September 27, 2007
People who rejoice in their tax refunds are fools for thinking that "the government gave me money" instead of "the government borrowed all this money from me, then returned it with no interest."
September 18, 2007
Via Oda Mae, who always finds the good stuff.
September 12, 2007
To Sarah, the richest woman on the internet...
It really is a wonderful life.
September 11, 2007
So which is the real US? Someone from rural Wisconsin will have a completely different idea than someone from the barrio in L.A. Neither one of these places is less real, but you might not even recognize them as the same country if you saw descriptions of them side by side.
So which is the real Iraq? Is it Erbil?
Or is it Baghdad?
It would be hard for an Iraqi living in either one of these places to give a good bird's eye view on what the country as a whole is like. Just like someone from Wisconsin would be lousy at describing the barrio. It's just really hard to do. And even harder to do when you're an outsider.
My husband had a pretty good understanding of what his sector was like in 2004-2005. But he's the first one to admit that that means nothing today. His experiences are outdated, and the same neighborhoods are quite different two years on. And even while he was boots on the ground, he had no experience whatsoever with what was going on in Basra or Tikrit. His view was microscopic.
I have been thinking about this a lot tonight, ever since I read Thomas Sowell's latest article, which begins with the brilliant line, "Sometimes I feel as if I must be one of the few people left in America who is not a military expert."
For example, all sorts of politicians have been talking about all sorts of ways we ought to redeploy our troops. The closest I ever came to deploying troops was marching a company of Marines to the mess hall for chow.
But people who have never even put on a uniform are confident that they know how our troops should be redeployed. Maybe this is one of the fruits of the self-esteem that is taught in our schools instead of education.
If my husband's information on Iraq is microscopic and outdated, I can't begin to describe Congress'. An overnight trip to the Green Zone doesn't teach you a lot about what Iraq is like. You'd be better off reading a book on Iraq than sitting in a Baghdad hotel.
But these days, everyone is a military expert. Nothing has made that more painfully obvious than this New York Times article on General Petraeus' speech.
Under the timetable embraced Monday by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the number of American combat brigades would decline by one-fourth by next summer, to 15 in July from 20 now, with the prospect of deeper, if as yet unscheduled, reductions to come.
But such a move would raise the question of how the United States can avert an increase in violence in Iraq while carrying out a gradual drawdown. One approach embraced by many lawmakers would be to modify the American mission to emphasize the training and advising of Iraqi security forces so that Iraqis would be pushed into the lead and a vast majority of American combat troops could be quickly withdrawn.
This proposal, which was offered last year by the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel led by Lee H. Hamilton, a former congressman, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, has appealed to many Democrats and some Republicans who want to achieve a measure of stability in Iraq while shrinking the role of the American military.
But in his testimony on Monday, General Petraeus offered a very different vision. He proposed an American presence that would not only be longer and larger than many Democrats have advocated but would also provide for a greater American combat role in protecting the Iraqi population.
They may as well have started the article with "Most Americans we polled want to bring the troops home, but unfortunately some jerkwad named Petraeus is in charge and he doesn't want to listen to all of us." I mean, really. This is how they set up this article? "One approach embraced by many lawmakers"? As if they really have any clue what they're talking about. Didn't only one of the Iraq Study Group guys ever leave the Green Zone? They seriously set up this article about General Petraeus' speech as "Here's what we think is best but Petraeus disagrees." That is not only extremely poor journalism, it's oh so sanctimonious.
General Petraeus' grasp on Iraq is likely not perfect either, but it's probably as macroscopic as it gets. And they hired him to do a job -- assess what we need to do to win in Iraq -- and now no one wants to hear the results.
General Petraeus acknowledged that some military officers in Washington favored faster change in the American mission, but he said that his approach reflected his best judgment on how to cope with the violence in Iraq.
General Petraeus promised a more detailed discussion of the post-surge phase in March. But one point was made abundantly clear: if he has his way, in the next phase the United States will not rely largely on a program to advise and train the Iraqi Army while removing its own forces from the battlefield.
Translation: He says he's giving us his "best judgement," but it's not what we wanted to hear. Now, let's go write some more articles to try to sway public opinon so he doesn't have his way.
No one is going to have a perfect picture of what will bring absolute success in Iraq. Most Americans couldn't even tell you how to stop crime in their own neighborhoods, but all of us are military experts these days. And apparently all of us know better than Petraeus.
Nevermind that we've never even heard of Erbil.
September 01, 2007
I had a friend who was a fellow French major in college. She started a blog several years ago and mostly talked about personal stuff in her life. But right before the invasion into Iraq, she wrote a post about how the US is a big bully in the world and how we should listen to France. And I Went Off. I wrote a huge diatribe about why we should tell France to feck off, etc. The blog is long gone, so I no longer know her words or mine, but I know I probably came off too harsh. I think it took her completely by surprise, and definitely not in a good way. But I was right, by golly, and she needed to know why she was wrong. And I maintained that I was in the right for a very long time.
But what my tiff with Allicadem taught me, a full four years later, is that I was a bonehead. I might've been absolutely 100% right that we rule and France drools, but I should've handled the situation far better. Either I should've kept my mouth shut, or I should've treaded far more lightly.
In relationships, there are more important things than being right.
I screwed up, and it's too late to fix that mess. But being on the receiving end of Allicadem's mess brought me a whole new level of perspective. And I came away thinking a lot about my old friend and how, when someone is speaking from the gut, it's not always the best time to tell her she's wrong. Maybe I will make a terrible mother and I don't know being pregnant from a hole in the ground, but it probably wasn't a good idea to say so. She had the right to say it, but exercising that right may be followed by an entire comments section gang-up. I had the right to tell my friend that France is worthless, but exercising that right put a serious unmendable dent in that friendship.
So I personally learned a lot from an ouch situation, and I've managed to take that grokking and apply it to a new situation. I wrote at SpouseBuzz that a friend of ours is getting out of the Army, and the wife is starting to wear me down with her vitriol. I got a lot of advice to speak openly with the friend and to tell her how I feel, but I do not think I will take that approach here. I don't need to be right anymore, and I don't need her to know that the Army isn't evil. She is the one who needs to talk, whether or not I think she's right.
I feel embiggened that I learned from a mistake I made four years ago, that I was smart enough to finally realize it was a mistake and to break the cycle before I did it again.
It feels good not to be right.
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