Postmodern classic?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Conflicts, v 6.23 (update prior to next movement)

I am quite conflicted at the moment. Life in progress... everything changing from week to week. It's quite uncertain at the moment where I will be at the end of next month, and I don't like that feeling too much. In some ways, it makes me happy that I am returning to a warzone, where the conditions on the ground resemble the turmoil currently rumbling through my head. The prices are high but the payoff is big.

The code of the warrior means you must make difficult decisions without regret. Achieving the objective with full awareness and responsibility for the consequences of your actions (not the same thing). And you must treat your life in the same manner. Easier said than done.

Like most people, one of the major conflicts in my life revolves around sustaining the material ends of my life through the aquisition of money. And my recent job is clearly a part of that- even if my savings will be mostly wiped out by Uncle Sam to back-taxes if I return early. I didn't go over there for the money, but now that I have some I don't want to piss it away- a problem at the heart of many political debates. Another time for that, because the more I think of it the more I am ready to go/come back. You have to be on your toes out there, the guys who compromise themselves for the paycheck risk too much in my opinion. While I could stay there for a longer period, it would compromise too many of the plans I've made to come back here. It's time to move on- from that company and situation to setting the foundations for the present.

That money, the comfort that it brings, if that was all it would be just a worrisome, but trifling, issue! No, the fact is I find myself looking forward to being out there again, in the midst of the chaos. Despite the fact that I really didn't get to rest much this leave, spending it constantly on the go... I went skydiving, scuba-diving, exercising, and of course drinking; these are just a few of the hobbies with which I try to fill the hole made in my life by leaving the crazy, but oh so real, world of the active combat zone. Admittedly a poor subsitute. But that urge must have an element of the Freudian thanatological impulse that seems to be a part of the adrenaline junkie's ambition.

Just like many of my peers, I want to etch my future career path, settle in a new place, see friends and family, etc.... This will have to be modified slightly- my idyllic jaunt as an intern will have to adjust itself to the need to continue the cash flow- by either not happening, or being abridged. I might not be able to work on Capitol Hill and have to continue my security stuff. But my life will be a long one, this financial train wreck a mere roadbump that, with perspective allaying my present disappointment, should be considered a very minor issue. Ultimately, I'm not worse off.

So I continue down the path of the warrior, imperfectly trying to address these concerns resolutely, in a way to minimize the minor regrets I carry along the way.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Really important stuff

How could they kill Professor X, Jean Grey and Scott Summers in one film? Just stupid. I'm all about the amazing back-from-the-dead comic book storylines, bla bla bla... but that's just silly. X-men 3, you let me down!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Doom and gloom

Just browsing through the Sunday morning op-eds, man, there's a lot of unhappy people out there. This little conflict in Lebanon is sure raining on some parades? I reserve special consideration for those who, contemplating the 4 prior existing UNSC ruling think another one will somehow help. But the NYT has problems of it's own, so that's probably a cheap shot anyways. Talking about Lieberman in Time magazine, Joe Klein throws out words like the 'Mesopotamian disaster' quite casually. One of the guys who I've generally liked, Tom Ricks at the WaPo, has a gloomy story about problems in Iraq. Andrew Sullivan writes some confusing piece about 'neocon's' which, despite the fact that I am one, I still don't understand what they are (and I even read Strauss because that's what I thought that's what neocons do, man!). Always interested to compare British/European press, they love the ideological distinctions and buy into the neocon thing big-time. Of course, even libertarians are divided about the war, who can blame 'em.

I look at it, and like I wrote below (since I'm back writing for a little while), it could get a lot worse. Looking at the problems of the world through our rich, powerful and stable perception will always be distorting- trying to understand how people live in the poor conditions they do. But that is not reason to be depressed for me- while war is tragic and awful, it could always be worse. You could be living in one of those Middle Eastern countries where the only news you get is from your imam, and he's telling you about the Jews and the Americans eating Muslim children, or whatever the story du jour is.

It crossed my mind, though, now would be a great time to triangulate Syria against Iran (not exactly what this guy meant, but similar). It would be difficult, we'd have to compromise on some of our stated ideals of democracy (why do I think that those who are always pushing for 'engagement' would not be suppportive?). But it could dramatically change the power relations of the Middle East. Further isolating Iran- as we're coming to accept is not a 'party for peace', etc...

Are we capable of making such a bold and risky move? At the moment, I rather doubt it. So I'll settle for the second best option, Israel killing terrorists so we don't have to. Hey, if there's a better idea, I'm all ears.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Understanding the Middle East

Loving being home, being on leave. But then you start to think about it again...

Sometimes you can only start to think clearly about something when you are away from it. You have to digest it a little, listen to friends and family, debate it and then you start to articulate what's going on. As a side note, there was also this interesting debate at QandO about insurgency warfare, although I appear to be pretty much ignored.

Well, I don't 'understand' the Middle East by any means, but after reading about the recent Israel-Lebanon thing, there are some things I can confidently assert, based on my experiences and insights. I started to think about this as I contemplated the 'Blair-Annan Plan for Peace', more UN involvement via internationally legitimate forces peacekeeping. Laughable. Just look at UNIFIL, the 2000 'peacekeepers' from Ghana, India, and wherever, which peacefully observed Israel withdrawing from Lebanon and Hezbollah peacefully building up massive stockpiles of weapons and other forms of complicity. But, you say, this time would be different: they would have a different mandate. And because they're internationally legitimate, it would be different. It's obvious on this case I am totally alongside the Israelis- the UN and what Army? What 'international legitimacy'? What mandate would bring a force that would reasonably be able to enforce peace?

None that the UN could provide. A cursory look at the performance of the UN 'peacekeeping' operations shows this simply. But for those who believe in the UN (unkindly but guiltily called EUNuchs in derisory humor that I, of course, wouldn't promote... hehe) seem to see the solution for everything in their eye. The status quo has got to change. And so I kind of followed that line of logic to the US involvement, a lot of the shriller critics look at the problems that have been in the Middle East, and how we've been involved.

Here is where the logic matters. There has been nastiness in the Middle East ever since we were involved. However, we did not create this nastiness- just looking at the Suez canal incident of '58 will give you an insight into the problems of the Middle East. My Cliff Notes summary would be as follows: European powers had dominion over the Middle Eastern states they (pretty much) created in 1919 following the collapse of the Turkish empire, formalized in the Sykes-Picot treaty. After blowing the crap out of each other in WW2, the aforementioned European powers lacked the power to maintain their dominion, which was challenged by resurgent Arab nationalism and charismatic Arab leaders, such as Egypt's Nasser. The US's lack of support in the ensuing conflict proved to be decisive, as the Egyptians regained dominion over the Suez Canal, the Europeans could no longer control their region. Now, why would we do that? It doesn't follow the evil imperialist motif our enemies would have you believe. So they want to cherry pick other examples, like us supporting the Shah- to which I would say, if we had done a better job we wouldn't have the problems we are now, but I am starting to digress further than I would like.

So the logical chain is this: people are still killing each other over religion in the Middle East + it's been going on since we've been involved = it's the US's fault. It makes a simple, easily comprehensible political argument that is supported by fact. The fact that it's completely out of context, with an unashamedly narrow US-centric perspective becomes clear only after you examine it a little closer. Then you start to realize that, wait a second, they've been killing each other over religion forever. What changed and when did it change? Well, to me, it starts to make sense when you learn more about the dissolution of the Turkish empire. The model of Islamic political leadership, through coercion in spirit with the times (read more than 400 years of the Turkish caliphate in which many peoples feelings were hurt, to say the least) fell apart and the result was the French and British in control of the area we now call the Middle East. Their methods were different- organizing the areas into states, and their influence was little- a few decades compared to the centuries of the Turk.

So this little political assumption falls apart under closer examination. How can it be that the US is not the worst thing that happened to the world? Look at all the bad things we've done.

Yes, we have, and as long as we have responsibilities abroad, we will continue to 'make history', of the regrettable type. It was nicer when we could avoid that, and blame European empires for everything as we did in the 19th century as one of the minor powers of the day. But now we find ourselves picking up the pieces of those European empires, or the ravages of 20th century Soviet Russia's expansionary militancy in the 3rd world. No matter what we do, many people resent us. They have a right to do so- and when they do something about it I'd love to listen more. But until then, we'll just keep on going. Because if you think the Middle East would be better without us there, you have another thing coming. Israel's present conflict in Lebanon visavis Iran and Syria has more to do with the ineffectual UN than any US policy. If this thing is not managed properly, 10 years from now we'll be wishing all we had was Iraq. Such is life, such is war.