I’ve been very slack about linking interesting posts lately, so here’s a quick roundup, mainly on military topics, reflecting the week’s news. Jeremy Bray at Catallaxy has a fairly pessimistic update on Iran’s nuclear program, while Andrew Norton discusses the death of Private Kovco. On the latter topic Democracy and Justice looks at the role of contracting out (a policy first implemented under Keating, as several commenters have observed) and Tim Dunlop dissects a typical Greg Sheridan rant.

Apart from the individual tragedy of Private Kovco, and continuing statistical disputes over how many tens of thousands have died, there’s nothing much on Iraq where we seem to have run out of things to say.

The Oz attack on John Curtin seems to have halted for the weekend, but you can read another response from Mark Bahnisch and more on Anzac Day from Gummo Trotsky, David Tiley and Ken Parish.

Finally, JF Beck complains that I don’t link to his posts and it’s true. Let me try to compensate by observing that his site slogan Nothing’s fact until it’s history, and then it’s debatable is the most perfect statement of the rightwing postmodernist outlook that I’ve ever read or am ever likely to. Also, and unequivocally positively, Beck’s participation in the DDT debate has led him to run an appeal for donations to Swim for Malaria, which has raised nearly $US 1000. If right and left could compete more on this basis, we might actually get somewhere.

Galbraith dies

John Kenneth Galbraith has just died. Here’s an NYT obit. Galbraith wasn’t exceptionally influential as an economic theorist, but he had a huge (and I think, generally positive) influence as a public intellectual. He’ll always be remembered as someone willing to challenge the “conventional wisdom”, one of many phrases he coined that have gone into general usage.


The body of Jake Kovco has finally returned to Australia. It’s hard to imagine what his family must be going through, starting with the news that they had lost a husband, a father and a son, and then compounded with the series of dreadful bungles (or worse) that we’ve seen.

It would be good to think that somewhere in the chain of command, someone will step forward to say “This happened on my watch, and whether or not I personally did anything wrong, I’m responsible. I offer my resignation”. So far, there hasn’t been any sign that anything like this will happen, but there’s still time.

Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

The roots of revisionism

As Ros points out in a comments thread below, the starting point for Stephen Barton’s revival of the Brisbane Line appears to be the work of Dr Peter Stanley, Principal Historian, Australian War Memorial, who has denied the ‘myth’ of a Japanese invasion, and criticised Curtin’s rhetoric on the subject. He relies almost exclusively on evidence that “.. there was no invasion plan. The Japanese never planned to make Australia part of its Co-Prosperity Sphere.” His main focus is criticism of statements by the Curtin government suggesting the opposite.

There’s a crucial ambiguity here, both in Curtin’s rhetoric and in Stanley’s response. If Port Moresby had fallen, and the Australian forces in PNG been destroyed or captured (and if the Battle of the Coral Sea had gone the other way), the Japanese would surely have pushed on to occupy ports and airfields in Northern Australia to deny their use to the Allies, and, if possible, knock Australia out of the war altogether. Such a move would have strengthened their position in the Pacific, and freed forces to fight elsewhere. On the other hand, an attempt to conquer the entire country and incorporate it into the Co-Prosperity Sphere would indeed have overstretched the Japanese capacity beyond its limits.

When Curtin referred to Kokoda as saving Australia from invasion, he was certainly justified, but, in motivating the war effort, it didn’t hurt to blur the difference between a partial occupation and a total conquest. By contrast, it’s hard to see how Stanley is serving the cause of historical accuracy by failing to make this crucial distinction.

Stanley can’t be blamed for the use people like Barton are making of his work, but he can certainly be criticised for intellectual sloppiness in his analysis.

Wikipedia doubling time

The English language version of Wikipedia had its one-millionth article on 8 March, and has just passed 1.1 million, 50 days later. That gives an implied doubling time of about a year. The doubling time seems to be fairly stable, since the 500 000 mark was reached in March 2005, and 250 000 in April 2004.

A straightforward extrapolation gives a billion articles in 2016. I’ll open this up for comments now, then give my own thoughts (taking advantage of yours, naturally).

Update over the fold
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