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.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden: The Ten Point Review
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.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Good Drug, Bad Drug
It was at a party where an angry anti-war type confronted me about the drug trade in Afghanistan that I discovered a really great idea: make the Afghan drug trade into something legal and positive for the country. Instead of funding a drug war that would be, probably, about as successful as our other drug wars, instead of throwing money at a fight that would target the only reliable economic driver in a country that desperately needed money and industry, we should legitimize that industry and use it to help re-build the country.
My version had tax credits as incentives for pharma companies to source their opiates through some as yet unnamed and uncreated Afghani bureau of Good Drug Development. I won’t pretend to be the first to have the idea, but it was new to me at the time. All this to say: I’m glad that someone else is working on toward the same goal.
Aside from the economic benefit, it might also pull more people (and more powerful people) into the legitimate political system, reducing the violence and helping speed Afghanistan’s recovery.
Sounds like a damned fine idea to me.
Update: Kindly linked by John Hays.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The Wrong Reaction
I find it highly unlikely that any American President would be feeling relief at any attack on a friend. I find it unlikely that he is finding some happy silver lining in an attack engineered that left innocent civilians dead and hundreds injured. I can’t even fathom that he would take a single moment of joy from the thought that we still have so far to go in our battle with the murderers and thugs.
Any suggestion otherwise is offensive.
People forget that this President was something closer to being an isolationist than an imperialist when he first stepped into office. His instinct seemed to be to follow in Clinton’s footsteps when it came to questions of the Middle East: leave it alone as much as possible and hope that the problems don’t require much in the way of American attention. That only changed following 9/11--and, regardless of how history will remember W, I’m also convinced that he would give up that place in history if he could have been a President that presided over 8 years of peace instead of having to send young men and women to fight and die far from home.
No, the President doesn’t “like” the continuing war any more than Tony Blair does; he just recognizes the necessity of fighting back against the threat. Suggesting otherwise is just trying to score cheap political points
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
News Flash: Afghani Women Didn’t Mind a Life of Servitude
A bit ago, Shawn Macomber wrote a story about women’s progress in Afghanistan. Forget which side of the aisle you sit on, it should be celebrated that women can now attend school and enjoy even the most basic of freedoms in a country where they so recently suffered. But for some, that just isn’t possible.
Take this response, from “Ryd” on a discussion board, to some of what Macomber had to say:
What happened to the idea of giving a voice to the voiceless? “Women were not complaining” so they must have been awfully happy, right? Of course, with no voice in their political system, no free and open press to express or explain the horrors of many of the women’s’ lives, and no government protection, it’s highly unlikely that this little fool would ever have heard their complaints to begin with.
And don’t forget to put Shawn’s Return of the Primitive on your blogroll.
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