Fri – July 2, 2004
Impromptus from the ether…
Wow, that was another busy week. Briefed a Marine two-star on Tuesday on our thinking about the training of Expeditionary Strike Groups. He was a very highly energetic guy, with strong feelings of his own. As I’ve mentioned previously, you have to go into a meeting of this sort thoroughly prepared, because you know the Marines will be. It all went pretty well, leaving a bunch of action chits behind for us worker bees to slave over.
We also had staff cross-talks with our east coast counterparts, which also went well – there are some significant differences on the way that east and west coast carrier strike groups are trained, based primarily on our separate geography and hydrography, and to a somewhat lesser degree, tradition and expected deployment area of responsibility. The latest buzzword in the Navy is “alignment,” which has been taken to mean “standardization” in the minds of the unimaginative. It’s become important for us to be able to either fill the cracks between our differing methodologies so that no daylight shines through, or at least come up with comprehensible rationales for the differences that stand up to second and third question scrutiny from sharp-eyed, nuclear trained officers who are looking for “efficiencies.” That particular code word means “other people’s money,” and if you’re going to defend your program from fiscal raids, you need to have rigorous analysis to support it. Money’s tight.
Fascinating stuff, yah?
But all that has meant that the quality and quantity of blogging over the last several weeks has suffered a bit. There are just so many hours in a day.
It’s funny, because I’ve an almost pathological desire to write something, anything, even if it’s only a link to something thought provoking. Partly because I enjoy writing, and partly because I enjoy the interaction and discussion that blogging engenders with you, gentle reader – I guess the fear is that if I take too many days off, then it will be harder to pick back up again (or easier to abandon). Yeat’s once wrote that poems are never finished, but rather eventually abandoned. So many brave starts out there have gone dark, new voices raised only to be extinguished under the weight of continuing effort, or the perceived lack of anything left worthwhile to say. A sad thought.
On the other hand, Stalin once famously opined that quantity had a quality all it’s own. Maybe that’s true for armored divisions, but it’s probably less so for the written word.
If you haven’t checked this link at the bottom of my blog roll, you ought to give it a gander – it’s a convenient roll-up of the what the movers and shakers of the punditry and news writes are thinking in any given day, combined with links to blogs that comment on those thoughts. You’re looking for inspiration? You’ll find it here.
Speaking of cool stuff, Bryan Strawser * has a link to a pretty cool desktop tool for Mac users, called Konfabulator *. Apparently it has some of the same functionality as the new Mac OS coming out sometime next year. Think I’ll check it out.
Back to the topics of the day.
The memeorandum link took me to a story by Richard Cohen of the WaPo, taking Michael Moore to task for his mockumentary.
It also took me through the browser maze of clicking “next” to this site * , where a left-leaning blogger promises not to forgive or forget those among the warblogger set, whom he now believes are having reservations or second thoughts about the war. The anti’s apparently believe that the warbloggers labeled them as “traitors” for expressing their misgivings. Andrew Sullivan in particular comes in for a pranging.
Now treason has a very specific meaning, and I for one would never label someone as traitorous merely because they didn’t agree with the arguments in favor of putting postage paid to the Saddam regime. After all, part of living in a free society means having the ability to express your views. But what with all the protests leading up to the war, it’s hard to argue forcefully that the anti side didn’t get a fair chance to express their feelings.
All that said, another part of living in a free society is abiding by the will expressed by the majority through the democratic process. We the people heard them, we just didn’t agree, at least most of us. We had that debate, and now facing the war’s aftermath, the serious and thoughtful thing to do would be to put away that delightful chalice of cold schadenfreude and devote serious attention to the facts on the ground as they now stand.
This is not to say that you don’t get to continue to express your disagreement with the policy, or to bewail the clumsy way that it has been executed, or to wish it didn’t have to be so. You could even argue that as a series of poor decisions in strategy and execution, the results should call for a change in government. That’s a debatable proposition.
But you are walking perilously close to the line of exceptionally poor taste, if not treason, when voices aligned with your side of the argument start to talk about the necessity of soldiers dying to prove you were right, and you don’t raise your voice against them. Those of us in uniform take that sort of thing very seriously, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some among us called that the way they saw it, and they saw it across the line.
And if an American raises his voice and labels a group of people the moral equivalent of Minutemen * , when these same people have as their fondest goal either to create a clerical Islamic regime antithetical to democracy and antagonistic to our national interest in a place of great strategic significance, or to allow the shabby remnants of Ba’athist fascists one more spin at the torture and repression wheel, and the inevitable and perhaps (?!?) regrettable cost of doing so is that more of our soldiers should die, along with innocent Iraqi civilians – both during the insurgency, and in the inevitable aftermath of American withdrawal – if someone says all these things, then I think it’s fair to call that person traitorous. Maybe not “traitorous” in the strictly legal sense, but certainly in the moral sense.
And furthermore, if that person chooses to frame the debate in those terms, and then uses exceptionally dubious, not to say deceptive (why not say deceptive?), documentary techniques to foist his views on a population he views with open contempt, and other people within that same population laud him as being brave, or daring, or “a must see,” or “performing a public service ” then it’s rather hard for some of us on the other side to take those people very seriously, either morally or intellectually.
Just wondering how it all came to this, I spent the early morning hours trolling through the archives of Charles Johnson and Lileks . I read their writings before 9/11, just to remind myself the about the way we used to think and talk, just three short years ago.
And then I went to the next few days after. Here and here .
Remember that? Remember how it felt? Remember how suddenly insignificant Florida and dangling chads seemed to be? Remember waiting for the other shoe to fall, the next inevitable blow?
Now remember what it felt like to be Americans again? Not democrats and republicans, not white or black or yellow or brown, not hyphenated. Just Americans. There was that public service clip on TV, with all the different people from all over, all ages, colors, creeds, accents, saying “I am an American.” I never changed the channel during that announcement, no matter how many times I saw it. That’s right, I remember thinking. That’s us, all of us. That’s who we are.
It’s been three years, almost. The other shoe hasn’t fallen, not here at least. But it probably will, sometime between now and the election. And so I wonder how we will react, the next time. Will we follow the Spanish model? Or will we be Americans again?
All right, I’m off that for now. Promise.
Saw Joan Jett last night, at the Del Mar fairgrounds. She really does seem to love rock n’ roll. One of the reserve officers that works with us is on the board of directors for the fairgrounds, so we got to go and meet Joan before the show, including getting our picture taken with her. We were told not to ask for any autographs, so of course one of the reserve F-14 pilots did exactly that after the photo was taken. We ate in the hoity-toity box, and sat in imperial splendor above the assembled throng.
The Hobbit was totally in her element – she surprised Joan by giving her a hug and a kiss before the show, and got down to the mosh pit to dance and wave her hands in the air.
I’ve been married to that girl for 22 years, and she’s still 18 years old.
Came home from the concert last night and told the Biscuit that we’d been bragging about her to our friends. “What about?” she asked, surprised.
How smart she was. How creative. How funny. How beautiful.
Got a smile like I haven’t seen in months. Had a conversation that warmed me to my soul. Have a thought that it might all work out. Wonder if we’ve been talking past each other for far too long.
Could it be that simple?
Here’s an interesting article that I can’t comment on directly, for reasons that should be very obvious.
But in another of those strange twists of the blogosphere, I was taken through the Gweilo Diaries (a site I visit only on the rare occasion) to a commenter on his site that calls himself “The Angry Chinese Blogger .”
Interesting at a couple of different levels: First, I was unaware that anyone was blogging in English from mainland China, or that such a thing would even be possible, knowing what I think I do about that government’s hold on the reins of information.
Next, he doesn’t appear to actually be Chinese. Nor really, does he appear to be very angry.
Because reading through this post, I detected that curiously detached, context-free type of writing so familiar to anyone who has read a newspaper published under the oppressive eye of government censors – you see it in Asia, and the middle east in particular. Without an official imprimatur and endorsement for his opinions, the writer is left to present bare facts. If there is a conclusion or interpretation, it is left to the reader to draw it. That is, at least until the bureaucracy has had a chance to come to the consensus view of the official and approved reaction.
Maybe then he gets to be angry.
It’s a fascinating style of reportage; one that I would have hoped was anachronistic. So very much the opposite of what I fulminated against earlier in this post. So very illuminating into the psychology of those who live lives very much unlike ours, while sharing in our common humanity. That yearning to express oneself (quality vs. quantity?) that shines in all of us, and that fear that we who live in this great land will hopefully never learn to really understand.
Freedom is what we have, and he does not. Freedom is what we celebrate this weekend. Freedom is the ability to say nearly anything you want, and have others disagree with you if they choose to. And the government doesn’t do anything about it, because it’s not the government’s business.
Freedom isn’t free.
Happy 4th of July weekend!
*07-01-18 Link Gone – no replacement – Ed.