Friday, July 11, 2014

Digby's Evergreen Phrase

The Village, in Digby's evergreen phrase, is talking about personalities as the village does.( The sniping from a General towards a President is about this general, and this President. Everything, is self referential, a call to an object and whose functions are private, and whose truth is inaccessible, except through the media object itself. But Afghanistan is not a media war. One lesson that the military learned from Vietnam, is that Americans like their killing and their dying to be in stills, where the heroic freezing of the moment overwhelms the whizz of bullets, the crack of bones, and the scattering of flesh, whose burned stench hangs in the air.

Klein talks of McChrystals connection with the men, and his devotion to doing his duty personally. A man who does a turn with a squad is thought of as brave, but what he has really done, is declare himself expendable, and his time in excess to his duties. Even Klein admits, he is replaceable. McChrystal's removal, however, is not a setback, but a sign of a mission that is spiraling downwards. Not to that dramatic moment of defeat, of American choppers pulling out, with people clinging to the rails as they go, but to where Iraq went: the point where the difference between America, present in machine and military, is indistinguishable from America absent – at least to the people who live there. The war has spun out of control, and mission creep has become mission melt, where resources simply bleed over the landscape, and disappear, into the dark holes where bodies that had names have been tossed.

The original mission was to overthrow the regime then present in Afghanistan, as part of its support and defense of the Al Qaeda leadership. That leadership was training a broad para-military force, and was intent on dramatically expanding its ability to strike at its enemies. It was a clear and present danger, that toppled towers made visible to all. But the attacks of 9/11 were not Pearl Harbor, a dramatic attack by a market state, equipped with modern research, industry, organization, military, and communications power – it was not an attack, but a revolt by subjects of a distant satrapy of an imperial system, that, like the Persian Empire, is highly decentralized, with the center owing as much to the farflung peripheries. While the government of Saudi Arabia is, to no small extent, dependent on us for their continuation, the nation of Arabia will go on without us.

Our invasion of Afghanistan performed as expected. It was easy to get in, it was not difficult to find and destroy the lightly armed, barely trained, and highly concentrated recruits of the nascent Al Qaeda army. This is the basic doctrine of defeating guerilla's: Isolate, Concentrate, Annihilate. <i>Isolate</i> the fighting force from civilian support, cover, and symbiosis, <i>Concentrate</i> their forces and the military firepower on them, and <i>Annihilate</i> the core of resistance. It is a simple idea, practiced by imperial powers for centuries. We remember the exceptional moments to this practice, because they resulted in revolutionary moments.

One example, is the Greek defeat of the Persians. In each case the Persian defeat was based on the reality that they could not defeat the concentrated Greek Army. While the US military studies the classical tradition, it has forgotten the meaning of it.

More over, it has forgotten the Wars of the American Revolution, I say wars, because there were, in effect, three. The first was a guerilla war from 1773-1776, largely in New England. During this phase a guerilla force was raised up. The British could never isolate it from its civilian component, could never concentrate its leadership core and expose it to defeat, and thus, despite massive naval and military superiority, it could never deal the death blow. Instead, when stung, and forced to move, it was eaten at by attacks from all directions. The moment that broke the moral in the north, was not the battle of Concord, but the dismal retreat from it, where armed guerillas sapped and shot ragged an army that started from a strategic withdrawal, having nominally achieved some fraction of its objectives, and ended as a rout.

The second war was the war in the middle. It was a war between standing armies. It included expected defeats of undisciplined militia, with stunning takedowns of a colonial power. American commanders were mesmerized by the possibility of invading Canada, and repeatedly paid for that hubris. They were driven from New York with ease. The British, for their part, repeatedly showed complacency. The one moment where the Revolution was in danger was when the Continental Congress was flushed out of Philadelphia, and the core of the revolt became effectively centered in the person of General George Washington, and his army. Unhinged from material support, unattached to political unity, the British had finally Isolated the rebellion, but they had not concentrated it, and when given a chance to give battle, could only manage an inconclusive result. It is almost the definition of a guerilla movement, that it cannot prevail in standing battle. And yet Washington did. By the end of this middle section, there was a military stalemate: the British held coastal cities, such as New York, but could not break out of these for any length of time, there simply was not enough support in the country side. Compare this with the failure of the Americans to dent British Canada, where there was a base of loyalism.

Two Sonnets

It breaks me gently over your spun wheel,
bleeding black tears, on each inch I can feel.
yet for more blood, the hour finds you hungry.
Yet black is a colour just as the same. 

In those stolen moments of light gleaming,
roll'd on road bed parched of inhabitation,
alone, at least in ecstatsy teaming.
Until turning hour passes temptation.

A precious reward, left years close behind,
the horse and the rider fixed like a reel,
a product of ounces weigh'd on the mind,
rifl'd at corners, moment balance to steel.

It is nothing short of condition of craving
left to others for ranting and raving,
the solitude it sought this cabin sublime
dwell in degrees, and compress into time

This a merriment morning combustion,
wit willing whirr, avoiding congestion.

- - -

I take my leave from my senses,
and find becalmed at wicked speed,
that river solid made of other tenses,
than past, present, and future ever heed.

Bright the open darkness of the ripe sky,
flies above the roof transparent wind made.
A peace the motion furious does deny,
the floating light that is of days deepest shade.

And wishing for wings is long forgotten,
and floating is no longer a mythic dream.
This, a road above untrammeled by gap or seam,
has made me drunk and with prosody besotten.

The poem of the motor whirring runs,
Lit by threshold of the myriad distant suns.