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And the Band Played On

With an update on the Petraeus resignation. Perhaps a national ad hoc council separate from the GOP should be formed to serve as a nucleus to focus opinion and articulate ideas, should more extraordinary events follow. If you don't have a bucket, you can't catch the rain.


It was another November in a year long ago. Confidence ran high that this time the enemy defenses would be breached by an unprecedented bombardment of shrapnel, which bursting in the air and raining innumerable fragments at the ground would cut the barbed wire obstacles.

When the moment came to go over the top the men were still lighthearted. The bombardment was visually reassuring, their training, the meticulous planning, upbore them.  As they made their way across No-Man's-Land, they found the wire largely undisturbed. The strands were too slight to be disturbed by the fragments. However, while there was machine gun fire from the enemy trenchline to be sure, it was not terrible because even in 1916 the German line contained relatively few machine guns per thousand yards of frontage.

Then things changed abruptly when they came within a certain distance. Veterans recalled that it was like hitting a wall. One moment they were safe; the next they were spun around. The density of lead rose exponentially. The British soldiers at the Somme were for a moment unable to understand what had confounded their calculations.

What had happened was simple. The Germans had adopted new machine gun tactics. Instead of deploying the guns behind the rifle line, where they fired at right angles to the advancing British, they had posted them slightly forward at the ends of each rifle line so that they could fire across and parallel to the main traces of the trench. Instead of hitting them from an angle at which they were spread out, the German MGs were hitting the British in the flanks, where the advancing lines appeared to merge into a single file as seen from the side. The streams of bullets converging from the perspective in which they were bunched up. Moreover, the enfilading guns were converging from either side. This was the infamous "crossfire".

Today most people think of "crossfire" as the title of a talk show. It originally meant an advantage conferred by geometry in which all the forces would be funneled into a point where the defender had absolute control and the attacker had lost his. We are describing of course, not the Mitt Romney campaign of 2012, but the administration's foreign policy, which is getting hit from all sides.

What happens when you concentrate rigging at choke points ... well, never mind.

For now the power of the administration lies in telling its rivals what to do, and watching them meekly do it. The Democrats provide the Republicans with a vote total from Chicago, and the GOP takes it as gospel. It tells the GOP what they should do to win next time and they do it. But while "the entire GOP elite seems to be trying to sell out en masse on immigration" in order to become more like the Democrats, Tehran has asked itself: What if we don't believe the New York Times?

Iran acted on the premise and have decided they can open fire on U.S. drones. "Iranian warplanes shot at an American military surveillance drone flying over the Persian Gulf near Iran last week" in international airspace. Another drone, the top-secret RQ-170, was lost to the Iranians last year.

Meanwhile, America's oldest Pacific allies are demonstrating a disturbing lack of confidence in the administration. They too are losing confidence in the New York Times.