Big Fish To Fry
Zoomin' up to 50,000 feet but still on the topic of "problems in the world," I revisit one of my regular reads which I'm trying to popularize: John Robb's "Global Guerillas". He's got the best take I've seen on the news that John Negroponte -- our man in Iraq -- is considering pulling from his School of the Americas Playbook and revving up the old paramilitary death-squad system.
The problems with this decentralization strategy are legion. A major one is that the target minority (religion and ethnicity) isn't an isolated powerless subset, rather it is part of a larger majority in the Middle East and an ascendent revisionist movement. The second major problem is that the US will puncture any remaining claim to moral superiority (see the brief on Boyd for more).
I appreciate the kind of analysis Robb provides on the news of the day. It embraces and explores the moral dimensions of our current wars, but doesn't get carried away. Seems like analysis I can use. For contrast, the Kossack commentary is a somewhat less helpful "How evil do you have to be to even consider this option?" I can appreciate the sentiment, but I believe I'm past the usefulness of a sympathy circle.
Anway, following my Sunday whimsy, I clicked the Boyd link and then trackback, and ended up on another good bit of writing from during the election cycle, but still prescient: Are We All Fundamentalists Now? by Jason Lefkowitz --
Strategist John Boyd defined an approach to war in which you attempt to isolate your opponent along three axes: the physical, the mental, and the moral. We are currently suffering from a Boydian moral isolation, brought on in large part because the world doesn't believe that our fight in Iraq is a fight of fundamentalism against rationalism. Instead, they see it almost as two different fundamentalist sects taking each other on -- which leaves rational third parties with no place to put their allegiance, except in their own self-interest.
Never looked at it this way in terms of allied reactions, but it makes a certain kind of sense. It also gives a good pseudopsychological rationale for some people's virtolic reaction to the ambivalence of our traditional allies in this conflict. Very little pisses people off more than telling them you think their god is bullshit.
This also sparks some thoughts on the nature of political fundimentalism vis-a-vis the commentary on the Kos thread, but that's a whole other blog entry, and one I'd have to think through somewhat further.
The point is that the ability to loose perspective by assuming the mantle of moral superiority is universal. It's a colliary no doubt to the corrupting nature of power. Those who place themselves within the sphere of moral conflict without the ability to question their own perspective -- checks and balances, if you will -- are at a serious long-run strategic disadvantage. The absolute power represented by moral certainty will take you places fast, but it'll catch up with you. Jessie Taylor of Pandagon brings it all back home, with his commentary on torture apoligists:
The torture brigade isn't really concerned about winning the war. They're playing a videogame in which they don't realize that they may never run out of bullets, but as long as they keep doing what they're doing, they're never going to run out of enemies. The strategy, however, will never change, as they can point to their score and the corpses on the ground and declare that victory is almost around the corner.
Sooner or later though, the dollar cost and body count will get high enough that we'll disengage. At some point you get tired of trying to "beat the game," (which would mean what? genocide?) and quit shoveling quarters in. In the meantime, you haven't done your homework, and you're broke, out of shape, and have no friends. Payback's a bitch.
I had some hopes that after these proposed end-of-month elections, Bush might take the advantage and bail. It's looking less likely judging by the political winds, which is really too bad. Without a major change in focus soon, we're going to reap the whirlwind of our declining social capital and our junk-bonded diplomatic/moral status. It would appear that Bush is back to writing his legacy. Stupid, Broke, Fat and Alone: The 21st Century Decline Of The United States.