Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

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Is Bleacher Report Losing It’s Cutting-Edge Freshness and Going Corporate?

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I may end up getting myself cast off Bleacher Report for good with this rant, but what the heck.  Taking risks are what makes life exciting!

As a writer for Bleacher/Report,

Bleacher Report is one of the great stories of the “new journalism” era.   It is a place where young writers trying to get started, can advance up the writer chain with a “points system.”   It’s great.

It’s also a place where some of us older guys finally have the freedom to cut loose and write what we really feel.  There’s none of the business politics holding us back that is so rampant and routine at every single newspaper in the country. B/R is a young company started by young guys, most of whom don’t even know about the battles common, where writers have daily punching bouts with their editors.

Sadly things are changing at Bleacher Report, but it was bound to happen.  It cannot be avoided.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a totally sarcastic and absolutely hilarious (<–note witty sarcasm) article about the Texas Longhorns.  Now I’m not a Longhorn-hater particularly, but I found it interesting how Texas just may find themselves on the outside looking in when all these new NCAA football leagues are finalized.  Nobody wants Texas in their conference, because of the reputation they enjoy as being fiscal bullies with special rules.  I wrote a nice long, sorta fast-moving piece about that very subject.

Well after about 2500 reads in a couple days, an Oklahoma fan got all offended.  He said it was because I was hostile to women in the piece because of a quip (I said something like Sooner women have leather skin and tend to lose the razor in places where we’d prefer they keep using it).  Something like that.  Totally me horsing around like I do when I write.

Well the article got pulled.  And although the reason given was that the B/R staff (who will remain nameless) felt the content was “trollish,”  because I was flipping too much crap at Texas and Oklahoma fans. I felt it was because this guy didn’t like me making wise cracks about his favorite team.   In other words, I was giving them too hard a time with my article, and we can’t have that. We can’t offend these very important people of higher-ups at institutions.   We can’t have guys taking shots at other football programs just for fun.  Especially when it’s at the Oklahoma Sooners (all stand up and salute please).  You can’t take cheap shots at the Oklahoma Sooners you idiot.  Do you know how many big bucks are there are down in the flat-lands of Oklahoma?!?  Ever hear of oil wells?!?

Which is interesting, because what attracted all of us veteran writers to Bleacher Report in the first place, was the fact that here was a new website that was sorta “Wild-Wild-West.” Unlike crusty old newspaper editors, here you could write anything, and you didn’t really have to worry about your editor pulling the piece, because you took cheap shots at a sacred football institution that just happens to have a whole bunch of wealthy alumni, some of whom provided start-up funds for your site.

That’s precisely what was so attractive about Bleacher Report!  Fans could be fans.  Fans could bait the other team’s fans, raging debates would break out, insults would fly, and it was one big tailgating party in print.  A hootenanny of epic proportions.  But we’re all having harmless fun here so what’s the big deal??  College football teams.  We don’t know these guys other than their names.  Why NOT take cheap shots?!  This is where cheap shots live and breathe.  College football forums by college football fans.

See that was what was so cool about Bleacher Report, and the concept of the site.  That’s what got B/R the hits in the first place.  B/R was doing this sports thing from a new young angle, that hadn’t been seen in the more traditional media.  And guys like me, who have long-since gotten over the notoriety of seeing our names in print, could sorta air it out here, like we can’t everywhere else.  But that’s what made Bleacher Report so unique.

Now it appears, Bleacher Report is maturing (unlike me), and we’re now seeing a bit more hesitance to allow classless boobs to write wise cracks.  They’d like to see this more traditional.  Lose the T-shirts, let’s go back to the white shirts and ties and sell life insurance.  This isn’t the Boston Red Sox, this is the NY Yankees.  Corporate-style media, so now it’s time to stifle these undisciplined punks, and let’s get this group of renegades house-broken and back to the confines of semi-boring reading material without jokes.

Now I totally understand why Bleacher Report feels the need to tighten up the writing standards (ie: more profits from more exposure, which you can’t do if you’re taking cheap shots at the Texas Longhorns).

But I would argue you’re also killing the freshness and the attraction that led many of your readers to the site in the first place.  Fans like to argue and pop off about their teams.  But now suddenly we can’t write certain things about certain teams?  Really?!

Let’s go back to my Texas example again.  Do I hate Texas?  Well no, I didn’t.  But now that my article got pulled because some of my funnies got Texas alumni sideways ….. well let’s just say cheap shots may have to find their way back to the between-the-lines method, like we’ve done for years in the traditional print media.  You can still get your shots in, but it’s not like the NY Media anymore.  Nope, now it’s like the Duluth, Minnesota media, where everything is polite and politically correct and unoffensive.

Me quipping to the B/R staff during this exchange “Well it looks like the Big12 isn’t the only place where Texas gets special rules.” probably didn’t earn me an invite to the B/R Christmas Party at the end of the year, either.

“Hey you punk!  You can’t say Texas is like an uninvited guest showing up with a plastic blond on his arm while everybody else rolls their eyes!!  This is Texas!!  The Texas Longhorns!!  Everybody LOVES the Texas Longhorns!!  And if they don’t, we’ll have them censored so fast it will make the critic’s keyboard melt!”

My point is that yes, I admit it, some of my stuff can be crass and tends to tease certain groups of fans.  But that’s why we read Bleacher Report.  It was different than all the other boring CBS.comand stuff.  That’s precisely what made it so attractive to your readers, and yet now it appears the goal is to kill that freedom and go back to stuffy frowning editors refusing to let us write witty and cheap-shot rhetoric.

Now what fun is that??!


Nike, Phil Knight and the University of Oregon: Should the Ducks Be Doing It?

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EUGENE, OR - JANUARY 13:  Nike founder Phil Knight speaks to the crowd  before the Oregon Ducks versus the USC Trojans game at the grand opening of the Matthew Knight Arena on January 13, 2011 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Well over a decade ago, on May 12, 1998, facing growing outcry and pressure from human right’s groups across the nation, Phil Knight—Nike’s CEO and current funding father of all things Oregon Ducks—spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and made 12 promises to reform the business practices at Nike.

Today Knight claims these practices are all ancient history.  Many others, however, beg to differ.

There are literally hundreds of groups critical of Nike that insist Knight’s claims of reform are nothing but a huge dupe.

They claim that Nike hasn’t done much at all to change practices of ordering products from manufactures with long histories of worker abuse.  That it’s still going on, Nike has changed very little, and all these pretty uniforms and new stadiums at the University of Oregon have been funded by corrupt and in some cases, a form of blood money.

Meanwhile last month, reports broke about Oregon using agents and trainers to help sway new recruits to the Duck program.  The last thing Phil Knight and Nike need is a feisty NCAA rule committee sticking their nose into private business practices.

Defenders of Oregon insist the rumors are wide-spread throughout many college programs in the country, and thus the charges are inflated.  Shrugs and apathy have been the norm from the faithful in Eugene.

108032030_crop_340x234Steve Dykes/Getty Images

However, with the NCAA now pointing their little radars at what’s going on “deep in the woods,” even the most apologetic Knight supporters have concern meter needles fluttering to and fro—especially now that the hapless Duck program is finally winning some actual football games.

And with the basketball team threatening to do the same, suddenly the university’s relationship with Phil Knight is growing in national significance—especially with goofy uniforms that could blind rodents recently on the BCS stage, all produced by corporate giant Nike.  One big four-hour long apparel commercial using college students as unpaid models.

Yet the question still remains.  Did Nike reform it’s business practices or merely shuffle them under the rug for the past decade?

Last month Oregon unveiled a new basketball arena with “state of the art” everything.  At the opening ceremonies was a strutting Phil Knight in a rock concert setting—bursting flames and dancing cheerleaders in halters, celebrating the new basketball palace.

During his speech, in a darkened arena using a new cool light system that made that dopey “O” thing glow like socks at a football game, Knight pointed out that the arena had been dedicated to his recently-departed son.  Today Oregon fans are sensitive about this, especially when would-be cheap shot artists like me question this cozy relationship.

But the questions are still there, unanswered.

108030778_crop_340x234Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Exactly how did Mr Knight earn all these dollars?

It’s just wonderful that he’s donating funds to universities, but what has Nike been doing under the radar?

For two decades now, we’ve been hearing rumors about eight-year-olds working long hours with no time off, suffering physical injuries, all while producing sneakers and head bands, at far less cost than could be done in the United States.

Our country forces companies to pay minimum wages, and grants rights to workers not seen in third world countries. Thus the question becomes “Why is Phil Knight so reluctant to build factories in his own country, where manufacturing practices are regulated, if he indeed has reformed these practices?”

If everything is on the up and up, and if workers are being treated abroad like they would be at home, why does Nike consistently write short-term contracts abroad?

Michael Moore, the windbag producer of such comical documentaries as Fahrenheit 911, where creative editing made a former President look like a bumbling vacationing fool, is also critical of Phil Knight.

For the record, I’m not a huge Michael Moore fan.  Mr. Moore does things with his films that are downright immoral themselves, in my opinion, thus his editing practices do not bode well for some of his arguments.  Furthermore, I’m very suspicious of anyone who decries capitalism while owning a gaggle of pompous mansions scattered across the globe.

But even a Moore-skeptic like me looks at these interviews with Phil Knight with raised eyebrows!  There are some issues here that are not being addressed, which appear greater than how many college football or basketball games the University of Oregon wins.

Such as why Phil Knight refuses to allow Michael Moore to film the inside workings of one of his off-shore manufacturing facilities?  What are we hiding here?

Like most universities, Oregon prides itself on being concerned with the environment and issues that all of us should be concerned about.  Issues about our fellow man, the quality of life for others, and concern for the innocent in lands far away, where children walk shoeless through filth and muck.

None of these are necessarily liberal vs. conservative arguments, nor even religious vs. secular concerns—they are issues that focus on common decency.

So what are we to make of this conversation between Phil Knight and flabby Michael Moore in the documentary?  A small piece of that conversation:

Michael Moore: But you’re in charge, you’re the boss-

Phil Knight: Yeah, I’m in charge of it, basically

Michael Moore: Just tell ’em, no one under 16, just like our shoe factories. Just tell em. You’re Phil Knight.

Phil Knight: Well, actually, I think that over, within a fairly short period of time you’ll see some of that, but it won’t happen, it won’t happen over the next six months probably.

Michael Moore: But you’re committed.

Phil Knight: No, no, we want good labor practices in all these countries. We try to be the best citizen we can be.

Michael Moore: So you’re telling me now that you’re committed to not having people work in your factories under the age of 16?

Phil Knight: That’s true in the shoe factories in Indonesia…

Dusty Kidd: (Nike’s labor relations chief) We are one of 20 or 30 customers in our apparel factories, so we can’t dictate to them nearly to the extent-

Michael Moore: Is it safe to say that’s your goal? Is it safe to say that’s your goal-to not have people-

Phil Knight: We can impose that and will do that in those apparel factories that we basically have the dominant position in. But we can’t do that when we’re just a minor buyer.

108031648_crop_340x234Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Michael Moore: But, anything that you control, you’re going to, you’re goal-

Phil Knight: In Indonesia, in Indonesia, we’re moving towards age 16.

For me, football fan or not, that conversation bothers me.

But no more than do these other allegations made in a paper written by Bette Jean Bullert of Seattle University.  In her paper, Bullert alleges the following:

“Between 1989 and 1995, only 21 news articles appeared in the U.S. press linking Nike to strikes in Indonesia, but 1996 was a pivotal year in the anti-sweatshop campaign. Seven years of survey research, international studies on globalization and human rights and organizing by NGOs came to fruition. But it took a celebrity and a fired Nike worker to put a human face on the sweatshop issue and escalate the conflict in the mainstream American media…

“…Knight was silent on the issues of wages and the length of the work day. Nike contracted with a factory in China whose employees said they worked 11 and 12 hour days with only two days off a month, and earned 16 cents to 19 cents an hour with no overtime. The anti-Nike campaign has responded by expanding its data collection in China and continuing to monitor conditions in other factories.

“…At the same conference, the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and other student organizations launched the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), a coalition with labor unions and human rights groups. In the three weeks since its founding, 45 universities have signed on with the commitment to be sure items that carry the university logos are not made in sweatshops. Phil Knight has withdrawn a $30 million commitment to his alma mater, the University of Oregon in Eugene, because the university has joined the WRC.”

So here’s my question, Oregon Duck fans:  If it turns out that Phil Knight indeed has earned his billions, either today or in the past, by exploiting workers in other nations deliberately and callously…is the University of Oregon still willing to accept his multi-million dollar donations?Will you Duck fans still support this?

Should Stanford University accept money from Phil Knight, if it is proven that Nike’s off-shore operations are at odds with the most minimum standards in first world nations?



If controversy remains about Nike manufacturing practices, should the University of Oregon accept donations from Phil Knight?

  • Yes

  • No


Total votes: 387




Sources for the above, plus more about the Nike controversy, are at the below links:

Written by PhilCaldwell

March 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

Appeasement Policy of Book Burning vs Mosque moving

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As the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we’re only hearing one side of an argument that frankly has two sides, and curiously it would appear that the side presented, the popular politically correct side if you will,  is contradicted itself on two hot stories that circulated the airwaves and print media this morning.

Watching NBC’s Today Show earlier today we first heard about how terrible it was for pastor Terry Jones to be organizing an “International Burn the Koran Day”.   John Stewart and all the regular media pundits had jumped on the angle the previous evening, and now NBC was attempting to finish it off the next morning by presenting the argument most heard from leaders across the land;  the proposed act by Jones was horrible.  It was un-American.  It was unacceptable.    How dare Jones incite Islam by burning their sacred book!   And yet later in the afternoon we watched a group of young men in Afghanistan burn the American flag to make their point with “Death to Christians” chants.

The very next story on NBC this morning, was how “Islam will be aroused if we don’t let them build their Mosque near Ground Zero.”   It would make for a recruiting tool, just like Jones and his book burn proposal would.  Our troops would be in danger if we forced them to move the Mosque in New York, so we’d best be tolerant and let them have their way.   Exactly the opposite position argued only moments ago on the very same network,  for the alleged same purpose of “protecting our troops.”    We are to tolerate religious expression to “protect the troops,”  yet only moments before the same network argued to stifle Jones and his religious expression to “protect the troops.”  Nobody was willing to say “from religiously intolerant Muslims in religiously intolerant nations.”

There are two Jesus’s in the Bible.  There is the meek & mild Jesus holding the children on his lap with whispers of niceties.  But there’s another Jesus which we seem to not know how to take:  The Jesus that stormed into the temple and overturned tables while causing quite a ruckus.  Of the two, I wondered, why are we only tolerating the peaceful nice Jesus in this nation, while we sort of sweep the violent Jesus under the same overturned table?  We’re not comfortable with the violent Jesus;  the one willing to fight for a principal.  In 2010, we tend to see that Jesus as unacceptable because he was violent and angry.

The message from today is unmistakable:   Fear this enemy,  react in retreat instead of strength, and do everything they want us to do because if we don’t, they might attack our troops.   They might hurt us again.    We very nicely asked the Iman to show sensitivity with this Mosque, and the Iman refused.  Donald Trump offered to buy it for 125% of it’s value, but he was rebuffed.   And yet when it comes to Christians showing sensitivity to Islam then the expectations reverse.   And perhaps they should reverse, since we Christians would like to think we do things differently than do Muslims?   But is it fair?

Isn’t this fear thing exactly what the Islamic goal was in attacking New York nine years ago in the first place?   To make us fear them?  To make us cower in corners?  To make us feel unsafe within our own borders?  Wasn’t that the point of their attack?  Have they not won?   Clearly that is what we are doing!

Think of it in historical terms.   Is this the way the USA reacted towards the Japanese following Pearl Harbor in 1941?  Is this how we reacted to Nazism & Fascism and other secular regimes that our fathers and grandfathers fought against and died for?   Or did America have a different way of handling things in 1915 & 1939?   Didn’t our fathers & grandfathers deploy a more (dare I say?)  Machiavellian approach to issues of this nature?   Were our fathers & grandfathers right by how they reacted, or were they wrong?   Were the acts of Dresden & Hiroshima …… Machiavellian in nature, or were they actually Biblically driven?  Were they actions that a Jesus who stormed the temple might take, or were they evil and uncalled for?

To take the cynical viewpoint, perhaps we should dress our soldiers patrolling the streets in Afghanistan and Iraq,   in little pink skirts and replace their guns with flowers and loveliness?   Would that appease the Taliban and Al Qaeda to not attack the same soldiers?  Or would it incite them to attack with even more determination and vengeance?  Especially if they were showing bare legs!

In both historical examples prior to our involvement,  1915 & 1939,  we first tried the appeasement / pacifist approach,  and in both cases the experiments failed miserably.   So what some propose today is exactly the same failed experiment of appeasement and pacifism that has been long-since proven to NOT work!   Tell me what historical precedent this appeasement approach demanded today,  in both New York and Florida, is based on?   Specific historical examples please,  of this approach working?   I just gave you two where it failed miserably, what are the two where it worked?

And more importantly,  considering that there actually are two moods of Jesus in the New Testament,  is it more Godly to hide in corners and shadows and cave in to injustice and terror,  like some German citizens did when death camps were built in their neighborhoods?   Or is it more Godly to stand up to intimidation with force and strong acts?   And couldn’t you argue that by Jones backing off this afternoon, that he did in-fact,  cave to pressure to appease the enemy rather than taking a strong stand against them?  Yes it was a stand that we all seem uncomfortable with, but was it the wrong stand?

The New Testament, after all, does state very plainly in Matthew 7:13  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”   In today’s America, we label that as “intolerant” or perhaps as our own religious arrogance.   But those are the words of Jesus, and they are not the appeasement words that we all seem to yearn for, that welcomes all religions to the Kingdom of Heaven regardless of how those in the religions behave.    Those Words do the opposite.   They demand one single narrow gate to Heaven.

So was Reverend Jones wrong?   Is it possible that Jones was right and all of us urging appeasement are wrong?   How  certain are we, which is more Godly?

Written by PhilCaldwell

September 9, 2010 at 7:16 am

Victory Lap or Huge Humiliating Defeat?

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I’m still enjoying this latest grumbling by our pals in WaDC.
President Obama groused this morning that pulling the troops from Iraq is “not a victory lap.”  And he’s right.  It certainly is not a victory lap for Democrats, because Democrats are looking like they were wrong about whether a Democracy could work in Iraq or not.
Perhaps I’m biased on this due to my education and upbringing, but I was with President Bush on this decision from the start.  Contrary to all the political rhetoric from the left, this Iraq venture was what I would deem a “learned lesson from history.”   Like me, Bush was a history guy too, and we history guys apparently look at things differently than the rest of the world  does.   We learned, or should have learned, from wars our fathers and grandfathers fought,  that leaving bad guys in power with the potential to gain more power is not a wise thing to do.  Because …….. history has taught us (the hard way) that they will likely do more evil in the future.
You remember back in 2003 thru 2006 when it seemed Democrats were rooting for defeat?  Harry Reid declared “we are a defeated nation.”  Polosi said exactly the opposite of her previous on-the-record rhetoric during the Clinton years, where she argued that Saddam was a threat and needed to be stopped.   Howard Dean too, seemed to go through a metamorphosis once he say it was politically savvy to do so.
Then when all these prophecies failed to materialize,  and it looked like Bush had acted wisely as Iraq settled down, Democrats were furious and did everything they could to stop the success.  Including printing military secrets in the NY Times that might have brought sedition charges had hey done this 60 years earlier.
Obama the candidate promised to pull the troops within 18 months.  And he wasn’t saying “combat troops” when he made that promise, he was saying “troops.”
Let me speculate on what is going on: (I can do that right, since that’s what all of you have been doing about Bush’s motives for the past eight years while insisting your speculation is hard fact?). Likely what happened is that young and enthusiastic rookie idealistic Pres Obama went to the Joint Chiefs and said something like “Hey fellas, we’re going to pull all the troops and send them home!  Isn’t that wonderful! ”  At which the grumpy and crotchety joint chiefs said  “Uh …… well no son …… no we’re not going to do that.   We just built a shiny new $4 billion base here in this lovely country which we intend to both staff and run for decades.  Now go home and take that skateboard with you!”   Humiliated, overridden, scolded, young pres Obama then came up with this creative “combat troops” nonsense designed to dupe the really stupid and/or gullible.
Bottom line: There’s still 50,000 troops in Iraq. There will be thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, just like there is in Korea and Japan and Germany.  Hence Obama actually did NOT keep his promise because his problem was unrealistic.  The threat in the Middle East is real, peace is not going to be the result of a nation that flees, the troops are stationed in Iraq to keep the peace, and no troops means no peace.  Wiser minds prevailed, he is showing wisdom by listening to those wiser minds, and here we are.
Just like Bush did, I might add.

Written by PhilCaldwell

August 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Timeline from Obama’s Seattle Visit

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Just reviewing the time frame & accomplishments made during yesterday’s Obama “Boom-Boom” campaign swing:

11:15am – Obama arrives midst adoring press corps & swooning teenaged groupies.

11:30am – Surgeons rushed to Boeing Field to help remove Christine Gregoire’s lip marks off Presidential hind quarters

11:32am – Obama Secret Service personnel perform immediate CPR on tennis-shoed Senator Murray attempting to resuscitate a personality

12pm – while munching on lunch goodies at the Tutta Bella pizza chain, Obama pledges $118.4 million to study expenditures of campaign tours charged to American taxpayers as Presidential visits.

12:18pm – Obama pledges $14.6 million towards study of Pioneer Square bodily odors.

12:36pm – Obama turns swimming pool water at the Westin Hotel into fine Roman vintage Domaine Romanée-Conti wine.

1:16pm – Presidential motorcade ticketed from four separate stoplight photo cameras

1:46pm – Obama scolds Tea Party protestors for being “out-of-touch” with American concerns

1:49pm – Obama reminds fans that grannies are in-fact a “right wing special interest group”

1:58pm – Obama grants $18.4 million to study the affects of botox injections in Nancy Polosi’s facial features

2:22pm – Blushed & sweating, Obama giggles that he cannot accept the SeattlePI’s Joel Connelly’s offer to carry and birth his next three children

2:32pm – An eery Obama-lookalike cloud formation floats mysterily over St Mark’s Cathedral, patrons fall to their knees

2:50pm – Congressman Jim McDermott raced to Harborview after suffering terrible infection while having Obama’s portrait tattooed across his privates.

3:15pm – Obama pledges $28.6 billion to eradicate dirty needles from tattoo parlors

3:32pm – Obama condemns Republicans for pushing tax cuts; Sternly lectures how America cannot afford this midst these troubling times of reduced revenue

3:33pm – Obama pledges $319.6 million to study reduced revenues.

3:52pm – Waterfront Teguilla shots for all paying $10,000 per plate while condemning Republican waste and arrogance

4:36pm – A scantily clad Patty Murray performs erotic belly dance on the patio of Ron Glaser

4:37pm – Visibly distraught President tramples 17 secret servicemen in a mad dash for his SUV hybrid.

4:45pm – Presidential motorcade rushes from the Medina neighborhood back towards his motorcade, Boeing Field.

5pm – while climbing the staircase to the new shiny Presidential private jet, Obama pledges $326 million towards eradicating wrinkles from former Attorney Generals.

5:07pm – Obama pledges $28.5 billion to support for Al Gore’s “carbon footprint” initiative – criticizes business CEO’s for wasteful spending habits

5:15pm – Obama and his jet burn $28,000 in fuel taking off from Boeing Field.

Written by PhilCaldwell

August 18, 2010 at 8:22 am

Woodrow Wilson and World War One

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On one of the  SeattlePI’s threads today,  we’re having a raging debate about a key component of foreign policy.  I’ve long argued that World War One happened because of a situation which is disturbingly similar to what we find ourselves getting into today with Obama.  A leader with a reputation of softness.  One who will be very reluctant to act when problems arise internationally.  So let’s join this debate with some actual study of history:

From the book Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy by William C Widenor:

Middle of page 140: This, in the opinion of partisans, was the cornerstone of the Rooseveltian solution. They felt he conducted foreign relations of the United States in such a matter that “the governments of other countries came to understand that he meant what he said” thus he created and impression of resolution and purpose which “raised the prestige of the United States to a height it had enver before attained.” Reputation and good faith were more important than any particular issue.

The nation should adopt for the preservation of its peace was the maintenance of a complete defense against armed aggression. In their strategy he saw a new urgency. “for today great wars are fought in a few months, while it takes years to build modern ships and case rifled guns.” But the wisdom of preparation was scarcely new to either Roosevelt or to Lodge. To understand the emotional and intellectual capital they invested in this issue, one must view the matter in it’s historical context.

As Harold and Margaret Sprout have demonstrated, the political alignments which grew out of the Jefferson-Hamilton split “foreshadowed the future politics of American naval development in general.” Roosevelt first went into print to instruct his generation in the lessons of the War of 1812, and Lodge devoted a large portion of his writing to the same purpose. They were convinced from their reading of American history was but the story of how the Jeffersonians’ gossamer theories had been “crushed in the iron grasp of facts.” The wisdom of preparation was as old as the difficulty of getting it accepted. Even in 1921 Lodge chose a Federalist example to make the point that to disarm in the midst of an armed world was, as Hamilton said in his report on Manufacturers, as idle talk about free trade in a protective world. the problem was perennial and particularly American, and the Roosevelt who, as President, wrote to Elihu Root exclaiming “Oh, if only our people would learn the need of preparedness, and of shaping things so that the decision and action can alike be instantaneous” differed little from Roosevelt the imperialist of from Roosevelt the militant World War 1 interventionist.” They never expected the problem to go away, but as long as Roosevelt was in command they could feel that some progress was being made, that the nation was slowly being led to believe in self-reliance and preparedness.

Lodge gave recognition to Roosevelt’s talents in this area whenhe secured Roosevelt’s appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and when, in 1899, he confessed that he thought the Secretaryship of War the post best suited to Roosevelt. The object of their endeavors in this, to them, absolutely crucial area of preparation was, and by force of circumstances had to be, twofold: they had to fit the defense needs of the United States to the changing international situation, but, and this was the greater task, they also had to find a means of impressing those needs upon the American people.

Now here’s the key point to this policy/theory (we’re at the bottom of page 142):

….The dual nature of this operation comes through clearly in Roosevelt’s confession in his Autobiography

Jump up to bottom of page 143:

Preparedness was also a means of effecting the nation’s other foreign policy goals. The navy, in Lodge’s view, was an important instrument of diplomacy. The nave had kept the Germans out of Venezuela and given the United States a say in the fate of China; the fleet in its voyage around the world did “more to promote peace that anything that has been done” and demonstrated the truth of Lord Nelson’s adage that his “seventy-fours” wer the best negotiators in Europe. Not even the objects of peace societies could be promoted from weakness. Roosevelt felt that he “would have been powerless to speak for peace” if it were thought that he wished peace “because the nation I represented was either unable or unwilling to fight if the need arose” Similarily Lodge was convinced that the United States could not promote disarmament from weakness and even believed large armaments were conincident with peace. Only with its own peace assured could the United States labor successfully for the peace of the world. Preparedness became in their view the sine qua non of having any American foreign policy at all. Roosevelt told his last Congress:

“No friendliness with other nations, no good will for them or by them, can take the place of national self-reliance. Fit to hold our own against the strong nations of the earth, our voice for peace will carry to the ends of the earth. Unprepared, and therefore unfit, we must sit dumb and helpless to defend ourselves, protect others, or preserve peace.”

Lodge, reviewing Roosevelt’s conduct of foreign policy, had this to answer for those who had been alarmed by his combativeness and apparent militarism. The Roosevelt solution had worked.

“There never has been an administration……when we were more perfectly at peace with all the world, nor wer our foreign relations ever in danger of producing hostilities. But this was not due in the lest to the adoption of a timid or yielding foreign policy; on the contrary, it was owing to the firmness of the President of all foreign questions ……  Thus it came about that this President, dreaded at the beginning on acount of his combative spirit, received the Nobel prize in 1906 as the person who had contributed most ot the peace of the world in the preceding years, and his contribution was the result of strength and knowledge and not weakness.”

Bottom of page 165

Such idealism, however qualified, had to operate from a base of power. This is where they parted company from so many of their countrymen. Idealism in international relations was not a self-fulfilling proposition. Little could be accomlished from a position of weakness. Roosevelt tended to view the role of the United States in world affairs in much the same manner as he regared his own domestic leadership. As he told Lodge:

“I believe in the perpeturity of the American Republic, partly because we as a people give our heartest admiration and respect, not to the mere strong man, regardless of whether he is good or bad, nor yet to the weakling of good purposes, but to the strong man who uses his strength deisinterestedly for the public good; and our greatest national asset is that of this type, the Timoleon and Hampden type, we have produced the greatest examples that the world has ever seen in Washington and Lincoln.”

Transfer the arena to international relations and you have the belief that “our cheif usefulness to humanity rests on our combining power with high purpose” The lesson of the American historical experience (the Revolution and the Civil War being the major cases in point) was the agreeable belief that moral force and physical force were complementary. Applying the same wisdom to international relations resulted in the conviction that influence came most readily to the “just man armed” and that only from that position could one really work for world peace. It was a neat little package; only by effecting a combination of the interests of the American national state with those arising from the idealism of her citizens could American foreign policy be successfully conducted and only then could world peace be ensure. A peace, it just so happened, which was also in the interest of the United States.

Top of page 180: To compound matters Wilson thereby established a pattern which plagued him in so many of his diplomatic dealings; his first notes were strong and ominous, but the subsequent ones dribbled off into futility. He threatened and then when his wishes were not met he took no action. Huerta came as a result to believe that Wilson was bluffing”

On pages 184 thru 209,  Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy by William C Widenoron,  the argument was not about whether the USA should get involved with WW1, the argument was that had the USA been prepared to fight, and had they remained prepared to fight, that WW1 would have never happened in the first place because of the “balance of power” issue that all leaders considered before military conflicts. If the USA had been prepared, the balance of power equation would have been dramatically different. But under Wilson, who had a reputation of being a “wet paper bag,” they all knew that they could fight this conflict and even if the USA was prepared (which TR & HCL claimed they were not) Wilson wouldn’t have sent the troops. Because Wilson was known a President who threatened, had public tantrums, but then never did anything to counter international aggression. Hence that reputation had more to do with decisions to send troops to battle in Europe, than any other point. Because had they known absolutely that if you attack Britain then you attack the USA too, and had the USA been prepared to fight …….. decisions would have been different.

Written by PhilCaldwell

July 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

USA Neutrality in World War One

with one comment

The following are excerpts from an on-going debate I was involved with in the Seattle PI about the 1911 thru 1920 arguments between Senator Henry Cabot-Lodge, a conservative scholar who felt a weak military put the nation at greater risk, vs President Woodrow Wilson, also a historical scholar, who argued the opposite and ultimately devised the League of Nations concept following the war,  which ironically the United Stated declined to join due to the lobbying efforts of Senator Lodge & others.

Arguments from previous posters or other web sites are in italics.  The far superior arguments made by the wise and knowing HugoC (my pi alias).

Posted in the Seattle PI on 7/13/2010 8:03 a.m.

Lets take a look at a general assessment of what caused WW1. There’s a terrific site that describes the causes & reasons at:

But let’s take a couple of key paragraphs from the situation:


Britain’s Splendid Isolation

Bismarck did not initially fear an alliance between France and Britain, for the latter was at that time in the midst of a self-declared 1870s policy of “splendid isolation”, choosing to stay above continental European politics.

If not Britain then, how about Russia and, conceivably, beaten foe Austria-Hungary?

HugoC – So right there you have Chancellor Bismarck gambling that since gathering the northern German states took a mere seven weeks to accomplish, he could do the same with the southern states. Part of that gamble was based on the below, so let’s clip this section:


One Thing Led to Another

So then, we have the following remarkable sequence of events that led inexorably to the ‘Great War’ – a name that had been touted even before the coming of the conflict.

* Austria-Hungary, unsatisfied with Serbia’s response to her ultimatum (which in the event was almost entirely placatory: however her jibbing over a couple of minor clauses gave Austria-Hungary her sought-after cue) declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.

* Russia, bound by treaty to Serbia, announced mobilisation of its vast army in her defence, a slow process that would take around six weeks to complete.

* Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary by treaty, viewed the Russian mobilisation as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, and after scant warning declared war on Russia on 1 August.

* France, bound by treaty to Russia, found itself at war against Germany and, by extension, on Austria-Hungary following a German declaration on 3 August. Germany was swift in invading neutral Belgium so as to reach Paris by the shortest possible route.

* Britain, allied to France by a more loosely worded treaty which placed a “moral obligation” upon her to defend France, declared war against Germany on 4 August. Her reason for entering the conflict lay in another direction: she was obligated to defend neutral Belgium by the terms of a 75-year old treaty. With Germany’s invasion of Belgium on 4 August, and the Belgian King’s appeal to Britain for assistance, Britain committed herself to Belgium’s defence later that day. Like France, she was by extension also at war with Austria-Hungary. With Britain’s entry into the war, her colonies and dominions abroad variously offered military and financial assistance, and included Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.

* Unites States President Woodrow Wilson declared a US policy of absolute neutrality, an official stance that would last until 1917 when Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare – which seriously threatened America’s commercial shipping (which was in any event almost entirely directed towards the Allies led by Britian and France) – forced the U.S. to finally enter the war on 6 April 1917

* Japan, honouring a military agreement with Britain, declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914. Two days later Austria-Hungary responded by declaring war on Japan.

* Italy, although allied to both Germany and Austria-Hungary, was able to avoid entering the fray by citing a clause enabling it to evade its obligations to both. In short, Italy was committed to defend Germany and Austria-Hungary only in the event of a ‘defensive’ war; arguing that their actions were ‘offensive’ she declared instead a policy of neutrality. The following year, in May 1915, she finally joined the conflict by siding with the Allies against her two former allies.


HugoC – The USA was aligned with Britain in loose form, while Britain had vowed to defend France.  France held the territories that Bismarck had eyes on, thus my argument is that attacking France, if wasn’t over quickly, ultimately would bring the USA into the conflict.

Due to the Woodrow Wilson agenda, the USA’s military was wholly unprepared to respond, hence the “balance of power”  was skewed towards the Axis Powers even if the USA was not involved.  If the USA did become involved,  then the balance of power would obviously be tipped towards the Allies since the USA was a sleeping force at that time that would dwarf any of these other powers if they ever decided to tool up.

So my argument (which I learned from professors Bridgeman & Findlay at the University of Washington)  is that the USA was actually the key player in Bismarck’s decision to attack.   Had the USA been tooled up and ready to go,  which they were not and what TR & HCL argued,  there is no possible way that Bismarck would have made the gamble to go after France. The gamble was made because the USA had yet to make he decision to be a player in the world scene and had not adequately increased the strength of their military.

Ultimately Wilson was forced into the war, and ultimately that made the USA the major power of the time.  Which was not the case before the war.   Hence the argument, the one that TR & HCL made time and again,  is that military strength decreases the chance of war based on the “balance of power” concept.  That states considering war ALWAYS make/made those judgements based on the balance of power.  A strong USA would tilt the balance of power towards the Allies, thus Bismarck would have never made the decision to go after the French states had the USA been strong and tooled up.    He would, and ultimately did,  make the decision specifically because the USA was not tooled up in 1914.

Wilson’s decision to de-emphasize the military thus,  became directly responsible for the millions upon millions killed in two World Wars that followed.  Had Wilson gone with the alternative of a strong military, chances are Bismarck would have made a different decision, the decision to not go forward with imperialistic plans southward.

Followed by this post in the SeattlePI, on 7/13/2010 at 8:14 a.m.

HugoC – We saw a similar situation play out again during WW2 when Neville Chamberlain was doing his Carter/Obama routine (ie: running around the planet cutting deals & negotiating with key enemy powers/leaders who we knew we could not trust).   And again,  per the TR/HCL doctrine,  we saw enemy military powers attacking others due to a reluctant USA that was not prepared to act.

Skip forward 57 years. George W Bush (the hated and despised “stupid” president) calculated,  correctly in my opinion,  that we could not repeat the mistakes of the past.  Saddam had too many similarities to Bismarck & Hitler in terms of military ambition, we learned the hard way what happens when you either ignore or attempt to “contain” theses types of leaders, thus the way to deal with the situation was to enforce resolutions that Saddam was ignoring from the UN.  17 separate times.

Wilson’s entire “League of Nation” concept (later survived by today’s United Nations) was dependent on an organization that would enforce edicts.   The United States ultimately failed to go along with Wilson’s concept due to the arguments of Henry Cabot Lodge, that the lessons of WW1 taught us that treaties obligating otherwise neutral member states put the world at greater risk, not less risk.   TR & HCL argued the only true and proven deterrent was a member state with a very strong military, vowing for peace yet willing to use the military if threatened by competing states with no such convictions.   In 2002, Bush, acting on the painful lessons of history that taught us that isolation was the WORST policy, acted accordingly.

Liberals & conservatives both, have been arguing about it ever since.  And yet Bush was did what he knew he had to, knowing he was likely sacrificing his legacy, because he was familiar with the history and these arguments of Henry Cabot Lodge,  far better than his critics.