Friday, September 19, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Starting from Scratch

Happy Friday!  I don’t know about you, but I am beyond ready for the weekend.
Let’s get to it, yeah?
With a sweeping majority far wider than had been forecast, voters in Scotland rejected independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum that had threatened to break up a 307-year union, according to the final count on Friday.”
The flag of Scotland.
My family is descended from the Clan Gunn.
On behalf of NATO citizens everywhere, let me be the very first to say, “Thank God!”  There is one Hell of a lot of craziness going on in the world right now, and between you and me, now is not the time for the West to be showing disunity.  I grant you that alliance is not always easy, but collective security has been a pretty good bet for the last sixty-five years, and I personally was not looking forward to throwing that away.
If you’re curious, the vote came out 45% in favor of independence, 55% in favor of union.  That’s a solid majority for the status quo, but it’s also a solid shot across the bow of politics-as-usual, and it stands a good chance of starting a process of a change that may well ripple through Europe.  Time will tell, but it’s clear that an awful lot of voters are fed up with the way their government is representing them, to the point where they’re ready to throw out the whole system.  
That’s a big deal.  In past centuries, it would have meant revolution.  Now it probably means a chance for successful progressive politics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that progressive politics is where it will end.  These swathes of disaffection run deep throughout the West, centered on disaffection with economic elites and their endlessly self-serving ideologies.  There’s more to leadership--political, economic, or military--than trickle-down economics and drone strikes against our collective enemies.  At some point, a redress of serious issues will be needed, or else this election is liable to be the first of many that challenge the status quo all over the Western World.
Pentagon officials are more willing than their counterparts at the White House to acknowledge that this will almost certainly require American Special Operations forces on the ground to call in airstrikes and provide tactical advice to Iraqi troops. ‘There is no one in this building who does not know that clearing out the cities will be much harder,’ a senior Defense Department official said in an interview. ‘That’s when the rubber is going to meet the road.’”
A lot has been written about this, and I don’t have much to add outside of noting how unusual--almost unprecedented--it is that Pentagon officials have refused to follow the White House line on this.  The last time something like that happened was during the Korean War, and it would up with President Harry Truman firing General Douglas MacArthur.  
I’ll defend the Pentagon by saying that it is impossible to casually bomb someone’s house and destroy their way of life.  The President may not see this as a fight to the death against the forces of evil, but that is most assuredly the way that the forces of evil see things, which is why it seems like a bad idea to announce before the war that the U.S. is going to fight this one with one hand tied behind its back.
2-16 IN at the Kasserine Pass.
By 1941, most intelligent Americans had realized that the U.S. was not going to be able to stay out of World War II.  At the very least, a showdown with Japan looked inevitable, and analysis showed that while Nazi Germany offered little threat to the American homeland, America’s financial and economic place in the world would take a devastating hit following a Nazi victory in Europe.  Then as now the U.S. needed to do something to defend its prosperity.  
Few observers realized what that “something” would entail.  Even many hawks felt that a decisive naval victory coupled to the incredible prowess of American air and artillery might well be enough to end the war.  Pearl Harbor got the country moving, but it was a long time before people understood that war meant fighting, that fighting meant kill-or-be-killed.
The stunning defeat at the Kasserine Pass changed things[1].  Letters started going home.  Gold star flags started going up.  Americans realized that the war was not going to be some far-away artillery duel.  Yes, it was going to be far away, but it was going to involve their sons (and some daughters), those sons would either win or die.  This changed things, forced a change in the country, and the result was a mobilization that overwhelmed the enemy and changed the world for the better.
The problem with today’s wars is that our political leaders don’t have the stones to demand the kind of shared sacrifice that’s necessary to change the world.  The lessons of Vietnam run too deep, with the result being that we’re now trying to fight at the same time that we go on with our lives as if nothing was wrong.  This is crazy.  As a matter of reality, not all wars are equally worth fighting.  If war means fighting, if fighting means killing, then it’s worth taking the time to pick our battles wisely.  Now, you may argue that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea.  Whether it was or not, it happened more than ten years ago.  We are where we are, and the world is what it is.  We have to live in the now and deal with the world as it is, not as we wish that it was.
If this war is worth fighting, then our nation, our Allies, our society… we all need to fight it and win.  We need to either force change or accept that some things are outside of our control.  Nothing else makes sense, nothing else will work, and nothing else will contribute to our security and our way of life.
3. Hair Metal Interlude

I’ve heard these guys are putting out a new album.
4. TV is a desert
New shows start next week, but these past two weeks have been TV Hell.  Yes, there’s been some college football, and there’s always the WWE, but I personally enjoy television that is at once both mindless and scripted, and since the USA Network’s summer season has gone off the air, there hasn’t been much to watch.
Gotham premiers this week.  I don't remember which day.
This is a crazy scheduling quirk.  Why start every new show in the same two-week period?  That seems like entertainment fratricide, and all those network shows need more help, not less.
5.  Training Update
I had to take a step back this week.  I don’t know that I came back to training too soon, but I certainly came back to hard, and it left me exhausted.  I’d hoped that taking Sunday off would be enough to help me recharge, but by Tuesday it was clear that I needed to either cut back a lot more, or else risk getting sick.  Like it or not, my little hospital stay took something out of me, and as I wrote earlier, we all have to deal with life as it is, not as we’d like it to be.
I wound up skipping swimming this week and my weekly lunchtime run, and I’ve made an effort to ride slow during my commute, which is maddening.  I find it incredibly hard to see a light about to turn red and not sprint to make it through.  But I managed, and now I’m feeling a little better.  I’m hoping to swim and run a little tomorrow, but again, I plan to take it slow with both.  Assuming that goes well, we’ll see what’s what next week.
That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy your weekend!

[1] This entire line of thought comes from Rick Atkinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the war in North Africa, An Army at Dawn, Holt, 2002.

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