Via Crooked Timber and a trip to the downtown B&N (for IOZ doth not purchase online subscriptions lightly after getting goosed into The Atlantic, oy), The Economist avers that life is too good in France, ergo crisis must arrive to impel ces grenouilles sans mercis to corrective action. Henry, the post's author, points out the general inanity of this sort of Anglo ressentiment, in which the Gauls and their socialist Continental neighbors get excoriated for tant de joie de vivre. But I have another question: Since when does crisis provoke right action? Because it seems to me that for the most part, peoples in crisis behave even more irrationally, myopically, conservatively, pick-yer-perjorative. African nations do not resolve their issues of corruption and ethnic violence at the behest of decent into civil war, for example. Would a general economic catastrophe in Western Europe serve to foment rational, measured, needed reforms? Color me unconvinced.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Victor Davis Hanson, the Baby-Boom Thucydides of the National Review, goes out to the paddock and finds not one, but dozens of dead horses, and rather than merely beating them, he actually rides the fuckers, like some vast, interminable, equine Weekend at Bernie’s. It occurs to me that we could save many lives by simply dropping him out of an airplane somewhere over the Middle East, from whence landing site he could go town to town, like Paul, preaching the Gospel:
So let us have far less self-serving second-guessing, and far more national confidence that we are winning — and that radical Islamists and their fascist supporters in the Middle East are soon going to lament the day that they ever began this war.Really. He wrote that.
The bogeymen are familiar—the Left, the Media, "unreasonable" dissent, the Left, the Media—although the latest round of retired military men finally squawking back at Don "The reeds give way to the wind / and give the wind away" Rumsfeld sets Vic Dave’s teeth a-grindin’, since those good-for-nothing book floggers have never . . .
Well, suffice to say I’m reminded of the scene from Patton where George C. Scott as the general describes Carthage to a subordinate who, impressed by the visceral quality of the description, says, "You talk as if you were here."
"I was here," says Patton. (Caveat lector: in no other way am I comparing Patton and Hanson. Full stop.)
What really bemuses me is this bit:
Iran's nuclear ambitions did not start in 2006. Like Pakistan's, they were a decade in the making. Indeed, they are the logical fruition of a radical Islam that hates the West as much as it is parasitic on it — and, in lunatic fashion, screams that past American appeasement was really aggression.What on earth can this mean? If nuclear weapons are the “logical fruition” (a phrase whose meaning is, admittedly, somewhat hazy to me) of “a radical Islam that hates the West as much as it is parasitic on it,” then what, I wonder, aren’t they telling us about the boys on the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer enjoyed the Vedas personally, but perhaps there toiled somewhere deep in the bowels of Los Alamos a cadre of jihadis muttering inch’Allah with each successfully designed trigger mechanism component.
The case of Israel and its bombs, needless to say, because even more perplexing; likewise, France.
Perplexing is par for the course. Earlier, Hanson says, Re: Scary Iran:
The second tact was live with a nuclear Iran as if it were a Pakistan — and perhaps hope that something like a nuclear democratic India emerged next door to deter it.Is he suggesting that now that Iraq is a you’ll-pardon-the-expression democracy, now its time to give them the bomb? We’ve wasted an awful lot of blood and money in the interregnum, haven’t we? The other countries I see on the border are Armenia, Azerbijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and, well, yes, Pakistan.
That’s some fuckin’ plan you’ve got there, Victor, that’s some fuckin’ plan.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Each generation believes itself to be uniquely doomed, and each generation is uniquely wrong. Narcissism makes millennarians of us all.
With two of my favorite bloggers shouting, Doom, doom! from the rooftops, I feel that I'm swimming against the tide ever-so-slightly when I say that, having considered it, I'm not particularly concerned about the little Duke Nuke'Ems apparently running around the West Wing and the Pentagon actually nuking anything. Leonard in Jim Henley's comments more or less sums up my current view, that from the un-collated stack of flash-card slogans knocking about as the daphin's historical consciousness, there is the vague notion that the Israelis, at some point, did something, possibly involving airplanes and bombs, and that whatever it was they did worked, more or less, and that we should therefore be able to do the same thing. That's not to say I don't believe there will be serious ramifications. In many ways, I expect they would be more severe. That said, our current nuclear rhetoric uncomfortably resembles Iran's insofar as it consists mostly of locker-room, cock-comparing posturing: our tactical nuke ante raised by their 50,000 centrifuges, and so forth.
I suspect it's mostly for public consumption, more mud in the already muddied waters of our discourse. The president rode high when he was able to threaten civilizational conflict on a daily basis, but the whole Crusader project has been stripped to its unromantic essence, which is the administration of and profit-taking on Empire. Although they still like to tout the schools-are-openin Good News out of Iraq, the Jester King and his Courtiers (or, at least, his courtiers) aren't so stupid as to believe that Americans actually give a damn about sewer pipes and grammar schools. We need something entirely more cinematic.
Of course, conventional attacks on Iran would only sink us further into nightmare, since it sits directly between our two most recent territorial acquisitions. Attacks would only further our status as an international pariah. What I hope for--and this may be an odd optimism--is that another few years of such escalating sniping around the borders of our influence will force the next junta we "elect" to retreat, if only momentarily, from its mission to brutalize the whole world into some variation on the word Democracy.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
In an otherwise imbecilic op-ed predicated on an "emerging"--apparently sui generis--"crisis", an "inexorable logic" in columnspeak, David Ignatius quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski:
"In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."Does it occur to anyone else that in a war with Iran the world should condemn us; we should lose our position in the world.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Via Atrios, so presumably everyone's seen it already, this clip of His Reformed and Sober Majesty responding to some poor freshman South-Asian Studies major, for chrissake, so you just know she's got to be incredibly delicate, as if he's fobbing off some heckler at the Funnybone. I know our dauphin is just the face of the clockworks and the real gears turn in the dark housing behind him, but couldn't they at least try to slap some lipstick on that pig. I will be sorely, sorely disappointed if the world really is run by reptilian alien overlords, because it's a damned shamed to be conquered by a species whose best attempt at a frontman is Tex the President playing Booboo to Danger Dick's version of Yogi as a, you'll pardon the expression, heterosexual.
Stipulated: the university freshperson was commiting the very grievous sin of asking the statement-question, in which lengthy disquision on the questioner's own particular thoughts and conclusions is hastily appended with a dangling, vaguely interrogative phrase of the whaddaya-think-ah-that? variety. Still, is it too much to ask of whatever hidden masters turn the wheels of history that the ostensible leader of the United States (and others and sundries) be better than a common moron, a man without even the ability to claim an actual mental disability, but who, through drink and over-snuffling of Evo Morales' finest, through an almost existential boredom with the consequential world, turned himself into a world-class jackass, who occupies a suit and utters the word Freedom from time to time, like a whoopie cushion farting its last little pocket of air.
If there are yet some alumni of MKULTRA or any other government mind control experiment--and I'll accept any, up to and including The Montauk Project--please give this man a new personality.
Via Atrios, Rich Lowry's seven-point plan to, like, totally reinvigorate the Bush administration 'n shit.
After handing the dauphin an admirably vacuous cop-out on the Brown People Are Invading America issue, Lowry fritters away his next six points on such miscellaneous and sundries as eminent domain and "the economy," which, apparently, is humming right along, no Republican-raised quintillion-dollar debt ceilings to see here, thank you very much. In the end, our scribe implores Il Ducino to "sit down with conservative bloggers," his loyalest, bestest, awesomest supporters in the whole wide world with sugar on top. Here is a perfect illustration of the fabled enemies of the fabled emmessemm, those Men of La Mancha, each of them, not so much tilting at windmills as riding up quietly, tapping on the door, and asking if they might be let in for a draught and a heel of bread.
Conspicuous in their absence are two syllables of some importance to the President's current standing (kneeling?): Iraq. I know it's desperately unfashionable, now that we've moved on to the two very similar syllables right next door, to point out that Iraq-the-Nation continues to bleed out while Washington resorts to increasingly fanciful blackmail schemes designed to force something called a National Unity Government, which I believe they once had in the person of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps that makes me one of the President's "some" who believe that Iraqis aren't capable of self-government, democracy, goodness, light, etc.
One way or another, it's gonna take a hell of a lot more than seven points to save the child king this time around.
Monday, April 10, 2006
The City of Pittsburgh has recently revamped its Special Event Permit Application. Passed along without comment, my favorite new addition:
If you are seeking to hold a First Amendment Activity responding to a current event and require an immediate permit (within two business days) for spontaneous speech, please check here: ____
Lost in all the hyperventilating over immigration is any sense of what the problem is. On one side, you've got the crazed GOP hardliners acting as if Montezuma himself, resurrected, is leading a cavalry charge across the border. "They're waving Mexican flags!" goes up the cry, as if not one of these racist fuckers has ever been in Pittsburgh on St. Paddy's day.
Meanwhile, I watched a small local parade (you can hardly call it a demonstration) go by on the sidewalk this morning bearing signs that read, "No Person Is Illegal!" which is exactly the sort of hollow sloganeering that the Left is supposed to deplore in the Right, or however the hell political affiliations align these days. Like everything else, immigration is subject to law, and those who cross the border in violation of that law are not of legal status. Dear Democrats and Marchers, this is not a statement about the condition of their little Latin souls. Meanwhile, I swear the pro-immigration protesters are the same economic nativists who demand that we stop sending call-center jobs to Bangalore, white collar employment or manufacturing being altogether different than "the jobs Americans don't want," as the pro-illegal-immigrant forces term strawberry-picking and the, uh, custodial sciences.
The United States is capable of absorbing these and more immigrants, and we ought to. Millions of them. Let them come, though don't kid yourself: it's their illegal status that makes their low wages possible in the industries that employ them, and absent that, there's no more reason to hire a new immigrant than anyone else when China's just a shipping line away. All this talk about Amnesty and Guest Workers is a side-show. Our immigration and naturalization processes are too strict, too narrowly defined, in part because we hope to catch Jihad al-Fatwa on his way in with a Pakistani nuke, having failed to report any livestock or fruit in his carry-on, or some such.
It's all madness, and in the meantime, those who know tell me that Spanish isn't even very hard. Bon. Je me convains!
Arthur Silber is back with a good one. It makes me shudder to think that the Jane Hamshers and Kosses and the rest of the liberal bloggers are correct in calling incompetence the essential characteristic of the Bush Administration.
Imagine the apocalyptic awfulness of current policies in the hands of folks who had some idea what the fuck they were doing.
I haven't read American Theocracy yet, so I'll withhold judgement on its specific merits, but in this very typical review, I get the sense of a woman who complains that the fire alarms are too loud.
I do wonder when "balance" became the objective of incisive critique. I often, for example, say good things about using condoms without necessarily including a pull quote from Humanae Vitae. But that's just me, perhaps . . .
Here's Sy Hersh talking to La Barbe épatante about his recent reporting on our plan to
turn Persia into a glassy crater preemptively strike Iran.
There's something terrifyingly humorous about it all. Hersh says the President is messianic, unconcerned about the 2006 elections, full of confidence that history will exonerate him for invading . . . Iran. (His people, apparently, are talking to History's people, who said that History would sure-as-shit exonerate him for Iraq. Typo in the faxes?) Then Blitzer puts up a clip of the dauphin doing the aphasiac Sergio Leone bit on Israel: "We wull purtect ahr good ally . . . Izreel."
Leave aside the fact that we were perfectly content to let our protectorate on the Mediterranean build itself some unacknowledged nukes. There are cosmic ironic depths there that I'm not prepared to plumb. Consider instead that, rightly or wrongly, the twin fountainheads of our Muslim Troubles are our continued military presence in the Middle East, up to and including our Iraqi Rock-the-Casbah adventure, and our unfailing support for every bit of lunatic, disproportional, collective punishment that our Good Ally . . . Isreal can dream up.
Hersh's article cites powers in our government calling the Iranian president "the next Hitler." Ah, but for all the Next Hitlers. Didn't someone say that about Noriega? I'm sure we bandied the Next Hitler tarot in the direction of Saddam and his chimerical stocks of dubbaya emm dees.
And now the newest Next Hitler is going to wipe Israel off the map. (No one, I note, specifies how this is going to occur, though I presume we're to infer that Iran will use its heretofore nonexistent nuke-u-lar weapons.) In the middle of all this retarded brinkmanship, no one bothers to note that Iran's president made a few super-off-color remarks denying the truth of the Holocaust, and managed, in doing so, to goad Americans into precisely the desired response: unequivocal support for Israel, up to and including using our own tactical nukes in an attempt to geld a Muslim nation.
In less diplomatic circles, I believe the expression is "getting played."
Sunday, April 09, 2006
While it isn't universally the case, the majority of narrative fiction is predicated on a straightforward concept: characters make the wrong decisions. That's what impels them into conflict and into the strands of plot. Never mind the techniques writers use to bring about resolution; the setup of most stories involves people choosing poorly, and bringing about whatever 300 pages of consequences, actions, and counteractions remain.
Some of my favorite writers have mastered the difficult task of writing tragic comedies in which their characters decide wrongly again and again. Graham Greene did it. Michael Chabon does it. In movies, the Cohen brothers do it. It's a difficult task because it requires the writer to compel his readers to believe in a sort of supreme irrationality in the citizens of their fictions. The tragedy is in the inescapability of picking the wrong door; the comedy, likewise.
I find this a helpful lens in regarding the Bush Administration, which functions on a similar system: if there's a decision to be made, by god, they'll make the wrong one, often spectacularly so.
That's why, although I'd like to dismiss it, I have to take it seriously when Sy Hersh writes that the civilians in the Pentagon and the boys in the West Wing want to nuke Iran. Rationally, it seems impossible. We haven't the power to do it; we're bogged down elsewhere; the consequences would be so monstrously, self-evidently catastrophic that no sane person could consider it. But the impediments that fact and consequence set on the behavior of the rest of us clearly don't apply to these people, whose capacity for consideration was long ago smothered beneath a towering accretion of slogans.
Put otherwise, these jokers may well do it because it’s precisely the wrong thing to do, the least possible, the most likely to do great harm.
As is and was the case with Iraq, there’s frightfully little indication that anyone has actually thought about what the hell we’d do with the place after the first bombs start falling. The most fanciful thinkers seem to believe that some sort of spontaneous revolution would break out, in that inimitably passive Americo-journalistic construction. That anyone believes aerial bombardment would spark domestic revolt is a testament to the level of political sophistication in the higher circles of our military in government. “Every animal is driven to pasture with a blow,” said Heraclitus, which may be true, but which is hardly a principle for modern international affairs. Iranians—some, many, most—may dislike the rule of the mullahs, but we’ve provided a far-too-adequate external foil for the ruling regime with our deadly, swashbuckling vandalism of an entire neighboring nation. Give me Liberty or Give me Death—that’s a notion I and a few others hold dear, but in truth, the vast majority of human race would rather be repressed than dead.
Will the US bomb Iran? It’s as yet impossible to say, though I place my bets in the Yes column. Either way, it’s folly to discount it as impossible simple because it’s impossible. If nothing else, the dauphin and his ministers have proven that sort of thinking pretty much past the expiration date.