I strongly recommend political junkies and philosophy fans take a look at Anat Belitzki's The Stone column in the this morning's New York Times, Making It Explicit in Israel. Excellent piece by an Israeli philosopher about the implications of the stark differences between the incoming government and the way Israel has portrayed its intentions toward the Palestinian community. Not particularly optimistic, except that only by making underlying issues explicit can we begin to deal with them. Perhaps the reason yesterday's solutions do not work is because they never were solutions so much as bromides.
Belitzki is a professor at Quinnipiac University here in the US and at the University of Tel Aviv, and has a record of activism in Israeli civil rights. She references the work of American philosopher Richard Brandom who believes that it is possible to use language to make explicit what is real and implied in our social, cultural and political norms. For example, in Israeli-American dialogue, the two state solution is a given, and we're just discussing means and implementation and guarantees.
Bizetzki says that just isn't true, and that the most recent Israeli election shows that very starkly. She writes:
The government that will be formed this week is the most clearly articulated, narrowest, most right-wing, most religious and most nationalistic government ever assembled in Israel. A combination of the fundamentalist Orthodox clerical parties with the nationalistic chauvinism of the Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett who makes no attempt to hide his annexation plans, has been orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu in no uncertain terms. Along with Likud, Netanyahu’s home, which is the largest party in Israel today, and Kulanu (All of Us – a breakaway of Likud), this whole bloc is unambiguous in its Jewish, nationalistic agenda. (Emphasis added)
She believes that this explosion of truth into what was basically polite lies and cocktail conversation between Israel's leaders and the world was foreshadowed and made inevitable by the two month long attack on Gaza by the Israeli army in July-August 2014. The implicit issues between the US understanding of the agreed path forward -- Two State Solution, Camp David Accords, etc. -- and what Israel's government intends is pretty well illustrated by the odd mis-translation of the name of the operation. Operation "Tsuk Eitan." was announced to the world as Operation "Protective Edge" which has a somewhat defensive tone; she says that a more accurate translation would be "Firm Cliff" which has a vaguer yet more threatening tone. My use of a Google translator resulted in "A Rock" which opens a wide range of possibilities. Perhaps "Perhaps Operation Masada" or "Operation Stoning" would have been more appropriate.
Willie and Waylon and all are great examples of the craft of Texas songwriting, as are Lyle Lovett and Rodney Crowell and Robert Earle Keen but for me, Guy Clark is probably the most influential of the Texas Songwriters.
Everybody recorded his stuff and he never really got the credit. Most of his albums are classics; his performances are exceptional; and, he's an honest man who practices his craft daily. Townes Van Zandt may have been Steve Earle's hero, but Clark his mentor and safe haven. Clark spent years picking up the pieces of Townes' wreckage, getting him to shows, sessions and out of jails and hospitals while pondering the inevitable.
Rodney Crowell started drinking coffee at Susanna and Guy's kitchen table while escaping from an abusive father and met Emmylou Harris there.
Rosanne Cash sat with Rodney, Steve and Emmy Lou Harris writing lyrics and trying licks with Guy. And, an old 2nd or 3rd hand Ovation Celebrity and "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train" got me back into guitar playing and through the mourning over the death of my dad.
I feel honored to have the opportunity to contribute to this one...
First heard Guy's writing here, although I didn't know it with this one. Like I said, everybody covered him! Now my dad loved Bobby Bare's version of New Cut Road, but I think this version by Emmylou is definitive..."Guy Clark isn't speaking to me..." was a great inside joke, since her band leader for the Hot Band backing this one was fellow Clark friend, Rodney Crowell.
The life of Texas songwriter Guy Clark is certainly ripe for documentary treatment. Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark will trace the life of the folk pioneer from his early Texas beginnings, through his historic career and up to present day.--American Song Writer, 4-20-2015
Mentioning Crowell, the lyrics for this one were provided by Guy and the song cited in his lifetime award for poetry by the Academy of Country Music a few years ago.
The project is doing quite well through the Kick Starter Campaign and while it still has a way to go, it'll be worth it. Guy lost his muse, love and inspiration a couple of years ago when Susanna passed away from complications of Alzheimer's. After a relatively small stroke, he's settled back into his routine, but his health isn't great; getting this done has a sort of short event horizon. But, it is a story that I'd like to see and hear told.
He's cut back on his touring because the logistics are just too tough. But, he still writes everyday, drinks a bit less whiskey and a lot less coffee, and has a group of devoted friends who help him stay the stubborn, graceful, forgiving and transcendent writer, singer and thinker who influenced the music, writing, thought and performance of so many people. Lyle Lovett says it well in one of the pieces in the Kick Starter -- "I wouldn't have a career without Guy Clark."
While I have not yet read Masha Gessen's The Brothers, her investigation into how the Boston Marathon Bombing happened and what followed, her column in the New York Times this morning is well worth the time to read and think about for a while. Trials are usually unsatisfactory in that they focus on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. That is what the law is for. Why something happened and how it came to happen is where the problem gets more complicated, and yet gets us closer to the reality, to the thing itself. As she says:
"There are other questions, big and small. But these two are clearly essential to understanding what went wrong in Boston two years ago. Yet in the course of the trial they were barely discussed. Arguably, they shouldn’t have been. An American criminal trial is designed to assess guilt and administer justice, not to look for truth — and truth and justice are not synonymous. Sadly, other authorities have also failed to fully account for what happened or what can be done to prevent it from happening again."
Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and author. She is both Jewish by heritage if not by practice and a lesbian. Her parents brought her to the US during one of the periods when the Soviets allowed Jews to emigrate to Israel, and she holds dual-citizenship. She returned to Russia in the early 90s when it looked like perhaps things were going to achieve some sort of positive democracy and pluarlistic Society. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Both as a journalist and as an activist, Gessen was active covering demonstrations and problems in Putin's Russia. She adopted a child with her partner, and they were happy. However, she began to find herself feeling alienated from her homeland, and found that she had problems keeping jobs and getting freelance assignments in Russia. She wrote an exceptional book about President Putin which raised her FSB profile I suspect. She then chronicled the Pussy Riot debacle, both advocating for the women and placing their actions in context. Ultimately, about two years ago as the homophobia in Russia hit crescendos similar to the 1813 Overture and the government became more and more unfriendly toward any dissent, she brought her family back to the United States. Long a contributor to the Times, which is where I first encountered her, she writes a monthly piece on the Op-Ed page as well as writing for The Guardian and other serious publications.
I strongly recommend her work here and on Pussy Riot and on Putin as Autocrat to anyone who is interested in and open-minded about what's happening in that most troubling and confusing nation.
Crusader AXE has a new piece on the Iranian deal up over at Veterans Today and while I think it's fairly reasonable, I was initially gratified to find the comments were all written not in drool or feces. Well, it went down hill, fairly quickly...Eric Holder, the Rothschilds and the Kardashians are all tied up in the minds of some of my readers. If General Jack D. Ripper hadn't gone to his reward in Dr.Strangelove, I'm sure our precious body fluids would also have been an issue...however, some decent music and a nice sort of overview for those who feel the only response to Iran-Nuclear-Tea Pary-Republican speculation and explanation is Jack Daniels mixed with absinthe and delivered intravenously.
"Russia does not have a machinery of ideology or repression on the scale of the 1930s. Mr Nemtsov did not present any plausible political threat. But the country does have plenty of the sort of scoundrels described in "The Devils", Dostoevsky's prophetic novel of moral degradation and political terrorism. “One or two generations of vice are essential now," explains that novel's chief provocateur, Petr Verkhovensky. "Monstrous, abject vice by which a man is transformed into a loathsome, cruel, egoistic reptile. That's what we need! And what's more, a little 'fresh blood' that we may get accustomed to it.” -- The Economist, 3/ 2/ 2015
Russia went through a period in the 90s and the 2000s where gangster and Mafia were sort of the equivalent of man on the street. In a lot of ways, the streets of Moscow and Leningrad resembled the streets of Capone's Chicago or Wiemar Berlin and Munich.
However, there have been a lot of regime-friendly killings under the Putin-Medvedev-Putin cycle of power. The most recent, the gangland style assassination of Boris Nematov which seems to answer the question "How bad can it get?" as "Pretty damn bad" actually fits a set of data points that The Economist describes as being provided by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, indicate that since 1995, 8% of political assassinations have occurred in Russia and Eastern Europe.
What little is known about Mr Nemtsov’s death fits with other data points. Though the ideology of Mr Nemtsov’s killer is still a mystery, 29% of perpetrators are seemingly motivated by ethnic or separatist sentiments. Short-range weapons like sub-machine guns and pistols are the most popular weapon among hit men, and leaders of political movements are often the victims in such crimes. Assassinations are also common in authoritarian regimes that do not quite qualify as totalitarian. If Mr Nemtsov's murder was politically motivated, it fits a pattern.
What does strike me is that Putin is becoming less and less flexible and more controlling. Anyone who has indicated his respect for Stalin and comes from the KGB is probably not envisioning a liberal democracy as a positive outcome. Nemtsov was aware of the danger, but indicated that if he was afraid, he probably wouldn't be leading an opposition party. The site of the murder is also intriguing. There is no public space around with the possible exception of Tienanmen Square that is better guarded, watched and monitored with a mix of technology and human capabilities than Red Square. The guy was walking across a bridge with his younger, Ukrainian significant other at night toward the Kremlin on the way home and somebody jumped out of a car or fired from the window and nailed him four times in the back. Not a terribly hard shot, of course; but the likelihood of doing it and getting away with it given the location and level of paranoia endemic to the occupiers of the Kremlin since Ivan the Terrible is limited. Unless it was orchestrated by the guardians of the state.
Now, the mythology of Henry II and Thomas Becket provides some illustration. Kings like Henry were rare in the Middle Ages of course, but he was something of a hands on guy on the things he was interested in -- money, taxes, power, war. He picked Becket, his drinking and whoring buddy to be the Archbishop of Canterbury largely because he figured he could trust him to do what he wanted him to do in terms of money, taxes, power and the Church. Well, once ordained, Becket began to act like an actual Archbishop. They squabbled, Becket went into exile, England got into trouble with the Pope and so on; they made a somewhat mock reconciliation, and Becket was allowed to return to England. Where, of course, he continued to act like an Archbishop; as head of the Church in England, he was a very potent symbol with a certain amount of power that to a micro-manager King. The myth is that Henry was sort of drunk, started complaining about Becket and said "Somebody go kill the sonofabitch..." or, more poetically, "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" Three knights got up from the banquet, got on their horses, and cantered off to Canterbury where they offed the Archbishop. The King didn't mean anything really and so he went through a ritual scourging, did Penance and Becket remained the symbol of conscience and duty to God first for the next 1000 years...except that when Henry VIII decided to redecorate all the churches, cathedrals, monasteries and convents to his taste, Becket was yanked from his grave and tossed out on the trash heap.
"I was born in a welfare state Ruled by bureaucracy Controlled by civil servants And people dressed in grey Got no privacy, got no liberty Cos the twentieth century people Took it all away from me." --Ray Davies
Well, as Ray Davies put it so well, "This the age of machinery/a mechanical nightmare/The wonderful world of technology/Napalm Nuclear Bombs/Biological Warfare." Putin didn't have to have a drunken brawl, he just had to mutter something or less; and, while Putin is a notorious micro manager himself, this looks like something that would have been handled autonomously by some low level manager in the FSB office charged with coordination with Skinhead/Nationalist/Bikers and Mafia Contract Killers. Makes you wonder what the cost of the man's life was? A new Harley? A Dacha formerly owned by Stalin? An autographed picture of Vladimir and Dmitri skinning a bear over a beer from Putin's own brewery?
Activist and human rights advocate Masha Geesen -- a Russian-American who worked in Moscow for decades but left as it became harder to make a living and fearing reprisals, had her own encounter with Mr. Putin. She described it a couple of years ago, when she was forced to resign from a job with a news magazine in Moscow. She got a call from "Putin, Vladamir, Vladamirovich..." who had a meeting set up with him, the publisher who forced her to resign, and her to discuss what had happened. Putin dictated what he thought was a fair solution and the publisher offered her back her job. She turned it down. So, she's had some direct experience.
What Masha describes in her piece in the New York Times is a not so new development in Russia, and for that matter other countries going through periods of mass change. It's worth remembering that the American Legion was involved heavily in anti-union and anti-immigrant and anti-socialist activities right after it's founding; IWW activists were lynched in Centralia Washington in the 1920s. The Red Guards of Maoist China were a volunteer party organization to protect the Revolution and Mao's vision. There were a number of organizations of reactionary forces over the centuries in Russia that may not have had official government recognition or support, but were working to protect the Kremlin against...something.
Gessen points out that Nemtsov was not a threat to Putin, to the regime or to anything. The protest movement is Russia has been utterly marginalized. Part of this is due to the patriotic fervor of a people at war responding to anyone or anything whom they perceive as standing against them -- Freedom Fries, anyone? Want some tea bags with that M14?--or that might present a threat. Part of it is the desire to show that patriotic fervor and be seen showing it. And, quite frankly, the Biker-Skinhead-Anti-gay Axis and the Mafia all have their own oars in this water. So this force is utterly unorganized and uncontrolled and doing what the various elements see as protecting the Kremlin and Mother Russia...from Mother Russia. She is clear -- Gessen was of no real interest to Putin. He may have found Nemstov an irritant and perhaps my Beer-Bear fantasy has some metaphorical value But, Masha Gessen probably calls it better:
Less than a week after that march, and just before the one he had organized, Mr. Nemtsov was gunned down while walking a bridge that spans the Moscow River right in front of the Kremlin. It is under constant camera and live surveillance. The message was clear: People will be killed in the name of the Kremlin, in plain view of the Kremlin, against the backdrop of the Kremlin, simply for daring to oppose the Kremlin.
And, just for the record, Beyonce is one of the best cover artists for blues and soul music that has ever picked up a microphone.
Anyway, here's the article from Dangerous Minds and some pretty amazing blues playing in the Link from a 60s Detroit local rock and roll show. I think the band -- a couple of his kids and a bassist he played with a lot -- are really tight. He uses a lot of vibrato, but not like BB King. BB's has that sweet mournful sound, but Hooker's is more than a little dark and dangerous. Blues has that tendency to make you think of a smokey bar and bunch of people sitting and listening and dancing. Hooker's sound makes you think of the small caliber guns and straight razors in the alley. Something else happened however as I started listening to John Lee, picking and choosing titles from the ton available on Rhapsody. I realized that John Lee Hooker was an exemplar of the results of the Great Depression and the New Deal. Born in1917, in Clarksdale Mississippi where HW 61 merges going north and becomes HW 49, John Lee headed north in the early 40s along with some other juke joint players from Clarksdale, like Muddy Waters. While Waters and others headed for Chicago, Hooker and a few others carried the Blues to the auto factories in Detroit, Dearborn, Flint, Cleveland, Gary and Toledo. The Detroit sound led ultimately to the Motown sound, of course, but it's a difficult route to trace, since the Detroit Blues sound is grittier and rougher than the classic Chicago blues. You want to hear traces of John Lee, you'll catch that grit in bands like Bob Seeger's various incarnations, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels in his different incarnations and, of course, MC5.
So it's a different style, but there's also a very political element that pops up. The most loyal of the autoworkers, the meatpackers and the tire factory workers to the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt and, of course, Eleanor were the black workers. He gives a pretty good account of that feeling in Democrat Man Blues. Interestingly, he blames the election of Republicans on the "women" who thought that they were going to have luxury with the Republicans back in.
So, I guess in his way, John Lee was a forerunner of Fox News, making a pretty wild and ultimately wrong accusation as an excuse for a bigger problem -- even then, in 1946 to 1960, Americans had a problem with short memories and simple solutions.
Hooker stayed in Detroit until he died. He was one of those somewhat reluctant travelers on the Blues Highway. There's a great story I've heard Eric Burdon tell about how he went to hear Hooker in 1964 at some concert in London and was knocked out. With a couple of mates from the Animals, he went backstage as British Rock and Blues royalty and got introduced. They hit it off -- probably some Scotch involved in that -- and Burdon invited Hooker to stay with him in his home in Newcastle on Tyne. Feeling as out of place in London as he could, Hooker said "Yeah, man, cool."
Problem was, while Hooker had a reputation as a tough guy from Detroit, Birmingham was a lot tougher in 1964. Burdon got Hooker a gig in the club where the Animals first ruled, and while the crowd loved him, they scared the shit out of the man! Couldn't understand them because of that crazy Northeast English accent and that was a tough crowd. Of course, in 1964 Detroit and the auto industry was top of the world, but Newcastle's primary industries -- shipbuilding, export of coal, heavy manufacturing --were in a long power slide to irrelevancy and extinction. Wiki has some discussion about how the city is now noted for its environmental issues, but Newcastle did a great job of foreshadowing Detroit's future.
When the jobs go, the city dies the death of a thousand cuts, and the people despair. So knives, shivs, guns, brass knuckles, flying Newcastle Brown Ale bottles and so on were the norm. In fact, in the 80s Hooker was doing a concert with Burdon as a guest in Cobo Hall in Detroit. Hooker introduced him, and then said, "Man, I stayed with him in Newcastle back in the 60s. Lord that was a tough town. Little bar gig, lots of people having fun, but they scared the living hell out of me."
Well, my first thought is that we're obviously just a bunch of spoiled first world whiners, complaining that Starbucks is out of stoppers for our extra-shot, double syrup, half-caff carmel mocha latte Venti whatever...as a stockholder in Howard Schultz's empire, I feel your pain, but in small town America and in the poorer sides of town, Starbucks has closed their nearest stores and the local Safeway is out of coffee-flavored coffee. Metaphorically speaking, of course, except that here in the California Crossroads of Opportunity, the downtown Starbucks runs out of coffee occasionally. Seriously, once or twice a year...go figure.
However, in today's America, we are often bitch slapped back and forth for hours, and then end up focused on something completely insane and irrelevant. I had a mentor and friend commit suicide a decade ago after deciding that what he had spent his life working for was impossible to achieve and his legacy was being poisoned by the greed and petty jealousy of his friends and family. He stopped taking his medicine for the blood pressure and other cardio-problems so he could watch what was happening around him, and told only a few people.
While not up there with Cato the Younger slicing his belly with a gladius, screwing it up, and then talking about philosophy with his friends, this was a pretty stoic way to do it. When I found out, I was not surprised; he'd done this once before but someone had talked him out of it, saying that without his example, the whole thing would be morally bankrupt. He accepted that, and then, when the enterprise was overrun by weasels and was a sinking black hole of moral bankruptcy, he did it again.
There was an interesting bit of bi-play on Twitter about this, when that exemplar of modern ethics, integrity and community spirit, Rupert Murdoch had the gall to tweet this nonsense: Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. --R.Murdoch, Lake of Fire, Hell
The thing we should remember is the difference between not enough and more than enough is some indescribably small amount. I give what I can and wish it was more. Today, I'm just incensed. Cognitive dissonance got me, and here's why. I got a request for help from Jim Davis, the founder and CEO. Here's the relevant part.
Four days ago one of our sister organizations called trying to get a Veteran in New Jersey some help. And originally we turned them down providing referrals to several other organizations and letting Laura (the Vet Service Coordinator) know she was really going to have to push hard as most simply weren’t assisting for various reasons. Lawrence Bergjans, served two tours in Iraq as a SPC in the Army. He is 28 years old, and he does receive 10% benefits for hearing loss and is still pending on his claim for PTSD.
With Laura’s persistence she was pretty successful in that she raised nearly $2,000 of the $2,600 needed, and she called to ask us if we had other agencies we could refer her to call on, and we did provide her an addition 11 more in other states. Laura informed us that food pantries there were empty or had very little to offer and asked if we could assist in that area as well. We did tell her we would make the effort, but we could not promise nor could we guarantee anything.
We did make a few calls to organizations here on the west coast as well as a few churches and we were able to have one church in Nogales assist and gave $650.00. We’re hoping we can raise an additional $40-50.00 or more to help cover food items, and Laura will be making calls on Monday to social services and try to assist Lawrence at enrolling into the welfare and food stamp programs. We’re hoping we can raise an additional $40-50.00 or more to help cover food items, and Laura will be making calls on Monday to social services and try to assist Lawrence at enrolling into the welfare and food stamp programs.
I sent a bit and apologized for not having more. Jim takes no salary from this labor of love he started when his father passed away after a deathbed request to keep fighting for Vets and their rights. He
dropped a note back, and the relevant parts are these:
Thank you, and I know what you mean by tough. Damn, just barely got the utilities here at home covered and was left a whopping 28 cents in the account.
We’ve been running into empty food pantries all over the place. I lost track of all the calls we made but roughly 70% were empty, and the rest just barely had anything but were still offering it up.I honestly don’t know what is going on with the Govt. grants either, most have not been renewed yet, and I was told by a Veteran Liaison in Congresswoman Sanchez’s office that many grants were being reviewed in committee, and it looked like they were going to make them more tougher to award grants. Doesn’t surprise me, they’re not giving up any money for Veterans and what is being given up who the hell knows where it’s going but it’s not going where intended.
In case you're not aware of this aspect, Nogales is a border town, and not a particularly rich one (oxymoron) in Arizona. The state of Arizona ranks 41st in the US for per capita income. New Jersey ranks 3rd in per capita income. That kind of says it all, doesn't it? One of the richest states in the country, run by a sociopathic bloated crook who likes to act tough and use his power to bully anyone who crosses him, and to get assistance for one of their "honored veterans" who is pending the PTSD call they have get assistance from a very poor city in a relatively poor state. In 2013, the per capita income for a resident of Nogales was slightly over $13000; according to the World Bank, in 2013 the average US per capita income was over $50,000.
Cognitive dissonance. If you don't feel a bit confused by this, or angry, or disillusioned or something; if you think Murdoch has a point and Rowling is just being bitchy, well -- seek help. Or run for office as a Republican.
My dad told me that a good manager was right more than 51% of the time. I think he was right -- great managers and leaders probably get it right around 60% of the time, and generally get the big things right. Republicans tend to get facts and theories and bullshit confused and are seldom right but their voters don't care that much. Like heroin, most Republican voters lose in the long run, but it's all about the rush! Quants generally get all the minor shit absolutely spot on, but punt the big things. Go figure.
My buddy Eric "El Norte Chingasa" Garland or something like that makes his living doing predictions, and he tends to be right often enough that he gets calls from moderately important people who ask him reasonably important questions for which he must provide reasonably coherent answers (Shit, man, who knows...it's all stuff. Stuff happens... Not acceptable.) that are mostly correct. Eric is not an economist. He's close enough to right to supplement his wife's income as a physician.
I'm right reasonably often -- I am not an economist. I don't get paid to be a prognosticator, so it doesn't matter. But, the only guys I'm aware of who've reasonably correct over the past few years have been the Keynesians. And of course, nobody including the US did what they recommended. So, although long, worth reading. Even considering the source...
I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper
And I was free. -- Ray and Saliers
When I turn to philosophy and pick up a new work, the technical stuff makes me think that perhaps the idea to burn the Great Library of Alexandria was not such a bad one after all. Langugae that serves only to drive the potential reader away deserves to be forgotten. Of course, doctoral disseratations don't succeed so much by provoking new thought as by providing variations on an accepted theme of bullshit. The great thinkers succeed in reaching us by doing other things that producing tomes suitable more for tombs that thought, realization and excited discussion.
Daniel Dennett is an interesting and provocative thinker; while I like his simile about human beings as "moist robots", he seems here to be edging away from that. The robot part takes us so far, and then there's an entirely different set of functions,problems and issues. Two things I liked here is the issue of intentionality -- free will requires philosophical intention, that is, conscienious direction and awareness and it requires the ability to recognize and prevent manipulation. The moral actor has to go into situations with eyes wide open and a poker face. The other, which I think is implied, is that the initial reaction to radically new perspectives seems to be to regard it as either naive or cynical, until you think about it.
My other thought is simple. I find Dennett's technical philosophy, the neuroscientist-philosopher stuff incomprehensible, but when he writes or speaks to communicate with actual living people, he's very good indeed. Is that a trend? Crispin's thought is much the same way, although since he doesn't babble about neurons and synapses and blood volume and all the rest, he's more approachable. Sartre was the same way -- you can read "Being and Nothingness", or you can read "The Words" or "No Exit and three Plays" and the first will drive you to distraction, solitary despair and isolated absinthe sucking through a sugar cube; the others will engage, provoke conversastion and maybe...cause thought.
Maybe even in Salon...it's a thought.
Technorati Tags: although since he doesn't babble about neurons and synapses and blood volume and all the rest, and then there's an entirely different set of functions, but when he writes or speaks to communicate with actual living people, conscienious direction and awareness and it requires the ability to recognize and prevent manipulation. The moral actor has to go into situations with eyes wide open and a poker face. The other, doctoral disseratations don't succeed so much by provoking new thought as by providing variations on an accepted theme of bullshit. The great thinkers succeed in reaching us by doing other things that producing tomes suitable more for tombs that thought, got my paper And I was free. -- Ray and Saliers When I turn to philosophy and pick up a new work, he said he could see through me I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, he seems here to be edging away from that. The robot part takes us so far, he's more approachable. Sartre was the same way -- you can read "Being and Nothingness", he's very good indeed. Is that a trend? Crispin's thought is much the same way, I went to see the doctor of philosophy With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee He never did marry or see a B-grade movie He graded my performance, is that the initial reaction to radically new perspectives seems to be to regard it as either naive or cynical, or you can read "The Words" or "No Exit and three Plays" and the first will drive you to distraction, problems and issues. Two things I liked here is the issue of intentionality -- free will requires philosophical intention, provoke conversastion and maybe...cause thought. Maybe even in Salon...it's a thought. , realization and excited discussion. Daniel Dennett is an interesting and provocative thinker; while I like his simile about human beings as "moist robots", solitary despair and isolated absinthe sucking through a sugar cube; the others will engage, that is, the neuroscientist-philosopher stuff incomprehensible, the technical stuff makes me think that perhaps the idea to burn the Great Library of Alexandria was not such a bad one after all. Langugae that serves only to drive the potential reader away deserves to be forgotten. Of course, until you think about it. My other thought is simple. I find Dennett's technical philosophy, which I think is implied
There's a great sequence at the end, when Chief Dan George decides that it is time to die, and so he takes Hoffman in the title role off to assist him. They build the death platform, Chief Dan makes some wise pronouncements, says something like "Take me now, Great Spirit!" and lies down to die. It starts to rain, he asks, "Am I still in this world?' Assured that he is, Dan George mutters, "I was afraid of that" and looks at Little Big Man and shrugs, saying, "Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't. Let's go back to the teepee and eat." And so they go.
I saw it in college, and haven't seen it since, but despite over 40 years and a lot of music, films, TV and real life drama, that line has stuck with me. I might riff it a bit more darkly, like "Sometimes the magic works, but most of the time you're screwed!" but that's really being cynical and jejune all at once. Most times, things done well work pretty well according to plan if the plan is worth a damn. When the plan sucks, it may or not matter whether or not things are done well. When the execution is flawed, things might still work out if there's luck or some redundancy built in to the system.
So, when the Union forces at Pittsburg Landing where surprised by Albert Sydney Hall and his merry men, everything on the union side went to hell initially. However, training and commander's intent and valor held Grant's army together and the Confederates were stopped. After dark, Sherman who'd initially been stunned by the attack and pushed out of his position but had managed to get his head together -- a problem "Uncle Billy" had at that stage of the war -- and held on anchoring the Union's right flank, went to see Grant.
During the night rain fell in torrents and our troops were exposed to the storm without shelter. I made my headquarters under a tree a few hundred yards back from the river bank. My ankle was so much swollen from the fall of my horse the Friday night preceding, and the bruise was so painful, that I could get no rest. The drenching rain would have precluded the possibility of sleep without this additional cause. Some time after midnight, growing restive under the storm and the continuous pain, I moved back to the loghouse under the bank. This had been taken as a hospital, and all night wounded men were being brought in, their wounds dressed, a leg or an arm amputated as the case might require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the enemy's fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain. -- Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs
Sherman wanted to talk to Grant about the next day. His men had recovered and held, and he was convinced that the best thing to do was to withdraw across the river and regroup. Knowing his commander and friend was a pragmatist and a bulldog of determination, he wanted both instructions and inspiration while being reassured that they were pulling back. Bruce Catton, one of the better and most readable of the historians of the Civil War, describes that meeting, under the tree in the pouring rain out of sight if not of earshot of the hospital and the on-going butchery that passed for battlefield surgery at that stage of military medicine.
Late that night tough Sherman came to see him. Sherman had found himself, in the heat of the enemy's fire that day, but now he was licked; as far as he could see, the important next step was "to put the river between us and the enemy, and recuperate," and he hunted up Grant to see when and how the retreat could be arranged. He came on Grant, at last, at midnight or later, standing under the tree in the heavy rain, hat slouched down over his face, coat-collar up around his ears, a dimly-glowing lantern in his hand, cigar clenched between his teeth. Sherman looked at him; then, "moved," as he put it later, "by some wise and sudden instinct" not to talk about retreat, he said: "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" Grant said "Yes," and his cigar glowed in the darkness as he gave a quick, hard puff at it, "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though. -- Bruce Catton, Grant Moves South
As we know, Grant was right. His approach throughout the war was to devise a plan, have his subordinates execute it, and to modify if necessary...but you had to convince him that it was necessary. He was hard to convince. He expected the magic -- the training, the preparation, the planning and the execution -- to work, and it normally did.
Lee was much the same way, but the difference between the two was that it was harder to convince Lee he was wrong -- it took the destruction of Pickett's division at Gettysburg to convince him that it was necessary to withdraw. Grant's solution to situations like Day 3 at Gettysburg for Lee or his Day 2 at Shiloh or The Wilderness in 1865 was to hold and flank them.
Grant encountered that as President. The realities of greed, stupidity, institutional corruption and the moral weakness of the powerful did him in. Sherman, however, learned a lot from that experience. During the Georgia Campaign, he had more than one devil's own day before the fall of Atlanta, but he'd learned from Grant that if he persevered and flanked Bragg and his Army, he'd ultimately win.
He also learned to not take on challenges that he didn't see having an upside. After what happened to Grant as president, a far more patient individual than Sherman, he famously telegraphed the Republican Convention when he was being touted as a potential candidate for President, that "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve." History, or at least cynical readers of history with warped senses of humor like me, wish the party and the electorate had called his bluff if only for...symmetry.
Stephen Pastis, Attorney, Cartoonist and Wise Man of our Times inspired this line of thinking from me this morning with today's Pearls Before Swine. You see, there are real dangers -- and there are those that are imaginable--and there is some overlap. But not a lot. And if one idiot manages to kill themselves or maim themselves, that fails to excuse the rest of us from using something like some sense in the whole thing. And parents are really great about this sort of thing -- I've run with a rifle with a bayonet on it, and with scissors, and haven't hurt myself with either. Guess which one I heard a lot about? Mom and Dad never told me not to run with firearms or with a knife on the end of a stick. Oddly, the things that can really hurt us, like a Republican dominated Congress or Mitt Romney, they seem to have missed completely.Go figure.
It's not that nothing happened; it's just that everything that happened pissed me off more. However, I saw an article today in Foreign Affairs that as Kant said of David Hume, awakened me from my doctrinal slumbers. Actually, it just pissed me off some more, but...
Here's the article posted over at Veterans Today. Topic is about weasels, varmints and government staffers. Thanks to the one and only Montag Beetlebox of Maine for illustrating my feelings with so much...feeling?
Ever listen to one of these dweebs as they talk about stuff that they have no experience with but took a seminar from someone who had no experience with it either but had talked to someone about it, so...really made me think of this one...
The problem with the world today is that the smart people are full of doubt and the stupid people are full of confidence --Bukowski
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? -- Willy Yeats
Ah well, what the hell...there is this...
No one is ever going to elect me to public office. First of all I wouldn't run and secondly, if I won, I'd demand a recount. And then defect to New Zealand. I think I'd be a great philosopher-king, but I couldn't put up with the continual salesmanship and bombast that our current situation demands. Although I think a lot of the folks who comment here and some of our writers could benefit from a few deep breathes, some relaxation exercises, and maybe a nice cold drink to calm down, Veterans Today isn't anywhere near as loony as lot of the right wing stuff we're seeing.
I think our editorial positions on a lot of stuff -- most things -- are "This is all screwed up and why can't anyone fix it?" I suspect for a lot of us -- left, right, center, floating above the fray somewhere -- are channeling St Ross of Perot and his rather simple "Don't ignore the crazy aunt in the basement...if the car doesn't work, you lift up the hood and you fix it!" Ross and Jimmy Carter were both Rickover boys in the nascent Nuclear Navy, and they brought an engineering approach to everything. Rational people with rational ideas who, despite differing ideological views, believe that with common sense, honesty and good faith you can accomplish a lot.
Which sadly, doesn't work a lot of the time in the world of government. Especially now, since engineering is based on scientific principles in a way that social science and things like politics and governance and economics are not. So just because there's evidence to support something doesn't mean we have a way to implement it. If you doubt that, I refer you to the last 3 and probably the next three Congresses. Like many observers and many economists, I keep waiting for the confidence fairy to appear and get us back to full employment, high 401Ks and a booming economy. I don't think it's going to happen, and there's some reason to think that the current stock market dip is a sign of another rough ride.
So, ISIL is either below the fold of newspapers or not the lead article on sights anymore. Rachel Maddow was primarily about Ebola last night; Shep Smith over at Fox has been forthcoming and honest in his coverage. This is a complicated problem and
who the hell knows what we're going to see happen in the world. What we're not going to see, in all likelihood, is a pandemic in the United States. But, the usual suspects can hope...and claim there is one. And it's obviously Obama's fault, and the Democrats and the women and the Gays and...no, not really.
What we're arguing about is policy and that hasn't got a lot to do with the disease. For example, the Republicans, especially John "Why do we have all these Czars in the Obama Administration?" McCain demand that there be a Czar so there will be somebody in charge. Fine. Constitutionally, the Surgeon General of the United States, a Cabinet-level appointee is in charge at the direction of the President. We just don't have one. I seem to recall that one of the Bush appointees ultimately indicated that he wasn't so sure about the germ theory of disease, but that may be me oversimplifying again. Since the position has been vacant since 2013, we've had a nominee, Doctor Vitkek Murthy since late last year.
Yeah, we have a nominee, a physician with the usual long list of credentials, Yale Medicine and Business Schools, successful entrepreneur, attending physician and an instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. He hasn't been confirmed because the NRA threatened to score the vote on his nomination because he would like to see more laws and regulations for guns in this country. Given the number of people killed by guns in the US and the damn near universal agreement in public health circles about some additional restrictions being a good idea, a public health expert and scientist who adopted any other position would probably also believe that the sun and planets revolve around the earth and the earth is flat...all those satellite photos being faked.
We don't know what Solomon would have done had neither claimant not opposed cutting the baby in half, but the point of the story was that the wise king knew that the real mother would do anything to save her child. President Obama would seem to be so wedded to some concept of rational discourse and fairness that faced with the same situation, he might still have the baby cut in half. Regardless, the solution here is simple -- if Doctor Murthy still wants to be Surgeon General, make him the damned Ebola Czar and then let him have authority over the empire of the Surgeon General in order to find a solution. Instead, they appoint Ron Klain, a somewhat anonymous White House and Democratic operative. What the hell are they thinking?
Well, I don't know. Most Czars have damn little to do with the problem they're appointed to fix and the one's who do the best jobs seem to be the one's who are highly capable executives and leaders. Murthy is more of a technocratic operator but has some leadership success and does understand public health really well. Klain is a government technocrat who's been chief of staff to two vice presidents, Gore and Biden. The theory here was that he's the guy who can integrate the government response and coordinate all the agencies that will be involved. Unfortunately, most of the agencies doing things will be health care related, and I suspect a lot of the "stuff" of getting this controlled will be pretty highly technical. While I'm sure he's a competent guy, if the Administration didn't know this was going to excite those who thrive on panic and despair and hatred, they're even less situationally aware than I already think they are. When you're being chomped by alligators and nibbled by ducks, you don't need more damn gators or ducks.
Back in 2005, a group of friends and I started The Defeatists. Our basic approach was that defeat and disaster was inevitable so approach it with that in mind. I think we were being satirical, although at times I wonder.
Anyway, I think the correct response to this nonsense by the President and Vice President is to invite John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to the White House, offer them some Merlot or some Wild Turkey, and then hand to the two Republican leaders their resignations.
Then leave the room. Have Chief Justice Roberts dragged in and tell them to wait. Give them a half hour to think of what they want to propose as an alternative.
(To be continued)
As I suspect a lot of us are experiencing, some of my closest friends like Bob Redford and Babs Striesland are convincved the world is going to end tomorrow or on election day or whenever the next planeload of homosexual-lesbian-Ebola-Carrier-Central-American-ISIL supported Islamo-Narco-Fiat Money-Bums lands in McAllen Texas and heads north to steal our precious body fluids. Or, perhaps when the next set of Troglodyte-Fascist-1%-Libertarian-Anti-school-Lunch-pro-gun-Creationist-Koch-Soul-Brother-Malefactors (of great wealth) enter Congress and the White House and the Supreme Court. Or, on Election Day. And only a vote for Jean Shaheen or that Iowan Pig Castrator, for Bernie Sanders' or Ted Cruz's favorite can save us so SEND US ALL YOUR MONEY.
Citizens United --One of the obvious unintended consequences, because I don't think the Conservative Cabal on the Court is that ironically subtle, of Citizens United is that Americans are getting more and more irritated with politics in general and election politics in specific. It's really a sad commentary -- the people doing this or allowing it to be done in their name are then going to have to have a complete psychological and spiritual makeover in order to not be totally incapable of working for the good of the nation or people or world through debate, discussion, imagination and compromise. There are Think Tanks and Special Interests to serve, because the next election is coming...and it starts all over again.
When I saw the Ted Toles cartoon, I realized that he'd nailed the situation in this country for those of us over 40, who grew up on 5:00 PM and Saturday Morning cartoons. I suspect that I'm not the only one who realizes that while much of my thinking might be influenced by priests and nuns, the Founding Fathers, St Augustine, Aristotle and Kierkegaard, Kennedy's Inaugural and Assassination, Vietnam and Watergate, the real drivers of my education were Bugs, and Daffy, and Foghorn Leghorn, and Rocky and Bullwinkle and Popeye and Alice the Goon. However, the real existential fifth columnist was the Road Runner and his ceaseless Sisyphean encounters with his stalker, the Wiley Coyote. What can I say -- the great cartoonists of the mid-2oth Century were literate social commentators who wrote for an audience far more sophisticated than the one today.
And so it goes; we are now faced with a set of situations that require cool thinking, steely determination and self-sacrifice with a more than a little bit of compassion and a combination of life experience and education that was pretty normal then, and is really lacking today. We have politicians instead of statesmen, who are like the Coyote, trying to bag that damned Coyote with the same level of tools, thought and commitment. We have presidents, candidates, and congressional delegations that flit around from idea to idea, problem to problem, issue to issue with the same causal negligence of the road runner. We have "leaders" from the school of Foghorn Leghorn and Fearless Leader; policy wonks like Henry the Chickenhawk and Wimpy; volunteer saviors who resemble Bullwinkle and Dudley Doright, Nell and Clementine. Texas is governed by Quick Draw McGraw who figures that he can go to a marvelous hospital and get marvelous treatment so of course, everybody can because they can all pay for it...yeah. We have a "war hero" Ghost who's response to international problems is the same as Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent -- MORE MOREMOREMORE BPMBS! Jesus could look down over the hill on this new Jerusalem and be torn, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
If I were Barrack Obama, I'd feel justified in asking God what the hell I'd ever done to him that merited this whirlwind of insanity. I think that smart, thoughtful presidents in the 21st Century aare at an awful disadvantage politically, and have been really since the Kennedy assassination. The guy is trying to do good things, but the world doesn't cooperate. It can't -- it's the world and consists of a lot of insane people with guns, money, lawyers, ski masks and a mass of contradictory hidden agendas and open manifestos. In some ways, ISIL is a nice change -- they don't have a secret agenda, they're pretty open. They don't report to the same God that most of us recognize in the 21st Century. A couple of Islamic friends from Teheran have told me that they regard ISIL as not Islamic but Satanist. I think that's a reasonable approach, not unlike the Pope condemning violence in the name of God. However, the fact remains that both Christianity and Islam grew by force, so there's at least a historical connection. The Crusaders killed more innocents in taking Jerusalem than the Romans did in razing it in 78AD or so. Still, they may call him Allah, but I think they worship Cthulhu or some other very dark overlord with a completely different agenda.
This is a good place to mention empire. We don't want an empire and yet history has handed us one. We really don't want to be bothered with the damn thing. Seriously, we'd like to say, we already have too many creatures in our petting zoo, go off and play with Canada or somebody else. Of course, Canada doesn't want an empire either. However, my buddy and occasional co-conspirator Eric Garland has a great piece up on the problem of denying empire in a situation that really makes empires make sense. It's laudable in some ways while hypocritical in others, denying the desire to run thingsto avoid taking responsibility, but then when everything goes to hell, we find ourselves going in to unscrew everything and then rebuild it. Since we planned on leaving Iraq and Afghanistan from the beginning, we didn't pay a lot of attention to making the places livable and functional. Oh, we spent money, and KBR, Haliburton and every other contractor swine in the world made money on it. Cheney made money on it, although nobody likes to talk about that. The Bush family through the Carlisle Group made money on it. Problem is, the money they made came from us and future generations of us. We can't even loot effectively in this silly model.
Eric is pretty clear; doing things in a half-assed way produces a half-assed result. The West needs to man up and decide what it wants to be when it grows up, and empires have been the solution since ancient Egypt and the freaking Sumerians. As a species we got pretty good at it, and what we're doing now doesn't work. Eric sums it up very nicely...
There is, unsurprisingly, zero endgame in sight and zero reckoning with past policies, such as, “Hey, maybe those moderate rebels we armed weren’t so moderate!” or “We are pretty terrible at establishing peaceful nation-states in the Middle East!” Still, we are headed back to destroy the thing that emerged after the last thing we destroyed. The tactics that are currently approved are airstrikes, meaning that once again we intend to destroy things, but building things will be beyond our purview – for now. One supposes that the preferred strategic outcome would be for stable, liberal, Western-style democratic nation-states to emerge in the places where our bombs just fell, (Jeffersonian Democracy anyway? Hamiltonian Federalism? The Third French Republic? )but the national security is far from broaching the particulars of our plan. I have a solution to offer which is out of the current Overton Window of political discourse: Empire...Today, America and its allies are really trying to do Empire on the cheap. There is no dirtier epithet in Washington than “isolationist,” which applies to all elected officials and policy-makers who are hesitant about invading other people’s countries. There is a broad consensus from Maine to San Diego that America’s interests clearly extend from our main streets all the way to the middle of Eurasia....And when they fail, as they usually will given such a design, we will be right back to bombing the newest bad guys. We essentially crave the geopolitical control that comes from Empire, but we skip the step where we keep the infrastructure working and provide security...Again, this has fallen outside of the window of political correctness, but someone needs to do a cost benefit analysis of how much it would cost to just run one of these countries, administer police, courts, roads, and hospitals and just call it East Texas, as opposed to spending thirteen years knocking down power structures and hoping for a suitable, friendly power to emerge. Surely the Rand Corporation can make a detailed model of the cost of running wars versus the cost of running countries. (Parentheticals and emphasis are mine.)
(To be continued)
I've been getting more and more frustrated with the silliness in the national media about the Syria-Iraq-ISIL kerfuffle. There are plenty of random issues abounding of course -- nice to hear that Israel claims to have shot down a Syrian fighter for some reason besides they can. Seems that Bibi really can't stand the news from the region to be all about him and his macho government. Certainly makes you long for the days when Israel had adult leadership.
I'm not interested in the argument about the Islamic State being a false flag operation; a False Flag needs to be part of some truth's bodyguard of lies and I don't see it in this case. Be that as it may, we have some serious issues popping up, and it's getting harder and harder as a citizen to take our government seriously. That's a dangerous place to be, by the way.
We have a guy jump the fence at the White House and sprint across the lawn and through an open door where he's stopped. He's tracked the whole way by snipers and who knows what else, and they make a judgment call not to waste him. In other words, the White House Cops show reasonable restraint and use necessary force to subdue, capture and detain. Exactly what they are supposed to do. Building isn't on fire, no blood on the floor, nobody's dead --sounds like a successful mission to me.
However, to listen to the bleating, this shows the weakness of the Secret Service, the Civil Service and for all I know, the State Dining Room Service.
If instead of the President this was Pope Francis, he'd have already visited the guy in jail and forgiven him. Instead, lots of dithering abounds and the search for blame continues. Oh, the guy was carrying a folding knife with a three inch blade. Most soldiers, sailor, marines and airmen carry a folding knife or a Leatherman tool a good deal of the time. It's standard stuff that goes in the pockets -- wallet, keys, change, cellphone, knife. Did they think he was going to suddenly burst into the door and pull out a three-inch folder to take on people with guns?
OK, moving on. This is somehow part of the larger story of the failure to adequately deal with ISIL. Or something. The guy in DC was a PTSD-affected sniper from Iraq so obviously it's Obama's fault that he's screwed up...which leads to further discussion of the failure of the Congress to actually do anything in it's oversight role except to kind of rubber stamp the President's actions on ISIL. Now, in fairness the Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddows of the world would be as upset if the President was a Republican. Certainly, the congress has been AWOL on its responsibilities on matters of National Defense. But, it's an election year; if it's not an election year, next year will be an election year. It's never a convenient time politically to step up and do what they're supposed to do - Intelligently debate, argue, compromise and respond to the White House's action and recommendations
. It would be in character for the House to demand cuts to social programs to pay for "Son of Iraq's Son War Part II" but they were in a hurry. Money to raise, babies to kiss, media figures to bribe...our congresscritters are busy beavers and can't really be bothered to do what we've elected them to do because they have to campaign for re-election to do what we elect them to do, which they won't. Somewhere, Madison, Franklin, Jefferson and Hamilton have said "Screw it!" and are off chasing babes and sucking down rum punch and ale to forget the whole disaster.
Then we have the strategy. "The American people are unwilling to have boots on the ground!" The American people are sick to death of doing stupid stuff, and we know that strategic bombing doesn't work. When John- Lindsay- Graham-McCain-Wolfowitz-Bolton start babbling I tend to ignore it. But, when people like Colin Powell and Jack Jacobs start saying it, I listen. I also am not a great fan of air power as solving all the problems and never have been.I don't think anyone has been since Goering and Curtis LeMay. So, the president keeps saying no boots on the ground; the American people support the policy, want US intervention, but don't think it will do any good. Why? Because no boots on the ground...but the American people want no boots on the ground. Hell.
So, the plan is to arm the Vetted-Syrian Rebels. OK, that should be easy. We can dispatch McCain and Graham and W to look in their eyes and see their souls...seriously. This is a debacle awaiting a plan so it can be really screwed up. At present, our arming the rebels isn't working -- the Covert Military Industrial Complex at it's best. According to FP, all aid has been channeled through something called the Military Operations Committee or "MOC" that seems to be largely there for stamping pieces of paper and counting toilet paper. For example:
"There are now 10 groups fighting north of Aleppo, near the town of Mare, but the U.S. and its allies “offered very little ammunition support, no information, no air cover, and no collaboration in military plans and tactics – nothing,” said Col. Hassan Hamadi, who defected from the Syrian army and now heads the newly formed umbrella group Legion 5. “I’ve gotten a little ammunition, but I don’t have enough to continue our presence at the front line,” said Col. Jemil Radoon, a defected Syrian army officer who dispatched 55 fighters from his Sukhur al Ghab brigade to join battle with the Islamic State. Like others among the dozen or so rebel commanders who’ve been approved to receive covert U.S. aid, Radoon and Hamadi visit this Turkish border town regularly to seek support from CIA officials and representatives of other nations that staff the Military Operations Center here.“Our problem with them,” Radoon said of the MOC, as it’s known, is that it “walks like a turtle, and things on the ground go like a rabbit.”
...The commanders bitterly criticized the Military Operations Center, saying it plays no part in coordinating rebel forces but instead operates as a service bureau for commanders who arrive with plans in hand. Even after the Islamic State captured Mosul in early June and swept through northern Iraq and then Syria, the MOC did not attempt to organize a joint offensive against the extremists, using the thousands of rebel troops benefiting from the aid it distributes in Syria, commanders said.
The MOC did not even ask the advice of commanders, said Capt. Ma’amun al Swed, the commander of the Haq Front. Those running the operation “asked us about the existence of Daash and its spread, but didn’t say we were going to work against it,” he said, using the pejorative Arabic nickname for the Islamic State...Commanders said it was clear to them that the MOC wasn’t designed to conduct military operations. It’s staffed by representatives of the CIA and of the major countries backing the rebels, but it has never held a joint meeting of rebel groups.
“The persons we deal with are employees,” Radoon said. “They are responsible for reporting our opinions and our ideas, but they are not the ones who will make the decisions. The decisions are in the hands of the White House.”The commanders said they don’t know what to expect. “We don’t know what is in their heads,” said Hamadi. “It seems that there is a timetable, and at this time it is not in their interests to put an end to the Syrian crisis. They don’t take the lead. I don’t know what their strategy is.” (Emphasis added)
It's worth pointing out that having some echelon above God figure out who's going to get what and how much is pretty patently absurd. Anybody who can get a few AKs, some RPGs, a Toyota Truck and enough gas to drive toward the enemy with a couple of cases of ammo and grenades can declare Jihad against Assad, ISIL, and the Minnesota Twins. This is not an organized neat bureaucratic battlefield. This is a dirty boots, busted knuckle battlefield and saying that the White House is making tactical decisions does not fill me with thoughts of success.
Then there's our Grand Alliance -- the US, France (France? Oh, yeah, they screwed up Syria and Lebanon), maybe England, Turkey and the various Gulf and regional Islamic countries who happen to be Sunni. That actually is very helpful, since ISIL is a Sunni organization. However, Iran which has a great chance her to gain some rapprochement with the US gets hyper because we didn't coordinate the attacks with Assad. Oddly, Assad then announces that he's cool with it, anyone shooting at terrorists is OK with him. You would think that Iraq with one virtual client state involved would get on board with whatever that client state was thinking. They just don't make client states like they used to. Or Satraps. Tamerlane the Conqueror would have don it better...
Or not. My morning Foreign Policy Situation Report brought the news that our Arab "allies" are now wanting to take out Assad. Now, if we take out ISIL and we take out Assad, are they planning on making Syria a parking lot for Lebanon and Israel? Maybe a mid-eastern version of Disneyland? It would have a beach...and lots of ruins. Crusader Ruins, Phoenician Ruins, Philistine Ruins, Assad Ruins. The A-Plan is starting to look a lot like the old "Bomb 'em back to the stone age, shoot them down and sort them out." I guess the B-plan is Blackwater or whatever they're calling it these days.
I'm not eager to see US Forces patrolling the outskirts of Damascus, but the non-ISIL forces aren't capable of winning on the ground against either Assad or ISIL. The bitter lesson we thought we'd learned in Vietnam, that until the enemy has a boot on it's chest and a bayonet at his throat, you haven't won anything seems forgotten.
In the end, this will be a war of good intentions fought poorly because the powerful don't understand that combat has it's own calculus. You don't control it, you respond to it. And if the enemy is fighting a different war than you are, it's pretty certain that unless you're willing to reduce the enemy to empty fields of nuclear-volcanic glass, you're probably not going to win.
The late Colonel Harry Summers who wrote On Strategy: The Vietnam War in Context, was assigned to liaison role with the North Vietnamese in 1975, and had a famous exchange with his counterpart, a Colonel Tu. Summers reminded him, " You know, you never beat us on the battlefield." Tu responded "That may be so but it is also irrelevant."
Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: War is such a dangerous business that mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst. --Clausewitz
So, not much happened. Congress is willing to abdicate authority again; President “Beware of Unintended Consequences” warns of unintended consequences if we do act, or if we don’t. Talking heads ask irrelevant questions and focus the discussion on the acts of terrorism against individuals. My fellow Holy Cross alum Chris Matthews worries, no agonizes, that if we attack ISIL that they’ll behead more of our people. We’re not really engaged in the War of Jenkins Ear and the fate of one American or two is not justification to kill thousands. It might be good, if we were good and never evil, to say with Lord Palmerston that in today’s world being an American provides some level of extraterritorial protection. “Civis Romanis Sum!” or “I am a Roman citizen “meant a lot in the time of Caesar, Diocletian, Marcus Aurelius and so on.
What is true is that ISIL’s tactics represent a really horrific turn toward the Dark Ages. Bill Mahar was on Matthew’s show tonight, and responding to a Republican complaint that “Gee, Obama has been President for six years, so you can’t blame Bush for what’s going on now!” with a bit weary shock at the stupidity of people. “That’s six years and that’s what we’re going to use as a measure? This has been going on since the 7th Century.!” Mahar pointed out that as a nation we’re not really all that well informed, learning our history and geography by the wars we fight. I tend to agree with Harry Reid that the resurgence of Dick Cheney as the Republican Oracle on Foreign Policy in the middle East is terrifying.
It seems that the President is keeping it all very fine, seemingly well calibrated. I have a T-Shirt on at the moment with the formula for Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Theorem on It. The theorem which along with Schrodinger’s cat is what makes us think Quantum Physics is really DA Bomb! as opposed to tired old Newton’s approach, is fairly simple to state : The closer something is observed, the harder it is to describe accurately or to predict. Specifically, that the more accurately you know a particle’s position, the harder it is to know it’s momentum and vice versa. This President tends to be a guy who measures efforts in terms of a micrometer but doesn’t seem to get it that the target keeps moving and it’s really squirrelly up close. I prefer a President who thinks about the things he thinks about, but this measure it with a micrometer and then turn it over to someone else to mark with chalk and then cut the wood with an axe doesn’t really satisfy. Isn’t there a hacksaw or something around to do that?
Matthews had a good point during post speech autopsy on MSNBC, that he heard the necessary steps from the President, but didn’t hear the sufficient ones. Mahar said earlier that he thought the President was going to be in a bind because most Americans are ignorant and don’t pay attention. Both were right and we know it. This is a complicated issue and between Ukraine, ISIL, NATO, the fate of the Wild Cards in the Two Baseball Leagues, the problem of whether it’s worse to choke and kill a dog or beat up your fiancé and on and on and on, how the hell are we supposed to think about this?
Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. -- Clausewitz
OK, here’s my take: It’s really pretty simple –
Oh, they’ll train and advise and shoot and call in artillery and air and do everything else that leaders should do because they’ll be leading and training and advising by doing. That’s what they do. “This is how to blow up a bridge. Now let’s go blow up a bridge.” ‘This is how to laze a target for a drone. Let’s go laze a target or ten.” During Vietnam, there was a corps level organization, Military Assistance Command Vietnam that did just this. Read over Col Jack Jacobs MOH citation to get idea of what training in this kind of environment means.
The Kurds are good fighters as are the Turks. But, I suspect that the Saudis and the rest will sit on their hands and wait for the US and Britain and France to clean this up. Which in a war based on real good gunfights, we could. But, those wars tend not to happen so much any more. We’ll win; and we’ll get to do it all over again.
So, we’ll see. I think this is not what we want to do, or ought to do, or need to do. It’s something that we have to do, and Obama’s outline makes a lot of sense. However, Clausewitz’s disciple Moltke the Elder was pretty clear, “No plan survives the initial contact with the enemy”. In this case, we are engaging in a war with a partisan war and an election that nobody wants to jinx. So, get out the popcorn and the beer and enjoy the show. See if you can get some bets down with the bookies in England and Dublin and New Zealand.
"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."--Rust Cohle, True Detective
I have no idea why True Detective didn't take every possible or conceivable award at the Emmys...except that the Emmys are pretty irrelevant to everything. But the persona of Rust Cohle will probably follow Matthew McConaghey to his grace and he'll be fine with that. Not unlike the Duke and the Ringo Kid; Eastwood and Dirty Harry. And, he can have some fun with it as well...possible he's the new Eastwood for our times, burned out on bad X and imitation Don Perrignon, trying to maintain a certain level of gravitas despite knowing it's all a stupid game. Or the post-modern John Wayne, doing the "man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" for the world to wonder at.
If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of shit. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?--Cohle
So, the guy has some standards. Lots of people in entertainment and sports don't. When A-Rod first was a seeming hero for the 21st Century, i.e., before Texas and the contract, the only ad he got in the Seattle market was a series of spots for Yammi Yougurt, which he jumped at. Sets the bar kind of low for class and establishing a brand. McConaghey has probably done others, but he just made a few for Lincoln SUVs and while I'm not sure they'd sell me a Lincoln if I was thinking about a SUV, I'd definitely pay to have him drive me around and talk about stuff...important stuff, like God and Sin and Beauty and smoked brisket and stuff.
Fuck, I don't want to know anything anymore. This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, 'Time is a flat circle.' Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again and again and again forever. --Cohle
Some of the dialogue in the top one ranks with the best cowboy poets and Shakespeare..."I speak bull...1800 pounds and can do whatever he wants...I can respect that...Take the long way...Thanks."On the other hand, it makes me realize something -- we're in a bold new world here that McLuhan saw coming. Soon, all meaning and art will be in the commercials, and the content will be static and Zipadeedodah. But, not just yet, at all times and in all places...but soon.
ISIL, Syria, Iraq and the Illusion of American Power
Once upon a time there were three dog parks. To play in either of the two nicest parks, a dog had to be part of the pack that ran the park and kiss the ass of the Alpha Dog. The third park wasn't anywhere near as nice, but the possibility of being merged with one of the nicer parks, while attractive to some of the dogs, was never attractive enough to enough of the dogs that a merger could happen. To keep the smaller, less nice park from screwing up what was a relatively good thing, the two Alpha Dogs would occasionally send over some extra bones and treats, and the dogs in the crummy park would chow done. The end.
Welcome to geo-politics from the silly perspective of dueling dog parks. But, while I'm hard pressed to think of anything I'd much agree with Vladamir Putin on besides the idea that Pussy Riot are lousy musicians, I do grant him this much -- for the sake of a stable world, the end of the Soviet Union was a tragedy if you wanted a world that had some sort of overall organizing principle. Humans do well with bi-polar situations -- good/bad, black/white, capitalist/communist. We don't do so well with a world where there are multiple polarities pulling and pushing in multiple, incoherent and ultimately opposing directions.
The basic question asked by the McCains and Grahams and Putins of the world is fairly simple -- WHO THE HELL IS IN CHARGE HERE! Well, nobody is, much to the dismay of the various hobbit-functionaries and bureaucrats who think they're really in charge or should be.
This morning's New York Times illustrates this wonderfully. The headlines announce that Egypt and the Emirates are bombing Libya without letting the US know in advance let alone asking permission.The editorial board has a great discussion of what needs to be done to counter the Islamic State and maybe give some coherence and sense to the region. Maybe. However, it also sums up quiet lucidly the problem that the Big Dog in the Dog Park -- the US -- faces; it's not really our dog park. The local dogs all want someone to do something, but in the meantime they keep doing other stuff. Stuff that makes sense given their local interests and religious interests and economic interests but really don't help in the bigger sense of the region or the world.
The prospects of defeating ISIS would be greatly improved if other Muslim nations could see ISIS for the threat it is. But, like Iraq, they are mired in petty competitions and Sunni-Shiite religious divisions and many have their own relations with extremists of one kind or another. ISIS has received financing from donors in Kuwait and Qatar. Saudi Arabia funneled weapons to Syrian rebels and didn’t care if they went to ISIS. Turkey allowed ISIS fighters and weapons to flow across porous borders. All of that has to stop...
No matter how many American airstrikes are carried out — Mr. Obama is also considering strikes against ISIS in Syria — such extremists will never be defeated if Muslims themselves don’t make it a priority. To their credit, some leaders are speaking out. Among them is Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, the grand mufti, who called ISIS and Al Qaeda the “enemy No. 1 of Islam.” But they must go further and begin a serious discussion about the dangers of radical Islam and how ISIS’s perversion of one of the world’s great religions can be reversed.
I've referred before to Churchill's analysis of the region as one of tribes with flags. What the Times isn't getting and what the Administration isn't getting is that the primary concern for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates and the Assad family is what's good for the various dynasties. The Saudi Royal Family doesn't really see a difference between the Kingdom and the family -- which is very large, very disorganized and very dysfunctional. Same in Kuwait, same in the Emirates. If Assad was primarily a Syrian patriot, things would be better in Syria. Since that's not his primary reality, this is about maintaining power, control, position and dynastic hegemony as opposed to what's best for the people, the country, the region or the religion.
Militarily, I think most knowledgeable analysts accept that somebody has got to put boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq. I don't see the local powers lining up to do so. Now, from the point of view of stopping the current nonsense, I'd like to see a couple of US Heavy Divisions supported by the Saudi Arabian Army and some heavy forces from Iraq, with Turkish and Egyptian light forces and an Iranian logistics force to provide support and aid. Chances of that happening are slim, none and illusory.
Another problem is that Islam is even less organized than Christianity. The Sunnis and the Shiites aren't equivalent to the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The two most cohesive elements in Islam, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are religious states in a state of ideological and religious conflict for the past 1400 or so years. While it's excellent that the Grand Mufti of Mecca has raised the issue of ISIL and al Queida as an actual threat to Islam, there are other Grand Muftis and Ayatollahs, all of whom envision themselves equally grand. Bin Laden was not a religious figure but he felt perfectly OK issuing Fatwahs, and a lot of Muslims were fine with that. The five fold path involves subjugation to God; no other allegiance is necessary.
So, going back to my dog park parable, what can we do? Consider this -- it's not our damned dog park. We have interests, sure we have interests. But it's their region and they need to work it out, and forcing our interests to the front just adds complications and frustrations. I would say that our best solution in the current world is to stop trying to run their dog park, and stop sending over bones and treats, except in a pure quid pro quo, a formula that should include Israel since they play in that region. Let the fires burn out, because anything we do just fans the flames.
The first thing I heard about Ferguson, Missouri was a tweet from my buddy and occasional c0-conspirator Eric Garland, alerting me to an atrocity in suburbia. Said the kid was a neighbor of his, and that obviously he'd been robbed of equal protection under the law. While generally aware that everything there was going to hell, when I sat mesmerized, stunned by the coverage. Eric had asked me what I thought about this disaster, and this was my response.
You know, Americans are blessed with a lot of indispensable men and women. Without George Washington, the Revolution failed. Without Lincoln, we’d have either become two weaker and even more warlike countries over the issue of slavery; without Grant, the war would have ended differently. Without Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy would have been overwhelmed a couple of years earlier by the industrial might of the North. Without Andrew Jackson, the moneyed oligarchy would have taken over the country completely in 1830 as opposed to whatever we have now. Without Sam Houston, no Texas. Without Martin Luther King, no civil rights movement. (Without John Wilkes Booth, reconstruction probably comes out better for everybody and no need for Martin Luther King.)
Wyatt Earp 1928
We’ve built our own contribution to the heroic mythos. Bigger than life guys and occasionally bigger than life gals doing bigger than life things. Marion Michael Morrison hangs around and drinks coffee in the studio with an occasional consultant on westerns, some old fart named Wyatt Earp, and whiskey with the old man and an apprentice director named John Ford and becomes the Duke. The Duke becomes the personification of all things American men are supposed to be. Now, I personally have no problem with that. There are a lot of things about the persona and the man that are a vast improvement over, say, Louis Gomert or Antonin Scalia or Steve King.
Ford finds a feisty red head and part of the persona of the American woman is born – Maureen O’Hara is the role model for the future in films for decades, whether Rio Grande (which is a helluva film that we usually skip over in the Cavalry trilogy and are mistaken to do so in sense of understanding the myth); Wings of Eagles; The Quiet Man (where the Irish American returns to County Clare and through horseracing, drinking, marriage and the machinations of the IRA and the local pastor, fixes everything that’s gone wrong since the Norman Invasion); McClintock, ( where that Guy fixes his marriage, children, wife, family and the Comanche’s oppression through a barbecue, fist fight and riot); and Big Jake (where that Guy ultimately shoots one of his descendants, Paladin, who mutters “ I thought you were dead..” and that Guy responds “Not hardly.” )
Maureen O'Hara, Duke, John Ford and Friends
The problem isn’t John Wayne, or the indispensable man; the problem is that we have people like Louis Gomert and Antonin Scalia trying to be "that Guy" or "that Man". We have Rand Paul and Ted Cruz trying to take up that mantle as well as the various right wing lunatics like Cliven Bundy and Rick Perry trying to be John Wayne, with Anne Coulter and Michelle Bachman trying out for Maureen O’Hara. By all accounts, Wayne was a helluva guy, and Ms O’Hara a talented and beautiful actress who adored Wayne and dealt well with Ford. (Whom, in recent history, Dick Cheney tried to play. Failed.)
But, the Duke never thought he was in charge of the world, and while a conservative’s conservative Republican – although he and Barry Goldwater would be be labelled Rhinos today – he was primarily a patriotic American who used his movie star status sparingly in real life but was generous to charities and folks down on their luck. A realist, he was asked his opinion on Jack Kennedy and he said, “I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job,” a sentiment to get him drummed out of the Orange County GOP today.
The myth of “that Man” is a bit of the myth of Joseph Campbell's Hero of 1000 Faces. It’s not just American, by the way; Michael Collins was “that Man” during the Irish Rising and Civil War. Collins figured out how to beat the British Army and the Black And Tans with pistols and rifles; then, he figured out how to beat the IRA he had built to beat a regular Army.
More recently, Irish Rugby was ruled for fifteen years by "that Man" Brian O’Driscoll whom I didn't get to see play that often until toward the end of his career. Despite an incredible run of injuries and constant foul play directed against him, “Driko” was still an amazing player and athlete. He made everybody around him a better player, notorious for 90 meter runs, blind passes, finishing tries and general magic. In one key game in the 2012-13 Heineken Cup, Leinster was down a man in the scrum, and O’Driscoll scrummed down as outside flanker. If you’re a Rugby fan, you know that’s really odd for a star back to do; it’s kind of like a half back in American football volunteering to go in as Center. Or middle linebacker. Leinster won the scrum.
Brian O'Driscoll Try
O’Driscoll was an incredibly talented player, but what made him that guy was the combination of skill, vision, stubbornness and pure physical courage He left the field when he was younger only when unconscious or otherwise on a stretcher. He did what he had to do for the team.
Well, he’s moved on. The Duke and Michael Collins are dead. Obama isn’t excited about being “that guy,” and the world is probably better for it. But, there are times when somebody needs to step and be that guy.
We see that willingness to step up and take on that role regardless of consequences in the citations of the Medal of Honor recipients in the Afghan and Iraq Wars. None of the men honored have said or indicated that they thought that the deserved the award. No one did it for the glory; they did whatever it was, however insane and crazy not for themselves, nor for their country nor the service but for their friends. They put their own lives on the line and it is brutally personal.
That’s what makes it so obvious when someone in a position of leadership and power tries to be the guy. George W. Bush wanted to be the guy so badly that he could have tasted it, and he made a fool out of himself. He tried to be a man of the people, our war president, our leader and our inspiration, but when we could see him clearly through the tears, he was lacking. Cheney wanted to be the guy up to a point, but that point wasn’t to where it inconvenienced him.
Although in fairness, it seems likely that Cheney will always be “that guy” to the stockholders of Halliburton and the big oil companies.
It's hard times in the new milleniumGettin' by on just the bare minimum
Everything to lose and nothing to spare Going to hell and nobody cares
Ain't the future that Kennedy promised me In the 21st century
Finally come to the age of Aquarius And if we live through the Mayan apocalypse
There'll be pie in the sky above lemonade springs
A goddamn American utopian dream
If you believe that, you're more optimistic than me--Steve Earle
You know, events overwhelm me at times and the on-going military crises-circuses we have blasting around the world make my getting a handle on them especially difficult. It occurs to me, however, that the old Buffalo Springfield line about “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear/ There’s a man with a gun over there, Telling me I got to beware’ really telling in the 21st Century.
If you caught the John Oliver Show, Last Week Tonight, on July 27, you caught an excellent piece on the utterly screwed up US Nuclear Program. While the problems with officer morale and performance, failure to do systems maintenance or upgrades, and general nuttiness – talking about an Air Force General who was relieved for a variety of things culminating on his activities on a trip to Russia where he was pretty much continually drunk on his ass, Oliver pointed out that he’d been “too drunk for the Russians…the Russians!” Telling of one escapade when the general demanded that his staff accompany him to a Mexican Restaurant because he wanted to see the Beatles cover band there and then got them basically thrown out for demanding to be allowed to play guitar in the band, Oliver pointed out that we should consider the chain of bad decisions leading up to that event – drunk, in a Mexican Restaurant in Russia someplace, vomiting a half-eaten Chimichanga over the drum kit of a White Russian Ringo. Of course, his boss – a Vice Admiral -- had been relieved for trying to use counterfeit chips in a tribal casino in Council Bluff, Iowa. Oliver again pointed out that any Vice Admiral should be smarter than an Iowa Pit Boss.
The most telling point in the bit was a brief segment of Colin Powell saying that after 30 years of involvement with the planning, deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons, he had become convinced that they were useless. So, we have over 4800 of these things, capable of blowing ourselves and everyone else to ash, and we can neither protect, maintain, nor figure out a rationale for them.
Reminds me of the old Davy Crockett jeep mounted nuke – you’d orient the jeep so that you were facing away from the target with the missile pointed out the back of the trailer, light it off and drive like hell to try and get out of the blast zone…what exactly was the genius who invented it thinking?
Well, one thing he was thinking was that the actual use of the thing wasn’t his problem. When Generals and Colonels talk about the strategic corporals, they’re thinking that that two-striper is going to be doing their job and “Ain’t it Great?” However, the most critical tool for that grunt’s ruck sack, a strong moral compass, is probably missing, broken or poorly designed.
The United States Army used to be proud of its moral stance. We didn’t torture prisoners, we liberated them. We didn’t kill children, we fed them. We didn’t kill civilians, we freed, fed, clothed and took care of them. Somewhere that went wrong. We held ourselves up as a role model, and some people paid attention. That ethic matched where they were at – the IDF, for example, prided itself on minimizing collateral damage and civilian casualties. And then, they also lost the way.
There’s an interesting article in The Guardian this morning. Yuli Novak is a former pilot and operations officer in the Israeli Air Force, and she comments that when she was a young captain, the Israel Defense Forces prided themselves on being the “most moral military in the world.” She describes an incident where the Israeli Air Force employed a 1000 pound bomb on a house in Gaza to take out a Hamas military commander. She says that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to consider what that weapon did to the building and the target. They killed him, but they also killed twelve civilians including eight children. She describes the outcome this way:
After the assassination, Israel shook. Even when the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) insisted that there was operational justification for the attack, public sentiment could not accommodate this assault on innocent civilians. Israeli intellectuals petitioned the supreme court, demanding it examine the legality of this action. A few months later a group of reservist pilots criticised such elimination actions....As soldiers and officers used to carrying out our missions without asking unnecessary questions, we were affected by the public reaction…my friends and I trusted our commanders to make the right moral decisions, and returned our focus to the “important things” – the precise execution of further operations.
She goes on to point out that such trust is utterly impossible today. She sees what’s happening in the Gaza Strip as nothing less than a series of war crimes originating at the operational planning level, with no effort to minimize casualties, collateral damage and maintain the moral high ground. Israel Armed Forces are to her mind no longer able to claim any moral suasion; they have become as amoral as any other invading force and are engaging in things that remind her of the SS or the Red Army rampaging in Eastern Europe.
Interestingly, she places the responsibility for regaining a moral force not on the shoulders of the military but on the public. That in fact makes a lot of sense in Israel, where everyone serves except those religiously exempt. Those exempt are largely the most bloodthirsty, which is something I find amusing, of course. In a nation that sees itself as living in a continual state of Total War, those most reluctant to find a peaceful solution are a permanent class of REMFs. Anyway, Novak sees it as a public as well as a military challenge:
I know how hard it is to ask questions during times of conflict as a soldier. The information that the officers get in real time is always partial. That’s why the responsibility for drawing the red lines, and alerting when we cross it, lies with the public. A clear, loud voice that says that bombing a house with civilians in it is immoral must be heard. These killings cannot be accepted without question. Public silence in the face of such actions – inside and outside of Israel – is consent by default, and acceptance of an unacceptable price.
Novak is now the Executive Director of “Breaking the Silence” an organization of Israeli veterans who have served during and since the Intifada and want to educate the Israeli public as to what the military is doing in their name. I find that admirable, and rather similar to a lot of what we do over at Veterans Today. I’m hoping they are more successful. But, I’m not terribly confident in either case.
One of the problems that we face is the inability to define end-states. What exactly is the end state for Israel and the Palestinians? What is the end state of our involvement in Iran or Afghanistan? What do the Russians want to accomplish in Ukraine? What do the separatists want to accomplish; what do the Ukrainians want to accomplish? If you have some sort of idea as to where you want to go, you might get there. But otherwise, you’ll get wherever you end up, and it will undoubtedly be pretty lousy.
For example, as I was writing this, news broke that the Israeli Air Force has targeted a hospital and a park where children were playing. Israel denies this, claiming that Hamas had hit these targets due to malfunctioning rockets. Frankly, I don't care -- my initial reaction was that the targeting team at IAF HQ was operating off some intelligence that the hospital was being used for storing rockets and ammunition, and that the kids playing in the park were really Taliban soldiers training on the monkey bars.
Based on the casualty data available from the Gaza authorities, I tend to think the Israeli story is probably correct, but the result will remain; they are already convicted in world opinion. This is really madness --