Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Re: Dissed

Caleb writes to opine that:

Although President Obama did not win the Nobel Prize for economics, when he makes good on his campaign claim to stop the rise of the oceans, I am sure that he would be a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize for physics.

The fact of the matter is that if the President is held to the same standard by the Physics committee as he was by the Peace committee he should have a lock on the prize. The Peace committee awarded the prize to the president on the basis of his good intentions to work for world peace. Since he has already, in the course of his campaign, promised that he will cause the sea levels to subside, that should be enough for the selection committee to grant him the Physics prize, and I for one will be very suspicious if they award it to anyone else.


Great Divorce

I just learned that one of my favorite C.S. Lewis books has been made into a movie to be released next month. The book is The Great Divorce in which Lewis depicts the difference between heaven and hell and how both are, at the end of the day, each man's choice.

The novel opens at a bus stop in a gray, rainy, dreary city with querulous riders squabbling and complaining about banal slights, offenses and inconveniences. They board the bus which doesn't so much drive anywhere as it does levitate upward through a vast cavern. As they emerge from the chasm what had at first appeared to be a vast canyon now seems like a small crack in the earth. The bus comes to a stop on the outskirts of what turns out to be heaven and the passengers disembark. The contrast with the city is stark. The terrain here is gorgeous but as the passengers soon realize they're not at all suited for it. The grass is so hard they can't walk on it and the leaves of the trees so heavy they can't lift them. Suddenly they seem almost insubstantial compared to the new realm, the really real, in which they find themselves.

It's here that Lewis wants to make his most important point. Each passenger finds him or herself greeted by someone they once knew who encourages them to choose to stay, but many of them find one excuse or another to decline. They'd rather return to the bus and thence back to the gray city. In other words, Lewis is saying, we choose our destiny. Those who return to the city want to. No one is forced to go back on the bus.

Ultimately, Lewis writes, there are two kinds of people, those who say to God 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God says 'Thy will be done.'

Anyway, I hope the movie does a good job with Lewis' story. It's being made by the same guy who did To End All Wars which was pretty well done so there's some reason for optimism.


Hamlet in the White House

Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post asks the key questions concerning President Obama's leisurely response to General McChrystal's request for more troops:

So what does their commander in chief do now with the war he once declared had to be won but had been almost criminally under-resourced by Bush? Perhaps provide the resources to win it?

You would think so. And that's exactly what Obama's handpicked commander requested on Aug. 30 -- a surge of 30,000 to 40,000 troops to stabilize a downward spiral and save Afghanistan the way a similar surge saved Iraq.

That was more than five weeks ago. Still no response. Obama agonizes publicly as the world watches. Why? Because, explains national security adviser James Jones, you don't commit troops before you decide on a strategy.

No strategy? On March 27, flanked by his secretaries of defense and state, the president said this: "Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan." He then outlined a civilian-military counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And to emphasize his seriousness, the president made clear that he had not arrived casually at this decision. The new strategy, he declared, "marks the conclusion of a careful policy review."

Conclusion, mind you. Not the beginning. Not a process. The conclusion of an extensive review, the president assured the nation, that included consultation with military commanders and diplomats, with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with our NATO allies and members of Congress.

The irony is that no one knows more about this kind of warfare than Gen. McChrystal. He was in charge of exactly this kind of "counterterrorism" in Iraq for nearly five years, killing thousands of bad guys in hugely successful under-the-radar operations.

When the world's expert on this type of counterterrorism warfare recommends precisely the opposite strategy -- "counterinsurgency," meaning a heavy-footprint, population-protecting troop surge -- you have the most convincing of cases against counterterrorism by the man who most knows its potential and its limits. And McChrystal was emphatic in his recommendation: To go any other way than counterinsurgency would lose the war.

Yet his commander in chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes. His domestic advisers, led by Rahm Emanuel, tell him if he goes for victory, he'll become LBJ, the domestic visionary destroyed by a foreign war. His vice president holds out the chimera of painless counterterrorism success.

Against Emanuel and Biden stand Gen. David Petraeus, the world's foremost expert on counterinsurgency (he saved Iraq with it), and Stanley McChrystal, the world's foremost expert on counterterrorism. Whose recommendation on how to fight would you rely on?

Well, the President will have to make a decision soon. He has to decide either to disdain the Nobel Peace prize and the rest of the international left and fight to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, or he must decide to cede this tragic land and its hapless people to these savages. He may try to finesse the choice with some half-measure, but there really is no middle ground. Either McChrystal gets what he needs to win or we and the Afghan people lose. The first choice runs counter to every fiber in Mr. Obama's being. The second would be a moral and strategic catastrophe.