"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."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome home . . .

. . . said the San Andreas Fault to me on Saturday. Why thank you, Mr. Fault, for reminding me that since I no longer need concern myself with winds lifting earth into the air until it blots out the sun, all I need to worry about now is the earth crumbling beneath my feet.

Quaking aside, it's good to be home. We arrived during daylight this time, which meant that my son would be awake to greet me, and he did, though initially he ran right past me to some guy behind me in line (through no fault of his own, we all look the same in sunglasses and cammies). Once he figured out which digified person was me, all was well. There was none of the ambivalance he had toward me after the last deployment, and indeed he lost no time in acquainting me with Thomas the Tank Engine and all his friends on the island of Sodor. And listening to toy trains tooting around and talking to each other is pretty much all I've done for the last week. But that's okay, it beats what I was doing and where I was doing it a week and a day ago, as does seeing my wife, who hugged me and then promptly took off her shoes and demanded a foot-rub right there at the passenger terminal (okay not really, but she received the first of many well-deserved ones shortly afterward).

So now that I'm back home, and no longer have thrilling tales of sandstorms and SAFIREs with which to regail you, I'm forced to revert to the other raison d'etre for this blog, which is everyone's favorite - AMATEUR PUNDITRY! Those of you waiting with bated breath may now release it.

Fortunately, even though we're in the dog days of summer, there's no lack of material with which to work. Newly minted senator Al Franken knows all about material as a former comic; though now that he's in the Senate, he may need to switch writers. Whoever's writing his bits now is a little generous with hyperbole. Of Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor: she is
"the most experienced Supreme Court nominee in 100 years." Shame on you last eighteen presidents for failing to find equally qualified candidates on your respective watches. Slackers.

Franken's new, though, and Sotomayor's nomination process is his first big event as a frosh. I'm sure the rookies are always a little excitable. The old salts, on the other hand, are stolid and steadfast and it takes bigger things to unnerve them. Like armageddon, for example, which is evidently what Sen. Barbara Boxer of my own state of California believes will befall us if we don't adopt her climate change legislation. There will be floods, fires, droughts, pestilence, global extinctions and, worst of all, definitely no more So You Think You Can Dance. But this isn't the politics of fear, folks, oh no, only the other guys do that. It's just prescient and reasonable discourse, simply a cautious warning that Congress needs to pass her pet project or everyone dies. And at least her prediction is open-ended; we'll have conquest, war, famine and death, but not necessarily right now. Could be next week, next month, or well after her next re-election campaign. We've got time. Prince Charles, Heir Apparent to the Commenwealth, is a far greater buzzkill on the subject. By his calculations, we have only 96 months left to save civilization as we know it. Not 95, not 97, but, through rigorous scientific experimentation and advanced mathematics requiring a lot of long division and the carrying of many ones, exactly 96 months. The clock, World As We Know It, is ticking. Chaz is in luck, however; when the Four Horsemen come calling, they'll have to search his many palaces, resorts, and vacation homes to find him; with a few well-placed booby traps, they'll be delayed long enough for him to don his biodegradable tin-foil-substitute hat and escape on his wind-powered spaceship.

Now here's something you can file under the Top Ten Dumbest Ideas of all Time. A new study commissioned by the DoD has recommended a complete ban on the use of all tobacco products by military servicemen. It's a great idea, if you don't want America to have a military. Oh I'm well aware of the long term health problems posed by tobacco use which is why I don't smoke myself (and, health reason aside, I find the act of "dipping" disgusting). But the fact is: a large number of servicemembers partake of tobacco products, and they'll be driven away if forced to go cold turkey. You will also drive away prospective recruits. Military personnel already operate under a wide range of restrictions on their personel freedoms; this would be a bridge too far. And while I understand that tobacco-related health problems are a long-term problem, its use by servicemen in the here and now seems to have had a negligble impact on their ability to fight and win wars. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the grunts are in good enough shape to run around in 80 pounds of gear on 100-plus degree days regardless of whether or not they smoke (for the record, dehydration is a much greater immediate danger in combat than the black lung). For many, it's the only stress reliever readily available in combat (and, in some cases, the only source of warmth on otherwise miserable nights in the field). And guess what: combat ops are going to have an impact on your long-term health whether or not you light up. I don't smoke, but down the road I'll probably have hearing loss and some kind of respiratory problem thanks to all the dust, jet exhaust, and burnt garbage I've inhaled overseas. How's about we worry more about equipping and paying our soldiers properly than whether they enjoy cancer sticks, m'kay?

Finally, it wouldn't be a news day without a shocking report on the malfeasance of Dick Cheney. The charge this time is that the CIA failed to disclose a classified counterterrorism program at the behest of the former vice president, which of course means that Congress was lied to and the forces of tyranny and despotism ran unchecked throughout the land. Upon closer examination, however, the truth seems a little murkier. Some officials claim that elements of the plan were 'operational', requiring some form of disclosure; others say that the plan never went beyond feasibility studies. Some accuse the veep of delaying notification of the plan indefinitely; again, others say that the delay was only temporary, with the veep and CIA waiting until there was a reasonable chance of the plan even being implemented. And what was this nefarious plan which Darth Vader was hiding in order to further rape and pillage our civil liberties? Well, that seems to be far less important to critics than the opportunity to use this to pick on their favorite whipping boy, but, for the record, it was this: employing a team of assassins to kill Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. Yes, that's right, people are complaining about a plan to do something which people complained the president wasn't doing. Boy, damned if you do, damned if you don't, eh? Now, it'd be one thing if the CIA had squads of snipers running around Pakistan and declined to inform Congress; but it seems that this plan never went beyond the stage of a bunch of spooks sitting in a circle, drinking and smoking cigars and saying, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if . . ." Does Congress need to be informed of every little idea the agency comes up with, no matter how undeveloped? Does every plan sketched on a cocktail napkin need to be vetted by Nancy Pelosi? I should think not; she's had a hard enough time remembering the things she has been briefed on, and I'd hate to add to her workload. Besides, Congress has a billion other things it needs to do too, like honoring Michael Jackson and asking baseball players what they knew about Barry Bonds' steroid use and when they knew it. If the Green Berets are parachuting into the Hindu Kush, it's probably a good idea to tell Congress; if all you have is a really cool PowerPoint slide of Green Berets jumping out of planes to the tune of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", I don't think Congress needs to be bothered.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure it was nice to see your wife, too.

Winefred said...

yeah, Cincinnatus -- Penelope has been sitting at home weaving and unweaving her tapestry and all she gets is a "rub my feet, slave" reference. You could have at least done some ooh-ing and ah-ing about all the stuff from Pampered Chef. Watch out -- now when you STEP IN IT, you're wearing flip-flops, not combat boots. You are in so much trouble. Welcome home.