Daily Archives: August 19, 2010

The beginning of the end…finally

Modern wars may resist definitions of ‘victory’ of ‘defeat’ and they’ll also resist terms like ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ but today was a long overdue milestone with the official withdrawal of the last combat brigade from Iraq.  I’m hoping history refers to this as the ‘Money Pit War’ or perhaps the ‘Distraction War’ (Any other suggestions out there?) but I’m sure it’ll follow the trend of amazingly unimaginative names we’ve been giving conflicts for the past 100 years or so and have some sort of B-movie quality like ‘Gulf War 2′ (Gulf War 3D by James Cameron coming next summer!).

Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

And so, what do we have to show for our efforts in Iraq?  Well, Saddam and his thuggish regime are gone, that’s a positive.  Violence continues (admittedly, not at the pace of 2004-2007 but levels that are high by anyone’s standards) and five months after an election, there’s still no Iraqi government in place (those would be negatives).

Long term stability remains in question.  We basically may have just gotten things to a point where we’ll be able to wash out hands of the matter if it all falls apart in a couple of years (see:  1972-1975 – S.E. Asia).

I remain dubious that Iraq will now be a long term fast friend of the U.S. and one has to wonder what, exactly, is our return on investment here.  We used up a lot of resources in terms of soft and hard power and what exactly did we get for it?  If you look at the situation from an idealist perspective, did we bring about a net decrease in human suffering or a net increase in the livelihood of the people there?  I’m just not convinced we did.

Even worse, I don’t think Iraq is going to teach us much.  Sure, for awhile we’ll get more isolationist but despite the fall in support for the war over time, I think two factors are going to keep any lessons learned from sinking in to the American psyche:

  1. You’ve still got a vocal group of people who are going to claim that Iraq was a successful mission that we needed to do.  They’re going to push that message hard.  Hey, they got Nixon to look like a wise statesman and continue to try to turn Vietnam into a victory.
  2. I just don’t think the war penetrated into the lives of many Americans.  Such a small number of people participated, the conflict was just a bunch of talking heads on TV.  Is there any sense among the public that we need to avoid war in the future?  That we need to look for alternative ways to address conflict?  Given the resurgence of talk about attacking Iran, one assumes not.

And so, I say ‘good riddance’ to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  If we aren’t going to learn the lessons from it at least we can stop paying the price of it.

Kvick Tänkare

Chinese sci-fi is growing in popularity but you probably won’t find much in the distopian genre.

Which is more shocking?  Squid can fly or that there exists “a LISTSERV dedicated to mollusks”?  Still, this is pretty cool:

…”gliding” is too passive a term to describe what squid do when they leave the ocean for the air: “flight” is more fitting…”One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight.

Lunghu made a number of predictions earlier this year and now gives them a mid-year evaluation.

I always find it interesting how often our politicians (and fellow citizens) claim to support families and children but, when it comes right down to it, so rarely put their money (or anything else) where their mouth is.  Case in point:  family leave.  If you have a child, what can you expect?  A few weeks of unpaid leave, usually (if you can afford it).  After that, it’s get your ass back to work.  The Boston Globe has an article asking if we perhaps should do a bit more.  (h/t Phronesisaical).  Uh…and just for the record, the socialist hell-hole Sweden allows parents a total of 16 months of parental leave at 80% pay that can be taken up until the child turns 10 years old (Oh, please, why won’t Sean Hannity save those poor people?!)  Us?  Talk about raising the minimum wage a nickle an hour and you’ll hear howls about how we’re strangling the small business owner to death.

Britain is announcing it’ll be withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015.  Can anyone really make predictions like that?  I’ll just note that the time between now and then is almost the same amount of time that the U.S. was involved in the Second World War.  A lot can happen in four years.

It’s like the right isn’t even trying anymore.  Remember when they could come up with kinda-sorta coherent delusions to get everyone scared?  Now we’re looking at terror babies?  The only question is how in the world can we be in a place where these knuckleheads might actually get back in power?

Sven has a very interesting interpretation of the evolution of the Greek phalanx.