man v nature v man

Miss Mayweather has posted some new Port Awesome Debates…

I’ve been following the NPR coverage of the quake in China, and it’s heartbreaking. Robert Siegel and Melissa Block were in Sichuan Province for a series of stories on China when the quake hit, so they have an unique perspective on the catastrophe. This hasn’t been a good month on the Man v Nature front, and if you want to help, here are some good links to help start-these are all established international organizations with excellent track records for delivering useful aid:

  • AmeriCares
  • Direct Relief International
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Save the Children
  • I also saw a ten-year-old documentary called ‘Soldier Child’ this week. It was difficult and disturbing to watch, and it led me to follow up and discover a group called Invisible Children, Inc.  I urge everyone to make a contribution to either them or directly to GUSCO to help support the work they are doing in Uganda. Joseph Kony continues to lead an army of child soldiers and elude justice.

    I find myself in many ways agreeing with this writer regarding invading Myanmar/Burma while I simultaneously find the essay terribly naive. The military junta that rules that country has proved its irresponsible criminality many times over and its behavior during this crisis is the capstone in the case against them. If one considers the rhetoric that President Bush and his supporters used to justify their invasion of Iraq as sincere and true, then one must wonder why the Marines aren’t right now protecting the innocents of Burma. Of course, Burma has no strategic significance or abundance of natural resources worth exploting, the neocon rhetoric was neither sincere nor true, and besides, imposing one’s will on another is an unwise thing to do no matter how pure one’s motivations may be. The Battle of Mogandishu should be a recent enough memory to illustrate this point. However, in my reading of history, the mistake there was withdrawing from Somalia rather than fully committing a serious force to stabilize that nation. The nightmare chaos of nations like Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and so many others is where the forces that threaten global civilization ferment. When Bush I deployed the force to Somalia and Clinton gave that force the mission of nation building, neither of their administrations grasped the nature of the situation they were committing to. Somalia should have been a lesson the planners of the Iraq War should have heeded-that the technological advantages of our conventional forces could be greatly reduced or even negated by a foe who engaged in unconventional assymmetrical tactics. In other words, insurgents with homemade bombs could stymie the most advanced military force the world has ever known. 

    Julius Caesar understood the threat that barbarians posed to civilization at large and so he subdued Europe. It was a costly and unpopular move, at least from the point of view of his politcal enemies but it ultimately enriched Rome immensely and secured her civilization for centuries. The ideas of the first, second and third worlds, or the West and the East, or however you would like to compartmentalize the globe are no longer truly relevant and have a dangerous tendency to create an attitude of isolationism amongst those who dwell in the Western First World. This attitude also encourages an ignorance of the so-called Third World and an inability to comprehend the events unfolding there.

    Those child soldiers in Uganda were abducted from their homes by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and trained in Sudan where they have been given support by the government there, the same government that is murdering the people of Darfur, the same government that gave Osama bin Laden support around the time of The Battle of Mogandishu. The chaos of this part of the world is understandable when it is not dismissed as ‘just the way things are there’ or some such other nonsense. President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ turns in the wrong direction; the leader of North Korea is a spoiled self-indulgent brat only concerned with his own skin, the Mullahs of Iran have no desire to lose their positions, and Saddam Hussein at the time of 9/11 was busy composing operas and writing romantic novels where he was the hero. No stable state with conventional armies could hope or truly desire to threaten the United States of America-the destruction of the US would destabilize the entire world and anyone in power understands that chaos is bad for them personally, to say nothing of the nations they lead. If there is an Axis of Evil in the world today, it turns in Sudan. From there demons are being birthed into the world.        

    12 Responses to “man v nature v man”

    1. The Prof Says:


      Agh. Invade Myanmar? No. Escort shipments of relief aid with heavily-armed Marines who’ll then distribute it? Maybe. Everything I’ve read about the junta suggests that their only care is preserving their own power–even they wouldn’t be so foolish as to attack an American convoy.

    2. The Prof is right. These military adventures in far-away places are nonsense. It is just common sense that we should first invade Canada. After all, they deserve it.

    3. ^
      Well, it’s ugly but it works.

    4. The Prof Says:

      Well, those Canadians are busy hoarding all their delicious bacon, which, due to our standing in the world, rightfully belongs to us, so why not, eh?

      (Ooooh…flashbacks of Hardees’ Canadian Rine ‘n Shine Biscuit…aaahhh.)

      Deliciousness aside…something must be done in Myanmar. Diplomacy would be great, but 1.) This administration isn’t good at it and 2.) the junta in charge of Myanmar in all likelihood won’t be receptive to it. I am not one of those loony liberals who believes we ought to be sending our military every time a humanitarian crisis ensues, because, well, it just ain’t big enough. No army is. I’m not even talking about upending their regime, wonderful as that may sound (they have no democratic tradition there, so we’re talking a large-scale occupation to rival iraq to even enforce the peace, which is not feasible at this time). A small platoon of Marines/NATO forces to escort and distribute international relief aid? That’s a little different. I’m sure someone in a position of authority is considering it, since this is way beyond the pale–even China’s accepting our help. Hell, Indonesia–one of the most repressive regimes in the world–accepted our aid. (Al-Quaeda actually considered firing on our relief convoys, then thought better of it–even THEY, who believe killing innocent people will get you closer to God–knew some things transcend ideology.)

      I guess I just refuse to accept that there’s nothing we can do about it…even though there’s probably nothing we can do about it. I, like Winston, am haunted by the idea that such evil exists in the world and escapes justice.

    5. A small platoon of Marines/NATO forces to escort and distribute international relief aid? That’s a little different.

      Erm, a rifle platoon of Marines is 39 guys. It might take more than that.

    6. Prof-
      The problem with a small force is that it is prone to attack no matter how well-armed it is when it is in hostile territory; our misadventure in Somalia illustrates how our technological advantages can melt away and how vulnerable a small force can be regardless of how well-armed they are. If the US committed a small force and lost it is likely we would react badly as happened in Fallujah The advantage the US has is best against armies and large organized forces. The military junta running Burma is very entrenched and disciplined which is exactly the kind of force we are best at neutralizing. I don’t think this will happen because the political will to do such a thing simply does not currently exist in the family of nations. However, this is exactly the sort of impotent non-action that emboldens criminal regimes. I’m not advocating militarism or imperialism in the conventional sense, but it is obvious that our current approach is ineffective. In fact, our militaristic imperial adventure in Iraq is serving to weaken us and restrict our options. All I know is that the people of Myanmar are at the mercy of monsters. And that sucks.

    7. Michael-
      Hello. We’ll invade Canada when we need to. As you pointed out, it’s really just a matter of packing up the car and driving there. I’m not opposed to military activity in far away places as there really aren’t any far away places anymore. However, I feel we are not allocating our resources properly. For example, we spend absurd amounts of money on missle defense systems that are a Maginot Line for the 21st Century while combat forces are underequipped. Caesar would be disgusted.

    8. The Prof Says:


      I’m aware of the unfeasible nature of my desires re: Myanmar. It’s simply hard for me to swallow such evil–allowing your own people to suffer in such ways, without even allowing relief aid to come through, only to serve your own ends is way, way beyond the scope of conventional morality. What’s worse, to me, is that no one else has done anything either, because they’re all waiting to see what we’ll do. (One wonders if they ought to be, but that’s a whole other can o’ worms.)

      Human beings are so ridiculously fucked up.

    9. Prof-
      It’s at times like this that the impotency of the UN becomes particularly evident. Hypothetically this is the sort of thing that institution is supposed to address, but we all know how that works in practice.

    10. pallidly says : I absolutely agree with this !

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