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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.