By lex, on Fri – October 15, 2004
Round and around she goes. Where she stops, etc.
That’s the way I started my very first blog entry, just a bit over a year ago. The idea came from a relatively recent translation of Beowulf by Seamus Heaney that I’d read a year or two back. In the prologue, Heaney argues that the opening “hwaet!”, which others have likened to “listen up!”, is as “So” is taken to mean in his home in the north of Ireland. A kind of scene setter, heavy with impending import. An exclamation point of its own, followed by a furrowed brow and a deep breath.
As in: “So. We planted corn in the northern field today.”
The world has moved on since that blog entry (catch that Rey?). The ending of that first bit has a clue, that bit about Yeats – I had more poetry in my mind in the beginning than I could carry through the course of a year, or even a month. We’ve shared some personal stuff together, you and I, but most of the poetry I’ve written was crafted under stress, and it’s far too personal to share with the world at large. And sharing someone else’s feels like cheating.
Forty some-odd thousand visits and 70k page views later (according to sitemeter), I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing here. But I’m still enjoying the ride, and your company. I like it that Tammi and Teresa can exchange views here, when one or the other’s blog is temporarily down. I like that Eric and Drew can reminisce about Paris (they’ll always have Paris). I like that in almost every case, people here can frankly and openly exchange views and disagree politely. It’s rare that someone crosses a line here, and I thank all of you for that.
Did you know that in Ireland, you can tell everything you need to know about someone’s political sympathies (at least with respect to republicanism – the Irish kind) by whether he or she says “Northern Ireland” or “the north of Ireland”?
Can you grok?
Not that that’s our business.
Hermm, ahh. Whuf. The Navy is my home, my beloved home – has been since I was 17. And I’ve made it a custom in this space not to criticize the service. So I hope you’ll take the following only as an observation, and not as disloyalty or opposition:
It’s popular these days for the high and mighty to come down from Olympian heights to tell us that the Navy must be run more like a business. A business, like IBM I suppose.
This sort of thing comes and goes, the pendulum swings. We’ve been through Total Quality Leadership, based on Demming’s TQM (for management) a few years back. Everyone drank the Koolaid, and agreed that the taste was very fine, and that the after-affects were scarcely worth worrying about. Those hairs on your palm would fall out in time, or else you wouldn’t notice.
That fad would be followed by the war fighter pitch, full of smoke and wrath and ruin for the republic’s enemies. If only we were strong, and erect and made goal on our retention stats. By gum.
But it’s back to business models now, and taking “risk.” Accepting risk. “I’ll take a little risk on that,” one hears and everyone nods, yes, risk, very appropriate. Take some.
And the officer class is of course notoriously risk averse, both in their personal comportment (careerism, etc.) but also more nobly where the lives of the actual people are involved. It’s all very well and good to accept academic risk in a big office with one’s feet propped up on the desk, and another thing entirely to have to cash that check on a rainy night behind the ship when the deck is moving up and down through sixteen feet of motion, the moon is as absent as ethics in a congressional cloak room, we’re out of range of a suitable divert and lives tremble in the balance. Risk means one thing on the budget line, and something else entirely when LTJG Slippenshitz is trying to get aboard for his fifth time. And the tanker is sour.
But businesses, we are told, take risk. That’s how it’s done.
And it feels churlish of me to point out (to those who would listen) that, in this country, businesses fail all the time. Every day. Sometimes more than one.
Actual businesses, run by actual businessmen, who went to Ivy league schools and have all the appropriate degrees and the backing of Wall Street and the hopes and prayers of people all over the company who are counting on this job to pay the rent. They fail miserably all the time.
But it’s generally speaking OK, just fine, not to worry. Because businesses all have competitors, ready, eager and waiting to fill that recently vacated niche. Just ask the Edsel * people.
And I get a little worried when I look around the globe and see who’s ready to step in and fill our niche, should the US Navy misunderestimate the risk calculation. Because whoever else is going to fill that gap, and it’s not their fault but it’s just the way things are, it’s not going to be the US Coast Guard.
Because I know you were wondering, I thought that notBush’s bringing up Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation in the last debate was a pretty shitty thing to do. It’s just outside the pale, that’s all.
Taken together with notCheney’s * bringing the topic up in the vice presidential debate, it smells to me anyway like a carefully crafted and considered political move:
“Let’s talk about the veep’s daughter – there’s no downside: We cement good love with our base, and potentially alienate the C-word repugs”
“But what if someone calls us on it?”
“Even better – we’ll just say that they’re ashamed * of their own daughter. She’s fair game . This is so cool.”
No. No it’s not.
You don’t bring people’s kids into it. You just don’t.
Saw the Blue Angels flying at the Miramar Air Show today. Actually, I was at the REI store just south of Miramar, and saw them in the parking lot. I’m not a big air show fan, myself.
I used to be. When I was a kid, I sat on my sister’s boyfriend’s shoulders watching the Blues fly at Andrews Air Force Base. His name was Harrison. The boyfriend, that is. They flew Phantoms ** in those days, and tore the sky asunder with the sound they made.
Harrison was a second lieutenant in the Army, and he was leaving for Vietnam. I was seven years old. When Harrison came home, he and my sister were together for a while, and then they weren’t.
The world moves on.
When I was a kid, I saw them and was envious. Today, I saw them and was wistful. All that you need to know about a fighter pilot’s life is encapsulated between those two sentences.
You have to admit that the editors at the Guardian have stones. I mean, writing Clark County, OH voters from England, in the attempt to influence a US national election, because you have to admit that the US election is more important even than are your own elections in Europe, is a pretty bold admission.
And if you’re the kind of paper that has a long and glorious tradition of encouraging your countrymen to yield up their sovereignty to the bureaucracy in Brussels, well. It’s brassy, that’s all.
Which brings me to my closing thoughts, on all this. notBush has managed to get the European press behind him, by letting politics spill past the water’s edge. That was a line we didn’t cross much, in the past.
Oh sure, there was a certain amount of disgruntled “wag the dog” rhetoric when WJC launched cruise missiles into aspirin factories in the Sudan while the Monica thing was all the rage on the front pages. But it was mere grumbling. No one ran for election on a “Wrong cruise missile, in the wrong country, at the wrong time” kind of thought-virus.
And those were just cruise missiles. Insensate, one-way weapons of war. You’d never have to integrate them back into society again. You’d never have to nurse their broken bodies back to whatever approximation of health you could.
And now we have an increase of car bombs and homicide bombers – even in the Green Zone – over in Iraq. Because the political campaign had discovered daylight between the president and not Bush on the waging of the war. And as a result, the ever attentive terrorist public affairs machine has ramped the violence up, trying in their own, inimitable way, to influence our national elections.
Which is stupid at so many levels, since, after three debates and stern promises to the US electorate, the sum and difference of the space between the prez and notBush is that notBush would do the same thing, only better. No withdrawal, no retreat, no surrender. That’s what he’s signed on for.
But perceptions matter, over on the front lines. And the enemy gets a vote too.
And right now, Zarqawi is faced with this calculus: The final, bloody reckoning with Fallujah is probably on hold until after the election. If Bush wins, cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war. The walls come tumbling down around your Fallujah home. For better or worse, Falluja will be tamed.
If Kerry wins, maybe not.
Look: I know that the war was what motivated the base on the left. I know that notBush couldn’t have won the nomination without taking Bush to task for going to war over there. He had to do it, to have a chance.
But the last time I can remember a sitting president being challenged about the war we were in was in 1864.
McClelland lost. The slaves were freed. The union was preserved.
Yeah, well. That’s enough.
* 07-04-18 Links gone; No replacement found –Ed.
** 07-04-18 Link gone – different one used – Ed.