Did you see the frightened ones?

27 08 2013

I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria—which is fine, given that no one is asking and I’m in no position to do anything anyway.

Still, I do like the sound of my own voice, so I need to say: “I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria.”

George Packer’s ambivalence is, rightly, getting lots of links. Bashar al-Assad is a bloody-minded dictator willing to murder his way across his country in order to keep that country his: If the people don’t want him, they don’t deserve him, and thus will be killed.

He is willing, in other words, to do anything to survive.

Given that, Packer’s question goes right to the point: “I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.”

Is the Obama administration or France or NATO willing to go after Assad? If so, what then? Iraq redux?

And if not, why bother?

It’s possible that someone could come up with a decent argument for limited multilateral intervention—that it would, in fact, materially improve the prospects of a decent life for more Syrians than not—but even Fred Kaplan, who offers the most optimistic realistic appraisal of intervention, riddles that appraisal with hedges, questions, and doubts.

I don’t have any difficulty believing that Assad gassed his own people. Some argue that he must have been set up because who would be so stupid to loose sarin on a neighborhood with UN inspectors on the ground, but is it really such a stretch to think a homicidal megalomaniac might have issues with logic and reason? Conversely, that he’s a homicidal megalomaniac doesn’t mean he can’t calculate the odds of any intervention resulting in his ouster sufficiently low to make a terror-inducing gas attack worth his while.

In either case, we’re back to the obvious: he’ll burn his country before he hands it over to the traitors and cowards who would rather live without him.

That’s a horrible, horrible situation for Syrians, and produces the horrible paradox, as well: We want to intervene because it’s horrible, but because it’s so horrible, we can’t intervene.

Not unless we want to burn the country down ourselves.





And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby

21 06 2013

Un-able/-willing to think long thoughts, but still wanna say some things; thus:

*Sully’s been running a series on bisexuality (including a rather disingenuous vid of Dan Savage on how he loves the bis), to which I find myself mildly irritated.

Only mildly. I’m a mid-life bi who can’t be arsed to date anyone (or be arsed enough to do whateverthehell I’d have to do to entice someone to date me), male or female, and it’s just so obvious to me that this is a Real Thing that discussions of its existence are, well, irritating.

Most of what’s been said is about men, with the requisite oo-women-are-bendy disclaimers, and gay men who once said they were bi seem to be holding court in these posts, but, I dunno, more bi-straight men and bi-women ruminating on this might be nice.

Don’t know how much control Sullivan has on who writes in, however. (And no, I won’t be writing in, and not just because I don’t want to be another bendy-broad: I just don’t have much to say about my own experiences.)

*Another bit from Sullivan: He posted what what seemed to me two contradictory pieces In the same post) on drone warfare.

The first concerns the tedium of drone surveillance, as well as the clarity of the videos (“A nine-camera sensor nicknamed Gorgon Stare is capable of streaming full video with enough resolution to discern facial expressions.”). Through repeated viewings, drone operators become familiar with their subjects:

“It might be little things like a group of kids throwing rocks at goats, or at each other, or an old man startled by a barking dog,” says Mike. “You get a sense of daily life. I’ve been on the same shift for a month and you learn the patterns. Like, I’ll know at 5 a.m. this guy is gonna go outside and take a shit. I’ve seen a lot of dudes take shits.”

The second bit comes from Sascha-Dominik Bachmann

Keith Shurtleff, the US Army Chaplain and military ethics teacher, aptly summarized this concern “that as war becomes safer and easier, as soldiers are removed from the horrors of war and see the enemy not as humans but as blips on a screen, there is very real danger of losing the deterrent that such horrors provide.”

So my question is this: if the drone operator can see the people with whom he’s become so familiar, how removed is he, really, from the horrors of war? Is he not more aware of the humanity of possible targets than, say, pilots, for whom targets really are “blips on a screen”?

*No, Jordan Bloom, just because “The libertarian says the draft is slavery” doesn’t make it so.

I hold to my civic republican beliefs and consider shared civic obligation of particular importance to a pluralist (pluralistic?) society.

Yes, national service can be a problem, but, done right, it doesn’t have to be. I would favor a mandatory 2-yr paid stint in either military or civilian service beginning within some months of leaving/graduating from high school for all citizens and those who want to become citizens.

Yes, there’s an argument for/behind this, but did I mention the un-able-willing thing?

*George Packer has put together some great posts at the New Yorker on the financialization and Siliconization of our economy, and what it means for all of those folks who just don’t fit on Wall Street or in the Valley.

I borrowed a number of quotes from his “Change the World” piece on Silicon Valley for my summer pol sci class, highlighting the certainty of the tech-heads of their ability to lead [some of] us out of the swamp of politics and into the clean, well-lit techno-utopia beyond.

Can you guess my response to that certainty?

*This fucking guy:

Never, ever, ever, wait for a SIGN before you escalate! You will miss out on the vast majority of chances if you sit around waiting for SIGNS. Men are notoriously bad at reading women’s minds and body language. Don’t think that you’re any different. From now on you must ASSUME that she is attracted to you and wants to be ravished. It’s a difference in mindset that makes champs champs and chumps chumps.

. . .

Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.

Should I note for fairness’s sake that if a woman really really really makes super-crystal clear that she’s just not that into you then This Fucking Guy does allow that perhaps you should back off, if only to try again later, er, for safety’s sake?

Didn’t think so.

*Think vaginas are icky?

Fine, whatever. Just don’t be shocked that not everyone shares your belief  that vaginas are “objectively gross.”

(And not that you’ve asked, but I won’t be sleeping with you, either.)

*It’s a bad idea to arm the Syrian rebels. Bad bad bad.

I’m generally opposed to slippery slope analogies, but this is one case where it seems that if the US gives a guy a gun, we see little reason not to give him a cannon, then an RPG, and on and on until we get sucked in or distracted and everything goes to hell.

More to the point, as bad a butcher as Assad is—and he’s bad—the US has shown little-to-no-ability to make these situations better rather than worse.

I was agnostic-on-to-mildly supportive-of the Libyan intervention, but I can’t really tell you why I think this is such a bad idea.

But it is.

*Shall we end on a happy note?

My window-basil is growing like gangbusters. It apparently likes the rain as much as I do.