Yes, the SEALS’ sacrifice during Operation Red Wings was a waste

Operation Red WingsBefore you start hammering away at me, let me explain what I mean about my claim that the sacrifice the SEALS and their rescuers made during Operation Red Wings was indeed a waste.  I am referring, of course, to Jake Tapper’s asking Marcus Luttrell whether  his comrades died in vain.  That was a foolish and tactless question to ask Luttrell, and Luttrell couldn’t and wouldn’t give the real answer in any event.  There is an answer, though, and Tapper was right.  Here’s why:

There are three types of wasted battle deaths, two of which are familiar to all, and one of which is a brand new one.

The most obvious wasted death is the one that occurs because of terrible command decisions.  One could argue that the entirety of WWI, with Brits throwing themselves into No Man’s Land for four years at their generals’ commands was that type of wasted death.  The British had appalling tactics and, rather than changing them to avoid a bloody stalemate, simply redoubled their failed approach.  Likewise, in the case of Operation Red Wings, the SEALS were fatally hampered by rules of engagement so restrictive that, after lengthy debate, they decided that they were safer releasing potential spies than they were killing or otherwise disabling them.

The men in Operation Red Wings might still have died in other places at other times during the war in Afghanistan, but their deaths in that time and at that place flowed directly from a foolish policy that gave (and still gives) greater respect to the enemy’s safety than to that of our own troops.

Nevertheless, when he answered Tapper’s question, Luttrell spoke a greater truth, reflecting his understanding that no war is every perfectly carried out at either a strategic or tactical level.  As long as you’re still fighting, you can still win:

I don’t know what part of the film you were watching, but hopelessness really never came into it. I mean, where did you see that? Because there was never a point where we just felt like we were hopelessly lost or anything like that. We never gave up. We never felt like we were losing until we were actually dead.

What Luttrell left unsaid at the time was that his team still believed in the fight.  More importantly, so did America’s then-Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush.  Bush never doubted the righteousness of trying to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Afghani stronghold.  As far as all concerned believed, Afghanistan was an important war that would benefit America.  In that regard, therefore, when troops die in a righteous (and, one hopes, victorious) war, their deaths have meaning regardless of the success or failure of any single engagement.

Which brings us to the second type of wasted death in war:  deaths that occur because the war’s supporters fail to understand that they are supporting a bad or lost cause.  In every case where a country’s military is the aggressor, only to lose dramatically to a better prepared, more ferocious fighting force, many on the losing side are going to have to ask “Why the heck did we start this?  What a waste of lives and resources.”  Even if you have the best cause in the world, if there’s no way you can possibly win, those who die have wasted their lives.

The caveat to this viewpoint, of course, is that one only realizes after the fact that a war was a waste.  During the American Revolution, many might have said that the revolutionaries’ stand against the most powerful military in the world was bound to be a waste . . . except that it wasn’t.

Obama-salutingThe above examples of wasted deaths in war are familiar to any history student.  Barack Obama has added an entirely new category to “wasted war deaths,” one that I don’t think has ever before occurred in recorded history:  deaths that are a waste because the Commander-in-Chief couldn’t care less about victory or the troops, but merely wants to give the appearance of fighting for short-term domestic political advantage.

Per Robert Gates:

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates writes. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Except that Obama didn’t get out of Afghanistan, because it would have looked bad politically, since he’d run on a platform claiming that Afghanistan was a good war. Of course, he probably didn’t believe that either. Both he and Hillary, after all, agreed in Gates’ presence that they were determinedly opposed to the Iraq War merely out of political expediency, without any regard for America’s best interests:

“Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Given this cavalier attitude, it’s no surprise that the President did nothing to secure Iraq, and sat (and has long been sitting) idly by as al Qaeda has retaken city after city in which American men fought and died. By deliberately turning victory into defeat, Obama has taken every single Iraq death and wiped it of meaning. While they were once deaths in a just cause to bring democracy to a benighted land, thereby decreasing the risk of devastating terror attacks against America, now those same deaths have become pointless, since Obama didn’t just allow the status quo to reappear, he fomented an even worse situation than before. (Saddam Hussein was bad; al Qaeda is worse.) Somehow it’s perfectly symbolic of this travesty that the military’s last act with regard to Fallujah is to persecute Marines.

Not only was Obama uninterested in our nation’s security or our military victories, he was singularly uninterested in the troops:

One quality I missed in Obama was passion, especially when it came to the two wars,’ Gates wrote.

‘In my presence, Bush — very unlike his father — was pretty unsentimental. But he was passionate about the war in Iraq; on occasion, at a Medal of Honor ceremony or the like, I would see his eyes well up.

‘I worked for Obama longer than Bush, and I never saw his eyes well up.’

No surprise there, of course.  To Obama the narcissist, the men and women in the military are merely objects serving his ego. It’s therefore also no surprise that the only subject regarding the military that excited him was getting gays into it, a passion with interesting Freudian implications:

Gates wrote that ‘the only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

Just as disturbing as Obama’s warped values is his complete disinterest in even a simulacrum of competence:

President Obama is “chronically incapable” of military strategy and falls far short of his predecessor George W. Bush, according to one of Britain’s most senior military advisors.

[snip]

[Sir Hew] Strachan, a current member of the Chief of the Defense Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, cited the “crazy” handling of the Syrian crisis as the most egregious example of a fundamental collapse in military planning that began in the aftermath of 9/11. “If anything it’s gone backwards instead of forwards, Obama seems to be almost chronically incapable of doing this. Bush may have had totally fanciful political objectives in terms of trying to fight a global War on Terror, which was inherently astrategic, but at least he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do in the world. Obama has no sense of what he wants to do in the world,” he said.

So, yes, Operation Red Wings was a waste, not at the time, but in retrospect — and this is so because we have a president who views war solely in terms of his own self-aggrandizement and political objectives, without any regard for America’s national security or strategic interests, or for the troops who have served and are currently serving in our American military.  Obama has managed to negate any good the troops did before he became President and, since he became president, they are merely objects on his own personal chessboard.  Like some spoiled potentate, he moves them around for his pleasure and views their deaths with clinical dispassion.

(See also this article, from Foreign Policy.)

 

Progressives flog themselves into an anti-Bush frenzy to avoid dealing with Obama’s many and manifest failures

An online magazine called Jezebel bills itself as the “Home of Shiny Happy Ladies.”  Jezebel might want to rethink that tag line if a post that Madeline Davis wrote about George Bush is anything to go by.  As best as I can tell, the trigger for Davis’s fevered post is the fact that George Bush went onto the Jay Leno show and showed off some of his paintings:

Bush isn’t Rembrandt (despite his joking belief that there’s a Rembrandt hiding inside him), but he’s definitely got some painterly talent — kind of along Grandma Moses lines.  I like his stuff.  I don’t love it, but I think something like this is rather charming, and shows a nice sense of line, color, and whimsey:

Bush bathtub painting

Davis, however, sees a nefarious plot behind Bush’s reinvention as a painter: he’s trying to convince credulous Americans that he’s not evil incarnate but is, instead, “a harmless and adorable, sweet old man.”  In an obscenity-laced, embittered, wandering post, Davis brings up every charge, however silly, routinely leveled at Bush. It’s as if Bush is still in the White House, rather than having spent five years away from the job — during which time, incidentally, even as Obama routinely scapegoated him, Bush kept a dignified silence about Obama’s pin-ball karooming from one failure to another.

Having read Davis’s screed several times, two things became apparent:  (1) Davis lives in a fact-free zone, and compensates for this with discredited studies, innuendo, lies, conspiracy theories, and personal attacks.  (2) Davis is almost certainly engaging in denial on a massive scale, since it’s undoubtedly easier to repeat the rote attacks used against Bush during his presidency than to acknowledge that Obama is a dishonest man and an incompetent president.

Since I’ll be quoting Davis, please be warned that there are a lot of obscenities ahead.  Speaking of obscenities, have you ever noticed that there seems to be an inversely proportional relationship between the number of obscenities that a post-writer uses and that writer’s level of knowledge and intelligence?  The higher the first, the lower the second….

(Warning:  sarcasm ahead.)  Let’s start with the post’s elegant, eloquent title:  “Fuck George Bush and His Stupid Fucking Cat Paintings.”  You might see inarticulate profanity when you read that.  I, however, having labored through Davis’s entire post, see an exquisite parallelism, as she gracefully ends the post with a sentence that perfectly echoes its opening.  “Fuck George Bush and fuck his piece of shit cat paintings. My 10-month-old sister makes better art than that.”  When a post is book-ended by such poetic, expressive speech, you know that there’s going to be some fine stuff in between.

Sadly, Davis, showing that she lacks the true artist’s touch, unbalances her masterful parallelism when, about a quarter of a way into her post, she rather randomly describes Bush, again, as “an [sic] noted asshole who made a bunch of fucked up cat paintings.”  One wonders what Freud would make of the fact that, of all the paintings George Bush has done to date, it’s the cat paintings that drive Davis into an F-bomb frenzy.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been rather taken by “epic” things.  I loved Jean-Claude Van Damme’s epic splits and laughed at Channing Tatum’s epic spoof.  Honestly, though, you’ve never seen epic until you’ve read Davis’s ad hominem insults against Bush.  Clearly, in the five years since he left office, they’ve been building up inside her until those cat paintings caused them to explode with volcanic force.  Davis describes Bush as a “war criminal,” “one of the most terrible things to ever happen to the United States,” “a reminder that evil exists,” “incredibly  harmful,” and “a terrible, nightmare person.”  I don’t want to read too much into Davis’s writing, but I get the feeling she really doesn’t like the man.

And why doesn’t Davis like Bush?  Oh, the usual stuff, all of which she mashes up into one vitriolic, obscene sentence:  “George W. Bush is the war criminal who — in addition to his war crimes — shat on abortion and gay rights, botched hurricane relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and drove the U.S. economy into the ground.”  (Hyperlinks omitted because I really don’t feel like sending traffic to al Jazeera, among other sites.)

To begin at the beginning, Davis accuses George Bush of causing 9/11 because he didn’t take seriously briefings in and around August saying that al Qaeda was planning a terrorist attack against America.  Her source for that statement is Kurt Eichenwald, who claims that, in addition to an August 2001 briefing to the president that said al Qaeda was up to something, Eichenwald also saw “excerpts” of other documents in which the CIA said something hinky was going on.  Even Eichenwald concedes, though, that nobody had any idea what exactly was going on.  In other words, even if the Bush administration had responded with the utmost seriousness to the available data, there’s still no evidence whatsoever that the administration had facts sufficient to realize that al Qaeda had decided to hijack plans on September 11 and fly them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Congress.  Nor was the available information coherent enough for the hijackers to have been apprehended.  That inchoate information never made it to the White House.

Having wallowed in a fact-free world of what “might have been,” Davis gets to the war crimes accusation.  Summed up, she says that Bush lied and 4,489 U.S. troops died and almost 500,000 Iraqis died.  Oy, where to begin!  First of all, Bush acted on the data available to him, data that convinced most world leaders that Saddam Hussein did actually possess weapons of mass destruction.  (As it happens, I think that Hussein had such weapons, and took advantage of the ongoing UN debate about invasion to ship them to Syria.  Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if Assad subsequently use those weapons against his own citizens, prompting Obama to place an asterisk on his previous “crossed a red line” threat to Syria regarding chemical weapons.)  One can debate the wisdom of invading Iraq, but there can be no doubt that the intelligence from all credible sources, both American and British, was that Hussein was a regional threat.

And about those war dead.  Yes, American troops died in Iraq and each loss is an individual tragedy.  Nevertheless, when Bush left office, those losses had meaning and purpose:  the Surge had succeeded in turning Iraq around and enabling it to set up a functioning, reasonably democratic government.  An intelligent post-war foreign policy would have seen American troops remain in Iraq to maintain those gains, much as American troops remained in Japan and Germany for — let’s see, how many years now? — 68 years after victory on the battlefield.  What happened instead was that Barack Obama, without consolidating America’s gains, simply siphoned troops out of Iraq.  The region has since destabilized completely, undoing the work that those 4,489 troops died to achieve.

As for the almost 500,000 dead Iraqis, the Lancet study that came up with the initial high numbers was completely discredited, to the point where the numbers could reasonably be called fraudulent.  Iraqis certainly died — possibly around 70,000 of them, most of whom were either actual fighters who died in combatant or civilians who died at the hands of other Muslims — and that’s a tragedy, but Davis avoids a larger tragedy by focusing narrowly on a war that could have freed them had Obama not reversed American troops’ gains.

Citizens in a tyrannically ruled country (sadly) always die.  It’s the nature of tyranny and it was certainly the nature of Hussein’s tyrannical regime.  It’s difficult to count accurately the number who died during Hussein’s dictatorship, since you have to count all the people who died in the war with Iran, the 100,000-200,000 Kurds killed with poison gas (the same gas that was used in Syria?), and the “enemies of the state” whom Hussein and his mad sons “disappeared,” usually after some preliminary torture.  Nevertheless, the usual estimate for Iraqi deaths at Hussein’s hands comes in at around 600,000 – 700,000 people.  Keep in mind, too, that since Obama decreed that the U.S. should abandon Iraq, at least 16,000 more Iraqis have died in the intervening years.

Oh, and speaking of war dead, I don’t recall George Bush spending hours at his desk once a week personally picking those in Pakistan and Yemen (countries with which we are not at war) who will live and those who will die.  Obama does, however, diligently working over his “kill list.”  Nor did Bush ever boast about being “really good at killing people” — Obama did, though.  Actually, I think the last American before Obama who made that kind of boast might have been Charles Manson . . . or maybe it was the Hillside Strangler.

And then there’s the tired old Hurricane Katrina accusation.  Where to begin?  How about the fact that reports about murder, rape, cannibalism — all of which were said to have occurred within three days of the Hurricane and all of which were blamed on Bush — were lies?  Or the fact that it was a lie that more blacks died in Katrina than did whites?  Or the fact that the corrupt New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (a black man) did nothing to help New Orleans citizens, even though he had warning (from the feds) and the means (those infamous flooded school buses)?

Davis even brings up the tiresome canard, first raised after Katrina, that Bush didn’t care about black people.  It’s hard to prove a negative.  Certainly, there is no spoken or written evidence that Bush ever spoke slightingly of African Americans or advanced policies, especially economic policies, that harmed them.  It’s worth pointing out in that respect that, even if one assumes solely for the sake of argument that Bush was anti-black, Obama seems to care even less about them.  During his five years in the White House, blacks in America have ping-ponged back and forth between economic stagnation and collapse.  The old segregationists would have been proud of the social and economic havoc wreaked on black America during the Obama administration.  Obama’s got the lip service down just fine, but at a practical level, his presidency has been a disaster for American blacks.

Davis runs out of steam after attacking Bush for racism, so she never gets around to developing her claims that he destroyed abortion, gay rights, and the economy.  Pardon me if I’m confused, but I don’t recall George Bush signing any federal laws that made abortion illegal or that discriminated against gays.  It’s true that he did not force all Americans to pay for every woman’s abortion, nor did he announce that federal law recognizes gay marriage.  What’s also true, though, is that while he was personally pro-life and anti-gay marriage, his policies in both regards were merely continuations of Clinton-era policies.

When it comes to the economic collapse, Davis’s inchoate attack fares no better.  As you undoubtedly remember, the trigger for the collapse was the housing market, which had been turned into Swiss cheese thanks to Clinton-era Democrat-spawned policies forcing banks to give loans to people who were manifestly bad credit risks.  The banks sought to offset this risk, and money-men sought to benefit from this risk, by bundling bad loans.  Home prices and bad debt increased in tandem until the entire thing collapsed.  While it collapsed on George Bush’s watch, Davis probably is unaware that Bush and other Republicans saw the potential for collapse and tried desperately to avert it — only to be repulsed by Congressional Democrats who continued to insist that banks continue to make bad loans so as to redistribute home ownership to those who couldn’t possibly pay.

Reading her fire-breathing post, it’s clear that Davis has lost her way in a fever-swamp of Bush hatred.  Presumably, since Bush has been gone from the scene for five years now, this hatred usually lies fallow, but is periodically resurrected by exposure to cat paintings.  (Incidentally, real art critics concede that some of Bush’s paintings have a naive charm.  It’s that Grandma Moses thing I mentioned.)

Davis is quite obviously a very angry, frustrated person.  If I were playing armchair psychiatrist, I would say that she keeps stoking her rage at George Bush so that she doesn’t have to deal with her disappointment about Barack Obama.  After all, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, and it must be hard for a die-hard Leftist to be presented with laundry-list of Obama’s sins — sins that manage to offend his base, the center, and (predictably) conservatives.  Here’s a short list of the things that Davis is probably able to ignore only by keeping her wrath focused on the politics of the past:

  • Biggest debt in American history
  • Biggest deficit in American history
  • Kill lists
  • Boasts about killing people
  • NSA spying scandal
  • IRS abuse of power scandal
  • Failing on ever metric with the Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, when he threw his weight behind the now-despised Muslim Brotherhood
  • Benghazi scandal, including lies and dereliction of duty before and during the attack, and lies after the attack
  • Alienating America’s allies
  • Fast & Furious scandal
  • Immoral silence when Iranian tried to stage a revolution against the Mullahs
  • Passivity about Syria which led to a chemical massacre, which led Obama to lie about his previous statements in order to avoid having to square off against Assad
  • Incremental inflation
  • Stagflation
  • Longest “recession” in history (which I think, contrary to economists’ carefully drawn lines, qualifies as a Depression)
  • Accusations of fraud in employment numbers before an election
  • Disastrous employment and income rates for black Americans
  • Obamacare — massive fraud in the inception; massive incompetence in the execution

It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.  Suffice to say that there’s enough there to keep any good Progressive’s eyes fixed firmly on the past so as to avoid Obama’s and Progressivism’s spectacular and corrupt implosion in the present.

A few articles that I’d like to recommend about Obama and Syria — and why I’m no hypocrite when it comes to supporting Iraq and not Syria

Peggy Noonan, who can be very good, talks about how Obama got us into this mess and the contortions in which he engage to save face.

Peter Wehner talks about just how bad this mess really is, even with Putin having given Obama an out.

A Politico article about the debacle in Washington and the apathy on American streets.

Jonah Goldberg brings his wry wit to the great communicator’s disastrous communication about Syria.

All I can think of is Hitler playing Neville Chamberlain.  After that humiliating debacle, England managed to make a wonderful showing during WWII.  Since then, however, she’s been a broken country, both morally and economically.  In other words, she never recovered from Chamberlain’s naive inability to stop Hitler when it would still have made a difference.

While I’m waffling on about Syria, I’d like to excuse myself of hypocrisy when it comes to not wanting the war in Syria, while supporting the war in Iraq.

First of all, I wasn’t that interested in politics during the lead-up to the Iraq War.  I didn’t have much of a position going in.  Once we were in, though, I said what I’m saying now:  Just showing up at a war is not enough.  Instead, merely showing up without planning to win is terribly dangerous.  Once in a war, you fight to win.  If you don’t win, you’ve lost.  It’s that binary.  Kerry’s statement that any American action would be “unbelievably small” reveals what a disaster we were headed to.  There is no “unbelievably small.”  There is just win or lose.  Bush may have underestimated Iraqi resistance, but his “shock and awe” approach had the right idea — you fight to win, especially in Arab lands, where the population is always drawn to the strong horse and willing to savage the weak horse.

Second, had I been more interested in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, I guess I would have felt that the proximity to 9/11 made a difference.  From the beginning, Bush argued that Iraq was a direct threat to the United States.  Whether that argument was correct is irrelevant here.  That was the argument made, based upon the best available information about chemical weapons, Hussein’s known animosity to the United States, and his support for terrorism and terrorists.  In the case of Syria, Obama hasn’t even tried to argue that the situation in Syria puts America at risk.  Instead, he’s using the “responsibility to protect” doctrine that’s the brainchild of anti-semite Samantha Powers to say that Syria presents the only time America ever should go to war:  when it’s a purely altruistic act that sees her expending blood and money without any benefit to the United States.

Third, Iraq was a population under a dictator’s heel.  Bush bet — and correctly — that many Iraqi’s would see America as a liberator, not a conqueror.  We were the good guys, fighting on behalf of the Iraqi people against the bad guy and his administration.  In Syria, Obama is trying to drop America into one of the bloodiest civil wars in our lifetimes.  Both sides are equally barbaric, unprincipled, immoral, and steeped in hatred for America.  No good can come of sending American money and, as Obama’s mission creep illustrated, American troops into this bloodbath.

Fourth, I trusted Bush and I thought his advisers were intelligent men.  Obama is a liar on a heroic scale, so I reflexively disbelieve everything that comes out of his mouth.  Add to that the fact that he has assembled a collection of hacks, buffoons, racists, and antisemites to advise him, and that he pretty much refuses to talk to people with military expertise, and you can see that I don’t want to follow him into battle.  Nor do I want America to follow him into battle.

Please feel free to call me on this (politely, of course), or to offer further distinctions between Then and Now.

Book review: Marcus Luttrell’s “Service: A Navy SEAL at War”

I promise that this post will be a review of Marcus Luttrell’s Service: A Navy SEAL at War.  First, though, I have to start with the ridiculous, before I can give proper context, not to the sublime (because war isn’t sublime), but to the important and meaningful.

The ridiculous is, of course, MSNBC’s own Chris Hayes, who earned himself a great deal of much-deserved ridicule for his inability to acknowledge military heroism:

CHRIS HAYES: Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow.  Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke [sic, actually Beck], who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible].  Um, I, I, ah, back sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”?  I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

One doesn’t need a psychiatric degree to know that Mr. Hayes probably suffers from, or should suffer from, paruresis — the inability to urinate in front of others.  Regardless of the exact nature of his physical attributes, this is a guy who, deep down, is pretty damn sure that he’s under-endowed and can’t measure up.  Only a deep and abiding inferiority complex could see a young man, ostensibly in the prime of his physical life, unable to recognize and appreciate that others are willing to make sacrifices he’s incapable of even contemplating.

Perhaps because I’m a woman, it’s easy for me to acknowledge my own physical cowardice.  Maybe a man has to rationalize himself away from a fight in which he could have served.  For example, I know a man who could have served, but didn’t, in Vietnam.  He was once an anti-War protester.  Now, though, he goes around boasting about how he’s more man than anyone who served — “I could have done that, and I, with my super-duper manly-man skills would have out-gunned everyone there.  I just chose not to serve [and, sotto voce, I'm eternally grateful my draft number didn't come up].”   Hayes represents the other end of the self-justification spectrum:  “Service is stupid.  I would never have gone into a fight because I’m not stupid.”

This is the mindset that results in movies such as the Danish film In a Better World, an Oscar-winning foreign film.  Aside from some indescribably boring film-making techniques, the movie got off to a promising start, with a premise that seemed startlingly un-European:  Fight back against bullies.

In the movie, Sofus, a bully, is going after another schoolboy, Elias.  A new kid, Christian, who has traveled with his father and experienced many new schools, comes to this particular school and, when he is too friendly with Elias, Sofus turns on Christian too.  The next time the bully starts on Elias, Christian beats the crap out of Sofus.  When Christian’s father picks him up from school and asks “Why?”, Christian has a simple answer:  If had hadn’t done this, I would have been bullied again.  Now, all the kids know to leave me alone.

I was impressed.  Who knew that a European film could be so wise?  After all, we know that, unless you stand up to bullies, they’ll keep bullying.  Stand up to them, however, even if you take some knocks, and they back off.  It’s basic school yard logic.

It turns out that I was impressed too quickly.  Christian, the boy who stood up to bullies was actually a psychopath who started dragging poor victimized (but peaceful) Elias down the path to total warfare.  This scenario, the movie implies, although it never says so, was how Columbine got started.  Never defend yourself, because if you do, you will become a crazy wacko who tries to commit mass murder.  Always let wiser, peace-making heads intervene, causing you to back off, leaving more room within which the bully can operate.

And so, at long last, we get to Marcus Luttrell’s Service.  Incidentally, when I speak here of Luttrell, that’s a bit of a shorthand, since he worked with James D. Hornfischer, who wrote the excellent Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of her Survivors.  My best guess is that Luttrell provided the stories and that Hornfischer shaped them into a very readable book.

Boiled down to its essentials, Service is the un-Chris Hayes and the un-Northern European pacifism.  Instead, it’s about those men who understand that the only way to deal with bullies is to take them on and defeat them.

Does this mean that those who stand against bullies are bullies themselves?  No.  Unlike bullies who happily and viciously trample anyone in their path, a hero carefully targets his fight, taking it to the bully, and then stands down when that fight is finished.  It’s that ethos that permeates Service.

I found Service very difficult to read, not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s a good book.  Luttrell’s first book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, was painful to read, but it had what was, for me, a recognizable story arc:  our hero trains; our hero faces a terrible battle in which his comrades, after fighting with awe-inspiring bravery, die; and our hero struggles through adversity to survive.  I knew what was coming in advance because that operation was so famous, and because I recognized the narrative arc (although it was still upsetting for this armchair warrior and bona fide coward to read).

Service, however, lacks the familiar narrative of an epic tragedy.  Instead, Luttrell walks the reader through the fight in Ramadi from 2006 to 2008.  Patrol after patrol, fire fight after fire fight, frustrating bureaucratic interlude after frustrating bureaucratic interlude — as you read the book, you feel as if you’re there and for me, that’s a tough feeling. I knew about the bureaucracy (especially the increasingly restrictive rules of engagement), and I had a sort of vague, MSM-ish understanding of the reality of battle, but Luttrell’s book is much more intense.  Here’s part of his description of the end result of a battle that went south for the SEALS:

When the QRF [quick reaction force] arrived outside [the building being attacked] with a couple of Bradleys, the squad moved quickly downstairs and lined up to break out of the house.  They tossed two smoke grenades outside to cover their exfil, then burst through the door.  Two Iraqis were in the lead, followed by Elliott [Miller, who had shrapnel wounds and was bleeding heavily], hobbling along with help from Johnny Brands.  The jundis [Iraqis fighting with the Americans] had just hit the street when the world went dark.  The IED might have been dropped down on them from the roof in a backpack.  Or it might have been planted in the ground or hung on the gate while they were inside.  All we know for sure is that it was a trap set by enemies who were obviously wise to everything we were doing and how we were doing it.  They knew that straight-on firefights were losing propositions.  So they snuck around and planted their bombs where they thought we’d be.  They sure got it right that time.  An enormous explosion engulfed our guys as they exited the house.

The explosion killed the two Iraqis leading the way; the first man simply disappeared, evaporated by the blast, his scan remnants driving away in the air, a pink mist, while the second, partly sheltered by the leader, was nearly sliced in half at the waist.  The blast still had enough force to devastate Elliott.  It tore into his body wherever it wasn’t protected by body armor.  His legs were shredded from midthigh down.  He had a hole in his right shoulder and the parts of him that weren’t covered by plates were being eaten into by a terrible chemical residue.

[snip]

Johnny was better off, but that wasn’t saying much.  Both his feet were attached to his ankles only by the Achilles tendons.

[snip]

Looking down at Elliott, Dozer saw that his friend’s legs seemed loose and detached in the bloody mess of his pants.  The steel rifle magazine stored in his front vest pouches had been dished in by the blast.  Elliott’s watch was charred and black but, amazingly, still kept time.  Only his body armor saved him from being killed instantly.  Dozer ran his hands under Elliott’s plates, checking his torso for wounds.  As he removed Elliott’s gear, Dozer realized he didn’t have the first idea where to begin treating such a seriously wounded man.  That was when he heard another explosion, a smaller one, go off in the courtyard.  A grenade.  The insurgents were still out there, probing them, probably planning another attack.  (Service, pp. 145-147.)

And so it goes, as the men work desperately to extricate themselves and their wounded teammates from a rain of fire.  The SEAL team did eventually make it to safety, and Elliott and Johnny Brands survived, but it was a close thing, and their injuries were devastating.

I chose the above excerpt because of the immediacy of the story.  With Luttrell’s narrative abilities and Hornfischer’s writing chops, you, the reader, feel as if you’re there, in the middle of a battle in the streets of Ramadi.  That’s why it took me a while to read the book, despite the fact that it’s interesting, entertaining, and moving.  After going (in my head) through a battle with the guys, I need to rest and regroup.

There are a few overarching themes in the book:  Luttrell believes deeply in God, country, and America’s armed forces.  His love for his twin brother (also a SEAL) and for his SEAL teammates generally is transcendent, and keeps bringing him back to the fight. In addition to being an action-adventure story and an homage to the SEALS specifically and the fighting forces in Ramadi generally, this book is also a eulogy and a memorial to those SEALS who made the ultimate sacrifice there and in Afghanistan:  Mark Lee, Michael Monsoor, Carson Vaughn, Jon Tumilson, and so many other good men (including all those who died on August 6, 2011), each one a man who directed his formidable strength, intelligence, and energy, not to mindless X-sports, but to protecting his country and fighting for his comrades.

This middle class, female, armchair warrior walked away from Luttrell’s book pretty convinced that Navy SEALS are crazy — but I mean that in a good way.  Only crazy people (in a good way) would put themselves through the training they do and live for the fight the way they do.

Thank God for these crazy people, who can bend their energies to a focused fight against bullies, and who have the moral decency to live by America’s rules of engagement, even as nothing constrains the other side.  Even though Luttrell vividly describes the way the SEALS chafe and suffer at times when the ROEs prevent them from hitting a known and obvious target, they are proud of the fact that they reserve their fire for combatants, and that they neither target nor shield themselves behind the innocents.  This ethos, one that one can call civilized warfare,” makes the fighting much harder in the rabbit warren of Ramadi, but it is one of the things that separates the heroes from the sadistic bullies.

If you would like to immerse yourself in a book that details ferocious urban warfare against a wily and amoral enemy, Service is your book.  The stories are compelling, the writing styling is clear and gripping, and the people you meet in the book are people you’d like to meet in the real world too.

Our diversity minded administration marks the end of the Iraq war in its own peculiar fashion

One of the most iconic British World War I recruiting posters had as its goal shaming slackers into enlisting by reminding them that, at some future time, their children would want to look up to them for their war service:

The Obama administration has just added a whole new twist to the concept of what constitutes memorable, boast-worthy service during war time.  The administration is putting together a special dinner party to mark the war’s end.  Since it obviously can’t invite every one of the men and women who have served over the past nine years, it’s put together a checklist for qualities the putative dinner guests should meet.

Now, if I were putting together this checklist, I might look at such things as bravery in battle, contributions to moral, dedication, etc.  Apparently, though, I’m stuck in the wrong war, in the wrong century.  Blackfive sets me right:

The military was always the place for people to succeed in ways that they may not have had the chance to in civilian society.  Whether grunt, medic or quartermaster, the military was a place where you succeeded based on the merits of your ability, your hard work.

That’s why I get really really pissed at the Obama Administration when I see things like this – this posting at the Daily Beast POLITICO via This Ain’t Hell about the guest list of enlisted military members for a dinner party to mark the end of the Iraq war (OIF):

The list is being assembled by the senior enlisted representative for the five service chiefs, and the goal is a mix that is racially diverse, old and young, gay and straight.

What the hell?!

Hey, congrations Master Chief, you’ve been selected to dine with the President because you’re the oldest Sailor in DC area who served in Iraq?!

Hey, Gunney, because you’re gay and worked at Balad, you get to meet the President?!

(Read the rest here, both ’cause it’s really good and because it suggests a much more appropriate guest list.)

Can you imagine the hysterical laughter and disbelief in the British War Office during WWI if the correct answer to the child’s question (“Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”) was “I was gay” or “I was the oldest person in my unit” or “I had a Hispanic surname.”  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with being gay or old or Hispanic, but they are not the primary indicia of noble service to ones country — except, of course, in Obamaland.

I’m sorry to say this, but our Commander in Chief is a joke — a very bad joke.  I’m pretty sure, though, that this is one joke that would not make Martin Luther King laugh.  I believe it was he who thought the best criterion for judging a person wasn’t by looking at the color of his skin (or his sexual preferences or his age), but by examining the content of his character.  That sure goes double and triple for those who have served and who, unlike most of us, have been given the rare opportunity to learn about and put to use the best part of their characters.

Why can’t we fight to the finish this time, so we’ll never have to do it again?

A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again.  If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?

World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable.  By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”

[Verse:]
‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won

[Refrain:]
This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time

This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town

For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then

Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again

Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free

[Coda:]
We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again

Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did.  First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy.  Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies.  It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.

Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.

I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.

“Keynes” and other back-pats

Here’s a Robert Samuelson article, “bye bye Keynes” that should give us all pause: the arguments he uses to write Keynes’ obituary are arguments that we all posited in our own excoriation of Keynes in years past, in response to a string of commentators, ranging from A to Z.

I’ve been reviewing our last few years at Bookworm Room and I think that we all deserve a round of huzzas and raised beer mugs or wine glasses, whatever is at hand. We’ve been so right about so many issues, be it “Keynesian”economics; anthropogenic global warming; the Islamist threat; U.S. fossil fuel reserves; “green” energy; Iraq; Obama; the EU’s collapse…and on and on und so weiter.  Sometimes, our prescience has preceded events on the ground by years.

To all of you Bookworm guests and, especially, to Bookworm, our hostess: I’m so d*** proud to know you! I am so much smarter for having enjoyed the many experiences of your insights and commentary.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East

Israel as the next Saudia Arabia?

 

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Israel’s unusually large and high-quality shale oil reserves may yield as much oil as all of Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703806304576242420737584278.html

 

These discoveries are in addition to of Israel’s recently diclosed gas reserves, also anticipated to be vaste.

 

There are few countries in the world as reality-based as Israel, because Israel has no other choice. It must be reality based in order to survive. This convinces me that Israel will waste  no time in developing these deposits, not only for self-sufficiency but also to gain leverage with the international community. Imagine the political consequences,, if you would, if Europe no longer had to depend upon the Middle East for its oil.

 

Oh, I wish I could say the same about our own country, rich beyond imagination in oil, gas and coal reserves. In our own country, a far-too-comfortable bourgeoisie entertains unicorn visions of Shangri La-like utopias, unspoiled by any energy development other than windmills and solar panels manufactured in China. The price of these idle visions is steep, as measured by lost jobs, investment capital, trade balances and tax revenues, not to mention military missions to fund our energy needs and keep world energy supplies safe. The self-satisfied American bourgeois elites sleep well, oblivious to the environmental, economic and social disasters inflicted upon our own country and others to satisfy our presumptions of environmental virtue. Not even a record recession (depression?) and all its accompanying miseries is enough to shake our self-satisfied masses from their ut-opium dreams.

 

The bottom-line is that most of the bad international news that we read about today, from Iraq to Libya, Iran, North Africa, Sudan, Nigeria and world jihadism in general, has to do with the quest for affordable energy. Take away oil as an issue by crashing its price on world markets through oversupply, and most of these issues cited above simply fade away, along with the revenues transfered to countries that use them to fund activities inimical to our prosperity and civilization. Crash the price of fuel, jihadism dies. Crash the price of fuel, the world’s poor and unemployed benefit. Israel gets it, we don’t.

 

North America enjoys the world’s largest deposits of oil, gas and coal. Europe has recently discovered immense gas deposits that should more-than meet its internal needs. It’s time for our civilization to wake up: we should be developing our own energy resources as a crack pace, if for nothing else than to avoid a world disaster. War and poverty also have environmental consequences.

 

A couple of AP articles that caught my eye, both for what they say and for what they don’t say *UPDATED*

I was very surprised to see an AP wire story reporting that Islamic militants (as opposed to mere “militants” or “insurgents”) were holding “Christians” (as opposed to mere “people”) hostage.  Even more surprising, the AP reported that the Islamic militants were probably affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq, an entity one apparently couldn’t acknowledge during the Bush years.

Just as I was thinking to myself, “Well, that AP worm has certainly turned, with this surprisingly honest report,” I read another wire story about the Chandra Levy murder trial.  You remember that story, right?  A decade ago, Rep. Gary Condit’s career was destroyed when an affair he had with Levy (which was definitely an unprincipled, immoral thing to do, since he was married), got morphed by the media into an unofficial murder charge.  Now, the probable actual murderer is on trial.

This is what the AP says about the defendant:  “Ingmar Guandique, a native of El Salvador, is on trial for the murder and attempted sexual assault of Levy nearly a decade ago.”

Now I, not having been born yesterday, verbalized yet another thought to myself:  “What are the odds that Guandique is an illegal immigrant?”  Turns out the odds are 100%.  Somehow, though, the AP just couldn’t bring itself to put that adjective out there.

Let me remind the open borders crowd that one of the virtues of having legal as opposed to illegal immigration, is that it enhances our government’s ability to weed out the killers before they cross our borders.

UPDATE:  This Philip Terzian post about the WaPo best seller list seems like an appropriate coda to a post on media bias.  I especially like the way Terzian describes the media’s inability to recognize its own bias:

One of the inherent difficulties of defining left-wing bias in the press to journalists is that it is something like describing the ocean to fish: It is so pervasive, and such a comfortable, nurturing environment, that it is hardly noticed.

Yeah — what he said.

Can it be good that Brad Bird is thinking about making a movie about the Iraq War? *UPDATED*

UPDATE: Thanks to the amazing power of the internet, a reliable source has let me know that this is a rumor, pure and simple.  No truth to it.  I’m leaving this post here, however,  just in case anyone follows up on it, so that there is no confusion about the truth (this) and the rumor (below).  Also, it is a cool mind game to imagine someone with Bird’s abilities tackling a story-line like this.  I might not necessarily like the results, but they’d still be interesting.

Okay, this is rumor, arising from speculation, with a sound basis in gossip, but I’m going to pass it on for what it’s worth.

You all know who Brad Bird is, right?  He worked on the Simpsons show, his first full length movie was The Iron Giant, and he shot to “I know that name” fame with The Incredibles.  The latter is a truly brilliant movie.  It’s witty, exciting, imaginative, and the voice casting is unusually perfect.  My favorite character is Edna “E” Mode, who is voiced by Brad Bird himself:

What’s also great about The Incredibles is the core values that permeate the movie’s fabric:  competition is good, striving for success is good, an education that seeks equality of outcome instead of equality of opportunity is bad:

Helen: Dash… this is the third time this year you’ve been sent to the office. We need to find a better outlet. A more… constructive outlet.
Dash: Maybe I could, if you’d let me go out for sports.
Helen: Honey, you know why we can’t do that.
Dash: But I promise I’ll slow up. I’ll only be the best by a tiny bit.
Dash: Dashiell Robert Parr, you are an incredibly competitive boy, and a bit of a show-off. The last thing you need is temptation.
Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

This was a subversive movie, and the funny thing was that even the people who worked on it didn’t realize it.  I know this because I knew a lot of the people involved in the film since it was made at Pixar Studios, across the bay from my Marin home base.  All of them, without exception, are die-hard Democrats who loathed Bush with an irrational passion, and rejoiced in Obama’s election.  They are unthinking, knee-jerk liberals, yet it was they who kept saying how brilliant the principles in The Incredibles were.  I pointed out, delicately, that the principles are at odds with an identity-based, Big Government, equality of outcome Democratic party, but they were incapable of seeing that.

As for Brad Bird, I don’t know.  I’ve met him once, and can tell you that he is a very nice man on superficial acquaintance, but that’s all I can tell you.  Everything else you know:  brilliant, imaginative and, possibly, subversive.

Which is why I found interesting a rumor that has popped up in Marin:  Bird is planning on making a movie called The Pride of Baghdad, about lions that ended up free after the Shock and Awe campaign in 2003.  My first thought was, “Oh, no!  Now anti-war, anti-American politics are going to trickle down into kids’ movies too.”  My second thought was, “Wait a minute.  I think Brad Bird is a bit subversive.  Let me check this out.”

What checking it had has revealed is that there is indeed a graphic novel called Pride of Baghdad, and it does take as its starting point the lions who escaped from the zoo as a result of the U.S. invasion.  As at least half the consumer reviewers at Amazon like to point out, and you can almost hear the trembling outrage in their voices, U.S. troops shot the lions, a story that made the news back in 2004.  (I rather suspect that the city’s residents were pleased not to have hungry lions roaming around, but that’s just me.)

Beyond that, however, I’m having trouble pinning down whether the book is pro-War or anti-War.  Most reviewers simply raved about the book’s incredibly graphics and its plot’s nuance.  They were vague as to ideology, Instead, they fell into a “this is a great book, I really liked it, take my word for it” mode.

As much as anything else, the Amazon reader reviews hint that it is the reader’s own sensibilities that inform the book.  You got the War is hell, and is worse than a lack of freedom reviews, as well as the War is hell, but being a perpetual prisoner is worse reviews.  It’s entirely possible that the book is so neutral, it is basically a Roar-schach test (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) of each viewer’s own values.  It will be very interesting, therefore, to see what values Brad Bird chooses to emphasize should he make the movie.  Will it be about the evil U.S. and the horrors of war, snatching people from their comfortable prisons and exposing them to death, or will it be about the fact that freedom is not free, but that any price we pay is better than the loss of individualism and freedom?

Is the Obama administration playing games?

Greyhawk is trying to put the pieces together in Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to troop rotation.  Right now, on the information available, it looks as if their’s some sleight of hand going on with regarding to troop movements and the American public.  What do you think?

In the mid-19th Century, Palmerston called the manuverings between Russia and England over Central Asia “the great game.”  It looks as if the Obama administration is so self involved, the only game it’s playing is a shell game with itself and the American people.