"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I love this line

Jonah Goldberg over at NRO's The Corner started a little something with a post about the series finale of Angel. One reader wrote back with this little bit:

That is one spot that really upset me, Angel's closing line about how he wanted to kill the dragon. Just because you are big, winged, breathe fire, and have a taste for virgins, everybody is on your case. There is way too much anti-dragon bias in television, the movies and fiction in general.

"Everybody is on your case." I love it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

We Are Winning--Seriously

More on this front from Tony Blankley and Meghan Clyne. Blankley points out that the President must stop the slide into timidity the media and partisan Democrats are so desperately pressing for, and Clyne tells the story of Younadem Kana, the only Christian on Iraq's Governing Council. His story is one of good news and amazing progress.

This brings up a question that I wish somebody would address: precisely how is it that things are so bad? I quit listening to Imus in the Morning because I got sick of hearing the I-Man keep saying what a mess it was over there in Iraq. But is it? Seriously, what are our losses and defeats in the past twelve months that make it so horrible?

Let's look at the hard facts. We now have about 700 fallen American heroes in this war. We have a number of Iraqi democrats who have been assassinated, including a sympathetic religious leader and a couple of members of the Iraqi council. Fallujah, while calming down somewhat, may be interpreted as a defeat because of how we handled it. al-Sadr in Najaf has shaken his fist against us and again may have won a symbolic victory (although even that is in doubt.) Several regions of the country are still in danger of daily terrorist bombings from improvised devices, much like Israel is.

Okay, what am I missing? What's happened that's not on this list that counts as actual bad news? Because if this is all there is, it's mind-boggling how well this is proceeding.

I do not say this to minimize the sacrifice any U.S. soldier makes, but the U.S. casualty count for this conflict is breathtakingly low. A multitude of minor one-day battles in the Civil War and world wars generated more casualties. When Churchill said, "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few," he was speaking of the debt owed to the Royal Air Force. The same may now be said of the Iraqi and American people to the fallen heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As for the rest, it is not good that the enemy still exists and targets political leaders and innocent Iraqis and Americans through terrorist means, and the strife in places like Fallujah and Najaf are troubling. But how bad are these things really set against the larger picture? Did we really expect there to be no trouble whatsoever one year after the fall of Saddam? Did we not believe the famous letter that outlined al-Qaeda's plans before the June 30 date for transfer of power?

How have we failed except that the facts on the ground haven't met our wildest fantasies about success?

I have a saying about peace. One side believes that you have peace when people aren't actually shooting at each other. This is the crowd that wails and whimpers about body bags and Vietnam and hearts and minds. The other side believes that peace is what you get when all the bad guys are dead. I'm on this side, and while we don't (yet) have peace, we're a lot closer to it than people think.

Kill Our Will, Lose The War

I'm seeing an increasing number of people who are pointing out that we can lose the war in Iraq if we lose our nerve at home (and are chastising the media because they're helping the other side whether they wish to or not.) Tuesday's Best of the Web at cites an analysis by the Belmont Club that acknowledge the emergence of "News Coverage as a Weapon".

David Limbaugh has a piece about the overreaction and unreasonableness of our critics that asks the following question:

"As a body politic, are we so arrogant and foolish as to think we can wage war like a video game with virtually no difficulties and no real-life consequences? I just have to wonder what the critics expect. What do they think is supposed to happen in war?"

As it happens, I wrote an editorial for the local paper that makes the same video game analogy. Keep in mind I wrote this last November. Things haven't changed.

The U.S. incursion into Iraq has been a stunning success. Never before had an enemy like Saddam Hussein been taken out with such speed and precision. Despite the cries of armchair generals, the U.S. military liberated a country of 22 million from a murderous butcher at the cost of fewer than four hundred combat deaths thus far.

The foreign terrorists and Saddam-era fascists have no military hope of taking the country back from our soldiers. In addition, our enemies are attacking warriors who can shoot back instead of focusing on regular people going to work or picking their kids up from school.

Sometimes our boys get killed. We do right to mourn their loss and grieve for their families. But I fear that we may be forgetting how to honor our dead with the constant carping and hand-wringing and irresponsible demands.

Our soldiers cannot lose this war. They are the greatest fighting force ever seen, and our enemies don’t stand a chance against them. Our current political and military leadership cannot lose this war. They know the nature of our enemy and are taking the necessary steps to defeat them. Only we, the American people, can lose this war. The only way for us to lose is to let our will crumble, to become weak and timid, to flee the swamp before our troops can finish draining it.

So those of you who have nothing to constructive to say, stop talking. Quit calling for the U.N. to save us; it has neither the power nor the will to do so. Cease comparing Iraq to Vietnam; such comparisons lack imagination and are entirely false. Don’t complain about the reconstruction cost on the one hand and demand prescription drugs on the other. Stop whining about the lack of a “plan”. This is a war, not a video game, and no plan could assure zero casualties. Above all, stop chipping away at our national purpose to indulge your own bickering impulses.

Dissent if you must, but dissent responsibly. Treat the threat as real and suggest how better to fight it; demand accountability from a media core that can report nothing but bad news. But if you have nothing but complaints and arrows designed solely to tear down a president you don’t like, swallow your pride for the sake of your neighbors. Our country is at war, and only you can lose it.

We have succeeded in Iraq beyond all reasonable expectations. So naturally the critics howl that we have not met unreasonable expectations. This is a dire problem and must be faced quickly.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Not all news is national

A dear friend of mine lost her baby yesterday. She was about a week away from delivery, and the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat, and now there are the arrangements to make.

This week the world has seen the murder of Nick Berg and the continued media storm over the pictures at the Abu Ghraib prison. But for my friend (and me, now), this is the week she lost her baby.

We look at the events on the front page or the web sites or the evening news and think that's what defines our times. But each of us lives, and each of us has joys and cares and tragedies that serve as higher and more profound signposts than any distant event.

My aunt died in 2001. It wasn't because of terrorism; it was cervical cancer. Yet our pain and loss was no less. 2001 was the year that the generic "we" lost 3000 citizens, but more importantly in my life it was the year that the personal "we" lost my favorite aunt.

It speaks to the useful and necessary fiction of talking about what "we the people" think about and share. Series finales of popular television shows serve that purpose nicely, but "we" are fractious enough in our pursuits and viewpoints anyway. Personal tragedies just highlight the fault lines that arise as a function of large societies.

But they also show the love lines that bring the smaller units of our society together in times of need. The larger "society" can take care of itself; it's largely a fiction, anyway. But these love knots that are so vital to the actual care of people--we can't let those dissolve.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Not the World, Just Us

Tom (I believe) Bevan over at RealClearPolitics posted a link to Hugh Hewitt's site of a letter from a U.S. Marine about how the Abu Ghraib prison blowup has affected the troops and what our soldiers plan to do about it. The Marine is right on. He puts the blame squarely on the prison personnel and acknowledges the shame it brings to all soldiers. He then courageously says the way to handle this is to be even better, even stricter than the already extraordinary level of control and discipline most soldiers already display. Wow.

I have one minor point to make. One purpose the Marine gives is that we do this "to convince the world that those acts were conducted by criminals and are not indicative of our values or intentions." With respect, I disagree. We do this to show ourselves what kind of people we are; the world will draw its own conclusions. The good will recognize our goodness, the bad will ignore or misinterpret it, and the others will try to find what's in it for them. Let's not go crazy trying to win the approval of a shifting and sly world.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Then why did you go?

Caught a little bit of 60 Minutes II as CBS continues its assault on the U.S. military. I heard the deadpan voice of some woman describing pretty horrible things they did to prisoners. She also said she didn't like it there and wanted to go home.

All I could think of was, "What's this chick doing in the military?"

Casualties, Not Victims

Rachel Zabarkes Friedman has an article on NRO about the young volunteers helping to rebuild Iraq. She puts the spotlight on young men and women who are facing discomfort, pain, and danger in order to bring a nation from tyranny to freedom. Way to go, guys.

This is the best work of my generation, which I call the Trash Generation. (Why? Because some of us are trash, we've been treated like trash, and our generational mission will be to take out the trash and clean up the mess we've been left.) These men and women are my contemporaries, and I'm getting a little tired of all the condenscension how they're "kids" or "boys".

Those in uniform are definitely men, not children. They withstand hardships, work hard, and put themselves at risk for the highest of achievements. When our soldiers die, they are fallen heroes, not victims. I am increasingly frustrated with a media that refuses to respect them on their own terms but constantly filters them through the prism and prejudices of the Baby Boomers.

The men and women Ms. Friedman highlights in her article are the front-line soldiers in the other, larger war: civilized society vs. barbarism. They, too, are tremendously brave and good. The songs and sagas of our yesterdays were based on people like them. When some are killed as Nick Berg was, they too are casualties in the larger war, not merely victims of chance or malice. They, too, deserve the honor befitting fallen heroes.

Terms of the Debate

James Robbins and Walter Williams both have pieces on the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison and the murder of Nicholas Berg that hinge on the definitions of the terms we keep flinging about.

A couple of points: both suggest that the terms being used to describe what's going on are just the wrong words. When Williams thought of atrocities, he thought of "eye gouging, piercing of prisoners' hands and knees with electric drills, beating soles of prisoners' feet, cigarette burns, fingernail extraction, whipping and placing prisoners in acid baths". Robbins opens his terrorism classes by asking his students to define what a terrorist is. For Williams, the actual events of Abu Ghraib do not merit the term "atrocity", and Robbins implies that the definition his students give is so broad as to be meaningless.

They seem like esoteric points in the midst of heated events, don't they? Does it really matter if we use the "right" word to describe what's happening? After all, who's to say just what the "right" terms are?

Well, it does matter. It matters a lot. In discussing these issues, pouring your own meaning into the terms used by both sides is like getting home field advantage at a baseball game. Concede to me that pro-choice is an appropriate label, and I'll show the other side to be oppressors of women. Let me call it a "massive" tax cut, and I'll teach you to hate the rich.

That's what's going on in this debate. People are either carelessly or deliberately misusing terms in order to make sure their side wins. The Humpty-Dumpty brigades, fresh off the idiocy fostered in literacy criticism of the reader determining the meaning of the text regardless of the author's intent, want to adulterate the terms in order to get the power because the power is all that matters.

Williams and Robbins are right, and it's important.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

What would Nick do?

So it begins.

It's kind of a shame to start this blog entry on such a dour note, but the times call for what they do. An al-Qaeda leader beheads an American in purported retaliation for our prison abuses in Abu Ghraib.

Some points to make: first, this is an exercise in murderous propaganda. They did not kill this man because they saw the pictures; they killed him because they are terrorists. They did kill him in the particular fashion and with that particular message because they do know how we operate in the West.

Some people will actually take this statement and treat it as though it has some moral seriousness; they actually do think we Americans deserve this kind of abuse. Others will point to it and say "See! We told you this would make them really mad!" Never mind that Abu Ghraib did not create their murderous natures, only gave them a pretext to do what they desired.

The problem is that a significant element of American society wishes to be loved by the world. Instead of facing reality, they prefer to gaze into a mirror, interpreting everything that happens just as they would a facial blemish that will ruin them for the next high school dance or society party. Their fate, consequently, is in the hands of those from whom they desire adoration, and their statements must be evaluated in that light.

The enemy we fight, however, must fear us. Fear is under our control; a devastating response to the murderers of this young American encourages our enemies not to do that sort of thing anymore. As a tactical matter, we can continue to wring our hands over the abuses at the prison, or we can very publicly and very sincerely condemn and punish the instigators while subtly reminding our opponents that falling into our hands is not a desirable fate. Of the two options, which would Niccolo Machiavelli counsel?