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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
[...] On some bases, far from trying out a new strategy, American soldiers are staying back more than ever, and grumbling, in some cases, that they spend more time watching videos and eating at base canteens than fighting.
"There is a paradox in the approach," said Kalev Sepp, a former Special Forces officer and one of the most vocal proponents for changing the Army. "The training in the United States and in Iraq is teaching all the right things — decentralization of authority and responsibility to the lowest levels, engagement with the Iraqi population, cultural awareness and political sensitivity — the full broad range of measures needed to defeat the insurgency."
"But on the ground," Mr. Sepp said in an interview, "the troops are being moved onto these large consolidated bases and being drawn away from the population just at point that they have been trained to engage them." Nowhere are the changes in the Army's thinking more visible than at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin.
But scoring kills is not the main objective at Medina Jabal; gaining the trust of the locals is. When an American soldier loses his cool and kills Iraqi civilians, a simulated television crew from "Al Jazeera" scurries out to videotape the screaming and grieving Iraqis. The inflammatory video is then broadcast over and over on the villages' television network, just as in Iraq.
The most prolific killer of American trainees, for instance, is Mansour Hakim, the Iraqi pseudonym for Staff Sgt. Timothy Wilson, 42, a probation officer from Sparks, Nev. In Medina Jabal, Sergeant Wilson, in an Arab dishdasha robe and checkered kaffiyeh headdress, plays the part of a village hot dog salesman who sells his provisions from a stand called "Kamel Dogs Cafe."
To the amazement of American trainers, Sergeant Wilson has found that nearly every American unit entering the training course falls for his tricks — usually leading to catastrophic results. He figures he has "killed" hundreds of American servicemen in his time here. The trap works like this: When the American soldiers first enter Medina Jabal, they usually head straight for the Kamel Dogs stand for a snack. Chatting up the soldiers, "Mr. Hakim" asks if the Americans might let him sell his hot dogs inside the nearby American camp, called Forward Operating Base Denver, to make some extra money for his family. The soldiers inevitably agree, and before long, Mr. Hakim is ferrying huge loads of hot dogs and charcoal briquettes onto the American base.
In the first few days of the venture, everything proceeds safely; the American soldiers, suspicious of Mr. Hakim, search his truck thoroughly. But after four or five days, having decided that he is one of the "good Iraqis," the soldiers begin to wave him and his truck through their checkpoints.
And that is when he strikes. One day, he replaces the charcoal briquettes with Hollywood-grade pyrotechnics, drives the truck deep into the American base and blows it up.
One of the referees appears on the scene with a "God gun" to determine the radius of the blast. The last time Sergeant Wilson got through, in February, the referees determined that 18 Americans were killed and dozens more wounded. The subterfuge has worked seven times. "I'm a bad guy," Sergeant Wilson said with a grin. "And I'm looking for any weakness I can exploit."
On other occasions, American soldiers patrolling Medina Jabal have wandered off alone to get a soda or a hot dog at Mr. Hakim's stand. When that happens, the locals seize the soldier, drag him into one of their tunnels, videotape his interrogation for "Al Jazeera" and sometimes kill him.
The lesson for American solders is clear: never trust any Iraqis, no matter how friendly they seem. It is a lesson that, unlearned, has killed many American soldiers on combat duty in Iraq. And if any of the soldiers insist, as they sometimes do, that they really had been searching Mr. Hakim's hot-dog truck, it is easy enough to check: videocameras watch over virtually every square inch of Medina Jabal. American trainers can review every attack and every interaction between an American and a villager to see what really happened.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the war games is that the insurgent force usually exacts enormous death tolls on the Americans. As in Iraq and Afghanistan, the insurgents at Fort Irwin know the territory better. "It's not even close," said Fuad Bahi al-Jabouri, whose real name is Specialist Anthony Manzanares. He is 46, a native of San Francisco and a disguised insurgent in the villages here. "It's a massacre. We know the terrain. It's our home turf."
At a recent classroom seminar on counterinsurgency at Fort Leavenworth, about 25 Army majors discussed the conduct of the French in the Algerian War of 1954 to 1962. The French, who were trying to hold their colony, lost to the Algerian resistance, even after some French officers endorsed the use of torture to extract intelligence from the insurgents.
In a vigorous classroom debate, the Army majors discussed how and why the French lost. Iraq came up often; four of the majors had already served there and a half-dozen others were scheduled to be deployed there at the end of the academic year. One of the lessons, for instance, is that torture does not work, because of the resentment it generates among the civilian population. The widespread abuse of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners, some of it apparently with official approval, did not come up in class. "Is it applicable to Iraq?" Maj. Sean Smith, a member of the class, said afterward. "That's why we do that in every class."
On the training ground, even though it is fiction, the results can be real and lasting. One battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel whose unit came under attack by insurgents in Medina Jabal, called in an Air Force bombing run on a building from which insurgents had attacked his men. The attack, simulating the dropping of a 500-pound bomb, killed more than 20 civilians, the referees determined. Al Jazeera recorded the scene and broadcast it over and over on the local station. The battalion commander, the American trainers here said, learned his lesson, and he turned out to be one of the savviest graduates of the course.
Not so for another soldier who recently took part in the course. While on patrol in one of the Iraqi villages, the soldier wandered off alone, and suddenly found himself surrounded by Iraqi civilians. He panicked and opened fire, killing several of the villagers. The soldier was given a psychological evaluation and dismissed from the Army, for fear that he would have duplicated the behavior with live ammunition in Iraq. "If a soldier can't be trusted in this environment, then he can't be trusted in Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Robert Cone, who runs the base.
What's so frustrating here is that there have been countless books on, and studies of, how to fight insurgencies, for many decades, going all the way back to the famous Marine Corp Manual On Small Battles, and through endless studies of the Phillipines, Malaysia, Algeria, Vietnam, and on and on, with reams of lessons on what to do and not to do, what works and doesn't work, and so on.
But here we are, once again in the classic position of having a military trained to fight the wrong war, and desperately playing catch-up.
It's not as if that's at all an uncommon situation to be in in warfare, of course, but it's certainly not, alas, impressive.
Iraq isn't Vietnam; anyone who looks to Vietnam and expects an exact replay in Iraq is being foolish. On the other hand, those who claim that there is nothing to compare between the two, no lessons to be learned, and no similiarities to see, as well as differences, is being equally willfully blind and foolish.
Bottom line: if I thought I saw semi-clear paths to "winning" and militarily and politically supporting a decent Iraqi, semi-democratic, not-too-awful, not-greatly-corrupt, government, I'd support continued U.S. effort to accomplish that, even if it meant some level of fighting and casualties by Americans, as well as Iraqis, for years to come.
But if I don't see such paths, but instead other paths, paths only to civil war or corrupt gangsterism or blind wishful thinking, then, no, obviously I couldn't support throwing more lives and treasure into a hopper that only generates bloody mulch, and no good results.
In case anyone wanted an update on what my standards are here, in brief, on Iraq.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5; it's just another of a variety of pieces on Ft. Irwin, but it's John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins, and they're some of the best American reporters on Iraq there are.
ADDENDUM, May 2nd, 9:20 a.m.: This Thom Shanker piece on Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli's changing of guidelines for U.S. troops in Iraq regarding shoot/no-shoot, based on this and thisTelegraph pieces on American tactics. The beginning of the second, an opinion piece by Max Hastings:
Here is a quote from a British security contractor in Iraq about his American counterparts: "I hate those bastards more than the scumbag insurgents." A British colonel recently returned from a tour in the country said that, in our next war, he would sooner fight alongside the Russians than the US.
This is another quote from a British security contractor: "The American way is not my way. I don't mind a scrap but I draw the line at mooning the enemy and inviting him to shoot at my backside, and that's virtually what the Yanks are doing. I'm also convinced that many Americans hate the Iraqis, not just the insurgents but all Iraqis… What a mess."
Those last lines are taken from a rather good new book about the experience of Iraq today, Highway To Hell, written by an ex-SAS man who signs himself John Geddes. My point in all the above, is to show that Ben Griffin, the former SAS soldier who vents his dismay about what is happening to Iraq in today's Sunday Telegraph, is not a lone voice.
There is a widespread belief in both British special forces and line regiments that American tactics are heavy-handed and counter-productive; that firepower continues to be used as a substitute for a "hearts and minds" policy; that local people will never be persuaded to support Coalition forces unless Americans, in uniform and out, treat ordinary Iraqis vastly better than they do today.
Read The Rest Scale for both: 3.5 out of 5. Not that this is news; Chiarelli's memo is, mildly. The split on tactics between the British and American forces you'll recall goes back to the very beginnings of the occupation, and the British adoption, for a long while, of "open" transport in Basra, foot patrols, and so on.
ADDENDUM, May 2nd, 9:45 a.m.: In a fascinating counter-point, Shelby Steele manages to put this all into terms of "white guilt."
Among his crucial utterly erroneous postulates:
Yet no one--including, very likely, the insurgents themselves--believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency.
This betrays an utter lack of knowledge of how insurgencies and counterinsurgencies work. It is beyond nonsensical. "Raw power" is not what wins such wars by either side.
Both insurgency and counterinsurgency are, in fact, wars of judo: of using the power of the other side against itself. The more power one side attempts to exert, the harder they allow the enemy to trip them. The more power that is tried, the quicker that side will lose. (Generally speaking.)
Then, well, I don't care to do a full-scale examination of this absurd piece, but it's rather mad, really. Bits:
Today, the white West--like Germany after the Nazi defeat--lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority.
"Unquestioned authority"? As acknowledged by who?
In Iraq, America is fighting as much for the legitimacy of its war effort as for victory in war. In fact, legitimacy may be the more important goal.
Apparently there's something wrong with this. It handcuffs us, apparently. Better, I take it, to fight an immoral and illegitimate war, and "win" (what defines "winning" in stopping a civil war, Professor Steele? Is it "power" of an outside force that can do the job? Should we just slaughter everyone who doesn't submit to American Authority? Or what?)
But there's good news!
Possibly white guilt's worst effect is that it does not permit whites--and nonwhites--to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true.
I hope Professor Steele manages to dodge the leftist American NKVD that is even now hunting him down for uttering the Forbidden Truth. One can but pray.