Drs. Joel Howell and Sanjay Saint think that the phrase “boots on the ground” to mean persons in the military needs to be retired as demeaning and dehumanizing. I certainly do not think of Captain First Son, USA, as a “boot” (though there were times I was inclined to give him one).

Methinks they have a point. Here’s a bit of their column from the Detroit News:

“Boots on the ground” refers to the wearers of those boots. And those wearers are actual human beings, brave men and women who risk their lives in service to their country abroad.

Some will die there. Some will return home injured; many will receive care at VA facilities.

These people have lives, friends, loved ones, and all too often dreams lost and hopes abandoned on account of what happened to them.

“Boots on the ground” implicitly invites the reader to think not about the many individuals who serve, but instead to reduce those people to a single article of clothing, one that in its uniformity belies the many different types of people who wear those boots.

I will give a dollar to a doughnut that most of those who so casually use the phrase “boots on the ground” have not served. They would send the children of others into harm’s way.

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11 November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Rick Steves is fed up with cable news; he suggests that television news now foments fear for funding. A snippet.

When Walter Cronkite closed the evening news by saying, “And that’s the way it is,” I believe that, to the best of journalists’ knowledge, that really was the way it was. In those days, television networks were willing to lose money on their evening news time slot to bring us the news. It was seen as their patriotic duty as good corporate citizens.

But times have changed, and now corporations have a legal responsibility to maximize short-term profits for their shareholders. They’ve started sexing up, spicing up and bloodying up the news to boost ratings. And 24/7 news channels have to amp up the shrillness to make recycled news exciting enough to watch.

In a sense, news has become entertainment masquerading as news. Now an event is not news, it’s a “crisis.”

The drek to information ratio of TV news, cable or not, is off the scale.

The last time I watched a television news show was a couple of years ago when we had (I kid you not) a white Christmas. We watched local TV News reporters standing around shocked! shocked! I tell you, that below-freezing temperatures are cold and slippery streets lead to car crashes.

At least their findings were factual.

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04 October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Jon Stewart takes on the hysterians.

Below the fold in case it autoplays.

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08 July 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Drumbeats

Culled from a larger article about a veteran’s efforts to provide a means of therapy to other veterans by encouraging them to write about their experiences, here is the nasty truth that the mongers of war want you to ignore (emphasis added).

More than 2 million Americans have deployed in the post-9/11 wars, and they’ve all come back with something. Besides physical wounds and full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder, there are subtler torments: “moral injury,” an affliction separate from PTSD that comes from experiences that transgress deeply held moral beliefs; the weird desire to go back to a place they hate, because now nothing else makes sense; the feeling of extreme isolation, because whereas before they lived among people they’d have died for, now they live among people who barely know there was a war; the nagging certainty that they’ll never feel as alive as they did over there, or as connected to others, and that nothing will ever feel as important.

I encourage you to follow the link and read the rest.

The mongers of war want you to think that war is a John Wayne movie. In the movies, though, unlike in wars, everyone gets up and goes home whole after the shooting stops.

Read the rest, then ask yourself, “Why is it that men too old to serve are so eager for war?”

Old men lie. Young folks die.

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07 July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Joseph J. Ellis, professor of history at Williams College, spots a trend.

When you study how the U.S. goes to war, there is a prevalent though not perfect pattern. The triggering event is often a sudden crisis that galvanizes popular opinion and becomes the immediate occasion for military intervention but subsequently is exposed as a misguided perception or outright fabrication.

The Mexican War began when President Polk cited an attack on American troops in Texas – troops he had deliberately placed there to provoke Mexico. The Spanish American War began when President McKinley claimed that the battleship Maine had been blown up by Spanish saboteurs; subsequent investigations showed that the explosion originated inside the ship, probably due to an accidental fire in the munitions compartment.

Read the rest to see how often this pattern has repeated.

The next time you hear the war drums beating, be very skeptical.

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22 May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dan Simpson counsels against heeding the war fever currently being spread by Republicans. A nugget:

Fortunately, at least three aspects of our society keep us anchored and out of the latest conflict of the day.

The first of these is a deep-rooted sense of our own best interests. Most Americans understand fairly well that we don’t want our sons and daughters in miserable places such as Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine standing at risk to their lives between people who want to fight over something that has nothing to do with us.

The second is that we as Americans have a very short attention span. Notice, for example, that Syria, an intense passion not long ago, is now sloping off into channel-changing obscurity.

(snip)

The third grace that may save us from self-destruction through meddling in other people’s affairs is a decent sense of what is really important to us.

Do please read the rest.

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07 April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Bloomberg’s Pankaj Mishra, published in the Japan Times, questions the relevance of Cold War thinking–and Cold War thinkers–now that the Cold War has been over for almost a generation. He suggests that recent domestic drumbeating about Crimea is, at least in part, an attempt by Cold Warriors to regain their think-tank mojo (and their think-tank gigs).

The Cold War credentialed a kind of “thinker” who cannot think without the help of violently opposed abstractions: good vs. evil, freedom vs. slavery, liberal democracy vs. totalitarianism, and that sort of thing.

Forced into premature retirement by the unexpected collapse of communism in 1989, this thinker re-emerged after Sept. 11, 2001, convinced there was another worthy enemy in the crosshairs: Islamic totalitarianism.

Unchastened by a decade of expensive, counterproductive and widely despised wars, these laptop generals have been trying to reboot their dated software yet again as Russian President Vladimir Putin formalizes his annexation of Crimea.

He goes on to suggest that confrontational Cold War thinking led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as the USSR reacted to its perceptions of American intentions. (We experience the long-term effects of that whenever we stand in a security line at an airport, for that nurtured the Taliban and other forms of Islamic political radicalism, including Al Qaeda).

Follow the link to his article for his arguments. Follow the second link to learn more about the common origins of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

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15 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Der Spiegel points out that, no, it’s not 1914 all over again once more. A snippet:

But in fact the alignments implicated in the Ukrainian emergency bear little relation to the geopolitical constellations of 1914. At that time, two central powers faced a trio of world empires on Europe’s eastern and western peripheries. Today, a broad coalition of Western and Central European states is united in protesting Russia’s interventions in Ukraine. And the restless, ambitious German Kaiserreich of 1914 scarcely resembles the European Union, a multi-state peace framework that finds it difficult to project power or to formulate external policy.

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17 January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Jon Stewart marvels at those who would snatch war from the jaws of peace.

Meanwhile, Chauncey Devega dissects the compulsion of old men to send young men and women to their deaths, using Bill Kristol, leading drum-beater for the Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq, as an example. A nugget (do read the rest):

Kristol leads men into battle from the rear. He is so far in the rear that words and newspaper columns are his ammunition. Kristol’s heroism consists of war mongering pithy in print and on TV; he quite literally has no skin in the game. Such sacrifice is for “those people”–the poor, working classes, and professional soldiers who are offered up for death so that others can feel masculine, tough, and strong.

Jon Stewart via AMERICAblog.

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15 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

The Face of Battle is a book that attempted to recreate for the reader the front-line soldier’s view of battle at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. It does not paint the pretty, romantic picture portrayed in your average movie or television show.

I have read it. You should too.

Here, Thom speaks of the face of battle. His words are directed to President Obama, as they were in the context of Syria, but they apply to everyone who casually advocates blowing stuff up (something, it should be noted, that President Obama does and did not do).

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10 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Noz’s post title says it all.

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09 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Eric Garland explores three American myths about America and war.

Here is his list of myths and a nugget from the discussion. Follow the link for a discussion of each myth and of how they have led us into misadventure.

. . . .

An uncritical acceptance of mid-20th century mythology is what led to such catastrophic strategic errors in America’s wars of adventure. The United States led a cadre of allies into what is historically known as the “Graveyard of Empires,” Afghanistan. While removing the Taliban from the failed state was an imperative, supported by moral justifictions and realpolitik, we should have known that the task of securing the country would require total focus and dedication. After all, President Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski suckered the Soviets into doing the exact same thing as a way to ruin them.

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09 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Thoreau points out the words have meanings and may not mean what you think they mean.

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08 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Rajan Menon thinks that blowing up stuff in Syria is not relevant to America’s international “credibility.”

The foundational assumption of many arguments for hitting Assad is that America’s reputation is on the line. It’s said that bad things will happen if Obama folds: Friends and allies will doubt America’s pledges to protect them; adversaries (Iran, North Korea, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and others), smelling weakness, will act with impunity.

“Credibility” has great power in national security debates.

(snip)

In reality, the credibility gambit often combines sleight of hand with lazy thinking (historical parallels tend to be asserted, not demonstrated) and is a variation on the discredited domino theory. This becomes apparent if one examines how it is being deployed in the debate on Syria.

Making a futile and pointless gesture, one that is agreed will ultimately accomplish nothing, though, will most certainly undermine “credibility”; such is politics a la Animal House.

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08 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Follow the link.

This is just one episode in the long and bloody saga of a Muslim world in transformation, and at the same time torn between acceptance and denial of the world. This episode is also another trap for the West, which is only bound to lose money, influence and its cohesion to the glee of fanatics, Russians, Chinese and assorted satraps all over the world.

This trap opened with the Iranian Revolution and continued with the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. That historical event contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union but created a psychological trap for the West, that of invincibility. That led to the first Gulf War and insidiously and cumulatively developed into a direct threat to the West slowly dragging us into a vortex of barbarity, self-deception and degradation of political life.

And the answer to the question is

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06 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Below the fold because it autoplays.

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05 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

I write mail in response to this news report:

The Honorable Tim Kaine
United States Senate
388 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. Kaine:

I see in today’s Virginian-Pilot that you voted for intervention in Syria because, to paraphrase your statement as quoted in the story, “Somebody should do something.”

As it appears that “doing something” will not end the civil war in Syria, will not bring peace in any form, will not, in fact, accomplish anything other than to blow up more stuff and people, I submit, sir, that “Somebody should do something” is not a sound basis for policy formation.

Copied to my other elected representatives incongruously assembled.

Consider it cc-sa.

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04 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

The resident curmudgeon at my local rag takes the temperature of this area, home of the largest complex of military bases in the world, and finds no sign of war fever.

In fact, quite the opposite.

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The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding the Middle East:  A confusing diagram.

Judging from the headlines at the news sites I frequent, the Very Serious People seem to have decided that the crucial question regarding Syria is whether or not Syria used gas warfare. Framing the question in that way implies that, if the answer is yes, some sort of attack is ipso facto justified.

Ignoring that there is no such thing as a “surgical strike” except in the fantasies of warmongers, the actual question is lost in the frame:

What would an attack accomplish, other than killing some folks?

  • Would it end the civil war in Syria?
  • Would it topple the bad guys and elevate the good guys (ignoring, again, that there don’t seem to be any good guys on either side of the fighting, just innocents in the middle)?
  • Would it protect the innocents?
  • Is there anything outsiders can do to end the carnage?

No one argues that any of these can be answered with a “yes.”

The argument instead seems to be that, by raining remote-controlled death, our disapproval would be made manifest, as a God rains lightning from the sky.

In other words, it is the “diplomatic” equivalent of punching a hole in a wall out of frustration.

The frustration still exists, and now your hand is injured and you have to repair a hole.

This is not diplomacy.

This is the impotent masturbating with missiles.

Image via BartCop.

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01 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

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