Virtual Front Page, Thursday, November 17, 2011

Here are some quick headlines:

  1. With China in mind, Obama sends in the Marines (WashPost) — To Australia, that is. Last time we sent them there, it was to counter the Japanese. Now, it’s China. This is why I increasingly like Obama, who just quietly and without fuss constantly projects U.S. power far more aggressively that W. ever did. A cool customer. Gung ho, Mr. President. Interesting move. Bears watching.
  2. Suspect is charged with trying to kill Obama (WashPost) — One thing the world will never stop doing, apparently, is churning out dangerous nutjobs. He had driven with a rifle all the way from Idaho in a Honda to kill “the Antichrist.”
  3. Mass arrests at Occupy protests (BBC) — That’s the national story. Locally, the 19 Occupy Columbia protesters arrested last night were released from the Richland County jail.
  4. Late Slide Hits Stocks (WSJ) — More European worries, and lack of confidence in deficit negotiators.
  5. Haley calls Citadel response to ReVille complaint ‘unacceptable’ (Post & Courier) — The gov weighs in on child molestation scandal.
  6. Pakistan ambassador offers to resign (The Guardian) — The furor was over “claims that he crafted an offer to US officials to rein in the Pakistani military and intelligence agency in the wake of Osama bin Laden‘s death.” Sounds like the kind of guy it would be good to keep around.

33 thoughts on “Virtual Front Page, Thursday, November 17, 2011

  1. Steven Davis

    How do you get charged with attempting to assassinate the president, when he’s not even in the building or city at the time?

  2. Brad

    He tried. He was just really, really bad at it. No one taught him about reconnoitering the objective before committing. All the way from Idaho, and he didn’t check to see whether they were home.

    ON ANOTHER MATTER, EVERYONE NOTE: I just updated the Virtual Front Page with the item about the Marines being sent to Australia. Nobody’s making a big deal about it (which is why I overlooked it in gathering my headlines), but this is a very significant development. Sure, it’s only two or three companies, but it’s meaningful…

  3. Brad

    Actually, it’s not just a couple of companies. It’s more like a regiment, according to Reuters, which describes “2,500 U.S. marines operating out of a de facto base in northern Australia.”

    And folks, a regiment of Marines can do a lot. Ask the Japanese.

  4. Brad

    A bit more from the Reuters story:

    “The U.S. deployment to Australia, the largest since World War Two, will start next year with a company of 200-250 marines in Darwin, the ‘Pearl Harbour of Australia,’ Gillard said.

    “More bombs were dropped on Darwin during a surprise Japanese raid than on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

    “A total of 2,500 U.S. troops would eventually rotate through the port city. The United States will bring in ships, aircraft and vehicles, as well as increase military training…”

  5. Steven Davis

    “No one taught him about reconnoitering the objective before committing.”

    No one taught him what??? Are you making up words again?

  6. Steve Gordy

    Brad, “reconnoiter” isn’t a word IT folks are likely to be familiar with. It is, in fact, the correct term to convey your meaning.

  7. Phillip

    Re #1: Clearly this move is a response to China’s establishing THEIR marines at bases in Venezuela, at approximately the same distance from major American cities as our Darwin troops now are from China, not to mention of course our much closer troops in Korea and Japan.

    Except, oops, China has no military in Venezuela, or anywhere near the US for that matter. But I guess you can’t object now if they decide they have the right to establish such bases. If you do disagree with that premise, on what basis of international law could you do so?

    Deconstructing your comment is a fascinating exercise. First, you remind us that we last went into Australia “to counter the Japanese.” Of course, we were at actual war with them, and Japan had by that time a long record of extraterritorial military ventures and conquest. Last time I checked, we were not at war with China nor has China tried to gobble up Southeast Asia.

    Then, you tell us that you “increasingly like Obama, who just quietly and without fuss constantly projects U.S. power far more aggressively that W. ever did.” This tells me two things: one, that in spite of his tragic mishandling of foreign policy and damage to the “American brand” (as Jon Huntsman might put it) that W committed, he was still insufficiently “aggressive” for your tastes, hard as that is to believe; two, that “constantly projecting U.S. power aggressively” is a worthwhile objective in and of itself.

  8. Brad

    Yes, it is, absolutely — on your last point. There is nothing more likely to advance collective security and liberal democracy, and to inhibit tyranny, than a strong American presence in key pivot points around the world. For that reason, I’ve always thought it outrageous that we have to have a major political fight over closing a base in the U.S., yet we close them abroad — where they are actually needed — without anyone batting an eye.

    I just don’t even know where to grab ahold of your implication that advanced deployment of Chinese forces is somehow equal to advanced deployment of American forces, and has similar implications for the world. It arises from a worldview — one that is held by a vast number (perhaps a majority; hard to tell) of Democrats in this country — that is so different from my own that there is no common ground on which to have a conversation.

    You and I can find common ground on many other subjects, but not here. The sad thing for me is that I don’t think it’s possible for you to understand my position. Based on what you and others have said in the past, you seem to think that I am blinded by nationalism, or militarism. You think I cannot see the flaws in my own country, or the virtues in others. You think I cannot see the legitimate aims and aspirations of peoples if they are not my own.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am, based on comments I’ve read here. And if I’m right, my mind is totally boggled, because it means that despite the millions of words I’ve written over the years laying my thoughts bare, some of my correspondents have completely failed to know me. You are unlikely to meet anyone more ready to question his own assumptions than I. Nor are you likely to meet anyone with less of a sense of identification with any group or class of people. Yep, I do see myself as an American. But daily, you see me rip into the things that alienate me about my own country, from the trivial (reality TV, football) to the tendency toward radical individualism — which is quintessentially American, and the bane of my political existence.

    Here’s the thing, Phillip: I look at the world whole. I look at history whole. I look at current events whole, and not as a partisan. I engage issues dispassionately, and when human emotion comes into my calculations, I acknowledge it. Yep, I do get a lump in my throat at the sound of the Marine Hymn. And my opposition to abortion is made more passionate by the deep personal protectiveness I feel toward children, as a father of five and grandfather of four.

    And yeah, I do feel a sense of outrage when I see that lone, brave, vulnerable demonstrator standing in front of that tank at Tiananmen Square. But my heart also bleeds for the victims of Wounded Knee, and My Lai.

    But I recognize when an outrage is an essential expression of a particular nation’s governing principles, and when to the contrary it is a violation of those principles, and I draw conclusions from that. When I regard your equating a base in Australia with a base in Venezuela, I reflect that Tiananmen Square is a pure, legitimate expression of the essence of a government that would do the same today, if challenged. And when I regard My Lai, I see two things — one the horrors that arise in the hearts of men in war (which is never, ever far from my mind when I engage in what you may regard as warmongering; I am always conscious of it), and the fact that Calley was prosecuted by THIS country for having committed acts that lie in direct contradiction of what the U.S. stands for.

    These are differences that matter, and if I were stateless — if you could erase from my brain knowledge of where I come from, but leave everything else I know intact — I would regard a base in Venezuela with alarm for what it implied for the greater good in this world, and a Marine base in Darwin as reassuring.

    The thing is, in many ways, I am “stateless”. I have very few identifications that define or limit my perspective. No party. No football team to cheer for. I had to go pick a religion, and I chose the original universal church, where I routinely hear four languages spoken in a single Mass, because THAT is where I am more comfortable. (It would have been far more “American” of me to become a Baptist, but I would be uncomfortable there.) No comfort from hanging with people who think just the way I do, because no one does. Actually, no one thinks just like anyone else — the very act of THINKING precludes that. But most people aren’t as acutely, and even painfully, aware of it as I am.

  9. bud

    Yes, it is, absolutely — on your last point. There is nothing more likely to advance collective security and liberal democracy, and to inhibit tyranny, than a strong American presence in key pivot points around the world.

    By what mechanism is it even remotely possible to deter any kind of aggression, anywhere in the world by sending 2500 marines to a nation that is friendly to the US and apparently not in any tiny way in peril? If nothing else this is an expensive exercise with a price tag that will eventually far exceed what the planners say it is. Just look at any American adventure over the last 50 years. Has any ever turned out cheaper than we anticipated. Perhaps Libya but that’s kind of the exception that proves the rule. We didn’t actually go in to Libya but only supported our European allies.

    So on cost grounds alone I’ll have to oppose this exercise.

  10. bud

    I do get a lump in my throat at the sound of the Marine Hymn.

    Isn’t that lump something of passion that can cloud judgement? Seriously you contradict the point you’re trying to make here. You are indeed supporting this based on passion and yes by golly PARTISANSHIP.

  11. Karen McLeod

    Brad, you and I have argued about this “world view” multiple times. Each time you take a statement about how something the US does, such as bombing a country, may cause the folks in that country to dislike us, and reply with an assertion that the writer doesn’t understand how much more moral and upstanding our reasons are than any other country’s. But I, at least, and I think others as well, are not asserting that our motives are just as bad as another country’s. I’m saying that the people upon whom the bombs are falling don’t like it any better than we’d like bombs falling on us. If they’re busy dodging flying debris, they’re unlikely to be interested in our motives. Now, with this movement of troops to Australia, I don’t know enough about what the current situation with China is that would require military intervention. There’s a lot going on economically speaking, but why are we concerned militarily? Now, would you be concerned if China had set up a military force in, say Venezuela? If so, is it not likely that China would have the same reaction to our forces in Australia? I’m not talking about who has the better motive here; I’m talking about how the action is perceived by the other country. So the question becomes, is the relationship between China and us made better by our stationing marines in Australia, or is it made worse? I don’t know, but I know how I’d feel if China established a base in Venezuela. I can only hope that the establishment of that base in Australia, achieves more positive outcome for us than it costs our country in China’s perception of us.

  12. Phillip

    Brad, it’s very simple really. Of course I don’t accuse you of being blind to our nation’s flaws, etc. nor do I question your sincerity in believing that projection of American strength (in terms of our global presence) is in the interest of “collective security and liberal democracy, and to inhibit tyranny.” I don’t believe it’s our job to force the world at gunpoint into liberal democracy, but that’s even another point.

    But here’s the thing: you say that “if I were stateless…I would regard a base in Venezuela with alarm…and a Marine base in Darwin as reassuring.” Maybe, but for all your fine qualities, imagining how you might see the world if you were not an American is not (I humbly propose) one of them. A large portion of the world would not feel that way. (And I’m not talking about Islamic extremists at all here). For example, what if you were part of the growing Chinese middle class? It’s quite likely that the Chinese people in large part, whatever their feelings about their government, would not feel as reassured about an American military buildup in SE Asia as you are. I believe you fail to see the world from other peoples’ perspectives, fail to understand that your apologia for America’s flaws and explications of our ultimate benign intent could still be perceived as other nations as a kind of relativism, and in doing so, divide the world into the “us and those people” that EJ Dionne so recently warned against in the Bernardin speech.

    This is no defense of China’s government, nor trade policies, currency policies, etc., mind you. But even in your juxtaposing Tiananmen Square with My Lai, let me again point out one major difference: the former was an internal atrocity, Chinese killing Chinese, the latter? Americans killing non-Americans, killing the “other,” about whom we made the same kind of blanket statements (about a benign system vs. an evil one) that you are doing now vis-a-vis the Chinese. Authoritarian society with aspects we find appalling? Yes. But China is not a tinpot dictatorship ruled by one unstable unpredictable nut a la North Korea or yes, even Iraq under Saddam.

    Are you really sure that another T.Square would happen in China again now? Or would it be managed differently? I don’t think we can say with certainty. We wouldn’t have businesspeople, political leaders, educators, traveling back and forth in such numbers to China if it were exactly the same country it was in 1989. Just because they do not operate as a liberal democracy does not mean there is not internal struggle and some degree of change of direction in their government. Think how different China is today from when Nixon visited 40 years ago. And bottom line: there is still no evidence that they have imperial ambitions, extraterritorial ones. So if THAT’s not the reason, and we are building up troops in SE Asia more because we don’t like how they govern their own people, that’s even less justifiable and makes those typical Chinese claims of “interference in internal matters” only more plausible.

    Either all nations of the world have ultimately to conform to standards of international behavior, or none will feel constrained to do so. It comes down to this: your argument that American military power projected worldwide is a good thing (and a privilege that belongs to few if any other nations) because we mean well, is answered by much of the world (and certainly the Chinese in this case) thusly: “Says you.” What we think we’re doing out of benign motivations are seen as anything but benign or well-meaning in other places. And we HAVE to understand that, or we are destined to contribute to, and not protect against, the continued cycle of war and death on the planet.

  13. bud

    The sad thing for me is that I don’t think it’s possible for you to understand my position.

    This is exactly the type of issue where you have to be a partisan. There is no point in trying to compromise since the two sides have no common ground. One side will win and the other will lose. We can discuss the issue on this blog and on other forums but when one side suggests, without any rational reason, that it’s ok to continue sending troops on expensive junkets to far away place in some esoteric attempt to deter tyranny then those of us who oppose such action can only shrug at the absurdity of it all and try to prevail at the ballot box. Not sure I can add anything more than Phillip and Karen on the merits. Seems pretty clear to me that they are right and Brad is wrong.

    My only point in commenting at all is that I feel there is a place for partisanship and this issue is one of those.

  14. Brad

    Phillip, it’s not about good intentions. Yes, the intentions are good, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about the reasons why I would want a NATO propped up by American power if I were German over the past half a century. I’m talking about why a rational, self-interested Australian would want a U.S. presence. I’m talking about the dynamic whereby whenever there is a crisis anywhere in the world, leaders everywhere turn to see if the United States will lead on it, and if they don’t see that, you start to hear complaints — from abroad — about lack of American leadership.

    No, I can’t know that Tiananmen Square would unfold the same way. But I do know that while we have “Occupy” protests everywhere, no one dares to try it in China. Which country do you want having more influence on the world, whether or not you are an American.

    And Phillip, it is impossible for me to imagine being a member of the rising middle class in China. It’s impossible for me to imagine being Chinese, because the cultural framework is too different. I know objectively that there is a kind of nationalism in China that is deeply rooted and goes to places in the human psyche that exceeds what most Westerners would understand — the kind that causes non-Chinese to be referred to (historically) as “foreign devils.” But I know that doesn’t translate perfectly, and that I can’t completely grasp it. When I think of Chinese nationalism, I think of that old Mike Myers routine, with the character who repeatedly says, “If it’s nae Scottish, it’s crap!” There SEEMS to be — but as a Westerner I can’t quite grasp it fully, lacking the language and culture — something like that going on in China. (For instance, China had mastery of the sea that matched or exceeded that of the Portuguese early in the age of discovery — but then the emperor declared that, all other nations being by their nature inferior, Chinese should have nothing to do with them, and the empire turned inward.) I have gathered that there is a very strong sense of national achievement in the country’s growth, and that much is understandable. It must be a heady time to be Chinese. But I can’t possibly grasp how a Chinese person would perceive other nation’s moves with regard to his country. I can see clues, but I can’t get into that person’s head. And I imagine there are at least a billion different Chinese perspectives.

    If you ask me to try to think like a British politician, or a German journalist, or a Latin American teacher, I can come a lot closer. But you might as well ask me to think like a businessman as to think like a Chinese.

    We all have to recognize such limitations, however intuitive or empathetic we might be. I made a slight joke just then about not being able to think like a businessman, but it’s only a slight one. Likewise, I have trouble understanding the motivations of a football fan, or a Democrat or a Republican. Or a pacifist.

    I could probably set out what each of those people think, and do it better than most of them could, simply because that’s what I do. People pay me to say what they think, and say it better than they do. But that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with my own understanding.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a talented musician like you. This morning, I heard an instrumental cover of an obscure James Taylor song. And whenever I think about James Taylor, I marvel that he’s had all the psychological problems he’s had in his life. I always think, if I could produce such mellow, calming sounds as that, any time, I would always be mellow and happy. But obviously the world doesn’t work that way. It’s very, very hard to get into other people’s heads…

  15. Karen McLeod

    If we were unable to imagine what another might think or feel, there would be no good fiction, or movies. There could be no political discussion. There would be no room for either mercy or justice. We could accomplish little but to destroy and be destroyed.

  16. Doug Ross

    Yesterday’s news:

    “The Pentagon on Thursday held a successful test flight of a flying bomb that travels faster than the speed of sound and will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than a hour.

    The Pentagon has invested 239.9 million dollars in the Global Strike program this year, including 69 million for the flying bomb tested Thursday, CRS said”

    I guess your view on America’s exceptionalism would determine whether that news was good or bad. I’m in the latter camp. $69 million for a bomb. You don’t spend that kind of money unless you plan to use it. $69 million to blow something up.

  17. Steven Davis

    “Yep, I do get a lump in my throat at the sound of the Marine Hymn.”

    Weren’t you raised in a Navy family? I know Navy brats who were disowned for saying less than that.

  18. `Kathryn Fenner

    I got a lump in my throat when the former members of each service branch stood during last Monday’s Rotary meeting when the song for their branch of the service was sung. Same thing when I used to play the trumpet–and it ain’t easy to play the trumpet with a lump in your throat. Thanks, everyone!

  19. Brad

    Where is that from? That sounds like science fiction from the 1940s. I mean, what’s the difference between a “flying bomb” and a missile, or a drone? Sounds like archaic language.

    Aren’t ICBMs supersonic?

    … OK, I went and found it. It looks like a dart. And… it still looks like old-timey science fiction. I could see Buck Rogers riding in something shaped like that.

    I’d be very interested to know the sorts of scenarios this would be intended for. It’s certainly a move in the opposite direction of where so much of our effort has gone in recent years. We’ve been all about low-intensity, and boots on the ground. This sounds more like the mission of Strategic Air Command.

  20. Mab

    I never knew that the Marines are part of the Navy. Those “lousy public schools” never taught us this.

    Steven — is there any kind of people you don’t know at least one of? You always seem to have one in your tool belt when you need to buttress your grand sphere of influence and knowledge.

  21. Brad

    The closest I came to having that kind of deep, gut connection to the Marine Hymn was when I read Leon Uris’ Battle Cry when I was in high school. Before that, it was just a stirring march.

    Battle Cry made a big impression on me. That and E.M. Nathanson’s The Dirty Dozen were the first lengthy “adult” novels I remember reading as a kid. (They started me on a lifelong habit of reading fiction, as well as history, about WWII.) It was the sort of novel that publishers’ publicity blurbs would call “epic.” It followed a bunch of young members of the Sixth Marines from their civilian lives (one of the main protagonists quits high school in his senior year after Pearl Harbor; others had very different backgrounds) to boot camp in San Diego, through training, and then through the campaigns of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. The reader gets deeply into their personal lives, on and off-duty, in war zones as well as in San Diego, New Zealand and Hawaii. You really come to care about them; they feel like your best friends — especially if you’re 15 or 16 when you read about them. After all, I knew things about them I didn’t know about real-life friends.

    SPOILER ALERT: And then, in the first moments of attacking the beach at Saipan. Half or more of the main characters are killed. The momentum of their deaths is overwhelming, one following another at a merciless pace, just a few brief words describing the event before moving to the next. Then there are a few pages about the shattered, gravely wounded survivors trying to put their lives back together. You are left to the final page to know whether the all-American boy who had left high school to enlist has survived his wounds. Then the book closes with a couple of lines from a book of poetry carried by one of the dead.

    Anyway, the feeling I had reading those last pages of that novel — that’s what I feel when I hear the Marine Hymn.

  22. Brad

    Oh, one last thing: Don’t judge either of those novels by the movies, especially not “Battle Cry.” And you’d be surprised how good a novel “The Dirty Dozen” was. It was pretty different from the movie.

  23. Brad

    Those books made such an impression on me that for the longest time, I would test my memory for utter trivia by seeing if I could remember the names of all of the Dozen in the Nathanson book. For decades, I could.

    But I tried just now and only came up with 10, and I couldn’t remember the first name of one of them. So it’s wearing off:

    Victor Franko
    Samson Posey
    Napoleon White
    Glenn Gilpin
    Calvin Ezra Smith
    Archer Maggot
    Myron O’Dell
    Joe Wladislaw
    Roscoe Lever

    There’s another whose name is on the tip of my fingers… he was the only combat veteran in the group, had served in Italy. There’s a K in it. Ken or something…

    Ridiculous, huh? After more than 40 years. And with all the important things I can’t remember…

  24. Brad

    Steven, first, the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy.

    Second, I could have said the same thing about “Anchors Aweigh.” I just said Marine Hymn because Marines were the topic at hand.

    I learned both of those songs as a little kid, about the same time as “Jesus Loves Me” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Those, and perhaps I should add “Hound Dog,” constituted my favorite songs to sing when I was about 4 years old. Hence the emotional attachment.

    I never quite knew the power of “Anchors Aweigh,” though, until one day at Pearl Harbor in 1970 — shortly after the incident I wrote about in that column awhile back, when John McCain’s dad threw me off a tennis court.

    My Dad’s ship was leaving for a seven-month deployment off the coast of Vietnam. All the families were on the wharf there. As the lines were cast off and the ship started to slip away gradually, the Navy band there for the occasion, in their dress whites, struck up “Anchors Aweigh.” I still get goose bumps at the power of that moment, a moment in which I felt connected to every sailor who ever took to the sea since ancient times, and the families they left behind. It was astounding to me that music could do that to such an extent.

  25. bud

    Brad and I have gone round and round on US military deployments over the last few years. Yet I can fully understand with a son in the naval resere how the sound of anchors away can stir up some goose bumps. With a son in the naval reserve I can attest to how inspiring those dress white uniforms are.

  26. Brad

    It warms my heart to hear you say that, Bud. And I thank your son for his service. I’ve always wondered — is “Anchors Aweigh” a naturally stirring melody, or do you have to have the experiences to go along with it?

  27. Brad

    Oh, and I thought of that “Dirty Dozen” character’s name: Ken Sawyer. And Jimenez’ first name was Luis. I though of them driving home last night.

    Now that leaves one. A very minor character, hardly mentioned in the book…

    I am NOT going to look!

  28. `Kathryn Fenner

    The USC band played “Armed Forces Salute” this morning as I walked by their practice field–choked me up all over again.

    Query: is there a song for the National Guard? They sure deserve one these days.

  29. Steven Davis

    The National Guard is either part of the Army, Navy or Air Force. There is no National Guard branch of the military.


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