Thursday, March 17, 2005

Back In The Saddle

I'm back in the bosom of my home, and darned glad to be here. My trip out to the wilds of eastern Utah was professionally fulfilling and productive but I have forgotten certain of the perils associated with construction above the snow line.

You all have heard the one about the kid who sticks his tongue to the bus stop pole on a chilly morning, right? A little innocent fun for bystanders, no harm done.

I always remember that one when I sit on a frozen job johnny seat. If the worst does happen, can I trust my partner to bring my thermos of hot coffee to set me free? Or will that bastard grab our camera and invite the pipe crew over?

We don't get cable at 8000 feet. Wifi does work fair to middling well, and when I get my laptop I won't be quite as cut off as I have been these last two days.

Great Forces, as the saying goes, are at work.

I was a little astonished that my last post generated as much comment as it did. I don't see where the topicality or my opinion put it much apart from many others I have written. I admit that it's a little gratifying.

In the exchange with cobbii, and others, over at Roger's place, I kept on running into the same fraudulent worldview that Ghost Dansing has put on display in his comments on my blog.

There is never a requirement that solutions be peaceful for said solutions to be effective. In reference to nation states, the history of conflicts and their resolutions has produced more shelf feet in libraries than just about any other subject. The chronicles are not celebrations of diplomatic nuance. They record the persons, agendas, ambitions, and philosophies that bumped and ground until one side won or lost. Just because it would be nice for a treaty, a handshake, and a few photos of the signatories to solve any problem, that is just not how business has ever been done between diametrically opposed interests. Monday morning quarterbacking of fifty years of get- along/stability diplomacy as a grounds for deligitimizing the effort to bring democracy to the Muslim world now is, frankly, laughable on its face.

We are NOT propping up bad guys, we are NOT accommodating thugs, and we are NOT bent on purchasing placid business conditions on the backs of distant oppressed brown folks. I'll meet you (those who keep close that picture of Don Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein's hand, or other such similar coffee mug logos) halfway: we did screw up for a long time but we finally figured it out and are well on our way to atoning as best we can for the mistakes we made.

I am dead on my feet (you should see the backspacing and correcting that has already happened to this point) and will be out the door at 0600 tomorrow to begin in earnest the passage of lines that will put me in the saddle on the largest project I've ever been responsible for surveying.

Here's something for you to kick around:

I believe that Lebanon will become the crucible for the next great American statement in the march to a more democratic middle east. Syria has been told in no uncertain terms that they will depart the country. Hizbollah is not a political party, they are a terrorist organization aligned against the United States. Lebanon will be free and self governing - and all they need do is ask for our help should the above mentioned parties elect to interfere in any way.

Since Vietnam the oppressed peoples of the world have, with solid reason, rightly questioned the weight behind any American promise of support should they undertake the overthrow of their dictators. We screwed the Kurds and Marsh Arabs in Iraq in 91 to the tune of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands killed at the hands of Saddam in deference to the world community that feared the instability it might have to deal with if he was overthrown. We used to dribble money and propaganda into places where tiny minorities sought to become popular movements, but they always failed because they could never look anywhere else in the world for proof that we should be taken seriously.

We sold wheat to the Soviets as they occupied eastern Europe, worked hard to add central and south America, and parts of Africa to their empire, and when they invaded Afghanistan. The South Vietnamese were promised logistical and air support when we left in '73. The rise of militant Islam was met with lamentable silence on our part. Maybe Allah was on the side of the mullahs, since any real superpower would have crushed them in 1979. Certainly after kidnapping and killing diplomats. Without fail after being victim of a military attack costing hundreds of lives. Without question we'd take action after two decades of murder, bombings, and assassinations targeting people from mere wheelchair bound Jewish grandpas all the way to former presidents... right?

No. We sort of celebrated an end of history or some such silliness, thought. The other side just shook their heads and chalked one up to western cowardice, then bent to the task of acquiring even more lethal weapons with which to bring to the war we refused to fight.

We seem to be enjoying a little advantage of our own these days. Cobbii and Ghost think that stability is what we seek; the bad guys across the water are clinging mightily to the same hope and they are just as wrong.

We Americans are the scariest people on the planet to those who watch us from outside our borders. Styles, fads, customs... Hell, even religions... all change in bewildering ways at breakneck speeds. But by and large we enjoy a living standard unimaginable to better than three quarters of the world's population. We've had ONE shooting civil war of import, but we have a no-pads scrimmage along the same lines every four years and usually have some bloody noses and bruises at the end of those, too. But we are what we are - the only superpower - precisely because we have balanced the instability of people living their own lives by pursuing their own happiness with the need for governance.

U.S. power should never and will not again be used to install puppet regimes in search of stability. Not any more. But when entire nations rise up - in Lebanon, by conservative (no pun) estimates, almost a third of the entire NATION assembled to reject Syrian occupation - they have the word of America that we will help, if asked.

Your move, Assad. And Hizbollah, too.

Will we see Saudi Liberty Babes in the near future? Boy, I can only hope.

We won't have to invade Iran to prevent their nuclear ambitions from being realized if the Iranian people trust us to stand with them. But they must rise first.

My big three on the presidents' legacy roster are Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan, with a tie and honorable mention going to TR/FDR. There's a better than even chance that G.W. Bush may replace Reagan on the list if the next year or so plays out like I think it will.

Your mileage may vary. Off to knit a very ragged sleeve.

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