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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bravery

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.

Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan…

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:

Because the reactions of Bloomberg & Co. are a useful glimpse into the decayed and corroded heart of a civilization. One day the bomb will explode. Dozens dead? Hundreds? Thousands? Would we then restrict immigration from certain parts of the world? Or at least subject them to extra roadblocks on the fast-track to citizenship?

What do you think?

I see, as part of the new culturally sensitive warmongering, that the NATO commander in Afghanistan is considering giving out awards to soldiers for “courageous restraint.” Maybe we could hand them out at home, too. Hopefully not posthumously.

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 Wondering…

Just read this:

A Saudi court has ruled that a man convicted of raping five children will be beheaded and crucified.

Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly, 22, left his youngest victim, aged three, stranded in the desert to die.

He was caught when he tried to abduct another boy by offering him a lift home from school in his car.

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.

Read the rest.

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.

As the clock ticks down to Barack Obama’s inauguration, the US president-elect has kept silent on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its latest deadly turn in the Gaza Strip.
Obama transition officials have ventured little more than saying their boss is “monitoring” the situation in Gaza, where at least 460 people have been killed in eight days of air raids before a ground offensive began Saturday.

In the same period, Gaza militant rockets have killed four Israelis and wounded several dozen people.

“The president-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza,” his national security spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement after the ground assault got underway.

But she offered no further comment on the violence in Gaza and used a phrase repeated often by Obama and his aides: “There is one president at a time and we intend to respect that.”

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

Giving Thanks

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.

And more anti-Rosie sentiment hits a hight note for me, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where in the World is Osama bin Laden: The Ten Point Review

  1. I fell for it. The trailers made it look funny, I thought it might contain insight. I imagined it might reign in the preaching in favor of a balanced view of the Middle East, America, terrorists, and war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I fell for it.
  2. What it is turns out to be a shallow, rushed look at problems far too complex for any 93-minute movie much less one helmed by the likes of Mr. Spurlock, who disdains nuance in favor of glib and useless statements.
  3. It does have a lot of pretty pictures, though.
  4. And, in spite of itself, it’s interesting at moments--moments that are chopped too short by the rush to get to the next segment. Beware: when it starts to pique your interest it is seconds away from a jump cut and a cutesy graphic that will leave you wondering what the hell else his interview subject had to say.
  5. In fact, the bits where Spurlock focuses on himself and his life are the least interesting parts of the movie. If he let his subjects--an amazing array of people from all walks of life in Afghanistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and more--take center stage more often, allowing viewers to form opinions instead of making intrusive pronouncements about how Muslims are people just like us, well the movie might have been better. As it is, he is so intrusive that the movie feels overshadowed by his Michael Moore-sized ego.
  6. And does anyone think that the Israel-Palestine problem can really be resolved by fifteen minutes and a journalist telling us that the answer is really as simple as magically creating two states living side by side in peace? An answer that ignores all of the complicating factors in favor of something that sounds so nice?
  7. That’s not insight. That’s dumb.
  8. The Soul Calibur-esque fight between Spurlock and Bin Laden was pretty funny, though, with special moves like “mustache ride!” and “turban power!”
  9. Perhaps if it had been cut down to a twelve-minute segment on Celebrity Deathmatch it would have been a better film.
  10. From Wesley Morris comes a good summary.

    purlock interviews regular Egyptians and Moroccans and Palestinians and Saudis. A group of Hassids curse and shove him. He inexplicably dons traditional Arabic garments and walks around a mall in Riyadh asking whether anybody has seen you-know-who. Spurlock and his team of collaborators never find the movie amid all their material. If he’s a questionable journalist and a poor detective, he’s an even more woeful filmmaker.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Support Bombing Iran.

I support bombing Iran. Even if we’re just doing it just to get Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to shut the hell up.

Noble cause, that.

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.

  1. It seems like a small thing--and it is in the context of some of the other stories of the day--but Patrick Swayze didn’t deserve the kind of headline that the National Enquirer ran. Jerks, Swayze was never a great actor, but I always like him. He’s done some decent movies, some seriously bad films, a bunch that fall in between, and more than I care to admit that I’ll stop and watch regardless of the category that they go in. Here’s hoping that the Enquirer was wrong about how far advanced the cancer is and that he continues to make the kind of entertainment that somehow rises above conventional standards of good and bad. He always seemed like a good guy to me.
  2. Jajuan Holmes, an 18 year old boy who killed himself in front of his classmates, possibly because he had recently been charged with a robbery. What a horrible waste of a young life--and an example of why we should embrace a faith in redemption. I don’t mean that in a religious way--although that doesn’t hurt--I mean that in a practical way. People need to believe that even when they’ve screwed up they can still go on to find not only forgiveness but meaning in their lives. Some crimes are so beyond the boundaries of civilized society that I wouldn’t be able to offer up much in the way of hope; but this was a robbery charge. Proper punishment for crimes is important, but so is faith in the future.
  3. A father who thought that a clothes drier was a Disney World ride might need a second chance, too. But he should probably get it without the responsibility of kids (a two-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy)--and only after appropriate punishment involving a little time in a jail cell. Obviously, he isn’t a fit parent, and that’s assuming that his story isn’t just something to cover up abuse that resulted in second degree burns on one of the children.
  4. Some of the stories are just stupid people doing stupid things. Not horrific, by any means, but achingly dumb.
  5. This is just a sad, strange story of elderly neglect perpetrated by a 94-year-old woman’s daughter.
  6. And then, in Israel, at least 10 are dead and 35 wounded in an attack on a rabbinical seminary. Hamas, of course, “blessed” the operation and the deaths and threatened more of the same. Some days, I hope for peace; some days it just seems a mountain far too high to climb.

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)

In Saudi Arabia, women can now stay in hotels and furnished apartments without express written consent (and chaperonage) of a male guardian.

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.

None of which makes the wacky Tom Cruise any closer to being a modern day Joseph Goebbels than he is to being a freakin’ rocket scientist. The comparison is idiotic.

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.

At least 28 people are reported to have died in Iran’s heaviest snowfall in recent years.
Eight people froze to death as severe blizzards left 40,000 people stranded in their cars, authorities said.

Although most have now been rescued, another 20 people are reported to have died in car crashes caused by the weather, officials said.

Tehran has declared two days of national holiday, urging people to stay at home to avoid the bitter cold.

The temperature has been down as low as -24 degrees Celsius, and for the first time in living memory there has been snow in the country’s southern deserts.

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.

Read the story.

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.

Benazir has become a martyr for the cause of peaceful, representative politics. She has died not for one political faction, but for all of Pakistan. Thus every decent Pakistani, regardless of their politics, must mourn her passing and vow to avenge her, purely by maintaining the values she held dear.

A clearly shaken Nawaz Sharif, her bitter political rival, said last night to PPP supporters: “I assure you, I will fight your war from now on”. This was possibly one of the finest responses he could have formed to the tragedy. His own rally yesterday in Islamabad had been fired on and 12 supporters had been killed. Whoever was behind this other attack, the raw truth is that in a single day, both leading opposition politicians have been attacked. The target was Pakistan, its future.

Pakistan faced challenges enough already without the impact of yesterday’s slaughter. The political horizon which was already hazy may now seem positively murky. This is precisely what the people who planned this crime will have wanted.

Therefore, once the immediate shock of Benazir’s murder has sunk in, her supporters must recognize that this was a wicked blow aimed against Pakistan itself, not simply at the PPP. Now is the time for narrow self-interest to be put aside. Assuming that the PPP can choose a new leader quickly, next month’s elections should very probably go ahead as planned, or at worse be only very slightly delayed.

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)

Immune to successes, unfazed by improvements, and strangely devoid of holiday cheer, Harry Reid continues the fight for failure.

Sen. Reid: Anti-Churchill


If it weren’t about something that is actually important, I might find myself admiring Reid’s single-minded devotion to failing in Iraq regardless of costs. As it is, it’s mostly just a little funny.

Kind of like Ron Paul talking about the Trilateral Commission, everybody talking about Dennis Kucinich’s ridiculously pretty wife, and Mike Huckabee insisting that he’s a fiscal conservative.

Now, about Elizabeth Kucinich is a post unto herself. She’d get extra hubbas if I could get past the “huh?” But my throat just seems to get stuck there every time.

By the by, two really interesting things are happening in this election, neither of which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The first is that a man who is, in essence, a third party candidate (Ron Paul) is raising more money than his big name opponents. Obviously, a committed and passionate core of people is doing everything that they can to keep him in the fight. But it isn’t really translating into that many votes. While he’s continued to creep up in the polls, he isn’t really threatening the top tier candidates.

Which leads to the second thing. A candidate who isn’t doing such a hot job at fundraising looks to be moving into the top tier of the vote. Huckabee is gaining ground fast even though his fundraising consistently falls short of quite a few others (like Romney and Guiliani, for instance).

I don’t believe that either of these guys will get the nomination, but it is a little uncomfortable to watch the stealth libertarian raking in the money while the XXXL government Republican is raking in the promised votes. I’d be happier if some (many, in fact) of Ron Paul’s ideas started seeping into the GOP without being coupled to what I consider to be an immature foreign policy. But Huckabee’s record on taxes and spending doesn’t fill me with hope that he would act as a good faith steward for our economy.

I had hoped that President Bush would tackle Social Security reform and privatization and leave an opportunity for the next president to follow him with other entitlement reforms that would help secure the long term economic interests of this country. Didn’t happen--although, as failures go, it would be impossible to pin that one solely on Bush. The left wouldn’t even begin to talk about the subject, the silver hair brigades fortified their positions in opposition to scary talk, and his own party mostly muttered, idly kicked their feet in the dirt, and couldn’t even muster up the support for the beginnings of an effort to change the system.

My biggest regret from the Bush years will be this: the GOP failed to deliver on any of the high-minded ideals of limited government and fiscal responsibility even though, for a good chunk of those years, the Republicans held the presidency, both houses, the majority of governorships, and a reasonably supportive public.

What an opportunity wasted.

And, at this moment in history, the Republican party would be even a few steps closer to hopeless in the upcoming elections if it weren’t for their politically incompetent opposition. Typically I would offer up a prayer of thanks for the inept left, but that would be wrong. Politics benefits from strong competition of ideas just as much as business and technology does. The best thing about Ron Paul’s campaign should be in an effective tug of the GOP toward smaller government and individual liberty; not only does he ruin the effect by talking about the Trilateral Commission and the NAFTA highway, but a good chunk of the GOP is gravitating toward someone likely to continue some of the worst of the current president’s economic ideas. In the immortal words of Jayne Cobb, “Where’s that get fun?”

So, the libertarians have yet to offer me someone that I could vote for, the GOP sends a horde who, at best, get my tepid support, and the left isn’t even playing the same game. I mean, I would vote Ron Paul before I voted Edwards, Kucinich, or Obama. If the vote magically came down to Huckabee and Ron Paul, I might just stay home for the night drinking heavily.

This country seems to be suffering from a deficit of serious, adult leadership.

Jeez, apparently (Mostly) Apolitical Sunday just got me cranky…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Harry Reid’s Amazing Devotion to Failure (Updated)

Sen. Reid: Anti-Churchill

Thank you, Senator Reid. Your devotion to losing is something that we all marvel at.

“Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq,” said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

“The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago,” Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

“It is not getting better, it is getting worse,” he said.

Read the rest from one of our country’s most important leaders.

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.

The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.”

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.

“This is not a blank check for the president,” she said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “This is providing funding for the troops limited to a particular purpose, for a short time frame.”

The bill would set the requirement that troop withdrawals begin immediately and that soldiers and Marines spend as much time at home as they do in combat.

The measure also sets a goal that combat end by December 2008. After that, troops left behind should be restricted to a narrow sets of missions, namely counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. assets.

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.

Read the story.

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.

Ramadi is an irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq—it is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq—not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers—are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn’t hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious “Sunni Triangle,” is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.

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.

H/T Instapundit.

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.

I don’t see how this wouldn’t be a disastrous amount of egg (a resignation worthy amount, actually) for Franklin Foer, either. And my god, what a blow for TNR’s credibility. First Stephen Glass, now Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

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.

Update: Doc Melissa Clouthier has a response, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Fairy Tale and War Story?

One begins with “Once upon a time” and the other usually starts with “This ain’t no bullshit...”

Monday, June 04, 2007

No Problem w/ Cultural Education

I’m a little surprised by the uproar that a little cultural education brings.

For one night, on May 9, the quaint colonial town of Amherst, New Hampshire, was transformed into a Saudi Arabian Bedouin tent community, with the help of 80 seventh-graders at the Amherst Middle School. The weather cooperated, providing 85 degree temperatures to give an authentic Saudi feel to the evening.

More than 250 guests arrived at the open tent and were welcomed with an Arabic greeting of “Marhaba” by students at a Saudi customs desk.

During the check-in, guests selected a traditional Arabic name for their name badge and completed an actual Saudi customs form, which warned in bold letters “Death for Drug Trafficking “ at the top.

Once inside, guests were encouraged to circulate among 14 different stations created by the students.

The Arabic food-tasting station offered four entrées, curried chicken, lamb, tomato chicken with cardomom, and Moroccan chicken, served with pita breads, hummus, and couscous. Fresh fruits, cardomom coffees, and spice teas were also served.

Flowing fabrics hung from the ceiling separated the family and men-only dining sections. The tables were set on large rugs and lowered so that the diners sat on the floor.

Only the seventh-grade boys were allowed to host the food stations and the Arabic dancing, as the traditions of Saudi Arabia at this time prevent women from participating in these public roles.

Dressed in traditional Arabic wear--long plaid kilts, white shirts and turbans--the boys offered food and entertained guests. The Arabic dancers enthusiastically performed to music and encouraged male visitors to join their dance.

Seventh-grade girls hosted the hijab and veil stations, where other female guests learned how to wear the required head covering and veils. An antique trunk full of black abayas worn by women, and white thobes worn by the men, were available for guests to try on.

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:

How would you feel if your seventh graders participated in this?

I found this at LGF and I was stunned. I know middle schools teach about world religions, but this project is way over the top, particularly the photos of the little girls in hijabs.
[...]
There are several reasons why this picture makes my blood boil. To begin, this picture embodies al Qaeda’s goal to convert everyone, especially Americans, to Islam, and they will use force to do so. Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda’s English speaking servant, has issued a number of videos demanding that Americans convert or die. These kids’ parents most likely have no idea the horrible symbolism these images represent. Second, hijabs, along with burqas, represent the horrible oppression and abuse of women by a misogynistic culture and religion. For example, in Iran, women were horribly beaten in public for not wearing the correct head coverings. Third, this project is nothing more than a lesson in political correctness; Muslims are the new protected class. Would the school offer a project in which the kids were required to participate in a Jewish Seder? I seriously doubt it.

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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