Saturday, October 12, 2002
good-for-nothing disorderly ragabashes and raparees ...I'm tempted to quote some more O'Brian. Mr Martin here is a writer, a starving Grub-Street hack who has been lucky enough to become a chaplain on Captain Aubrey's ship
...'The Navy is the life for me,' said Martin again. 'Quite apart from the excellent company - and I may say that as far as I have seen, the ordinary sailormen are quite as obliging as the officers.'
an interesting take...I just happened to stumble on this morsel by PNH in the comments section of someone's weblog.
Of course, as I've said before, there is no finer work of SF [Science Fiction] in modern literature than the twenty-volume Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Two characters with access to all levels of society, at the cutting edge of a global military conflict which is changing society in every conceivable way, both of them specialists in aspects of science and technology, each of them attuned in different ways to the second-order consequences of the onrushing changes...Sounds like SF to me.(Of course since Patrick is an SF editor, this could be a bit of empire-building (Just teasin')
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just a suggestion...
To those who are performing demolition on my 10/6 post: My argument was not that war is fun, and good.
The argument was that the left (and some on the right) are maintaining their world-view only by suppressing awkward facts. And that they reflexively oppose the invasion of Iraq, because it would be an enormous awkward fact, what with those fascistic Republicans being the anti-fascist liberators and all. Hey, it's an easy target! It's tendentious amateur psychoanalysis, and has logical flaws.
On the other hand, if you triumphantly demonstrate that war is horrid, and will kill people, you haven't accomplished all that much.
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word from across the BayI've been getting some interesting mail today (just when I thought I'd run out of things to say.) Peter writes from Berkeley to tell me how things look from there. (these are extracts, so I hope I'm not distorting him too badly)
A lot of anti-war activists are not 'uncaring' about the plight of the Iraqi people but instead doubt the moral certitude of Bush's motives where helping the Iraqi people is most likely a distant third on his list of priorities; recall the last time we hung the Iraqi people out to dry post-desert storm.A hit, a palpable hit!In fact, Desert Storm is a sore point with me. I deplore much of what was done in it, and I'm not a big fan of Bush the Elder. BUT, it should be remembered that the main reason the Iraqis were hung out to dry was because it was a COALITION. I think we would have done it differently as cowboys on our own.
Thus many liberals also question America's conviction (though some over here say oil will be conviction enough) to assist Iraq after the operation is finished, and it is not so simple to directly compare the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq as you have done. In the latter there has been much more vocal concern over how well democracy can handle the heterogonous ethnicities of the Iraqi people, especially between the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites, where there exists a lot of bitter history (here's a decent link on the subject.) With all the urgency for war, what plan have we seen to resurrect civil society after it's all over?Good good points. I'm not sure we are gong to do the right thing. I hope so. For me, that's why we are there and the other stuff is just an excuse. (I'm just one of those do-gooders, y'know.)
But wait. Anyone tuning in from the left, this is your opportunity! Instead of sitting on the sidelines grumbling, you could make this your issue. Come up with some plans. Volunteer to try to implement them. Do something positive for a change!
Think about this. Suppose the Dems had said, "We will support the war, but only on the condition that we do the right thing by the people of Iraq, unlike what the heartless Republicans did the last time. And to make sure, we demand to be involved in it." They would look great now.
This line you wrote:You have to ignore the fact that the civilian casualties you deplore were caused by certain people intentionally mixing military forces among civilians, violating your precious Geneva Convention.Hold on here, we are on different wavelengths. I think you are talking about Desert Storm, which was a pretty crude affair -- things have changed a lot since then. I was talking about Afghanistan, and should have said most rather than all. But I don't think war in Iraq will be clean and simple. (And Afghanistan only was in comparison with other wars.) I do think it will be a lot less brutal than Desert Storm was.
Many people view the situation as a choice between American self-interest and Hussein's authoritarianism with the people of Iraq hurting most.Stop! this is the kind of malarky that gives Berkeley a bad name. Iraq is one of the most brutal and thorough-going TOTALITARIAN states ever. And America's self interest (though we may not always follow it) is to have peaceful, prosperous and free states throughout the world. (Sorry, I know you are just telling me what others are thinking. But leftists always say America is no better than whatever dictator is being discussed. Makes me want to scream after a while.)
I believe this constitutes the majority view over here, at least from what I have gathered. However many times the only protests that garner publicity are those against America's interests in oil and Israel. Nonetheless, it is important to know both sides of the issue (I myself actually lean towards intervention) so I hope this was helpful.Helpful and fun. Like having a good conversation. And the best part is, tomorrow, when I think of the clever things I should have said, I'll just add them in! Or write another post. Much better than Real Life.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
OS-X Mail tipThe spam filter in Apple's e-mail program Mail seems to be as good as advertised. It's removing at least 95% of the junk for me, and I've put very little effort into 'training' it. Now I've got it set up to automatically remove just the junk mail from the server, (here's how) and then I do my regular mail-checking in Eudora, a program I'm very fond of.
Of course that's not good enough for some people. I just read a columnist who dismissed Mail with a sneer, because it put a real letter in the junk folder. Good grief, even humans get confused over what's spam and what's not. If an algorithm could sort mail perfectly, I'd be wondering whether to call in a priest for an exorcism. Anyway, it's a lot easier to scan the junk folder now and then, than it is to remove all those individual spam-critters from my in-box, like plucking hundreds of flies out of a bowl of soup.
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almost the best...The British Academy of Science did research into the world's funniest joke. This is the joke they picked. I took it from Wayne Klick, who got it from Mullings. (Someday all jokes will come with appended databases, and we will be able to trace them back, though thousands of iterations, into the mists of the morning of the world, to Jack Benny ...)
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.
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Andrea expresses a little ofthe soul-weariness I'm feeling...
So I've come to a decision that I hope I can keep. I'm going to try to stop reading blogs and columns* by people who think that the proper response to being attacked by Muslim fanatics is to cringe, cower, and apologize for everything bad that has ever happened. These people, with their endless checklists of politically correct behavior and their claims that because I want to fight back instead of putting on a burqa and admitting I'm a whore, therefore I am a warmonger who wants to drink Arab baby blood out of Mohammed's skull, and I also have bad taste in music and can't read, make me feel trapped and depressed. It's not even any more fun to debunk the same bad arguments over and over -- the "we haven't turned Afghanistan into a copy of the state of Vermont therefore we have lost that battle" argument, the "We should try the inspections and diplomacy with Saddam because the nth time's the charm!" argument, the "there is no evidence (such as a statement in Hussein's handwriting signed in his blood) showing that there is any connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, it's just a weird coincidence that both these Arab entities harbor unfriendly feelings towards Americans" argument, the "we don't have Bin Laden's body so we couldn't have killed him therefore we lost that battle" argument, the "this is a private war between the Bushes and Saddam Hussein that has nothing to do with anything else going on in the world" argument, the "since the presidency was stolen from Algore therefore America is a police state that doesn't deserve fighting for" argument, the "we brought this on ourselves by not being perfect angels of goodness throughout history so therefore we deserve whatever we get" argument, the "Dubya is Dumbya so there is obviously no threat" argument, and my current favorite, the "Bush is Evil!" argument. Evil. I guess I slept through those news reports of Dubya ordering Ashcroft to torture Tom Daschle's kids to get the Democrat party to come around.The only comfort I feel is the George W. Bush is going to do the right thing, (not perfectly, but better than anybody else would) and millions of barking dogs won't slow the caravan by one hour.
The one that's bugging me right now is the "We can't solve all the world's problems" argument, which keeps getting thrown at me as if it were some sort of crushing and irrefutable argument against trying to solve any problem. It reminds me of my children. "Betsy CAN'T stay up late unless we ALL stay up late." Or maybe one of those Greek paradoxes where Achilles can't run faster than the tortoise.
Hmmm. Maybe we can solve all the world's problems ... I mean, has anybody actually studied this? Run the numbers? I got it! I'll advocate trying to solve all the world's problems, and then maybe those cartilaginous creatures will grudgingly allow an attempt at one of them ..
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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has already begun dispatching explosive-ordnance disposal teams to the Persian Gulf as the leading edge in a planned invasion of Baghdad, U.S. military officials say.Maybe it's because I'm a wee bit claustrophobic, but the thought of going into booby-trapped tunnels is something I find terrifying. I hope Americans (and the world) appreciate what our soldiers do to
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Wednesday, October 09, 2002
'...the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.'
... In regards to your statement "Perhaps what I should have said was that certain people had an instant and visceral opposition to seeing Iraq liberated by the United States." I find myself asking who these people are. I know many people who oppose this coming war. None of them, however, are opposed to this war on the grounds that it will help the people of Iraq. Indeed, many of the people I know who oppose this war do so in the firm conviction that it will cause pain and suffering for the Iraqi people.Dear Anthony,
Well, my speculations are about the more-or-less unconscious motivations behind anti-war arguments -- no one's saying anything overtly. And my evidence, such as it is, is of the negative sort. It's the things I don't see that bother me.
The sort of people who always talk about "saving the children" don't mention how children in Iraq are suffering right now.
The sort of people who support Amnesty International don't mention torture in Iraq.
The sort of people who are always denouncing Fascism have shown no quiverings of pleasure at the prospect of destroying a fascist dictator.
I got started on this theme by reading of an interview with that strange fellow scott Ritter, the former weapons inspector. He admitted that he had seen the prison for children in Iraq, and that it was a horror, but then said: "I don't want to talk about that. I'm waging peace, not war." Hmmm.
Us pro-war types openly acknowledge that war will cause pain and suffering and could go wrong. But anti-war people never acknowledge the suffering of peace, the suffering that will continue far into the future unless it is ended by violent action.( This may be just unfair debate tactics, but I suspect it's something else.)
The anti-war arguments I read all say war will hurt the Iraqi people, but none of them want to analyze the numbers (which would be speculative of course.) Do you think the numbers of children who would be killed in a war are greater than the number that will die from starvation+lack of medicines+general ghastly environment if Saddam is left in power for another decade? What numbers are you projecting?
And none of the anti-war arguments speculate about what the Iraqi people would want, if they could vote on this. If it were me (and I suspect you) in their place, I would much prefer to risk bombs and bullets in return for the chance of freedom and a better life for my children; than risk being tortured in some dungeon, or having my children go hungry, or be taught in school to be informers.
Thank you for writing, by the way. A thoughtful person who disagrees with me is a good way to start the day.
Best regards, John W.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
There are 10 kinds of people in the world:
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a little bit more...I got a number of interesting responses on the previous post, including some from people of a more-or-less leftish anti-war perspective. Unfortunately none of these would take my point, which was not: How can certain people oppose the war? (I'm ready to concede that there are lots of valid anti-war arguments.) The point was: Why are they so coldly indifferent to the sufferings of the people of Iraq?
Or, to put it another way, even if we concede that the war is all wrong, and Bush is all wrong; shouldn't the anti-war types STILL be glad that Iraq is going to be liberated? (If they are, I haven't seen any sign of it.) I myself loath and fear the government of China, but if they were to, for whatever reason, remove the leaders of North Korea, and allow those poor people to elect a moderate government, I would be thrilled and delighted and thankful. Heck, if Hillary Clinton were to liberate Iraq, I'd be glad.
Nick Denton made this comment:
John Weidner is bemused at the extent of opposition to the war, and says: "It looks to me like a lot of people, mostly on the left, made an instant and visceral decision to oppose an invasion, and only afterwards began to scrape up actual arguments to support this." Well, hold on there. The pro-war movement went through much the same process. A reflexive desire to punish Arab defiance after September 11th, which I certainly shared, and then a lot of post facto rationalization. A bit rich to complain about reverse engineering by the left.Nick's exactly right, I often do such reverse engineering myself; and one would expect the left to have a visceral anti-war response. That sentence muddied my argument. Perhaps what I should have said was that certain people had an instant and visceral opposition to seeing Iraq liberated by the United States.
And that's a question I think they really need to face up to.
Sunday, October 06, 2002
towards a new ink-blot test...I've encountered various anti-invasion of Iraq arguments lately, and taken swipes at some of them, such as the previous post. But what's starting to keep me awake at night is the question of why. Why exactly are so many so opposed? Why does this one square on the chessboard seem to have an invisible field that repels so many people?.
Because it really feels like there is some unseen something going on. Why do seemingly decent, thoughtful kind-hearted people, as they approach that square, suddenly find the need to pen 99 coldly logical reasons why going there would surely turn out badly? Why are they so cold?
It would be one thing if they first felt tender-hearted towards the horrible suffering of Iraq, and then later began to have qualms about the wisdom of an invasion. But that doesn't appear to be what's happening. It looks to me like a lot of people, mostly on the left, made an instant and visceral decision to oppose an invasion, and only afterwards began to scrape up actual arguments to support this.
And these are the very people who like to label themselves as the good-guys; progressives, anti-fascists, liberals. It's weird.
I've been tending to blame reflexive anti-Americanism, or a political desire not to yield advantages to Republicans; but now I think there's more going on than that. I'm thinking that when people approach that square and suddenly have a vision "of the whole Middle-East being de-stabilized," it is really their own world-view that they sense is in danger of dissolving.
I think it's a world-view in which Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, leftists, whatever; cast themselves as heros. Vanquishing Fascism ... Opposing the Vietnam War ... Heros of the Civil Rights Movement ... champions of the oppressed and the underdog. The Party of the People.
The problem is that, while this world-view may seem solid to them, somewhere deep inside they know they are on shaky ground. Historically, they've swept a lot of inconvenient facts under the carpet, and deep down they know it. And in the world today, a lot more has to be ignored to keep their world-view intact.
They may, for instance, think of themselves as heirs of the glories of the Civil Rights Movement, yet at the same time their eyes glide quickly past stories of millions of blacks being killed and enslaved in Sudan. Consciously that may work, but the heart knows there's something wrong. Or they are proud of opposing the War in Vietnam...but they ignore tales of Boat People, or Re-Education Camps. But the heart suspects.
Or they may consciously think of themselves as supporters of Palestinians oppressed by those Nazi-like Israelis. But they have to ignore the stories of Israeli doctors fighting to save Palestinian lives, and when "jewish blood" is refused, having blood flown in from Jordan. The heart knows something is fishy.
And even closer to the center of our problem, they may consciously think of themselves as brave opponents of a brutal hegemonic America bullying its way to an empire. But to believe that, a mountain of things have to be ignored.
You must ignore pictures, for instance, of Afghans weeping for joy at a chance to listen to music, or fly a kite, or shave. You gotta ignore those photos of US Special Forces wearing local costume and chatting to people in Dari or Pushtu; they not only don't look like robotic killers, they look like they're having fun! You must ignore stories of smart-bombs killing a houseful of Taliban, while leaving the neighbors unscathed. You have to ignore the fact that the civilian casualties you deplore were caused by certain people intentionally mixing military forces among civilians, violating your precious Geneva Convention. And you must ignore the fact that Americans aren't interested in amassing an empire.
Man, but there's a mountain of things. You can block them out of your conscious mind, but the heart knows. Ask your shrink.
I suspect it's the Afghans that are really the problem. Unfortunately, Shiloh Bucher's wonderful collection of photos is mostly gone. They were such happy pictures. Women thrilled just to go to school, or apply for a job. Friends, if you've swept the Afghans under your mental carpet, you are already on shaky ground. Now imagine multiplying Afghanistan by several orders of magnitude. Millions of Iraqis freed by the US Military, and by Capitalists and Republicans, while liberals carp and whine and drag their feet. Uh oh. Earthquakes are a comin' to a lot of people's psyches. A whole region is going to be destabilized all right, but its not a geographical region. I think a lot of people are like the man "...which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
Maybe I'm wrong. In fact, I'd like to be wrong. I would like to continue to think of Liberals as really caring about the wretched of the earth, even if we disagree on how to help. That's part of my world-picture.
And of course many Liberals do support regime-change in Iraq, and I honor them for it. But even they don't seem happy with the prospect. They don't seem to be looking forward to seeing Iraqis dancing in the streets, or being let out of prisons. I could be wrong. Tell me I'm wrong! Give me some feedback. Tell me I've got rocks in my head.
But I'm thinking of a new sort of Rorschach Test, with pictures of happy Afghans alongside US soldiers. The test is, do you smile, or look queasy?
Dawson adds: and what of the anti-defense isolationist right, led by the likes of Pat Buchanan? Same difference, I'd say. A fabricated world-picture that's going to turn to jelly if it collides with reality.