Friday, May 25, 2007

The Evolution of Civil Society 

A Marine awaiting transport provided an interesting update to the Blogfather's post on the gauche-sphere's take on reported improvements in Anbar. In it he cites an LAT piece by Robert Kaplan that hits upon an idea that I have had concerning many of today's geopolitical problems:
Those who proclaim today that the only real solution to the Arab dilemma is political freedom are correct. The problem is that they are describing a process that could encompass several bloody decades. After all, it took centuries for stable democracy as we know it to evolve in Europe. In this Darwinian shaking-out process, the new forms of political legitimacy may more closely resemble militarized social welfare organizations such as Hezbollah and the Al Mahdi army than the ramshackle contrivances of the European model that we saw in the post-colonial era.
I believe one of the lasting and most regrettable legacies of the colonial era is the existence of non-modern societies that now have access to modern weaponry. This problem is most apparent in Africa, where the combination of pre-colonial tribalism with state-of-the-art automatic arms regularly produces totalitarian rulers, abhorrent violence and genocide. It seems that many of these societies were, during colonialism and subjugation, suspended and at the abandonment of their erstwhile rulers the natural patterns reasserted themselves. This is not condescending or ethnocentric. I do not believe there is anything endemic about the people that make them tend toward autocratic rule, but I do think that these societies largely have not had the same opportunities for growth and development that Europe experienced in the Middle Ages. At that time their density was low enough to preclude extensive interaction between tribal units, the friction from which societal lessons are learned.

Our focus in nation building, or as I think is a more appropriate term, nation bridging is in helping the natural societal evolution from predatory conquest to peaceful cooperation. A key part of this is making the "pie" big enough that the individual groups perceive the piece they can have through working with other groups as larger than the piece they can achieve through violent means. Herein we see a deeper reason for the extensive development efforts in Iraq. Like many have pointed out before, the idea that any nation can step into a foreign society and recreate themselves and their institutions is naive and misguided. But it exactly this which I don't believe was ever a goal of the Bush administration with regard to Iraq. As Bush has said many times, and I agree, given the choice humans and human society will choose peace and freedom. It is our mission to help Iraq bridge the decades and centuries of societal evolution in as short a time as possible to allow them to be able to make that choice.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let's Have One More Chorus ... 

of the "not my bag" blues.

Blogfather notes yet another article bemoaning how the U.S. military continues to discharge gay Arab linguists for no reason at all. Except, of course, the minor issue that they are legally required to do so. The folks discharged this time bemoan how they were so discrete:
"I was always discreet; I never considered it would be an issue," said Benjamin, when asked why he joined the military knowing the policy existed. "I thought if I don't say anything, they're not going to ask me. But it was more aggressive than I thought."
So what was the "aggressive" technique used to persecute the gays this time? Well, seems they got busted sending "discrete" naughty e-mails to their friends over SIPRNET (the secure network used by DoD to communicate classified information). Guess he never realized that use of the secure network could be monitored. And lest anyone tell you otherwise, this wasn't a gay witch hunt, as several others were pinched misusing the bandwidth as well.
He said he was particularly frustrated that he was among about 70 people investigated at a base in the state of Georgia for using the computer to send personal notes, and others who are not gay still are in the Army, even though they were caught sending sexual and profane messages.
This is easilly explained by the fact that there is no law requiring the discharge of people who tell dirty jokes.

Once again, the only reason any person is discharged from the military for being gay is because there is a federal law prohibiting gays from serving. For a change the congress-criter quoted, Rep. Marty Meehan (D), actually is sponsoring legislation to change the law instead of just pointing fingers at the military, but the article on a whole still tries to keep the familiar villian front and center. Despite teh fact that handlebar mustaches are against regulations.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Translating Mediaese 

Reading between the lines of a news article is not a new practice. It was raised to a high art during the Soviet era when the old joke concerning the two official newspapers, Pravda ("The Truth") and Izvestia ("The News") was that "there's no izvestia (news) in Pravda and no pravda (truth) in Izvestia". While I don't think western media has universally devolved to quite that paragon of unreliability, it has been a well worn tenet of the new media that often one is best armed not with grains but with an entire block of salt.

A recent article, Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran, concerned an all-too-frequent event, the leak of classified national security information to a news media source. While it contained the obligatory disclaimer that their "sources ... spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject," it seems more honest to say that they spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the illegality of their actions. I am no longer surprised but continue to be disappointed that the assumed responsibility of adversarialism taken on by the media leads then to unquestionalbly side with criminals in all cases involving national security. It would be an interesting mental exercise to imagine a media source that was equally accomodting to rapists, fences, muggers and murderers.

On the same page, supposedly in the interest of context, ABC conviently links to a photo gallery of "another Iran operation", namely the Iran-Contra Affair. In this gallary they included such key players as Dick Cheney, "ranking minority member on the joint congressional committee investigating" and John Bolton, "assistant attorney general at the Justice Department [who] thereby participated in meetings ... on how to handle the growing crisis." Inexplecibly there were no other "committee members" or "meeting participants" profiled, but I guess it's just a matter of how one defines "key". If it were me, however, I would think a background story on the Iranian Islamic Revolution that helped create the current crisis might be more useful context, but then again Dick Cheney, John Bolton and other Republicans probably didn't have as much to do with that issue.

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Back at PD 

Been coppying the broadcast silently for a while, but finally came up to QSL. Traffic to follow.

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