When Germany went to war in 1939, the Luftwaffe had one mission: Close air support. Quick-strike fighters like the Me-109 would knock out enemy planes on the ground, while heavy fighters like the Me-110 would eliminate any that managed to take off. Ultra-fast light bombers like the Do-17 would conduct tactical airstrikes against reinforcements and ammo dumps, while the fearsome Ju-87 Stuka took out troop concentrations and armor.
It worked spectacularly. Poland, France, Holland, Norway — nobody stood a chance. What the German army failed to achieve in four years of trench warfare, 1914-1918, it achieved in six months of blitzkrieg. But then the war changed. In order to invade Britain, the Luftwaffe first had to clear the skies. It was forced into a role for which it was not designed, and, despite a huge edge in weapons, training, and numbers, the results were not good. The Me-109 was a good dogfighting aircraft, but lacked the range to stay more than 20 minutes over southern England. The Me-110, which was supposed to be the air-superiority fighter, was useless in that role — too slow, too clunky, too lightly armed. The quick-strike tactical bombers lacked the bomb load and defensive armament to be strategic bombers, and by now enemy fighters were fast enough to catch up with them — they got shot down by the score, the 109 didn’t have the range to escort them, and the ones that got through didn’t have the punch to complete their assigned missions.
Worse, the Luftwaffe never seemed to realize its core mission had changed. Even when it became clear that Britain and Russia couldn’t be blitzed, they still kept cranking out ground-attack planes. Even as the skies over Germany were filling with British and American heavy bombers, and the ground on the Eastern Front with Russian divisions, the Luftwaffe was strapping bombs onto the world’s first operational jet fighter and trying to make its one kinda-sorta long-range strategic bomber into a dive bomber.
Which is a decent metaphor for modern government.
The Founders designed a pretty good government for its core mission — defending The People’s lives, liberty, and property, as those things stood around 1787. It was a distributed system; it assumed the assumption that the Big Three are best defended at the lowest practical level. So, most citizens would be governed by local laws. Only those things that required a bigger government would be handled at the county level, then the state level, until finally you got to the federal level, which handled very big stuff like foreign policy.
Alas, the centralizing tendency that has been man’s lot since we first came down from the trees doomed it. Toad Suck, Delaware, had a town council that was on the ball; their streets were great. Their neighbors in Frog Wallow didn’t, so their streets weren’t… which negatively impacted the commerce of Bugger County. Which, of course, affected the whole state, whose ongoing trade dispute with New Hampshire necessitated an appeal to the Feds… and whaddaya know, a few penumbras and emanations of the Commerce Clause later, and now you’ve got to clear it with seventeen different DC bureaucracies, plus nine lobbies and twenty four pressure groups, to fix a pothole on Toad Suck’s Main Street.
Mission creep, see? FedGov has the technical capacity to fix potholes in Toad Suck, Delaware, just as the Luftwaffe’s engineers had the technical capacity to make a jet fighter or a strategic bomber. But technical capacity is useless without an understanding of the core mission to which it is to be applied. Why was the world’s fastest aircraft — an air-superiority platform if ever there were one — blasting off to drop tiny little pinprick bombs on the Eastern Front? Did Goering really envision huge fleets of strategic bombers diving from 20,000 feet to drop heavy payloads on British and Soviet industries? The minute you ask “so what’s all this spiffy tech actually for, anyway?” nobody has an answer… and that’s why they lost the war.
These days, nobody has any idea what our FedGov is supposed to do. The Constitution may or may not be a “living document,” as Our Betters always say — it may well have been overtaken by events. But how would we even know? It assumed that government exists to do certain things. Does our government still do those things? Is it supposed to? Can it? (It is entirely possible that “protection of life” is not compatible with “preservation of liberty,” as any number of knife-, truck-, rifle-, and bomb-wielding Swedish Lutheran lone wolves are doing their damnedest to illustrate).
If we have any hope of winning this thing, we need to figure it out. You don’t win a total war with dive bombers, and you don’t win a total cultural war with internet memes. What’s the mission here?