Friday, June 25, 2010

Mista Kurtz -- he dead . . .

Calhoun’s Cannons for June 25. 2010
“. . . A penny for the Old Guy”
              T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

I understand. His war’s going badly, his men are getting killed in greater and greater numbers, and with every mistaken drone strike that takes out another wedding party a thousand clan members in a country of Hatfields and McCoys rise up as new enemies. It’s a tough job. Impossible, really, to nation-build in a corrupt, fundamentalist-ridden, narco-state, run by tribal war-lords, a country that not even Alexander The Great managed to subdue. Or the British. Or the Russians.

And maybe he and his small adoring wannabe staff of groupie-Aides have watched 300 too many times -- “This . . . is . . . SparTA!” – in between running 7 miles a day and eating like an anorexic runway model. It’s the warrior’s ascetic aesthetic. Way cool. I understand.

But Rolling Stone? That magazine’s always been bold and edgy and with Mat Taibbi’s recent breathtaking takedown series on the little piggies of Wall Street, that is the last magazine anyone in a position of power should sit down with to share a bottle of booze and have a gab fest. The story that results will surely rip your head off and hand pieces of it to you in 12 point type.

And a . . . general? A four-star one at that? Gossiping and sniggering with cronies, all dissing their civilian bosses like a 7th grade Mean Girl cat-party? What was he thinking?

Apparently, this was nothing new for General McBlabby, who used the press and very public venues before to break the chain of command and let the world know that he disagrees with civilian policy and that only he and he alone has The Way to solve the unsolvable. And if his civilian bosses aren’t listening to him, well, he’ll just up the ante in a way that can’t be ignored. After all, he’s . . . General McCrystal!

Which makes me think that maybe it’s time that we institute a new rule: Mandatory weekly attendance by ALL elected officials and government appointees and military brass in some sort of 12-step program, one designed to help people Get Over Themselves. Perhaps then we wouldn’t see this constant star-fall of bloated egotists blown off their lofty perches and crashing and burning all around us. It’s getting so the public can’t go outside nowadays without a hard-hat due to the constant rain of falling politicos and now a four-star general.

On the other hand, there was speculation that McCrystal had gone all Colonel Kurtz and was way, way up the dark river. Lord knows it would be understandable in the Mad Hatter Kingdom where killing al Qaida and Taliban allied with al Qaida has now morphed into killing plain old hard-core, bat-shit crazy Taliban who throw acid in the faces of young girls attending school, to killing angry run-of-the-mill Afghan patriots who only ally with the Taliban in order to get foreigners out of their country, joined by Pakistani-supported fighters sneaking across the border to play a deadly dual game for their own purposes. It’s all turned into a nightmare stew in a failed state run by tribal thugs. Dark river, indeed.

The President decisively settled McCrystal’s hash by removing him. He’s free now to go on the lucrative rubber chicken lecture circuit, get a fat book contract, and enjoy a luxurious retirement, even though it is a shame such an outstanding career ended so badly. Afghanistan is not only a human graveyard, it’s also the graveyard of careers as well as nations.

As General Petraeus will likely find out when he takes McCrystal’s place. Petraeus wrote the playbook McCrystal was using: COIN, [Counter Insurgency] a form of district by district “nation building” that can be costly to American soldiers and at this point is not going well in a country that (unlike Iraq) never really had a “nation” to build on in the first place. And if COIN is bogged down now, it remains to be seen whether the new General or his civilian bosses will have the time and will to figure out that Afghanistan is not Iraq and be able to change policy quickly enough to avoid a growing disaster.

One thing is for sure, Colonel Petraeus, a Spartan in his own right, will not be talking to Rolling Stone.


Sandra Gore said...

Actually Alexander did subdue Afghanistan - at least the old one which was called Bactria. Roxanne came from those hills. But who knows how long he could have held it as he died within a year or so. That's what invading that place will do to ya.

Anne R. Allen said...

I love it that Rolling Stone, once the voice of youthful rebellion, has become the voice of the outraged elders.

I worried about McChrystal from the time I first heard about him. This is a guy who hardly ever eats or sleeps and considers himself superior to people who do. Kind of a human crystal meth lab.

They do tend to explode in a toxic mess.

Alon Perlman said...

Didn't read it, didn’t watch it.
It's all in Ecclesiastes, and about 300 books written since
Crystal meth-McCrystal, precious. Up the Euphrates and in denial
Yes, more self infatuated made for TV edgy reality show material.

Heart of darkness?
The documentary by Sofia Coppola of her husband’s obsessive remake is called “Hearts of darkness”.
John Malkovitch did a good one. The original, “Heart of darkness” not “Apocalypse now”. Made for TV (BBC?). There were others.
A fantastic trilogy of cinematic art. The book is amazing. Note the date of publication, and location.
Conrad the Polish did well to capture the Societal madness and the differentiation from personal responsibility as we move between between the Danish (?)Family owned business owner's mercantilism and the systemic politicking and middle management exposition that takes place along the river.
In some respects Kurtz is the only real person. The only true producer. The only owner of an awareness, of a worked philosophy. (With the possible exception of the Major stockholder there, not talking, just knitting. (It’s in the book, I think)). Everyone else is disconnected, living in a small “what’s in it for me” concept world. The narrator; learning about the world behind as he approaches the blank space on the world map.
The lesson is that; We were all responsible for Vietnam.
We are even indirectly responsible for Russia’s Vietnam: Afghanistan
And now we are responsible for the next Four Vietnams
Iraq 1
Iraq 2
It is the opening of a second front Iraq, in our war against Iran, while engaging in a legitimate incursion in Afghanistan, which prevents us from having any hope of exiting the Afghanistan –Pakistan miasma. Opening second fronts is a Napoleonic sized mistake.

We sent BP into the heart of blue darkness. Why?
Drilling off the California coast is much safer provided the depths are within reach of Modern depth Diver suits. This (Joseph Conrad’s) is not a story about an exotic place and a character who went mad on the fringe. It is about us. The grocers who sent a messenger boy to collect on a bill. Who wanted things tidily swept under the rug. Who didn’t want to come to grips with the Horror of what we had wrought and are still wronging.

Word verifiction for today;

Churadogs said...

Sandra, Wasn't it Rudyard Kipling who warned the West should never "hustle the East?" More deja vu. But here's the kicker and how slopes get slippery: We went in after al Qaida. Then we killed Taliban who were next to the al Qaida. Then after we killed most of the real al Qaida, we started shooting Taliban, many of whom are truly bat-shit crazy and many of whom are just young men who want foreigners out of their country so they can get back to harvesting opium and putting sacks on their women, but most of whom aren't al Qaida. Now the Prez says our "enemy" is the Taliban and our mission now is to "defeat the Taliban."
That's what happens on the way to Perpetual War.

Alon Perlman said...

From The department of “Lessons not learned”
On the history Channel; The true story of Charlie Wilson. based on "Charlie Wilson’s war"
Approx 1984.

Mujahadin being taught to place a rock under an antitank mine. The first use of GPS in conjunction with mortars. The first use of a 50 Caliber sniper rifle;
Accidental discharge causes Gas station fire across from the Watergate apartments-
Labeled as terrorist act due to Pashtuni language operator’s manual accidentally left at the scene.

Muhadjin= "Strugglers", "freedom fighters".
Taliban= "Students"
Al Quida= "The Base"
(Created to channel money to The foreign islamic fighters who came into Afganistan from Pakistan.)

word verification; unfins
unfinished business-
Winning the War and losing the Peace