Goliath, meet David.
What a week. I had a crisis at work so was unable to process various posts I am working on. I will spare my readers the details, but a former client and I had a billing dispute. I charge well below market value as it is, so it was really annoying to have my very modest charges challenged. And she can’t use the economy as an excuse, she still managed to go on a cruise while I was working. Her loss, I’ve saved her a pile of money through the years. Sometimes the people in charge don’t really understand where their wealth is coming from, a common human failing suppose.
Moving right along, the USA national budget is going to run at a staggering deficit this year, nearly two trillion dollars in new red ink. For all practical purposes, the government is literally printing money in an attempt to spend our way out of the depression. (And yes, this is a segue from the previous paragraph.) I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to work, but at least think I understand it better. Our economy ultimately depends on growth to generate corporate/financier/investment profit, so the powers that be are desperately trying to jump-start the economy by pouring a huge infusion of cash into it. This is sensible from one perspective, but completely avoids the core issue, does it make sense to have an economy where growth is a structural element? An economy where if growth stops for whatever reason, the whole economy is crippled? This is a question that rarely gets asked.
And oddly enough in other areas we have these public debates about important issues, but avoid actually debating the core issues. The current debate about prisoner abuse photos is a case in point. There’s debate about the wisdom of releasing these photos, which I won’t go into, because a case can be made either way. What is rarely pointed out is that gee, wouldn’t it be easier to simply not abuse and torture prisoners in the first place? Then the issue wouldn’t even arise. And while there is some debate about the merits of torturing and abusing prisoners, the even deeper issue underlaying that is hardly ever debated, why are America forces going around the world and imprisoning people anyhow?
Which leads into our current foreign policy. More troops to Central Asia, as Pakistan starts to dissolve. And this is hardly questioned. Since Gulf War One American troops have been present in the Middle East, and after 9/11 American armies have been actively crusading in the Middle East and Central Asia. And I use the word crusade very deliberately, because that’s exactly what these wars are. They are no different than the crusades in the Middle Ages, even some of the same justifications are used. Western armies, convinced of their cultural and religious superiority, are marching through heathen lands to teach these people the benefits of western civilization. We call it nation-building now, but it’s the same old invade and loot it always was. Now our guys ride in armoured tanks instead of armoured horses, and the loot is oil instead of gold, but otherwise it’s the Middle Ages all over again.
Even the term nation-building is delicious, becasue we’re not nation-building at all. In Afghanistan and Iraq, and now spreading into Pakistan, millions of people have been forced from their homes, millions killed and injured, the infrastructure and economy of both nations still shattered years after we “liberated” them. Even in reasonably healthy well established nation-states like post-war Japan and Germany, this kind of damage takes a decade (or longer) of peace to fix. In Iraq Af-Pak we are not dealing with established nation states, and not only are they not a peace, the situation is still getting worse. This isn’t going to end well.
And I don’t mean that this is going to end with the Taliban getting nuclear weapons, though that may eventually happen one way or the other. What I mean is that America’s crusades are going to end the way so many have before, in disaster. A recent study just came out, I read about it in the New Yorker. Simply put, political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft studied every war in the past 200 years where one side had at least a 10-1 advantage over the other. How often did the underdog win? Nearly 30% of the time. That should be a sobering statistic to those who think war is the solution to so many problems, though I doubt they will see it that way. The point being that the underdog always has a chance, usually by changing the rules and not fighting the way the stronger side expected. Will I write about this further in future posts? To quote a recently famous political personage: “You betcha.”
And speaking of Ivan Arreguín-Toft, Germany’s High Court just ruled that double-hyphenated last names would not be allowed. One Frieda Rosemarie Thalheim wanted to take the last name of her husband, Hans Peter Kunz-Hallstein, to become Frieda Rosemarie Thalheim-Kunz-Hallstein! Well, God only knows what terrible fate would befall German civilization if this was allowed, and the judges put a stop to this madness. I suppose this is why I am told that to travel in Germany, a tourist only needs to be able to read and understand one German word: Verboten.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is public domain under US copyright law as it predates 1927. It’s a colour lithograph by Osmar Schindler (1869-1927): David und Goliath, 1888. As always I chose it because it’s a interesting picture from several perspectives, and it illustrates, at least in my fevered thinking, some of the points in the post.)