Bacevich on Vietnam-Iraq Analogy

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Radical Islamists like Osama bin Laden do subscribe to a hateful ideology. But to imagine that Bin Laden and others of his ilk have the capability to control the Middle East, restoring the so-called Caliphate, is absurd, as silly as the vaunted domino theory of the 1950s and 1960s.

Politics, not ideology, will determine the future of the Middle East. That’s good news and bad news. Good news because the interests and aspirations of Arabs and non-Arabs, Shiites and Sunnis, modernizers and traditionalists will combine to prevent any one faction from gaining the upper hand. Bad news because those same factors guarantee that the Middle East will remain an unstable mess for the foreseeable future.
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Published in: on August 25, 2007 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Real Real Search for Truths on 9/11

The best piece I’ve read yet on 9/11 by Robert Fisk in the Independent.

I was thinking just along these lines after watching another 9/11 conspiracy vid (Zeitgeist, suggested by Gary) and then the requisite look back at the debunking the conspiracy points of view (this piece from Skeptic a good one). Then “de-bunking” the de-bunking. (Re-bunking?). Then my head is nearly ready to explode.

Fisk gives voice to something I’ve been feeling, but couldn’t articulate. I’m not really happy with either of the 9/11 Commission Version nor the Conspiracy Model. I don’t want conspiracy theories because they are too neatly packaged. Everything makes too much sense. And the official 9/11 Commission Position is unsatisfying in many key ways (as are pieces like the Skeptic one, criticisms of the Consp. Theorists).

Key quote Fisk:

But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11…Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious “war on terror” which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush’s happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that “we’re an empire now – we create our own reality”. True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

It takes some serious courage to admit that one has questions about the official storyline because one will immediately be lumped in with conspiracy theorists. I commend him for willing to give voice to those questions of his.

Fisk goes through a number of question marks he still has—the problematic Mohammad Atta letter. Read his article for all of them.

Continue Reading

It’s hard as say a non-specialist in demolitions (but generally educated person) when you see experts, seemingly sincere people (who may be wrong and not paid off by the string-pullers) give conflicting reports. What I am to make of all that?

The South Tower didn’t fall straight down as is often shown in the conspiracy models. But as in the Skeptic piece, no rebuttal to the testimony of multiple people to feeling, experiencing, hearing blasts from the basement is given? I’ve never heard an official counter-response to that for example. Again doesn’t mean I assume invidiousness–I think we give government’s way too much credit in the way of intelligence (certainly conspiracy theorists do imo). But I would like to hear an explanation for something like that. [If someone knows of a decent one, please provide links].

For myself, I think the 9/11 Commission was a political hackjob that served basically to cover people like Condi Rice’s arse. As Bob Baer points out if the various agencies had worked together, the plot should have been uncovered and stopped. Rice goes before the 9/11 Comm. and says there were no reports of impending attacks from bin Laden. We later learned that was false. So either A)she really didn’t know about them (in which case she should have been fired for failure to do her job) or B)she did know and lied to cover herself. [Richard Clarke’s testimony also lends credence to the view that enough information was out not just 20/20 hindsight monday morning quarter-backing].

It’s not a conspiracy theory to say that some things may have been covered up after the attack–without having been part of some uber-false flag operation.

Things that bother me still:

Philip Zelikow, an otherwise good State department official, was head of the Commission. But we know he is/was very close with Rice. I’m not implying anything insidious about him personally, but it was an obvious case of conflict of interests.

Mohammad Atta’s passport. How does this survive the crash and fireball and then the collapse of the towers intact on the ground in

–On the larger scale I think the conspiracy theorists remind us phenomenologically that the nation never properly mourned 9/11. It was thrown away and turned into memorials and parades and Republican National Conventions as quickly as Giuliani starting shipping otherwise important physical evidence of the rubble. [That also bothers me. Not just for truth reasons but because dead police, firefighters, and civilians were not given their proper resting place and funerals].

The other point, which Fisk raises, is that the attack was politicized. Plots aside, the shadow (conspiracy theory groups) have an element of this truth: that it should not have been so politicized. That in the rush to war (particularly Iraq) and the Patriot Act and Gitmo and eavesdropping, etc., something of our national identity/innocence was lost.

So while I don’t buy into all the detailed plot lines (official or conspiratorial), the conspiracy folks at least, if nothing else, keep the issue alive in American consciousness. I think as a country, 9/11 was never properly absorbed. The neat-package, case-closed, official line of the 9/11 Commission, because it wasn’t I think willing to wade into some difficult places, creates the space for its antithesis the conspiracy theorists (like matter and anti-matter).

The truths of such an event I believe are always more disturbing, hopeful, enlightening, confusing that those packaged versions. Some of those truths lie buried. Unfortunately I don’t see that kind of discussion taking place anytime soon. The mainline narratives are all black/white (either official or conspiratorial).

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Published in: on August 25, 2007 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Das Boot is Bad

Max Boot that is writing in the Wall Street Journal, saying Bush’s Iraq: Vietnam analogy is not wrong but does not go far enough. Interesting case of being right in one way and completely screwball wrong in the other.

Boot’s point is that there were more bad lessons to be learned from having “abandoned” Vietnam than the President cited. Bush cited the Vietnamese who were killed after having supported the US. The Cambodian Killing Fields.

As historical background, remember the US troops were out of Vietnam. The Democrats cut off funding and air support to the South Vietnamese gov’t, the Vietcong reneged on the prior Peace Treaty and invaded.

I don’t think it was good for the US Congress to cut off funds for the support to the regime. I also think the US should never have backed up the French in the first place and gotten into the mess, but that’s a different story.

The argument that is being made now therefore is not a particularly helpful one. The troops in Vietnam were already withdrawn. The Americans troops aren’t. The Democrats (and now Senate Republicans) calling for withdrawal of troops are not in the same position as the 72 Democratic Congress.

Anyway, to Bush’s list, Boot adds: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (Bingo: already happened, sorry Max).
–More enemy regimes/rebels than just Vietnam were “emboldened” by the US “defeat”. (Mozambique, e.g.)
–Danger of Prematurely Dumping Allied Leaders (True, except Maliki and/or anyone else is useless because the central gov’t has no power and Iraq doesn’t exist anymore).
–Danger of not Making Plans for Refugees (agree completely. 2 million already left Iraq and the US should be right now processing people who have worked with the regime. Because we are leaving, Boot’s uber hawk vision aside.

What Boot leaves out of his “complete” model is of course the following: Vietnam today after the US withdrawal, after the cutting off the funds, after the death and despair (not minimized) is a capitalist country that is helping push the rest of SouthEast Capitalist (those dominoes are now falling).

And the US won against the Soviets. No doubt there were difficulties and tragedies from the US cutting off the funds to South Vietnamese. The US shouldn’t have been executing its own puppets in S. Vietnam either, just like we keep engineering the “democratic” process in Iraq.

But the Soviet curtain did fall all that considered.

The analogy might suggest that Iraq (or the countries that will emerge from the former country of Iraq) will one day be another Vietnam. Pain and change included.

That would be a more complete outlook.

There’s no doubt that this withdraw from Iraq will be used as propaganda and there will be extra violence. No amount of “surging” will stop that. The US has already lost the politics or knocked down the house of cards that was the hollowed out Saddam police state. Now there are gangs, militias, and local fiefdoms.

These emboldened groups will often experience fights with each other. Or until some sort of figure/group wins out and/or a dictatorship is re-established.

This is what happens when you invade a place without an exit strategy. That’s the lesson of Vietnam and Iraq.

Published in: on August 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nerves, Neural Fiber, and Synaptic Connections

An anatomical analogy.

I think of Wilber-5, AQAL post-metaphysics as skeletal in nature.

The blogosphere, foreign policy writers, the Great Conversation, academia, are for me the muscle, viscera, and bulk.

All muscle/fat and no bones=no solidity.
All bones and no muscle=a skeleton.

What I try to do in this blog is add the nerves and tendons–connecting the two for a full, electrified body.

Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 10:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Che Documentary

Very good documentary about Che Guevara. Based on the recent (and best English) bio of the man–Che: A Revolutionary Biography by John Lee Anderson.

Che is a fascinating (and disturbing) study. On the one hand, Che’s heart was moved by the poverty of his native South America. He was a doctor and some part of him sought to heal.

On the other, his rigid ideology and worse his psychotic pathology were evil. The video shows (more than I knew) of how he was essentially Castro’s executioner. His ability to murder (see his non-emotional non-reflection on his first murder/execution) is chilling. Part of the doctor, surgical mindset I suppose.

Marx’s philosophy and sociology is all built around the premise that consciousness is a social by-product. That social, economic, and technological force is the really real. Therefore, the socialist state, to make the “socialist being” (one of Che’s passions) must control all property and economics. Thereby all consciousness will be molded to the socialist dream. Like clockwork. 100% guaranteed.

Marxism failed because there was no proof that the social-economic was the really real. Marx did however add to Western thought that social-economic-class elements are intertwined in every movement of consciousness, philosophy, and religion.

Che, more than Castro and certainly more than Marx himself, stands in the line of Trotsky, of perpetual socialist revolution. What I found most interesting about the film was how the communist guerillas hid out in Cuba during their insurgency against the dictatorship of Batista. There they gained the connection of the people.

His heart towards the poor and constant revolution gives him the “Christic” element (in the face of the Che shirts). A secular Christ-figure. Or rather atheistic communist religious Christ figure. The psychotic killer is forgotten in that image however.

Everywhere else Che went (Bolivia, Congo) he never gained the love/hearts of the populace (as we know from Iraq, an important step in any insurgency/counterinsurgency movement). Without that base, Che went from revolutionary “of the people” (as it were) to revolutionary against the people. Like communists like Mao, Stalin, and others before him.

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Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Wilber on Post-Structuralism

From Excerpt A to Volume 2 Kosmos Trilogy:

Probability Space in the AQAL Matrix

Because “postmodernism” has often meant “post-structuralism,” laypeople often misunderstand just what a “structure” is (and is not). Among experts, there is actually a broad and strong agreement as to the meaning of a “structure,” which is generally defined–by Sheldrake, Piaget, Habermas, Francisco Varela, Carol Gilligan, Jane Loevinger, etc.–as a “dynamic system of self-organizing processes that maintain themselves as patterns through their dynamic reproduction.”8 As dynamic self-maintaining patterns, structures are not fixed and unchanging, but rather are “unstably stable” (or a mixture of “circularity and openness“–i.e., oldness and newness–i.e., karma and creatively–i.e., include and transcend), and thus are capable of flexible adaptation to fluctuations: they evolve through “structural coupling” with enacted environments (we say, “tetra-evolve”). A structure is materially different moment to moment; its pattern or form, however, is unstably stable and endures as a Kosmic habit for as long as that class of holons exists in spacetime (i.e., for as long as it negotiates the selection pressures in the AQAL matrix).

It is common in postmodern forms of “new paradigms” to say that “structure” has been replaced by “process.” Actually, of course, structure was always defined as dynamic processes that reproduce themselves. But there are indeed two aspects of structures that researchers keep emphasizing: their capacity for fluid change (e.g., accommodation and adaptation–or adjusting to their communions); and their capacity, if conditions are right, for remaining incredibly stable over long periods of time (e.g., autopoiesis and assimilation–or stable agency).

Deep structures are simply probability waves. Does not cover the great diversity of surface features, expression:

What is required, then, is a way to account for “structure” without falling, shall we say, into structuralism, or a reification of structures as some sort of ontologically existing molds (which is what both the perennial philosophers and the structuralists did, in their own ways, both of which need to be jettisoned in that regard).

We saw that deep features are inherited, not surface features. That is, even though the general patterns (or morphogenetic grooves) of these holons are handed to us by Kosmic karma, all of the actual contents, surface features, and expressions of these habitual patterns are determined by relative, culturally, and personally contingent factors in all four quadrants.

But this is where we start to move beyond any of the typical definitions of “deep structures,” “deep features,” or “deep patterns”: for Integral Post-Metaphysics, a “deep pattern” is not an actually existing form or structure but simply a term that represents the probability of finding a particular type of holon in a particular mode of spacetime.

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Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 6:50 pm  Comments (2)  

States and Stages on American Civil Religion

Robert Bellah, the great American sociologist, postulated the notion of an American civil religion which combined the Enlightenment notions of optimism, progress, and rationality along with the Biblical notion a chosen group of people who are the bearers of salvation in the world. (Those people in this case being the Americans).

With all religions they begin with a state/revelation. One could point for this religion to George Washington’s famous mystical vision. Washington interpreted that vision through his Masonic-Deist leaning frame. Both more so through the civil religion frame. Both elements (Western Enlightenment and Chosen People Motif).

Religions then are meant to translate and help repeat that experience (or similar ones) and cement its theology in a larger scale.

Religions then as the vehicles for the great meaning-events of transcendence have an ambiguous nature. To the degree they help create the conditions for the revelation (assuming it is a good one), they are beneficial. To the degree they don’t, they tend towards the metaphysical.

That is they speak about the experience, or more typically, the interpretation of the experience/revelation (the latter slipping away), not towards it or from it.

The American Civil Religion, which is Religion, holds a similar ambiguity. Like all mystical traditions, this one, has yet to take clearly into perspective, the notion of the intersubjective, Heideggerian, post-metaphysical turn.

In the case of Washington’s mystical vision, for example, the difference has serious implications. If you take his vision at pure face value, as “the truth”, then the descendants of the Europeans are destined and chosen by God, to overrun the indigenous populations.

If we take Washington’s vision as a genuine one (which I do) and add the intersubjective, then I need not hold that the interpretation/background factors that influenced the content of the vision, are automatically forever and ever the truth.

Just as I have a pro/con relationship with Christianity (esp. its amber traditional form), so I do with the American civil religion. It is a better religion–particularly after the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement–than amber-aristocratic mythic theocracies the world over. (Present and past).

For those who practice the “orange” civil American religion, then they should seek out the more esoteric roots of that tradition, so they can experience its heights for themselves, as true Enlightenment inner scientists.

It also makes clear for those who critique the religion, they receive (very often) ir-rational response mechanisms. As a religion, myth is strong and exerts a powerful hold on its believers. Criticism=heresy.

Better is to understand the symbols/myth (from the state and stage pov) and learn how to tweak the symbols to criticize from within. To subvert the typical pattern/establishment that they are used to often cement.

Both the Enlightenment and Biblical tenets of the American Civil Religion are a two-edged sword.

For the Enlightenment belief: Americans can always be called back to a pragmatism, to the so-called can do spirit, to audacious plans and goals.

On the downside–failure is one’s own fault. There is nothing in the world that is not rational by this view (hence problems with religious states and mysticism in general in this religion though sourced in it). Nothing that can not be systematized. No fallow ground. No place for mourning. No great understanding of cultural-historical diversity.

On the Biblical belief. Plus Side. Always call Americans, e.g. Lincoln, to their better angelic side. On the torture question, calling to the American soul and saying this is not us. Volunteerism.

On the negative side–enforcing Americanization. Mythic American faith (“My country right or wrong, but my country”) nationalism.

If the religion takes the place of it being the vehicle for the revelation, then idolatry is afoot. If the US is the only nation founded on the belief in God, then the US of all suffers from the danger of idolatry. [I’m not sure that’s the right formulation, but it doesn’t really matter for the point I’m making].

Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reihan on Manzi on Climate Change

Maybe Arnie is finally going to push some Republicans and conservatives to get their heads out of their backsides, so the electorate has a choice between massive economic cuts climate model (Gore) and something other than Tom Coburn and Fred Thompson saying it’s all a fabrication.

Essentially, Manzi was articulating a strategy for a Republican candidate: rather than continue to deny that anthropogenic climate change is real, an increasingly untenable position, conservatives ought to (a) accept that it is real, (b) advocate increased funding for research, and (c) advocate low-cost strategies for adaptation and mitigation. 

Substantively speaking, I am drawn to large-scale efforts to sharply reduce carbon emissions, like Al Gore and many other left-of-center environmentalists. But this is simply not a very smart political strategy. Why? The costs of climate change are uncertain, unpredictable, very diffuse, and (mostly) in the future. Someone like me, obsessed with the future and not averse to intervention, is strongly inclined to take action, indeed to take sweeping action. Someone who works in the automobile industry, or someone who is very tax-sensitive, will likely feel otherwise.

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Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mother Theresa’s Inner Darkness

A new work is out, from Mother Theresa’s proculator (petitioner for her sainthood), that reveals Theresa lived in a state of spiritual dryness, aridity, and separation (of feeling) from God for the last 40 plus years of her life.

Article from Time. The book (Come Be My Light) is a series of letters and personal meditations from Theresa.

From the article:

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

Her words are powerful and her suffering immense.

So what is going here? Christopher Hitchens of course (so pathetically ignorant) chimes in that Theresa knew, like the rest of us, religion is a fraud.

There is a more subtle answer, to say the least.

Theresa realized spiritual union in a famous vision of total rapture and conversation with Christ on the Cross prior to her leaving to work with the poor. When she did, Christ vanished from her interior world. He entered into the face of the poor.

She had reached the climax of interior connection to the Divine on the relative plane.

Her dryness was due in part, I would argue, to the fact that she was never taught there was another plane of (non)spiritual realization: The Nondual.

The article mentions St. Paul of the Cross, famous early modern saint, who for 40 years himself was in aridity, only towards the end of his life to have been raised from the Causal (John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila’s Mystical Marriage) to the Nondual Indistinct Union (Meister Eckhart’s Gottheit).

If Teresa had known this path, the path of inquiry, the aridity might have been less. She was searching in the realm of the soul-God when she had already exhausted everything capable in that realm.

The Soul in Mystical Marriage is fired so that it might burn through life (in love)–as she did so wonderfully. Eventually (a la Bernadette Roberts) meant to burn out completely. On the far side of the annihilation of the Soul, lies the realization of the Witness/Godhead and from there to the dropping of the Witness, to Isness Alone.

On the far side of Isness (Sahaj Samahdi) lies a new Burning, without selfhood–Bhava Samadhi. An evolutionary-Pentecostal burning. God and creation burn together in that place.
Melt, like liquid fire.

Theresa, could have asked, “Who is it that is Aware of this Dryness/Absence of God?” That one is free of the pain/torment of the Absence.

To ask that question is to take the red pill and go down the rabbit hole.

This is why the work of Indistinct Union, bringing back the awareness and the practice–without the fear of heresy labels–is so important for Christianity.

Siddhis who are free to participate (or not participate) in whatever states and reality emerge. From the perception of Isness, Absence and Presence (of God, of anyone, of anything) is equally the manifestation of the Ultimate.

God’s Presence and God’s Absence are only two sides of the same Godhead-minted coin.

Update I: Vince has a good post on the subject referencing Bernadette Roberts as well. I have a comment in the comment section.

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Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 4:34 pm  Comments (7)  

Iraq in Fragments

Just finished watching the film. Artistically it is a revelation. It redefines the genre of documentary. The “non-fiction” world of “reality” is more fiction, in a way, than consciously scripted fiction.

“All of Iraq is divided into three parts”. So should say Gen. Julius Petraeus.

Politically, we know Iraq does not exist anymore.

This film is the requiem for the country that was Iraq. From the Iraqi point of view.

There is no narrator. More like the Witness. Voices arise, have their time, and then recede. The Earth, the soil, the elements are given a voice. Silence. A world of oral literacy and culture.

Individuals broach the issue of politics. The viewer sees violence, frivolity, confusion, pain, and suffering. There is no narrator with his top-down central message. No interviewer, no scripts.
The viewer is left having to decide his/her own opinion, if one is even to be held. It is a work of mourning. What is the point of mourning? We mourn to acknowledge death. To put the pieces back together in whatever way we can.

No US point of view–but always hovering (literally in some occasions). When the Iraqis watch TV the screen is always blurred. Bush talks in one scene through a blurred screen. A fitting image. Not everyone in the film is anti-US. [The Kurds in Pt.III are not].

If there is a “message” politically, it is the perception of being a liberator (Pt III Kurds) versus being an occupier (Pts I and II, Sunni and Sadr Shia).

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Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment