Monday, January 28, 2013

We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran (whether we want to or not)

America seems determined to make Iran its enemy. We present Iran as the enemy based largely upon their refusal to disavow their nascent nuclear ambitions. Our own nuclear ambitions, by contrast, are as lofty as they come. One facet of those ambitions is our desire to pose as the adult in the room and oversee which nations can, and which nations cannot, entertain those same ambitions.  
For Iran to want the same weapons America has is not grounds for enemy-hood. Pursuing those weapons despite our protests does not make Iran the enemy. It simply means they are not our child.  
With new Secretaries of State and Defense soon to be in place, brace for this familiar refrain: "We cannot live with a nuclear Iran." America's politicians are fond of that lie. They imagine it makes them sound resolute. Mostly, they come off sounding rigid, and unfit for the realities of a rapidly-changing world. 
Once we thought we could not live with a nuclear Russia. Then, the Russians got "the bomb" in 1949, and we have lived with a nuclear Russia ever since. We thought we could not live with a nuclear Red China. We have lived with the nuclear-armed Chinese since 1964 - a move that the Mao-led Chinese made to deprive superpowers (Russia and the U.S.) of their "blackmail potential." We have even learned to live with a nuclear-armed Hindu nation (India) and a nuclear-armed Muslin nation (Pakistan) since 1998. Rhetoric aside, the proof of what we can live with is found "in the eating of the pudding." We can live with a nuclear Iran just as surely as we have lived with those insufferable others. 
When we say "We cannot live with…", what we are saying is "We can't bear the thought of…" It is like when you a buy a new car, and a week later, your neighbor buys one, too. As long as you had the only new car in sight, that neighbor was fine. Now, with a new buggy of his own, he has become a bore. 
Whether we can or cannot live with something is an existential matter; what we can bear is not. Iran exists in Central Asia, the toughest neighborhood on Earth. They are surrounded by nuclear powers, and by nations occupied by nuclear powers. They have immense national treasures, and a responsibility to protect those treasures. Having your own nuclear weapon in Central Asia is like having a sign in your window that says, "BEWARE OF DOG." 
Iran talk of a "nuclear-armed Iran" is an existential matter. When America talks of a "nuclear-armed Iran", we are accessing a room wherein is kept - not our existential fears, but our pride and our vanity. Open that door, and the question becomes, "Can we bear the prospect of a nuclear Iran?" The answer, of course, is: "Yes, we can."

Monday, January 21, 2013

"The Cliff, The Cliff…"

"…the bounded waters shall lift up its bosom higher than the shores and make a sop of all this solid earth…" (from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, "Ulysses Speech on Degree"

The "cliff" is a metaphor for when we have gone too far. There is much talk of "cliffs" these days, and whether we can be saved from imminent disaster. What we are not hearing is that we have already gone over the cliff - the fiscal cliff, the climate cliff, the sex cliff ' and there is no saving us from that. Our girth and momentum is such that we are like a heavenly body that appears to move in slow motion. We entertain the illusion of being able to stop when we have no chance.

When I hear President Obama and Speaker Boehner talk of the "fiscal cliff," my eyes glaze over. We have cleared that cliff, fellas. What do you think a 14 trillion dollar debt is but a boulder in free fall? We began over that cliff with the first debt ceiling raising. Countless "raisings" later, we do it with the ease with which we raise our morning shades. Importantly, there will be no sincere effort to cut spending; spending less is hard work. Our "leaders" gave that up long ago, (if they ever began at all).

And then, there is global warming, or the "climate cliff." The liberal left talk of "greenhouse emissions," while the far right blindly talk of no "warming" at all. Of course, there is warming. And talk of "emissions" as though we could stop is ludicrous. If we stopped driving completely, and shut down all of our smoke-belching factories, the CO2 that has precipitated this discussion would remain.

CO2 goes up and stays in the atmosphere. The CO2 the earth struggles with today went up generations ago. What we are emitting today will effect Earth for the next 100 years. That is how far we have gone over that cliff. (Seven billion hot humans living on this planet does not help.) Add to that:  We assault Earth's delicate balance by cutting its rain forests, strip-mining, and draining its vital wetlands. We must know our dilemma is well-earned.

Global warming, no matter how it came about, is a runaway train. It will not stop until such time as a natural cooling ensues, perhaps brought about by an asteroid hit, or by a volcanic eruption of epic proportion - something that throws such debris into the air that it blocks out the sun for years, allowing the ice caps to return with a vengeance. Only then will the sun's rays be continually reflected back into space long for the Earth to cool by degrees.

Finally, sex cliff: Viagra! Viagra! Everything is penis extensions, and breast and butt enlargements - anything to increase the sexuality and sexual pleasures of adults. You cannot watch a program in prime time these days without being subjected to a Cialis commercial, or to the inanities of Ted and Sue who are having the best sex of their lives now that they both have joined the Hair Club.

We have become obsessed with sex - not just with satisfaction, but with satiation. We want it coming out of our pores. we seem bent on a trajectory where sex shall utterly define us, similar to how it defines prostitutes, pimps, and gigolos.

Now comes Tefina, a nasal spray for the 11 to 41% of women who have trouble achieving orgasms. A woman need only squirt Tefina up her nose two hours before sex, and it will enhance her sexual enjoyment for the next four hours!

The active ingredient in Tefina is testosterone - up the nose, straight to the brain. Is this how women in today's American want it - over the cliff in not so sweet surrender?

"Oh, when degree is shaked, which is the ladder of all high design, the enterprise is sick." Those are  the words of Shakespeare, famously echoed by Ulysses on the battlefields of Troy. Written over 500 years ago, that speech is a treatise on Greece's inability to function with that model that holds each part in "authentic place." Shakespeare could have been talking about America, whose appetite threatens to devour the very structures that hold our worlds intact, driving us singly, and as a nation, over the cliff.

We follow the antics of "Basketball Wives" and "Jersey Shore" when we should be studying the characters of "Troilus and Cressida." Shakespeare's words are more prophetic than the Mayans, and far more instructive than the cooings of "Honey Boo Boo."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ockham's Razor, and the Search for Answers in the Connecticut Shootings

Isn't it amazing how quickly we call outsiders "terrorists"? Then, when one of our own commits the same unspeakable acts, we look around and ask "Why?" Why? Because "our own" are terrorists, too.

There is a principle called "Ockham's Razor", attributed to the 14th-century philosopher, William of Ockham. It basically states that the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.

As I listened to the coverage of the Connecticut shootings this past weekend, I was puzzled by how delicately this nation danced around so serious a topic as terrorism. President Obama, in his memorial speech to the victims on Sunday, refused to utter the word "terrorism", as though that word would conflate this massacre with something that only ungodly foreigners do, and thereby taint the American nature of the moment.

The first thing Americans must do about these senseless attacks is look them in the face, and call them what they are:  terrorist acts. Until we can call a duck a duck, how can we honestly address this endless catastrophe? When we rush to call the killers of four "innocent" Americans in Benghazi "terrorists," and then go dumb when 20 six-year-olds are slaughtered in Connecticut, we forfeit our claim of seeking real answers. We are just pretending.

After 9-11, America declared a war on terrorism - said it would be a "different kind of war." they did not let on, however, that their declaration was phony - designed as it was to create a super boogey-man at our door. )it is an ages-old tactic used to manipulate nationalistic fervor.) It is time to either apply the "terrorist" label to all senseless acts of random violence, at home and abroad, or stop using it altogether.

America's war on terrorism is here, not in Yemen and Afghanistan; it has been here for years. We experience terrorist acts by home-grown terrorists year after year, from coast to coast. America has thousands of these people; perhaps millions. Not all of them will blossom into their completely hateful selves, but we must be ever conscious of that prospect. We must be prepared to duck, and fight back.

Then, there is the matter of motive. Police have searched high and low this weekend for a motive in the Connecticut shootings. (As of this writing three days later, they claim "a motive still has not emerged.")

I think we know what the motive  was:  It was revenge. You say, "…but the children did nothing to Adam Lanza." Lanza did not kill the children for the children's sake. He did it for the sake of the community that he felt had mistreated him. The 9-11 attackers did not knock down the Twin Towers for the Tower's sake. Those towers did no more to the 9-11 attackers than the children of newtown did to Lanza. They knocked down the Towers because those towers represented the heart of America's pride and vanity. Lanza killed the children because they represented the heart of the Newtown community. The 9-11 attackers sought to cripple a nation. Adam Lanza sought to drive a stake through the heart of a community. Lanza wanted revenge against the community that had hurt his feelings.

This weekend, the psychoanalysts waxed eloquent about what causes young men to do evil things. Nowhere did nay of these "experts" speak of the American psyche that nourishes this pathology of vengeance. We, as a nation, seek revenge regularly, and we will satisfy that thirst with abandon. George Bush admitted he wanted Saddam Hussein because "Saddam tried to kill my daddy."

This country is proud of its revenge motives. "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Pearl Harbor!" are iconic cries of American patriotism. We killed over 100,00 Iraqis and Afghans to avenge the 2,974 Americans killed on 9-11. when our answer to madness is more madness, then madness is what we shall beget.

Here's how we stop the shootings, American:  Stop hurting one another. Start treating one another better. And for those whose pride is hurt, nonetheless: Stop seeking revenge.