Reckon I’ll be doing something new with this space in short order. Not sure what yet, but we’ll see.
The last time I really “awoke” was just before dawn on Saturday, on the cliffs above a mountain meadow in the Wyoming wilderness, beside the glowing embers of a fire that I’d been tending most of the night and some friends I’d met only a few days before and have little likelihood of seeing again. It was the end of a week that brought a number of things back into focus that had been allowed to go blurry, not all of which need discussing here.
A few weeks ago, I learned that a place I’d been visiting since I was a kid – and where I worked the summer and hunting season after college — was to go on the auction block in September, leaving only memories and an uncertain future. After scrambling a bit with travel arrangements, I finally found myself in open spaces, windows down, driven onward to the mountains by some of the best music ever made.
Most of the following week was spent on horseback, discovering new approaches to landscapes that have been a small but significant part of my life since I was eight. The elk herd in the high country made the icy rain streaming off my hat brim a mere inconvenience. Meadows of alpine flowers, moose, and deer accompanied the constant search for a new trail, an untouched path into the next valley and the valley after that.
When I went to work in this place I had no plan for what to do with myself, and though that is still mostly the case these several years later, I was thrown off balance a bit by the flood of memories reminding me of who – and how – I once was. Am I now what I thought I might become? How many moments was I too blind, too consumed, to recognize along the way? What if…? What if…?
As the smoke curled up beyond the trees toward the Milky Way and thoughts of everything that might have been slowly gave way to sleep, I couldn’t help but pine for that 22-year-old’s swagger. I should hope there’s still some of it left…somewhere.
WTF is up with this?
“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said.
Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?”
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have spare tire on my car.”
“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”
We’ve got a loooong way to go, people.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
If I could do something about behavior that puts our troops at risk, I would.
Any time an American acts in a way that puts our troops at risk, I feel the need to speak out.
I just don’t like the idea of free speech being used as a reason to put our troops at risk. They’ve got enough problems already. I really believe that responsibility ought to be part of free speech.
First, how exactly did the troops get put in harms way, and stretched thin across the globe, in the first place? Second, why is “Congress shall make no law” such a tough nut to crack?
This conflation of fundamental societal principles and military prerogatives is a bizarre spectacle to witness, I’ll say that much.
Update: Looks like The Dish was on this already. How derivative of me.
Update II: Exum deals with this issue rather well, here.
It’s a strange thing, being a hater. It becomes increasingly hard to distinguish one’s visceral reactions to pseudo-analytical drivel from reasoned disagreement. Such is the situation in which I found myself this morning when this came down the pipe.
BLUF: Friedman wishes the President best of luck in the West’s latest military intervention. Solid.
Here’s the catch. Friedman paints with such broad strokes that any historical nuance fades away under sweeping narratives that somehow allow a delineation between the ‘old’ Middle East up to, I dunno, 2010? and the ‘new’ Middle East that has after ”half a century suddenly, from the bottom up, decide[d] to join history.” To be fair, that paragraph deserves to be quoted in full:
When an entire region that has been living outside the biggest global trends of free politics and free markets for half a century suddenly, from the bottom up, decides to join history — and each one of these states has a different ethnic, tribal, sectarian and political orientation and a loose coalition of Western and Arab states with mixed motives trying to figure out how to help them — well, folks, you’re going to end up with some very strange-looking policy animals. And Libya is just the first of many hard choices we’re going to face in the “new” Middle East.
Really? All those weird entanglements of tribes and ethnicities and coalitions and political cultures are going to define our ‘hard choices’ now? What about that other stuff Friedman championed?
At any rate, now that we know how complex the region is as a whole — “fraught with moral and political ambiguities”, as it were – the outcome of the conflict in Libya is all the more significant. Indeed, now that external forces, led by the U.S., France, and Britain, continue to escalate their role in the country, it is essential that the specifics of this endeavor are not divorced from general issues at stake in Africa and the Middle East.
Notwithstanding strategic complexities and confounding regional/sub-regional/supra-regional dynamics, as well as the ‘problematic’ track record of Western intervention in the Orient, it has apparently become acceptable to reduce our conflicts to simple formulas and a dash of luck:
I hope Qaddafi’s regime collapses like a sand castle, that the Libyan opposition turns out to be decent and united and that they require just a bare minimum of international help to get on their feet. Then U.S. prestige will be enhanced and this humanitarian mission will have both saved lives and helped to lock another Arab state into the democratic camp.
Dear Lord, please make President Obama lucky.
I also wish for great things to come about with a “bare minimum” of effort. Usually, things don’t work out that way.
I was pointed to Paul Collier’s latest Guardian column on the violent political standoff in Ivory Coast by the always entertaining Wronging Rights blog. In the piece, Collier advocates for a military coup openly supported by regional and international powers. Indeed, he supports the option to:
…generate a credible threat of force from the government’s own army. In much of Africa, the national army is the force most feared by presidents. Leaders go to considerable lengths to keep the army happy, but coups are still common. Because neither African governments nor the international community want to encourage coups, they have taken the line that the military should simply stay out of politics at all costs. This is understandable, but misguided: it’s better to set guidelines as to the very limited circumstances under which the ousting of an incumbent ruler would be legitimate.
The legitimacy of the incumbent remaining in power is not at question here, and the international community has spoken quite plainly on the matter. The precedent that such an approach to transferring power could set, however, seems gratuitously risky in a political climate where legitimate rule and accountable militaries are already tenuous propositions. Perhaps it is too cliché to make ‘Pandora’s Box’ -type arguments, but what Collier fails to elaborate upon is how exactly the terms of such “very limited circumstances” for legitimate military coups should come about, or what they would look like once agreed to by some yet-to-be determined process.
I’m reminded that Collier’s position is generally the one of the realist, having little time for political ideals when the management of economic forces is at stake. Consequently, it is not a drastic step to advocate for legitimizing political coups as tools of regional and international order as circumstances require; such methods would be but means toward economic growth from which, in turn, democracy and human rights could eventually follow. The order that these process are bound to take is clear. It would be naïve to pretend that the incitement or encouragement of coups and insurrections have not found their place in the muddy waters of foreign relations. Still, embracing such an approach in order to avoid the difficulties of external intervention — and at the likely cost of massive further internal destabilization — is highly problematic when placed in juxtaposition to notions of the rule of law…regardless of the legal standing of the existing order.
Oh dear, I’m afraid I might have just made a Kantian argument.
I’ve let this space go idle this summer for a variety of reasons, but none that seem to add up to more than procrastination and laziness. Not that I haven’t been able to keep busy, of course, but what are a few minutes to take down some thoughts? But since this joint is low traffic anyway, at least I don’t need to worry about losing readership…!
At any rate, what’s been on lately? Oh right, certain drum-beaters and flag-wavers have gone mental at the thought of brown people doing religion. Of major concern here, of course, is the politicization of faith in any form, moderate or fundamentalist, since the personal and the public never quite make for the best of bed fellows. Nevertheless, the cacophonous chorus of xenophobia that seems to have captured the American airwaves, however anecdotal it may yet be, has brought with it all the awkwardness one would expect from a hypocrisy that praises freedom above all else and at all times, except not above pettiness and not all the time.
Anyway, this lust for banishing from sight the things that in one way or another run afoul of our precious sensibilities is as old as the world, so what’s to be done? Censorship and prohibition always fail on their own incongruities (communism, war on ____, abstinence…take your pick). Earlier, I was indulging in the not-so-guilty pleasure of old time heavy metal, and this filthy little gem from the mighty Anthrax struck me as particularly relevant:
For the sake of context, it was a response to the PMRC…how quaint that now seems!
Now I’m startin’ up a posse
And we’ll damn sure make you see
Something that offends you
May not be offensive to me
Barely passable as art, that still pretty much sums it up, no?