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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Topic: God and US

Trends: What Belief Buys You

Another one of those front-page "backgrounders" you run it the left column and continue inside - this one letting the folks in DC know what's up the heartland.

In Heartland, Stem Cell Research Meets Fierce Opposition
Peter Slevin, Washington Post, Wednesday, August 10, 2005; Page A01
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The moral debate over embryonic stem cells stretches far beyond Capitol Hill to state capitals and research parks across the country, where a fierce competition is underway from Maryland to California for cutting-edge research and the profits that could follow.

In Maryland yesterday, advocates began a campaign to secure state money for stem cell research. A House of Delegates effort to spend $23 million a year on research died in the Senate earlier this year after a filibuster threat by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Here in Missouri, a similar battle is raging over the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which has built a $300 million laboratory and stocked it with sophisticated machines for nearly 200 scientists recruited from as far afield as China and Argentina.

Yet social conservatives in the Missouri legislature are effectively blocking some of the most ambitious research envisioned by the Stowers staff, saying that research with embryonic stem cells is so immoral it should be a crime.
One thinks of Rogers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma! - "Everything is up-to-date in Kansas City" (1937). Ah, perhaps not.

Illinois? South Dakota? Same deal. They seems to be differentiating themselves from New York City (see below) and California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey -
… Just last month, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) announced that he had helped hide $10 million in the state budget that will now be used for embryonic stem cell research. Several leading Republicans criticized him for the move, and the Catholic Conference of Illinois said he "betrayed his own office, both morally and politically."

South Dakota forbids research on all embryos, yet New Jersey is bankrolling an embryonic stem cell program. In New York City, a private foundation recently gave $50 million to three medical institutions for early stem cell work to sustain the city's research credentials.

"The blue states have been rushing to embrace opportunities in stem cell research," said Patrick M. Kelly, vice president of state government relations at the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization. "California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, now Illinois. That has not been a phenomenon that has swept through the red states."
Yeah, well, don't be so sure about California. Sure, Senate Majority Leader Frist may have changed his mind, the House may have already approved expanding stem cell research, but President Bush did restrict government funding to "a limited number of stem cell lines that existed in 2001" – and says he will veto any expansion.

And here is California? California's stem cell institute? Approved by a ballot initiative - but no progress yet. Can't sell the bonds to finance the thing. Problems.

Group files lawsuit to halt research at stem cell institute
Terri Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 6, 2005
A national anti-abortion group yesterday served the administrators of California's stem cell institute with a federal lawsuit seeking to stop their work on the grounds that the civil rights of frozen embryos are violated by stem cell research.

The lawsuit was delivered during a monthly meeting of the institute's oversight committee at the University of California San Diego. Around the same time it arrived, committee Chairman Robert Klein was announcing that several lawsuits filed in state court had been consolidated to be heard by one judge, in one county, on an expedited basis.

That litigation has blocked the sale of government-backed bonds to fund the institute, which is supposed to award $300 million annually for stem cell research.

The federal lawsuit, filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children, could now further delay the sale of bonds.
National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children? Who are these folks, and what exactly is a "preborn child?"

Over at Pandagon you'll find this -
The name of this group is both a way to mock the NAACP and an opportunity for wingnuts to pretend that their desire to control women's bodies puts them on the side of the angels. If they could only work in a way to claim the Islam is Satanic, it would be a trifecta of wingnuttery.

I say watch this group closely. If they open and close their meetings with a sincere-sounding rendition of "Every Sperm is Sacred" as if it were "Kumbaya," then we'll know for sure they are fucking with us.
No, they're real. As far as I can tell the old Monty Python ensemble is long gone. This is not an ironic skit, or some sort of performance art. The lawsuit is quite real.

And what does it claim?
The suit was filed on behalf of Mary Scott Doe, a fictitious embryo produced by in vitro fertilization and then frozen and put into storage. Some of these embryos, which people have decided not to use in attempts to have children, have been donated for use in stem cell research, which involves destroying them.

The lawsuit claims the embryo is a person who should be given equal protection under the Constitution, and her destruction violates her right to freedom from slavery.
What? Slavery? Most curious, if not Python-like it its contentions. But it happened.

Note: if an embryo is "a person" who should be given equal protection under the Constitution, then you must refer to it as either a "he" or a "she" - as Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune dutifully does here. Would the San Diego Union-Tribune also be sued if the writer referred to an embryo as an "it" in that last sentence? It would have been better had Somers put "her" in quotes, indicating the matter isn't yet settled. A minor point, perhaps.

As for stopping the California Stem Cell Institute now, before it gets off the ground, is that good for California? Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly, who writes from Irvine - about halfway between Hollywood and San Diego - thinks blue states like California are so much richer and more culturally vibrant than red states -
Technological development is at the core of increasing productivity, and everyone benefits from it regardless of where the basic research is done. Still, the places that do the research get the lion's share of the benefit, and if you were a scientist, where would you rather be? UCLA or Stanford on the one hand, or someplace where the locals try to ban the teaching of evolution and think that biotech laboratories are symbols of moral degeneracy? Seems like an easy choice.
Yeah, this isn't Kansas with its Son-of-Scopes Trial - those hearings to counter the teaching of evolution in the schools (last covered in these pages here in May).

But the rest of the country may have some misconceptions about the actual "blueness" of California. A bunch of Hollywood, liberal nuts down south, and up north - Berkeley and Santa Cruz - a bunch of ex-hippies who still live in the sixties, smoking dope and grinning. No. We gave the nation the John Birch Society, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan - and we happily elected the Austrian muscleman and movie star, the son of a Nazi, a man who doesn't like nuance or girlie-men - as our governor. He's no leftie Democrat - and he's not much of a governor, but that's another matter.

The other California? Shwarzenegger loves the armed citizen volunteers, the Minutemen - these vigilantes watching the border, taking care of those who would sneak in here illegally from Mexico, taking the law into their own hands.

What about that? If you travel a few miles west from Kevin Drum's Irvine, you end up in Laguna Beach. Arts colony, big art festival each year - and that silly "Pageant of the Masters" thing. It seems that on Saturday, July 30, in Laguna Beach, twenty-five Minutemen and Save Our State folks - and some neo-Nazis - put on a display of US, Confederate and Nazi flags in a protest of one of those sites where day laborers gather hoping for some work. According this account these Minutemen guys were there for some good-natured harassment of the probably illegal day laborers - spitting on them and such - and more than a hundred of the locals thought that wasn't very nice, and it got ugly. (A good picture of the guys waving the flags here.)

That's California too.

__

Well, putting aside this Minutemen business, this stem cell research issue is presenting difficulties all over the place - from Frist and Bush disagreeing to this California suit.

Is there some middle ground? Since the Democrats don't matter in the discussion - as they control no part of the government and may never again control anything - is there a Republican middle ground? See this from Morton Kondracke:
Political moderates predominate in the U.S. electorate, but the two parties are increasingly captives of their extremes. Will the moderates ever rise up and assert themselves?

In the Republican Party, they ought to do so by defending Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) against right-wing attacks for bucking President Bush (and Christian conservatives) over embryonic stem-cell research.

Republican moderates also ought to start speaking up for "emergency contraception" before the right makes banning it a litmus test of party loyalty. Someone in the GOP ought to tell Bush that "intelligent design" is not a true scientific theory on a par with evolution. And moderates need to fight at the state level to prevent "ID" from being required teaching in biology classes. ...
Someone tell Mort he isn't going to get his Party back.

And Kondracke also hints at something else that might be an issue - sex: "... there's ground for suspicion that some religious conservatives are as much about punishing illicit sexual activity as they are about saving 'life.'"

Yep. Bush may be a dim-witted mean-spirited frat-boy who got us into a pointless war, but at least he wasn't messing around with chubby White House interns. Sex matters.

A counter to that? From Ramesh Ponnuru in the conservative National Review this objection: "It's the bit about sex where he [Kondracke] makes no sense at all. If punishing illicit sexual activity were the point, why would these religious conservatives care about embryonic stem-cell research at all? We're not talking about embryos created the old-fashioned way."

Kevin Drum -
Exactly. And guess what? It turns out that embryos created in vitro and then discarded - as most of them are - cause no heartburn for religious conservatives. But if those embryos are genuine human lives, shouldn't the Christian right be picketing outside IVF clinics the same way they picket outside abortion clinics?

In fact, even stem cells themselves help make Mondracke's case. Religious conservatives are universally opposed to abortion, but stem cells are divisive even within the pro-life ranks, a division that's only growing with time. This is why George Bush had to fudge his original stem cell decision in 2001 and it's why Bill Frist decided to come out in favor of expanded stem cell research last week. If the embryo debate were really only about "life," opposition to stem cells among religious conservatives would be as monolithic as opposition to abortion.

So yes: illicit sexual activity is at the core of the abortion debate, and it's at the core of a lot of other conservative hot buttons too.
But not this one:

Evolution vs. Religion
Quit pretending they're compatible.
Jacob Weisberg - Posted Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005, at 12:30 PM PT SLATE.COM

Opening:
President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance. Now he wants to share it with America's schoolchildren.

I refer to his recent comments in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution. "Both sides ought to be properly taught ? so people can understand what the debate is about," Bush told a group of Texas newspaper reporters who interviewed him on Aug. 1. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be? creationism in camouflage. Or it may be? a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

If Bush had said schools should give equal time to the view that the Sun revolves around the Earth, or that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, he'd have been laughed out of his office. The difference with evolution is that a large majority of Americans reject what scientists regard as equally well supported: that we're here because of random mutation and natural selection.
Of course this is followed by lots of polling data showing people here just don't believe the Darwin business, by and large. Scientists do. Most folks believe in God doing the heavy lifting, not random mutation over time eliminating the useless and things changing. And that's the problem. Darwinian science just can?t coexist with religion.
? let's be serious: Evolutionary theory may not be incompatible with all forms of religious belief, but it surely does undercut the basic teachings and doctrines of the world's great religions (and most of its not-so-great ones as well). Look at this 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63 percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24 percent of people believed in God and 77 percent believed in evolution. You can believe in both - but not many people do.

That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument. It destroyed the faith of Darwin himself, who moved from Christianity to agnosticism as a result of his discoveries and was immediately recognized as a huge threat by his reverent contemporaries. In reviewing The Origin of Species in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, wrote that the religious view of man as a creature with free will was "utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God." (The passage is quoted in Daniel C. Dennett's superb book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.)

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna, was saying nothing very different when he argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on July 7 that random evolution can't be harmonized with Catholic doctrine. To be sure, there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even Darwinists who call themselves Christians. But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence. Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch.
No sex here. But just as threatening.

And you might consider the implications. The Korean cloned dog and all their research. What we give up by undermining science. Is it time "to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality?"

Well, California won't have its stem cell research center anytime soon now. Don't want embryos forced in slavery and death, as they are citizens with rights too. Don't want science showing that what is in this "good book" or that is flat-out wrong, or at best, metaphor. Most folks won?t stand for that.

And we have those Confederate and Nazi flags in the streets here in Southern California.

The country is heading in an interesting direction.

Posted by Alan at 19:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005 19:58 PDT home

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Breaking News: A Hollywood Fire

Sometimes the news just comes to you. Tuesday, August 9, just before six in the evening here in Hollywood, as the light got long, the neighborhood was filled with the sound of helicopters in the air and sirens on the ground. Here, one block below Hollywood Boulevard and one block above Sunset Boulevard, one gets used to a low-flying helicopter now and then, hanging around for fifteen or twenty minutes, fifty feet up and making lots of noise. (There is a bit of crime here.) But six helicopters?

Glancing out the window, I see we have a serious brushfire up in Nichols Canyon, less than a mile away. The red and whites are dropping water, and the news choppers are grouping themselves a few thousand feet above them.

By the way, Don Smith sent same-day breaking-news photos from that metro fire in Paris - see last weekend's Just Above Sunset here - and now there are these from this fire in the Hollywood Hills.

A collection of nineteen Hollywood Hills fire shots is in a photo album here. The fire was pretty much out by eight, as it got dark.

__

The start of the fire as seen from balcony off the living room...



























From the second bedroom (office) window, using the telephoto lens ...































































Dropping water ...































































Another spectator ...




Posted by Alan at 21:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005 09:15 PDT home


Topic: Couldn't be so...

Changes: Attempting Significance

As mentioned elsewhere there was that poll to find the one hundred songs, movies, television shows and books that "changed the world" - in the opinion of musicians, actors and industry experts. In the poll, conducted by the UK magazine Uncut, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965) won, Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" came in second, third was the Beatles' "She Loves You" and the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was fourth.

But the Stones are roaring back in some sort of attempt to change the world, or at least to be engaged in the world. In a Newsweek puff piece in the August 15 issue - Satisfaction Guaranteed: They're not exactly a boy band, but there's no denying the bad-boy appeal of the Rolling Stones. Now they're back - again - with a new CD and tour… - we get a human-interest insider profile of what they're up to. On the surface that would be a new album, A Bigger Bang, to be released on September 5 - proceeded by the single, "Streets Of Love" on August 22. The tour begins in Boston on August 21.

This is newsworthy? One paragraph seems to be. This one has a whole lot of folks on the right up in arms -
Jagger and Richards say they worked together more closely on "A Bigger Bang" than they have in years, partly because Watts, the only other original Stone, was battling throat cancer. "We were sitting across the table looking at each other," says Richards, "like, 'You. Me. That's all there is.' It was all built on two acoustic guitars, and in such a sparse and stripped-down way that if you tried to elaborate on it later you'd lose the whole essence of it." The Stones' new music sounds more spontaneous than most of their recent efforts, and Jagger sounds angrier than he has in years. Since the band's last studio album, Jagger has ended his 23-year relationship with wife Jerry Hall, and was taken to court over an illegitimate child he fathered with a Brazilian model, which may explain such lyrics as "Oh no! Not you again, f---ing up my life/It was bad the first time around/Better take my own advice." But the most searing moment, on a song called "Sweet Neo Con," isn't personal but political. "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of s--t." "It is direct," Jagger says with a laugh. "Keith said [he breaks into a dead-on Keith imitation], 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S." Jagger smiles. "But I don't."
It's not really metaphorical? Oh crap.

Of course the tabloid-right site Drudge Report has a full page headline: "JAGGER ROCKS BUSH, RICE: 'HOW COME YOU'RE SO WRONG, MY SWEET NEO-CON'" - yes, in all caps, in black, thirty-six point bold Ariel font. Matt is upset:
Ready to drop in the coming weeks, a new Bush-bashing tune from the ROLLING STONES: "Sweet Neo Con."

"It is direct," Mick Jagger says with a laugh to fresh editions of NEWSWEEK.

The full lyric also mocks National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

News about the song surfaced a few weeks ago with many expecting that it would not make the finally cut on the new CD, A BIGGER BANG.

... Jagger once vowed not to comment on the political process in the United States.

"I feel very much at home in America. I've spent half my adult life here. I have many personal feelings. But I'm from the school that considers it impolite to comment on other people's elections. Now if I had the vote - and I should have, as I pay so much in taxes - I would have a lot to say."

Now with the elections long over, the tongue is unleashed!
Yep, Jagger is an ungrateful fraud, says Matt. How could he do this?

As you recall, Matt Drudge is the fellow who broke the Monica Lewinsky story. He has a nose for what outrages the moral right. The kinds of things he's recently noted? AGUILERA: 'PREGNANT SPEARS' CAREER IS DOOMED', 'Let's safeguard socialism': Karaoke Craze in N. Korea, Poll: Western Canadians considering separation... (it's that gay marriage thing), Giant Blue Statue Of 'Sesame Street's' Big Bird On Man's House Upsets Neighborhood... and so on.

Matt is an excitable fellow. And who knows what he will make of this:
The worlds of music and football will collide this year as the legendary Rolling Stones will partner with the NFL and ABC for a season-long campaign, it was announced today. The Rolling Stones will help kick off the 2005 season from their "A Bigger Bang" world tour with footage from their concert in Detroit as part of the "NFL Opening Kickoff 2005" - a one-hour pre-game special on ABC at 8:00 p.m., ET/PT, Thursday, September 8.

ABC will feature music and video footage of The Rolling Stones throughout the 2005 season in its "Monday Night Football" promotional campaigns and in-game highlight and tease packages. The campaign will feature new music from their highly anticipated CD, "A Bigger Bang," to be released on Virgin Records on September 6, along with hits from their incredible catalog.
Yes, NFL football is right up there with NASCAR in the cultural pantheon of "what is really significant" in the red states. ABC is owned by the Disney Corporation, as in Disneyland, Disney World and all that - the essence of what America is about. Just walk down the flawless Main Street USA at the original Disneyland in Anaheim for sense of that. And they hired Jagger to do promos? Did they know about the new album and that one new song?

Monday evening I found myself in Anaheim with friends at "Downtown Disney" - fake New Orleans food at a fake New Orleans restaurant. A giant complex with everything from a massive Lego store to a giant ESPN sports bar (ESPN is part of Disney too). Thousand of families milling about under the monorail to Disneyland - little kids with their new toys, street musicians hired by the Disney folks (the solo guitarist with his Gypsy-Kings-in-a-box synthesizer was amusing), fireworks at dusk, and wholesomeness everywhere. I cannot imagine Mick Jagger's new tune about Bush and the crew piped in, come September.

Someone at Disney-ABC wasn't paying attention.

But then, perhaps in the next Uncut poll The Stones will rank higher in the listings.

The Rolling Stones seem to have finally gone political.

Well, things change. Specifically, things very British change, as in this noted in the New York Daily News:
James Bond's new ride in his next movie, "Casino Royale," is likely to leave fans feeling a bit like the superspy's favorite vodka martini - shaken, not stirred.

That's because Bond will be at the wheel of a cheap Fiat Panda, a Polish-made econo-box that sells for about $15,000 and goes from zero to 60 mph ... eventually.

Not only is it a far cry from the luxurious - and fast - sports cars 007 typically favors (the Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish is just one example), a Fiat flack said the Panda signals a stunning lifestyle change for the skirt-chasing secret agent.

"We've seen James Bond always with beautiful women and luxury cars," Lapo Elkann said. "But maybe now he will get married, have children ... and will need a Panda!"

While Pierce Brosnan, who has played Bond since 1995, hasn't officially signed on for "Casino Royale," he apparently digs the Panda. "Pierce Brosnan was so enthusiastic about the car that he immediately bought one," Elkann said. Of course, Bond's Panda will be tricked out with deadly high-tech gizmos not found on the popular proletarian model in Europe ...
Oh no!

Pierce Brosnan lives just up the way in Malibu. Just Above Sunset has been doing photography there recently (see this, this and this) and we saw no Fiat Panda anywhere, but we do note here you can rent Pierce Brosnan's beach house in Malibu for July or August. Perhaps the Fiat Panda is in the garage, but at a hundred grand a month, it's hard to be that curious.

So James Bond will now drive a Fiat, and Mick Jagger gets all left-wing political. What a world.

Posted by Alan at 15:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005 15:03 PDT home

Monday, 8 August 2005

Topic: Announcements

Nothing Monday

A day off from commentary, as the day was spent with and out-of-town visitor, and dinner down in Anaheim and and a long drive back.

A big zero -




Posted by Alan at 23:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Topic: Iraq

Letter from Baghdad

July 31 in Semantics: Thucydides got it right a long time ago… you would find a long discussion of how our government had decided to change how we discuss what we are doing around the world. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) was to become the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) - a change in terms to better capture what we were doing. Yes, it was awkward, but not a bad idea. Precision is nice.

But GSAVE has gone the way of the great auk. We're back to GWOT. Disregard GSAVE. It’s dead. It's extinct. How that came about was covered Sunday, August 7, here. Folks got a bit ahead of themselves.

Major Cook in Baghdad has some thoughts:
Hey everyone, just hopping around the Net and had to dig in a little. For those who don't know, I am Alan's nephew.

As a soldier and an officer I prefer GWOT. Not because, as some of you may think, I am a warmonger and like the word "war" - but, because it defines what we are doing. Really Total Wars (like WWI and WWII) are Global Struggles - so why try to define it by its title? If people are too naive or uneducated to think that what we are doing is "global" and stretches from offensive military action, to election support, to eroding the terrorist's support base, to handing out toothbrushes and soccer balls in Mosul Iraq - then they are short-sighted and short-minded.

My personal opinion is that we need the commitment associated with a Total War - and that is not what the American Public nor much of the rest of the International communities want to give to the GWOT. Without that commitment, we might as well send invitations to Al Qaeda and Ansar Al Sunna (or/and while you have your pen out maybe Hezbollah) to come to America and attack us there.

So, anyway, I like that GWOT thing as long as it comes with all the bells and whistles.

v.r.
Major Brian Cook, US Army
Baghdad, Iraq
156 days to go.
My reply?
Thanks for the comment. Heck, they change the name and then change their minds. Geez. GWOT was fine with me, even if General Myers was uncomfortable with it. GSAVE just wasn't right, somehow.

As I used to teach general semantics the names folks choose for things always interest me. Yes, it's what you do, not so much what you call it. I guess we could call the whole business WWD - What We Do. But damn, that's just too vague.

I'll work on some alternatives.
Major Cook will be back here in Southern California on a fifteen-day leave starting around Labor Day. I'm not sure I'll have any ideas even by then.

As you recall, the idea is we're not fighting "terror" - as that's a tactic an enemy uses, and not the enemy itself. As General Myers himself pointed out, that's like saying WWII was "a war on submarines." No, we were fighting the fascist powers in Europe - Germany and Italy - and that Hitler fellow, and then fighting Japanese take-over-the-world imperialism. They used submarines, and so did we.

But whatever the name of the enemy is it has to be catchy, and sum everything up nicely. So drop this "terror" word? And use what?

We don't want to call it a war on Islam, and somehow a war on "Radical Islam" cuts too close too. Some have suggested a war on Islamacists (huh?) or a war Islamofascists (sounds too much like a carnival thing?) - but clearly "terror" and "terrorists" makes too vague an enemy - as some Irish fellows would fit here, and Basque folks, and folks in the new republics south of Russia, and the Tamil Tigers in Ceylon, and so on. We’re not fighting all of them. We need to be selective.

As is often said, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter - we ourselves didn't exactly play by the rules against the British in the 1770s after all. Dick Cheney himself, as a congressman way back when, famously held onto the position for years that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Now Mandela is a grandfatherly hero. Some say when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then another on Nagasaki, and wiped out hundred of thousands of civilians, that was terrorism. Curtis LeMay, the man who ordered the firebombing of Tokyo, wiping out a third of the city, said if we had lost the war he would probably be tried as a war criminal. A war on "terror" presents problems.

So let's be selective and precise.

Is this a war on backward states that are troublesome, and happen to have a lot of oil? Is it a war on states at all? Is this a war on a stateless movement that wants us out of the Middle East, along with any number of the governments in power there now? Is this a war not against one thing in particular but for a finite resource, oil? No, that's too crude. (Bad pun.)

No, we seem to be up against an angry international movement, not tied to any formal government in any particular country, with a list of grievances all tied up with getting the west out of the Middle East entirely, with anger at everything that has happened or been done to the Palestinians since 1947, and with a demand for the freedom to practice a strict and repressive form of Islam all over the Middle East, where they say the folks want just that. They're saying, "Just go away and let us be." We say no. Oil and Israel seem curiously bound up with all this. We cannot abandon an ally we pretty much created, and we need the oil. There's a lot over there, so they have us over a barrel. (Another bad pun.) We cannot walk away from Israel. But they want to force the issues, with terror as the most effective tool they can find.

How do you sum up all that? We are fighting a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works. And they're pretty good at acts of terrorism. And they don't use submarines.

How do we name our enemy? And if we cannot name our enemy with some precision, then how do we win, or know when we have won?

Note this from Associated Press, Sunday, August 7 -
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch shares the same grief as relatives mourning the deaths of Ohio Marines, yet their views about the war differ.

"I'm angry. I want the troops home," Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., who staged a protest that she vowed on Sunday to continue until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?"
Well, he died in the Iraq subset of the larger war against a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works, and are pretty good at acts of terrorism, and don't use submarines. How Iraq is involved in this? Let's see - no trace of WMD like we thought and no real connection to or support for the loose confederation, al Qaeda or whomever, like we thought - but now we have this general idea that a democracy there would help things, even if it turns out to be run by a group of fundamentalist Shiite guys who are all cozy with the fundamentalist Shiite Iraq bad guys....

I'm not sure she'd be happy with that.

But Major Cook is right about the W in GWOT - you don't have to worry about calling it a war, or a struggle, as long as you understand it's more than battles or sniping, and includes everything from criminal gumshoe work to PR, and from forensic accounting to trace the flow of funds to being the good guys and winning some trust. But it isn't easy, whatever it is.

I guess we could call the whole business WWD - What We Do.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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