab you before you hit the floor.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Pakistan and North Korea are two of the weakest economies and most unstable political systems in the region. Yet both nations are nuclear—despite rather than because of U.S.-led efforts at nonproliferation. "

Bullpuckey. We looked the other way or dithered for years and let - yes, let - Pakistan and North Korea get nukes. The same thing is happening with Iran - we sit around and talk talk talk while the Iranians get nukes and laugh at us.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Al Gore gave Pakistan the hazmat equipment to handle nuclear material, while Clinton outright gave NK 'nuclear power for peaceful purposes'. While making the mad dog's master China rich. 1000 Chinese front companies in Arkansas when he was governor.

All the moaning about Iranian nukes- literally since 1979- is because the Saudis don't want competition for their Paki blueprinters, Malay machinists, and AQ Khan sales network.

Besides, Iran's been buying up the old Soviet arsenal from Ukraine, Khazakstan, and Belarus for years.
Already got them, that's what all the pussyfooting is about.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
--here's the team handling the Iran bomb. Nearly every line in both biographies sinks the heart a little deeper.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Joseph_Burns

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Sherman
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
'even among former soviets there are many who enthusiastically support present course'

Yes. I was flabbergasted after an escape from a commie country to America in the eighties how many of my countrymen were on the left.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The reason for prohibiting double jeopardy is that every trial has some chance of falsely convicting, and that chance is set where we want it to be, at some low number.

If you string together successive trials, the small chance grows and grows, to where we do not want it to be.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Also the cost of a trial is prohibitive against the truly innocent, not to mention it is destructive even of the state to so waste money and abuse power.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
In reality, Sgt Rock would be writing the after-mission reports, too, for the same reason he is taking out pillboxes; it has to be done right.

Commanders often find that the same name keeps coming up, not only for vitally important genuine mission-related tasks but also for pointless bureaucratic trivia that they cannot escape.

"Boy! This job is key! We can’t afford to screw it up. I'll put Capt Rock on it; I can trust him."

"Crap! Now who am I gonna get to do this? If our Security Officer's Handbook is not just like that damn GS-9 wants it, I'll hear about it from the boss. And he just gave me an earful because our Savings Bond Drive participation rate was only 99.8 %. I better give it to Capt Rock."

And pretty soon Capt Rock is being chewed out on a daily basis for not getting all his work done in a timely fashion.

By the way, PJMedia is now crashing in Firefox not only because of b.scorecardresearch but also due to something called redir.adapt.TV/redir as well as ver-adt.vindicosuite.com. This just keeps getting better and better!
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Commanders often find that the same name keeps coming up, not only for vitally important genuine mission-related tasks but also for pointless bureaucratic trivia that they cannot escape."

This pointless trivia problem was taken to absurdity during WW2 by bored Army officer (and habitual practical joker) Hugh Troy, Jr. (1906-1964) who originated and mimeographed at his sleepy Army base a standardized Flypaper Report form and began submitting them along with genuinely required reports to higher authority at the Pentagon. He reported in great esoteric detail the daily catch of flies on flypaper strips hung in his installation's mess halls. After many weeks of garnering no response, he discontinued his reporting, but soon was admonished for failing to make these flypaper statistics submittals on time, as were other officers who had never heard of them before.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The way I heard it was that a Sgt who ran one of the multiple mess halls at a large Army base invented the flypaper report as a way to test his theory about how Army bureaucracy worked. He started sending in the reports and after a month or so the Sgts running the other mess halls came over asking how to do the reports - they had been asked where theirs was.

A friend of mine working at Muroc AFB in the late 1940's got an angry call from Wright Field. They complained that someone had screwed up the reports for Aircraft 6062. The reports showed flight times of maybe 30 min but engine run times of merely 5 min. This clearly was impossible!
The aircraft was the Bell X-1 rocket plane.
4 weeks ago
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PJM until just now has been for the last couple days opening without any way to comment. Comments are there, but no window, nor any button to open one.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
I alternate between Chrome and Opera and I only get weird stuff occasionally. Maybe those PJM gremlins haven't learned to speak Canajun. I Can add a note that I dumped Firefox completely.
4 weeks ago
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'Can add a note' haw --thanks for the capital 'C' --i'da run right past --
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Personally I get my kicks from reading stories about going on interplanetary journeys and, of course, shooting stuff into tiny pieces in meatspace, but I see a big future for vodka in the brave new America...And it's curious that there seems to be an all out push to normalize various medicinal cannabinoid snakeoils and recreational choomage even as reams of words get deprecated into oblivion.

I wonder why?

Commies...
Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em in the nutsack.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yet.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is interesting to note that many of the people involved in the current transfer of humanity across the lower frontier are not necessarily persuaded of the utility of pacifism in any form. Coyotes and Wolves in the mix. The likelihood of the long term persistence of the Progressive population, unless they eschew their philosophical embrace of suicide, diminishes with each implementation of their own policies.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Right on the money there at the end. The politically correct spend all day defending neighborhoods they'd never live in and hating on neighborhoods they'd never leave.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
And they'll have a right to go there, no matter what. And to be represented by a government-paid lawyer if their rights are being violated, like a lack of oxygen and no place to cash their EBT cards.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another cure is for neither Rock nor Gomer to write the after action reports. Web 3.0 will allow an unprecedented (though not perfect) amount of that sort of honest third party analysis.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just like how digitization of medical records was suppsoed to save tons of money and make thing so much better. Obama said it would be wonderful and would revolutionize everything in medical care.

In reality it cost a ton of money, ran some small doctors offices out of business, and even the NYT admits it did not save a dime.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Word processing was supposed to reduce the cost of sending a business letter.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some Pole reportedly said an Obama deal was like giving oral sex but not getting anything in return.
One mistake I think the left has done that concentrating in institutions they have created geographical areas that are "target rich environments."
The mockery bombs are already inflicting casualties and their economic policies are pushing their supporters out jobs.
The concept of Jihad can go both ways.
4 weeks ago
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Resisting the man is very different from being the man.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
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