Armistice Day

In America November 11th is a celebration of war, not peace. It’s Veteran’s Day, not Armistice Day.

I doubt a single soldier has died in my lifetime to protect America.

Sure…

America invaded Viet Nam to…well, you know 1;
America inserted itself into the Persian Gulf in the ’80s to…well, you know 2;
America invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and is still there fighting because…well, you know 3;
America invaded Iraq 15 years ago to…well, you know 4;
America seems intent on stoking a war with both Iran and North Korea because…well, you know 5.

America has fought countless battles across the globe since my birth, but not until America breaks into an outright second Civil War will an American soldier die to protect our country.

Wake up, people. 6

Armistice

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Dominoes!
  2. Oil
  3. Reason long since dead, and in another country to boot
  4. Oil…and Shrub’s ego
  5. This to assuage The Generalissimo‘s sneaking suspicion that he doesn’t matter.
  6. It’s worth noting that in America these days being patriotic is like going to the movies; you must suspend your disbelief.

Little Wars

It is a century since HG Wells published the first proper set of rules for hobby war games. There’s a hardcore of gamers who are still playing in his style.

Pine tips are stuck in the grass to represent trees. Roads are laid out with trails of compost.

This is the Battle of Gettysburg, with Union soldiers on one side and Confederates on the other. But the soldiers of this new Gettysburg are 54mm (2in) tall and mostly made of plastic.

The battle is taking place between a group of enthusiasts in a garden at Sandhurst military academy under rules derived from Little Wars, devised by HG Wells in 1913.

War was then looming in Europe and Little Wars was both an expression of Wells’s passion for toy soldiers and to his fears over the coming slaughter. The science fiction author even believed that war games could change attitudes.

“You only have to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be,” wrote Wells. 1

Little Wars

Show 1 footnote

  1. Emphasis ours.

The Whole World Quakes

Brian Williams’ tone deafness, while deplorable 1, does not upset me as much as OMP‘s eagerness to prove his manhood. 2

I expect when told that tossing that many 3 Tomahawks Syria’s way would “only” cost a hundred mil, and that there was zero chance of US casualties (and only a slightly larger likelihood of Syrian civilian deaths), OMP adopted his best “manly” pose and offhandedly responded “Let’s do this thing.”

OMP is exactly the type of short “fingered”, low intelligence bully most likely to lead us into World War III simply to assuage his ego, “There, Melania! See what happens when you don’t move into the White House with me?!”

If the jackass tries something similar with Dear Leader’s offspring, all bets are off.

The Whole World Quakes

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Not to mention wholly out of context.
  2. Remember how he went on and on about how Clinton would start World War III over Syria? Not to mention the useful distraction it would provide while she looted the presidency for her friends and allies?  Ah, such sweet reminiscences…
  3. 59? Who came up with number? What, we’re too cheap to make it an even 60? Although, even for am airfield, nearly 60 Tomahawks seems like overkill.

Panicked Cowards

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater – a look he would later describe as “simple elegance” – but something about him didn’t seem right to her…

Then, for unknown reasons, the plane turned around and headed back to the gate. The woman was soon escorted off the plane. On the intercom a crew member announced that there was paperwork to fill out, or fuel to refill, or some other flimsy excuse; the curly-haired passenger could not later recall exactly what it was.

The wait continued.

Finally the pilot came by, and approached the real culprit behind the delay: that darkly-complected foreign man. He was now escorted off the plane, too, and taken to meet some sort of agent, though he wasn’t entirely sure of the agent’s affiliation, he would later say.

And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.

That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed.

He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code. They were math.

Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Seriously? How stupid did the blond bimbo have to be to not recognize maths:

a) `(d^2y)/(dx^2)+((dy)/(dx))^3-3x+2y=8`

And that looks like…what? “…cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize“?

Blondie apparently pissed herself because she couldn’t stay awake in High School long enough to recognize the format of algebraic equations.

Not only have we become a nation of panicked cowards, we’re stupid, to boot.

Panicked Cowards

Max Brooks

We’ve become so hyper specialized,” Brooks said. “Everybody sees everything through their specific lens.”

Which is a problem. For instance, an Army that specializes in state-on-state warfare performs terribly against an insurgency. So how does Brooks think we should prepare for the conflicts of the future? “It is really important to have conversations that make us all feel like 7th graders.”

“The biggest mistake we made … after Vietnam was to get away from what felt uncomfortable and to leap back to what made us feel like high school seniors,” he added. According to Brooks, America faced a counter-insurgency it wasn’t ready to fight and the Pentagon should have learned from it. “Instead, the Army ran screaming and crying back to what it did best and what it felt good doing,” he explained. “Which was tank warfare in West Germany.”

“That would have been great if every other war we were ever going to face was going to be Desert Storm.”

Because the Pentagon either didn’t remember or chose to forget the lessons of Vietnam, it’s had to learn them all over again in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brooks said that everyone needs to get comfortable with feeling ignorant and asking big questions. They need to get used to feeling like 7th graders.

I asked him how that’s working out, asking military men and women to think like middle schoolers. (Brooks has lectured at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.) His answer surprised me.

“I’ve found … the military [has] been going on a soul-searching nervous breakdown,” he said. “I’ve found the military to be infinitely more open to new ideas … whereas the civilian leadership has been trying to placate the people who will re-elect them.”

Brooks thinks this nervous breakdown made the military receptive, but World War Z made him believable. “I try to root all my crazy ideas in real research,” he said. “When you take away the zombies from World War Z you have a reasonably credible global disaster scenario.”

“I think what makes zombies such a great tool for learning is that the solution to a zombie plague is no different than any other large disaster,” he elaborated. For Brooks, the solution to zombies is no different from the solution to Ebola, an earthquake or even war.

Max Brooks