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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Seize the news

For a while I was trying to not think about the war that much, and just consider it to be one more part of history over which I have no control (which is nearly true). The problem with that approach is that you can't escape headlines. By abandoning any attempt to actively make sense of the war's progress, I made my mind the passive recipient of the loudest voices of the news media. And if all you do is scan Reuters and Associated Press headlines, you will soon be convinced that Iraq is Vietnam, and you will feel hopeless. Well, it isn't, so don't.

For me, the daily antidote to non-objective war news has been the little-known blog of Merv Benson, a furniture-maker in Texas. Very simply, he quotes extensively (probably too extensively for copyright law) from news articles and blogs, and then gives a sentence or two placing it in his framework of understanding. I don't care for the posts about immigration (just build a fricking fence) and about how irrational the Democrats are being (uh, yeah, they're politicians), but most of the posts are about the war, which Benson, a formerly active Marine, follows with clarity and passion.

In the end, his blog reads like that sequence near the end of every gangster movie where the bad guys, one by one, finally get what's coming to them. Benson uses a rational standard for success and concludes every day that the Iraqi insurgents, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban are losing and losing big, something a thousand AssociatedPress headlines won't even hint at. Here is a typical comment by Benson:
The media uses the impossible standard of failing to prevent a failed attack as a measure of success ever since the failed Tet offensive. While the Taliban forces are being destroyed, to the media that is just another sign of a failed policy to prevent attacks. If they knew anything about warfare, they would be eager for the enemy to launch failed attacks. He is attriting his forces and not obtaining his objectives; short of surrender, it is hard to ask for more.
Thanks in part to Benson I have become relieved from the mirage of failure and doom that the defeatists among us want to project. In a sense, wars do not go well -- you can't use that word when thousands are dying -- but this is one war in which the bad guys are being incontestably defeated on every front we have opened. Even where we haven't opened a front but should have 27 years ago, i.e. Iran, that particular president's nuttiness is not, I think, going to get Iran an atom bomb, as the daily headlines shriek, but it will get his regime removed from power. So I'm not even worrying about that theocracy ruining the world and my life any time soon. I'm sure more bad surprises are in store for us, but the trend will continue to be in our favor, so long as our leaders stick to the current strategy.

Okay. Back to worrying about interest rates.


  • At 9:57 AM , Anonymous Zephram Stark said...

    I can find no definitional resource that associates "failure" with the success of an opponent. We can keep the Arabs from winning at the same time that we drive ourselves to bankruptcy at an average deficit rate of billions per day. The Soviet Union discovered, through the same method, that lose-lose scenarios are possible.

    Princeton University's WordNet defines failure as "an event that does not accomplish its intended purpose" or "a person with a record of failing."

    To see how Google defines failure, type "failure" at and press the button labeled "I'm Feeling Lucky."

  • At 10:35 AM , Blogger Brad Williams said...

    Zephram, "the Arabs" are not the enemy -- are you a racist? I'll tell you what I did google: "zephram", and to my surprise the second hit is to a Wikipedia arbitration in which you were banned for "personal attacks," including calling others "f*ing Jews." So now I know I'm not just imagining the snarky, insulting tone of your comments. Go away.

  • At 10:47 AM , Anonymous Zephram Stark said...

    I feel silly now. I just wrote this to Ava on IM, "Brad is smart and secure enough to talk about possible inconsistencies in our views of reality."

    I'm sorry that you proved me wrong.

  • At 11:06 AM , Anonymous Zephram Stark said...

    Perhaps you are right about my use of the term "Arabs." I didn't mean all Arabs. I meant only those Arabs that have the balls to stand up to oppression.

  • At 11:13 AM , Anonymous Zephram Stark said...

    btw, I'm Jewish


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