Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: war (page 1 of 1)

costs, continued

Once you face the real human costs of your preferred policies in peace or war, you may then

  1. Warmly embrace them;
  2. Accept them with a shrug;
  3. Work to mitigate them;
  4. Decide that they’re too high and look for alternative policies. 

A combination of the sunk costs fallacy and the fear of shame makes the fourth option very rare indeed. Would that it were more common. 

Elizabeth D. Samet, in an interview:

World War II gave us a way to look at the world as an unambiguous contest between good and evil. We have used a vocabulary that was inherited from it: Fascism became Islamofascism, the Axis Powers became the Axis of Evil, the second President Bush’s term to describe a constellation of unrelated adversaries. It also left us with the belief that the exercise of U.S. force would always magically bring about victory and would serve the cause of liberating the oppressed. As a result of that, we find ourselves, after decades of war and loss, having to reckon with the fact that our way of thinking and talking about war and about the world is hopelessly out of date. 

A very interesting point! Because World War II was “the Good War,” American politicians regularly attempt to create a linguistic association between their own endeavors and that one. I wonder how long that will last, especially since the last WWII veterans are rapidly disappearing from the scene. 


Ukraine Can Win This War – by Liam Collins and John Spencer: Two or three times a day I see an article like this one: a confident prediction that Ukraine is in a winning position that never once considers the possibility that Russia will use nukes. I don’t see how this is anything other than the purest wishful thinking. The Ukrainian politician who says that Russia is like a monkey with a hand grenade is reckoning more seriously with the real conditions of this war. 

Here’s my thesis about our current political discourse: The more controversial the topic, the more likely that writers on it will simply ignore any perspective other than their own. They won’t consider it even to refute it; they’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist.

My secondary thesis is that such people try really hard not to think of alternatives because they know they can’t deal with the objections. A. E. Housman used to say that many textual critics simply ignore possibilities for establishing a reading of a text other than the one they prefer because they’re like a donkey poised equidistant between two bales of hay who thinks that if one of the bales of hay disappears he will cease to be a donkey. 

Epistemologists like to talk about defeaters of a particular proposition: it’s SOP, for them, when making an argument to ask: What eventuality would defeat my proposition? People writing enthusiastically that Ukraine will win this war never ask that question because the answer is both obvious and terrifying: Ukraine won’t win this war if Russia uses nuclear weapons against them. 

New ways of war: Adam Liptak on Adam Roberts’s 2010 novel New Model Army — which, as it happens, I wrote about here, a decade ago. It’s an endlessly generative story, it seems. 

Rowan Williams:

I have said that I think there is a strong case for the exclusion of the Moscow Patriarchate from the [World Council of Churches], and that they have a case to answer; I’m not suggesting that they should have no opportunity for such an answer. I don’t feel sanguine about their willingness to defend themselves in this particular “court”, but I would not advocate any precipitate decision without notice and consultation.

Should it come to this, however, my reasons for supporting an exclusion would be that we have a situation in which the hierarchy of one particular Christian organisation is actively advocating — not merely passively acquiescing in — a war of pure aggression, in which the routine slaughter of non-combatants is evidently a matter of accepted policy, and which is being presented by this hierarchy as a defence of Christian civilisation.

My question would be: If the behavior of the Moscow Patriarchate is insufficient to warrant an expulsion from the WCC, what would be sufficient? What kind of behavior, generally speaking, would lead to expulsion? My immediate feeling (subject to revision or correction) is that if this behavior isn’t bad enough to get you expelled, nothing is, and membership in the WCC is absolutely permanent. 

Matt Milliner:

The Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces was sprinkled with holy water by Patriarch Kirill in 2020, but that does not mean it is holy. It has forsaken the elegant curves of a traditional Russian dome to deliberately resemble nuclear missiles (which Russian priests have cheerily blessed). The classic two-dimensional apse mosaic of Christ has been swapped out for a tacky sculpture, defying centuries of Orthodox wisdom which traditionally eschewed three-dimensional representation. Defending the six billion ruble expenditure, one Orthodox priest said that “metal, wood, glass and talent were offered practically free, for a few kopecks. People worked, worked hard for the glory of God.” His statement calls to mind another priest, Aaron: “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Exodus 32:24). 

Read on to learn of the role played by the Mother of God. 

“Money clarifies; so does war.”

me, over at the Hog Blog, on Realities Soon To Be Revealed

Ian Bogost:

The risks of netwar and cyberwar are consequences of convenience. Communications networks became widespread, delivering previously unthinkable quantities of bespoke content instantly. As they ballooned and megascaled, they offered more opportunities for exploitation that might affect larger populations much more rapidly. Meanwhile, business and government operations elected to take on new vulnerabilities in their computer infrastructure in order to win operational conveniences. Those conveniences once seemed worth it. Not anymore.

Maybe – but when have we ever been willing to give up on our conveniences, no matter how dangerous? 

Tom Stoppard in 2013:

Half the point I want to make is that I have had a charmed life. I was whisked out of the way of the Nazis, bundled out of the way of the Japanese army, and, after a safe and happy four years in India, found myself in England instead of returning to Czechoslovakia in good time to grow up under communism. But I haven’t made my point even yet. I wasn’t merely safe, I was in the land of tolerance, fair play and autonomous liberty, of habeas corpus, of the mother of parliaments, of freedom of speech, worship and assembly, of the English language. I didn’t make this list when I was eight, but by 18 I would have added the best and freest newspapers, forged in the crucible of modern liberty, and the best theatre. When I was 19 there occurred the Hungarian revolution, and my first interest was in how the story was being covered. On my 23rd birthday I panicked because I’d written nothing except journalism, and wrote a derivative play. When I was 31, Russian tanks rolled into Prague, and my wife got angry with me because I was acting English and not Czech. She was right. I didn’t feel Czech. I had no memory of Czechoslovakia. I condemned the invasion from the viewpoint of everything I had inherited at the age of eight, including my name. During all that time, I had never been without a bed, or clothes to put on, or food on the table, or without medicine when I was sick, or a school desk to sit at. As I grew up I never had to put on a uniform except as a boy scout. As a journalist and writer I had never been censored or told what to write. As a citizen I never had to fear the knock at the door. The second half of the point I want to make is that if politics is not about giving everybody a life as charmed as mine, it’s not about anything much.

Adam Roberts, “Ozymandias Replies”:

So, friend, you think my face and legs in stone
Are signs that I have failed? Friend, think again.
When I ascended to my marble throne
The land was forest, meadow, lakeside glen.
I took it and I wasted it. This desert tract
Stands as my most expansive monument:
Dead-life, as blank as hope, as bald as fact.
I made a world of sand. And it’s this spent
Stage-set, bleached clean, that I am proudest of —
More than my palaces and bling and war —
Because it’s the perfection of my love
When my rule’s push came to my people’s shove.
We tyrants know what power’s really for.
I made my desolation to endure.

“this is what you no longer understand”

We live in an era in which the overwhelming majority of filmgoers will have no experience of military life whatsoever, either as veterans or relatives thereof. “Dunkirk,” a visually stunning film—overwhelming in IMAX— will not give those audience members the illusion that by having watched the film they understand what war is. They will be moved, I’m sure; this particular story cannot be anything but. But its very distance from the communal character of military experience marks it as a film of our time trying to reach back to another era, when military culture was more generally understood, and show us: see, this is what you no longer understand.

Noah Millman