Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 7th, 2015

Chickenhawk Nation

leave a comment »

James Fallows has an interesting column with an intriguing comment from a reader:

After President Obama’s speech on ISIS last night, I argued that he was make the least-bad sane, shrewd case about a long-term U.S. strategy, cable-news scolding about his “distance” and “dispassion” notwithstanding.

Reader arguments worth noting. First from a partner at a major law firm on the East Coast. He argues that as long as the United States relies on a drone-strike strategy, it cannot be surprised if people who lack conventional military strength react with the tools available to them. Namely, retail-level terrorism.

Additionally this reader says that the era of San Bernardino-scale terrorism may bring the Chickenhawk Nation era to its logic culmination. Only a tiny handful of Americans will ever see the battlefield, but larger and larger numbers could feel exposed to the blowback effects of their nation’s wars. Over to the reader:

It is the policy of the United States that it may kill anyone it wants in certain areas of the Middle East; the executive branch decides and kills. The claimed entitlement to kill includes not just those targeted but also anyone who happens to be nearby. The United States seeks to minimize this “collateral damage,” but accepts however much of it is necessary to achieve its killing objectives.

As a result, everyone in the affected areas of the Middle East has for a long time lived in peril of a sudden deadly attack by the United States. Reports on how many we actually have killed vary, but the number appears certainly to be in the hundreds and likely to be in the thousands.

This policy comes with a cost: the people who are subject to it and their sympathizers will seek to retaliate by such means as are available, even as we would do if a foreign country’s drones were hovering over Connecticut and killing people in the same fashion. The idea that such retaliation can be willed or persuaded out of existence is a fantasy. Retaliation might be forestalled by resort to the level of force used against Germany and Japan in WWII, but our country is not prepared to do that or pay for it.

Given that the people subject to U.S. violence will retaliate “by such means as are available,” what are we in for?  It appears that their capabilities are limited, for now, to relatively small-scale random killings by suicidal attackers such as those in San Bernardino.  U.S. authorities can prevent some of these attacks, but not all.  At least so long as the U.S. pursues the discretionary killing policy described above, every American must bear the risk of being killed or maimed in the occasional retaliatory San Bernardino.

This state of affairs represents a possible exception to your “Chickenhawk Nation” diagnosis.  Americans have persuaded themselves that their country can wage war on foreigners at no personal cost to them, but only because they refuse to see the connection between such wars and the desire of those subject to them to retaliate.  They are persuaded by propagandists such as Fox News that what is really retaliation occurs because attackers “hate us for our freedoms.”  We in fact are the front-line soldiers in the drone war.


And from an American reader who now lives in Asia, how the spectacle looks from there — and the underlying reasons why Obama’s opponents may dismiss his arguments.

The following may be in poor taste or easily twisted in a direction that is opposite of my intent, but here goes: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 December 2015 at 6:43 pm

Obama the Analyst

leave a comment »

Interesting column in the Atlantic by James Fallows:

This evening’s speech about terrorism distilled what people like, and don’t, about President Obama’s leadership style. I liked the logic he laid out and the realities he tried to convey. But I understand that the very aspects I found most impressive will seem like the gravest weaknesses to some other peoples.

From my point of view, the crucial point about the speech is that Obama understands how terrorism works, and how its effects can best be minimized and blunted.

Note that I say “minimize” rather than eliminate. There are evils and forms of damage that societies can do their best to reduce, without imagining that they will ever be brought to zero. In the fifty years since Unsafe at Any Speed and the 35 years since the debut of MADD, traffic death rates have gone way down. But even now, nearly 100 Americans die each day in crashes. In the 50+ years since the Surgeon General’s report, smoking rates have gone way down. But ever day, nearly 500 Americans die of lung cancer. When we talk not about accident or disease but about deliberately inflicted harm, societies work to drive down the rate of murder, domestic violence, and other evils, knowing they can’t fully eliminate them.

The same is true of terrorism. No society, not even a fully totalitarian state, can fully ensure that all its members will be safe against a renegade bomber, shooter, knifer, poisoner, or other terrorist. Protection, resilience, and prudence, yes. Perfect safety, no. In any society, some terrorist attacks will succeed, and people and leaders need to steel themselves to that fact, and decide in advance how they will react to these inevitable failures and outrages , so as to avoid vastly magnifying the terrorists’ effects.


This distinction matters because of the fundamental logic of terrorism. The damage attackers do is never through the initial attack itself. That is true even for attacks as gravely damaging as those on 9/11, or as brutally inhuman as the most recent ones in San Bernardino. The attacks themselves, even the most grievous, are the feint.

The gravest damage always comes from the response they evoke, from what the target society does to itself  when attacked. The United States lost thousand of its own (and other countries’) people, and hundred of billions of dollars, on 9/11. It lost incomparably more — in lives, treasure, values and integrity, long-term strategic damage — through the self-inflicted damage of deciding to invade Iraq. Thus the goal of an attack is only incidentally to kill. Its real ambition is to terrorize — to provoke, to disorient, to tempt a society or government to lose sight of its long-term values and interests. (The most famous example is the way the assassination of two people, in Sarajevo, ended up triggering a war in which great empires came to their end and tens of millions of people died.)

You can read the full-length version of this argument in a cover story I did nearly ten years ago. It’s a logic that is fully accepted, even obvious, within the anti-terrorist world. And the logic is embedded in what Obama said just now. For instance (emphasis added): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 December 2015 at 12:35 pm

Pearl Harbor Day shave: iKon DLC slant and Dr. Jon’s Krampus

with 4 comments

SOTD 7 Dec 2015

A good shave, albeit with a couple of small nicks going XTG on the upper lip, a problem I have with this razor if I do not keep the pressure very light.

With the Omega S-Brush it was easy to work up a fine lather from Krampus, which has a strong cider fragrance. I do like the S-Brush and still consider it a good buy for a novice with a tight budget: $7.75 for a perfectly fine brush.

Three passes with the iKon slant on the SE handle, than a bit of My Nik Is Sealed followed by a good splash of Sherlock, from Chiseled Face. Altogether a good start to the week.

Written by Leisureguy

7 December 2015 at 7:41 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: