Saturday, June 23, 2007
My genius isn't readily acknowledged, but that's because you have to be super-egotistical to not recognize it. I only bring it up because, aside from its utter obviousness, I've figured out how to win the war in Iraq - or, at least, beat back the insurgents into a soggy mess. Some may object to the wastefulness of what I suggest, but surely an actual "waste" of natural resources is better than a perceived waste of lives.
Oh yeah - my plan has to do with water, mostly. Water cannons, water balloons, water bombs, water water water. Eau. Mayim. Agua. Wasser. Water.
See, here's the thing: These terrorists - be they Al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Sadrites, Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, Iranian - that we're fighting think that by achieving death and taking a few Yankees with them they're gaining access to Paradise. We're not doing a very good job of disabusing them of this notion; when they go seeking death, they know that the United States military is just around the corner and more than happy to deal it out to them.
It might come as a surprise to our enemies, then, when one day a pack of these insurgents face not machine guns or tank cannons, but water cannons. These devices have a long and storied history in dealing with rioters; at one time or another, I'm sure we've all seen those semi-humorous, semi-sad pictures of less-than-peaceful protesters getting knocked down by bursts of highly-pressurized water aimed at them by police or army units.
I'm sure my facetious tone has been taken, by some, to mean that I'm not in the least serious about this. However, even with my egotistical outburst at the beginning of this piece (it was fun for me), I'm deadly serious. Of course there are logistical hurdles to overcome, but it only makes sense to me that if we're trying to flush these people out of their hiding places or from Iraq as a whole, we might as well try and do so literally.
Did I lose you yet? I hope not.
Anyone who's been surprised by a water balloon thrown at them out of the blue should be able to remember the momentary shock of the event - Where did that come from? Who threw that? Of course, were we to take such a course in Iraq on a grand scale, our foes would know the perpetrators. And, over time, they might become disappointed.
Why disappointed? We're the Great Satan, decadent infidel Americans. In their eyes, we're supposed to be killing Muslims, not leaving them alive and soaked. It's one of their justifications for trying to kill us. If there's one thing they think Americans can be counted on to do these days, it's kill Muslims. They point at the bodies, aim their machine guns in the air and pull the triggers as a funeral procession makes its way down a street, and scream out "Death to America! Death to the enemies of Islam!"
Yeah, water can kill. In fact, there are sewage and fresh water problems in Iraq killing ordinary Iraqi citizens daily. A blast from a water cannon can knock a man from a building to his death as surely as a bullet can. People drown in lakes, rivers, oceans, and swimming pools every year.
But - stay with me here - imagine the literal shock and awe when instead of explosive bomblets falling from a cluster bomb, terrorists see the splashy aftermath of hundreds of green-colored water grenades falling instead.
Imagine if, instead of dropping a one-ton bomb on a location in Iraq (or Afghanistan), a warplane dropped - at certain intervals, spread out over a specific target zone - a ton of water, an artificial, concentrated rainstorm. Think of a C-130 making passes over a forest fire, dropping fire-retardant on the blaze, and you'll get an idea of what I'm suggesting.
Not only that, but a specialized Humvee or two could take point on a patrol, with a water cannon spraying all over, setting off improvised explosive devices (IEDs), knocking them back or disarming them - even if unseen - just as a minesweeper scours a battlefield to set off those mines without losing any lives in the process. Either that, or helicopter gunships could accompany and precede patrols with a few sweeps of a small water-bomblet-spraying device and accomplish the same feat.
In the past, on this or another blog, I've stated emphatically that we needed to be fighting this mess in Iraq like the war that it is - using more air power, really trying to win instead of just holding out. This doesn't represent a sea change from that, inasmuch as I'm saying we really need to keep on fighting - while adding sea water to our arsenal.
Do not misconstrue this proposal of mine as indicating the existence of a delusion on my part that we should put aside traditional weapons in favor of fire trucks and thus we will achieve total victory. Who, or what, after all, will protect those operating the water cannons? These people are trying and will continue to try to kill our men and women in uniform over there, because the truth is, we haven't given our enemies anything to expect but death.
It's a well-known agreement between warring troops and nations - we try to kill you, you try to kill us. These insurgents ask themselves "Hmm, where can I go meet Allah and get my 72 virgins?" and the answer...well, the answer they decide upon puts our boys and girls in danger.
Instead, picture this: a sopping wet terrorist, standing in the open, gun on the ground and hands upraised, screaming over and over again in Arabic:
"In the name of Allah...what the fuck just happened?!"
You must understand that I realize that using watery weapons or soak-'em-out tactics probably won't make a lot of these terrorists abandon their guns or IEDs right away...or ever.
But, over time, maybe it will leave them significantly dumbfounded.
Maybe it will so utterly confuse their perceptions of our motives, causing them to question the jihadist propaganda they've always taken for granted as the gospel (Quranic) truth about us. Maybe such tactics will make enough of them think twice about staging an attack - they'll know that if they come at our troops, they may be knocked down (and disarmed) by a water cannon, then captured and imprisoned, instead of killed - that they decide on another course.
It's entirely possible. If your dog is barking continually in the backyard, and yelling at him to shut up doesn't work, go out there and take your water hose in hand. As Fido barks, turn the water all the way on, place your thumb over the end of the hose - any fun-loving child should be able to show you what I'm talking about - point the hose at Fido and spray the mutt in the face. Soak him all over. See what happens.
Have you ever seen a spitting-mad, hissing, tail-raised feline with claws extended go embarrassingly, pathetically limp when a bucket of water gets thrown on it? I have.
See where I'm going?
And don't forget - water worked as a weapon in The Wizard of Oz.
America's Islamist foes in Iraq and Afghanistan regularly expect death from us, and we haven't been disappointing them in this expectation.
So, when in the future they move against our units with death on the brain and we surprisingly respond by hitting them forcefully, strategically and, I daresay, creatively with a substance essential to life as we know it, imagine how such a thing may just eventually throw them for enough of a loop to turn the "tide" of events in these theaters of war once and for all in our favor.
These terrorists want blood; I say give 'em Evian instead.
To the confusion of our enemies!
We're gonna need a bigger Super-Soaker.
You can pat me on the back now.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Well, they're doing it again. Another meeting of Middle East leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt has been announced.
I’m really tired of seeing these Sharm el-Sheikh summits being held, where Israeli and Arab leaders meet, make a lot of nice and hopeful statements, and then go back home and act as if nothing really significant happened. How can that be? Because Sharm el-Sheikh summits happen about as frequently as I eat pizza, thus negating any significance such events have, being merely the same shit on a different day (at least I vary my pizzerias). Why don’t they ever meet in Cairo, instead of Sharm? Why not in Amman, instead of Aqaba? Come to think of it, why not at Eilat or Jerusalem?
Of course, there are good answers for that last one (then again, Anwar Sadat spoke before the Knesset in Jerusalem, and Abbas has been to the PM’s residence there, so such meetings on Israeli soil happen). Even so, whatever excuses you come up with, you know it’s really because they’re scared that if they don’t meet somewhere they’ll be seen as doing nothing. And right now, as always really, no one wants to be seen as doing nothing. Screw lives – there’s money at stake…U.S., European, etc. Hamas has Gaza, Iran is...Iran. Gotta show momentum.
These “leaders” (an Egyptian autocrat, a Hashemite king, a disappointing Israeli PM, and an even more disappointing PA president) don’t trust each other, they don’t like each other, they’d rather not meet, but if they have to do so for the sake of appearances...let it be at Sharm el-Sheikh instead of a national capital. That's the reasoning. They can say to their citizenry, the Arab “street” and world leaders “Look, we met, alright?” while those paying closer attention can see that having a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh instead of a seat of government is like choosing to have a business conference in a small motel room rather than a hotel’s grand ballroom. It's like choosing New Jersey over New York.
Look at the location, and you can see how much weight they put on the meeting, and what they expect to result from it – it won’t likely be much different from other summits held there before. Sharm el-Sheikh is no Dayton, Ohio. Sharm el-Sheikh is no Camp David. Summits of leaders held at both locations resulted in accords or peace treaties which have, whatever their faults or weaknesses, lasted. Sharm el-Sheikh isn’t Versailles. It’s not Nice. It’s not Rome. It’s not a place of significant significance, other than that it represents previous failures.
Unless you’re an Israeli war veteran, or an Israeli tourist going to Sinai, or a rich sheikh, or an Arab hotel worker, Sharm el-Sheikh probably resonates very little with you. Sure, the Egyptians get the “prestige” of holding a meeting of regional leaders once again on their soil. But when all that results from such meetings is empty promises and tried-and-failed rhetoric about hopes for a resolution, one would think that if the players were truly serious about moving forward…they’d hold such “important” meetings somewhere else. Like Alexandria, Egypt. That's a neat place...with a lot of history. That could be symbolic.
Referring to this latest planned meeting, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said "Time is of the essence". He's absolutely right, in a way. The amount of time the Palestinians have spent teaching their children hate about Jews and Israel, the amount of time the Arab League has been enforcing its boycott of Israel and fanning the flames of war, the amount of time Mr. "Time is of the Essence" himself, Mr. Erekat, has spent spreading deceitful propaganda, and the amount of time it takes for a Hamas terrorist to press a button and blow himself up...such times are the essence of why, in 2007, we're still talking about a peace process instead of actually seeing one.
Soon, President Mubarak, Prime Minister Olmert, King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas will likely be on their way to Sharm el-Sheikh. Again. At least they're moving around, instead of standing still.
Who was it that said "Never mistake motion for action"? I forget.
Oh yeah - Hemingway.
Monday, June 18, 2007
The United States of America have never before in their history lost a war where their survival was at stake - or where their survival as a united nation very well might have been at stake. We've overcome literal British invasions, preserved the Union in a great Civil War, trounced the Nazis with the help of our allies, and outlasted the Soviet Union. America survived the Great Depression intact, and didn't need to become a fascist dictatorship (like some countries in Europe did) in order to do so.
Yes, we've run into obstacles - in Korea, when the Chinese intervened. In Vietnam, where guerrilla warfare tactics combined with the Communist AND nationalist sentiment of the natives taxed our moral, political and military resources. Sure, the Soviets beat us into space first...but we beat them to the Moon.
In the Civil War, still the only war in American history that can claim to have taken the most American lives, the rebellious Confederate States possessed leaders who very well could have secured the secessionists independence had their cause the ability to last long enough; this, while the Union went through general after general who seemingly didn't have the right stuff. In the end, the South's loss was America's - and the former Confederate States' - gain.
After all of the struggles America has survived, the enemies we've encountered, the hardships Americans have endured - after all that, how can a bunch of Muslim marauders pose any existential threat to our Republic's existence? In the days of Thomas Jefferson, we took on the Barbary Pirates, North African raiders espousing Islam and jihad as their inspiration. To the shores of Tripoli went our Marines, and today the Navy that was borne of that conflict with Muslim pirates is the envy of the world.
Why are we so afraid of these "punks"? Because they're on TV all the time, proclaiming their assured victory? What, you believe everything you see on TV? Osama bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah or one of their deputies says "We're gonna win," and we're just supposed to stock up our cellars or basements and expect the worst? Since when?
Just because we can't trust our own government means we should trust stateless terrorists instead? No. Actually, I do trust those terrorists - when they say they want to kill my fellow citizens, they generally try to do so. That isn't, I must emphasize, a point in their favor. Very much the opposite. But it does mean we should take them at their word - and do our best to stop them.
Yes, we're losing brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan...but we're not losing battles. What's happened in the Gaza Strip, with the Islamofascists of Hamas taking over buildings and territory, isn't generally the story in Iraq. With the help of the Northern Alliance back in 2001 and 2002, the war for territory was fought and won in Afghanistan. Doesn't mean the fight is over - but that was a huge accomplishment that's lasted.
I'm not ignoring the mistakes that we've made - there've been plenty of those. I don't think we should be defined solely by our failures, or judged using only our mistakes as a reference point. We're only human - just like our critics.
Just like our enemies.
Sure, terrorists these days seemingly have the ability to strike anywhere in Iraq - but you know what? So do we. What about on a worldwide scale? Terrorists had to hijack planes to destroy buildings in New York - we can freely fly planes off of giant boats to destroy buildings anywhere in the world where we find that threats to our safety may be using them.
We didn't lose the war to depose Saddam Hussein - but admittedly, we're not fighting correctly the war to secure the peace in the chaos of his wake. That's not the fault of the soldiers in Baghdad - it's the fault of the politicians in Washington.
Even so, we have to blame ourselves, too. How many Americans who complain about the government have ever in their life voted in any general election? Just as (or more) importantly, I wonder how many of those Americans who do vote end up later washing their hands of their choice, Pilate-style, when something goes wrong. How often do voters conveniently forget that they are the ones who give the power to those who abuse it?
Going further, I must wonder...how many adult Americans, before one or other of the Gulf Wars, could find Iraq on a map? This isn't to say that being able to do so would have prevented war. And I'm not reversing my opinion, that is, that going to war to take down Saddam was justified.
I'm merely saying, in closing, that if we've gone so far astray from that which has made us strong, great and confident enough to accomplish what we have and persevere in the face of challenges and struggles as a nation for over 230 years, it helps to remember that there's plenty of blame to go around. We should accept our share, move forward past the cynicism - and do what must be done so that, in Iraq or anywhere else, we can believe in winning once again.
If we can do that, well...as that half-American former British PM said in the quote I included at the beginning..."All will come right."
P.S. While I understand the motivation of world governments to resume aid to the Palestinian Authority now that Abbas has formed a government sans Hamas, I can't help but think we're rewarding the Palestinians, once again, for another opportunity they missed all on their own. What kind of message does that send?
Friday, June 15, 2007
As far as H.G. Wells stories go, I liked "The War of the Worlds" a bit more than "The Time Machine" – even though "The Time Machine", which I read in an afternoon in 2004 while staying in the dorm room of a friend, was a bit more adventurous and more uplifting than "The War of the Worlds". I only mention this because the current situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank resembles – up to a certain point, and only to that point – the division between two different species of mankind in the year 802,701 in "The Time Machine".
In "The Time Machine", a Time Traveller has discovered that by 802,701 humanity has split into two species: on one side, living aboveground, you have the peaceful, unassuming Eloi. On the other side, underground, you have the predatory Morlocks – who look at the Eloi as, basically, their slave labor and their food. The Time Traveller muses over how this situation came about. I won't spoil it for you, so unless you've seen the latest movie version that came out a number of years ago, do yourself a favor - pick up the book and then watch the 2002 movie (I've only seen a few minutes of the 60s version).
It needn’t take an overactive imagination (of the sort I am guilty of possessing at times) to see where I’m going with this: The Gaza Strip is essentially the Underworld of "The Time Machine", realm of the Morlocks (a.k.a. Hamas). The West Bank is (at least, those areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas) now the aboveground, the realm of the Eloi. Unlike in "The Time Machine", the "Eloi" – West Bank Arabs – are in reality hardly peaceful, subservient victims to the Hamas-led "Morlocks"…but like I said, the comparisons were valid only up to a certain point.
Since the very first years of the Arab-Israel conflict there has never, truly, been one Palestinian "people". After Israel’s War of Independence, Egypt took over the Gaza Strip – denying to grant resident Arabs there any form of surrogate citizenship. Egypt organized guerrilla (terrorist) militias for use against Israel, a course standing in stark contrast to that of Jordan, which when it illegally annexed the West Bank following that same war granted the Arabs living under its jurisdiction Jordanian citizenship and - while violating armistice agreements by preventing Jews from visiting holy sites - built hotels in east Jerusalem.
Having personally seen both the beauty of a Gazan beach and swaths of barren landscape in the West Bank, I would've at one time thought the situation would be the reverse of what it actually is:
The seaside-hugging Gaza is the more religious of the Arab-inhabited territories left over from the violent birth pangs of the Jewish State; considering the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt right next door, and the perpetuation of Gazan squalor by Egypt and the rest of the Arab League, this isn't surprising on a second look. But land-locked, surrounded West Bank Arabs are - more or less - a more civilized, educated bunch...thanks, in part, to the late King Hussein. Like Gazans, West Bank Palestinians don't have a "Palestine", but unlike Gazans, they do have Jordan.
Not only do many West Bank Palestinians have Jordan, but today a majority of Jordanian citizens in Jordan are of Palestinian descent - indicating that a recent suggestion by former Jordanian PM Abdel Salam Al-Majali that the Hashemite Kingdom absorb what's left of the West Bank into some sort of confederation isn't as out of this world as some might think it.
Putting aside utopian dreams of a united "State of Palestine" consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it needn't be a given that any union between Palestinian Authority territories and King Abdullah's Jordan must also include Gaza...existing as it does tens of miles away, but in a completely different world. So what would happen to Gaza?
Though they may be loathe to consider it, in the wake of such a Palestinian-Jordanian confederacy's creation, Egypt could eventually reoccupy the Gaza Strip and legally incorporate it into its territory - correcting, if you ask me, a historic mistake (one made because the Arab League wished to use the "stateless" Palestinians as pawns in a never-ending war against Israel, and Egypt was only too willing to lead it). Given the problems Egypt already has with religious extremists, this is unlikely...but...hey, it could happen.
Or, Gaza could simply be left alone and become a mini-Iran, right next door to Israel. Hey, if Islamic dictatorship is what they desire for themselves and their children, and their children's children...let 'em have it. It's their choice. Then, we can choose to help them dismantle it...or dismantle such an entity for them.
Whether you compare them to "Eloi" or "Morlocks", think of them as Egyptians or Jordanians, call them Gazans or West Bankers, or simply say they're "Palestinians", since the signing of the Oslo Accords the leadership of the PLO and Palestinian Authority have not shown the world they are particularly qualified to look after their peoples' affairs. This is mostly their own fault, for continually shooting themselves in the feet, but partially ours - for giving them the guns to do that sort of thing.
Whatever solution is found for the current happy/sad situation, if we fail to acknowledge that those on one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict who've tried to be one people are and have for some time been two, all we'll be doing is setting the stage for future Palestinian Civil Wars...and God help us all if the "Morlocks" win.