Prague Twin

Sunday, December 31, 2006

"Ding, Dong...."

Now that Saddam Hussein is dead and buried, I wanted to express just a couple thoughts on Iraq. I've been avoiding Iraq in general mostly because people like Mike, and Reality-based Educator do such a good job covering it, rarely do I feel I have something to add. But Iraq is still in my mind day in and day out as much as ever.

So now that this "milestone" (as Bush calls it) has come and gone, I wonder if it actually means anything. As Mike pointed out, it was supposedly a milestone when Saddam was captured. Here is what Bush said on that day:

In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

Bush is not so optimistic this time this time saying:

Saddam Hussein's execution is an important milestone for Iraq, but will not stop the violence there.

This, then, is another of those rare occasions where I agree with George Bush (at least about the violence). Another milestone will most likely occur today, when American Military fatalities reach 3,000. The fact that this happens on the last day of the year, and on the day that Saddam is buried probably will not escape media scrutiny. Also, December is now the deadliest month of 2006 for American forces, the third deadliest month of the war, and it also marks the end of a four-month period that will be the second deadliest four-month period since October 2004-January 2005, the latter just marginally edging out the former.

Looking back at my first post on the subject, I assumed that we would see troop drawdowns because the admininstration would not have the political will to change the structure of the military or pull troops from other arenas. I was completely wrong. One assumption I made that was completely right was that it is illogical to go down the same road in terms of troop deployment as we could expect no change in the situation on the ground. I argued that there should either be a major escalation or a drawdown, but that if the same number of troops (roughly 150,000) were to remain in Iraq, we could expect about 2.3 per day to be killed and the situation on the ground to be largely unchanged.

That was a year ago. Now we have the essentially unchanged situation, although by all accounts, the slaughter of Iraqis is on the increase. American troops are being killed in roughly the same numbers (although right now they are suffering more losses, but not unprecidented levels in this war).

So the most illogical thing in the world to me is this idea that 15,000 more troops is going to make a damn bit of difference. That will bring the troop level back up to the levels that we saw earlier in the war that did not prevent the looting, did not quell the insurgency, did not prevent the sectarian violence, and did not prevent the suicide and car bombings that have been devestating to the Iraq people.

Why does anyone think that things are going to change? Operation "Together Forward" was a total failure. I had hoped that sending the Stryker units into Baghdad would have some effect. As we know know, it did not. So why would 15,000 troops have any effect now?

I've said it over and over again, and I will say it again now: the numbers can be tweaked, the leaders can be killed, surges can be made, but without a major change in strategy (either a withdrawl or an escalation in orders of magnitude), the insurgency will continue, and Amercians will continue to lose about 2.3 soldiers per day.

Great strategy.


  • I read an article in a forensic magazine for psychiatrists by one of it's editors who had been practicing forensic psychiatry for over 10 years. She just recently came to the conclusion that there is evil in the world and it is found in people. She wished it wasn't so.
    It there is evil, the question is do you confront it or try to avoid it. If there is evil you can only avoid it for so long. The American lives for his own personal peace and his own affluence. Your conditioning as an American has left you with more illusions than what is found in almost all of the rest of the world.
    If you are alive to only live for yourself, then I understand your wanting to avoid situations such as Iraq. If you see yourself as your brother's keeper, than you will suffer with them.
    You hold logic and reason to a higher influence on man's daily life than it actually has. Evil does not recognize logic and reason.
    If your account of why you call yourself by what you do is truthful, then you see the delimma.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:59 AM  

  • I'm not completely convinced that those are our only two alternatives. A new strategy is definitely needed, but I suspect a new strategy that better utilized the resources we have available would do more good than a mere escalation in troops. I'm not a strategist, so I don't know exactly what a good strategy would be, but I think there's more to it than just amount of troops.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 1:51 PM  

  • Anonymous,

    "there is evil in the world and it is found in people."

    Two things to say about that:

    1. If that is so, confronting it is impossible because it is everywhere. Confronting it only increases it's power (revenge etc.). Evil can never be eliminated, so the best we can hope for is to try and live in peace with others so as to not envoke the evil spirit that lives within us all.

    2. If you really believe that, then why don't you kill yourself? Then at least there will be that much less evil in the world.


    As far as military strategies go, I'd say escalation, status quo, and withdrawl are pretty much the three basic choices in terms of overall strategy. You could change some tactics, or go for a completely new approach, but in terms of an overall military strategy, you basicly have those three choices.

    If you want the situation on the ground to change, you have the two choices that I mentioned.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:39 PM  

  • anonymous,

    "You hold logic and reason to a higher influence on man's daily life than it actually has."

    Logic and reason hold as much influence on man's daily life as the particular men or women involved allow it. In Prague Twin's case, I suspect it holds considerable his last post testifies.

    "Evil does not recognize logic and reason."

    Two things:
    1) PT was making recommendations for the war, and thus addressing in some round-about way the people in charge of how we wage the war in Iraq. Thus, logic and reason can be applicable.

    2) Unless of course you're implying that it is they who are inherently evil in this scenario, and then we'll simply have to agree to disagree.

    All men have some degree of evil in them. Since the word evil is used, I'm going to assume you're talking religious scope, in which case I shall offer you the term "fallen man." This doesn't mean that any one of us is completely evil, but that we are fallen and thus capable of evil. (Though, it inserts the question of whether or not we were capable of it all along, since Adam and Eve could be said to have had the "evil" in them from the beginning, how else would they choose to sin against God and eat the forbidden fruit?)

    In purely scientific terms, we are "evil" because we have not yet evolved out of it.

    Now, either way you look at it, throwing up your hands and giving up, i.e. evil is undefeatable then why bother, doesn't seem like a sound notion to me. If that is what you choose, however, I recommend Buddhism. You can attain a sense of inner peace that provents you from taking evil actions through inaction and reminding oneself of the transient nature of our corporeal existence. Very interesting stuff.

    As for this...
    "The American lives for his own personal peace and his own affluence."

    First, I wouldn't agree with that by any means. "The American" is a basically prejudiced statement that does apply to some, doesn't apply to others, and is rather based on ignorance than anything else. Second, applying it to Prague Twin is completely inaccurate, since one of the great things about PT is how he shares both the typically "American" perspective with that of an immersed "foreigner." He can and does help those of us who've never had the pleasure to physically travel outside the U.S. borders see things from the "outsider's" perspective.

    Altogether, I'd say your oh-so-subtle attack was prejudice in action.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:38 PM  

  • PT,

    Sorry...didn't wanna help myself.

    As for military strategies...I've just been thinking a lot of the green soldiers whose minds are full of hate propaganda who are being shipped out, and how these soldiers have so little, so incomplete training, aren't given the supplies and equipment they need...and on and on it goes.

    If they had better management from the Administration, better training, better equipment and supplies...then I think perhaps the troop levels we have now could be utilized more effectively so we can stop having to re-take the same exact territory we've already taken over and over again.

    If we escalate, then we're just sending more green, barely trained soldiers, "drugged up" on hate, with too few supplies, too few pieces of equipment into a war-zone that doesn't seem to have a cohesive plan for action. I really don't think that'll accomplish what you're hoping it will (acknowledging that you'd probably prefer the withdrawal).

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:43 PM  

  • I made statements about the condition or state of the world we live in. I did not offer solutions in order to see if you would reveal any presuppostions. You say 1. you do not think confronting evil is appropriate, 2. you suggest that I kill myself to eliminate evil. Why not kill many others to eliminate more evil?

    You seem to see evil as being a relative concept that has no real core or intrinsic meaning or reality. In what little we actually know about the past and what we know about today, logic and reason only go so far in limiting the evil people do. People have in the past and continue today to try and eliminate others by killing them for all kinds of evil reasons. Only by active confrontation is evil repealed. It is never completely expelled. Evolution as a force that will completely expell evil from us is not science. It is either a "pipe dream" or based on a belief system.

    Nearly all of man's myths, old or new, stories, religions or philosophies address evil as being repelled by it being confronted in an agressive way.

    The central issues for each person is 1. personally identify what is evil 2. decide how you are going to confront it 3. take action.

    I personally have come to the conclusion that I cannot take another's life. This has left me with agressively confronting evil even if it means I am harmed or die doing so. I will not judge those who believe they are agents of a state or government that are in a state of confict in which lives are taken. There is an movie from the 80's called "The Mission" which address this delimma.


    You think that I am ignorant. Well since you want to take what I said to that level based upon the small amount of information I shared, I ask you who appears ignorant? I think the intellegent approach would have been to ask me what I meant by "American". I think that in the context of what I wrote there are clues about what I might be referring to. What did you assume illusions meant? We all have them. Each culture has its own. We live in a society that has much and see it as our birth-right. We live in a society that does not want to be bothered by other's problem whether family or stranger. We are isolating ourselves more and more and expecting more and more material goods that will make our individual lives easier. We are moving toward a society that does not think it needs others to help us in significant ways. This a strong trend in all of our scientific, educational, professional, etc. influences.

    Instead it appears you have brought your preunderstanding of the term into a discussion without considering what I meant by the term. You assume that I have only exerienced the American culture. You assume that I haven't interacted with Europeans, Asians, Middle-easterners, Africans, Central Americans, South Americans, the American black communmity, or the American Hispanic community. You assume that I never lived in a place where all of my natural ties to a community where stripped away (ie. language, media, transportation, diet, family, friends, etc.) This may or maynot be the case with PT. I don't know and neither do you. He may speak the language where he is at.

    After reading your comments I find that you make a lot of assumptions based on what you think about others without really knowing.

    You seem to have a lot of opinions about what others think and do. You don't have the answers for me and I don't have the answers for you. I believe it is up to each person to find the answer, for it to be their answer. And then to act upon what is concluded in a passionate and affirmative manner.

    It must be good and not evil. It must be for the benefit of others and not ourself.

    It is from this basis that one begins to build one's value system and view of the world. And from there to do the specific things that must be done. And these things will always be hard and cause some degree of suffering.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:40 AM  

  • Happy New Year one and all.

    For a lucid discussion on the failure of material goods to induce happiness, read Gregg Easterbrook's "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse."

    The world has gotten a good deal smaller in the last century or so.
    Communication is nearly instantaneous and has fostered both a free exchange of ideas amongst otherwise unrelated people (see this blog) while at the same time providing a vehicle for terrorists to obtain resources and to work their evil.

    As for what is evil, I will quote Mr. Justice Stewart out of context and state: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description;and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."

    Of course it is our duty to confront evil. If we, as individuals fail to confront the evil --perhaps weakness would be a better word in this context--with ourselves, how shall we achieve enlightenment. If we as a nation or a culture fail to confront evil and falter in that endeavor, our civilization will not evolve and perhaps will not survive.

    The devil is in the details. Saddam Hussein was undeniably evil and Saddam Hussein is no more. History will determine whether Mr. Bush's cowboy diplomacy unleashed more evil than it surpressed. Of course, had Mr. Bush read a little more history, perhaps he would have chosen to confront evil in Darfur.

    This brings us to the issue of method. There is much to laud about the paths of pacifism and non violence. But what may expell the British from India or integrate busses in Birmingham, may be insufficient to stop genocide in Darfur or mass murder in New York, Madrid, and London.

    By Anonymous The Loop Garoo Kid, at 5:23 PM  

  • Robert Novak writes in his column today that the administration is considering 30,000 additional troops long-term - more than the 15,000 reported lately. Novak also reports that Bush is going to have trouble rallying 12 out of 49 Senate Republicans to his cause. Four GOPers - Chuck Hagel, Susan Collins, Gordon Smith and Norm Coleman - are going to be outspoken critics of the surge plan. Every Dem but Lieberman is opposed to the surge - and Dems control the agenda in Washington these days. 30,000 additional troops is the absolute ceiling that the military could handle at this point, and even then it remains to be seen how the military people and their families handle the extended and/or early deployments to Iraq.

    Bush's surge plan is no slam dunk to happen. If I had to bet, I'd say it will - but this is not going to be an easy month for Bush to get his way on the war. And if he does get his way, he better hope that conditions in Iraq improve considerably. Because if they don't, most GOPers (concerned that the Iraq war is going to cost them '08) will throw Bush under the bus faster than you can say "Cut-and-Run."

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 7:11 PM  

  • anonymous,

    "You think that I am ignorant."

    No, I think you're arrogant. They sound similar, but have entirely different connotations.

    "I think the intellegent approach would have been to ask me what I meant by "American"."

    Sorry, you don't get to define "American" however you see fit. The word has specific meaning; it usually refers to citizens of the United States of America, but can also refer to anyone who lives on North, South or Central America (as well as Native Americans...and apparently a particular kind of train).

    By either primary definition, you are grouping a very diverse people together and attributing characteristics to them that may or may not fit, therefore it is a statement that relies on your personal prejudice to give it any validity whatsoever.

    "What did you assume illusions meant?"

    I did not address "illusions." I addressed, and rather clearly so, "The American lives for his own personal peace and his own affluence." You are making an incredible, and unfounded assumption. I, for instance, am an American. I live for my children. I have lived for my children since my first child was born. I will continue living for my children until they are capable of independence...which could be a very long time. I have other interests and do other things, but I will drop anything and everything for my children...and do on a regular basis.

    As for you're The American...there is no such thing. Perhaps if we had a monarchy or dictator, there may be a The, but as it is such a person does not exist.

    "We live in a society that has much and see it as our birth-right."

    Typically, yeah, that's the nature of societies. And that's from anthropology and history...not just my American experiences.

    As for your other judgements, I'll agree that it is a trend...but that trend does NOT justify your prejudice. Some Americans act in that manner. More and more, perhaps, but not all. Nor will it ever be all. If nothing else, the Amish are Americans.

    "You assume that I have only exerienced the American culture."

    No, you said PT was "condition[ed] as an American," when he is no longer living in America.

    "I don't know and neither do you."

    You're right. I don't know. I've never met PT and considering where he "claims" to be I probably will never have that chance. He very well might be lying about all of it. However, I have blogged with him for quite awhile now, and based on his consistency, his demonstrated ethics/morality, and our friendship...I trust that he is exactly what he says he is. And that's enough for me.

    "...I find that you make a lot of assumptions based on..."

    I make judgement calls on what I read, yes. I read what you wrote, and did not see into your head. You came off as arrogant, and you're still being arrogant. I find it rather annoying. But, other than "assuming" you're arrogant by your behavior on this blog, and "assuming" your prejudice by your word choice...I haven't made any other assumptions.

    "I believe it is up to each person to find the answer, for it to be their answer. And then to act upon what is concluded in a passionate and affirmative manner."

    Funny. And how exactly does good or evil fit in that? If we all have our own definition of good and evil, our own judgements of what one or the other is, unapproachable by anyone else, then the words are meaningless. Perhaps that's your purpose?

    For instance, whether you call them jihadists, terrorists, or freedom-fighters they presumably believe they are doing right. Some of them know better. I'd bet Bin Laden knows better, for instance. However, some of them honestly believe they are fighting a just cause for Allah. However, I look at the men, women and children they ruthlessly slaughter and I call it evil. If every opinion was equally valid irregardless of reality, then my opinion and their opinion would inevitably cancel each other out. Thus, good and evil would have no meaning.

    That is why good and evil are no personal decisions. We do not get to decide what is good and evil, though we can try to discern which is which. We don't decide if something is good or evil, God does. Or whatever higher being(s) you believe in. The nature of the words themselves are religious in origin. Science can borrow them, but inevitably the result will be a loss of meaning, since science cannot designate whether something is good or evil anymore than men (or women) can.

    You do not get to choose what is good and what is evil. You can discern between the two, and hope that you get it right. But you do not get to decide, in the end, whether or not your choice was right. Were that the case, the words would have no meaning.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 6:07 AM  

  • Anon,

    We are way off topic, but just for fun I'll take you up on this point.

    Only by active confrontation is evil repealed.

    This may be true, but is not the point I was trying to make. If you read the "kid's" comment I think you will see that if confronting evil was the main focus for invading Iraq, then we have certainly missed the mark in terms of a cost benefit analysis.

    Not only could the money and lives be better spent fighting evil that is destroying many more lives (Darfur), but it does remain to be seen if more evil has not been released and created by the U.S. actions in Iraq.

    But as I mentioned, this is a moot point. The issue (as those on the right will be first to posit) is not whether or not Iraq should or should not have been invaded. It was. Let us get beyond that. You feel it was the right move, I did not, but that argument is well behind us now.

    The issue now, and the one I was addressing in this post, is "what shall the U.S. do now?"

    I argue that it is illogical to continue down the same path as the security situation is deteriorating, and American troops are dying in roughly the same numbers, if not in higher numbers.

    The U.S. is there, and whether it is right or wrong to confront evil or if evil is a relative concept inside my own skull matters not one bit. What matters is the next move.

    I'd love to hear from someone who supported the invasion (not that that matters now) what they would suggest at this point to improve the situation in Iraq.

    Any thoughts on that?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:53 AM  

  • Loopy,

    Wasn't that definition once used by SCOTUS to describe pornography? It sounds familiar.

    I am sure that evil must be confronted at certain times, but the idea that it can be confronted at every turn is pure hubris.

    It is important to pick your battles wisely and fight them effectively. Wouldn't you agree?


    Thanks for the head up on that one.


    You go girl! For the record, I don't think my residency in the Czech Republic is in question, it was simply a question of if I know what it is like to live in a land where I understand nothing or if I speak the language. The answer is both: I did live here for some time completely cut off from information and the ability to communicate. I do now speak the language, fairly fluently, which is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

    Czech makes latin look like a cakewalk.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:57 AM  

  • PT,

    "Czech makes latin look like a cakewalk."

    I'm sure it does. I don't speak either. I'm not even fluent in Spanish, despite several years "learning" it in a public school setting. However, unless I'm quite mistaken (a very real possibility) Czech utilizes an entirely different alphabet system...which is always a difficult jump to make. But immersion is supposed to be the best way to go.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 1:58 AM  

  • Latin letters are now used in favor of the original cyrilic, but there are too many of them to be covered by our standard 26, so in addition to the standard 26 we have:

    ě, š, č, ř, ž, ý, á, í, é, ů.

    What makes it hard is not only the pronounciation, but the fact that it is a synthetic language (as opposed to analytic) and it is slavic so it is not related to english whatsoever, although there is a bit of latin in there every so often.

    Also, it is the deepest case language which means all nouns can have up to 14 forms (including plural). That goes for pronouns too. Add that there are 4 genders and you end up with something like 56 ways to say "that".

    Sounds like fun eh?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:40 AM  

  • I don't envy you that struggle, that's for sure.

    But, I have to ask... How do you get four genders?

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 6:58 PM  

  • Male (animate)
    Male (inanimate)

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:40 AM  

  • Interesting. Like how in Spanish some things (i.e. inanimate) are male, some are female...but in English they're all "it."

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 12:03 AM  

  • Not exactly. Inanimate objects can be male, female or neuter. But the point is that inanimate male things have different rules than animate male things, so it is considered a different gender.

    An apartment is male,

    Broccoli is female,

    A car is "it".

    Babies are "it" by the way, no matter if they are male or female.

    This rabbit hole goes very deep.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:39 AM  

  • I'm glad you succeeded in traversing that particular rabbit hole. When it comes to the language barrier, I think it's probably a good thing I can't afford to travel abroad. My mind is so full of English words, I'm not entirely convinced that immersion would work in my case.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 7:31 AM  

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