August 25, 2007


There has been a lot of talk this week about what would happened if the U.S had helped South Vietnam resist the North Vietnamese offensive of December 1974 with airstrikes. The Spring 1972 North Vietnamese offensive had been defeated by a combination of South Vietnamese soldiers and American air power, with few American deaths (only 300 were killed in Vietnam in the entire year of 1972). In the wake of Watergate, however, the now-dominant Democratic Congress didn't want to help any more, and South Vietnam quickly collapsed, along with anti-Communist governments in neighboring Cambodia and Laos.

Today, with American air power so unchallenged, it seems strange that the Democrats didn't want to allow air support of the South Vietnamese. After all, a couple of decades later, a Democrat President got involved in an internal dispute of negligible significance to America, and bombed Yugoslavia into ceding control of its internationally-recognized Kosovo province, at minimal cost in lost aircraft. The number of planes lost to enemy fire in both Iraq wars has also been tiny.

But, the American advantage in air war was much less overwhelming in the 1970s. We lost 3,322 fixed-wing aircraft in Vietnam, perhaps the majority of that number to enemy fire. During Operation Linebacker I in the middle of 1972 that helped defeat the North Vietnamese armored invasion, 104 US planes were lost in combat. Airmen who survived being shot down often became prisoners (in effect, hostages). Years of negotiations had been required to get the POWs back in early 1973, so there would have been reluctance to follow a policy that would have created new POWs.

So, providing air support was nowhere near as painless as it seems now.

There then followed a half decade of Soviet advances around the world, in contrast to the stability of the strategic balance that had endured during most of the Vietnam War. I'm a big believer in the truism that people love a winner and hate a loser, and losing in Vietnam made the U.S. look like a ... loser.

Fortunately, the Soviets wasted their treasure on useless new Third World allies like Ethiopia, while letting a puppet state that really mattered -- Poland -- go to hell.

Luckily, the Communist dictatorship of united Vietnam proved relatively non-insane, and Vietnam today is a pro-capitalist dictatorship, which the U.S. would have found perfectly acceptable back then. But the Hanoi regime was dedicated to communism and wouldn't give it up no matter how many Tennessee Valley Authority-style dams LBJ offered to build for them. So, war seems to have been completely pointless on both sides. Of course, from the point of view of the Communist Party members, while they may not be communist anymore, their party still hold a complete monopoly on political power. (Interestingly, the Vietnamese dictatorship, unlike, say, the Chinese or Burmese dictatorships, is almost never criticized abroad these days.)

On the other hand, the batting average of East Asian communist countries at being non-insane is quite bad. If Vietnam, Laos, and (possibly) Mongolia behaved less horribly than expected, Cambodia, China, and North Korea were even crazier than imagined. The most obvious analogy for American leaders in the 1960s for Vietnam was Korea, where we had lost 33,000 men to keep the northern communist regime from overrunning the southern capitalist regime.

Whether the Korean War was worth the cost is seldom discussed these days. (Of course, almost nobody ever talks about the Korean War at all.) Today, 57 years after the start of the Korean war, young South Koreans are about half a foot taller than their cousins in North Korea. Ironically, fighting to a draw may have proved the best outcome for the U.S. in the Cold War, because the emerging economic chasm between the two Koreas provided a salutary lesson in the superiority of capitalism over communism.

Why the Vietnamese War proceeded so differently from Korean War is another topic of little interest today. I suspect one important difference was that Korea was a peninsula, so that after the war, the U.S. could adequately defend against another North Korean invasion across the border, which is only 238 km long. In contrast, South Vietnam had long borders with the hapless neutral countries of Laos and Cambodia, which North Vietnam abused as staging grounds.

Second, Korea had been colonized by the Japanese, whom America defeated, not by white men. In Vietnam, America's racial and political ties to the French former colonial masters were detrimental.

Third, North Korea relied upon regular army units for its invasion, which the U.S defeated at Inchon and North Vietnam had to be bailed out by a million Chinese communist regulars. In contrast, the Hanoi regime artfully mixed irregular and regular forces. When the Viet Cong went on the offensive in 1968, they were largely wiped, but the use of irregular tactics normally annoyed and frustrated the Americans. After most American troops were withdrawn, Hanoi shifted to regular warfare (including tanks) for its 1972 and 1974-75 offensives. Presumably, Hanoi learned from communist mistakes in the Korean War.

This Cold War history, however, has mostly academic relevance to today's struggle with Islamic extremists. The Soviet Union was a vast country with a vast military, and erratic but sometimes impressive technological capabilities. Its communist ideology could win converts among the elites of foreign countries on its own.

In contrast, Islam has virtually no appeal to anyone above the lowest orders of society if they weren't born into a Muslim family. There is no single Islamic superpower to provide direction to the squabbling Muslim states, and most of these governments are more or less averse to the extremists. Even taken together, all the Muslim states in the world have only a small fraction of America's military might. For example, there is no Muslim aircraft carrier. Technologically, Pakistan is 50 years behind America in the development of nuclear weapons, and the rest lag even farther.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 23, 2007

The Decline of Skull & Bones

My informant (who is not a member of the Yale secret society, but has reliable inside info) writes:

First, you observe that 5 of the last 10 major party candidates were bonespersons. Four of those five, however, were Bushes. It is more likely that Bones has benefited from the Bush dynasty than that the Bush dynasty has benefited from Bones. In fact, George H.W. Bush has complained that Bones was if anything a liability for him as a politician, and I would tend to believe him. As for Kerry, Bones membership may have conferred some modest benefit, but his rise to prominence in the early 1970s was largely his own doing. His also had helpful family connections and a talent for marrying rich women. I doubt that Bones was much of a factor in his career – although it probably didn’t have as much of a downside for him, as a Democrat, as it may have had for the Bushes.

Finally, on the current influence of the society, it has very little. The admission of women in the early 1990s was disastrous for the Skull & Bones and undermined the cohesion required to make secret organizations work. The relatively high degree of loyalty which the society once inspired depended on members’ ability trust one another, which in turn was based on members being encouraged to divulge their every secret.

Tom Wolfe wrote in his famous 1976 article "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening:"

At Yale the students on the outside wondered for 80 years what went on inside the fabled secret senior societies, such as Skull and Bones. On Thursday nights one would see the secretsociety members walking silently and single file, in black flannel suits, white shirts, and black knit ties with gold pins on them, toward their great Greek Revival temples on the campus, buildings whose mystery was doubled by the fact that they had no windows. What in the name of God or Mammon went on in those 30-odd Thursday nights during the senior years of these happy few?

What went on was... lemon sessions!-a regularly scheduled series of lemon sessions, just like the ones that occurred informally in girls' finishing schools. In the girls' schools these lemon sessions tended to take place at random in nights when a dozen or so girls might end up in someone's dormitory room. One girl would become "it," and the others would light into her personality, pulling it to pieces to analyze every defect... her spitefulness, her awkwardness, her bad breath, embarrassing clothes, ridiculous laugh, her suck-up fawning, latent lesbianism, or whatever. The poor creature might be reduced to tears. She might blurt out the most terrible confessions, hatreds, and primordial fears. But, it was presumed, she would be the stronger for it afterward. She would be on her way toward a new personality.

Likewise, in the secret societies: They held lemon sessions for boys. …And Thursday night after Thursday night the awful truths would out, as he who was It stood up before them and answered the most horrible questions. … But out of the fire and the heap of ashes would come a better man, a brother, of good blood and good bone, for the American race guerrière. And what was more... they loved it. No matter how dreary the soap opera, the star was Me.

My informant continues:

"Well, no guy is going to reveal the most shameful details of his life to any girl, even if she is a fellow bonesperson, nor is any girl going to reveal hers to any guy. As I understand it, the society’s current institutional self-understanding is not that of an exclusive brotherhood; instead, the society emphasizes the light-hearted fun they have together and how nice it is that such different people can share something in common. Thin is as the current Bones ideology is, it’s probably the only way to keep everyone together with offending each other.

Which brings us to the other threat (besides coeducation) to the society’s cohesiveness, namely, multiculturalism. About half the “taps” these days come from the ethnic organizations on campus (the Af-Am house, the Hispanic fraternity, &c). Each ethnic group tries to ensure that next tap comes from the same ethnic group. Their primary loyalty is thus to their ethnic group and not to Bones. In fact, after the “The Skulls” movie came out, the Hispanic members of the society starting to call themselves “skulls” (after the movie) rather than “bonesmen.” Needless to say, when society members get their cues about the society from pop culture rather than the society itself, the society can’t claim to have much influence over its members.

Finally, Bones is perpetually short of money and it has proven to be increasingly difficult to get alumni(ae) to donate anything. Bonespersons/”skulls” simply don’t have much loyalty to the institution.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

An public service: improving Apache-Skull & Bones understanding

With all the stereotypes and prejudice in this world that divide groups of people, it's crucial to help clear up misunderstandings causing enmity amongst them. If the Israelis and Palestinians just understood the facts, I'm sure they'd all have a big laugh over it and get along fine from now on. Hmmhmmh ... well, maybe that's not the best example ...

Okay, let me find a better instance of a misconception rather than reality dividing two sets of people ... All right, I've got one: the long-lasting but surprisingly seldom mentioned in the media rift between the Apache Nation and the secretive Skull & Bones Society of Yale. So, I shall do my part to heal it.

The President's grandfather, future Senator Prescott Bush, boasted than when training at Fort Sill in 1918, he had dug up the skull of Apache leader Geronimo and given it to the Skull & Bones society to display in their windowless redoubt on the Yale campus known as "The Tomb."

The Yale Herald reported in 2003:

Apache tribal leader Ned Anderson was informed of the alleged theft in 1986. As an ancestor of Geronimo, Anderson petitioned the Federal Bureau of Investigations to force the return of the skull. Noting that Apaches have a "great fear and respect for death," Anderson said that he hoped to honor Geronimo's express wish to be laid to rest in "Arizona acorn country."

Unwilling to remove himself from the case entirely and yield all his evidence to the FBI, Anderson withdrew his request for action. Instead, he arranged to meet with George H. W. Bush's, DC '48, brother Jonathan in New York City. Anderson recounts that Bush sounded "very encouraging" during their initial meeting. Eleven days later, Bush presented the display case. Anderson refused to accept the skull because it appeared to belong to a small child. Bush acknowledged this fact but claimed that it was the only relevant artifact in the society's possession.

He urged Anderson to accept the display and sign a document verifying that the society was not in possession of Geronimo's skull. Anderson refused.

By the way,

"Robbins, herself a member of Scroll and Key [boring! -- I like the name of another Yale secret society a lot better -- The Book and Snake], attests to the centrality of ritualized stealing in many of the societies at Yale. Each class attempts to outdo its predecessor in the acquisition of valuables. In addition to Geronimo's skull, the Bonesmen's tomb is rumored to contain the skull of Pancho Villa and Adolf Hitler's silverware.

Anyway, the Apaches have been sore ever since that the Bonesmen tried to pawn off a kid's skull on them instead of giving them back Geronimo's real skull. But, now a reader has sent in some inside information that may clear the good name of Skull & Bones as a whole (although not necessarily the Bush family).

But, a reader writes:

Oh, dear, it's says at the bottom of the email to check with the sender before posting any of it. Okay, well, I'll write off for permission. In the meantime I'll post this fragment anyway, just to show you I'm still alive.

Update: The reader writes:

"On Geronimo’s skull, my impression is that even the members themselves don’t know whether it’s genuine. My source always thought it was some child’s skull, not the skull of Geronimo, and that the issue had already been settled with Apache leaders. Recent reports that the skull might actually be genuine were news to my source."

In other words, Apaches, it appears that the Bonesmen were trying to play it straight with you in 1986 -- that kid's skull is, presumably, what Prescott Bush had told their predecessors was Geronimo's head. So, it looks like the President's grandfather either dug up the wrong head by accident, or intentionally pulled their leg. Was Prescott incompetent or insincere? You be the judge! (Funny how this dispute comes up over and over with the Bush Dynasty -- maybe it's hereditary?)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 22, 2007

The inside history of intra-conservative immigration battles

The inside history of intra-conservative immigration battles: In the cover story of the July 30 American Conservative, John O'Sullivan offers an extremely lucid recounting of conservative battles over immigration going back to his decision (with Bill Buckley's concurrence) to print Peter Brimelow's massive 1992 article on immigration:

Getting Immigration Right
By John O’Sullivan
It took 15 years, but conservative intellectuals finally deserted the Beltway establishment’s open-borders consensus.

WSJistas have long jibed about O'Sullivan and Brimelow being English immigrants, so John concludes his article:

Until the battle recommences, however, if any indignant xenophobe is thinking of writing an exposé of this conspiracy of English immigrants to impose an “un-American” system of immigration law on the American people, Steve Sailer has already come up with the perfect title: “The Protocols of the Elders of Albion.”

I don't remember writing that, but John, my old editor at UPI, says that was my summary of the 2000 thriller "The Skulls," a flop of a film about a Skull & Bones-style exclusive club at a college much like Yale. I must say I've become far less dismisive of conspiracy theories about the Skull & Bones society since the 2004 election, which matched two Bonesmen in Bush and Kerry. Skull & Bones only taps 15 promising young bucks per year, yet, five of the last ten major party Presidential candidates were Bonesmen. What are the odds of that?

Also, it appears likely that the rumor is true that during WWI, the President's grandfather, past Bonesman and future Senator Prescott Bush, dug up the skull of Geronimo and loyally gave it to the Skull & Bones society, and that it remains in the windowless, fortress-like Skull & Bones headquarters on the Yale campus, despite efforts by Apache tribesmen to get their famous leader's noggin back. I think that might explain a lot about the last seven years, although I'm not precisely sure what.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 20, 2007

I told you so about Karl Rove

From my new column "Rove Means Never Having to Say You're Republican," I review my six years of pointing out the widely acclaimed "Genius's" flagrant incompetence:

Even merely as a short-term political manipulator, Rove completely botched the immigration issue. And it's not as if our criticism of the electoral logic of the Bush-Rove dream of increasing Mexican immigration was only recently validated. Instead, Bush and Rove advanced their desire for more Mexicans in 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2007. And each time Congressional Republicans rejected it as bad for the country and bad for the GOP.

As I wrote back on September 10, 2001 (!!!) in the wake of strong Congressional resistance to the Administration's immigration mania:

"So why did Karl Rove and the rest of the Bush braintrust misread the political situation? Why did the White House fail to anticipate Congressional Republicans' concerns that amnesty would undermine the GOP? The Bush team appears to have been the victims of residing in an echo chamber with a mainstream media corps that—for reasons of innumeracy, fashion, self-interest, self-image and fear—failed to challenge the Bush advisers' sloppy thinking about immigration." [Analysis: Why Bush blundered on immigrants By Steve Sailer, United Press International September 10, 2001]

Luckily for Rove and Bush—there’s no other way to put it—3,000 Americans were murdered the next day. So the massive public humiliation of having Republicans in Congress decisively crush their dreams of a Hispanicized polity that would elect future generations of the Bush dynasty was postponed for six long, wasted years.

Rove's immigration strategy, along with the assumption in the press that it was a political masterstroke, was always based on the interaction of political correctness, smugness, and sheer laziness.

David Frum wrote recently in the New York Times:

"In my brief service as a speechwriter inside the Bush administration, I often wondered why it was that skeptical experts on issues like immigration could never get even a hearing for their point of view. We took the self-evident brilliance of our plans so much for granted that we would not even meet, for example, with conservative academics who had the facts and figures to demonstrate the illusion of Rovian hopes for a breakthrough among Hispanic voters." [Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule, August 14, 2007]

The real problem for the GOP is less Hispanic voters than Hispanic leaders—92 percent of all elected Hispanic politicians are Democrats.

The reason for the 92% Democrats is obvious if you stop and think about it (which apparently nobody does): since most Hispanic citizens vote Democratic, most Hispanic-majority districts in the country are Democratic. And those are the ones in which Hispanics are most probable to get elected. So, it makes all the sense in the world for politically ambitious young Hispanics to join the party that's more likely to get them elected to office: the Democrats.

So, what Bush and Rove have been doing by not enforcing the immigration laws is helping create a new Democratic Latino elite that will plague the GOP for decades.

As politics, Rove's immigration ploy was negligent at the levels of simple logic and numeracy. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 19, 2007

"The Simpsons Movie:"

The Man Called Thursday argues that the show's peak was the second through fourth seasons way back in the early 1990s, which was when Matt Groening lost interest and control shifted to the Harvard Mafia (as my former neighbor, a screenwriter on the meat and potatoes sit-com "Married With Children," called them with fear and loathing in her voice). I can't disagree, although the show's consistency held up well through the end up the decade. Were the Simpsons' 1990s the greatest decade any television show ever enjoyed? I'd say so, but lots of people would vote for more recent hour long drama on cable, such as The Sopranos. The funny thing is that drama doesn't hold up as well as comedy. Stations paid a lot of money in the late 1980s for the hour long dramas thirtysomething and Miami Vice, and never got their money back. Meanwhile, "I Love Lucy" is still playing somewhere right now.

The Simpsons Movie concentrated too hard on telling what we already knew -- the Simpsons may be dysfunctional, but when they pull together, they can triumph. I would have like to learn knew things. For example, we get to meet Nelson "Ha-Ha!" Muntz's mom. Why couldn't the backstory of other characters be covered?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer