Tuesday, May 31, 2005
A Test of Faith
Lopez introduces her interview with the following quotations:
“When soldiers step upon the battlefield, they immediately confront the kind of horror and hardship that has moved men through the centuries to reach for the spiritual," writes Stephen Mansfield. Death and destruction, "the loneliness and the fear, the boredom and the rage" all "drive men to the invisible; each forces the soldier to decide what he truly believes, making the battlefield as much a test of faith as it is a test of arms."Lopez gets right to matters of the deepest significance to Soldiers, whether they are religious or not. But from Mansfield’s investigation, most Soldiers share a common need to find honor in their profession of arms. They need to believe and accept the morality of a conflict to be able to risk their lives, and feel confident that they will be honored and respected when they come home:
NRO: What does honor mean for the American on the battlefield?This is precisely right in my view. This is why, despite every effort to stir up those dissident voices in the military, the media comes up empty. There are very few Soldiers who have any cause to think we are misguided, that things go badly, that we doubt or don't believe in what we're doing here. Some might call us deluded, or brainwashed, but the simple fact is, for us it’s simple.
MANSFIELD: Honor on the battlefield results from living by a code that rescues the warrior from barbarism and elevates the profession of arms. It means understanding soldiering as a spiritual service as much as a martial role. Honorable soldiers are devoted to the moral objectives of their nation in war, are willing to lay their lives on an altar of sacrifice, are courageous in subduing the enemy yet compassionate to civilians and prisoners, are devoted to a godly esprit de corps, and are eager to master the art of arms by way of fulfilling a calling.
NRO: How important was it that the Iraq war be addressed in theological just-war terms?
MANSFIELD: It is vital for a government to establish the morality of a war before sending soldiers into battle. The traditional just-war concept has to be satisfied. Soldiers don’t want to fight simply to defend a nation’s vanity or to support a corrupt vision. They want to know they are doing good. This is essential for them and for the nation that is going to welcome them home again. I have talked to hundreds of soldiers during the research of this book. Almost every one of them mentioned his or her need to believe in the goodness of their nation’s purposes in war.
Radical Islamic Terrorists, supported by State Sponsors of Terrorism, on September 11, 2001, inflicted the gravest harm to our country and its citizens since Pearl Harbor. Our newly energized, progressive, and muscular foreign policy resolved to take the fight to those states and non-state actors who represent the gravest terrorist threat. Sometimes that fight is against a terrorist haven like Afghanistan. Sometimes the fight needs to be taken up against a state sponsor, like Saddam (or Libya, Iran, Syria, North Korea).
It matters a great deal to us that President Bush viewed the war with Saddam as inevitable. This showed wisdom, foresight and resolve. And it was correct. President Bush was prepared to go to war with the coalition at hand, but only after working through every effort of the UN and its “inspectors,” trying to bring Saddam to account. The strategy was to draw Al Qaeda into a fight on our terms, and they responded overwhelmingly. And they have been devastated, with no follow up attacks in the U.S. We have seen a wave of consequence from the fall of Saddam, and the first free elections in the Middle East.
All of these outcomes make the world a better, safer place, despite all the hysteria and hand wringing and (false) claims that America used to be loved and respected (when was that, exactly, not in my lifetime), but now we are viewed as the “biggest threat to world security.” If you’re a Marxist, Socialist, Dictator or other denier of freedom to captive and oppressed people, I suppose that’s true.
Lopez asked Mansfield to identify the one story from Iraq that every American should hear:
NRO: How much time did you spend over in Iraq? What's one story every American should know from your time over there?In response to questions about our Soldiers by my debating partner at Debate Space, The Liberal Avenger, I’ve detailed the many ways that troops today are held to a far higher standard or behavior than any fighting force in history, and overwhelmingly meeting that standard.
MANSFIELD: I was in Iraq for several weeks. I discovered many moving stories of faith and heroism, but they are all summarized in the comment a journalist made to me on the C130 flying out of Baghdad International Airport. He said, “I came over here expecting Animal House and Debbie Does Dallas. Instead, I found Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.” That captures a good deal of what I experienced.
Finally, Lopez explores with Mansfield the extent to which the President’s character and faith affects the military:
NRO: Does the commander in chief's openness about his faith affect the troops in any practical sense?Again, precisely right in my experience and opinion. Soldiers will not want to follow a leader they don’t respect, and they won’t abide evil, hypocrisy, or evil actions that so many on the left have directly suggested or broadly intimated. Character is essential, and character is reflected in commitment, courage, honesty, honoring vows, and other behavior that reveals character or lack thereof.
Mansfield: Both while I was in Iraq and in interviews we conducted here in the states, soldiers spoke often about believing that George W. Bush’s faith and character were important to them. There were many references to the near depression in the military during the Clinton administration. Yet, with the Bush presidency, soldiers began to feel as though they were valued and that they were an extension of the president’s moral resolve. Even among soldiers who were disillusioned by supply problems or wearied by their hard months in the field, the belief that the president is a moral man conducting the war for righteous reasons made all the difference in their fighting spirit. Character really is the core of leadership.
Critics don’t understand the incomparable value of their military. Honor bound. Committed to timeless values of duty, faithfulness, honesty, and integrity. Following through on their commitments, their responsibilities. Keeping true faith and allegiance. Being accountable and holding others accountable.
This is the character of the war we fight; these are the character traits of the men and women who fight it.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
By way of introduction to Rivkin's and Casey's arguments, an excerpt:
First and foremost, Amnesty’s report is emphatically not an honest assessment of American compliance with international law. Rather, it is an assessment of how well the United States complies with Amnesty International’s political and ideological agenda — equivalent to the grading of individual members of Congress by domestic advocacy groups. This is obvious from the report’s three fundamental measures of a good human-rights record, which are applied to every included state: (1) whether the death penalty has been retained; (2) whether the International Criminal Court treaty has been ratified; and (3) whether the U.N. Women’s Convention, and its Optional Protocol, has been ratified. All of these criteria involve controversial political issues where there is fundamental disagreement between right and left and — from Amnesty’s perspective — George Bush’s America fails on all counts. This, of course, is what you would expect, since the president is a conservative, elected by increasingly conservative American voters.Rivkin and Casey go on to observe that AI's biggest complaint and the apparent loci of their animus is that “[h]undreds of detainees continue to be held without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”
This, of course, is the installation that Amnesty’s secretary general, Irene Khan, characterized as “the gulag of our times.”As many of those more familiar with what real Gulags were (and are) like, this is likely "highly improvident hyperbole," as Rivkin and Casey conclude, as it is not likely that Khan is unfamiliar with the actual “modern equivalents” of the gulag: "Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, China and, until recently, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.)" Khan does indeed trivialize the excesses of such regimes, past and present by comparing the (comparatively minor) excesses of a few without command direction, with gross atrocities committed in the thousands and millions with mechanical precision as part of authoritarian government policy.
Rivkin and Casey make the obvious distinction between those held at Gauntanamo and "political prisoners," which used to be the natural constituency of AI, but no longer:
Of course, the men held at Guantanamo Bay are not political dissidents. They are captured enemy combatants. Under the laws of war, they can be detained until the conflict, or at least actual hostilities, are concluded. This has been the practice of the United States, and of every other major power in Europe and elsewhere, for centuries. It is not illegal; it is not immoral. In fact, this rule is one of the first and most important humanitarian advances made in warfare. The right to detain is the necessary concomitant of the obligation to give quarter on the battlefield, to actually take prisoners alive.Regular readers may recall my post commenting on Bill Whittle's excellent Sanctuary essay, which precisely identifies how our enemies in the Global War on Terror invalidate the very basis of treating these individuals as Prisoners of War.
At the same time AI slams U.S. Policy as violating the very protocols and conventions in question, by their own admission what they draw attention to, is no violation at all according to those very conventions. And of course, AI knows this, but they’re just being rhetorical. That, or they don’t know the substance of the very protocols they’re so hot to enforce. Rivkin and Casey again:
As Amnesty International knows, the U.N. Convention defines “torture” as “severe pain or suffering.” That means that there is some level of pain and suffering, which is not severe, that does not constitute torture. So long as coercive interrogation methods do not cross that line, and are not otherwise “cruel, inhuman or degrading,” they are lawful. What constitutes “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment is not defined in the treaty. The meaning of these terms depends very much on the situation and individuals involved. The European Court of Human Rights, in a case dealing with British interrogation of IRA terrorists, concluded that a series of stress methods — including hooding, stress positions, loud noise and sleep deprivation — did not constitute torture, and were “inhuman” only when used together.Amnesty International used to be an organization that stood as the (sometimes solitary) voice against oppression, real oppression, real torture, real crimes against humanity.
If our national support for the Death Penalty, as established in the legitimate laws of this democratically elected Republic, and our refusal to yield sovereignty to international organizations and protocols as legally decided by our Executive and Legislative Branches, makes us a target worthy of special attention to AI, then they have lost belief in their charter.
This is extreme folly, and in my mind completely surrenders any moral standing that AI would have otherwise been entitled to in their long and dedicated service, the record of which recent leaders of that organization have steadily sullied. Soon, they will be the moral equivalent of the UN Committee on Human Rights, if they are not already.
Where on earth are the Trustees? What do the founders and supporters of AI think of this report? Are domestic U.S. Politics so valuable to you, that you will sacrifice the very soul of your organization? Are American Conservatives and Libertarians so beyond the pale, that you need to brand us as evil as anything you can conceive (and yes, observe) in the world today? Do you think this is some nightmare you will wake up from, and if you just tough it out, you will never have to deal with U.S. Republicans or Conservatives again? Do you want to fight true oppression, or do you want to play politics, because if it’s the former, we can work together, but if it’s the latter, you’re irrelevant to us (and to your very charter).
Rivkin and Casey conclude:
In the meantime, Amnesty International should reflect that its extravagant and unfounded claims that the United States has violated international law, and that its officials should be the subject of criminal prosecution, work to undercut its own mission. Amnesty claimed that “[w]hen the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity.” In fact, it is Amnesty International, and similar NGOs, who have granted that license. They have done this by failing to distinguish clearly between American interpretations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions and Torture Convention, with which they may disagree as a policy matter, and actual illegal conduct. It is hardly surprising that repressive regimes claim that the United States has violated the law, thus permitting them to follow suit, when groups like Amnesty persistently state that American policy at Guantanamo Bay is illegal even though this is simply not true.And that’s precisely the problem. If those on the left – both domestically in the U.S. and their dedicated supporters like AI internationally – continue to debase their arguments with this kind of hateful and unhinged rhetoric, they only plow the field for the fascist and dictatorial (and now terrorist) abusers they were created to combat. And that doesn’t just make them against our efforts, but on the other side. How can it be otherwise, when they fight the propaganda war for those who wage war on humanity?
Perhaps it may be said that these fallen veterans sacrificed out of proportion to the benefits they enjoyed -- they gave their all to a country that may not always have honored them in life in measure to their devotion. In some profounder sense, in honoring these heroic dead, Bay speaks forth a timeless caption for this Memorial Day, for all memorial days of this great Republic:
The mission of each generation is to take what we have and do better, do more with it. Liberty gives us this chance, to choose to take a sad and forgotten plot and turn it into a beautiful, peaceful place.Take what we have and make it better. That describes America, not just its veterans.
That is why, for all the negativity, for the politically correct attempts to highlight American transgression, evil, faults, and failings, we still need to remember this gift of Liberty.
We may take two steps forward, and then drop back one. We may even at times be pushed backwards, but we keep moving forward, trying to correct for the failings of the past, our failings, and in the end make something greater than it would have been without the mistakes. We learn, we grow. For going on now 230 years, we remain the bruised sometimes but never broken, single-best example of Democracy in action.
And it is in no small measure – it is in the most hallowed measure and degree – due to the Veterans we seek to honor this Memorial Day holiday.
To all who have gone before, to all who will follow them, May the God of this Universe, of all creation itself, look upon your service to a grateful nation, and raise us up, call us to our better natures, and in lifting our heads, acknowledge not only the service of the Fallen, but acknowledge too that Heavenly Father who may give them their eternal rest, and give us resolve for our earthly struggles. he can, He says He will, let us be mindful of our charge. Amen.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
For free form prose, he's idiosyncratic, which I enjoy, but he's also precise in his imaging. He has this ability, in my view unique, to string together sequences of otherwise disparate thoughts or tableaus, and by his very construction create resonance, one to the other. He makes connections, in the sense that they weren't there before he built them.
He writes in a way very reminiscent of the way he collects. I am fascinated by the sensibility that can gather together (and make somewhat immortal online) everything from WWII training posters, clips from C grade films, freakish '50s kische, pinup art, and somehow end up creating an almost hallowedness about his subjects.
(No, really! I think he gives his subjects a certain dignity they wouldn't otherwise reflect. That, and they'd likely never see the light of day if he didn't dust them off and post them.)
From his Institute of Official Cheer to his postcards, matchbooks, old newspaper ads, and my personal favorite, Patriotica. Unusual, exotic, the kind of things you get mesmerized over at antique barns, what little of it you find. Odd things, things that can make you smile and you don't even know why.
But it fits somehow with everything else Lileks writes about, is devotion to his so called flotsam and jetsam, that he carries around with him like an old family suitcase, full of grandpa's treasures or what was left in old Aunt Ruth's cabinet in the dining room or what Cousin Hank kept up in the loft in the garage.
Maybe I just like his humor and devotion to all things nostalgic, but I think it's more than that. And his post from Thursday I think helped me to understand.
Lileks gave it away, talking about Minneapolis:
I see the town in terms many wouldn’t recognize – either the history long vanished my own history no one would know, or particularly care about. In New York or Chicago or any other large city there’s so much history you can explore it forever, but sometimes it feels like there’s not enough here to keep me going forward. Every place I go is thick with history, and half of it’s meaningless, the result of the inevitable accretion of tracing the same route for too many years. The history that actually means something is a phantom, and somewhat of a bother. What would it be like to live somewhere and not see what had been there before?And he threatens to leave for Arizona, but even as he says it, something in him resists. And I don't think even Lileks knows what that's about.
But of course you’re running away from yourself when you do something like this, right? Well, no. Wherever you go, there you are. But at least in Arizona, you’re warmer, and CRIMINEY JUDAS I’m tired of being cold all the time. You oughtn't be cold in May. I walk outside to the gazebo – can’t sit down, the seats are wet – and I can see my breath. Which is nice, because it means I’m alive. But still.Despite his complaints about the cold, Lileks loves this city too much. He's too connected to it to be able to turn away from the history he feels compelled to preserve. It's not history that most people would recognize, but it's the history of neighborhoods, of greasy diners and forgotten souls. It's 5 bars on a single block, with Catholic and Presbyterian Churches a block apart like Monastic book ends. It's knowing streets and buildings by the business that was on the corner two or three proprietors ago, before they tore down the big sign and built the addition in the back, butting right up to the back of the Savings and Loan that isn't there anymore.
He carries this flotsam of memory, some his, most collected from others or part of a verbal history that "newspeople" often absorb just from being around a copy room in any old city. I know this feeling well.
I've experienced this first hand, but second and third hand too, in places you pass through, Scranton, Springfield, Buffalo, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, fading factory towns that made it big in the 19th century and struggled in a downward spiral through the 20th, and Lord only knows what will come in the 21st. Certainly industrial parks and business friendly zones and lots of tax incentives, but no future you can be sure of.
First hand, I know it from Binghamton and the "Triple Cities," as they called it, Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott, but it was really more like a dozen cities, the Maine, Endwell, Vestal, Vestal Center, Appalachin, Port Dickenson, Kirkwood, and on and on. I spent 6 years working in one part of town or another, and had the good fortune to work for one of the last old time shoe stores before it went bust. Maybe some of you remember them: a pair of brothers, usually Jewish back then, started up a Shoe Store, selling Floersheims, maybe later Bostonian, and they would get really angry if you tried to just buy your shoes. They wanted to get out the shoe scale, and measure your arch as well as heel to toe, and even visually inspect your foot to see what kind of last (shape and placement of arch relative to rest of the foot, how high the arch, how long) would be best for you. (This was serious business.)
But just like the guys who worked down at the old Binghamton Press (before it merged with the old Sun Bulletin sometime after Gannett scooped them both up), when you work in an 80 year old retail store, you get exposed to a lot of city history that has otherwise vanished from view or public discussion. Except for the old timers, and you have to want to listen to them or you don't hear the history. You don't connect the people or the stories.
If Lileks experienced Minneapolis like that, and I would bet as a newspaper reporter he did, he's carrying around a lot of old city history that is entrusted personally to him. And if he turns away, or forgets, or says, forget all this cold and heads for Arizona, then that history is lost forever. I think he feels that weight of responsibility, like the Last of the Mohicans, or some droid with a hologram message left by some dead guy waiting for just the right person for whom it was intended.
Does a city ever really exist that way? The way we remember it and imagine it is, even when half of what we think we know is a recollection, or a story, and not just ours but everyone we ever heard tell about it?
It's a funny thing, this attachment to a place and time that is really an attachment to a place somehow set out of time and preserved.
Lileks straddles the fence (Back Fence, yet another good feature available from Lileks), and keeps his options open:
If in five years I discover that the Minneapolis I love is a thing of fiction made of old photos and postcards, it’s time to till the soil. When I came back here the thought that I’d drive these streets as an old man was a comfort, and it may well end up so. It’s also possible I end up braking into a skid on some March sleet and get broadsided as I pass through Lake Street for the 95,933rd and final time, and my last thought will be: so much sun you could have had. So much sun.
Friday, May 27, 2005
No posts from Dadmanly or Gladmanly this time, but lots of interesting reading at the Carnival. Check it out!
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Totten had been "blogging from the Inception" at Spirit of America, where he reported live-blog from Lebanon throughout their recent liberation from Syrian control.
So what occurred in Lebanon? And what does it bode for the rest of the Middle East?
Totten quotes Student leader Nabil Abou-Charraf:
"Our revolution is about much more than ejecting Syria from the country and establishing democracy in Lebanon," he told me. "It is also important that we heal the old wounds. We cannot go back to the past, to the civil war. We want to rebuild our country." He tapped the side of his head. "And that includes rebuilding our minds. Lebanon has been so divided. We stand not only for freedom and independence, but also national unity and a new, modern, common, tolerant Lebanese identity.A new, tolerant Lebanese identity, where the most popular symbol -- aside the cedar-adorned Lebanese Flag itself -- has been the Muslim crescent and the Christian cross. Not exactly the Lion and the Lamb lying down together, but just about as remarkable.
Again from Abou-Charraf:
"This isn't just about Lebanon, either," he said. "You want to know what we're doing? I'll tell you what we're doing. We are resolving the clash of civilizations."A clash of ideas. And since the Cedar Revolution ignited following the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, without violence. Thanks to the courage, determination, and tolerance of the Lebanese people.
Ajami opens his commentary with a startling admission from a Kuwaiti merchant:
"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here - the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle - came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception."For those who would make the facile argument that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside, reality in the Middle East has always belied that prediction, and those who know the Middle East best know this well.
[Start Digression] I came across a reminder today (blogosphere somewhere, my apologies) of a bit of wisdom from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence, I paraphrase, "better that the Arab do something tolerably than (British, U.S.) do something perfectly." The Great Lawrence himself saw the limits of what the outsider can do, but then, he was the ultimate outsider, wasn't he? And wasn't one of his greatest internal contradictions (among many), that he could see clearly what he could not briong himself to do? His own history starts in support of, but in the end, confounds his assertion.
The Middle East has a long history of imposed solutions, but never before has anyone imposed freedom. And this will end the end suggest a tolerably Iraqi solution, rather than some perfect American construction.[End Digression]
Ajami reports a Syrian view of the tumultuous events that led to the liberation of Lebanon:
I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George W. Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.Is this the devastation to American prestige and credibility abroad I hear so mcuh about from the left side of the aisle? Sounds like the threat was very credible.
Ajami notes something else from his visit:
Unmistakably, there is in the air of the Arab world a new contest about the possibility and the meaning of freedom.Americans should not underestimate the tremendous significance of these ideas among Arab intelligentsia and society as a whole. Of course there is and will be resistance, but perhaps as futile as trying to turn back the clock or undo the march of progress.
Ajami finds his metaphor in an ancient Arab symbol, the horse:
As I made my way on this Arab journey, I picked up a meditation that Massimo d'Azeglio, a Piedmontese aristocrat who embraced that "springtime" in Europe, offered about his time, which speaks so directly to this Arab time: "The gift of liberty is like that of a horse, handsome, strong, and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the desire to walk." It would be fair to say that there are many Arabs today keen to walk - frightened as they are by the prospect of the Islamists coming to power and curtailing personal liberties, snuffing out freedoms gained at such great effort and pain. But more Arabs, I hazard to guess, now have the wish to ride. It is a powerful temptation that George W. Bush has brought to their doorstep.Chrenkoff concludes:
I couldn't help but to chuckle, recalling the words spoken by Osama bin Laden in December 2001, reflecting his belief about the decline of the West and the rise and the appeal of his style of militancy: "when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." Well, the "weak" American horse has bucked first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and now, as Ajami writes, America is presenting the people of the Middle East with "the horse of democracy". People might hate the fact that it's not an Arab thoroughbred but an Arab-American stallion hybrid high on neo-con steroids, but in the end a horse is a horse. You don't look the gift one in the teeth, and who cares what sort of a horse it is as long as it ultimately takes you where you want to go?And is it so suprising that where they want to go starts with freedom from dictatorship and oppression?
Excellent music and lyrics, a real blessing for my early morning and late evening quiet times. (Or even the busy get myself ready for the FOB Job times.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
In You Don't Support Us, I respond to the Liberal Avenger’s questions about my You Don’t Support Us post, and respond to questions about whether there is any basis for prisoner abuse allegations.
In Doing More Damage Than Good, I respond to the Liberal Avenger’s questions about John Cole’s recent post about criticism of the press, Hugh Hewitt, and general thoughts on press criticism of the military.
Check them both out. Debates continue in the comments, and there's generally plenty of good points to go around. Enjoy.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Newsweek obviously believes desecration is in the eye of the beholder. (Or, they just want to stick it in our eye.)
Amazingly, Newsweek editors responsible for an edition that ran in February in Japan, depicts a soiled American flag with its staff broken, stuffed in a garbage can.
You would think Newsweek would be more culturally sensitive. After all, some Americans view the U.S. Flag as sacred as others view, oh I don't know, say a Koran.
Of course, Newsweek probably understands that, whereas insulting a sacred object in Muslim countries can get you arrested, whipped, stoned, mutilated, raped or executed, doing the same to a sacred object in America is just being journalistically adversarial. No riotous mobs will storm your offices, set fire to your presses, stone or necklace your writers.
And of course, if by your brazen disregard for the consequences of editorial decision-making gets some innocent civilians or American soldiers killed, well, at least it didn't happen here. Oh, and it just demonstrates the damage that the Bush Administration has done to America's prestige in the world. Couldn't have anything to do with the U.S. Media throwing U.S. Flags in garbage cans. No. Of course not.
Bill is a fine writer, and his thoughts broad and deep on the struggle against Islamic Terrorists and Anti-Iraqi Forces, all centering around the military notion of Sanctuary. The term Sanctuary, for those not familiar, refers to the lynchpin of the Laws of War (and every protocol attempted since the dawn of civilization straight through the Geneva Conventions), namely that there is a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. This distinction, though greatly abused at times in all conflicts, is a non-trivial appeal to humanity even in the midst of our most brutal and violent practices, War.
And it is this appeal, this distinction, that our enemies in the Global War on Terror are determined to obliterate. They actively seek to kill civilians, they target non-combatants such as medical personnel, they make military use of Mosques, they pretend to surrender, they appeal for help and then detonate explosives. And our forces respond overwhelmingly with supreme restraint, compassion, and humanity, even to the risk and loss of their lives.
If you still are unsure what is meant by Sanctuary -- which Bill has made transcendant in the grand purpose of America itself I think -- think of the most durable civilizing influences in ours or any society. Think that place where we are better than we imagine. Think about the ideals and credo of America. Remember that you live in freedom and (relative) prosperity.
So, here's just a small sample of Bill's work:
Our soldiers are fighting and dying to install what any sane person can see is a widely-representative democracy, heroically elected at great personal risk. Opposing them are a shadow army of former secret policemen, state torturers, and foreign invaders of every stripe who kill Iraqi policemen, behead innocent Iraqi cabdrivers, and detonate car bombs at the opening of new schools and children’s centers. There may be an explanation for this support I am not seeing. I, for one, can not get past the idea that millions of Western Progressives would rather see a nation re-enslaved, or erupt in civil war, or have twenty thousand of their countrymen come home in boxes than admit that they were wrong.In another segment, Bill is in Aspen and happens upon the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. And he picks up a program to discover that this year's recipient of the Annual Freedom of Speech Award is Garry Trudeau.
And they have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to claim the moral high ground?
I am trying my level best to understand how and why someone who professes to be for freedom for artists, homosexuals and women – not to mention unlimited personal expression of every stripe -- can take the side of 8th Century religious fanatics who brag about murdering writers, stoning women, beheading homosexuals and instituting moral policemen at every street corner with unquestioned authority to beat, jail or execute anyone suspected of being insufficiently pious.
I used to wonder why civilizations fell. No longer. I see it now before my eyes, every day. Civilizations do not fall because the Barbarians storm the walls. The forces of civilization are far too powerful, and those of barbarism far too weak, for that to happen.
Civilizations fall because the people inside the Sanctuary throw open the gates.
My readers may remember my recent complaint against the clueless Trudeau (clueless to Military, clueless to blogs, clueless to MILBLOGGERS needless to say, but also clueless to our efforts in Iraq). So I am certainly no (longer) a fan of Trudeau or his reactionary "Doonesbury." But Bill, he nails Trudeau dead to rights.
Now I had met Muhammad and Omar, two of the brothers from Iraq the Model when they appeared at Roger L. Simon’s house in Los Angeles. These two ordinary men faced murder and beheading in their defense of freedom in Iraq, a nation awash in Ba’athist murderers, Al Qaeda savages and former Saddam secret policemen. These men stood openly for democracy in a land where simply being a policeman is likely to get you killed. Of course, this is merely physical and moral courage; the sort of thing easily dismissed in the sanctuary of Aspen, Colorado. No, real courage is awarded to the man who has taken the biggest pay cut in defense of free speech, and so the real honor must of necessity flow to Garry Trudeau -- a man who has dared criticize the President of the United States! A man whose endlessly repeated panels of the White House antenna farm reminds us of the true meaning of freedom and courage, for he, supported only by tens of millions, the entire celebrity universe of stars, the mainstream media and his multi-millionaire TV star wife, has selflessly risked …You need to set aside an hour and read Sanctuary in its entirety, both parts. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
I’m sorry, I drew a blank – I completely spaced!
Oh! I remember. A man who courageously allowed his secretary to selflessly risk irate e-mails in order to attack Chimpy McHitler, and who asked for nothing in return but a few tens of millions of dollars… that, my friends, is the standard-bearer for the modern liberal’s idea of courage.
[NOTE: Previous reference to Bill being a contributor to Winds of Change was in error and has been deleted. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.]
My readers know I share some of Bill's passion and grave concern, but Bill, I couldn't have said it better. I likely couldn't have said even a fraction of the excellent work you've done here.
Friday, May 20, 2005
You are creating greater risk for me personally. You are creating incredible hostility in Muslim countries due to incessant negative reporting out of context and ignoring orders of magnitude of good news in doing so. Yet, in your jaded imaginations, you believe every misconception you spin is ever more confirmation of what you always knew about the U.S. Military. These unrelenting Vietnam analogies are like press versions of drug addled flashbacks.
You create added danger for my soldiers. You feed into enemy (yes, enemy) propaganda efforts in yielding unlimited access to pre-staged voices with calculated intent. You are entirely ignorant of the countries you claim to cover, and you know as little about the U.S. Military, its culture, climate, training, procedures, and ways of operation. You diminish and demean our service.
You cause greater concern, fear and worry for our friends and family. You expand pinpoints of data into grossly distorted exaggerations of fact, and paint broad brush strokes of violence without any context or comparison to relative levels elsewhere. You have no sense of proportion or equivalence. You have no regard for collateral damage, and yet see imagined carnage with every surgical strike, precision bomb, or targeted raid. You can speak of cities destroyed with the destruction of a single building.
We daily see the gross distortions. We cannot recognize the caricatures you scratch out, neither in our fellow soldiers, nor in the battlespace we inhabit. Your vain and callous search for what you indignantly claim as objectivity is really nothing more than neutrality in the face of absolute evil. Even though you are neither architect nor sponsor of that evil, you are accomplice in its result. And you continue to ignore the consequence.
We are proud of our Military, our Country, and how, for over 200 years, the U.S. has tried to improve both ourselves and the world around us, usually for little thanks and much scorn and insult. We police ourselves. Every scandal you report, from My Lai to Iran Contra to Abu Ghraib, has been first reported to authorities by military personnel. And that has resulted in prosecutions and punishment. And what do you stress in your reporting? The sins, crimes, and misdemeanors and rarely if ever remark on the ability and willingness for us to identify and correct malfeasance in our ranks.
Never, never claim to support the soldiers, you don't, you never will in any meaningful way until you can see your prejudices for what they are, work to eliminate them, and for once try to view the world with an open and not a closed mind. You need to rethink how you consider the idea of a just war after 9/11. You need to acknowledge that you don't know the modern U.S. Military or the men and women who serve.
Only then can you hope to develop any kind of truly objective view of your world.
And if, after all that, you still think the U.S. causes more harm than good in the world, then there really is no hope for you at all. You are a citizen without a state. And that's too bad, because there is no greater country in the world than the U.S.
Man, this isn't what I intended to write. I got mad. See what happens?
This is what prompted my unhinged state.
Arthur Chrenkoff posted an excerpt from an LA Times editorial that followed the usual "X is wrong, (insert any wildly tangential logic possible) it must be Bush's fault."
As Chrenkoff describes it:
Many in the media are trying to downplay the "Newsweek" incident because the US has already such bad image around the world that it couldn't possibly get any worse - or as "The Los Angeles Times" editorialized, "For all the administration's huffing and puffing about Newsweek getting the story wrong, it has produced such a catalogue of misdeeds at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo that almost any allegation is instantly credited abroad ... The US has already been convicted in the court of world opinion for its treatment of its prisoners, and that's the administration's fault, not Newsweek's."Chrenkoff's response was different than mine, but an aside, and back to his in a moment.
According to the "LAT", the solution was simple: "Shutting down Guantanamo and giving suspected terrorists legal protections would help restore our reputation abroad. Crowing over Newsweek's mishap won't."
What drivel. When the "Court of World Opinion" seats judges the like of Castro, Putin, Kim Il Sung, whatever Party Hack runs Red China these days, Khaddafi, Chretien, Mugabe ... Okay that's really tiring.
And outside of Bush, Blair, Howard, and the majority of Eastern European leaders, is there anyone else that doesn't have either their heads in the sand or their hands in someone's pockets? No seriously, with the U.N. too busy making illicit fortunes for their principal apparatchiks or setting up sex rings in monitored countries that exploit children (sometimes paid for, and often rape, statutorily so), is there any other set of countries in the world that are making any serious effort to make it safer or better? Or that puts up with so much abuse as thanks for its sacrifices?
Geez. Breathe deeply. Shake your head. Drink some water. Okay.
In answer to the Times prescriptions for how to restore our reputation abroad, here's how Chrenkoff ends, it will be worth the wait:
A more balanced coverage wouldn't go astray either. After spending the last three years reducing the American war effort to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and assorted other incompetence and brutality, to complain that America's image worldwide is so poor that people will now believe anything smacks somewhat of the chutzpah of a man who killed his parents and pleaded to the court for leniency on the account that he is now an orphan.Okay, I feel better for the moment. Just keep me away from a paper.
Kevin at Command T.O.C. responds to my post on his blog:
I have read the many blogs but Dadmanly summed up the outrage from the right/Milbloggers. And he also reinvigorated my belief that I want Newsweek to continue even if they make a few mistakes.
In his rant on the media, he says that that media does not support him or understand him. To this I say, correct, and, moreover, I do not want the media to support him. Not because I do not want the media to support the military but because I want the media to distrust everything about the powerful.
My Counter Response:
I wouldn't call what I posted a rant, at least not in any comparison with the wildly insulting variety commonly seen on blogs (both sides).
That being said, I respectfully disagree. I too want a skeptical press. I want a watchdog press that uncovers hidden or secreted facts. I even want a press that advocates for openness and transparency.
But an adversarial or antagonistic press? This is one of the many hangover symptoms of Watergate and Vietnam.
The press doesn't need to enter the fray, as they often do (and always promoting the point of view of our adversaries). Throughout the Middle East (and across the Globe, really), the anti-American perspective is represented in GREAT abundance. The U.S. press serves no public benefit hawking wares that are widely available elsewhere. Unless of course, they are actively trying to change public perception of facts at hand. That makes them adversarial, certainly, but it also displays a bias for one side over another. And that's not journalism, that's political.
And there is a another fallacy in [Kevin's] logic. Wars are fought by men and women who have no more say in decision-making than any other citizen, and in some cases less, since we are constrained by our oaths of enlistment and duty to serve the U.S. Congress and the Commander in Chief.
As such, we are not the powerful as we would be in a non-democratic state. You attack the military as if we were the powerful; on the battlefield yes, in the public arena, not at all. [Kevin's] beef is with the political leaders such as the President (all of Congress voting in support by the way), not with the fine men and women of the U.S. Military.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Dadmanly has a previous post linked in the Carnival, Bible Illiteracy about David Gelernter's review of Bible Literacy Project report.
Gladmanly has the second part of the sermon, "It's Not Just me and You. Love GOD."
There are many other fine posts from Christian bloggers in the Carnival. Check them out, and be blessed!
Today John has sneak peek review of the new Narnia movie, from the book written by C.S. Lewis. John includes a link to the Narnia movie trailer, which he relates brought tears to his eyes.
I agree with John, and share his enjoyment of both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy, as well as the rendering of the story of the Christ as the central feature of both great works.
John is determined to see the movie in its proper context:
I am trying to develop a mindset that allows me to enjoy the movie in the same way I enjoyed LOTR -- a great depiction of a story I love. The trailer sure does excite me.I'm going to check it out as soon as it gets done loading. You should too!
As described on Dawn Patrol, with link to Fox & Friends interview video:
Major General Joseph Taluto, Commanding General, 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division, talks to FOX News from Tikrit about ongoing efforts in the fight against the insurgency. Before the interview begins, there is a live audio feed from Oliver North calling from Western Iraq where he is embedded with Marines engaged in Operation Matador. Video by 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.As described on Dawn Patrol, with link to WRBG video:
Major General Joseph Taluto, Commanding General 42nd Infantry Division, talks from Tikrit to reporter at WRGB in Schenectady, New York. Says despite increased suicide bomb attacks, Tikrit is still a stable city with a capable police and army force; says Iraqi force recruitment is still on the rise. Video from 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Gelernter identifies Abraham Lincoln as America's foremost prophet, and uses the famous passages of Lincolns Second Inaugural to underscore what is the oldest of American traditions:
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right..." Lincoln's speech "reads like a supplement to the Bible," writes the historian William Wolf, with its "fourteen references to God, four direct quotations from Genesis, Psalms, and Matthew, and other allusions to scriptural teaching." "The best gift God has given to man," Lincoln called the Bible. "But for it we could not know right from wrong."For Lincoln, and many of our greatest Americans before and since, God and His wisdom revealed to man underlies all the strength and structures of our American Experiment. This is enshrined in the writings and institutional artifacts created by the founders.
Gelernter then proffers what he believes should be the first question asked in our history books: What made the nation's Founders so sure they were onto something big?
And he amplifies:
What made John Adams say, in 1765, "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence"? What made Abraham Lincoln call America (in 1862, in the middle of a ruinous civil war) "the last, best hope of earth"?Among all the other influences, intertwined among all the great philosophies of governance, saturating every product of the intellect that nurtured the great ideas that eventually sprang fully formed as our Constitution, first and foremost was the Bible. And the founders read it faithfully.
Gelernter references a major paper by Fania Oz-Salzberger, published in 2002, which documented how the Hebrew Bible heavily influenced the thinkers and writers who constructed our founding governmental forms and documents. Oz-Salzberger describes the nearly perfect Republic of Israel, which, precisely because of its transcendent origin, it was an exemplary state of law and a society dedicated to social justice and republican liberty."
To Gelernter, much of what passes for modern rights activism trying to enforce an inviolable wall of separation between church and state would be infuriating to the Founders.
It is a perfect reflection of the nation's origins that the very first freedom in the Bill of Rights--Article one, part one--should be religious freedom. "Separation of church and state" was a means to an end, not an end in itself. The idea that the Bill of Rights would one day be traduced into a broom to sweep religion out of the public square like so much dried mud off the boots of careless children would have left the Founders of this nation (my guess is) trembling in rage. We owe it to them in simple gratitude to see that the Bill of Rights is not--is never--used as a weapon against religion.And by extending his argument to the period of our Civil War, Gelernter vividly portrays a biblical Lincoln, one who translated a very personal and private faith into a commitment to preserve and defend what he viewed as Gods gift to mankind, through the vessel of America and the profound achievement of Liberty expressed within its institutions. This belief he maintained, in spite of the challenges posed by two sets of contrasting orthodoxies, gripped in a mortal struggle as an expression of their Gods will.
As the Civil War approached, both North and South saw their positions in biblical terms. Southern preachers sometimes accused abolitionists of being atheists in disguise. Lincoln rose above this kind of dispute. "In the present civil war it is quite possible," he wrote in 1862, "that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party."Yet Lincoln made continuous reference to the Source of his strength. Gelernter holds that Lincoln understood the promise of America, and struggled mightily to redeem and transform that promise:
Lincoln was America's most "biblical" president--"no president has ever had the detailed knowledge of the Bible that Lincoln had," writes the historian William Wolf. Lincoln turned to the Bible more and more frequently and fervently as the war progressed. His heterodox but profound Christianity showed him how to understand the war as a fight to redeem America's promise to mankind.Lincoln was not the average church goer of his age. He had an unusual but distinctly American brand of Christian faith. Gelernter describes the specific scriptural grounds that Lincoln adhered to:
Lincoln never joined a church, but said often that he would join one if "the savior's summary of the Gospel" were its only creed. He meant the passage in Mark and Luke where Jesus restates God's requirements in terms of two edicts from the Hebrew Bible: to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Lincoln's religion was deeply biblical--and characteristically American.In Gelernters view (and mine), the Bible still shapes American destiny. Or better perhaps, the Bible still has the power to preserve the promise of American destiny. This is all the more true today in our Global War on Terror, as an almost biblical project, One that sees America as an almost chosen people, with the heavy responsibilities that go with the job.
The faithful ask, in the words of the 139th psalm, "Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" And answer, "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me." Secularists don't see it that way; but the Bible's penetration into the farthest corners of the known world is simple fact. Most contemporary philosophers and culture critics are barely aware of these things, don't see the pattern behind them, can't tell us what the pattern means, and (for the most part) don't care.I understand the concerns of some Americans about establishment of religion by the state, or government dictating the terms and conditions of worship. These are real concerns, and we should try to understand what might be legitimate boundaries between government activities and religious expression. (But surely no inseparable wall with religious people and expressions on one side, and government employees and officials and absolutely pristine secularity on the other.)
But equally important, we need to maintain a knowledge and awareness of the great Judeo-Christian foundations in the history, the culture, the ideals, and the creeds of this American Republic. We owe it to the generations of Americans who motivated, labored, fought, served, and often died in America's cause. Often with the name of God on their lips.
As if the U.S. Military needed any additional baggage. As if we aren't already elbow deep in fighting our way out of other sinkholes Newsweek, other media, and other anti-American interests have dug with propaganda against our fine military members.
Dan Darling fairly grieves over the utter inconsequence of Newsweek's sort of apology, full apology, and now retraction against ongoing and future violence. In the same way, he reaches the grim conclusion that none of our outrage against such press perfidy will change the future here forward, either. This one's an unmitigated Al Qaeda victory in the public relations war. But he ends with some hope, hopefully not unfounded:
The bottom line, however, is that al-Qaeda scored a propaganda victory this time around. This ain't red or blue issue either and all the people who have (accurately) pointed out that al-Qaeda is using the war in Iraq or what happened at Abu Ghraib as a recruiting engine need to consider that much the same is true of this story. Let us all do what we can to make sure they don't score another one, yes?Joe Katzman soundly demonstrates how media bias, prejudices, ignorance and lack of intellectual diversity at media outlets like Newsweek virtually guarantee this kind of journalistic abuse.
Lack of political diversity within the media is preventing it from questioning the wisdom of stories like the one Newsweek ran, a simple act that would have forestalled many deaths. Having that kind of political diversity on hand might have given Newsweek some people in the newsroom who would familiarize themselves with stuff like al-Qaeda's manual (we have them here, on a far lower budget), or have good enough relations with military and intel sources to elicit that kind of information. People who would treat extreme claims from captured terrorists with more skepticism - which, as Greyhawk notes above, is utterly warranted. People who might have insisted on following the rules Tapscott cites above.Lots of great links, other fine points, no need to repeat them here,
follow the link.
Monday, May 16, 2005
(Via Paul Mirengoff at Powerline)
Mark Steyn, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, reminds us of the recent terrible Tsunami that killed 300,000 people and generated a flood of international aid and goodwill, spearheaded overwhelmingly by the U.S., followed by Britain and Australia.
Steyn points out (astonishingly) that a vast amount of aid has been languishing for many months due to Indonesian bureaucratic logjams and incompetence (and no doubt corruption).
Steyn provides some tragic details:
Five hundred containers, representing one-quarter of all aid sent to Sri Lanka since the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, are still sitting on the dock in Colombo, unclaimed or unprocessed.Steyn uses this subject worthy of commentary in its own right, as an object lesson in the argument raging over the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador of the U.N. (No, not Secretary General of the U.N. but you might think so for all the hand wringing and hysteria. Now wait, that's an idea...)
At the Indonesian port of Medan, 1,500 containers of aid are still sitting on the dock.
Four months ago, did you chip in to the tsunami relief effort? Did your company? A Scottish subsidiary of the Body Shop donated a 40-foot container of "Lemon Squidgit" and other premium soap, which arrived at Medan in January and has languished there ever since because of "incomplete paperwork,'' according to Indonesian customs officials.
Steyn ties the two with humor:
Which brings me to the John Bolton nomination process, which is taking so long you'd think the U.S. Senate was run by Indonesian customs inspectors. Writing of near-Ambassador Bolton's difficulty getting his paperwork stamped by the Foreign Relations Committee, National Review's Cliff May observed that "the real debate is between those who think the U.N. needs reform -- and those who think the U.S. needs reform.''Steyn deftly draws the parallel he's after to sink the hook:
On the face of it, this shouldn't be a difficult choice, even for as uncurious a squish as Voinovich. Whatever one feels about it, the United States manages to function. The U.N. apparatus doesn't. Indeed, the United States does the U.N.'s job better than the U.N. does. The part of the tsunami aid operation that worked was the first few days, when America, Australia and a handful of other nations improvised instant and effective emergency relief operations that did things like, you know, save lives, rescue people, restore water supply, etc. Then the poseurs of the transnational bureaucracy took over, held press conferences demanding that stingy Westerners needed to give more and more and more, and the usual incompetence and corruption followed.Steyn explains for those who may not be readily able to identify the Canadian Prime Minister Martin, and highlights both Martin's high visibility in showing support after the Tsunami, and the fact that in contrast to the very public pledge of $425 Million, only $50,000 has actually been allocated. For Steyn, "Canada's contribution to tsunami relief is objectively useless and rhetorically fraudulent."
But none of that matters. As the grotesque charade Voinovich and his Democrat chums have inflicted on us demonstrates, all that the so-called "multilateralists" require is that we be polite and deferential to the transnational establishment regardless of how useless it is. What matters in global diplomacy is that you pledge support rather than give any. Thus, Bolton would have no problem getting nominated as U.N. ambassador if he were more like Paul Martin.
Ah, but Steyn's not done, not by a long shout. He concludes with what is Bolton's most strongly negative characteristic that infuriates his enemies.
John Bolton's sin is to have spoken the truth about the international system rather than the myths to which photo-oppers like the Canadian prime minister defer. As a consequence, he's being treated like a container of Western aid being processed by Indonesian customs. Customs Inspector Joe Biden and Junior Clerk Voinovich spent two months trying to come up with reasons why Bolton's paperwork is inadequate and demanding to know why he hasn't filled out his RU1-2. An RU1-2 is the official international bureaucrat's form reassuring the global community that he'll continue to peddle all the polite fictions, no matter how self-evidently risible they are. John Bolton isn't one, too. That's why we need him.That is why we need him, and why Bill Kristol is right to urge a Senate vote on confirmation prior to the recess.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an interview today and described the unsubstantiated report of Koran desecrations "appalling." (From Yahoo news.)
"I think it's perfectly plausible and even likely that there were those who used this event to stoke anti-American sentiment for their own purposes," she said.Now, the real question is, was she referring to Al Qaeda types, desperate for some added fuel to whip up lagging support among their constituencies? Or was she referring to liberal media types (same as above)?
That and lots of other civil discussion over at Debate Space.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Now I'll have to check out all the others I'm not acquainted with yet -- and so should you!
Chrenkoff dissects BBC reporting of Operation Matador, and a rather obvious example of data sampling to get the desired atmospherics.
Fortunately, BBC is there to remind us that every seemingly good-for-America cloud has a silver lining:And what is the damage they are reporting? The only footage was of a single bombed out house. Chrenkoff relates the breathless BBC reporting on Qaim, a town of 50,000 people:
"The BBC's Jim Muir, in Baghdad, says the operation appears to have exacerbated tribal tensions in the area."
In case you didn't quite get it, BBC is quite keen to let you know that the offensive against the terrorists has also done a lot of collateral damage, hence a handy video-report, tagged "See the damage caused by Operation Matador", linked to in the upper right hand corner of the above mentioned-story.
The original BBC report quoted before captions a photo of a tent "Many people have fled to the desert as a result of the US campaign", while the story itself says only that "About 250 people fled Qaim into the desert as a result of the fighting and are currently receiving assistance from the Iraqi Red Crescent."To add the final insult to journalistic injury, the BBC fails entirely to note that much of the violence in Qaim was the result of townspeople turning against Al Qaeda elements:
Plus, as the indispensable Bill Roggio notes, fighting seems to have been taking place in Qaim between Al Qaeda forces and the local Sunni tribe. It begun even before Operation Matador, and the American forces are said to have been invited into the city by the elders to help mop up Al Zarqawi's men - all facts reported in the American media, but which seemed to have escaped BBC, as it salivated over the destruction of Qaim.Bill Roggio provides greater detail in his post, and speculates why press accounts don't mention the witnessed heavy fighting in Qaim, which is supported by accounts in The Hindustan Times:
"According to witnesses and the US military, the offensive triggered intense clashes in the town of Al-Qaim between fighters loyal to Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq and the most wanted militant in the country, and a rival Sunni tribe in the border city."Chrenkoff concludes:
It must be remembered the local leaders in Qaim requested US intervention. It is possible the price to be paid was a commitment by the locals to fight the jihadis themselves. The tactics used in Qaim may be much like those used against the Taliban in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom: local fighters acting as the infantry while the US provides backup by cordoning the city and inserting Special Forces teams to coordinate air, artillery and other forms of support. This can explain why US forces have not entered the city.There will no doubt be more to this story. Keep an eye on Chrenkoff and Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail for the latest updates.
Afghans are rioting, people are getting killed because of misplaced outrage at what appear to be fraudulent (or at least highly suspect claims) made by Newsweek. And yet, the "journalists" behind this National Inquirer reporting not only fail to take any responsibility, they decide to double or nothing with additional, unattributed, unsubstantiated claims. All the while acknowledging that these stories might incite further anti-American violence.
How about, "Newsweek Lied -- People Died!"
Not just against the war, but on the other side.
Check out the surf. He writes well, and has a perspective somewhat different than we MILBLOGGERS who are deployed in uniform. He has a good intro with Deploying as a Contractor, and I also enjoyed his Take on Iraq.
Welcome back to the sandbox, Caelestis!
Saturday, May 14, 2005
That debate helped me to understand the popularity of both Bush 43 and Reagan, and I thought that train of thought very important, so I reproduce it here.
Military men and women have a very keen eye for fair weather friends. Bush had the great advantage of having biological and philosophical antecedents with rock solid military credentials: Ronald Reagan and Bush 41. Kerry had no such advantage, in Clinton, Gore, and Kennedy (Ted).
Question from LiberalAvenger:
What were Ronald Reagan's rock solid military credentials?
I never would have guessed this term "credentials," would have so many shades of meaning. If this debate has taught me anything, it is that people have many different senses of what it means to be credentialed.
I meant that Ronald Reagan was given great credit by the military, not that he was some big military hero. He was extremely popular with soldiers, much like Bush 43.
As to his actual military service, quoting from a CNN biography:
During World War II, Reagan's poor eyesight kept him from combat, and he was assigned to make military training films. He was discharged as a Army captain in 1945, but not, he later said, before developing a disdain for the inefficiency of the military's bureaucracy.I think I figured out why Presidents like Bush 43 and Reagan were so popular with the troops, and why others like Clinton and Carter (and even to an extent Bush 41, believe it or not).
Military members believe strongly in the mission of and purpose for the U.S. Armed Forces. They tend to be conservative, and they share none of the reluctance to use the military to support or fulfill U.S. National Security objectives as long as those objectives are sound. They also tend towards the macho, and strong figures like Reagan or Bush, while otherwise polarizing and divisive, were and are nothing if not powerful and assertive. I need not describe some of the frequent stereotypical comments about others for you to surmise correctly what those might have sounded like.
Reagan was a staunch anti-communist. As a cold warrior in the 80's, I can vouch that the prevalent feeling in the U.S. Military was likewise anti-communist, especially those of us in the know about Soviet and Communist activities, and in tune with what was a very strong "heartland" animosity towards the communists. Ascribe its source where you may, but also consider it one of the earliest precursor to the "Red State - Blue State" divide. (Only then, the point of divide was antipathy towards the "red" menace.)
I fault Reagan for many of the failings foreign policy wise as his next two successors. Much was left unattended to. But there is no question that standing up (with strength) to the Soviets and pushing against their interests was rather (though not universally) popular with the military. (As I stated, I hated him at the time, but have I think a wiser awareness now.)
It may seem counterintuitive for someone not in service, but soldiers don't restrict themselves to narrow personal interest. Once you are the type of person who is willing to serve, with all that that entails, you are likely to be quite ready to place the national interest above your own. Sure, there are grumblings from some about "we have no f'ing business being here," but that's the exception, and within military culture, that kind of negativity and resistance is frowned upon.
Reagan and Bush 43 conveyed a strong sense of valuing the military and being willing to use it without fear or hesitation, and showing deep conviction that doing so was the right thing to do for America (whether or not it was or they had to follow through, placing their soldiers boots where their mouth was). This then dovetails with my observation about (macho) military perceptions of strength and strong leadership.
Not to be partisan -- I don't mean it that way -- Republicans of late have done better with image and perception in this regard than Democrats. Not that that's all it is, its fueled and supported by real issues and real decisions and stances. But I am often impressed by how much nonverbal communication goes on that all of us underestimate. Military men and women are trained to be obedient, and respond in an instant to the commands and directives of those in authority over us. I think that's why we're so attuned to some that fit that communications model, and tune out or can't hear or respect those who don't communicate strongly in that way.
We know strong leaders, and we respect strong and forceful leadership. Any amount of indecisiveness, uncertainty, or even "nuance" could get us killed. Hence all the stories, mostly apocryphal, about fragging during Viet Nam. Soldiers grouse about poor leadership and uncertain or flawed leadership more than any other single thing, and some will translate those complaints into mental "lists" of who the first one to get it will be. Those comments go away when leadership is strong, decisive, but fair and always mindful of the cost of decisions upon soldiers.
Congratulations, Jilly Bean!
I have looked forward to this day for so long, but I can’t say I’ve known what I was going to say or how I would feel. (I certainly never thought I’d MISS it by being deployed here in Iraq.) So I grope around for some words to contain this swell of emotion, like some old guy in a movie, rummaging around for the glasses that are right on top of his head.
But this is a first time experience for you, too, so maybe like we have, all through this adventure called life so far, we can help each other make sense of it all. I know that’s supposed to be my job, but I don’t think you realize how important a role you play in how my life goes on from here.
Sure, you’re the one who needs to figure out what you want to be when you’re all grown up. You’re the one who has to figure out this whole credit card thing and debt load and loan repayments. And you’re the one who has to decide where to live, and what job to take, and what friends you try to keep for life and which ones you kind of say, “We’ll have to meet for lunch sometime or hit the clubs,” but you know and maybe hope you won’t. And you are the one who gets to walk around like France’s last Emperor, knowing that you paid your dues and you’ve arrived and you know all these things about yourself you didn’t know before.
Change is what you will be all about. But that’s cool, because you’ve gotten really good at change. You need to help me with change.
You got used to not living at a parent’s house, but still needing to take care of that thing you now call home, even if it’s a room and a ½ share of a kitchenette and bathroom. You got used to college courses, a whole lot of reading and writing. You learned the politics of the dorm committee. You became expert in Foreign Relations, dealing with the different nations of girls within the school, the turf, the rules, the secrets and scandals, and all the fun.
You mastered a big city. A very friendly one, with a great baseball sports franchise right next door, but a big city nonetheless. You are a subway woman, you never thought you would be. You did the whole spring break thing, and went native in the process. Ah, the tropics. You got involved in counseling and helping other people and being involved in your school and your community, and you are so much more aware of everything around you than you used to be. You know how to help your Dad navigate even when it’s his 5th time through the neighborhood.
You have dealt with all the roller coaster emotions of your friends and loved ones, you’ve felt the loss, and grieving as things change and sometimes go away even when they are the very best things. And you’ve experienced when the very best things turn into not so good things in ways you didn’t expect. You've gotten strong along with that heart that beats for those around you, with those eyes that see clearly all the interconnectedness in tugging bands between the things and people you care about the most. You’ve found love and lost love. You’ve fought and made peace. You’ve impacted those around you. You find your own wisdom, and you write your name on it and claim it as your own. You are strong and brave. You need to help me be brave.
You have prepared yourself for life on your own terms. You are ready for the scary ride to start, the big coaster, with the wooden railings and clackety clack wheels, the one that when you were a child was the scariest thing you could think of, being your own woman, and now you have learned that there are scarier things, and being your own woman can still be scary, but not as scary as exciting. In fact, you don’t even think about scary anymore, because you are too familiar with how scariness evaporates in the doing. Fear describes the field before the winning team runs past, and is no memory at all after the game is over. You need to help me see the hope that you see.
Change has become your companion, and you wear it like blue jeans, in comfort and with fades and little tears, and it fits you like those jeans. And everything you do is future now, new things, adventure, new challenges upon the old, and all kinds of decisions that will be your's alone to make. Mom and Dad and Mrs. Dadmanly and all those fans and supporters are all lined up in the cheering section, but Jilly Beans takes it from here, and she’s ready.
So what am I talking about, these things I say I need your help with: change, and bravery, and hope?
There was a little baby in a bassinet, as often, in a carriage for a bed, a tiny little puff of love that was her father’s joy at a time when I felt much like you feel now. Full of promise and everything new, but with this beautiful little person to be responsible for.
There was a little girl whose hair was like the flaxen wheat that brushed her face in the apple orchard. Who giggled and laughed and ran us all around in circles, with salamanders and toads as pets, so many pictures of this sprite fill the recesses of my memory. The dirndl dresses, the German school, all those older German ladies and stern gentlemen in Gasthauses, who melted like butter when this joyful little American Girl danced up to their tables. So much chocolate and kisses they had for you. Who came back to the states and brought her joy to bear on our suburban dreams. So many smiles you brought to us. How could we keep you in this happy present, and shield you from any pain or sadness that might come your way?
There was a young lady, who could be quiet but loved more to laugh and tell funny stories, the long ones that went on and on and on until we figured out your clever tricks. (But we never tired of the stories that were part of them.) So many days where we could just be silly, or go on trips, and Cape Cod became a Martha’s Vineyard of our own, with our own special beach, our special places, our favorite foods.
There finally was a young woman, who went away to school and started on this grand adventure, but sent us many emotional postcards on her way, that we still were able to enjoy her journey from not too far away. And all the adventures since, the classes and the upsets, the new experiences and trips and becoming an adult.
So what do I need your help with? How to move into this future with you. I will always be your Dad, but I want to be your friend, too. I will always love you more than life itself, but I want for you what makes you happiest. I will always be so proud of you, the person you are, your caring nature, your wonderful humor, the way you invest in people, and I will always be your biggest fan in taking on and making yours the life that you will lead.
My little girl is grown and on her way. She’s still my girl, I’m still her Dad, but there’s this big wide world that made this date with her to get this life going, and I’m here, waiting at home, hoping it all turns out alright, more than alright, I want this woman who is my child to be wonderfully and blessedly successful in her making of her happiness. I need to step back into the shadows of the porch, sit down and rock away the evening of my parenthood.
I know you’ll have great stories. I know you’ll do great things. I know that you know how to be happy, and I know that God gave you to us as this very precious gift, and He knows the purpose and plan that He has for you, and it’s a fine and wonderful thing.
You go with all my love, great pride in your accomplishments, and great faith in your capabilities. You go with my heart, but you leave yours with me as well.
Love always, your Dad, your friend, your biggest fan.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Bernard Lewis, writing in Foreign Affairs , introduces the thesis that, for Muslims, the political terms “justice and injustice” are the nearest equivalent for the western sense of “freedom and slavery.”
He describes the inspiration that struck Sheikh Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, a professor at al-Azhar University in the early nineteenth century, who had the opportunity to visit Paris following the arrival of Bonaparte in Egypt.
Lewis explains that in Arabic, the western sense of “freedom” would generally be translated into a word viewed as the opposite of “slavery,” rather than in some sense of the ability to exercise and enjoy rights as we understand them.
Sheikh Tahtawi was originally puzzled by the frequency and ubiquitous manner in which the French spoke of freedom, as Lewis elaborates:
“[Sheikh Tahtawi] obviously at first shared the general perplexity about what the status of not being a slave had to do with politics. And then he understood and explained. When the French talk about freedom, he says, what they mean is what we Muslims call justice. And that was exactly right. Just as the French, and more generally Westerners, thought of good government and bad government as freedom and slavery, so Muslims conceived of them as justice and injustice.“Lewis goes on to explain that, among the many Arabic words that would be translated to the English word, “justice,” the most common, adl, means "justice according to the law" or sharia. And Lewis stresses a point not often noted in modern commentary about Middle Eastern politics:
“If a ruler is to qualify as just, as defined in the traditional Islamic system of rules and ideas, he must meet two requirements: he must have acquired power rightfully, and he must exercise it rightfully. In other words, he must be neither a usurper nor a tyrant.”And further,
“Muslims have been interested from the very beginning in the problems of politics and government: the acquisition and exercise of power, succession, legitimacy, and -- especially relevant here -- the limits of authority.”Lewis approaches the challenge of growing democratic traditions in the Middle East from an almost forgotten tradition of political legitimacy in Arabic political traditions. He suggests that the ruler’s authority derives from a “contract between the ruler and the ruled in which both have obligations.”
Having recognized and identified these not widely recognized strains in Arabic political history and culture, Lewis by no means underestimates the challenges to dust off and apply these traditions to modern states and societies. Here, he acknowledges the deep entrenchment of autocratic and despotic rule prevalent in the Middle East, despite no historical roots in the Islamic past. Lewis also identifies another vital component missing from the Arabic political consciousness, the absence of any notion of citizenship.
For all this, Lewis sees hope in the Iraqi experience (and experiment). For one, Iraq enjoys the significant dual benefits of infrastructure and education. According to Lewis, leaders prior to Saddam were able to invest their significant oil revenues in transportation and education related infrastructures. In spite of the grave damage done by Saddam (and subsequent sanctions), “an educated middle class will somehow contrive to educate its children, and the results of this can be seen in the Iraqi people today,” states Lewis.
Lewis also acknowledges the traditional status and position of women in Iraq, in terms of their access and opportunity, if not in some western sense of “rights.” Lewis draws a parallel to a similar strength of western democracies:
“In the West, women's relative freedom has been a major reason for the advance of the greater society; women would certainly be an important, indeed essential, part of a democratic future in the Middle East.”As presented here, the source of Lewis’ cautious optimism lies not in western hopes and aspirations for the Middle East, but in Muslim political traditions. Lewis concludes hopefully, and urges steadfastness and patience, resolute in purpose:
“The creation of a democratic political and social order in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East will not be easy. But it is possible, and there are increasing signs that it has already begun. At the present time there are two fears concerning the possibility of establishing a democracy in Iraq. One is the fear that it will not work, a fear expressed by many in the United States and one that is almost a dogma in Europe; the other fear, much more urgent in ruling circles in the Middle East, is that it will work. Clearly, a genuinely free society in Iraq would constitute a mortal threat to many of the governments of the region, including both Washington's enemies and some of those seen as Washington's allies.
“The end of World War II opened the way for democracy in the former Axis powers. The end of the Cold War brought a measure of freedom and a movement toward democracy in much of the former Soviet domains. With steadfastness and patience, it may now be possible at last to bring both justice and freedom to the long-tormented peoples of the Middle East.”
Just in case there is anyone who somehow got here without learning much about Greyhawk, Mudville Gazette, or MILBLOGS, immediately check out a fine self- and other-introduction from the Point Man of the MILBLOGS, Greyhawk of The Mudville Gazette.
Thanks for all the help and support, Greyhawk! Really, we couldn't have done it without you.
Chester, along with Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail, The Belmont Club, Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping, and Winds of Change among others, have done an outstanding job of nearest real-time reporting of what I believe will be the final turning point (as in turning over in the grave) of the Iraqi "insurgency."
In practical terms, I am convinced it will spell the end of significant Al Qaeda activity in Iraq. And this is more significant than most in the mainstream media realize, as without Al Qaeda and other outside agitation, funding, fighters, and munitions, this insurgency ends.
Nearing the end of a long slog, Semper Fi!
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Gladmanly has Part One of "It's Not Just You and Me" Love GOD included in this week's carnival.
Arthur Chrenkoff has some thoughts on George W. Bush's foreign policy. He recognizes the Serenity Prayer as the basis for the strategic decisions about what challenges to confront, and which realities to accept. As Chrenkoff describes it:
In fact, Bush is a realistic idealist, or idealistic realist, and his foreign policy faithfully translates into cold hard realities of international politics a simple prayer attributed to the theologian Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr. I'm sure you know it - framed, it adorns many a kitchen wall from Poland to Portland, or dangles from many key-chains around the world:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer. That's it. Cynics may dismiss the notion of such a simple concept driving major decisions with national security implications, but is it really so fantastic an idea?
Millions of Americans who have changed their lives in dramatic ways rely on this simple prayer to help them navigate between the struggles which they can overcome, and those forces and realities on the ground that are unbending to human will, or at least out of the individual's power. And so they learn sanity and readjust thinking that had run down a squirrel hole.
Had not our strategic thinking in Foreign Policy suffered from an addiction to a kind of appeasement of status quo power balances, resulting from the unique challenges that two nuclear Superpowers presented? Weren't we far too comfortable enabling the very sovereign dysfunctions, in remediation of which all our diplomatic efforts were focused?
Otto Von Bismarck (who I doubt was big on serenity) defined Politics as the art of the possible. Haven't the most successful politicians (and leaders) in history been those who pushed the boundaries of what was considered possible, their achievements would not have been considered possible, until they in fact achieved them.
Again, Chrenkoff on its implication:
This is it, in essence: there's plenty we would want to do - every autocrat in the world deserves to be deposed and his people given freedom and democracy - but for various reasons we cannot make it happen everywhere at the same time, so for the moment we'll only pick those fights we can win.And the courage to reach for the possible that no one else can accept.
Iraq took courage. North Korea and many other places require serenity. Fortunately, W has got the wisdom.
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