Archive for December, 2006

The Good Shepherd

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Just went to see the ironically titled The Good Shepherd, De Niro’s movie about the CIA. I was looking forward to a realistic account of the CIA’s founding and early history, but this is definitely not it. What a disappointment. It’s just another bullshit Hollywood flick about the evil U.S.A., the evil CIA, and the evil WASPs who control everything. It has all the subtlety and depth of a Berkeley Barb cartoon showing blood dripping from Robert McNamara’s fangs. The threat of Soviet Communism? Fehgeddaboutit. The Soviet threat was just a fiction whomped up by the evil Skull and Bones members at the CIA to give themselves something to do. Of course, like everything out of Hollywood these days, it has great production values, excellent acting, fabulous camera work. Love the cars, the costumes, the settings. But is it beyond the imagination of anyone in Hollywood that there might have been good, patriotic, dedicated people at the CIA, who, at great personal sacrifice, successfully protected us all from very real existential threats to our freedom?

Apocalypto

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

We went to see Mel Gibson’s new movie the other day. It was violent, but no more violent than some others. It was actually a pretty conventional run through the jungle kind of movie. It could have been set in Rome or Scotland or on Mars, without changing much. It was a pretty good movie, a lot of fantastic images, not terribly accurate historically. But the liberal movie reviewers are going nuts about it.

The review by Richard Schickel in the LA Times, that Harcamone tipped me to, is one atrocious example. This review, and others like it, are total bunk. If it was Spielberg or Brian De Palma instead of Mel Gibson, nobody would be spinning all this psychoanalytical bs about the sick, twisted psyche of the filmmaker. For all I know, Gibson’s psyche is sick and twisted, but this movie is not evidence of it, and that’s not the point anyway. Nobody spun all these judgmental theories about Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. This isn’t even about Gibson’s drunken tirade against the Jews. This is about The Passion. It is for making The Passion, that Mel Gibson is the unforgiven.

The Global Jihad Question

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

My previous blog post was a defense of what has been accomplished in Iraq, and it is possible to poke holes in my assumptions and conclusions. It is difficult to view the war in Iraq as an unbridled success, but that is not ultimately the issue. The real question that it all boils down to is this, is there a global Islamic jihad that poses an existential threat to Western civilization? Or not? Everything else flows from how one answers this question. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et. al.’s answer is yes, though they’ve done a poor job of explicating it to the American people and the world. I agree with them, for what it’s worth.

If your answer is no, then none of this war on terror makes any sense. We should even get the hell out of Afghanistan. The Taliban will take over again and oppress and murder the populace, but they probably won’t be setting up Al Qaeda camps anytime soon, and if they do, we can just bomb them. Iran wouldn’t dare do anything to us, so let them have their nukes. Syria can’t hurt us, so give them Lebanon. Al Qaeda is already on the run. We just need to dry up their sources of funds by reasoning with our Saudi friends. If Europe turns into Eurabia, so what? There are plenty of nice places to go on vacation right here in the good old U.S.A. The jihadists don’t have a very attractive agenda. Sooner or later the Muslim world will get tired of them, and their numbers will dwindle. Why not relax, let globalization do its work, and enjoy the end of history? Then we could spend some of that defense money on homeland security, anti-missile defense, and searching for habitable planets.

I would dearly love to believe that such is the reality, but if it isn’t, then withdrawal will be a disaster. It will embolden our enemies and dishearten our friends. Ghaddafi will regret caving in so easily. Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Egypt, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda, all of whom were set back on their heels by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, will go back on the offensive, against us and against their own people. Since the U.S. campaign and election, they have already begun.

The Baker report, which reeks of committee authorship, is not entirely irresponsible. It actually calls for more engagement in the Middle East rather than less. The problem with it is that it is a compromise between those who answer yes and those who answer no to the fundamental question. As John McCain says, “Well in war, my dear friends, there is no such thing as compromise; you either win or you lose.”

Missions Accomplished

Friday, December 1st, 2006

The war in Iraq has been continually evolving. It has not been one mission, but rather a series of missions.

Mission 1: Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and the Baathist gangsters. This mission has been accomplished.

Mission 2: Creating a constitution and electing a democratic government. This mission has been accomplished.

Mission 3: Preventing Al Qaeda from overthrowing the democratically elected government. This mission has been mostly accomplished. What’s left of Al Qaeda still has a stronghold in Anbar province, but is no longer a serious threat to the government, and defeating them in Anbar is a mission that can be accomplished, as it was in Fallujah and elsewhere.

Mission 4: Preventing the sectarian violence between the Shia and the Sunnis from plunging Iraq into civil war. This mission has not been accomplished, and it is an open question whether it can be, and even whether it really is our mission.

None of these missions have been easy, nor have any of their outcomes been at all certain. Most critics of the war have consistently maintained, before the fact, that they were all impossible, foolhardy undertakings doomed to failure. As each mission has been accomplished, the critics have forgotten it and moved on to the next. At each stage of the war, it has been painted as a lost cause from which we should extricate ourselves as quickly as possible.

Mission 4 is the toughest nut of them all. The more killing there is, the more it tends to escalate. The Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr is being funded, equipped, and trained by Iran, and has become an increasingly formidable force, which has zero interest in a peaceful, unified, democratic Iraq. It is also, unfortunately, the main power base of the current Maliki government. If the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, whether quickly or slowly, the most likely result will be the extermination of the Sunnis and the establishment of Iraq as a client state of Iran. Preventing such a result would seem to be in our interest and worth a considerable effort. Success is not certain, as it has not been every step of the way, but then, in war it rarely is.