Postmodern classic?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

China/India debate

A source of major international debate is the relative economic (with the related political and cultural results) 'power' of China and India. Who will be the dominating force of the 21st century?

There are a lot of different theories out there, all based on certain assumptions. Take this assessment from an Indian news website. Not authoritative, but an interesting and brief look at the major statistics commonly available that highlight China's recent advantages in the world economy. Business pages across the world are touting statistics like these, and the potential Chinese markets with enthusiasm- just like the British did 150 years ago. Pretty compelling argument, but those key words- 'if present growth rates are sustained' (along with it's close cousin 'if current trends continue...') are glaring indicators of uncertainty and optimistic dissonance of potential problems. Some related blogs offer their analysis describing India's potential strengths visavis China's potential weaknesses. I'm not a 'China-hater', but I am skeptical.

I think history shows, and this is a grand statement that I take responsibility for, trends never continue as predicted. Inevitably, something comes up putting a wrench in the works of that 'inevitable development' and those who are bold and innovative are the ones who successfully adapt to the change. Not necessarily those who 'should be' the primary beneficiaries of this new situation.

I think of America's rise in particular, although there are many other examples of this. If we first look to the instability facing our country following the Revolutionary War, or the Civil War, then our 'ascendancy' and current international power was by no means assured. One can easily see that even after the First World War. Despite being the most powerful military at the time, we withdrew and still had the Great Depression in between. Despite our resources, we could have continued to decline, lost the 2nd World War, etc... many things could have happened. Nothing is inevitable.

Conclusion: Both China and India both have major problems along with their potential for growth. Don't let my cynicism mislead you- China is an amazing country with a strong culture (despite 3 generations of Communist rule). Their education and resources should make them a strong force in the next century. India has some problems too- I am not saying their democratic traditions or stronger financial fundamentals will necessarily lead to the dominating growth possible for them. However, to think that either country (this applies even to the U.S) .is guaranteed an essential spot 50 years down the road is quite absurd.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Deployment prep

This picture was just too good not to replicate here (courtesy the British libertarian site Samizdata). It has almost everything I'm interested in current International Relations. Anyhow, in all seriousness... this blog isn't just about politics, although being something I'm interested in is unavoidable.

Just got a job that I'm pretty excited about. I'll be leaving the U.S. in a few weeks, so I'm getting everything organized and ready before I do. My mum is quite happy with the massive 'spring cleaning in September' that we did this past weekend, throwing out old things and repacking the others. Cleared out a lot of space in her home.

Step 2: Human pincushion. Okay, that nurse was a good saleswoman, 'invest in your health'- 8 shots later I leave the office. It would be nice if insurance covers part of this, but at least I'm ready to go to most places. Just got to exercise (improves circulation), drink lots of fluids. Later today I have a dental appointment. So easy when the government took care of all that, but I guess I can't complain.

I'm also reading a lot of material- from fun to serious. Just finished Kaplan's 'Imperial Grunts' which I mentioned below- an interesting post at Coming Anarchy discusses the tired idea that poverty=military service, but I digress. Before that, 'Private Warriors' by P.W. Singer and 'An Unorthodox Soldier' by Tim Spicer. On the reading table are a few other military books, as well as some philosophy and history stuff. And of course a scifi novel or something to break up the monotony. In that arena, I'm really liking Bruce Sterling's stuff, although William Gibson is my favorite. They've done a few colloborations as well. Almost done reading all of Philip K. Dick's stuff, a great writer (though clearly troubled) with an amazing perspective of the times he lived in.

So, I'm busy. I'll let you know what's going on.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Differing reports of the protest size in the media- what do we make of it? Well, the obviously unbiased stalinist group ANSWER who organized the event estimated 300,ooo. The Wapo said 'tens of thousands', but some eyewitnesses disagree. Who is right or wrong.... and did they play by 'the rules'?

Protesting, by itself, is not wrong. It is a democratic exercise of the Liberal principle of free speech as an individual right. However, in contemporary American politics it seems to be misproportionately represented by those who advance a consistently nondemocratic agenda. To limited success. A little more disturbing is the cognitive dissonance which seems to actively downplay these weirdos. Neo-neocon discusses this quite well in her deconstruction of 'truth to power'. Actually, the comments are quite interesting as a reflection of left/right agreement and respectful discussion.

Reading recommendations: Of course, the Belmont Club provides a great analysis of more OIF reports. Michael Yon reports that the Deuce-Four is back in the country. Robert Kaplan's new book 'Imperial Grunts' is absolutely great.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Perceptions of Iraq

Back to the same old question- is it a quagmire or not. If you want to know, it seems you won't be able to look to the media for an honest appraisal of the situation. You have to look at the experts- like Chester, Bill Roggio, Tigerhawk or The Belmont Club. Our former President embarrasses himself by talking about what he doesn't seem to know to score political points. Col. McMaster might know a little bit, even though he is military. Or related analyses could be well done.

And for perspective: the Wapo's Tina Brown exhibits a fawning adulation of Clinton grandeur, and the background of the people behind yesterdays 'Sheehan 30'. I report, you decide...

4GW= Crap, or 'The Joy of Simplicity'

Ah, new words and revolutionary concepts. To those that know me, they won't be surprised to see me so incensed over little conflicts about terminology. I used to think the best material was the stuff it took you years to understand- philosophy, history, etc. Now, in a display of elemental crudeness, I affirm my belief in simplicity. If you can't explain it in a paragraph, don't bother. Scientists researching evolution aren't sure if organisms get more complex or simple as they change over time- let my beliefs be clear, I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

"4GW" is 4th Generation Warfare, a phenomenom first read about in the Marine Corps Gazette. It is then further explored in "The Sling and the Stone", a book by Col. Hammes (USMC, ret.) about counterinsurgency. Basically it's a rehash of People's War as explained by the Communists. I've briefly mentioned before how revolutionary Marxists used these utopian conceptions of modernity to justify their ideological guerilla movements. But new technology changes things. In the conduct of '4GW' the terrorists use sophisticated models of media manipulation and other innovative ways to level the strategic playing field while being completely outmatched on the tactical field. They want you to believe that these guys can't defeat a unit at the platoon level, but somehow are the legitimate successors to a country? Military feats aren't everything, but they're certainly something. So these '4GW' thugs would lead you to believe that their legitimacy is derived from some esoteric source more pure than that of crude warfare, etc. etc. etc.... sounds like BS to me. Might convince some stoned hippies, but not simple 'ol me. Modernist conceit is what it is- a firm belief in the progressive advances of the future and a complete and willful ignorance of the previous failures to do so.

If I was the academic type, I'd write up a paper. Maybe that's what I'm keeping this blog up for, when I go back looking for paper ideas when I return to school (not soon!). I would critically assess all the assumptions that these writers (I actually know MAJ Vandergriff who is amidst these guys with his article on Human Affairs). I could probably work myself up into a good deconstructionist, postmodernist blather over their unbalanced focus on a progressive, Western-centered 'modern' conception of war. But I'm having a hard time with wasting more than two paragraphs on this line of intellectual masturbation.

Everyone thinks they've got to reinvent the wheel. It's good to innovate, but the problem with this modernist line of thinking is that they seem to forget that we've faced these problems before in the past. Sure, there's no doubt situations change- but to rehash the old saying, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. Just because there seems to be a grander scale and recent technology makes things move faster, this doesn't mean our essential human nature has changed dramatically. Y'know, it's probably changing too, but not too noticeably from what I see. We still like to massacre, fornicate and believe in absurdities as much as our unclothed ancestors 5 or 10 thousand years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. But I'm not going to preach any more than I have done so far, you can find everything I'm talking about in the books of the Greeks and Romans. I might point you more towards Thucydides, Plutarch and Tacitus, but there are many more. They have many experiences in fighting big, grand conventional wars alongside covert, nuanced night-time espionage or political pressure. They didn't need a Clausewitz to confuse them- the means of conflict were many and in the course of battle, unrestricted.

So where does that leave us and how do we maintain the advantages of our society? We must defend them- but we must know what we are defending. And it's not perfect, either, we still fail to measure up to our own standards. This can be seen in our recent stumbling since the end of the Cold War. It is not easy to be searching for an identity in the midst of political/foreign areas concerning our role in the world generally (or perhaps specifically in conflicts like Iraq). Unease lurks at home and abroad as we try to moralize our new agenda in the power vacuum made possible by the hollow emptiness of Marxist economics exposed by the Soviet collapse. We all seem to be waiting for something to happen... calculating power and advantage just as in the old days.

Once again, I've moved far away from the topic I planned to discuss. What the hell, it's a blog. Maybe it'll mean something someday. Until then- DEFEND AMERICAN FREEDOM! (That WW2 stuff is great.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


So I'm in the midst of a job search. If there was one word, that word would be 'uncertainty'. What am I going to do? How can I afford it? What can I do to get there?

Kind of difficult, but something we all go through. Looks like I might still have a chance for a translator job, but will the potential opportunities of that be worth forgoing a more adventurous job? I don't know at this point, but the uncertainty is I can't afford to wait around much longer. It's most likely going to be first come, first serve.

As for the news roundup, we have the Gaza aftermath. We have the crazy stories of Jalal Talabani promising the efficacy of Iraqi troops meaning a potential early withdrawal- you'd think that might be more important than the finger pointing of Katrina. Bush takes responsibility for government failures- of course! That should relieve some of those who live (or used to) there. An uncommon look (for some) at race relations should be noted.

Just a quick glance at the stories of the day. I hope to look back at this and laugh one day. But in the meantime, I am very interested in hearing about the Hitchens/Galloway debate, along with the VDH/Huffington debate.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Lot of stuff going on now, just got back from a great trip to Alaska for two weeks but must find a job. Kind of sad when you can fit your life into one sentence. Besides that, all is well- here I am.

What next? Oh yeah, the job thing. I might have a great opportunity, doing something I've talked about before but thought I wouldn't get to due to other commitments. I'm not going to jinx it just yet, but I'm excited. I'm going to read up a lot on it and other trends- it could be abroad somewhere and not so safe.

Anyhow, this whole Katrina thing reminds of how horrible and powerful nature can be. And how we love the sport of politics, but how I've pretty much lost the ability to trust the newspaper. Either side, left or right. It's all perception and spin, with an ideological twist. I just need some time away! Something to do anyhow, somewhere away from here.

So we'll see what happens- if that doesn't work out, maybe I'll check out Uncle Sam again. It's a crazy world.