Category Archives: Bookosphere

The God of Viet Nam

The Chaplain’s Last Sermon,” by Dean Barrett, Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior, 1983, ppg 57-60

Unclear theology. Notable poetry:

 

“Men, I want to talk to you today about prayer. I know many of you — as professional soldiers — may feel ill at ease when humbling yourself before God. But I have a pleasant surprise for you. Because praying to God is not unlike stepping on a land mine. Yeah, that’s right: there is nothing more explosive than faith in God. Now, I know you cannot always tell a good gook from a bad book. But God can. God knows which gook plants rice and which gook plants mines. I do not have to remind you that planting rice is Good and planting mines is Evil. And God wants you to recognize Evil when you see it; that is why He created land mines in such a way that when you step on them they blow you away.

Of course, I do not mean to imply that land mines planted in His name are Evil. (But, don’t forget, those too can blow you away.) But, remember, all personnel blown away in His Name have Life Everlasting.

You cannot see God — and you cannot see a land mine; but both are there and both are capable of responding. This is because both have power. Enormous power. But God has far more power than ordinary land mines. Land mines can blow you away when you step on them. But the power of God is unlimited. He can blow you away anytime, anyplace, under any conditions, war or peace, out on patrol or while cleaning your rifle, standing in the chow line or marching in a parade, engaged in a firefight or walking to the latrine, combatants or non-combatants, officer or enlisted, man, mama-san or bab-san, soldier or queer. Even, somewhat unfairly, perhaps, in a demilitarized zone.

Now, men, I want you to think of God as a powerful weapon. Because God is smarter than the smartest bomb, more powerful than the most destructive artillery, and don’t forget, He can see in the dark.

Think of God as a Great Being looking at us all through an infra-red starlight sniperscope. Wherever we are, the eyes of God follow. We are forever lined up in His sights. And one day this Supreme Being will peer through those sighs, squint through that scope, slowly squeeze the trigger and neutralize each and every one of us — regardless of race, color, creed, sex, age, I.Q., name, rank, and serial number.

God needs no illumination rounds or saturation bombing to rubbish His chosen targets. His rifle never jams; His ammunition is Everlasting. The day will come when each and ever one of us will be trapped in one of God’s multi-divisional search-and-destroy sweeps, or by angels deployed by God to mop up. And let me assure you that God’s angels are perfectly able to bomb and strage any pockets of resistance that hold you, however briefly, against them.

Let there be no doubt about it, the day will come when God will frag all of us. And when that day comes, when God in His wisdom springs His ambush, when God booby-traps your trail, when God chooses to evacuate you from the battle zone forever, when He discharges you from our army to reinforce His own celestial combatants, be absolutely certain that you have been adequately briefed on your new mission.

Because on that final Day of Judgement, when what we call our universe is finally and utterly defoliated for all time, God will gather thee elite troops of his most crack divisions around him, while those soldiers who surrendered to temptation, or who performed unnatural acts, will be condemned to a free-fire zone forever.

And those who feel they might escape God’s Incoming Rounds, remember, even Jesus was not issued a flak-jacket. Quite the contrary. Out of His Great love for the world, God fragged His own son. And that is something to think about.

Now, men, even after the war is over, people will still have faith in God — and they will still have children, some of whom will become soldiers themselves, and some of whom will be blown away by stepping on leftover land mines — regardless of race, color or creed, boy or girl, tall or short, military dependents or draft resisters, students participating in R.O.T.C. or deserters, applications of O.C.S. or queers. God calls everyone. But how many who have ever stepped on a land mine have actually paused to consider… consider how one path can lead back to base, and how one path can lead to Life Everlasting.

As I’ve said, men, land mines cannot be seen, neither can God; but both exist, and both are waiting — Out There. Now, you may never step on a land mine, but that does not mean God does not love you. Let us pray.

‘O Lord our God, Thou who art greater than any weapon yet conceived by man, Thou who exist in greater depth than any land mine yet planted by man, Thou who has blown away more soldiers on more battlefields, than even we are able to do, give us this day the power to tell good gooks from bad gooks, and to know which gooks serve in Your Name and which gooks should be neutralized… in Your Name. Give us the firepower to destroy Thine enemies. Give us the strength to understand Your Wisdom, to glory in Your Plan, and — when that time comes — to readily and gratefully allow our bodies to be rubbished in Your Name.

When you call us back to base, oh Lord, when we stand before you in Divine Interrogation, lead us not to report that our mission was aborted or that our air-strike against Thine enemies was canceled because of unfavorable weather conditions. Let us salute proudly and smartly and with confidence our Supreme Commander-in-Chief; and let us never stoop to inflating a body count in order to make favorable impression.

And give us this day the ability to recognize that beseeching Thy aid is — if we sincerely and humbly request it — as simple and as uncomplicated as stepping on a land mine. We ask this in Your Name and in the Name of Your Only Begotten Son. Whom You saw fit to rubbish on our behalf. Amen.'”

Bookosphere: The Elements

I kept going over and over how to respond to Josh’s tag and come up with a list of meaningful books. In truth the below books, and their descriptions, just occurred to be while I was eating fat-free lite yogurt. But that’s boring, so here’s a more interesting origin:

Once, the sign on Sioux Falls’ grandest union read: If what you are doing is not working, stop doing it. My earlier attempts to create a book list, categories, write descriptions, defend their importance to myself, &c. So I stopped attempting that I embraced despair, and decided on another path of attack..

Like Aristotle, I humbled myself before knowledge. Instead of trying to work down from a grand theory of writing, I will work up by making lists. So here is my first list from the blogosphere: The Elements

medium_the_good_earth.jpg
Family
(see also Sons, A House Divided)
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Individuality
(see also Anthem, The Romantic Manifesto)

What Tom Barnett Should Have Read Before Reviewing Tom Friedman’s New Book

What Tom Friedman Means by ‘Flat’,” by Dan, tdaxp, 1 May 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/01/what_tom_friedman_means_by_flat.html.

The Book Is Flatulent: A Brief Review of Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World Is Flat” Op-Ed,” by Thomas Barnett, The Newsletter from Thomas P.M. Barnett, 20 June 2005, http://www.newrulesets.com/journals/barnett_20jun2005.pdf.

Dr. Barnett is confused by Mr. Friedman’s new book, The World is Flat

The book is mind-numbing in its repetition. It seems like every third page there is a CEO named Jerry or Craig from a high-tech company ready with some self-enforcing quote (“Tom, let me tell you why I think the world is becoming flatter by the day!”). In fact, using the word “flat” (or “flatter,” “flattening,” “flatist,” “flattest,” “flattener,” and so on) seemed to be a prerequisite for getting your quote (and there are oh so many quotes and snippets of “flat” conversations) in the book (you can almost hear Friedman prompting everyone, “Now be sure to use the word ‘flat’ somewhere in your response or I can’t use it!”).

Hey, it’s no worse than bleating “sock it to me!” to get on Laugh-In. A cameo’s a cameo.

Friedman is stupefying in his efforts to interpret everything in terms of flatness (Southwest lets you print your boarding tickets online? “Yet another brilliant example that the world is getting flat!”; You can eat sushi in a small Midwestern town? “OMYGOD the world is sooooo flat!”) that by the end of the book you have no idea what the terms means anymore. Flatness is a euphemism for everything from “cool” to “new” to “high-tech” to “competitive” to “innovative” to “globalization” to “flat” (no, wait a minute, that last one doesn’t work . . . or does it?) am not kidding you, as you read this book you’re so trained, almost in a Pavlovian sort of way, to see the word “flat” that when you go more than a paragraph or two without seeing it, you start to get anxious.

Tom Barnett doesn’t know what Tom Friedman means by “flat.” Maybe he should google what does tom friedman mean by flat? and read the first result

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The red lines symbolize vertical power, so someone has police authority. Yet everyone is on the same level, so there are not leaders or followers. This is Friedman’s idealized school system — it is a flat vertical network

Friedman is not an anarchist or a libertarian. He believes in the importance of government. He also believes that the “top-down there are experts who know better” approach is now out of date. In Friedman’s philosophy, people should no longer “act steep” (externalize leadership to others) but should “act flat” (internalize leadership to themselves).

Read the rest of What Tom Friedman Means by Flat.

Tom Barnett sees that flat is applied to many different domains, but he doesn’t see the big picture. The good doctor instead mocks Friedman for thinking horizontally, calls the book “Orwellian,” and writes

But I am not optimistic. Friedman’s career is on autopilot now. His editor obviously can’t tame him (Warren would have axed so much of this book it’s not funny; and whenever I get close to using Core-Gap like that in a paragraph, he is merciless in his criticism). The man lives in a bubble where he speaks to the adoring crowds at all times, and they’re mostly CEOs looking for product placements in his next piece (the whole book is one big product placement).

If Barnett means that The World is Flat is basically a big appendix to The Lexus and the Olive Tree, then he’s exactly right.

If Barnett is implying that his own blog is somehow not basically a big appendix to The Pengaton’s New Map, then I don’t know what blogosphere he’s typing in.

Lovingly Holy Wars Against Loneliness (Isolation and Counter-Isolation)

Freedom in Christ,” by Saint Paul, Letter to the Galatians, chapter 5 verse 14, circa AD 60.

The Cost of Following Jesus,” by Saint Matthew, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 8 verse 22, circa AD 60.

Shiva,” by Orson Card, The Shadow of the Giant, pg 71-72, 2005.

Defusing A Bomb,” by Eric Martin, Liberals Against Terrorism, 18 May 2005, http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/1178.

Two interesting points about a particular breed of Fourth Generation Warrior — the Salafist suicide bomber

Further, as Sageman notes in his groundbreaking psych-profiles of the Salafist terrorists, including the 9/11 crews, the issue of U.S. troop presence was not of tantamount importance in any significant way. More prevalent was a sense of alienation from society (often caused by the physical disconnect from family and culture felt by Muslims living in non-Muslim countries) and a reaching out for community at local mosques spurred on by the same.

As such, a common biographical occurrence was a recent personal reaffirmation of religiosity in the form of dedication to Salafism (given impetus by attendance at the area mosque which was, in turn, caused by feelings of isolation and lack of community).

Alienated, disconnected isolated, without community.

That is a recipe for disaster.

Salafism’s a PISRR. The goal of any 4G movement is to penetrate a society, isolate that society’s members against each other, subvert the society’s rule sets for its ends, reorient the society around the movement’s goals, and reharmonize the society so that every member internalizes the movement. But for these poor men who became suicide 4G Warriors, they were already isolated. The weed of Salafism found a garden, with healthy soil, already tilled.

Salafism reconnected these men — on Salafism’s terms. Like so many violent revolutionary movements, it spreads because of its message: “We can do it. You can help.” A song of meaning is sung to the future 4G Warriors and they are seduced.

Salafism is spreading along the same lines of the Revolutions of 1848. In nation after nation it finds the atomized, the isolated, the alienated, and reconnects them. It shouts “We can do it. You can help.” In nation after nation it will root itself and try to take over.

In the real 1848, one European state was immune. While hosting some agitators from oversees, no internal revolutionary movement was created. The United Kingdom was inoculated by its civil institutions.

Civil society — a thick web of horizontal controls — existed in the United Kingdom in 1848. Men who wished meaning could find it in local clubs, societies, and faiths in a way their Continental brothers could not. “We can do it. You can help” is the disease. “I love you” is the vaccine.

But then, what to make of a movement that combines both?

Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Christ Jesus

Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Saint Paul

How many movements have combined an overarching political agenda with a relentless campaign of integration. I can think of one (it’s not my church and it’s quite recent). Failures include

  • The Protestant Reformation focused mostly on the Great Enemy (specifically, the Holy Father as Anti-Christ and Universal Church as Whore of Babylon).
  • The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace (Taiping) likewise had its bete noire (the Machu Chi’in dynasty).
  • Liberation Theology was a non-autonomous adjunct to Marxism, focused on ending capitalism

So who am I thinking of?

One last thought: Since 4G movements grow in isolating societies, they would whither in connecting cultures. In The Shadow of the Giant, Orson Scott Card dramatizes this. A revolutionary leader is condemning his compatriots for insufficient loyalty to the cause:

“You’ve resigned from the human race is what you’ve done,” said Peter. “Because you invented marriage and children, suddenly you don’t have to be part of anything.”

“Opposite,” said Petra. “We’ve joined the human race. We’re like most people. Our life together is everything. Our children are everything. The rest is — we do what we have to. But it doesn’t matter to us as much. I’m sorry that bothers you.”

Salvador Allende the Orwellian Technophile

In the Wrong Hands: Machine A Gouverner,” by Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information, ppg 200-201, 1986.

I bet you didn’t know the former Marxist leader of Chile, Salvador Allende:

Perhaps the most ambitious effort at applying information technology to the art of government took place in Chile in the early 1970s. Then President Salvador Allende brought in the British cybernetics expert Stafford Beer to develop and administer and optimum economic order for the country. Working from the formula, “information is what changes us; information constitutes control,” Beer had brainstormed an intricate computerized system which he quaintly called the Liberty Machine. Its purpose was to concentrate every scrap of data available from a national, or even from the world economy, and form this to fashion a “cybernetic model.” The computers governing the model would “receive real-time data from the systems which they monitor, and they would distill the information content.” It would be possible to “formulate hypotheses, undertake simulations, and make predictions about world trajectories. Between 1971 and 1973, Beer, working in secret for the Ministry of Finance, sought to establish something called the Liberty Machine in Chile. The effort was a serious one, installed at great expense in a central control room (“the Opsroom”) in Santiago, where is succeeded at the height of its powers in bringing 60 percent of the Chilean economy into its data gathering and governing network. The system included the ability to anticipate and break strikes. Beer has reported: “We used every scrap of relevant scientific knowledge in designing the place — neurocybernetic knowledge of brain processes, knowledge from applied and group psychology, knowledge from ergonomics. ” The exercise entailed an interesting new conception of “freedom.” Liberty,” Beer decided, “may indeed be usefully redefined for our current technological era. It would say that competent information is free to act — and that this is the principle on which the new Liberty Machine should be designed.” It is a definition that makes the computer an integral part of the concept.

Thank God Augusto Pinochet vanquished Allende and saved Chile.

Liberal Bias and Mental Blindness

“War,” World Book Encyclopedia: Volume 21, 1988, pg 24.

I was browsing through an old encyclopedia in my home today, and found this under “War”

Modern warfare has moved away from the days when soldiers with rifles were the most important part of an army. War has been mechanized until it is in large part a contest in producing machinery. In Thomas Jefferson’s day, it made sense to protect “the right to keep and bear arms,” so that people could overthrow a tyrannical government. Today, the private citizen cannot keep the kinds of weapons that would serve this purpose.

The Uzbekistani rebels would disagree.

More seriously, it’s interesting to see an encylopedia written just 13 years after the fall of Saigon state that warfare must be mechanized to defeat a government. Part of it is just mental blindness, but the tome’s liberal bias compounded it.

To think of it in OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) terms, the orientations (“war is mechanized,” “for safety people must be disarmed) implicitly guided the observations (“small arms cannot defeat a government”).

9/11 Commission Opposes Filibusters

13.4: How to Do It?: Unity of Effort in the Congress,” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States Final Report, 22 July 2004, http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch13.htm.

I finally finished the 9/11 Commission Report, after my brother gave it to me for Christmas. And there, on one of the last pages, is this beauty:

A president-elect should submit the nominations of the entire new national security team, through the level of under secretary of cabinet departments, not later than January 20. The Senate, in return, should adopt special rules requiring hearings and votes to confirm or reject national security nominees within 30 days of their submission. The Senate should not require confirmation of such executive appointees below Executive Level 3.

Granted it’s not judicial filibuster’s they are attacking. But the Commission did not see it filibusters as sacrosanct, as supposed ancient rights and privileges of the Senate are never mentioned! Nor is the word “filibuster” thought important enough to even be used.

Larry Is A Genius (Net Attack Reading List)

The One Thing Wrong…,” by Larry Dunbar, tdaxp, 7 May 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/04/net-attacks_and_counter-attacks.html.

Over the past few days I have been blessed by a wise, well-spoken, and tremendously friendly commenter. Larry Dunbar is a genius. As I’ve said this about one other person — Mark Safranski — that means a lot. Larry has been putting me to shame with briliant thought after thought, while I struggle to find the right words.

He’s given me two wonderful posts in reaction to my article, Net-Attacks and Counter-Attacks, which compared the defense of a Costa Rican online gaming house to styles of war. Here’s his latest, with my comments.

How do you know it wasn’t the Russian police to begin with, and their objective was to get networked with someone in the gaming industry?

Agreed. The original article speculated on whether The Mercenary was behind it, and used the Enemy and the Mercenary Forces (the Russians) as tools. It may have been the Russian police themselves, too.

The greatest argument against the Enemy planning all of it is that computer networkers may be bad social networkers — but such assumptions are always dangerous.

You show no lines off the yellow blocks of the Russian police still attached to the enemy. Even if it was legit, I would expect to see either lawyer, family members and other partners with the enemy still attached to the Russian Police. In fact when the enemy is let go by the police, he now takes a piece of your company and begins another attack somewhere else.

Great point!

The Enemy is not fully disconnected — he is very connected to dangerous people.

I showed him as isolated, assuming he is now lost in a miserable system and out of contact with his assailants. This also furthered the analogy between the CSO Magazine article and an assassination of a tribal chief. You caught me in an assumption.

I’m trying to see a win-win situation here and it is hard to see. The mercenary is now stronger than your enemy was. The enemy, if he survives, is now just a little smarter than before. You also have the fact you are dealing with, at least in some context, the Russian police. My guess is you will suffer another attack simply because there are too many people relying on the enemy to attack so they can be rewarded.

Perhaps this established a high cost of attacks which prevents repeat, but otherwise I agree.

What struck me about the CSO article was how very close it was to the plot of Sons, by Pearl S. Buck. The second book in The Good Earth trilogy, Sons focuses on a Warlord in the early Chinese Republic. The maneuvering in the book is very, very similar to the net-attacks described in the article.

Additionally, the trilogy itself is a terrific introduction to different styles of politics and war. Pre-Modern Politics, 1GW, 2GW, and 4GW are major themes of the series. Written in the 1930s by a woman, and spanning from about 1870 to about 1935, I highly, highly recommend the books:

  1. The Good Earth
  2. Sons
  3. A House Divided

PS: If you care about plot, be careful of the Amazon reviews. They can give a lot away.

The Reivew of the Review of the Review of the Reviews

The Review of the Review of the Review,” by Curzon, Coming Anarchy, http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2005/02/27/the-review-of-the-review-of-the-review, 27 February 2005.

Tom Barnett frequently publishes his “reviews of reviews” on his blog where he comments on media coverage of his book The Pentagon’s New Map. Younghusband reviewed PNM alongside G. Friedman’s America’s Secret War last month and Barnett gave his review of the review here and here.

YH liked the book and, not surprisingly, Barnett liked that (with a few sidenotes):

COMMENTARY: Mr. Coming Anarchy gives me the usual slap-down of those who really like the book but want to offer criticism: too repetitive, too self-congratulatory (America rules!) and too long. Fine. He scores his point. Bigger point is that he gets it for what it really attempts to be: a serious attempt at grand strategy that doesn’t focus on the tactics of today and isn’t just a long bitch-session about what the author can’t stand about the Bush administration’s security and diplomatic policies. He also sees the book as accessible, which is key, and views me as new school (definitely not another Kissinger or Brzezinski). This is all good, so I take the quibbling in stride. Mr. Coming Anarchy, despite the bias of his nom-de-scare, knows his rear-end from his elbow in terms of strategic analysis, and that, my friends, is rare in this world.

Admirable. We’re honored he stops by now and then.

Just one thing Mr. Barnett—the content on Cominganarchy.com is provided by two contributors with different educations, experiences, and nationalities, currently living on opposite sides of the globe. There is no “Mr. Coming Anarchy” (if anyone, that would be the dear Mr. Robert D. Kaplan—not your favorite journalist, I know). And as for us, the proper form of address is Sir Younghusband and Lord Curzon.

And we look forward to the next book.

Good review. Tactfully addresses Tom’s naming mistake while giving due credit to Robert Kaplan. Curzon’s use of British titles may be inflammatory to Americans who still dream of liberating the Northern Colonies from Windsor tyranny (or would be it be united States under Hannoverish Occupation?)