"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things that have happened to me in the last 48 hours; and the new Jack Sparrow

I've had a few too many firsts in my last 48 hours of flight ops. Yesterday, after landing on some very high mountain tops, we had an engine problem which required us to shut down one engine and terminate training so we could fly directly back to base. Today, while I was doing some maintenance checks on an aircraft, we had a panel fly loose off the tail while we were spinning on the ground; and then as we shut down so that we could reattach the panel, the rotor brake that slows down our big ol' rotor head caught on fire, so I had the pleasure of calling Crash/Fire/Rescue to come put us out and listening to Ground Control secure all movement on the flight line so that the firefighers could ride to the rescue. In and of themselves, none of these incidents is a big deal (even the rotor brake fire, which wasn't a "billowing smoke and flames" fire but more like a grease fire off a hot grill). But one gets a little tired of them when they start piling up. And I can't believe it's only Wednesday. Just change my call sign to "Backdraft."

Life's been interesting for some other folks in the last 48 hours as well. We've heard more about pirates lately than when Pirates of the Caribbean opened. But they don't look quite like Johnny Depp:

Piracy is making a comeback in the open seas off the Somali coast. Not too long ago, Somali brigands captured a Ukrainian arms vessel (the last thing that country needs is more weapons floating around); a few days ago, they hauled in a Saudi oil supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude; today, the Indian Navy was engaged by, and proceeded to sink, a pirate "mothership" that threatened them with RPGs and automatic weapons. Piracy is nothing new, of course (one of the Marine Corps' first missions after the Revolutionary War was destroying the Barbary pirates who were enslaving American merchant crews), and has plagued other parts of the world in modern times (Southeast Asian countries had their own problems, which vigorous coordination abated). The Gulf of Aden, however, is only getting more inhospitable, partly because of the sheer size of the area that needs patrolling, but also because there's no consensus on what to do with the pirates when they're captured. This isn't a Disney movie; this is a real threat to international order, the ability of countries to freely trade goods, and our own national security (Somalia is rife with al Qaeda-affiliated radicals who could find all kinds of bad uses for Ukrainian tanks and Saudi oil). Maybe one of President Obama's first foreign policy initiatives could be the creation of a muscular anti-piracy agreement between affected nations, as well as fewer restrictions on the ability of our Navy to chase down these criminals. After all, our Navy has guaranteed the security of the high seas for decades; there's no reason we should be on the defensive against contemporary Blackbeards.

Other fun news from another bad boy in that region: a week ago, Iran tested a multi-stage medium range ballistic missile capable of striking Moscow, Greece, and southern Italy. No good can come of this. I'm sure some people might argue that at best, Iran is a regional threat; that its military is so fragmented in its command structure that it'd be ineffective against our own; that they're years away from getting nukes; that they're not interested in nukes at all; that diplomacy will solve everything. Some or all of this may be true, or it could be profoundly wishful thinking, given that Iran has suffered no punishment for its continued nuclear program. With this test, Iran's 'region' has gotten even larger; and even if they're only able to make a few nukes, one would be enough to blackmail any country within its striking range.

One small victory: the Supreme Court has thrown out a lawsuit that would have prevented naval vessels from conducting sonar training whenever whales or dolphins strayed into the area, on the chance - not proven fact - that sonar might interfere with those animals' lifestyle. Thankfully our Navy can continue training to confront modern threats without worrying about environmental groups lobbying on behalf of Shamu.

6 comments:

Meghan said...

Shamu can't look out for himself, and he's actually pretty lucky the environmental groups exist.

Matt said...

Isn't this the end of a debate that started on my blog some time ago???

Cincinnatus said...

Yes, and as I'm pretty sure our positions haven't changed, we'll just let this stand as is. But I'm sure you're happy to see the ripple effect your blog has on us mere mortals...

Brendan said...

I saw me a mermaid once... I even seen me a shark eat an octopus... But I ain't ever seen no phantom Russian submarine. And neither has the f*ckin dolphin.

Cincinnatus said...

Brendan, Bree looked at me with something between amusement and distaste as I laughed my ass off for five minutes after reading your comment. Touche, ensign, touche.

Meghan said...

I wasn't getting BACK into that debate. I was just reminding him that whales are people too.

Um... yeah.