Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I'm not going to sit here and pretend I'm some kind of big-time foreign-policy expert. But really, what do you really need to know? We're talking about foreigners here. Non-Americans. All they really need to understand is the limit to which we are willing to tolerate misbehavior right up to the red-line of total thermonuclear annihilation from space. It's a complicated algebraic involving several variables (army size, trade partnership status, regional stability, receptiveness to MTV cultural colonization, etc.) where ultimately x=the number of South Dakota wheat fields we have to ruin by popping open the long-hidden underground ICBM silos in order to assure the destabilization of a given polity by shockingly rapid vaporo-depopulation. For the math challenged like myself, the good news is that x almost always = "not too fucking many."
It's not just the obvious countries either like Iran or North Korea or Canada. "Neutral" or "Friendly" are labels that simply mean we're not positively targeting you at this moment. Which is not to say we are not vigilant. We're watching you, Sweden. How long do you really think we're going to let you keep up this socialized medicine bullshit?
Also Germany (can't be too careful), Australia (the marsupial threat cannot be understated) and any country where it's OK to eat dogs. I'm sorry, that's just un-American. We will only be pushed so far.
I admit, it's a simplistic worldview, but it's a complete one, which is more than I can say for most people. Who else has developed any kind of position on Kyrgyzstan? I'd say just attempting to spell it puts me in the dizzy upper echelons of informed punditry. Which isn't really saying much considering how many pundits huff paint. Lots of dizziness.
This is the mindset I bring when I consider the work of the so-called "Iraq Study Group." The report is on the verge of being published, but the details are already amongst us.
It calls for engaging neighboring countries like Iran and Syria in order to better ensure involvement, I assume to convince them they have a stake in a stable post-Saddam Iraq. But this is tricky considering a) there has to be some straight bilateral contact between the sovereign Iraqi government and its neighbors and b) Iraq has no South Dakota wheat fields. No wheat fields, no nukes and no nukes means no sustainable foreign policy. So that's clearly a non-starter.
The other key point is a kind of a good news/bad news deal for the Bush administration.
The good news: "The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations..."
Lots of high-fives at the White House when they heard this. This has been their official position for a very long time. "When the Iraqi army stands up, we will stand down" and all that. Total validation of the principle.
The bad news? That reminds us they've been working on this for three years. How's that coming along?
Staffed with veterans of the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s and equipped with refurbished Soviet tanks and American Humvees, the 2,000-man 9th Division is considered to be Iraq's best hope for an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal...
"Fear took over" among the Iraqis, said Staff Sgt. Michael Baxter.
"They refused to move. We were yelling at them to move," he said. "I grabbed one guy and shoved him into a building. I was saying, "God get me out of this because these guys are going to get me killed..."
At times, the overwhelmed Iraqi soldiers fired wildly, sweeping their machine-gun barrels across friendly and insurgent targets alike, witnesses said.
"I had to throw bullet casings at them to get their attention," said Army 1st Sgt. Agustin Mendoza, another U.S. trainer who manned a Humvee gun-turret during the battle. "They had no weapons discipline."
Three years to train the Iraqis and all they get is the same skill level in combat that I display when I play Call of Duty 2. And I've only had the game for a year with no multi-billion dollar training program. I'm much better at it then I thought.
Look, this Iraq Study Group thing is no magic bullet. From what I understand defense contractors are working on a "magic bullet" that has shown great promise, but it's not going to be ready in time for this war. So far they're having trouble developing it for general purpose use from its intended, hyper-specific, non-war design function, which was to kill David Blaine.
There are no new ideas here. What we need from the president is not for him to actually do something so much as to make it look like he's doing something. My idea? Go on live TV, talk about how difficult the problem is, and then, on cue, start to have a slow nosebleed.
I've seen it on TV shows and movies. The slow nosebleed is wicked effective at displaying strain on the mind and body caused by overwhelming effort. Jessica Alba did it at the end of the awful Fantastic Four movie. And it happened just this week when the fat mind-reader cop did it on that show Heroes. And both of those people are horrible actors but still, I totally got what they were going for.
It's weird, because just recently, in film and TV a nosebleed used to immediately connote "fatal disease." A character would be writing something on a nice white sheet of paper and then, from their POV, we would see--o the symbolism!--a couple of red drops sully the unblemished sheet. They could have anything from AIDS to Lou Gehrig's Disease to some kind of experimental nose cancer. In any case, you knew they'd be dead within two scenes and practicing their Oscar speech.
Now a nosebleed shows effort. Or maybe just effort related to magic super mutant powers.
But you know, they say Iran is close to getting nukes of its own. Maybe it's OK if they think the president could potentially kill them with his brain. Internationally, I'd say it's about time we put his brain to some kind of use.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.6