My daughter decided to explain the love that our dog, Rudy, has for her, only she couldn’t find the right words, so she asked for help.
She said: “Rudy loves me unintentionally… no wait, that’s not right: what’s that word that begins with an ‘I’.” (Me: “So, you say that your dog loves you accidentally?)
My son and I decided to help her:
Erratically? (OK, not with an “I” but close enough)
She then exclaimed “Unconditionally!”
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I read an interesting article from Geopolitical site Stratfor this morning. Its historical perspective on our current state of war was enlightening to me. The following are the highlights of this article:
The defeated challenger in the U.S. election, Mitt Romney, had a memorable and important turn of phrase when he said that you can’t kill your way out of the problems of the Middle East. The point that neither Romney nor Obama articulated is what you do instead in the Middle East — and elsewhere.
Constant use of military force is not an option. See the example of the British Empire: Military force was used judiciously, but the preferred course was avoiding war in favor of political arrangements or supporting enemies of enemies politically, economically and with military aid. That was followed by advisers and trainers — officers for native troops. As a last resort, when the balance could not hold and the issue was of sufficient interest, the British would insert overwhelming force to defeat an enemy. Until, as all empires do, they became exhausted.
The American strategy of the past years of inserting insufficient force to defeat an enemy that could be managed by other means, and whose ability to harm the United States was limited, would not have been the policy of the British Empire. Nor is it a sustainable policy for the United States. When war comes, it must be conducted with overwhelming force that can defeat the enemy conclusively. And war therefore must be rare because overwhelming force is hard to come by and enemies are not always easy to beat. The constant warfare that has characterized the beginning of this century is strategically unsustainable.
It is not clear whether Obama saw the doctrine I am discussing (with regards to Syria) — he certainly didn’t see it in Libya, and his Syrian policy might simply have been a reaction to his miscalculations in Libya. But the subjective intentions of a leader are not as important as the realities he is responding to, however thoughtfully or thoughtlessly. It was clear that the United States could not continue to intervene with insufficient forces to achieve unclear goals in countries it could not subdue.
One of the hardest things for a young empire to master is the principle that, for the most part, there is nothing to be done. That is the phase in which the United States finds itself at the moment. It is coming to terms not so much with the limits of power as the nature of power. Great power derives from the understanding of the difference between those things that matter and those that don’t, and a ruthless indifference to those that don’t. It is a hard thing to learn, but history is teaching it to the United States.
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