This Idea Won’t Fly


Talk is accelerating among certain people about the idea of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect protesters and rebels fighting the illegitimate government there. Even ignoring the legal and logistical issues, this is, I feel, a bad idea.

This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, we’re already in two wars in the “greater Middle East”. We don’t need to be in a third. There’s already enough people out there who think we’re trying to build an empire. We don’t need to fuel their fears/propaganda. And make no mistake, this would be an act of war. We’d be flying in and killing people and destroying property. Even if our government had gone off the rails, tell me it wouldn’t bug you to have airplanes from another country shooting down your fellow citizens.

Second, we can’t afford to do much militarily. We’re somewhat broke. A large reason why is because we have an insanely bloated military that’s designed to fight enemies that don’t really exist anymore. We’re spending huge sums of money on our existing wars. For money reasons alone, getting into a third is a bad idea.

Finally, this is not our war. It’s the Libyans. They haven’t asked us to put up a no-fly zone. They haven’t asked for our assistance at all. We don’t need to be getting in their way. Let them fight their own war. I’m entirely in favor of us giving them weapons, but let them be the ones to use them. Qadaffi is an evil son of a bitch and the sooner he’s gone, the better. But let the people of his country throw him out and do the fighting. It’s not our job; it’s theirs. If they ask for us to go shoot down the Libyan military planes, that’s a different kettle of fish, and lessens the important of my other two arguments. But until and unless that day comes, we need to stay out.

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Sic Transit Frank Buckles – 1901 – 2011


Frank Buckles, the last US veteran of World War One and one of only three surviving veterans of that war worldwide, has died at the age of 110. That’s sad, but something less of a surprise than living to 110.

I don’t have too much to say about Buckles. I never met the man, I’ve never seen any interviews with him, and pretty much everything I know about him, I learned by reading his Wikipedia article. But I will say this about the veterans of that war: we need to recognize them better. We have something that is, more or less, a national memorial in, of all places, Kansas City, and that’s fine, but we should have one in DC. There’s efforts afoot to make the DC memorial into the national one, and I’d support that, if we expand and improve it.

Beyond that, we need a better understanding as a people as to what World War One was and why it was the most important event of the 20th century, and arguably one of the most important events in the last thousand years. World War One expanded the use of aeroplanes in combat, expanded the use of radio, was the first major war captured on motion picture film, was the first war moved by the internal combustion engine and was the war that introduced the tank. It was a war that killed so many people the survivors were referred to as “The Lost Generation”.

It also led directly to World War Two. Had the central powers been treated better by the allies, Germany wouldn’t have had some of the problems they had, and it’s unlikely Hitler would have risen to power. Had the war not happened, the Russian Revolution might have been delayed another decade, and we could have been spared Stalin. The war still effects us now, since a lot of the Middle Eastern countries were carved out of what was left of the Ottoman Empire.

So if you drink, raise a glass today to Frank Buckles and the millions of other men who fought and died in that horrible war. Take a moment to remember them, their sacrifice, that war and to hope that nothing like it ever happens again.

OMG, it’s t3h War!


This is far funnier than it should be.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?


So North Korea recently engaged in what would be an act of war elsewhere in the world. They torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing a great many sailors. South Korea hasn’t yet said what their response will be, nor has China, an important ally of North Korea.

As I mentioned, this sort of unprovoked attack anywhere else in the world would be considered a causus belli. I suppose since North and South Korea technically remain at war it would, in this case, merely be a breach of the cease-fire agreement struck back in 1953. But don’t expect bullets to be flying across the DMZ anytime soon.

Christopher Hitchens has a great article on Slate explaining why nothing will happen and laying blame on pretty much everyone involved for not seeking a real, permanent, fair solution to this situation that has dragged on for nearly 60 years, leaving the North Korean people as prisoners in a nightmare state that exists only to service itself and not them.

I think the best hope we have for North Korea is after Kim Jong-il is dead. Once he’s gone, whomever his successor is might be more, you know, sane, and amenable to normalizing his country. If he’s not, he’ll probably lead his people into a war which they will lose and, in a way, that also solves the problem, though certainly not pleasantly.

A big war in Korea, which would almost certainly involve nuclear weapons, doesn’t serve anyone’s purposes, but the current situation really only serves the purposes of Kim Jong-il and his cronies. No one else benefits and he’s proven time and again that he can basically do whatever he wants and knows that he won’t face any real retaliation for it. Sadly, he’s right since the only retaliation we have is either nothing or war.

All in all this makes me glad I am not one of the people in power. 🙂

Tonight’s Address


So the President has given his speech at West Point on the need to expand our presence in Afghanistan. I’m still cool on the idea, and I gotta say his speech didn’t change my mind much.

I’m glad that he laid out some real reasons for our presence and shot down the Vietnam comparisons, and that he addressed some of the financial issues, and it’s very good that he actually listed off some of our goals. I’d wanted the mission to be more defined, and it is, though still not as much as I’d like.

I’m also very happy he brought diplomacy up. Too often we believe in this nation that power derives from the barrel of a gun, but unless you’re willing to constantly fire that gun, you need to recognize the value of diplomacy.

And I’m quite happy he made it clear that there won’t be any more torture. We can’t find terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but we’d better see some progress soon.

On a side note: I really, really wish Presidents would stop ending speeches with “God bless the United States of America”. It’s trite and meaningless, and if you have to invoke God somehow, why not just say “God bless humanity”? Better yet, don’t mention God at all. No one that matters will miss it.

Defining Our Goals


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There’s a lot of bru-ha-ha going on over Obama’s apparent indecision over what to do next in Afghanistan. The right is pointing out that the general in charge wants more troops, so he should be given them (ignoring the fact that all generals always want more troops), and the left is tapping their feet impatiently, waiting for Obama to bring all the troops home.

I don’t know what our next step in Afghanistan should be, but to be fair, I have a good reason not to know: I’m not sure why we’re there.

See, we went in initially eight years ago looking for bin Laden and to break up the Taliban. Well, bin Laden has probably been hiding in Pakistan since then and the Taliban are no longer officially in charge of the country.

So why are we still there, exactly? What’s our long-term goal in the country? If we’re there to bring democracy, we already have done and it’s up to the people there to make it work. We can’t do that for them.

If it’s to get rid of the Taliban, again, we already have done, sort of. They still control large portions of the country, but surely that’s an internal problem the Afghanis need to deal with?

If it’s to break up Al Qaeda, well, that’s long since been accomplished. They haven’t managed to do anything really huge since 9/11 and probably never will again. Anyhow, at this point they’re broken up into a few scattered cells and that’s going to require police, not the military.

I don’t particularly object to us remaining in Afghanistan, and yes, if we’re going to stay, a lot more troops wouldn’t hurt. But if we’re going to stay there, we need a clear reason why and clear long term goals and currently we don’t have either.

I Object!


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There’s people out there known as conscientious objectors. These are people who, generally on religious grounds, refuse to serve in the military.

I am one of them, though I haven’t any objections on religious grounds, obviously. Being an atheist how could I? I do, however, have objections to military service on moral grounds. This is largely due to the fact that I believe it’s wrong to, you know, kill people.

Needless to say, if you’re religious, it’s far easier for you to get conscientious objector status than it is if you aren’t. Consider the Quakers, for example. They famously refuse to participate in war. Any religious person who came forth to a draft board, for example, and said they couldn’t serve because God didn’t want them to would likely have no problems. But someone like me? Someone who said he didn’t want to be in the military because he believes killing is wrong, but doesn’t have any religious beliefs? Yeah, good luck with that.

In fact, from the Wikipedia article on the subject, I find this interesting questionaire that was sent to people who refused to serve.

1.Describe the nature of your belief which is the basis of your claim.
2.Explain how, when, and from whom or from what source you received the training and acquired the belief which is the basis of your claim.
3.Give the name and present address of the individual upon whom you rely most for religious guidance.
4.Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe in the use of force?
5.Describe the actions and behavior in your life which in your opinion most conspicuously demonstrate the consistency and depth of your religious convictions.
6.Have you ever given public expression, written or oral, to the views herein expressed as the basis for your claim made above? If so, specify when and where.
7.Have you ever been a member of any military organization or establishment? If so, state the name and address of same and give reasons why you became a member.
8.Are you a member of a religious sect or organization?
9.Describe carefully the creed or official statements of said religious sect or organization as it relates to participation in war.
10.Describe your relationships with and activities in all organizations with which you are or have been affiliated other than religious or military.

There’s serveral problems with this questionaire. Notice how there’s a presumption that the only possible objections could be based on religion. Also notice that it asks you to name names; to list the people who have been telling you military service is wrong. I assume that wasn’t for any sinister purpose, but it might’ve been.

Anyhow, for fun, let’s do this questionaire.

1. I believe killing is wrong for any purpose other than to save lives, and even then, it should be avoided if it all possible.

2. No specific training or individual sources, but see the works of Richard Dawkins, among others.

3. No.

4. Again, only to save lives. No other reason, such as protecting property, is valid. Even killing someone to preserve freedom is somewhat iffy.

5. I haven’t got any. I’ve reached my conclusions despite what it says in works like the Bible.

6. Oh, yes. See: Blogging with Badger.

7. No.

8. No, and if I were, I shouldn’t have to disclose this because this country believes in religious freedom.

9. N/A

10. Again, no. As a free American citizen, I shouldn’t have to.

This questionaire is intrusive and stupid. The mere fact that someone doesn’t want to go out and be in the military should be enough. Yes, that means you’d have a lot of people who just didn’t want to be in the military cause they didn’t want themselves to get killed. So what? Surely as a basic part of freedom we can accept the notion that people have the right to not fight and die to protect their freedom, yes? The concept of a draft interferes with this notion.

Of course we also can’t ignore the sexist nature of most conscription schemes throughout history. Men had to serve, women did not. Even now, in 2008, with Selective Service, men are forced by law to sign up. Women are not.

Apparently during World War II, the US Government had something set up for those who refused military service, but it sounds like it was little more than a pointless make-work program and a way for the government to say, “You’ll do as you’re told!” I’d refuse anything to do with something like that, too. I might choose to serve in such a way, but I shouldn’t be forced.

So in the unlikely event that there’s ever another draft, and that I’d qualifty and be allowed to serve, what with being 36, out of shape, bisexual and a convicted felon, then you can expect I’d refuse.

My beliefs would not allow me to do anything else, and they’re grounded in atheism.

If you’re religious and your beliefs would allow you to do kill people, what does that say about what your faith teaches?