“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

the expulsion of the triumphant beast

LI’s mind, this morning, keeps drifting to the title of one of Giordano Bruno’s pamphlets: The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast. There seems to be something magically coordinate between that title and the scheduled appearance of President Bush this evening. Bush is, of course, going to announce that the final result of the listening tour he conducted among his cabinet, numerous public toilets at D.C. subway stations, and in the attic of his ranch in Crawford has led him to chose to send 20,000 phantom soldiers to Iraq in the hope that this will lead to victory. Victory will come, according to the President, when the stars are covered with blood, the night is as bright as the day, and the last Islamofascist is strangled with the guts of the last polar bear.

Yes, there is some coordination between Bruno’s mock apocalypse and the apocalyptic mockery of this Presidency.

The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast was an expensive pamphlet. It cost Bruno his hide – officially, he was burned at stake by the Church because of the heretical views he expressed in it. Of course, those views had to be found by trained allegorists, since the pamphlet is a dialogue about the ‘reformation’ of the Zodiac. It appears that Jupiter is unsatisfied with the Zodiac’s current figures, old guys from long decayed systems of superstition. Momus, acting as the devil’s helper, suggests many criticisms of these figures to the Lord of Lords – for instance, he says of Orion

„On this, Neptune asked, what, o Gods, do you want to do with my favorite, my dear, Orion is the one I’m talking about, who, as some etymologists believe, causes the heavens out of pure fear to urinate? Then Momus answered: Let me, o Gods, make a suggestion! There’s a Napolitan saying that goes, the macaroni falls into the cheese – which is what we are faced with. This one truly understands performing miracles on every side, and as Neptune well knows, he can wander over the waves of the sea without sinking, yes, without getting his feet wet, and in consequence he can do other beautiful little tricks – now, lets send him down [to exist] among men.“ (my translation of a German translation )

To which Jove said:

“Now do you know, said Jove, what I am deciding to do concerning that one [Orion] in order to avoid any possible future scandal? I want him to go down to earth; and I shall command that he lose all power of performing bagatelles, impostures, acts of cunning kind actions, and other miracles that are of no worth, because I do not want him together with the other to be in a position to destroy whatever excellence and dignity are found and exist in things necessary to the commonwealth of the world.” (translated by Arthur D

Now, if the Zodiac is to be reformed, and superstition is to be swept from the skies like so many old cobwebs carried off by a good huswife’s broom, one would expect that a sort of festival of reason would install, in their place, symbols of our mental dignity. O shades of the French Revolution! But this is to underestimate Bruno’s own peckerwood sense of dialectics – for Bruno, the ludicrous is not opposed to reason, but exists at its secret thumping heart. Thus, Jove suggests sending an ass up to the sky – asinine reason, heehawing its way through infinity! which necessarily encompasses nothingness…

This tickles the line of thought I’ve been pursuing lo these many and weary posts through this blog. But lets return to one of the tricks of our own urinating Orion – with which I began. While not exactly a giant hunter – the Bush administration’s giant hunter is best known for scattershooting an old lawyer – certainly the administration seems to love engaging in sleight of hand games. And LI suspects that reforming the zodiac – taking down the war culture – has to be the end result of opposing the Bush administration. It isn’t a question of just withdrawing from Iraq - it is a question of destroying a whole system of superstitions, the economic and cultural interlocking of a giant, war producing mindset – planetset in the name of … well, that is the question.

LI has noted the vast fluffing of General Petraeus in the press. David Ignatius publishes another paen in his WAPO column today. The subject is Petraeus’ apparently brilliant insight that successful counter-insurgency strategies don’t involve the massive projection of force guided by the precept of optimally guarding each individual soldier from risk. Wow! If this is what it takes to be a military genius, I suppose LI should apply to West Point – we made this point what, two years ago? Three years ago? Here’s Ignatius on Petraeus’ field manual:

The field manual summarizes some of the lessons that commanders have learned in Iraq: Long-term success "depends on the people taking charge of their own affairs and consenting to the government's rule." Killing insurgents "by itself cannot defeat an insurgency." Local commanders "have the best grasp of their situations" and should have the freedom to adapt and react to local conditions. As many officers ruefully admit, the Army is learning these lessons three years late -- but perhaps that's still in time to make a difference.

My favorite part of the manual, which I suspect Petraeus had a big hand in drafting, is a section titled "Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations." The headings give the flavor of these unconventional ideas: "Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be." (Green Zone residents, please note: "If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents.") "Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best Reaction." "Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot." And this military version of the Zen riddle: "The More Successful the Counterinsurgency Is, the Less Force Can Be Used and the More Risk Must Be Accepted." (As the host nation takes control, "Soldiers and Marines may also have to accept more risk to maintain involvement with the people.")

The abiding lesson of this manual comes in one of Petraeus's paradoxes, and it ought to be engraved as the cornerstone of U.S. policy going forward, regardless of whether there is a troop surge: "The Host Nation Doing Something Tolerably Is Normally Better than Us Doing It Well." In making this point, Petraeus cites the godfather of counterinsurgency warriors, Gen. Creighton Abrams, who said when he was U.S. commander in Vietnam in 1971: " We can't run this thing. . . . They've got to run it."

The last paragraph is, of course, itself fluff. What we are doing Well is – protecting American troops. The same thing that General McClellan did well in 1862. Compare this to, say, our post from June 26th, 2006, with which I will end this here long long long post:

... This misses the bloody crux, the structure, the very moral economy of the American way of warfare. If forces are kept to a minimum and if force is proportioned to some threshold point beyond which you antagonize the population, you will, inevitably, suffer much higher casualties. If American soldiers winnow through a village, looking only for insurgents, they are much likely to be injured or killed than if they plow through the village in the balls out, mega-American way. And the soldiers know that. The American soldier has been trained to think that the preservation of his life is the prime objective. He has been raised in the spirit of McLellan, and advances with the firepower of Grant, which is why America always wins the wars that it loses. This is why the American soldier is good in a battlefield situation such as presented itself in WWII, or in the First Gulf War, and entirely sucks at counterinsurgency. And will always suck. Because the higher risk brings with it the question: what am I doing here? Since American interests have nothing to do with the Iraq war – it was commenced and continued solely to serve the vanity of a small D.C. clique – the only way to keep waging it as what it is in reality – the usurpation of American forces for mercenary purposes on the part of a power mad executive – is to wage it with as few American deaths as possible. The Bush doctrine converges with the Powell doctrine – overwhelming force = lucrative contracts to war contractors + lack of visible sacrifice to the Bush base.

The logic here is inexorable. Either a greater number of Americans die, or a greater number of Iraqis die. Americans have decided to pretend that the greater the number of Iraqi deaths, the more the Americans are winning. That, of course, is bullshit. Which is why the argument that the U.S. troops should stay in for humanitarian reasons is bullshit – the logic of American strategy will continue to maximize the number of Iraqi deaths, or it will have to face the repulsion of American public opinion as American deaths go racheting up. It won’t do the latter. The rulers actually fear the American population in their nasty, prolonged wars. Fear that the population doesn't want to fight. This is their worry. This is what they work at. Both parties, it goes without saying. This is what all the bogus talk about "will" is about.

They are afraid of us. Doesn't that imply that they have something to be afraid about?

Stab this war in the back.


Le Colonel Chabert said...

Saulino: Oh, so what happened, what does Apollo have to say about his dear Hyacinth?

Sofia: Oh if you only knew how unhappy he is!

Saulino: Certainly I believe that his sadness has occasioned this darkness in the heavens, that's lasted over a week; his frowns are creating so many clouds, his sighs so many temptestuous winds, his tears a great deal of rain.

Sofia: You guessed it.

Saulino: So what happened to the poor boy?

Sofia: He's been sent off to some reform university of college to study the humanities and literature, and placed in the care of some pedant.

Saulino: Oh fortune, oh treacherous fate!

-Spaccio de la bestia trionfante

Le Colonel Chabert said...

university oR college, sorry

roger said...

lcc, o, why o why didn't I learn Italian in my mispent youth? I envy your knowledge. Can't you see that dialogue being sung from cloud to cloud in some Veronese painting? Although I don't know enough about opera to have the right to say that!

From what I can discern through the translations, Bruno was one of those baroque roughrider types I love - like Nashe, like Montaigne. He's giving me a lot of ideas.

Sadly, Bush, tonight, will continue his degredation of the poor jackass, since he so irresistably suggests one. The jackasses, I think, are not amused.