Archive for September 14th, 2010

September 14, 2010

Pluralism in the Long Run

by Vince

George Packer looks down the road, both in front and behind of us:

Nine years later, it’s so easy to get people to go crazy. If I wanted to, I could probably start another India-Pakistan war all by myself, or incite some quiet office worker in Reston, Virginia, to try to overthrow the United States government. Right after 9/11, a man named Frank Roque, from Mesa, Arizona, shot and killed an Indian-born gas-station owner, threatened a gas station attendant of Lebanese descent, and fired shots into the house of an Afghan family. It was a horrible story, somehow made worse by Roque’s ignorance and stupidity (the murdered man was a bearded, turban-wearing Sikh, not a Muslim). Under arrest, Roque yelled, infuriatingly, “I stand for America all the way!” President Bush made a point of denouncing him. It was a little remarkable that there weren’t more Frank Roques in those early days. We Americans congratulated ourselves for our tolerance and restraint. If an atrocity on the scale of 9/11 had been perpetrated in any number of other countries, people belonging to the religion of the perpetrators would have been hunted down and lynched by the score. Instead, the President joined an interfaith service, and the mayor of New York talked about equal citizenship, and Oprah devoted a show to Islam. We had a right to feel pretty good about ourselves.

Looking at the issue that way, it is a no-brainer that Obama supports the GZ mosque. Unfortunately, Packer notes that “crazy, murderous violence hasn’t spread across the land. But unreason, cheered on by cable news, has won the day. We have undeniably gone sour on interfaith tolerance.” Looking back years after, I have more of an understanding why my Dad hated TV. He always read and was always trying to find a reason for us to trash our cable subscription. I always thought it was him being cheap skate. Frugality paired with real entertainment is his thing. He attends a movie theater that only shows 3-4 star movies. He reads books and the Philadelphia Inquirer. These media outlets, whether on the screen or on paper, are biased. But that doesn’t let TV off the hook. Why else was the phrase “channel surfing” coined? You surf around and nothing good is on. You either end up being sucked in to a demagogic trance on one of the major political stations or giggling while you watch a religious preacher pontificate. The second one is mostly relevant to me, but I respect my Dad for his stance on TV. Ironically, him and I disagree strongly on this issue.

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September 14, 2010

Song of the Day

by Vince

By one of my favorite bands: Kings of Leon – Radioactive

September 14, 2010

Itching for Division Ctd.

by Vince

“If Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist for supporting financial regulation, than Scott Brown is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. If Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist for supporting the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, then Michael Bloomberg is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. If Obama is a Kenyan anti-Colonialist for supporting health care insurance reform, then Ben Nelson is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. The Center for American Progress is a Kenyan anti-colonialist think tank, MoveOn is a Kenyan anti-colonialist advocacy organization, and Peter Orszag is a Kenyan anti-colonialist intellectual,” – Adam Serwer.

For that matter, if Obama wants to return to Clinton-era tax rates, does that make Clinton a Kenyan anti-colonialist? If Obama wants access to private health-care insurance, while Richard Nixon backed a far more expansive program, does that make Nixon a Ugandan Marxist? Once you unpack all this, especially when you consider the multiple crises that Obama had to handle when he came to office – and the extraordinary moderation he has shown throughout (infuriating those to his left) – you realize just how base this kind of “critique” is. – Andrew Sullivan

September 14, 2010

Adaptions in the Approach of War

by Vince

I went with MJ to the Miller Library in York, PA yesterday. I picked up a 2008 edition of the Atlantic and read up on insurgency, Iraq, Afghanistan, David Petraeus, and war fighting in general. I then proceeded to Google Petraeus’ dissertation and downloaded it. Maybe sometime I will get around to reading the nearly 300 page .pdf document.

One of the first evolutions in the war approach by America since Vietnam is a move away from intervention due to military regime threats per say to now responding to global political instabilities:

To Nagl, the lessons of the recent past are self-evident. The events of 9/11, he writes, “conclusively demonstrated that instability anywhere can be a real threat to the American people here at home.” For the foreseeable future, political conditions abroad rather than specific military threats will pose the greatest danger to the United States.

Nagl makes a solid and refreshing point next, leading into evolution number two:

For Nagl, the imperative of the moment is to institutionalize the relevant lessons of Vietnam and Iraq, thereby enabling the Army, he writes, “to get better at building societies that can stand on their own.” That means buying fewer tanks while spending more on language proficiency; curtailing the hours spent on marksmanship ranges while increasing those devoted to studying foreign cultures. It also implies changing the culture of the officer corps. An Army that since Vietnam has self-consciously cultivated a battle-oriented warrior ethos will instead emphasize, in Nagl’s words, “the intellectual tools necessary to foster host-nation political and economic development.”

This second evolution will challenge much of what we call National Security today. If for the slightest reason you are seen as having some minute connection to anything Middle Eastern, there is a chance you can be monitored, not permitted to pass security clearances, and rendered unable to serve your country with your skills, education, fluency in Arabic, and or other training possessed by you. DADT doesn’t help with this, either, but that is another discussion.

The Green Zone, starring Matt Damon, mostly focuses on the questionability of if there were WMD’s in Iraq. I appreciate the movie for its suggestion of a bottom-up approach to war. Damon forms relationships with Iraqi citizens and informants. The information he provides is what is fed into policy and mission planning. As I transition into the second article, and into Afghanistan, the second war evolution above is absolutely essential for

America to approach Afghanistan in a smarter over stronger way.

To understand Afghanistan, you have to have a glimpse of their government. Just as with Vietnam, we are approaching our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of 1) intervening 2) ridding the countries of terrorist strongholds 3) equipping the domestic governments and police forces* and 4) withdrawing. The starred (*) item has been a difficult task. The Afghan police throughout the country have been perennially plagued with corruption, which can in part be due to frustration with Kabul. They are usually undermanned and unable to fully spar with the Taliban. Also noteworthy is that Afghanistan has not had a strong central government since the 19th century: “under the “Iron Emir,” Abdur Rehman, in the late 19th century, Rehman famously maintained control by building towers of skulls from the heads of all who opposed him.” Much of Afghanistan is provincially maintained which can be a gift and or a curse.

The glut of American and NATO forces are in major metro areas within Afghanistan, far away from the real action and influence. See once again Vietnam with the hamlet systems –  in desperate hopes of protecting the villagers from night time visits / attacks from the Viet Cong, Americans placed walls around Vietnamese villages. America is not attempting that now with Afghan provinces but the village remains just as valuable to this 21st century war effort.

The approach to rural affairs is no easy task, however:

The rural Pashtun south has its own systems of tribal governance and law, and its people don’t want Western styles of either. But nor are they predisposed to support the Taliban, which espouses an alien and intolerant form of Islam, and goes against the grain of traditional respect for elders and decision by consensus. Re-empowering the village coun cils of elders and restoring their community leadership is the only way to re-create the traditional check against the powerful political network of rural mullahs, who have been radicalized by the Taliban. But the elders won’t commit to opposing the Taliban if they and their families are vulnerable to Taliban torture and murder, and they can hardly be blamed for that.

The article is summed up below:

As long as the compounds are discreetly sited, house Afghan soldiers to provide the most visible security presence, and fly the Afghan flag, they need not exacerbate fears of foreign occupation. Instead, they would reinforce the country’s most important, most neglected political units; strengthen the tribal elders; win local support; and reverse the slow slide into strategic failure.

I personally feel this threat was needed to of been addressed but looks all too familiar to Vietnam. If we are able to adapt our military approach, take a blow to American pride by trading in our tanks for intelligence and Arabic speaking men and women, and be ready for dirty fire fighting with the Taliban, we can confront these extremists. Until then, we will have in our future text books a new Vietnam similar in being a quagmire.

September 14, 2010

Laugh Out Loud

by Vince


All thanks to the Daily What. They are worth you checking out.

September 14, 2010

Itching for Division Ctd.

by Vince

White House secretary Robert Gibs owns Newt Gingrich:

“I don’t even have – quite frankly, George – the slightest idea what he’s talking about. … I think Newt Gingrich knows that he’s trying to appeal to the fringe of people that don’t believe the president was born in this country. You would normally expect better from somebody who held the position of speaker of the House. But, look, it’s political season. And most people’ll say anything. And Newt Gingrich does that … on a regular basis.”

Meanwhile, even the conservative NRO is puzzled over D’Souza’s mystification of Obama:

Another “oddity”: The president used the Gulf spill to talk about his general approach to oil policy and decry America’s “addiction” to oil. You know who else used that (inapt) word? George W. Bush. Another Kenyan?

And another one: Obama’s comments about religious freedom and the Ground Zero mosque are “utterly irrelevant to the issue of why the proposed Cordoba House should be constructed at Ground Zero.” Basically every liberal journalist or blogger has made comments similar to Obama’s–except that they have gone further than he has.

I tend to side with Gibbs on this. Newt has been laying low over the past 4-5 years, in my opinion, and this could be his coming out (for 2012) party. Do him and Palin smell the polls coming?

September 14, 2010

Your Brain on Google

by Vince

Hat tip: swissmiss

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