Saturday, September 5, 2009

Incendiary Catharsis: (Or, Pardon Our Bombs While We Rethink This Whole Thing)

Incendiary Catharsis: (Or, Pardon Our Bombs While We Rethink This Whole Thing)

I was completely transfixed this morning by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen's comments. Though I concede I have not yet read the Admiral's full essay which I plan to do.

My gut feeling is he's embarking, unwittingly I suspect, on far more than a military mission. What he characterizes here as perceptual challenges (a blurry lens that must only be turned 1/16 inch to the left) have their roots in a profound American self-confusion that too often employs faraway villages to exercise its funk.

Oh shit America's discovering itself again. Everybody duck! On the Road with napalm! Or is this some 'tail-wagging-dog' permutation of the Military Industrial Complex as it seeks to alter American culture for the Higher Purpose of waging more intellectually consistent warfare?Here we have the Admiral-as-social-engineer refashioning American culture in an effort to, what, win the hearts and minds of others? Victory becomes paramount, even if we must stop being ourselves in order to achieve it. If America decides it must change in order to capture those hearts and minds, why did we set off, armed only the prevailing vision of America in the first place? Presumably we were firm enough in that prevailing vision to venture war on others. Now we're there, we're stuck and we must change in order to prevail? Face-saving matters aside, wouldn't it be better to concede our inner confusion, and leave...yesterday --rather than cobble a new identity for America while dropping bombs on others as a weird form of catharsis?

A fascinating quote:

“To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,”

What of the actions themselves? Do they not by themselves possess communicable powers? Or is it only how we articulate these actions --in word and image-- to our adversaries (perhaps their intepretational faculties have been jiggered by shellshock? Let us rush to their narrative assistance while the fighter jets refuel!) Are Americans arrogant and insulting or is this simply a perceptual miscue on the part of our ostensible adversaries? Indeed are our adversaries existential or merely ostensible, that is, actualizable friends but for a ruffled feather here and there that can be ironed out with the appropriate communications. "We are good men though we bomb your villages. Our bombs take their origins from a fundamentally decent people. You leg was lost through kindness"

Is there a certain naive arrogance in the notion that Muslims can be better wooed with more 'strategic communication'? When I hear strategic, I think selective or premeditated, certainly a notch beneath authentic or full-throated, unflinchingly honest dialogue.

Have we as Americans become so seduced by the notion of promotional campaigns that we believe there is nothing endemic within our culture or identity that might potentially be anathema to another's culture or identity? Is there nothing in the world that won't collapse beneath a few judiciously selected winks and nudges?

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