Folks, as in The Olden Days, this is a long read. It is an essay, not a blog entry. Print it, copy and paste it, or just grab a cup of coffee and settle back.
Oh, and all the pictures enlarge with a click, if you are so inclined. MMMnnnnn…pictures….
I�d like to begin this sermon, if I may, by employing some of the rhetorical restraint of the BushHitler crowd and tell you about the worst case of child abuse EVER in the annals of recorded history.
I grew up on an island. I was in the water almost every day. I wanted this Polaris Nuclear Sub more than I wanted the sun to rise. I had picked out a grotto where I could keep it docked. Taking the ferry across the bay from Hamilton, I would look over the rail in anticipation of the day when I would shadow that churning wake, the periscope a thin reed lost in the foam, pursuing those fat clueless prefects into a perfect firing position and their watery graves!
And I am not alone. In finding this picture, I discovered that there are thousands of boys like myself, begging and pleading for the six dollars and ninety-eight cents it costs to build a fully functional, 7-foot, 2-man nuclear submarine that had:
�Controls that work!
�Rockets that fire!
�Electrically lit instrument panel!
I stared at this ad for months and months on end as a small boy. And though I must have read each word a thousand times, I have no memory of the phrase �sturdily constructed of 200 lb. test fibreboard!� It finally fell to my father to inform me that �200 lb test fibreboard!� is, in fact, garden-variety cardboard. My immediate response was �but wouldn�t that get all soggy out in the ocean?� And I am deeply ashamed to admit that after all that time, it is only now, in posting this on the internet at 47 years of age, that I realized for the first time that the damn Polaris Nuclear Submarine doesn�t even have a propeller.
Well, that�s seven-year-old boys for you. Had I been so inclined, I was certainly smart enough to have determined that one could not build a Polaris Nuclear Sub with missiles and firing torpedoes and all the rest for $6.98. All $6.98 would buy you in 1967 was a cardboard box painted like a submarine.
I believed it � like so many of my cohorts � because I so desperately wanted to believe it�and the X-ray Specs, and especially those damn Sea Monkeys with their little briefcases and hats and aprons. What heartless son of a bitch wrote those ads? I hope he chokes on his brine shrimp, the bastard.
We live in a sea of information, an Information Age: and yet, it has been almost half a millennia since mankind has been so unwilling or unable to use critical thinking to separate the intellectual wheat from so�much�chaff! Critical Thinking — the ability to analyze data, determine it�s usefulness and fidelity, to learn how to assess reliability, question methodology, weigh expertise and all the rest -� is in shockingly short supply these days. It�s not just a shame; it�s an epidemic, it is a fatal metastasizing disease in a democracy where information is used by the public to make the decisions that steer the ship of state. For the ability to think critically allows us to see the unseen; to find the truth behind the falsehood, as well as the falsehood behind the truth.
Today, it seems that legions of people � growing legions � are falling victims to ideas and beliefs that on the face of it are patently false�things that are so clearly and obviously nuts that you really have to wonder what deep, mighty engine of emotional need could possibly drive a brain so deep into a hole. Seriously now, there are millions and millions of people on this planet who will torture logic and reason to mind-bending extremes in order to believe monumentally ridiculous �theories�� theories drawn from an emotional need so warped and debased that you are catapulted beyond anger and disbelief directly into pathos and the desire to call 911 before these people hurt themselves.
So perhaps we could take a walk through Fantasy Island armed only with a shotgun of logic and a few fact-filled shells and see what intellectual tumors we may safely blow into atoms. Time is short! So let�s start with the easy stuff and work our way up to the Lord God King Mack-Daddy conundrum of our age.
Let�s shag a few easy fly balls to warm up, shall we?
The Chickenhawk argument goes something like this: anyone who favors military action should not be taken seriously unless they themselves are willing to go and do the actual fighting. This particular piece of work is an anti-war crowd attempt to silence the debate by ruling that the other side is out of bounds for the duration. Like all ad hominem attacks, (argumentum ad hominem means �argument against the person�) it is an act of intellectual surrender. The person who employs an ad hominem attack is admitting they cannot win the debate on merit, and hope to chuck the entire thing out the window by attacking the messenger. This is a logical fallacy of the first order, because the messenger is not the message.
The messenger is not the message. That�s all you need to throw away the entire Chickenhawk response. But why stop there when this one is so much fun?
If you ever see this charge again, you may want to reflect that person�s own logical reasoning in the following fashion: You may not talk about education unless you are willing to become a teacher. You may not discuss poverty unless you yourself are willing to go and form a homeless shelter. How dare you criticize Congress unless you are willing to go out and get elected yourself? Your opinion on a National Health Care System is negated out of hand since you are unwilling to get a medical degree and open a clinic. And as far as your opinions regarding the Democratic Underground or The Huffington Post are concerned, well, you can just keep them to yourself, mister, unless you can produce an advanced degree in Abnormal Psychology and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Using the internal reasoning behind the Chickenhawk argument means you cannot comment on, speak about or even hold an opinion on any subject that is not part of your paying day job. It is simple-minded and profoundly anti-democratic, which is why it so deeply appeals to those who sling it around the most.
But wait! There�s more!
If you accept the Chickenhawk argument � that only those actually willing to go and fight have a legitimate opinion on the subject of war � then that means that any decision to go to war must rest exclusively in the hands of the military. Is that what this person really wants? To abandon civilian control of the military? That�s the box they have trapped themselves in with this argument. Now to be perfectly honest, I think Robert Heinlein made a very compelling case for just this line of reasoning in Starship Troopers (the book, not the clueless projected travesty). Heinlein said that the only people who should be allowed to vote are those that have served in the military, since only they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the state. I don�t agree with that. I think civilian control of the military has been one of the pillars of our nation�s success, and it has withstood the test of both World Wars and Civil ones. But that is the world you are stuck in when you toss that little Chickenhawk grenade.
Finally, if the only legitimate opinion on Iraq, say, is that held by the troops themselves, then they are overwhelmingly in favor of being there and finishing what they started. I recently received an e-mail from an Army major who is heading back for his fourth tour. The Chickenhawk argument, coming from an anti-war commentator, legitimizes only those voices that overwhelmingly contradict the anti-war argument.
WAR OF THE BUMPER STICKERS
I�ve said before that living near the People�s Republic of Santa Monica gives you an unparalleled opportunity to see legions of people who can put their entire moral philosophy into a 3×10� piece of adhesive vinyl, applied to several tons of steel, hurtling down an eight-lane superhighway at six or seven miles per hour.
Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
Somewhere in Texas, a Village is missing its Idiot. I chose this one first since it�s the only one that has a particle of real wit. But the Bush is an idiot meme is very tired, and the most cursory look causes it to fall apart like — how can I make them understand? — like a lemon almond biscotti left too long in a grande� caffe verona.
For starters, you can of course point to the fact that the man did graduate from both Harvard and Yale, but that was with a C average, and clearly, the idea of being merely in the middle of the pack of those getting advanced degrees from America�s two preeminent universities cuts you no slack from those community-college theater major drop-outs who love to level the charge.
So let�s leave that aside for a moment � Poppy�s connections and all that � and take a moment to look at this, if you will:
This is a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. It is a second-generation, supersonic fighter-interceptor. It cruises at 845 mph.
There were some minor aerodynamic problems with the F-102. For example, at certain power settings and angles of attack � like, say, take-off — the jet compressor would stall and the aircraft would roll inverted. It is no picnic, skill-wise, to fly a modern F-16 with advanced avionics and fly-by-wire flight control systems. The workload on the F-102 was far higher. The F-16 has an accident rate of 4.14 occurrences per 100,000 flight hours. The F-102�s accident rate was more than three times that: 13.69 per 100,000 hours. 875 F-102A interceptors were built; 259 � almost 30% – were lost to accidents or enemy action while serving in Vietnam.
George W. Bush flew hundreds of hours in the F-102.
Now look at this:
This is the cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger�s successor, the F-106 Delta Dart (I could not find an F-102 panel, but they would have been very similar)
Now, picture yourself in this chair, at 40,000 feet, traveling at one and a half times the speed of sound. Now imagine that someone has painted the windows white � you are flying on instruments. Now imagine that not only do you have to be able to fly blind, by referencing these instruments, but that you also have to stare into that orange jack-o-lantern of a radar, and interpret a squiggle that will lead you to your target. Now imagine that in addition to not hitting the ground, or your wingman, and watching the squiggle, you also have to turn those switches on the right side panel to activate weapons systems, to overcome enemy countermeasures�without looking outside, as you hurtle through air at -40 degrees F, air so thin that should you lose pressure, you have about 4-6 seconds of consciousness before you black out and die.
I maintain that the instant George W. Bush closed that canopy and took off on the first of his many solo hours in an F-102, it is quite impossible that he was either an idiot or a coward.
Here is a random question from the instrument rating exam I had to pass a few years ago.
Refer to figure 91:
What should be the approximate elapsed time from the BOSEMAN (BZN) VOR to the DUBOIS (DBS) VORTAC if the wind is 24 knots from 260 degrees and your intended True Air Speed is 185 knots? (The magnetic variation is 17deg. E)
A. 33 minutes
B. 37 minutes
C. 39 minutes
(It�s C., obviously)
If he had been a civilian rather than military pilot, Dubya would have had to have passed 60 questions like this with at least 70% correct. Questions on weather, radio communications, mechanical systems, aerodynamics, pilot physiology, airspace, navigation and a hundred other things. But, since he was military, he also had to know how to operate that primitive in-flight radar, plus weapons systems, rules of engagement, electronic warfare, hydraulics, fuel systems�it goes on and on.
People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher and Keith Olberman would not be able to figure out how to close the canopy on an F-102. These people would be weeping with fear when those afterburners light up and you barrel down that runway hoping that engine doesn�t flame out and roll you inverted into the asphalt, or when you�re rocketing through the soup at 300mph watching two little needles chase each other, praying the next thing you see out the window is a runway and not a mountain goat.
George W. Bush is not stupid. It�s not possible to be a moron and fly a supersonic jet fighter, and everyone knows it.
What George W. Bush is, however, is inarticulate. English is his second language. From what I can see he does not have a first language. Abraham Lincoln spoke in simple frontier language in an age of rhetorical flourish. Like Bush, he was considered a bumpkin and an idiot, and like Bush, he realized that there were times when having people misunderestimate you repeatedly was a real advantage. That�s goal-oriented. That�s playing the deep game. That�s cunning.
I personally have gotten to the point where Bush�s malapropisms cause me to look at the floor and shake my head with an affectionate smile, in much the same way supporters of his predecessor used to do with every new revelation of coerced sex from former employees. He is what he is. But he is a damn sight more intelligent than the graphic designer in the Mini Cooper with the Village Idiot sticker. Me, personally, I look at the man�s entire catalog of flaws in the same way Lincoln looked at Grant and his drinking: I can�t spare this man. He fights.
So to me, anyway, given the above information I feel that anyone calling President Bush a moron and an idiot comes off sounding like�well�a moron and an idiot.
No Blood for Oil!
Sometimes, the best way to examine a radical assertion is to assume that it is correct and examine the likely consequences. For example, proponents of the Loch Ness Monster assert that there is a surviving plesiosaur lurking in the murky depths of a Scottish lake. We are then drawn into endless discussion of distant wakes and grainy photos and claims of hoaxes, etc. But if you cut to the chase, so to speak, and grant the premise, where does that leave you? Plesiosaurs are air-breathing reptiles that have to daily consume massive amounts of fish to survive. There are essentially no fish in Loch Ness. Does it order out for pizza? Also, as an air breather, we would not have a surface sighting once or twice a decade, but hundreds of times a day. If you grant the premise of an air-breathing dinosaur the entire proposition becomes ridiculous, not on the basis of the evidence, but on the monumental lack of evidence supporting the idea.
Likewise with a �war for oil.� What would a real “war for oil” look like? Well, US troops would have sped to the oilfields with everything we had. Everything we had. Then, secure convoy routes would have been established to the nearest port � probably Basra � and the US Navy would essentially line the entire gulf with wall-to-wall warships in order to ensure the safe passage of US-flagged tankers into and out of the region.
There would have been no overland campaign � what for? � and no fight for Baghdad. Fallujah and Mosul and all those other trouble spots would never even see an American boot. Why? No oil there. The US Military would do what it is extraordinarily well-trained to do: take and hold a very limited area, and supply secure convoys to and from this limited area on an ongoing basis. Saddam could have stayed if he wanted: probably would have saved us a lot of trouble, and the whole thing would have become a sort of super no-fly zone over the oil fields, ports and convoy routes, and the devil take the rest of it. Sadr City IED deaths? Please. What the f**k does Sadr City have that we need?
That�s what a war for oil would look like. It�s entirely possible that such an operation could have been accomplished and maintained without a single American fatality.
We have lost thousands killed and wounded because they are being blown up as they continue to provide security, electrical and water services, schools and hospitals to a land ravaged by three decades of fear, torture and barbarism. It is the American presence in the cities, providing security and some semblance of order for Iraqi citizens, that has cost us so many lives. If we are going to be tarred and slandered and pay the public relations price for �stealing Iraqi oil,� then the least we can do is go in and actually steal some of it, instead of dying to protect that resource for the use of the Iraqi people. Which is what is happening, because, as usual, there is not a shred of evidence to the contrary, no matter how many imbeciles hold up signs and dance around in giant papier�mache heads.
You�ve probably seen this word spelled out with various religious symbols.
Who can argue with this? Not me, certainly.
What I CAN argue with is the idea that if only enough stupid, warlike Americans would just get on the Coexist train, then the world would be a happy and peaceful garden. Who else are the people with these bumper stickers preaching to, if not their ill-informed, knuckle-dragging neocon fellow commuters?
Unfortunately, here�s where reality inserts its ugly head. There is no more multi-cultural society on earth than the United States. The United States owns the patent on Coexisting religions and ethnicities. Drive half a mile though any major US urban area and you will see more ancient ethnic enemies living cheek by jowl in harmony than any other spot on the planet. Thursday morning water cooler conversations about Dancing with the Stars wallpaper over more ancient ethnic and religious murders than history has been able to record, and this despite Hollywood and the news media�s deepest efforts to remind you on a daily basis that the black or Hispanic or Asian or white friend in the next cube is secretly seething with racial hatred just beneath that placid veneer.
Americans are able to coexist because they have subjugated, if not abandoned, those ancient religious and ethnic hatreds to join a larger family, that larger family being America. And this is why, if you truly value the idea of coexistence, you should be dead set against multi-cultural grievance and identity politics, which do nothing but pit one ethnic group against the others and reinforce, rather than dilute, ancient resentments and grievances.
Now as it turns out, there is one member of the human family that seems to be having a little difficulty with the whole coexist thing. Muslims are at war with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are fighting Animists in Africa, Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Southeast Asia�they are blowing up nightclubs and schools and police stations and trains and buses and skyscrapers and are under daily orders to kill Jews on sight anywhere in the world.
I don�t mind preaching so much as preaching to the choir. When I see Coexist bumper stickers in Islamabad and Cairo and especially Riyadh to the degree I see them in Venice, California, I will be a happy man. They will make a very welcome sight covering over the Death to the Infidel! stickers that seem to be somewhat outselling Coexist messages in that part of the world. Until then I think we should coexist and carry a big stick.
End U.S. Imperialism Now!
Can I just take another quick second of your precious time to put this one to bed once and for all?
It is a staple of the left to accuse the US of �Imperialism.� That so many people can level such a charge with a straight face is a testament to the efficacy of forty years of standards-free education reform here and around the world.
An �Empire� is defined as a nation state that has political control over other nation states, and uses that political control to extract the wealth and resources from the subjugated country.
The United States of America does not have any political control over any other sovereign nation on the face of the Earth. We have influence, but influence is to control as a rich uncle is to a prison warden. That�s all you need to know. The entire idea of American Empire and U.S. Imperialism is dead on its face after that. No control means no empire. Period.
But we do have a large footprint in the rest of the world, and have military bases all across the globe. Is that a form of empire?
Look, the whole point of having an empire is to take the wealth out of the colonies and return them to enrich the home country. The US not only does not pull in the resources of other nations�it does exactly the reverse. We pump billions and billions of dollars annually into those nations that host our facilities, and the minute any one of those nations decides we are no longer welcome, we pack our bags, leave and turn those billion-dollar institutions over to the host country. (Look up Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Philippines for some recent examples)
This is not �imperial behavior.� It is, in fact, the precise opposite of imperial behavior. I guess somehow STOP U.S. ANTI-IMPERIALISM just doesn�t have the same snap somehow for the North Korean-backed International A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd. Color me shocked.
There are millions of people � actually, probably billions now � who genuinely believe that the wealth of the US was stolen from third world countries. This is one of the great perks of living a life free of the ability to think critically and do a little research. I have heard this slander repeated so many times I decided to look into some actual numbers to see if there is anything to this charge. This is a perfect example of how critical thinking allows you to see the unseen. That attitude, Google and ten minutes is all you need to shoot lies like this down in flames.
Okay. The US Per capita income is $41,300. That of a poor, third world country �Djibouti, say — is $2,070.
Now it gets interesting. The US gross domestic product � the value of everything we produce in a year — was last measured as $12 trillion, 277 billion dollars (hundreds of millions of dollars being too insignificant to count in this economy).
The GDP of Djibouti is 1 billion, 641 million US dollars.
A little basic arithmetic shows me that the US has a GDP 7,481 times greater than Djibouti. A 365 day year, composed of 24 hours in a day, yields 8,760 hours per year. Hang on to that for a sec.
Now, let�s suppose the U.S. went into Djibouti with the Marines, and stole every single thing that�s produced there in a year�just grant the premise and say we stole every goddam thing they make. If we hauled away all of Djibouti�s annual wealth, how long would it run the U.S. Economy, which is 7,481 times greater?
Well, 8,760 hours divided by 7,481 gives you an answer of 1.17 hours. In other words, it takes the U.S. 1.17 hours to produce what Djibouti produces in a year.
If the US really did go in and steal everything that the bottom thirty countries in the world produce, it might power the US economy for two or three days.
Conversely, the billions and billions of dollars the US spends annually in aid, rent, etc. � plus uncounted billions more from private American charities � would supply the entire GDP of Djibouti for hundreds of years.
Where�s your Imperialism argument now?
My first paying job in my life was teaching astronomy at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. I have been fascinated by the stars and planets for as long as I have had a memory. I bow to no one in my respect and admiration for Albert Einstein�s stunning insights into the nature of space and time, matter and energy. That a young Austrian clerk sitting in a Swiss patent office could puzzle out the structure of the Universe using only logic and imagination is in my mind the greatest feat of intelligence in human history.
With that said, why aren�t the cosmological theories of George Patton or Dwight Eisenhower ever the subject of bumper stickers? Probably because cosmology is well outside their realm of expertise.
E=mc2 is a statement of such beauty and elegance that it commands belief in an ordered and structured universe. Human nature is not so ordered and structured. Psychology is not as predictable as gravity, and it is a mistake to think that it is. Human beings are subject to Murphy�s Laws, not Newton�s.
Quoting Einstein is an appeal to authority. But politics is not an area where Einstein is an authority. I give Einstein�s opinions on spacetime great weight; his opinions on politics and human nature, not so much. No one holds Einstein up as a great authority on fashion, grooming, family life, football or hairstyling. Why? Because the modern era�s greatest mind clearly didn�t know diddly-squat about them.
Even in some areas where Einstein was an expert � quantum gravity, for example � he was flat-out wrong. �God does not play dice with the Universe,” he wrote, trying to come to grips with quantum probability theory. Well, turns out God does indeed play dice with the Universe, despite what Einstein says. Einstein refused to follow the quantum evidence based on the fact that he had a clear emotional aversion to the consequences of that theory. As a victim of national militarism in Germany, he quite naturally had an emotional aversion to that too. But history is the laboratory of human behavior, and history shows wherever you care to look that while being prepared for war may not guarantee peace, being notoriously unprepared is as sure an invitation to war as you are likely to see. To quote a politician on politics, rather than an astrophysicist: �Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because America was too strong.� There is much more refined political wisdom where that came from, if you are inclined to look.
Quoting Einstein on politics is like catching a review of the latest Rob Schneider movie with the banner THE GREATEST COMEDY EVER MADE!! The source is never Variety or the L.A. Times, but rather the Palatka Times-Dispatch or the Oshkosh Super-Coupon Review. The quote is huge, the source type microscopic, because the authority is not much of an authority at all. (The smaller the source font on the screen, the more suspicious you should be.)
There is a restaurant near Santa Monica Airport, called The Spitfire Grill. It�s done in a WWII motif. In the restroom, at about eye-level for a person remaining still for a few moments, is a magazine page from 1947, talking about Soviet atrocities on local populations. The last sentence of the article almost took my breath away for its courage and moral clarity. It said:
PEACE IS FOR THE STRONG!
Gravitational lensing during a solar eclipse proved Einstein correct. History, recorded again and again through the ages, does the same for this unknown article writer, no matter what The Great Man had to say.
The day may come when the lion and the lamb lie down together, but if it does, we’d better damn sure be the lion. I don’t know who came up with that line, but I wish to hell it had been me.
Give Peace a Chance
Sounds reasonable to me. How much of a chance? Three years? Five? Ten years? See, now you�re playing me for an idiot.
We gave Saddam Hussein thirteen years before the Great Rush to War. He could have stopped the whole thing by coming clean, up until the instant the first tanks crossed the border. But he did not. We know what �coming clean� to weapons inspectors looks like in the real world, because a few days after they pulled Saddam from his hidey-hole, Libya�s Colonel Khadafi turned over all the details of his nascent nuclear weapons program: blueprints, locations, stockpiles�the whole enchilada. We gave peace an even longer chance with the good Colonel, and we got bupkis: bupkis, and Pan Am 103 exploding over Lockerbie. That was our peace dividend. I can not see how anyone can deny that the idea of a little old-fashioned war and its consequence on dictators may have focused Mr. Khadafi�s mind somewhat.
War is not the Answer
Okay. I�m listening. What is the answer?
No, you don�t get to say I don�t know but I know it’s not war! If you admit you don�t know what the answer is, then it logically follows that you are in no position to say what it is not.
With regards to Iraq, Saddam started a suicidal war with Iran, and then with the United States. He then proceeded to break every single element of his cease-fire agreement�shooting at allied airplanes trying to belatedly enforce no-fly zones to prevent him from massacring even more of his own people, continuing with a well-documented and undeniable effort to obtain nuclear weapons, and all the rest.
So what is the answer, Mr. Moral Superiority? Sanctions? We sanctioned him for 13 years. He bribed the UN and stole billions of dollars for new palaces and industrial shredders for the opposition. Should we just leave him alone? The New York Times reported a few days ago that Saddam was a year or two away from a nuclear weapon. Do you trust the man�s judgment after Iran and Kuwait? I don�t.
War is an ugly, messy, filthy business, and the greatest slander I have seen in these last three years is the idea that somehow the pro-war crowd thinks war is a great thing. War is an awful thing. And yet I am pro war in this case. How can that be?
This is probably the most useful thing I�ll write in this essay:
Doves think the choice is between fighting or not fighting. Hawks think the choice is between fighting now or fighting later.
If you understand this, you understand everything that follows. You don�t need to think the other side is insane, or evil. Both hawks and doves are convinced they are doing the right thing. But it seems to me there is a choice between peace at any price and a peace worth having.
We cannot undo the invasion and compare that timeline to the one we have. The only data we can use to compare these philosophies is embedded in the pages of history. What does history show?
I cannot think of a single example where appeasement � giving in to an aggressive adversary in the hope that it will convince them to become peaceful themselves � has provided any lasting peace or security. I can say in complete honesty that I look forward to hearing of any historical example that shows it does.
What I do see are barbarian forces closing in and sacking Rome because the Romans no longer had the will to defend themselves. Payments of tribute to the barbarian hordes only funded the creation of larger and better-armed hordes. The depredations of Viking Raiders throughout Northern Europe produced much in the way of ransom payments. The more ransom that was paid, the more aggressive and warlike the Vikings became. Why? Because it was working, that�s why. And why not? Bluster costs nothing. If you can scare a person into giving you his hard-earned wealth, and suffer no loss in return, well then you my friend have hit the Vandal Jackpot. On the other hand, if you are, say, the Barbary Pirates, raiding and looting and having a grand time of it all, and across the world sits a Jefferson � you know, Mr. Liberty and Restraint � who has decided he has had enough and sends out an actual Navy to track these bastards down and sink them all� well, suddenly raiding and piracy is not such a lucrative occupation. So, contrary to doomsayers throughout history, the destruction of the Barbary Pirates did not result in the recruitment of more Pirates. The destruction of the Barbary Pirates resulted in the destruction of the Barbary Pirates.
And it is just so with terrorism. When the results of terrorism do the terrorist more harm than good, terrorism will go away. We need to harm these terrorists, not reward them, if we ever expect to see the end of them.
There are endless examples of this sort of thing. It makes me wish I had a mind on the level of Victor Davis Hansen so I could name every single one of them for you. But one example rings very loud to my ears.
After World War II, the allies captured the records of the German High Command. I was stunned to discover that the Wehrmacht�s generals were so appalled at Hitler�s decision to test the resolve of the Western Powers (by marching into the demilitarized Rhineland) that they were prepared to remove or even assassinate him should there have been any resistance to the move. They were terrified of finding themselves in another war. Hitler, on the other hand, couched the violation in the same reasonable-sounding terms that Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi would have undoubtedly approved of, and in he went.
Thus began the most horrible and tragic appeasement in the history of the world.
According to the Germans’ own records, a platoon of French soldiers, stationed on that bridge and unwilling to retreat (there�s your problem right there) would have caused the overthrow of Adolph Hitler, and the abandonment of his expansionist policies. Why? Because it wouldn�t have paid, that�s why. As it happened, intimidating the West paid handsomely: The Sudetenland, Austria, Czechoslovakia�It was only when the West finally realized the fruits of appeasement that Hitler was stopped. If it had happened much sooner it would have been much easier. If it had happened at the beginning it would have been painless.
Even though I did not live through it, I don�t forget lessons like this. Not something this clear. Likewise, I do not forget things that I did live through: that bullies who take your lunch money will beat you up more if you give them money and less if you fight back. There�s a logic behind this � predators have to survive every encounter with their prey, so why take chances on anything other than the sick and the weak � and there is an emotional component, too: and that is respect.
Thugs and bullies cannot produce anything of value. They have to take it from those who can. Giving it to them in the hope they will go away does not engender love or respect in them � just the opposite. It creates more contempt and confidence. If it didn�t � if they behaved like sensible people � they wouldn�t be thugs and bullies in the first place.
This projection of rationality onto irrational people is the linchpin of the liberal failure to understand human nature. To those who tend to believe every claim on innocence from career criminals, I recommend COPS therapy. Watch any single episode of COPS and you will see people earnestly swear — I swear to God, sir! � that they do not possess the drugs they are holding in their hands. What�s that crack rock on your car seat? That�s not my crack rock, sir! It�s in your car. This isn�t my car! I swear to God sir! There are five crack rocks in your pocket. These aren�t my pants, sir! A friend gave me these pants just before I left the house! I swear to God, sir!
I have heard it reliably reported that once a police officer confronted a heroin addict who had passed out with a needle in his arm. When confronted with this, he supposedly said, that�s not my arm!
Telling reasonable people what they want to hear is a survival skill for criminals. They don�t get very far without knowing how to play people. In Narcotics Anonymous they have a spot-on term for this kind of behavior. They call it �dope-fiending.� How did you get that car? I dope-fiended my mom into letting me drive it. When a spokesman for Hamas or Al Qaeda tells you that they are only fighting America or the Jews because they are worried about Global Warming, you are being dope-fiended.
How much more control do we have over terrorists if they are people with a series of reasonable demands, rather than murdering misogynists who want women enslaved and Jews and homosexuals killed on sight? See, if it�s our fault, all we have to do is change and they will go away. But if it�s who we are, rather than what we do � well that�s a little more scary, isn�t it? That might be a little too much for the kind, gentle, sensitive latte-sipping lunch crowd to fully get behind. But that is what I hear these 7th Century murderers saying, and that is what I see them doing, and I choose not to look away just because I do not much like what I see.
Some people will believe anything if they want to believe it hard enough. Which leads us to�
Bush Lied, People Died.
Recent reports of the advanced state of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, and the confirmed presence of 700+ chemical shells leaves this chestnut in some disarray. However, even if you take that away, the entire concept is a cowardly and petty retreat spoken by people who know better.
Here is a pretty decent encapsulation of what both Republicans and Democrats had to say about Saddam and WMD�s. You will find Bush�s and Rumsfeld�s rhetoric somewhat less adamant and warlike than that of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Gore, Robert Byrd, Nancy Pelosi, Hans Blix, Madeline Albright, Sandy Berger and all the rest. These were elected representatives who studied the same intelligence that the White House did, and came to the same conclusion.
Unfortunately for them, Al Gore in his unbridled enthusiasm went and invented the Internet, and so now there is a record of what they said and when, available to the great unwashed masses. It shows a group of people deeply concerned about what was a pressing threat to this country. And now, almost all of them claim they were lied to? Are they capable of reading intelligence reports themselves, or did Bush have to read it to them aloud, with them seated at his knee in My Pet Goat fashion, skipping the parts he didn�t think would make a good sell? Some people say that they did not get the same intelligence that Bush got. To the degree that is or isn�t true, the record shows that it was the more outlandish claims that were not included, so that the intelligence that led them to come out against Saddam and in favor of military action was less provocative than the intelligence the President and Secretaries of State and Defense saw.
The invasion of Iraq was meant to prevent Saddam Hussein from using Weapons of Mass Destruction. This mission was accomplished by the time President Bush stood on that carrier deck. The huge majority of casualties we have incurred in the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq have come about by our willingness to rebuild and secure a country that we owed nothing to whatsoever.
Here is the legacy of the Bush Lied, People Died crowd: in the future, we know that no good deeds � building of hundreds of schools and hospitals � will go reported. We know that no foul deeds � a handful of idiots humiliating prisoners over the course of a few days � will ever be put into perspective.
So why do it? Why build schools and hospitals, and protect polling places, and suffer the casualties we have suffered to get a country on it�s feet, if all we hear and see is the negative and the undeniable failures? The next time we have to go and kick the hell out of some band of rabid crazies, why not just kick the hell out of them and then go home? Because there will be a next time, and I suspect sooner rather than later. By refusing to report the myriad successes and kindnesses, our compassionate and caring moral betters in the media have only shown there is very little reason to do them in the first place, except for the satisfaction of our own morality and conscience — which I hope will be enough.
Let me leave you with something very, very important. It is the greatest logical fallacy of them all, and if you hope to gain any perspective in the world today, I believe you have to understand what I am about to say in your bones.
You cannot just count the hits and not record the misses.
May I show you something to make this point?
What you are about to see is a graphical representation of commercial air flights over the US on any given day. You will see dawn on the east coast as more and more flights get airborne, and watch morning spread to the west as the country comes alive. It is one of the most beautiful marriages of science and art I have ever seen. It is here. Go take a peek then come back. I’ll still be here.
Every dot in that animation is a jetliner, carrying hundreds of people. This is the first time I have ever actually seen the miracle that takes place in our skies every single day.
Why am I showing you this? Well, because every single dot in that ocean of sparks is a successful flight. Tens of thousands of flights land in this country every single day and no one says a word about it. And yet, when there is an accident � and you would have to watch every dot in that animation almost 2000 times to get back to the last fatal accident by a large-scale carrier � that sticks in our minds, obviously, and that image of burning wreckage is what stays with some people on their entire flight. They do not think about all the millions of flights that land safely. Nor do they think about the thousands of car accidents that occur with so much greater frequency.
Because we are recording only the hits � the crashes � and not recording the misses, namely, the safe landings. If you had to drive to work every day listening to radio announcements of every successful landing, you would be listening to a cacophony of flight numbers twenty-four hours a day. After a few years of this you might be able to get a glimmer of perspective on the safety of modern air travel.
Likewise in Iraq. Hand out candies to children on a daily basis, and the smiles and gratitude are nowhere to be seen on US television. But if some death-loving lunatic decides to scatter body parts to the four winds you can bet that will get the News media�s attention. Complete a new hospital, or a water treatment plant, or bring electricity or television stations to neighborhoods that never had them before? Yawn.
On the day of the last Iraqi elections — the day they ratified the constitution the press said these people would never ratify — CNN’s lead story was about nasty rain showers sweeping the southeast. About these historic elections there was heard not a peep.
Iraqi TV has a version of American Idol. Did you know that? They produce hundreds of hours of comedies, game shows � all that stuff. Sounds a little arcane for Iraq, you say? A little normal? That�s because people who believe they are smarter than you have decided that such stories of hope and success do not fit the narrative needed to teach you poor ignorant slobs the lesson that you are supposed to be learning, and that lesson is that George Bush is a murderer while Saddam was a statesman, and that Iraq is a failure fueled by the blood of poor, innocent, child-like soldiers too stupid to realize that they are dying to line the pockets of Halliburton.
My critical thinking skills, such as they are, tell me that you might be able to corral an army and send it over there under such false pretenses. What I cannot explain is why so many people in the military re-up, two or three or four times, to go back and fight for this oil-soaked lie that people here maintain is the truth, despite what the people who have actually been over there have to say about it.
This is an all-volunteer military. Why would so many of these people keep returning to such danger, and put themselves and their families at such terrible risk, for a lie or a mistake?
If Iraq is a con game and an oil steal and an unwinnable quagmire then this just doesn�t make any sense. But back they go! That�s the data. The people most optimistic about Iraq � and those with the most to lose � are generally the same people. They are the men and women who are over there now because they believe they are doing something honorable and good. No one is forcing them to reenlist. Hear that John? I�d hire any one of these people in a heartbeat. They are brighter than the general population, and they are so far beyond their Ivory Tower critics in terms of discipline, courage, ingenuity, integrity and honor that it makes one�s head spin.
Are we beating these terrorist scumbags and child-targeting insurgent bastards? Are we winning?
Well, let�s see if we want to switch sides with them. Let�s imagine the war where the insurgents have our cards and we hold theirs.
Imagine the US completely occupied by Al Qaeda forces, subject to Sharia law. We are able to take pot shots at a few of them, and we manage to murder a few dozen of our own people every day in an attempt to stop the population from collaborating with the hated invader. But more and more Americans seem to be turning to Sharia and want to get on with their lives. We find sixty percent of the population wants Al-Qaeda to leave, but hatred for the US insurgent forces � the Wolverines � is at about 98%. The people hate the occupiers, but they despise the Wolverines.
Now imagine that a year into the occupation of America, George Bush�s two daughters were killed in a firefight with the enemy, which had surrounded the college sorority house where they were hiding. A year after that, President Bush was pulled out of a septic tank in Crawford by the Fedayeen, then put on trial and sentenced to hang, which he did on national television to widespread cheering. Condi Rice, captured in an early morning raid several years ago, has been a great source of useful information to target the American resistance, and Donald Rumsfeld was killed by a suicide bomber this last summer.
Everywhere you turn � in every street and every city in America � Al Qaeda forces run security patrols, training Americans to do this for themselves. The only way to stop this is by killing our own people, which further alienates us from a populace that already despises us.
Does that feel like winning to you? Me neither. Welcome to the insurgency.
Support the Troops � Bring Them Home Now!
Hey, I have an idea! How about we support the troops by bringing them home victorious? Whether the Iraqi people deserve it or not is not terribly relevant to me anymore. The troops deserve it. They deserve to leave that place on its feet, with an imperfect government � like every other government � and crime and death and all the rest but with some sense of hope amid all of that. Perhaps the same hope that keeps Iraqi men joining their police and security forces despite the danger and the horror. Regardless of what happens from now on, these people have accomplished something. They have given millions of people hope who had no hope before. That is noble and honorable and good, and nothing and no one can take that from them. That is theirs.
It�s a slog. It�s a slow, heart-rending miserable slog, and I find it as frustrating and disappointing as everyone. But I read history � a lot of history � and I have come to discover that from the inside, ALL wars are thus. We look back on World War II as a golden road to the inevitable victory, but it did not feel that way at the time. It was a miserable, awful, bloody mess with a list of disasters as long as the list of triumphs, but triumph and disaster alike were paid for in blood not because it was desirable or good or easy, but because it was necessary.
The people who are there now, who keep returning to finish the job, seem by and large to understand this. Supporting the troops by calling their mission a mistake and saying they are dying for a lie is not what I call support. Dennis Miller absolutely knocked the wind out of me when he said �I support this war, but even if I didn�t I�d lie and say I did, as long as we have those kids over there.�
This ongoing burden is a miserable solution to an ugly problem, but I believe it is the best of a series of very bad choices brought upon us not by our own doing, but by megalomaniacal lunatics who we will have to fight either now, over there, which is terrible and bloody, or later, here, which will be worse. Walking away from this fight now is like quitting chemotherapy early: immediate relief at the cost of long term consequences that are far more unpleasant.
I hate to be the person to tell you that the sub is made of cardboard. I wish it weren�t so. But sometimes all the solutions are awful, and it is the mark of a responsible adult, and a responsible adult nation, to realize that some problems you can not get around. Some problems you have to go through.
(In Part II we�ll look at Conspiracy theories: Mooon Landing Hoaxers, the Kennedy assassination, Chemtrails, and the 9/11 “truthers.”)
Anyone interested in discussing any of this can do so over here. As for me, I’m always happy to hear from you.