Thursday, July 29, 2010
My wife and I laugh and mock when Hollywood types pat themselves on the back for their bravery. They choose a role designed to get them critical applause and an Oscar and they tell us how brave they have been by, say, playing the role of a gay man confronting bigots, for example. There is nothing brave in that and their well-practiced gravitas and denunciation of the straw men that they build up in the movies are just an extension of the make-believe worlds in which they live and work.
That isn’t to deny artistic merit or even to say that there aren’t truly meaningful movies or is it to say that all of their words are playacting; it’s merely to note that there isn’t much bravery required to cash big checks, denounce racism, and collect awards.
Bravery is something else entirely. If you want bravery, then look to the cover of the latest Time magazine and you will see the face of a brave woman.
If I ever seem proud of my own bravery--or overly proud at my small accomplishments--someone slap me and point me back to this young woman.
Read the rest. Beware: it is, very honestly, a disturbing image.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Tough Choices for Obama
General McChrystal was wrong. Even if he and his aides were right about everything they said in the Rolling Stone piece (PDF warning), they were wrong. It was purely dumb to let the reporter from RS have that kind of access to the general’s inner circle. It was dumber still to treat the reporter like just another troop with an ear for the kind of rough commentary that comes from military man instead of like an enemy looking for an ugly story to break in a magazine not known for its friendliness to the military. And it was completely idiotic to break the rule that even a trainee in basic knows: you don’t get caught playing in national politics and that rule is more important the higher you get up the food chain.
If you can’t swallow your words, you resign your position. An officer in a time of war can’t expect to keep his job after displaying judgment that poor. To allow him to maintain his position, in fact, would be damaging to an already depleted presidency--a show of weakness that President Obama really doesn’t need right now. And yet firing McChrystal could be hugely damaging to the war effort--finding the replacement, confirming the appointment, and getting the new commander up and running could leave Afghanistan a mess during the transition. I somehow imagine that our enemies won’t be honoring any timeout requests.
What Obama needs to be asking himself right now is how he can visibly punish McChrystal, preferably involving a change of command in Afghanistan, without creating a huge setback in a war effort that is already in near-crisis. I have been unimpressed with our president’s executive capabilities thus far, but I hope that he and his advisors can find the right path on this. The BP spill is ugly, no doubt, but completely fumbling Afghanistan would be ruinous (and not just to a presidency). McChrystal needs to resign and he needs to offer up everything that he can do to help this president maintain authority and credibility.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Hoping to Fail
Making a long-distance attempt to understand the intent of a failed terrorist has the potential to make one look like a fool. With incomplete evidence and little access to information and statements from the man, it is just so much supposition. There is something that compels us to speculation, though, and, hopefully, to see clearly enough to find something approaching the truth.
From my view--that is, far removed from the crime scene and with nothing other than newspaper and television reports to lead me--it looks very much like Faisal Shahzad intended to fail. If that is the case, then understanding why becomes important. Why did he agree to do it? Why did he make contact with the terrorists in the first place? But why, for all that, do the job so poorly?
I had that thought while I was reading this from Mark Steyn:
I’m not suggesting that we let down our guard. In fact, I think this confirms that the United States has merely been lucky in combating terrorists on our own soil. The next bomber may not be so unlucky or incompetent or so apparently uncommitted to killing his fellow Americans. The next bomb could be devastating and it could strike nearly anywhere. Our Islamic extremist enemies have a longer view than we do (as evidenced by the decade of planning and refinement between the first WTC bombing and the second, successful act on September 11, 2001).
Our tendency towards complacency and our naively optimistic faith in human nature--belief that even our enemies are basically good and only require the right nudge to the conscience, the right Oprah-fied moment, to bring about a redemptive change that will put them in line with the American Way--is arguably our biggest flaw. On the first, consider that the bigger fight is not with the enemy but, quite literally, the urge to quit that fight, bring the troops home, and “return to normalcy.” On the latter, it seems that everyone in the US who isn’t a paleocon or a racist (former President Bush, the neocon contingent, and me included) views the world as being constructed entirely of two kinds of people: Westerners and people who haven’t yet realized their own Western ambitions (but who can be persuaded to join the fold). The common terrorist is really just a careful injection of Western cultural attitude away from being another happy Apple customer with dreams of taking the kids to Disney World.
It wouldn’t be too much of a reach to suggest that people who believe that are overly optimistic about human nature or that they don’t have a proper respect for the power of cultural and religious differences that can make, for example, the Taliban seem almost alien in their beliefs and lifestyle--that what they want is precisely the opposite of the Westernization that we hope to see slowly infecting them. Unlike Steyn’s “political-media class”, I have no illusions that Shahzad was an “isolated extremist” or that he was acting fully of his own accord. I continue to encourage an honest view of the enemy and vigilance in our efforts to keep America and our allies safe. Wishful thinking doesn’t keep the borders secure.
What I am suggesting is that in this instance, we might be seeing more evidence that Muslims immersed in American culture might have a hard time taking drastic action against their neighbors. Building a bomb, assembling it in the back of an SUV, and detonating it is hardly rocket science. The components and ingredients being commonplace and not particularly expensive, and a smart jihadi could pull it all together with minimum exposure. In fact, we know for a fact that a lone redneck whacko with a strong enough hatred of our government can not only build that bomb, but he can detonate it to truly devastating effect.
It requires a pretty strange faith in American exceptionalism to believe that a reasonably bright, college educated man with more financial support and a certificate from Pakistan’s finest Terrorist Continuing Education Camp couldn’t manage to even equal the efforts of Timothy McVeigh. Sans that perverse faith, the simplest explanation may well be one of intent.
Why are there so few attempted bombings here in the United States? Indeed, there are few attempted terrorist acts carried out on American soil and of those attempts, exceptionally few succeed to any significant effect. I’m not suggesting that downtown New York should resemble the streets of Baghdad, but America is remarkably open once you make it inside the borders. Travel from place to place is unrestricted, weapons are easy to buy and transport, and the equipment used to make bombs isn’t exactly under lock-and-key. Maybe exceptional work by our intelligence community explains the small number of domestic attacks or maybe it’s merely dumb luck. The problem with that is that I don’t believe in luck and, while I have great respect for those who work so hard to keep us safe, we know that our intelligence services can fail.
In fact, they failed in this instance and only the would-be terrorist’s incompetence or unwillingness saved the day. A cautionary note no matter how you choose to view it. Ultimately, Steyn is right: sooner or later there will be a bomber who comes through who is either better at his job or more convinced of his own actions.
Understanding why even our radicalized Muslim enemies--at least those who live amongst us--seem to have such a hard time attacking us with the same fervor as their counterparts in other regions of the world might give us a good insight as to how to continue working to win a long term peace. I may well be continuing to be a victim of that overoptimism that I mentioned earlier, but I can’t shake my belief in the “better angels of our nature” and find some hope that, ultimately, the Muslim world and the Western world can find a way to coexist without a state of constant, bloody conflict--to me, the alternative is horrific no matter which lens I choose to view it.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Just read this:
I find myself wondering if that’s the right order of events. Because, that crucifixion bit seems to be coming a bit too late to do any good.
For what it’s worth.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Where is the Leadership?
You’d have to imagine that voting “present” won’t really do for too much longer. The world doesn’t always like the U.S., but damned if they don’t look to us for leadership and guidance. No, Obama isn’t my president--not yet, anyway--but the Gaza conflict will have a powerful effect on U.S. strategy and diplomatic efforts in the region both for the short and long terms. While I appreciate the idea that he might not want to undercut the current president, it is also unthinkable that he wouldn’t make some comment on the situation.
That last bit is pretty funny to me. Obama had been, until the holiday break, a one-man press conference machine and more than happy to give his opinion on current events. Silence and the idea that there is only one president at a time is a new discovery with this crew.
Obama (and the “Office of the President Elect”, complete with nifty, presidential graphics) have elected to remain silent on this, leaving both enemies and friends wondering what he will do as this conflict moves deeper into this new year. Speeches and sound-bites aside, how will Obama’s White House show leadership in supporting Israel and in finding that elusive roadmap to peace? Will Obama’s White House support Israel? While he doesn’t currently have the power to actually act, it would be nice to have some idea of his intentions--and I’m sure our friends in Israel feel the same way.
Update: Even Arnold has weighed in on the crisis (and, happily and bluntly, on the side of the right of a nation to defend itself from unrelenting and utterly arbitrary rocket attacks from terrorists).
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I don’t do this every year, but this year I’m feeling extra thanks-y. For what am I thankful?
I am thankful that the war in Iraq has become something that the newspapers rarely put on the front page. The military and political situation has improved so dramatically over the last year that it is almost unbelievable. Here’s to Iraq and her future; I hope that it is bright, free, and friendly.
I am thankful for the 18 women who turned themselves in after being convinced that suicide bombings are not acceptable expressions of Islamic faith. I am thankful for the lives that have been spared and i hope we see more follow their example.
I am thankful for my darling girl who is patient and kind and wonderful. Even if she does try to bully me into snuggling with her while I’m busy writing my Thanksgiving day post.
I am thankful to be gainfully employed in a difficult economy. And I hope I stay that way.
I am thankful for the fact that I live in America where I have always had opportunities that throughout much of the rest of the world I would never have enjoyed. We are, in large part, a spoiled, pampered, and materially wealthy people--and, in large part, we have earned the wealth that keeps us fat and happy. Hopefully we won’t forget the work, the spirit, and the sacrifice that went into building our national riches and helped create our opportunities.
I am thankful, in the extreme, for my friends and their understanding of my quirks and my frequent silence.
I am thankful for the men and women who serve in our military with honor and dignity and for their families who often sacrifice more than anyone should ever be asked. What they do for the rest of us (and it is hard to explain just how important the term “serve” is to the grand majority of folks that I’ve known in the military--it isn’t just a word, it’s a philosophy of being that accepts that the highest calling is in service to something greater than one’s self) is nothing short of heroic.
I am thankful for the handful of people who still drop by to read this site.
I am thankful that I missed Rosie Live--and I’ll be more thankful still if her new show fails in a dramatic and newsworthy way. Which might be violating the spirit of Thanksgiving, but still…
I am thankful for good music. Of particular note this year are the Gutter Twin’s brilliant little EP, Adorata, Lizz Wright’s gorgeous album, The Orchard, and Wovenhand’s latest gospel gothic masterpiece, Ten Stones.
And, of course, I’m thankful for the extra two days off, the good food, and the extra football. Which almost goes without saying.
Update: I’m also thankful that someone wrote this post. Nicely done.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden: The Ten Point Review
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Bad Day for News
I just dropped by FoxNews to see what’s going on in the world today and was faced with a grim, depressing, brutal reality: today’s news sucks.
And that’s the news that I see today--almost all of it some unsubtle shade of bad. Tonight would be a good night to drink a beer or five, I think.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Big Win for Women (But Not for Katie Holmes)
But if they do, then they’re really asking for it, if you know what I mean.
It’s a brave, new day in Saudi Arabia for the fairer, and more easily subjugated, sex.
I saw an interview with Katie Holmes recently and remarked that her brain and personality seem to have been sucked out forcibly with a special vacuum cleaner attachment. That doesn’t do much to make Cruise a shill for a genocidal lunatic, though, he’s really just kind of creepy.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
National Holiday in Iran as Global Warming Comes to the Middle East
Okay, I can’t laugh at the deaths and the general destruction, but it, as wacky weather goes, this is definitely some of the wackiest.
Maybe the Iranians are cranky this week because the weather is bad. I mean, it’s just started snowing outside my office, and I’m feeling a tad cranky.
In case you were wondering.
Friday, December 28, 2007
On Benzir Bhutto’s Assassination
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is undeniably a cause for worry for the West. Our tenuous partnership with Pakistan--in political partnership that acknowledges the reality of a Pakistani populace that is in large part opposed to their country’s ties with the West--is complicated by Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and its practical importance in the fight against al Qaeda. Precisely what the result of the assassination will be is pure speculation at this point.
Will it kill off democracy? WIll it galvanize fragmented opposition groups into one meaningful opposition voice for change? Most people seem to be fearing the former; Arab News is calling for the latter.
Finding the group responsible for the attacks is important, but I hope that the people of Pakistan realize that what is more important is asserting the rights of a civilian populace to define their own government. Demanding that right to self-determination is vital to combating the terrorists who would bully these people into accepting a slave’s chains.
My prayer for the people of Pakistan would be that this brutal murder would bring them together in demanding a voice in their government and in combating the terrorists and murderers who are our common enemies.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Harry Reid (And Then Some)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Harry Reid’s Amazing Devotion to Failure (Updated)
Thank you, Senator Reid. Your devotion to losing is something that we all marvel at.
Nope. No improvement. Not a word about improving situations. Everything seems to be getting worse. Without your will to succumb to our enemies, Senator Reid, I might have mistakenly gotten the impression that a little stiffening of the backbone might be in order. So, yeah, let’s get to losing.
Thank God that Senator Reid is here to show us the way to a proper defeat.
Update: No. Nothing good to see here. Move along.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Lose by Any Means Possible
I think that we are seeing demonstrable, often positive changes in Iraq--changes that came from Iraqis weary of war and the excesses of thuggish “insurgents”, the creative leadership of General Petraeus, more troops, the the aggressive tactics of the surge. Iraq isn’t won, but these changes do seem to be creating an environment where the political victory can incubate. A real victory seems more possible now than it did less than a year ago; nothing is guaranteed, I realize, but if we continue to let the military do its job we can give the diplomats and politicians the time to do theirs.
Which is why I am surprised by this from Nancy Pelosi--a move that seems calculated to toss some red meat to the Kossacks and progressives, but which might just confound the general public.
I’ll be curious to see what support she gets from the Democrat candidates for the presidency--obviously Kucinich will like the legislation, but what will Edwards, Clinton, and Obama say publicly? This does seem to confirm that ensuring defeat is the policy of at least some of the Democrats’ leadership. Announcing to the world that we are no longer willing to support our troops or our mission will send a message of abandonment to our friends and encouragement to our enemies. Brilliant.
And, no, I’m not an absolutist. There is a time when a nation must face up to defeat and failure. You can’t fight a war forever. It’s just better to make that choice when you’re actually losing.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The New Republic Needs New Employees
Or at least, The New Republic should need new employees. There is much in these transcripts concerning Scott Beauchamp that calls TNR’s leadership into question. They are a political magazine, so the leftward slant is understandable. What is discouraging is the dishonesty (insisting that the military was keeping Beauchamp away from the media while discouraging him from giving interviews that he had already scheduled) and slimy (using a note from his wife to try to keep the soldier from recanting).
Politically, I’m about as far away from TNR as I have ever been, but I had stayed away from much of this controversy because I felt that TNR’s leadership was misguided instead of acting in bad faith. An error is not a lie. The transcripts show something worse than I had imagined--and Scoblic doesn’t come across well at all.
I won’t be thinking of TNR as a serious publication until they find a way to address the issue. I haven’t subscribed in some years, so I realize that my disapproval is hardly a huge issue for them. I’m guessing that I’m representative of a lot of moderate conservatives right now, though. This isn’t just me.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
From Der Spiegel to Instapundit to the World. Hopefully.
It isn’t all puppies and lollipops, but this article from Der Spiegel seems well balanced.
As the title--"Hope and Despair in Iraq"--indicates, the job is hardly finished and not all has gone well, but there is hope. Fully realizing that I’ve been a supporter of the effort from the beginning, I’m sure that y’all will find yourself a grain of salt when I say that reading the article did leave me with hope and a sense that those who have recently switched sides on this particular debate might have abandoned the ship too soon. The question for me isn’t whether the military can win a reasonable peace--I believe that they’ve shown the initiative and adaptability to do so. The question is whether the citizens of the US will have the strength of will to carry us through more difficulties.
Our troops have been in Iraq for what feels like an awfully long time, and many families have suffered horrible losses where husbands, children, wives, and parents won’t be coming home. From where I sit, Iraq still matters in a larger sense than some people seem to understand; if it was worth doing, it is still worth completing.
There have been a number of times where I let my enthusiasm lead me to believe that we were closer to that complete victory than we turned out to be; but the gradual change that has come from putting General Patreus in charge, clarifying the mission, and changing strategies seems much more solid than those previous moments of exuberance. I still have great hope for a relatively liberal, representative government in Iraq and for a lasting, close relationship between Iraq and the United States that benefits our friends as much as it does us.
Whatever your views on the subject--and chances are they differ from mine significantly--you’ll find the Spiegel article to be a good, long read. It’s worth the time and it’s hard to come up with anything other than respect for so many of the men and women serving in Iraq. These are people I would be proud to call friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Pardon the Language (Updated)
Pardon my language, but Scott Thomas Beauchamp fucked The New Republic. Although it would be easy to argue that TNR put themselves in this situation by failing to properly vet stories that were going to attract a whole lot of skepticism. It’s a good argument, and it carries some truth, but it doesn’t change the fact that Beauchamp fucked TNR.
See, they trusted him when they ran the stories (because, yes, it made good copy and it reinforced their beliefs about the war in Iraq), and they supported him when he came under scrutiny, and they issued statements supporting the details of his writing while he continued to ensure them that, yes, it was all the truth. Pretty much. Then Beauchamp (which, is that pronounced “Beechum"--and does anyone else know why I’m asking that question?) turned around and stabbed them in their literary heart by admitting to having falsified the stories.
Has anyone found the first story claiming that he was forced or that his newly sworn statement was coerced in some way? This whole tale is just begging for a conspiracy theory ending.
You know who else Beauchamp fucked? His fellow soldiers, all the soldiers who have served with honor, and all the people who believed his BS.
Now, here’s where I vent. Beauchamp pisses me off like you wouldn’t believe. This is on the same level of dishonor as false accusations of rape, child abuse, and racism. There is enough bad in the world that you shouldn’t have to make up horrors in hopes of aggrandizing yourself or building a new writing career. And when you throw fellow troops under the bus --inventing stories that make them look like bloodthirsty assholes--to make a few bucks, you’re screwing a group of people that has already managed to shoulder more than their share of bad PR, poor pay, and shitty working conditions. Not, of course, to mention the grave potential of extreme bodily harm, the family sacrifices that our troops make, and those damned glasses they issue in basic training.
So, if all this talk of recanting pretty much the totality of those stories turns out to be true, here’s hoping that Beauchamp pays a steep price for his lies.
As Cadilac Tight points out, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t more of a price to pay, too.
And, lastly, Jeff G has thoughts on the subject along with a lot of great links. And Michelle Malkin has great graphics. Baldilocks has a ton of responses to this news. And she’s kind enough to clean up my language for me a bit. Or a lot.
Sorry about that.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
No Problem w/ Cultural Education
I’m a little surprised by the uproar that a little cultural education brings.
I’ve quoted the same section of the article that one of the detractors, Kim Priestap from Wizbang, quoted just to make sure we’re working from the same context. Here’s what she had to say:
Actually, I wouldn’t mind at all if my seventh grader was given an opportunity to participate in this kind of a school activity. In fact, I would embrace the opportunity that it gave me to talk to my kid about Islam and the Middle East. I would enjoy that they were being introduced to new ideas and experiences, even though those ideas and experiences were probably watered down versions of the reality.
We might be involved in a war with radical Islamists, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate the beauty of Arab culture. Nor is it a bad thing to learn about another person’s culture and traditions--and I sure as hell don’t see how the school doing this translates into a recruitment drive for al Quaeda or Islam. That strikes me as bordering on the paranoid (and no few steps from xenophobia).
Quick story time: the g-phrase, as many know, is a school teacher. Some time ago, some of the teachers at her school were teaching the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. The parents were given an opportunity to have their kids opt out, but at least one parent wouldn’t let it go at that: he called the school, he ranted, he raved, and he angrily said that the exercise--part of a larger unit teaching about hispanic culture--shouldn’t even be taught in the school.
While we could argue the merits of teaching kids to say the Pledge in Spanish, what bugged me most was that this man was saying that his belief that it was wrong should trump all the teachers and parents who believed that it was, at worst, a harmless teaching exercise. It wasn’t enough that he could excuse his kid; he wanted to limit the opportunities of everyone else’s children.
My hunch--and it’s a very strong hunch--is that the parents of the children doing the Bedouin tent community night were aware of (and had given permission for their kids to participate in) the school activity. I would be shocked if the parents hadn’t had the opportunity to keep their kids out of the assignment.
So, what’s the problem?
Don’t completely misunderstand: as I said, I would take the opportunity to talk to my son or daughter about Islam and Arab cultures. I would explain why I felt that, ordinarily, the wearing of the hidjab is a greater sign of how women are treated in most Islamic communities, about how homosexuality and apostasy are punished, and why our culture and political systems are clashing with some of the more radical and strict adherents of Islam. Talk about an opportunity to teach your kids.
Not only would it be a chance to explain my view of the Middle East (both the good and the bad), but it would be an opportunity to talk about what I think is great and what is flawed about America. I live for this shit.
I understand that a parent wouldn’t want their child to participate. So speak against it, keep your kids out of it, and then take a moment to respect the fact that some of us hold a very different view and it isn’t because we want to capitulate to the demands of the terrorists. For some of us, it is an opportunity to open up a much larger conversation.
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