Peers for a Day

“History doesn’t repeat itself but rhymes” is a line with a lot of mileage these days. The editors running the division of poetic vehicles don’t get it. They revoke all the wrong licenses and grant reckless sonneteers the open road.

The latest historic victim in verse should be collected into a series of volumes titled “Alas, Afghanistan.” Media has its most mendacious bards cranking out cantos in reams. How should the lit profs classify it? Will it be un-heroic couplets, a rap ballad or elitist doggerel? One lame line pops up in the refrain of every odious ode the punditry pelts us with. Whenever the 4th estate is repeating itself ad nauseam fake news alarms should be clanging in every brain.

The good news is that defeat is no longer an abandoned child. The bad news is the most chaste among us are now being placed in the DC cat-house during the grisly tryst at the moment of conception. When the swells who contribute to policy making decisions refer to where “Americans” went wrong a scarlet letter is sewn on three hundred and thirty million people as “birthing persons.” Suddenly, this summer, the culprits no longer choose to tower over the vassalage being rescued by the military-incestuous complex. Once the enemy started piloting our war machines we all became comrades-disarmed.

Clumsily mangling Peele the WSJ waxed out “A Farewell To Nation Building.” The message is pontificated between bursts of drivel and semi-substance:

“’Overall, Americans think Americans need to play a global role,” said Ivo Daalder, a former American ambassador to NATO who now leads the Chicago Council. ‘What they don’t think is that the U.S. needs to be the world’s superpower. They want shared leadership and work with other countries.’”

“They” do? It’s convenient to learn how much alike we all think from people guaranteed a monologue on broadsheets. What’s inconvenient is the uniformity of opinion from the loudest quarters. They lead the worldly to suspect we aren’t changing course in the long run. There might be a solid fourth of the country that’s always ready to plant a swift boot in certain foreign backsides. Only a tiny minority of them stays lavishly in the chips selling the notion of turning Outdoor-plumbing-istan into woke Mayberry.

In this otherwise prolix piece we are curiously spared three vital words. Most readers never heard of the “Chicago Council,” knowing that its full name includes “on Global Affairs” fills in a blank or two. Where global affairs are concerned keeping American pants up and zippered is in teeming demand. That camp doesn’t have much pull with editors in charge of placing lofty double-think pieces before the masses.

Authors David Luhnow and Gerald F. Seib don’t just let Daalder tell you what you think; they will too:

“Americans mainly seem to be expressing a new wariness of military interventions with vaguely defined objectives and open ended commitments, such as those that became almost routine in the last half-century.”

“[N]ew” to who? “W” said that himself running in 2000. The idea was old before Nixon got run out of the Whitehouse on a rail. Washington’s kicking and screaming submission to popular will isn’t even new. DC’s worldwide “democracy” industry was already counting their chickens when polls queered the hatch in Syria a decade ago. They are still smarting about how few eggs the hen laid for them there.

“Many feel that their country has spent a fortune in taxpayer money in Iraq and Afghanistan without much to show for it, said John Arquilla, professor emeritus at the Naval Postgraduate Institute.”

“Many”? Rubbing elbows with blobsters who don’t feel that way generally places a toff as in on the score. And to say taxpayers outside the loop got anything, much less “much,” could stand some elaboration. When we hear “we were all in it together” – and it all went wrong — who is counting the pelf just might be the story.

Speaking of “wariness,” shouldn’t a daily news provider whose raison d’être purports to be devoted to fiscal matters devote a lot more words to where those trillions went? The fact they helped keep the DJIA buoyant may explain the distraction. Portfolio-less people who erect Mc-mansions are expendable once the paint begins to dry. Anyone who swung a wrecking ball, unintentionally or not, at foreign policy or the economy from an Ivory Tower is still indispensable.

Carlos Lozada in the September 5th Washington Post is all over the page – well, 5 pages – in “9/11 was a test. We failed.” [Emphasis added]

“The problem to responding only to calamity is that underestimation is usually replaced by overreaction. And we tell ourselves it is the right thing, maybe the only thing, to do.”

This follows 6 paragraphs, of Victorian era rhetorical length, describing a cluttered hierarchy of experts, high-priests, consiglieres and soothsayers tripping over each other to be heard. Still, we are all guilty equally – even as it’s illegal to get your peasant eyes upon a modest fraction of documentation detailing what our actors abroad have been doing. It’s the same secret handshake that provides access to both classified dope — that’s mostly CYA – and splashing ink on tomorrow’s high circulation dailies. Going along with the pretense of popular volition playing a part in international policy is a price collaborators pay – for cashing in on the trade of demanding global democracy.

The idea of thinning ranks in the international expert advice industry has no traction with people who demand to be in charge of letting us know what’s up. Dead weighted redundancy, by their lights, keeps us lowly working stiffs in PBR and pretzels. Meanwhile, we get quotes from the wunderkind on Sunday morning that a college sophomore would hope to squeak off as somewhat original in a writing assignment.

Max Boot ran “In defense of ‘the Blob’” on the Washington Post’s Thursday 9-9 opinion page. There’s hardly a single unequivocal statement in the piece. Not a phrase in it is worth citing. He might not be looking at the same Blob as the rest of us. Boot’s “Blob” wasn’t diagnosed growing on government cells until 1945. The antiwar speech of Senator George Norris of Nebraska establishes this pathogen’s virulence from at least 1917:

“It is now demanded that the American citizens shall be used as insurance policies to guarantee the safe delivery of munitions of war to belligerent nations. The enormous profits of munition manufacturers, stockbrokers, and bond dealers must be still further increased by our entrance into the war. This has brought us to the present moment, when Congress, urged by the President and backed by the artificial sentiment, is about to declare war and engulf our country in the greatest holocaust that the world has ever known.

In showing the position of the bondholder and the stockbroker, I desire to read an extract from a letter written by a member of the New York Stock Exchange to his customers. This writer says:

Regarding the war as inevitable, Wall Street believes that it would be preferable to this uncertainty about the actual date of its commencement. Canada and Japan are at war and are more prosperous than ever before. The popular view is that stocks would have a quick, clear, sharp reaction immediately upon outbreak of hostilities, and that then they would enjoy an oldfashioned bull market such as followed the outbreak of war with Spain in 1898. The advent of peace would force a readjustment of commodity prices and would probably mean a postponement of new enterprises. As peace negotiations would be long drawn out, the period of waiting and uncertainty for business would be long. If the United States does not go to war, it is nevertheless good opinion that the preparedness program will compensate in good measure for the loss of the stimulus of actual war.”

If this isn’t a display of the Blobovian control room communicating with the sanguinary ectoplasm of its extremities what could be? WWI, boomers heard post WWII, was caused by “nationalism, imperialism and militarism.” Figuring out what the hell that meant wasn’t encouraged. Elementary descriptions of the Great War have improved. But there are more than a few bizarre details of US involvement that remain academically bleary – and probably not by accident – to this day.

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk, between Germany and the new Soviet government, was signed March 3, 1918. It roughly dismembered the non-Russky western portions –where the only significantly dense populations resided — of the old Tsarist Empire. By this time it had become the fledgling USSR for a few months and was still at war with vast numbers under the new regime. The terms of the pact are commonly cited as an example of Central powers harsh demands. By these lights, presumably, Lenin, Trotsky and company were entitled to rule, by coup d’etat, the masses absorbed over centuries by the Romanovs they detested. Who can say what was “harsh,” theoretically, over what actually transpired historically?

More than two years before this treaty was ever considered, and over a year prior to US entry into the war, Allied powers had effectively carved up huge swaths of the Ottoman Empire that was losing its grip in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Neither Turks, nor local populations effected, were consulted or even expected to learn of it at the time.  The word “harsh” doesn’t come up in references to that plot “making the world safe for democracy.” Whether you see a rhyme or assonance a lot doesn’t add up.

In any case, on British advice, the US sent 13,000 US troops into east Europe. They soon found themselves fighting against the Bolsheviks into 1920. This was after the Treaty of Versailles had handed the Ukraine, Belarus, and other nationalities back to the power ruling in Moscow. The US was shedding blood fighting against, among other things, a treaty reversal its very own power enabled.

No one can tell us how German politics might have played out if half a victory on their eastern front could have been claimed post war. Maybe, Hitler would have gathered political ground but there’s a good chance he would not have.

What we do know, unequivocally, is that Soviet control of the territory regained in the reversal of Brest-Litovsk resulted in carnage unknown in Europe – and probably anywhere in history — before WWII.  It’s possible German hegemony would have been as bad but it hardly seems likely. German agricultural managers had helped make the steppes there the wheat bowl of Europe for generations. The Soviets kicked them out and later massacred the best farmers they had left inside their borders. Those millions would have been safe from Soviet destruction with Brest-Litovsk intact. US military force tipped the balance.

Soviets didn’t start the massacres that define the 20th century but did bring them to epic scale. The Nazis may have arisen without our participation in WWI but that’s pure speculation. The Blob exhibits casual nonchalance about which side it’s on. Is it ever ours? There shouldn’t be any confusion about why it can’t abide being eyeballed closely.

The J. P. Morgan financial group led the “make the world safe for democracy” charge into the European war. The very founder of the Blob, who died in 1913, paid $300 to avoid service in the American Civil War he profited on.

Between 1972 and the late 80’s the US, under the direction of Blobovians like Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Caspar Weinberger and Donald Rumsfeld, placed the US on three different sides in the same conflict at one time or another. Dr. K talked the Kurds into taking on the Ba’athist regime in Iraq while a border dispute with Iran was underway. The US abruptly cut supplies and the Shah sealed his mountain passes when a deal was struck with Baghdad. Kissinger flippantly replied to congressional questions on the backstabbing with: “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

When arrangements between Pahlavi and the Takriti clan fell through Donald Rumsfeld personally met with Saddam Hussein to provide US aid to their side in the fight. This aid came one year after the Dujail massacre the Iraqi dictator was later tried and hung for.

Less than two years later it was Iran’s turn to get US support through the so-called Iran-Contra affair. Three years after that our sailors found themselves in the Persian Gulf giving and receiving fire. Predictably paranoid, serving under whimsically treacherous leadership, Iranian Air flight 655 was accidentally shot down by the USS Vincennes killing all 290 on board. There are a lot of dots in covering US adventures abroad our editorial classes are always averse to connecting.

The September 11 NYT ran a heartrending article by Andrew Exum. It has profound appeal to all of us close to those who have served in conflict. My grandfather, who died in 1984, was wounded twice in WWI. My father joined the US Navy in July 1941 at 17 making 1st class petty officer before war’s end. My Uncle Jack was at both Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Uncle Benny fought in North Africa. My uncles Rudolph and Charles also served in WWII but never chose to describe any details. Uncle Sidney served in Korea. My brother-in-law, Dennis Huffstickler, was a ranger in Viet Nam. His father, Leroy, was wounded numerous times participating in the Normandy invasion and still crossed the Rhine into Germany. He now lies in Arlington Cemetery after a 21 gun salute I was present for. None of these men chose soldiery as a profession.

These facts don’t shed a drop of glory on me for the tenuous connection. They took their sacrifices in quiet stride. Not a one of them lorded a thing over anybody else. If there was contempt for us who hadn’t faced those kinds of perils it was held damned discreetly.

Exum, too, faced a lot of things many of us probably aren’t up to and tells us:

“If we were to collectively abandon service, it would mean abandoning the idea of America. Our country has never been more, or less, than a democratic experiment.”

But also says:

“We are only now getting a clearer picture of the war’s costs. We spent trillions of dollars — dollars we might as well have set on fire in the many “burn pits” that once littered Afghanistan and Iraq. We sacrificed thousands of lives — 2,461 American service members in Afghanistan, nearly twice as many in Iraq — and that doesn’t include the lives of U.S. partners, or the many thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis who perished in our follies.”

Some reference to the plunderers inside the beltway and on Wall Street that stoke these conflagrations so lucratively would have made this elegiac a little easier on the ear. What’s tacitly, and unwittingly, suggested is turning the very scrutiny of the public 9-11 enabled on the scrutineers raking it in. Democratic experimentation doesn’t require mad scientists manipulating the variables.

The article etches the kind of camaraderie and esprit de corps hostile fire instills into readers. Who can doubt they’d probably never develop quite the kind of intimacy with comrades deadly combat stirs in the human soul? The idea, that it should ever happen out of anything less than absolute necessity, however, is a pathological danger to the human race.

“I have been asked to serve my country several times over the past few decades, both in and out of uniform, and each time is frankly thrilling. To be a part of this ambitious American project is to be a part of something so much grander and so much larger than yourself.”

Everyone who led a lively youth should know to be wary of where they get their thrills. State run mass movements had many more ugly ends in the 20th century than pretty ones – while pouring adrenaline into the bloodstreams of millions.

In this Covid lingering age, a lot of us would like to be closer than we are to other human beings, but the concept of longing for martial circumstances to bring it on…isn’t worth the price…however ecstatic the verses it might render.

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