September 16, 2005

The Bastards Did It Again

Now that I have decided to move to Beirut, I take a look at each day’s news with a growing sense of dread. This keeps happening.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in a mainly Christian residential neighborhood of Beirut late on Friday, killing one person and wounding at least 23, Red Cross and security sources said.

The bomb exploded near a branch of Lebanon's Byblos Bank in the area of Achrafieh and was heard throughout the capital. A senior security source said it consisted of 10 kg (22 lb) of TNT.

"What we lived this night was like hell," Eva Nashleklian told Reuters as she wiped blood off her arm.

The blast shattered windows and set two cars ablaze. Ambulances ferried the wounded to nearby hospitals. One was in a serious condition, a Red Cross source said.

Lebanese security forces sealed off streets leading to the blast site and investigators began collecting evidence.

"We were asleep and woke up horrified by the blast," said 40-year old Hanna Botrous.

"We saw smoke billowing and were scared in the beginning, but we were expecting something like this to happen," he said.
Far more people have been murdered by terrorists lately in the supposedly safe Western cities of New York, London, and Madrid. But this constant drip-drip-drip of low-level violent attacks is somehow more frightening even as it is less deadly. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will almost certainly hear, if not actually see or (God forbid) feel, explosions while I'm living there in that city.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 16, 2005 06:16 PM


Michael, I just got home from work, and saw that article on my start page. Of course I immediately thought of you, and came right over here to see if you had posted about it. I give you a lot of credit for not letting it deter you from going there. I'm very much looking forward to your posts from there again. And I'll be prayin' for ya. You're one of the good guys.

Posted by: Maggie at September 16, 2005 06:35 PM

Avoid the christian areas. Make friends with the muslims, hang out with them and you'll be safe.

Posted by: Carlos at September 16, 2005 06:58 PM

The scum will never stop until they are literally unable to continue. They see nothing wrong in what they do.

I admire your courage, but Lebanon will not be safe until the Baathists in Syria are gone. And perhaps not even then. Bombs are the tools of this cretinous evil.

Take care. Commenter likes to pretend that I B/b> abjure 'reason'. I simply know its limits. Where you are going there are creatures who don't even know what 'reason 'is. Logic they grasp but reason always swims conveniently out of reach.

Posted by: dougf at September 16, 2005 07:02 PM

Whoa--- WAY too much BOLD in that last post.

Sorry. New fingers.

Posted by: dougf at September 16, 2005 07:05 PM

Poor wittle war monger boy is afwaid. Better watch yourself. Karma can be a bitch, you scummy little right wing prick.

Posted by: bowie at September 16, 2005 08:56 PM

Careful, fucker, if you believe in karma.

Now get out of here and don't ever come back.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 16, 2005 08:57 PM

Situational awareness, always know what's going on around you. I repect what you plan on doing.

Posted by: Raymond at September 17, 2005 02:26 AM

Considering your proximy to the real war, why don't you do something totally uncharacteristic of neocons, join the US Army and be the army of one that I know that you can be. Yes, it doesn't pay as well as writing bullshit propaganda for the Bushistas, but it will allow you to distinguish yourself among your peers. Ah, think of posterity !!!!!!

Posted by: ducky at September 17, 2005 04:24 AM

Perhaps, these people ought to put their money where their mouths are and join the "glorious" resistance?

Totten rightwing? Get real.

Posted by: Eric at September 17, 2005 04:36 AM

just like what carlos said: avoid the christian areas. All of the bombs except 2 (that makes them 10) were in that area.

Posted by: rami at September 17, 2005 05:13 AM

Eric, perhaps you and Mikey can start your own little platoon of chickenhawk neocons. Those who get 'excited' fantasizing about war but never have the nads to actually fight it are nothing more than the most contemptible of cowards - hypocritical cowards. But hey, why distinguish yourselves from Captain AWOL, George the Lesser.

Posted by: ducky at September 17, 2005 05:20 AM


who served longer in the military, Bill Clinton or George Bush?

Too bad I loathed the military as a young Liberal and always blamed America first, otherwise I most definitely would have joined.

Posted by: Carlos at September 17, 2005 08:36 AM

Totten, I bet Beirut is still safer than Detroit.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at September 17, 2005 08:36 AM


Get the hell out of here. I'm moving to a city where car bombs are a regular occurance, and you're too much of a goddamn coward to leave a blog comment in your own name.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2005 09:07 AM

Too bad I loathed the military as a young Liberal and always blamed America first, otherwise I most definitely would have joined.


Now that was the strangest comment I've ever heard come out of you, Carlos. If you hadn't not wanted to join the military, you would have?

Hey, me too.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 17, 2005 09:08 AM

Get the hell out of here. I'm moving to a city where car bombs are a regular occurance, and you're too much of a goddamn coward to leave a blog comment in your own name.--MJT

Don't let the b******* grind you down. Ducky's drivel would be just as offensive,stupid,juvenile and annoying even were it to have the courage to sign a name.
Not many guys would have the nerve to uproot their lives for 6 months in order to have a 'better' idea of how the world actually works.

That your decision should encourage these things to attack you speaks volumes about them. They have nothing to say,and don't even have the skills to say that nothing with any degree of sophistication.

It's not sad any longer; it's just damn ANNOYING.

Posted by: dougf at September 17, 2005 09:29 AM


how many times can it be a "strawman" before you have to acknowledge it might actually be the real thing?

Posted by: Carlos at September 17, 2005 09:31 AM

For some reason when I read the comment by bowie it reminded me of Kim Jung Il in Team America World Police. You could even replace the Michael Moore lines in the movie with ducky's brilliant comments. Bring it all down:0

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at September 17, 2005 09:41 AM

Also, are both Ducky and Bowie (assuming it is not the same person) from Canada? I bet they are.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at September 17, 2005 09:50 AM

Mike #3 or 4,

Canadians are far nicer than Bowie and Duckie. Look at DPU, for instance. He doesn't talk to people that way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2005 09:59 AM

I don't normally get like this but this is one of my hot buttons. Apologies in advance...

Ooooh so you're going to big, bad, Beirut. Sgt Maj Frederick Douglass went to Beirut. Finest enlisted man I ever served under. Got blown up there with some 240 other Marines and sailors.

So, as far as I'm concerned, too little too late, bro. But if I recall my days as a Marine recruiter correctly, you can still join up to about 34 years old with a waiver. Heck, you're a college grad, right? You'd be an officer. Then you could see what leading from the front (instead of fron behind a keyboard) feels like.

Unless you are doing what Orwell called the dirty work of empire, any of your forays into harms way are of no significance. Except to other wanna bees of course.

A 20 year-old high school drop-out Marine Lance Corporal in Iraq has already accomplished more in his short life than you ever will.

Exemptions to tmjutah, exhelodriver, et al

I detect what could be considered a non-sequitur in there, but I'm too fired up to go back and fix it just now.

Posted by: Gunny H at September 17, 2005 10:47 AM


I respectfully disagree with you on what possible impact Michael's (or any other journalist/writer/chronicler) efforts may bring to the conflict.

I agree with you totally that the people on the pointy end are the ones who will ultimately have the greatest impact on the Iraqis and Afghanis, and others to be named later, in establishing democracy as a workable political reality in the muslim arc.

If it is even possible, that is. I honestly don't know if democratization can work where ten percent of a population is psychotic, and I think ten may be a low number where the Islamist threat is concerned.

It will be the example of volunteer service members in their daily behaviour and continued willingness to risk their lives in pursuit of midwifing former dicatorships to democracy that will make the deepest impression on what are, at the most basic level, still tribal populations.

On the other side of the coin, there is a brutally divided western world that in large part demands the luxury of debate and intellectual parsing in the face of an unambigous, lethal threat.

The losing side of that argument as distilled down to small "e" euroes and our own left-of-chomsky moonbats may never be able to grasp the threat through their own fog of nihilist fantasy. But there are many, many others who may not see the situation through a kos lens, but instead be principled, moral, and engaged - yet unconvinced to their own satisfaction that this fight is unavoidable.

Principled people can change. Michael is principled. It comes through in his writing and his publicly stated positions. There's no law that two free people have to agree on tactics, or even objectives, as long as both are committed to mutually accepted goals.

Michael wants western civ, and liberal democracy, to survive this clash of civilizations. I disagree with him on many, many levels - appropriate level of government involvement in commerce, social engineering, health care, and likely many others - but at least he will postulate that the elected government we have now is making a good faith, if imperfect, effort to fulfill its primary responsibility to we, the people, who elected it.

And he understands the power of ideas and the critical, actually essential, role they play in just how a nation of free men marshalls itself to fight and win.

I've carried a rifle. I can't do that any more. Whether or not my years of service went in the asset column of "making the world safe for democracy" in any big way is impossible to quantify. I did what I thought was right, and what I was capable of doing. That Michael chose not to pursue that route is his affair entirely and I just don't see in any way, shape, or form that he's somehow abroggated his value as a participant in a winning effort.

There is a finite group of opponents to western democracy, and especially that as practiced in the United States, that can only be beaten.

In case you think I've been too temperate, know that I put al Qaeda and their associated Islamist barbarians and our own hardcore anti-American leftists in the same column. The threat posed to individual freedoms by those groups is essentially the same if their agendas were ever realized; only tactics (and possibly intellectual honesty) marks any seperation amongst the opposition.

Our true crazies are blessedly few in number, and that's critical in a nation run by elective politics. Their noise, on the other hand, still makes them appear viable as a political force.

They can't win office outside of their receding enclaves; their influence does grievous damage to our war effort, though, and I see Michael and other principled liberals as the best counter to them.

Most of our domestic crazies limit their physical violence to individual acts like abortion bombings, ecoterror, or smashing windows of random Starbucks and MacDonalds; the Weather Underground, thankfully, has yet to reemerge. Our own crazies do aid and support those who are killing our people, and many, many more innocents in the nascent democracies we are trying to support, by propaganda and wilfull efforts to exploit the dangers, cost, and mistakes inherent in any war for their own near-term political ambitions.

Those types of people who exploit our free society as a means to undermine it can only be beaten, and it happens via elections and no other way.

It is my opinion that people like Michael have tremendous value in this end of the fight. We can't lose on a battlefield; winning fights is what we do. We have defined victory far beyond merely winning the field. Winning peace by overturning literally centuries of barbarism will require the will to sustain loss and grief for literally years, just like we are seeing now, and any voice that can contribute to keeping our resolve strong - that can honestly and without rancor (much rancor - Michael, you do let 'er rip now and again) point out success or constructively criticize failure with an eye to improving our efforts - cannot but help strengthen the arguments favoring democracy within our arena of ideas.

Just my two cents.

Michael, when you get over there, you must decide immediately what level of personal security you will practice. I'd strongly encourage you to avoid the "lone crusader" style of journalism as practiced by the late Steven Vincent. Voices like his, and yours, are dreaded and rightfully feared by those most ready to kill in pursuit of their goals. Think your actions through, carefully.

Good luck.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 17, 2005 12:19 PM

Hey Michael,

I visit this site pretty often, although I VERY rarely post any comments (mostly due to my unparalled lazy ass). Just wanted to drop by again and wish you luck.

Also, one quick question if you have the time (well actually, for anyone who doesn't mind answering); I'll be graduating college here in May, and for some reason I was thinking about working abroad in the Middle East for a time. I've been thinking about Turkey (I guess 'cause it seems "safer"), but since you seem to have traveled the region more than once before, any other places to recommend?

Posted by: Snipe at September 17, 2005 01:31 PM

I'm glad you are the one to respond to my tantrum, Devildog.
Look, I'm just an old Gunny (48 years old, retired 2002) who was frequently nonplussed by the depth of analysis I read in books and on sites like this one. I used to think I was the dummy, but the more I read and listen, I find myself becoming more and more disdainful of such analysis. I used to be envious of all these smart people who can think at such a high level, but no longer. Stuff just isn't that complicated. The arguments to the contrary leave me cold.

All this headache inducing analysis now mostly seems like a very sophisticated parlor game for the entertainment of the intelligensia and their spawn. (college students/graduates) When folks refer to the college environment as "the bubble" they weren't just whistling Dixie.
Men and women in their 40's and 50's who have never held a leadership position with financial or human consequences think they know why stuff in the real world happens, and how to fix or change it. Absurd. More absurd is the idea that real-life decision-makers should turn to them for guidance.

I'm currently attending full time a small, residential, competitive, Liberal Arts College just down the road from D.C./Quantico. It is making me nuts. The students who make the most noise about what is going on in the world and becoming part of the political process are the ones who are the most dismissive when I suggest that they ought to do a few years in the service. Y'know, they've got better things to do. But one day they want to be the decision makers for the rest of us. (The college Republicans are the worst in this regard BTW). They all want to be Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn but don't want to do the dirty work of empire. I sense that many of the posters on this site, (our host included) were of this same mentality in college. It is simply unacceptable.

Robert Heinlein had it right. Only veterans should be able to vote or hold public office. Sounds harsh, but the older I get the more convinced I am. Only when you have been sent to a place you didn't want to go by a government you didn't necessarily vote for, yet will give your full measure to support (with your life if necessary) can you truly understand the duties of a citizen. Just paying taxes and having to take your shoes off at the airport don't git it.

I'm not looking at this in a "big picture" way like you are Tmj, perhaps that is my limitation. My focus is more up close and personal. Whenever I encounter a Tottenesque type here on campus, (student or faculty) I am polite but inside I am deeply repulsed by someone who wants to be a glory boy without getting his hands dirty. The counter-argument that MJT is about to get his hands dirty on his impending mission doesn't cut for me. Marine, you say that Michael's decision not to serve is his own affair. Of course it is. However, I assert that his decision disqualifies him (and all like him) from further participation.

Now y'all don't get all crazy on me out there but to me, someone who chooses not to serve, but later on wants to be part of the process of where, when how etc. the military should be used is...just...well...unmanly.

Tmj, I have just re-read your comments. Who can argue with any of it? My objection is mostly visceral. After having said all I have, I now go down the laundry list of my personal heroes who never served: Adams, Jefferson, Reagan (sort of), Jerry Brown (don't laugh) and on and on.

Thanks again for your comments Tmj. Hell, can't we all just get along?


Posted by: Gunny H at September 17, 2005 01:37 PM

Tottens great idol is Christopher Hitchens, a man who's made a (very good) living by way of confirmation babble, same trade as Totten's.

Despite sucking up to the same categories of establishments-that-be as Hitchens sucks up to, despite emulating Hitchens's style in writing and debating, despite trying so hard, no go. The Hitchens style sucess isn't happening.

Possible solution:
A wild goose chase to Beirut, without a clear idea of what to accomplish, without anything resembling a modus operandi, without anything looking like work structure, but with a naive anticipatio n of a magical Solution to his deficiency of (economical) success by way of "somehow perhaps that scoop will materialize".

The place he's going to is extremely dangerous, death is a real option. Being generally 'careful' or referring to his american citizenship when in trouble won't help there. The second option might even worsen things. So what can we expect?

The Pulitzer Prize? Could happen, but don't hold your breath for that one.

Death? Could happen too, but let's all hope he survives. I think that even his opponents like him better alive.

The standard Westerner reacts in a predictable way, he chooses the path of the chicken. You can study the backpackers following Hemingway's trail in Spain, safe and comfortable.

Safe and comfortable will not bring home that prize though. So the final result will predictably be a big nothing.

My advice:
Do like Hitchens did, change sides. That way you'll be forced to piss in new territory and become more kosher than the kosherites. Should be an interesting experience for you and for the rest of us to read about.

Now, start asking yourself the obvious questions: What is the opposite of me? What is the antithesis of me? What's my Mr Hyde?

I don't know. Maybe you should watch some gay porn for a change? Maybe do a series of positively slanted interviews with notables of the religious right?

Maybe make a wax doll of Christopher Hitchens and stick some nails through the limey fcuk? Somebody has to dethronize him anyway, one day. Or is he supposed to solo skim all the fat for the rest of his life?

If this works out well I expect you to credit me for the ideas. My real name will in that case be provided to you. And don't worry, I'm in it for the glory, you can keep all the money.

Hasta la vista Totino

Posted by: Tatter at September 17, 2005 02:29 PM

WOW! I chill out for a few mo's enjoy the summer and now you're moving to Beirut??
Listen I stated clearly a few months back that if you go back I got dibs on tagging along for a few? Is that ok?
I'm not joking.

Posted by: Mike at September 17, 2005 03:33 PM

shorter Tatter: Michael Totten will be pursuing the story in Beirut while I haggle my boss for a nickel raise at Tower records.

Posted by: Carlos at September 17, 2005 03:50 PM

I find myself agreeing with TMJUtah and understanding Gunny H. Mike, you keep your ass down. It sounds like a great adventure to you but you are making some vey serious decsions here.

Gunny H:

What school? I live in the same area and need to get back in the classroom too.

Semper Fi Devil Dogs

Posted by: RickM at September 17, 2005 05:54 PM

Tatter: A wild goose chase to Beirut, without a clear idea of what to accomplish, without anything resembling a modus operandi, without anything looking like work structure, but with a naive anticipatio n of a magical Solution to his deficiency of (economical) success by way of "somehow perhaps that scoop will materialize".

Who the hell do you think you are, anyway? Just another anonymous troll who hasn't the slightest idea who I am, what I'm up to, who I know, what I plan to do. What on earth makes you think I don't have a work structure?

Don't you have anything better to do than leave ankle-biting comments on strangers' Web sites? Get a life, creep.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2005 06:41 PM

Rick M
University of Mary Washington, nee Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg. I'm going on the VA's (taxpayer's) dime via Vocational Rehab program.

Despite my rant it really is a great school and an oddly exhilarating experience; belly of the beast and all that I suppose. Although I can think of half a dozen professors off the top of my head who served. Mostly SE Asia time-frame, some more recently.

Feel free to e-mail me about it. UMW is a small, primarily residential school; not many older types like me around. (on the undergrad side of the house) They do have a dedicated department which handles the admin/advising for older, non-tradtional students. What type of schooling are you looking for?

Oh, and MJT, be safe out there. Remember, you're not paranoid if they really are out to get you. And over there, they really are.

da Gunny

Posted by: Gunny H at September 17, 2005 07:46 PM

I am probably the only person who will write in about how jealous I am! I am American born, raised in Beirut until I was 17 (1967). We evacuated in 1958 and 1967 and after the second time I have never been back.My Mom and I were planning a return trip in October 2001 but 9/11 certainly changed that.
I would dearly love to go down Rue Bliss and get a schwarma sandwich or go see my old school that I went to for 11 grades (American Community School).
Take care, the Lebanese people are mostly kind and generous, there is just too much outside interference. I will pray for your safety.

Posted by: LibraryLady at September 17, 2005 10:19 PM

Thanks for the info Gunny. Too far south. Finishing my CIS.

Thanks for the service

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at September 18, 2005 05:30 AM

Once upon a time I watched from about a hundred yards away as a small tornado tore our barn apart.

Non-sequitur? No. I still live where tornadoes are frequent; in fact, I've moved to a place where there are more of them than my original home had. California gets earthquakes, and people still live there. We've just had a massive illustration that the occasional hurricane doesn't inspire many people to move far away from the places they happen. Michael, if you care to do me a service, you could ask around. It seems to me, from a distance, that bombing has has gone beyond being nonproductive and become simply part of the environment, a sort of weather.

Is that possible? I can't know directly; I'm not there, and where I live is relatively safe from such things. But mobile home sales is still a good business to be in around here, despite TV pictures of tinfoil and rubble, and if the news said the Big One was tomorrow Angelenos would still get in the car to drive to work in the morning. The residents of New Orleans seem anxious to move back, and the place isn't a bit farther above sea level than it was. It's not that the threat isn't real or isn't deadly. It's just that the human body seems to stop producing adrenaline after a while.

I don't know if the analogy is appropriate; it occurs to me that it may even be insulting, though I certainly don't intend it so -- there is definitely a qualitative difference between indifferent acts of nature and deliberate acts of intent. I'd be interested in your view, especially after you've settled in for a bit, if you care to indulge me.


Posted by: Ric Locke at September 18, 2005 06:52 AM

Hey Michael,

Don't let these guys get you down. I can't speak for anyone else but I"m looking forward to reading your take on events over there.

As to military experience being required or necessary my opinion's a little mixed. Yes, I agree with all the commenters who've stated, in so many words, that you gain a unique perspective and mindset regarding leadership, moral principles, etc etc etc if you've served in the armed forces.

But I have to disagree with what I perceive as being the implication that a person is somehow "disqualified" from serving our nation if they've made a choice, or had the opportunity given to them, to not serve in the military. Its my opinion that it might not happen in as concentrated a time-frame as it would in the military but there are opportunities to sacrifice for our country that do not include service in the military. Basically, we might as well give people the benefit of the doubt and hope that they're making the right choices for the right reasons.

Ok, I don't know if that made any sense whatsoever since I'm typing on four hours of sleep that's almost been chased away by six cups of coffee so I apologize if this sounded knuckleheaded.


Posted by: tyler at September 18, 2005 07:56 AM

Robert Heinlein had it right. Only veterans should be able to vote or hold public office. Sounds harsh, but the older I get the more convinced I am.

Personally, I think that only mothers should be able to vote or hold public office. I believe that if you haven't spent at least 12 hours writhing in pain during childbirth, if you're not willing to dedicate a majority of your income, time and emotional well-being to the care and raising of new Americans, you don't deserve any rights at all. And, since I'm a mom and you're not, your opinion won't matter. Sounds harsh because it is.

Sure, my ideal world is unfair, selfish, belligerent and anti-democratic, but so is the tedious macho posturing behind the chickenhawk argument. Yes, veterans should be honored for the sacrifices they've made, but your "manly" ideals are about as un-democratic as they come.

The chickenhawk argument also ignores the fact that you can't successfully fight a war without knowing the enemy. Michael's reporting has already revealed a lot about the tenous hold that dictators in Libya and Syria have over their oppressed constituents. He's revealed more about the history of the multitudes of factions within Lebanon than any hotel-dwellling CNN/NYT/BBC reporter I've read.

You can't fight a war without good intelligence, and if we define intelligence as our bumbling CIA, then we're doomed. We need more pro-democratic reporting from these areas, not less.

Posted by: mary at September 18, 2005 09:04 AM

Ric: "It seems to me, from a distance, that bombing has has gone beyond being nonproductive and become simply part of the environment, a sort of weather."

Four people have been killed by car bomb in Beirut since February. More people were shot in Portland during that same time period, and I'm not even remotely worried my safety here - a city of roughly the same size. I wouldn't dream of moving just to get away from our murder rate.

That's the apt comparison, I think, because the numbers are similar and malevolent intent is behind both - unlike weather.

Car bombs are scarier because they are louder, more random, and because they faintly echo September 11. But they are not objectively any more dangerous, at least not the small ones.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2005 10:13 AM


Also, by contrast, I spent a week in Guatemala City two years ago. Ten people are murdered in that city every day, and that city is smaller than both Portland and Beirut. I was slightly concerned for my safety there, but not overly. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's not really possible to walk around scared all the time. As you said, there is only so much adrenaline in the human body. All environments have their dangers, and once those dangers get incorporated into the background they stay in the background.

If/when I see/hear a car bomb that danger will briefly jump into the foreground, but it won't linger unless it becomes a daily or almost daily event.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2005 10:21 AM

Wow, where does one even begin? For one thing, I did not use the word chickenhawk. I'm not fond of those sorts of terms. Ad Hominems get ya nowhere.
I'd hoped that the tone of my comments was not the tone of a strident know-it-all. There are plenty of those on this site. I simply have long held, often ambiguous feelings on this issue.

But your tone OTOH gets my hackles up. But I'm not gonna go there.

I'm just sooo tired of being thanked for my service by folks who thumbed their nose at the military when it was their chance to choose what to do after high school/college. (The most annoying of these are the hawks: Limbaugh, Hannity,et al.) Then you folks reappear in your 30's with all the answers about what the CIA,Bush, Rummy, et al. should do. Jesus!

I frankly wish you would all just shut the hell up with the perfunctory appreciation for our service. We don't need or want it. It only pisses us off. We don't care what you think of us, positive or negative.

Jack Nicholson's courtroom speech in "A Few Good Men" comes to mind.

Knowing that I spent 25 years of my life protecting such folks from harm sometimes makes me want to puke. But that's okay. It is compensation enough to have had the experience. What I know makes it easy to put people like you in perspective.

Citizenship is not merely an intellectual excercise. It is not abstract. Service has little to do with "tedious macho posturing". It has been said by more eloquent men than I: Putting your life in peril to protect the polis is the ultimate expression of love for country. The idea that miltary service is a requirement for citizenship goes back at least to Greece and Rome. Socrates saw combat, as did Sophocles and Aeschylus. Cervantes too. Maybe military service should be a requirement to be an artist, yes?

Jefferson and Adams are on the record as well, though neither of them ever, "picked up a rifle and stood a post".

Oh, hell with it...Mary, if only mothers could vote or hold public office the world would be a smoking hole in about 2 weeks. Puh-leeze.

Posted by: Gunny H at September 18, 2005 10:56 AM

Mary, if only mothers could vote or hold public office the world would be a smoking hole in about 2 weeks. Puh-leeze.

Gunny, you don't seem to realize that my argument, that only mothers should vote, was a parody of your own anti-democratic ideals. I would never take such an argument seriously, because it's against everything that America stands for.

My argument was absurd because it was meant to be. Your argument, that miltary service should be a requirement for citizenship is also absurd and profoundly anti-Democracy (Democracy as it exists in the 21st century, that is. Times have changed since Socrates' day, if you haven't noticed).

I frankly wish you would all just shut the hell up with the perfunctory appreciation for our service. We don't need or want it. It only pisses us off. We don't care what you think of us, positive or negative.

Is this the royal "we"? If not, who voted you the boss and spokesman of every veteran in the country?

Posted by: mary at September 18, 2005 11:59 AM

If/when I see/hear a car bomb that danger will briefly jump into the foreground, but it won't linger unless it becomes a daily or almost daily event.

Well, yes, that was sort of my point. A few years ago I spent a month in Bogota -- not at all with your degree of engagement; I'm not that likeable a person -- and it was much the same thing. The danger was there. So was the possibility of earthquake, a meteor strike, or alien invasion. It didn't mean I couldn't, or didn't, walk around and see the sights, go to a restaurant, etc.

Human beings evolved wandering about the savannah, without even fur to keep the rain off and with a weather eye out for sabertooth tigers. Other mammals are about the same. You can teach a horse not to shy, and people learn to tolerate things. If you're dependent on shock and titillation to put your point across you soon find that you have to keep upping the ante or people don't pay attention any more. The first roller coaster ride is scary. After the tenth, you're making notes about whether or not the paint matches on the different sections. The word is "jaded". How many car wrecks have you seen? Did you quit driving in sheer horror?

The point, sort of, is that it seems to me that the terrorists have reached, and maybe passed, the point of diminishing returns. This seems to me a good thing, sort of. It means that the danger has become background noise, like weather, and people can get on with their lives. But it also means that the frustrated terrorists will be searching for bigger and better ways to get attention. What's the rental rate on shark tanks these days?


Posted by: Ric Locke at September 18, 2005 02:33 PM


I think part of the Gunny's frustration is that while many on the Left "thank us for our service" the rest are commenting on our "obvious mental deficiencies". I don't get that feeling from the Right.

As for who died and made him boss for the day? Well, he's a Gunny, they don't think they are boss because they would not take the demotion. There is not much in the world better than being "The Gunny" Enormous ego? You bet. But usually earned. He is welcome to speak for me even if I don't agree with him.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at September 18, 2005 02:54 PM

Gunny: "I frankly wish you would all just shut the hell up with the perfunctory appreciation for our service. We don't need or want it. It only pisses us off. We don't care what you think of us, positive or negative."

I would be very careful if I were you to speak for your fellow vets as a whole. I have met vets whom I rather sheepishly thanked for their service, stating that it sounded trite, and they assured me that they heard it all too rarely and genuinely appreciated it. Who am I to believe? You or them? Maybe the clue is in your use of the term "perfunctory". But what if it isn't perfunctory? What if it's genuine? If you're wrong about even one of your fellow vets who may appreciate a simple, "Thank you for your service" then you are wrong, period. And thanks to your post, someone who may not only genuinely appreciate the sentiment but may in fact need to hear it from someone, may, in fact, never hear it. I hope everyone who has read your post simply dismisses it as the post of a crank.

Posted by: Caroline at September 18, 2005 06:03 PM

Noted. I am being a crank.

This issue gets me in the same frame of mind as the mere mention of George Bush's name does to Michael Moore-droids.

My last word on this:
Why did Lt William Calley happen in Viet-Nam?
Why did Abu-Ghrab happen?

Doubtless someone who never served has written an authoritative tome on Calley. And someday, probably soon someone will write a huge tome on why Abu-Ghrab happened. And all the wonks will soak them up and spew huge posts on sites like this showing off their erudition.

I won't read them. I don't need to. The solution is right under your upturned noses.

What James Webb has said about Calley applies to Abu-Ghrab and any and all such occurances: They happened and will continue to happen because the best and the brightest thumb their nose at military service. The Harvard and Yale types, the Tottens et al. They want to reap the benefits of living here without making any sort of personal sacrifice. (And no, working your fanny off in law school or where-ever does not count as a personal sacrifice.)

The best and the brightest see military service as beneath them, so we take who we can get, like William Calley and the Abu-Ghrab crew. (I was a recruiter, I did the best I could with what I had to work with.) But you will be the first to wail and gnash your teeth when something bad happens. Then all the brainiacs will get together and demand some new rule or proceedure or oversight agency to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Mary, I couldn't disagree more. Nothing un-democratic about what I propose. I would venture that you, like most folks these days take the position that universal sufferage is self-evidently correct. I simply disagree. Are things better now that everybody who wants to can vote? When a guy who knows more about baseball box scores than what his congressman is up to votes, is democracy being served in the best way possible. No lesser a name than George F Kennan would agree with me.

Furthermore, Caroline and Mary I do speak for many of my comrades, Both career and one termers. The ones who do not agree with me simply can't be bothered with thinking about the issue at all. You aren't worth their time.
(And OBTW, folks way smarter than me have written much about the growing disdain military people have for civilians, and all the potential consequences of this, see Tom Ricks, "Making the Corps" to cite just one example. So, I may be a crank, but just dismissing me is not going to serve you well. I have lots and lots of company. And fancy wonky analysis types think so too.)
But we all smile and accept your thanks when offered with all the appropriate courtesy and humility. But inside, we are laughing at you. But the joke's on us, cuz we are the ones who'll get killed defending a way of life that you cannot possibly understand. Cuz its all about you.

Rick M
Me arrogant? You bet. But in a good way.:)
I know my position is way over the top.
I understand and respect your position. It isn't important that we agree. It only matters that you "get" me, and I, you. And of course you do, Marine. Over beers at the "Hawk and Dove" we would hash this out and neither of us would be the worse for wear afterwards. Unfortunately that would probably not be possible with a Mary or a Caroline. But for what it is worth ladies, I've been reading and enjoying your posts on this site for the year or so that I have been following it. This ain't personal, just biddness.

Oooh Rah!

Posted by: Gunny H at September 18, 2005 07:31 PM
Gunny H - George Kennan said:
We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
So, if you have such contempt for civilians and if you have contempt for our modern democracy, what are you fighting for? I guess Kennan answers that for you.

My uncle is a Marine. He's also a fireman, retired FDNY. My father was with the Army corps of Engineers. I've worked with Marines, and I have great respect for every branch of the military, but I can't manage to feign respect for you, no matter how much you demand it.

It's not a class thing - I've been poor, I've had money, I've been educated, I've been not-so-educated. I've just never been able to respect anyone who has contempt for democracy, equality and their fellow man. I'm funny that way.

Posted by: mary at September 18, 2005 08:01 PM

Oh Mary, it is getting past my bedtime.

I have a cousin who is an interior decorator, but I still don't understand squat about interior decorating, therefore, being related to and being around Marines, does not mean you understand Marines. Go figure.

Kennan also thought America was better served if run by a selected, enlightened elite. He took heat about that his entire career.

I don't have contempt for democracy, equality, and my fellow man. I just have a way higher bar than you.

What am I fighting for? as Churchill (Winston, not Ward) said, "Democracy is the worst form of government ever created, except for all the others." That's what I am fighting for, the worst form of government ever created, except for all the others. It's far from perfect, but it is enough.

I may be wrong but I take your remark about demanding respect as yet another attempt to put words in my mouth.
Funny, I've never demanded respect. Never really thought about it much. If my Marines got the job done, that was all I ever cared about.

Ironically, I think you'd love working with me. I am results oriented and will go to the mat to take care of my people. And I'm way funnier in person.
But that's okay, I can sleep quite well without the respect of folks like you. Can't please em'all. Man, when I think of the warriors I've known over the years who do respect me, I am humbled beyond words. Yeah, I'll sleep well tonight.

Really, instead of arguing with me, if you can find the time, try reading "Making the Corps". It is the best book I've encountered which tries to explain our Marine culture. The author's perspective and reason for writing the book really resonate with me.

One last question: I don't know how old your kids are, but if they were seniors in high school and the recruiter man kept calling to try to talk to your kid about the service, what would you say to him?

Posted by: Gunny H at September 18, 2005 08:44 PM

Kennan also thought America was better served if run by a selected, enlightened elite. He took heat about that his entire career.

For good reason.

But that's okay, I can sleep quite well without the respect of folks like you.

What are "folks like me?" Women? Irish Americans? English majors?

One last question: I don't know how old your kids are, but if they were seniors in high school and the recruiter man kept calling to try to talk to your kid about the service, what would you say to him?

My son is 21, and his main goal in life is to fly. Since he (of course) wants to fly the best planes, his first choice was a military college, but when he learned that he couldn't have a guarantee, early on, that he'd be flying, he decided to go to college, study aeronautical engineering and take flying lessons during the summer. I think he's going to wait until he gets through the flight inspector phase before making any further career choices. He's talked about the military and he's talked about crop dusting - I'd guess that the second choice is more dangerous, but I'll encourage him, whatever he chooses.

My daughter, 16, is interested in Marine biology. Like my son, I'll encourage her to do whatever she chooses. She's the most athletic person in our whole sedentary family; she'd have the potential to be a great Navy SEAL but of course, they don't allow girls.

Posted by: mary at September 19, 2005 06:21 AM

MJT: Canadians are far nicer than Bowie and Duckie. Look at DPU, for instance. He doesn't talk to people that way.

Thanks for saying so. We try hard to be polite, it's part of our national identity.

I'm lobbying for the national motto to be "Please excuse us. Sorry."

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 19, 2005 11:50 AM

Mary: ...she'd have the potential to be a great Navy SEAL but of course, they don't allow girls.

For very good reason.

The reason I asked the question about a recruiter calling your house is this:

I wish I'd had a nickle for every house I called and when the Mom answered I'd get the whole, "I really, really respect the military and I thank you for your service, but no, you can't speak to my son."

It was Spartan Moms who coined the phrase, "Come home carrying your sheild, or on it." Sigh...
Yeah, yeah Mary I know, this isn't ancient Greece. Maybe not. But people haven't changed since day one.

Mary, you can disagree with me all you want. But at least I have not tried to put words in your mouth. I have re-read your posts and you have done that to me again and again. So that tells me all I need to know about you.

We're done here.

Posted by: at September 19, 2005 12:43 PM

Gunny, I loved Heinlein when in high school and college, too. I went to the US Naval Academy before transfering to Stanford, since, in 76 post-Vietnam it was clear the services had WAY too many officers; plus I didn't like being subject to UCMJ 24/7.

The US Constitution had 3 requirements for voting: male, white, property owner. The inequality of the first two was terrible, and rightfully changed, though it took a LONG time.

I like property owner. If you're not responsible enough, and stable enough, to own property, it's much less likely you're going to be a responsible voter. [I'd favor some $200 000/ loans by the gov't to buy property, for everybody who graduates from High School.] But this was changed first.

The US today, and for many decades, accepts voting for "all." And it's pretty good -- the uncaring mostly don't vote. And even some of the caring note that: "nobody tells the truth; nobody will really help you;... vote for nobody".

Mary, on mothers, there is a movement to set aside some minimum percentage of representatives for women. In Sweden there is talk of 50%, I think Iraq actually has some 33% thru a quota.

I think any such "women" quotas should actually be "mothers" -- the specialness of women, politically, really IS that they have children.

But these are not big deals. Policy is the big political deal, and especially the overiding one.

Should evil regimes be fought?
If yes, by whom, how, and how is the decision made.

Michael, I'm glad you're banning the worst trolls. It wasn't clear if you banned Tatter or merely warned him; I thought his attempt at reason, combined with being over the top, warranted a warning.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 20, 2005 01:21 AM

»It wasn't clear if you banned Tatter or merely
»warned him; I thought his attempt at reason,
»combined with being over the top, warranted a

Over the top?

Please allow me to quote Michael Totten from another one of his blogs. The one where Hitchens calls him 'Angel':

"I can hardly manage a sentence without being stupid."

OK. Taken out of context, but still...

So I was perhaps a bit unfair to him concerning that thing I said about work structure. Maybe I also should have avoided scaring him considering the 'death option' stuff.

But, believe it or not, I'm genuinely concerned for his safety over there. I'm even more concerned about his blind devotion to a less than perfect role model.

Really, what normal guy would call you 'Angel'?

Posted by: Tatter at September 20, 2005 04:01 AM

Only veterans should be able to vote or hold public office. Sounds harsh, but the older I get the more convinced I am.

Those words are the some of the most egregious things I've read in a while (and I've read a lot of egregious things)

I didn't put those words in your mouth.

Posted by: mary at September 20, 2005 05:55 AM

I think any such "women" quotas should actually be "mothers" -- the specialness of women, politically, really IS that they have children.

Tom, my comment about mothers voting was a parody. Women aren't "special", they're human beings, just like you.

this discussion is beginning to sound very tranzi. From John Fonte's "Transnational Progressivism:

The key concepts of transnational progressivism could be described as follows:
The ascribed group over the individual citizen.

A dichotomy of groups:

Group proportionalism as the goal of "fairness."

The redefinition of democracy and "democratic ideals.

Contrast this with a Muslim from London who does understand what democracy is all about:
"I choose to define my community as the people with whom I interact and choose to be represented by the political party for which I vote. Why should I, in community terms, have more in common with a Muslim from Bradford than with a Jew from Tonttenham or a Christian from Ramsgate?..

..Our civic duty, like that of any other Briton, consists of abiding by the law of the land and our civic right is to be represented through the ballot box, not by organizations that are vested with an authority they do not deserve."

There are always groups that want more than than everyone else, for various reasons. Some property owners with that only property owners could vote. Some Muslims wish that only Muslims could vote. Some veterans wish that only veterans could vote. Fortunately, our constitution stands in their way, but it's disappointing to hear such anti-democratic statements coming from Americans.

Posted by: mary at September 20, 2005 06:17 AM

I won't worry about you Micheal in Beirut , as whom ever is planting these bombs is a cowered driving by hatred of parties that were once ruling that country, and shocked by the fact that the countdown of their Era started already. They targeted this time innocent poor Christians citizens to cause a respond in the christian street against muslims, and turn back the clock into the civil war. I have a comment though a bit late about your article ( A Beirut Diary posted in May 2005 ). I always read with a lot of wonder the comments of many western writers about the christian rightists in lebanon during the war, describing them as murderers and blood thrusts, against the palestinians and their allies the muslim leftists who manage always to be shown as freedom fighters. If you read well the lebanese history my friend you would see that there has always been a dispute over power between christians and muslims in lebanon. Christians seeing themsleves as a minority in the Middle East and looking at lebanon as their oasis , and muslims who are seeking more power as they see it their right. But these struggles were always kept to a certain extent under control, and lebanon was always ruled with the accord of all parties. thus has been the game and lebanon was perfectly well. Until the plague of armed palestenian revolution came to lebanon in 70s with their excpell from Jordan by their own relatives the jordanian who have so much in common with palestinians , then us lebanese. Even though King Hussein of jordan refused to hand over his country to a bunch of rebbels and exterminated them. They came over to Lebanon, Muslims and Leftists saw in them an ally to their cause , and palestinians saw in them also allies and an alliby to legitimise their armed existance in the country, and creating a state within a state, armed palestinians turned their refugees camps into real strongholds against the lebanese government and clashes erupted eventually, palestinians started terrorizing the ones opposing to them and naturally the christians were their first enemy followed by the lebanese government. Christians started to create their own armed militias to protect themselves and their villages, every day before the war finally erupted on a massive scale Christian citizens were kidnapped on road blocks by Palestinians, and many of them disappeared. The first battles happened between the Christians supported by the Lebanese army against the Palestinians , not the muslims , and the Palestinians committed many massacres by invading Christian villages like Damour see the story link ( , where 500 civilians were killed and many many more ( see the chronology of Syrian and Palestinian crimes in lebanon ) , this way happened before the famous Sabra and Chatila which had a lot of propaganda as if it was the only massacre that happened in Lebanon against civilians. As the leftists and Muslims entered the war to support the strangers on Lebanese soil, against their compatriots, the war changed into a complete civil war. So I guess Micheal when you describe these young men in the cedar revolution as crazy and fanatics, I advise you to go to the roots of the problem and not to look at it from a narrow point of view, I guess you don’t need me to remind you who took western hostages in Lebanon , and who blasted the US marines and the French peace keepers HQs, You have to put yourself in the shoes of Christians living in Lebanon , having to fight for their existence since centuries. And may I remind all Christians in the world that Christianity came from our part of the world and Christ first miracles happened in the south of Lebanon ( ) , Christians of the middle east and in lebanon survived many wars against them since the Islamic invasions to the recent war against them known as the civil war, with little or no help from any western country. By describing them as fanatics and crazy shows to an extent how wrongly they are perceived by the same people that should be on their side. Not one Christian Lebanese wants to go to war again, or to bear arms to defend himself or his family, and I think no Lebanese muslim wants it as well. This is why the cedar revolution gathered all Lebanese in their seek for unity and freedom, as they have learned the lesson. But not all apparently , and it will take time to clean the country from the criminals so the good people may live in peace again, and new generations will start a new Lebanon, one that will never repeat his sad history again.

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Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn