Saturday, December 03, 2005

Evil is a Foot...

...and the foot comes down.

So I am watching the television. It's PBS, they're doing me a favor by showing me this foot-faced bastard who is apparently arguing in favor of torture, and I'm thinking, fuckin' A, this guy dresses like a Nazi. I mean, he's ugly in a way that few of the Nazis were, his nose and head shape are not Germanic, really, so he doesn't look like a Nazi, but he's definately dresing like one. He's wearing a very severly cut black pinstipe suit with a silver tie and matching pocket kerchief, and just somehow the whole thing just shouts of the very obvious and well known Nazi aesthetic. Quite frankly, I've seen it a few other times recently, but this was just off the charts.

So I watch him for a minute, his face and voice are imapassive, affectless. He's rather ugly. But who is he? Ah, there, they put it on the screen for me: Neil Livingstone, Terrrorism Expert. Hm, computer's on, Google will tell more.

(sigh) I've seen websites for curious little above-board covert-ops outfits before, basically by doing this exact same thing. Yes, they are usally just exactly this up-front about what they do. Only in this case they don't come right out and say that they torture people, but come on, they're gonna get your information for you, right? I'm sure the only "customers" finding this website will know what they're looking for. Note also, however, a new wrinkle, at least as far as I've seen before: presidential speech writers. Okie-dokie. (sigh)

That last bit just came up, something mostly unrelated that I've been thinking about lately is just how damaging this little adventure is going to turn out to be for our military. But lots of people have been talking about that on and off for a while. What I've been thinking about is the way that our military is set up, and what Iraq may come to mean for the future of the over-all thesis of the military.

To wit, my basic thought is this: since the Cold War, the prevailing doctrine has been that we are set up to be able to fight a two-front war. Well, that's obviously hooey. During Korea we could've opened up another front if we had to, WWII was still so fresh in the cultural memory. During Vietnam, maybe up until, what, late '68? By mid '69 there was so much craziness going on internally that I'm not sure even a European land war against the Soviets would've held enough sway to allow us to muster a sufficient fighting force. Certainly I don't think we had several battalions of standing troops stationed in Europe at the time. I don't think the public would've been as sanguine as they generally were up to that point, regarding the draft. It doesn't make sense.

After Viet Nam, the services were a mess, so far as I've been told by those who served at that time. Reagan of course oversaw the great rebuilding, and Rambo finally won us our pride back, etc. etc. We might've been able to fight a two-front war then. But now? No. I will long carry this very clear memory of sitting in a dingy St. Paul apartment with this poor fellow, a passionate, somewhat cynical but still very patriotic Gulf War I vet who had later been medically discharged after a training accident (more common than you think), and we were "watching the war on TV," that is, our drive up the Tigris and Euphrates valleys on CNN, and I had been reading the very detailed Russian intel reports/anti-American propaganda dispatches from Venik's Aviation website, and so we were having a fairly lively conversation of it. In the course of this, at one point he pauses and says something to the effect of, "Y'know what I just can't help thinking? I hate it, but, damn, what if this is all we got?"

What if, indeed? The real problem we have faced now ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is that we have an armed forces terribly poorly configured to act against any real world opponent we are likely to face off against. In ironic, illustritive fact, we are most well equipped at the moment to go to war against the rest of NATO. Before this Iraq fiasco, we would've been in really good shape against Iran, another demon of our own failings, of course, but still, actually a quite unpleasant place politically, and much more apt to make trouble for us and others in the region than Saddam was after a decade of sanctions and bombing. Right now, though, we could not very easily go against Iran for two big reasons. One, we would have Iraq at our backs, and what little stability we've had would utterly evaporate once the Shi'a turned against us in force (which they most certainly would if we invaded Iran). Two, we would have far too many troops in one spot, geographically. Assuming we couldn't use the troops we have there (something about trying to advance while being attacked with IEDs and RPGs from behind), we would have to bring in the very few we have left in Germany, the small chunk sitting in the US, the medium chunk in Korea and frankly, that's all, folks. Hm, North Korea getting any ideas yet?

We do not now, nor are we likely to again soon have a highly funtioning military. This is almost a completely done deal. When the troops do come home, most of them are going to be a little fucked up. Those who stay in will be either absurdly really warped or they will be decent folk truying to make sure the Army they love doesn't make the same mistakes again. Unfortunately, for factors I simply don't have time to get into now, I think it will be more of the former who stay in.

So where exactly does this leave us? Well, clearly the slavering hordes of the right wing are in fits trying to figure our how to make this all the Democrats' fault. But, beyond that, it leaves us a by necessity very isolationist country for the forseeable future. There will also very likely be an increasing tension within military ranks, as those demagogues that are within the military establishment stir up yet more passions reminiscent of Viet Nam, saying, just as some other yutz on The News Hour was pushing, "We could've won! If we'd've only stayed in there we could've won!!" Well, that was horseshit with Viet Nam and it's triple or quadruple horseshit now. And most military families know it's horseshit, otherwise Congressman Freedom Fries from Camp LeJeune would not be being critical of the war effort. (He is, look it up.)

Where else it leaves us is with unelected people such the torturer Livingstone with a much more established place at the table within our cultural landscape. There will certainly be small tectonic shiftings within the Power Elite after the next few elections show us more clearly the National mood, but not many shiftings, and not big ones. It is quite painfully clear that what rejection this claque of vacuous thugs has recieved has come due to their failures, not their aims.
There is no viable cultural foundation for a response to this crisis of our values at this time. There is only what we make. It is important to realize that the Cabal of Morons was not wrong about being the actors of history, they were wrong about being immune from it. We are the actors of history also, if on much smaller stages, but perhaps we can learn more intelligently from our history, and thus act in accord with its various and nuanced floes.



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