A Modest War Proposal

To the President of the United States, the Congress vacationing and the pundits salivating:

1. Do not put foot in mouth and attempt to walk.

2. Do not insert head into ass and attempt to speak.

3. Do not confuse the size of your penis with the quality of your brain (although in some instances there may well be a diminished correlation).

4. When has a ‘red line’ ever meant anything except housing discrimination?  When has a line in the sand ever been important except on a school playground?

5. If 70,000+ have been killed in Syria with bullets and bombs (some supplied by us) for 2 years and you went shopping and campaigning, why are you now foaming at the deaths of 355 (Doctors Without Borders)-1,439 (US Secretary of State Kerry) — the numbers grow with the telling– from Sarin gas?

6. Do not pretend to a righteousness on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, a righteousness you lack and a pretense which facts universally dispute.

7. War is not a solution, but an enterprise. Acts of aggression are not lessons but bully diplomacy, self gratification. If you must rattle a sabre, at least have the decency to rattle in person, on the field before the enemy you refuse to name, rather than from the lens of a television camera.

8. Do not engage in yet another misadventure for the honor or respect of empire. It lacks both and remains an empty shell.

9. If you must ‘send a message’, first look in a mirror, then attend to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have left Syria and now live in squalid, uncertain conditions.

10. If you insist on the world respecting your words and promises, then speak in words that engender respect not disdain; avoid lies; regard facts; keep the promises you make rather than betray them as political expediency whispers to you or economic gain lures you.

Say NO to war.  Build a school. Repair a bridge. Fill a pot hole. Retire a general. Create a park, not a parking lot. Put down your cell phone, step away from the cameras and your desk, meet some real people.

Those are changes we can believe in.

4 thoughts on “A Modest War Proposal

  1. Well said! Apparently the British government gave that 355 number as well. They were jibber-jabbering about this on NPR the other day (people here think their dogs want to listen to NPR when they’re gone, so I often catch bits and pieces). The conclusion? British intelligence must not have been clued in, they didn’t have the facts.

    • How shameful of MI5 and the MOD not to buy into the exaggerated numbers. By the time Congress has batted this proposition around those numbers will have increased again.(No one seems at all interested in what the UN inspectors will say.) But inside the small black box of what passes for American policy, the affront seems to be that Assad refuses to flee and remains defiant

      Even NPR too, eh? Well, perhaps the dogs know something we don’t.

      And as of yesterday, the number of Syrian refugees is estimated at 2 million persons.


  2. On 8/31/2013 6:38 PM, o. o. wrote:.


    Somewhere between ideals and necessity there may exist a workable policy for a nation from which the world expects everything, although ‘workable policy’ remains a moving target. In this context, I appreciate the article (link above) by Aaron David Miller.

    Subject: Re: interface
    Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2013 19:04:54 -0500
    From: JWP
    To: o. o.

    Well, if Mr. Obama had adhered to the putative 5 commandments, one could certainly argue for consistency at work, but at least 2 and probably 3 of the so called commandments are observed more in their absence than in their presence. (‘Middle class vs. Middle East”. This is almost entirely cant. “Core Commitments” is sufficiently vague and amorphous. When this President, or any in my memory, can commit to a core, he would promptly cease being President. ‘Core commitment’ is a buzz word not a policy, foreign or domestic.)

    The most PRACTICAL approach is to reinstate the draft. By relying on a volunteer armed force the military and its uses become divorced from the average family (and not coincidentally devolves in its educational levels). Officers by definition will be conservative, certainly regimists. A volunteer force is a private means to war for a President, nearly irresistible. A draft imposes obligations on each citizen, engages families in the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of foreign policy (for reasons of self interest), widens class and race and education within the army, restricts politicians (it is CONSTITUENTS and the MOTHERS of constituents who are going to die and be maimed), averts the mendacity and Praetorian mindset of mercenaries.

    One of the causes for the growth of executive power is the ability to call upon a private civilian army (CIA) and a virtually private military army. (Richard Nixon saw the draft [and radical black demands] as the cause that propelled him into the White House in 1968. Americans were exhausted, and he offered them a drug.) One of the causes of the alienation of the American people from their government is that there are no obligations to citizenship (at least none that is universal and tangible) reducing citizens to integers and consumers.

    I would not contend that Mr. Obama is in the same league as Mr. Bush. I would only suggest ‘modestly’ that deeds imply he, like Bill Clinton before him, is not a progressive. And you cannot imagine how much that hurts to acknowledge. I am unlikely to live to see a progressive president, as the conversation in this country has been hijacked by would be purists, and rather successfully hijacked.

    Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2013 20:37:04 -0500
    From: jwp
    To: o.
    Subject: Fwd: Re: interface

    Having eaten a meal and drinking a beer, I will say this for what appears to be the Obama Plan: it is likely to work. To wit, the military has already announced both its general targets and the means of delivery. O. has shrewdly stalled, insisting on yet more data (a not unreasonable demand!). He will now take his case to Congress (quite Constitutionally proper). Congress, however,is in recess. (Technically the House has not recessed since the election of 2010, as Boehner will not give O. the opportunity to make ‘recess appointments’.) They return on 9 September. Even a psychic couldn’t predict when Congress will take up the issue or how it will resolve its complicity.

    The result: Bashar Al-Assad has sufficient time to move people and assets, so that any attack will likely be symbolic. The symbolism will be wasted on Middle East governments who are all now jockeying for the rewards of a dysfunctional Syria. Syria will be pushed a little more into Russian influence and Chinese economic spheres. Iran and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will continue to supply weapons to their respective contingencies. Domestically, the Republicans will have lost yet another ’cause’ for impeaching Obama. The Democrats will be able to boast of their manliness in the 2014 elections. Mr. Obama will appear to have agonized, wrestled with ‘bad’ options, selected the ‘best of the bad’ and be hailed as a calm, cool intellectual.

    The question of HOW America should engage in the Middle East, just as the question of HOW America should engage in South Asia, remains unasked, undebated, unanswered, silently waiting for the next ‘crisis.’

    On 9/1/2013 4:52 AM, o. o..wrote:
    The issue of ‘what to do’ re: Syria has probably been moot for a long time. The long stall was inevitable and would have been so no matter who was president (progressive or not) because the West is ill-equipped to decipher political behavior in the Middle East (an emergent phenomenon that Western meddling engendered) and ‘who to bomb’ is still impossible to figure out. Russia and Iran have made much hay watching our befuddlement.

    Obama, a modern president, knows better than to get involved in medieval politics. He is thinking more along the lines of MLK (who, by the way, did not restrain his opinion on Vietnam).

    America may have had a chance at playing global policeman in a world with 4 billion people, 90% of whom were unarmed and illiterate. In a world of 8 going on 9 billion, with 50% [citation needed] armed and internet literate, America is learning to stay in its place.

    The West is doing an elaborate, ritualistic, face-saving dance, because that is all it can do, no matter who is president in the U.S.A.

    Simple as that.

    Regrettably there is nothing simple about an ‘elaborate, ritualistic, face-saving dance’. And no, that really isn’t ‘all’ the US can do. The ‘dance’ has become (before this President was even born) a military response to behavior we find unacceptable. (Our own behavior, once again, goes unexamined.)

    Again. We fail to distinguish between circumstances whose realities change and conditions where realities must be changed. In any kind of politics except politics of the ‘heart’, whether Realpolitik or geopolitics or the politics of self-interest, this lack of distinction is a fatal flaw in perceptions.

    Now, Mr. Obama may well be a ‘modern President’. He has certainly demonstrated a capacity for looking beyond what you call ‘medieval politics’. And I am willing to concede that some of the difficulty is inherent in the office of the President, lumping the Head of State and the Head of Government in the same person while simultaneously vesting monetary and war authority in a bicameral legislature which is fractious and barely functional in any ‘modern’ sense of functionality. Some of the flaw, in other words, is systemic, designed into the system intentionally by the designers. (They sought a central government strong enough to override petty local interests, but not so strong as to override all local interests. Their ‘solution’ was a central government intended to be competitive and even conflicted with an ill-defined executive which, in their minds, resulted in stronger state–provincial–governments by which they saw social order, commerce, property and individual liberty protected.)

    He is also ‘modern’ in that he seems reluctant but willing to use the rather massive tools available to him to impose or sustain a less than modern view of the world on his own people. While his defenders point to his nuanced policies, none I note praise him for his political acumen or his teaching abilities. Those same defenders tie themselves into knots trying to balance his economic policies, in so far as there are Presidential economic policies, and his speeches. And while Mr. Obama would like us to see him in terms of Mr. Reagan, he is most likely to be remembered by historians as a relative of Mr. Woodrow Wilson.

    The systemic designs, the human flaws of the actors, the sheer weight of our own numbers has impeded our institutions, rendered compromise an obscene word, compelled more ‘politics as usual’, politics by cliche, limiting any ‘modern’ President. But. This is essential. ONE man or woman sits AS Commander In Chief. This amounts to an almost unassailable executive. This condition also requires that we be in a constant state of war. (The Constitution plainly states: “The President shall be Commander In Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States when called into actual Service of the United States…” )

    This ‘elaborate and ritualistic dance’ is, therefore, a pointless exercise of military power. It is, after all, the easiest expression of power for a President to assert. Members of the House of Representatives, and less so the Senate, will respond only to the numbers of their constituents (systemic design). Self-interest alone prompts political moves toward the public good. In this ‘dance’ it is the public which is invited to be spectator and not actor. There are exigent political reasons for Mr. Obama to bomb Syria. There are NO exigent political reasons to do anything else. (This is precisely the difficulty of a ‘conversation’ in which the terms are defined by the cliches and narrowness of a faction.) Several Presidents throughout our history have used what we call the ‘bully pulpit’ to teach the people about exigent geopolitics, to alter the conversation, to spur debates which offer them (Presidents) more room to maneuver. Mr. O. falls flat on this score. His policies may, from time to time, demonstrate nuanced approaches; his results demonstrate the status quo.

    The ‘face-saving’ of this ‘elaborate and ritualistic dance’ is being done for ONE man, ONE constituency, ONE faction (none of whom respects the others). And when the cruise missiles have flown, when a hospital has been leveled, when ‘peace keepers’ (a euphemism for boots on the ground) are required, when Americans again begin to bleed lives and treasure, will we then turn to the ‘elaborate and ritualistic dance’ of death and destruction? Yes. We will because for at least two generations we have known nothing else. We have known nothing else in part because we refuse to learn on our own and in part because our elected leaders focus on re election, not leading. (What President, as a small example, does not live and breathe by polling?)

    If this President is so modern, so aghast at medieval (tribal) politics, why does he not direct and publicize other, non military approaches? Why does he not attempt to change the conversation? He won’t because these approaches don’t resonate with a populace lost in its blood dreams and frozen in its language of conversation, because his opponents would call his penis size into question, because he himself is unable, as his speeches demonstrate, to alter the terms of the conversation, to address his critics directly, to invite ‘conflict’ in the political conversation. (I would modestly suggest that the intransigence of Republicans is their now inherent necessity; to do other is to lose their thoughtless, emotional base, a base they themselves largely created and wholly organized. Given that intransigence, why would anyone attempt to ‘negotiate’ with them by ceding the store, which they would prefer to collapse rather than to serve or preserve? In what practical terms has this President ever negotiated to the advantage of the public good? Indeed, one might reasonably lay the ‘sequester’ at his inept handling of political forces that even a 10 year old child could perceive. His fastidiousness at institutional prerogatives is admirable in a Senator perhaps, but useless in a ‘modern’ President, who holds all the cards but one.)

    By relying on a universal draft (which could be 1 or 2 years, from 18 to 24 or even 30 years of age, and include the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Vista, and indeed the rejuvenation of a Civilian Conservation Corps or a Works Project Administration, one could require personal investment on the part of citizens, bring foreign policy nuances back into the kitchens, bring a pause to any Presidential reaction, invite non-military responses to ‘crises’, and, in time, alter the terms of the conversation.

    The ‘hope’ is not any single man or woman. The ‘hope’ is not in changing to a parliamentary system either. The ‘hope’ is to re invest citizens in their government.

    So, no, it is not that ‘simple’. I suspect butchery by any name is never so ‘simple.’

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