Sunday, January 26, 2020

“...disunited, undisciplined, ambitious, faithless...”

Worth noting, as we drift unmoored through the final days of the Republic, that we're showing as many indicators of a late-stage political dissolution abroad as we are at home, one of these being an increased dependence on mercenaries to fight our cabinet wars.

I'm not going to pretend that these hired guns are going to have anything like the negative domestic effects Niccolo Machiavelli reported they had on the Italy of the Renaissance:
"Mercenaries...are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were."
The United States is not the Florence of the 1500s; we will neither be conquered nor ruined by these mercenaries.

But a putative republic should be concerned with the interests of its citizens. When it increasingly becomes, through using hired troops to further divorce its actions abroad from its people at home, more of an imperium it furthers the conditions that make all the more likely that - although the standards may still read "The Senate and People" - that the orders that move those standards do not reflect any actual intent to do good for, or further the interests of, We the People.

I wish I could, as I so often do, make this into a partisan problem. It's not; the desire to make the nation's military adventures less fraught with political consequences has been sought by the "leadership" of all factions outside the tiny genuinely Red Left (such as it is) and the equally tiny isolationist Right.

No, it's not a Democratic or Republican problem.

It's an "American" problem, and one generated by the massive indifference We the People have shown towards holding our "leaders" accountable to us for their indifference towards...I won't even say "our interests"; it's an indifference towards even trying to honestly and openly assess what those interests are.

Any truly rational evaluation of the value of spending blood and treasure to send soldiers - any soldiers - to chase the ragged aspirants of a theocratic fantasy around a disputatious and chaotic foreign region would quickly conclude that value is utterly nil. All the bullets ever cast cannot kill the notion of Islamic hegemony any more than they could kill Christian dominionism when it was the animating force of the West. It took an Enlightenment to do that, and by our part in discrediting and destroying the secular authorities in the Islamic lands we've done a hell of a fucking good job ensuring that the Islamic Enlightenment is further away than ever.

I have not desire to see my fellow soldiers thrown into this pointless abyss.

But I have even less desire to see my country continue to sow the dragon's teeth simply because I and my fellow citizens are too lazy and disengaged to bother with that sowing when it's done not by our "own" hands but by hired ploughmen tilling foreign fields with the seed my taxes have bought.

Those underneath the harrow are not too stupid to know whose money is behind the rifle, regardless of who is actually carrying it. If we do not understand that, if we do not understand the idiocy of trying to use those hired rifles to divorce ourselves from our cluelessness and geopolitical stupidity, we will never understand that we can never hire enough of those rifles to ever prevent being continually nipped by the dragons.
"...he who told us that our sins were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he imagined, but those which I have related. And as they were the sins of princes, it is the princes who have also suffered the penalty." ~The Prince, Chapter XII

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

At ease.

Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.


Lemme get this out of the way most quick smart.

Night bakers. I'm positively fucking thrilled that you love your jobs so much that you want to sing on the way to work. I will simply advise you that if you choose to sing "Bath Salt" again outside the Battalion Sarn't Major's office window when said Battalion Sarn't Major's wife is dropping said Battalion Sarn't Major off at work I will personally go Willy Wonka candy semen on your asses, hit a killswitch and put an end to your personal problems. I trust I am making myself clear.


Regarding this battalion's upcoming deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Despite what you current events junkies may have heard on the electronical teevee or over the intertoobz, no matter what Ahab the A-rab is paying for our asses none of that money is going to come your way, Specialist Black, so dancing on the table in the dayroom shouting "Shake mommy's little moneymaker for twenties in my undies!" is not going to make you a profit but will, controversely, result in you spending some unpaid quality time with my friend Mister Rotary Floor Buffer. Are we clear on this, hee-ro?


And, no, because the desert-roamers are paying for our asses does not make us Free Companions, or The Black Company, or the Fucking White Company, or Fucking Baron von Fucking Riedesel's First Fucking Battalion of Hessian Fucking Jagers. I have personally confiscated those copies of "The Dogs of War" and "The Wild Geese" from the dayroom television because they are a bad influence on you high-velocity projectile interceptors, and I will personally advise you that if I find anyone. ANY. One. In possession of a dried ear, a bolo knife, or a "vive le sacre' mercenaire" tattoo on their ass they will be doing the most heinous form of extra duty for me that I can devise from now until I fucking retire. This in not the Foreign Legion, people. We are soldiers of the United States and will act like it, regardless of the shenanigans of those voted into office in our chain of command.

Now. Last item.

I observe that the new U.S. Space Force facility at North Post is operational. I trust that you are treating our new sister service-members with the respect and dignity that you would treat any other zoomie, squid, or jarhead.

That means, Sergeant Garcia, that repeatedly shouting "To Infinity and Beyond!" when the space cadets are doing what passes for marching in formation past our battalion area is not entirely respectful. And, though I say this more in sorrow than anger, Specialist Black, asking them if their camouflage uniforms are for fighting Wookies on the moons of Endor is entirely non-sat. That is because the hairy aliens on Endor are fucking Ewoks, not Wookies, and only a complete pop culture moron would not know that, and I dread to think that the space rangers think of you and, hence, us, as pop culture morons.

Leave the starship troopers alone, people. They got enough problems as it is.

And medical platoon.

After this formation we will fall in to the motor pool where we will closely examine the 7-Eleven you seem to have set up in the Headquarters 52 GAMA Goat. The last time I saw that many Cheetos bags in one place it took three hours to excavate the sleeping doper underneath. I note in passing that Specialist Denney is absent from this formation, and I trust that we will not be in a similar situation after you have brought that vehicle to an acceptable level of cleanliness.

Are we clear?

Good. That is all.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Flown Away

Last Sunday I was bringing the Boy back from his first kendo class when I got the text message on my phone.
"Am at grocery store. Need you go home now. Missy just found Spots dead."
Spots Pecker Violet, as he was originally known, came home with the Girl back in November of 2013. He was a "hand-reared" blue-phase parakeet who was born in the little "BiZee Bird Shop" out in Beaverton.

Now my experience with pet birds up to Spots was limited to the Bride's companion, Oxey the Cockatiel, who blended in with me and Lily the Cat and Quinn the dog when we first moved in together back at the turn of the 21st Century, and a nastier, more snappish creature never lived.

He seemed to dote on mi esposa, clambering onto her shoulders and nibbling on her earrings, but he would hiss and bite everyone else, including his stepfather (that is to say, me...). He was grossly cagebound and nasty about it, and when he would get out of his cage he was nasty about that, too.

He could fly about as well as a paper airplane, fluttering madly while losing altitude until he ran into a wall or a window, whereupon he'd float to the ground and scrabble about on the floor, hissing and biting. He was so nasty that even the cats seemed intimidated. He really was a pill.

So I wasn't prepared for how sweet and personable the little budgie was.
He loved to climb on you, just as the cockatiel had. But he never bit. He would nibble; he loved the Bride and Missy's long hair, and he like to perch on my reading glasses and pull my eyebrows, which was incredibly ticklish but kind of fun. He was very patient, and would sit with you for hours, chirping and nuzzling.

He was a good little companion, and Missy was a good caretaker; playing with him and giving him the greens that he savored. We had to be careful, because the cats were unsurprisingly fascinated by him, especially Drachma, who would have caught and killed Spots if he could have.

Rotten cat...

Spots was Missy's beloved pet all through her childhood. He was her treasure, she was diligent and kindly, ensuring he got his playtime and healthy food and was kept safe and happy.

But children grow, and sometimes they leave their childhood joys behind. Missy is now a middle-schooler, a theater kid, has interests and friends outside the house, and slowly found herself visiting and caring for her little bird less often. Somethimes Spots could go days without leaving his cage, joining us only though his voluble chatter from his cage in the far corner of Missy's room.

Too late, she said afterwards, she'd idly noticed several days earlier that his chatter seemed less animated, and his movements less energetic.

But she told herself she'd check in on him later. And later became later until finally when she did go to him she found him lifeless in the bottom of his cage.

She was bereft.

There were shared tears, and we gave her lots of hugs and kisses. We grieved over him, and wrapped him in a soft cloth, and buried him out in the side yard, under the star magnolia, in what we call "Bryn's Garden". We got flowers for him, and still are pondering what to do with his vacant cage, a sad and empty reminder of the small life that is no longer with us.

And perhaps the most difficult part is that the Girl blames herself for not being more attentive, for not checking on little Spots sooner, for not saving him when he could have been saved.

And all I can do is hug and kiss her and tell her I love her.

Because she's right.

She could have, and that's a wound of the heart she will have to carry with her always, just one of a thousand tiny agonizing piercings, like the crown of thorns around the icon of the Sacred Heart, that will linger as long as she does, to remind her of that small moment of carelessness that led to her little pet slowly dying alone on his perch in the quiet of the empty room.

We are none of us guiltless.

But it is not the guilt itself; far too many of us stroll through life careless and reckless of the harm we do.

It's the knowledge of that guilt that weighs some of us down so heavily.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Scrappy Doo

The little re-purpose place Scrap used to be a "cool thing in North Portland" until it moved downtown.
It's still amazingly cool.
Because, well...
...because, well...

There's just so many freakishly weird and cool things that you can assemble in one place, but Scrap does a helluva job giving it a good shot. It it true that you can find pretty much anything at Scrap?

Next time you're in Portland?

Check it out.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Ruin and merciless hatred

I don't really have much to add to what all of you know. The Iranian "leadership" has proved nearly as stupid and impulsive as my own.

There really is no "win" here. The U.S. cannot possibly invade and occupy Iran in order to effect a dramatic change in the nation of Iran as it did in Germany and Japan after 1945. Iran cannot possibly force the United States to back down without the U.S. choosing to back down.

Instead there will simply be killing and maiming, destruction and chaos. In the end the combatants will remain, richer in nothing but ruin and merciless hatred.

You know I was a soldier. I cannot in good faith preach to anyone the virtues of pacifism.

But there are times and reasons when wars must be fought. Often those reasons are bad ones, and those times are never right. There never was, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, a good war or a bad peace.

But there are worse wars. Stupid, pointless, needless wars, and this is surely a very, very bad war, in that nothing good can ever come of the "peace" that will finally follow it.

I will say more tomorrow.

But for tonight, I will leave you with the rest of Doctor Franklin's quote for you to ponder as we wait uncertainly for the news that will come with the dawn.
"What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of living might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility. What an extension of agriculture even to the tops of our mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads and other public works, edifices and improvements, rendering England a complete paradise, might not have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief! In bringing misery into thousands of families, and destroying the lives of so many thousands of working people who might have performed the useful labor."

Update 1/9/: Well, color me surprised. Both sides sorta-kinda walked this back from the abyss. The mullahs made it clear that all these missiles were warning shots, targeted to make big booms but not kill anyone. And Trumpy Bear, looking and sounding like a kid forced to eat his vegetables, produced a brief statement that made it clear that he was doing nothing to ratchet the tensions down. The punitive U.S. sanctions on Iran remain in place, "sanctions" that amount to a level of blockade that would be considered warfare if it were being done to the U.S. by another nations. The GIs aren't moving out of Iraq regardless of what the Iraqis may say. All the elements needed for an utterly weapons-grade-moron-level war are still there.

And, worse yet, in my opinion, the airwaves are full of the same fucking idiots - Bloody Bill Kristol, Hannity, Coulter, Rushbo, the loathsome Cheney and Trump spawn, pimping as hard for that moronic war as possible.

So we dodged that bullet. But these dumb fuckers are waving the gun around, and if it goes off and shoots my country in the foot I will be as shocked as when my kid announced that Cap'n Crunch abraded the roof of his mouth.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Mr. Thucydides on Line 1...

I want to add a note on just how geopolitically moronic this is.
Leaving aside the purely moral questions of murder-by-drone (and I suspect that a drone is more likely to have been the Angel of Death here rather than an Army aircraft...) any politico-military act by a Great Power can and should be judged by the cost versus the benefit of the action. So, let's look at those here; first, what are the benefits?

1. Taking a powerful Iranian piece off the board.

Fred Kaplan has a pretty good summary of the larger view of this action here (he also calls it an "act of war" eliding, I think, the reality that the U.S. and Iran have been in a cold war since Trump's abrogation of the JCPOA). Bottom line is that the Dead Guy was effectively the combined Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the CINC of Special Operations for Iran. This was a decapitation strike and, as such, a successful one.

2. Reminding everyone, especially everyone in the Middle East, and especially everyone in Iran, that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Not that anyone really needed that reminder. But this is an in-your-face example of the Ledeen Doctrine. As such it raises as many questions as it answers, and we'll discuss that below. But there's no question that this is a sort of "you're not safe anywhere" gesture to anyone thinking about giving Uncle Sammy the side-eye.

3. Aaaaand...that kinda runs me out of "benefits".

Seriously. I'm not sure what else this does, other than ratchets up the US-Iran cold war.

OK, so...what are the (direct) costs?

1. Rachets up the US-Iran cold war.

Which in itself isn't a good thing, but my real concern is that it could lead to a US-Iran hot war, and there's simply no "good" result of that.

Look, the United States at this phase of it's existence is a "status quo" Power. Stability and regularity are its friends, chaos and uncertainty its foes. Like any status-quo Great Power, it benefits when it can work with smaller regional powers to exert its influence. When it's forced to respond to troubles thrown out by regional instability it risks - as it has found - getting mired in endless sapping brushfire wars and profitless imperial adventures. Status-quo Powers are not usually good at "responding", they're not designed to be nimble or flexible. They do best when they can surround themselves with buffers of client and proxy states that can be bribed, wheedled, intimidated, or some combination of all three, into doing the Power's dirty work for them.

What We the People should have learned from the last 19 years is that "regime change" in politically un- or under-developed polities is unlikely to produce more stability. The Clintonistas tried to "save" Somalia and just knocked it further into the tules. The Bushies knocked the Saddam cork off the Iraq bottle and produced the unholy clusterfuck that this move is part of. The Obamites went along with defenestrating Ghaddafi in Libya and produced an even-more-failed-state.

Removing the mullahs from Iran won't produce a "better" Iran (from a US policy standpoint). Whoever follows is going to be 1) Persian, and, as such, convinced of Iran's place as the regional middleweight power, and 2) reminded that the US has not been a good thing for Iran since back in the 1950s - he, she, or they will remember Mossadegh and the Shah and the Gulf War and, now, this.

2. Replaces the Dead Bad Guys with...some other bad guys we don't know.

The Trumpkins make much of how the Dead Guy was a Bad Guy, but...c'mon. Seriously? This was fucking Napoleon? How "irreplaceable" a military-political genius was this joker? It's not like the IRGC is some sort of modern-day Alexander's Companions. They've made trouble in the Middle East and...what? Like it's that difficult to make trouble in the Middle East? Like it takes some sort of 12-dimension-chess-master? The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men.

And - as we found with Ghaddafi and Saddam - sometimes the people who replace the guys you kill are madder, badder, and more dangerous to know.

I said this succeeded as a decapitation strike. But who knows? It may turn out to be a "Yamamoto shootdown"; a little revenge drama that has no impact on the military organization it's targeting. Only this one wasn't in the middle of buttrump nowhere Southwest Pacific but at the freaking Baghdad Airport, which brings us to...

3. Punks the Baghdad government and every Iraqi regardless of political affiliation.

Imagine how you would feel if your neighbor kicked your door down, walked into your kitchen, and shot dead the guest your cousin had invited in.

You might not like the guest, or your cousin all that much...but that? That's a punch in your face. That's utterly contemptuous of you and your home. The neighbor has, to put it bluntly, just shown that you are his bitch. If you don't respond with force, are.

It's one thing to know that the strong do what they can. It's another thing to have your nose rubbed in it.

Seriously, I have no idea how the current government in Baghdad survives this if they don't make every American persona non grata and order the whole nutroll out of their country within 30 days. Hell, you'd think that they'd demand the extradition of the drone operator and everyone in their chain of command on murder charges. They won't...but why not? I mean, it kinda WAS premeditated murder.

3. Bogs the US even further in the Middle Eastern/Sunni-Shia War of Religion mire.

The one thing that everyone here has tried to make a Trump Positive is his supposed longing to #endendleswars. How the hell does this do anything to do that? I want to whack this dude? Fine. You can't find a way to get him to turn up in the Baghdad Marriot with a fatal heart attack, two labradoodles and a boy toy wearing a full wetsuit and stripper heels? Instead you choose the most ridiculously in-your-face fuck-you to every Masud and Amina between Gibraltar and the Celebes?


We've had discussions here that always seem to come back to the "Well, sure, Trump talks bugnuts shit, but that's just Trump..." thing. But I think this is a perfect example of WHY it's a problem. This doesn't strike me as something that was the result of some sort of deep foreign policy analysis. This feels like Trump gets pissed off at these pesky little Persians fucking with HIS embassy and making the news like he was a girly-man Jimmy Carter sorta wuss and calls down to his CIA Iran desk and says "Goddamn it, find me some Iranian sonofabitch to kill!" so he can look Strong and Commanding. This really is Foreign Policy by Tweet.

I'm not trying to say that he's somehow breaking U.S. Middle Eastern policy. That's been a shitshow since we stepped into the French and British colonial shoes after 1945.

But the feckless bastard has found ways to make it an even bigger shitshow, and after Bush I wasn't sure that was even possible.

What a fecking mess.

Update 1/4/20: Oh, for fuck's sake...
OK, so...the part where this whole idiocy is "Foreign Policy by Tweet"?

1) Fifty-two hostages? The 1979-1980 "Hostage Crisis"? Seriously?

2) "Iranian culture"? You're advertising that you're gonna war crime Iran by targeting cultural heritage sites? Why not bomb Coventry Cathedral, too, bubba, so you can bag the sweep. Jesus wept.

3) No more threats, hunh? I guess you're King of the Playground now, Spunky.

IF one of my troops had actied this stupid I'd have had the sonofabitch pulling extra duty until he ETSed. Since the POTUS is in the chain of command,...

Update 1/5/20: No, duh.

Like I said; this was fucking inevitable.

Anyone but a complete goddamn moron or goddamn Donnie Trump - but I repeat myself - could have seen this coming. KNEW this was coming the minute the warhead of the Reaper missile detonated. Does it mean that the GIs will have to do a Saigon-embassy-un-ass the joint? Maybe. The Baghdad government knows damn well that the GIs are the only militarily effective force in their country, and that if the GIs go it'll be a matter of time before the Sunni rebels re-rebel (the ridiculous Islamic State panic masked the reality that, in Iraq, anyway, the IS was more-or-less just the continuation of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation that began in 2003.

But the hell with tomorrow; today the Iraqi pols have only one choice, and that's between giving Uncle Sammy the finger, or being his tool. No Iraqi pol is stupid enough to think that being a Quisling is going to get him anywhere after this past week. Trump has made it cleat that his entire geopolitical approach to the Middle East is summed up in the sort of thing one of his goobers would wear on a T-shirt at one of his Nuremburg rallies; "Kick the ass. Take their gas."

IF I thought that Trump was serious about #endingendlesswars, that he'd simply tell the guys to grab a hat and not let the door hit them in the ass?


But whacking Solemani and sending paratroops to Kuwait and not even feinting towards repealing the AUMFs?

Nope. He's not even trying. He's pulling your leg just like he pulled the poor bastards' legs who "invested" in his fake university. That's who he is. That's what he does.


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The Last of the Teens

When you stop and thing about it, the "Teens", whether you want to talk about the Nineteen-teens, or the Twenty-teens, were pretty goddamn shitty decades.

The period between 1910 and 1920 brought us the most pointlessly, brutally destructive war in human history. Sure, the second "world war" was worse in terms of pure human misery. But at least that fucking mess settled the hash of the fucking Nazis and Imperial Japan.

The Great War? What a goddamn disaster; millions of dead, maimed, homeless, impoverished, raped...and for what?

And the Twenty-teens? The Rise of the New Fascism? Terrific. I can't see that getting Disney+ makes up for losing the American Right to the freaking looney wingnuts. Sorry. Ain't gonna happen.

Surprisingly, only the Girl had a Happy New Year; she went over to her pal Lucy's house and rocked out with games and treats and fun. The five of them - two girls and three boys (color me a bit shocked - when I was in middle school my parents would no more have been okay with me having an overnight party with girls than they would have been okay with me putting on a dirndl and trolling the docks for sailors).

But the Girl's friend's parents took the whole thing in stride, and so did the kiddos; it was all good fun, and everyone went to bed alone (but not until the pre-dawn - the Girl has now slept most of the afternoon away making up for lost sleep last night...)

The kiddos understand to a point where they stand, and what is happening to the country around them. They hate it, but they are cynical as hell, and don't think there's much they can do about it. They don't understand how old cranky white people can hate their gay friends, or want to hurt poor people, or homeless people, or just plain helpless people...but that's being a kid. As an adult I've seen way too many ruthless, heartless bastards to think that any outfit that promises to hurt the people those bastards hate won't profit from that promise.

But regardless of who and how old we are, here we stand, on the precipice of a new decade.

It is up to us, We the People, to decide what kind of decade we're going to get. Who will rule; will we be the nation of Martin Luther King, or the nation of Stephen Fucking Miller?

I'm an old sergeant, so you know what I think We'll choose. As my old drill sergeant, SFC Harris, famously said; "GI's, eh? Those fuckers'll fuck up a wet dream."

But here we are, nonetheless.

And, for the record, here's the scene at the Fire Direction Center this afternoon; you can practically taste the excitement. The Girl is the large black lump hiding from the camera, by the way. She did eventually emerge to whine about her brother and complain about my dinner selection.
But that's parenting - as I've warned you; it's a contact sport.

But, about those Ducks!