Monday, May 02, 2016

Naughty Boyz

 Bad bad, bad, bad boy,
you make me feel so good
You naughty, bad, bad, bad, bad boy 
--Bad Boy, Gloria Estefan

 A bad little kid
Moved into my neighborhood
He won't do nothing right
Just a sitting got to look so good 
--Bad Boy, the Beatles

 Bad guy (slang) n.:
a morally bad person or character. 
A villain
 --Merriam-Webster online  

Welcome to hell  
--Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Three bona fide terrorism subject matter experts speaking in a recent Charley Rose round table all referred to the Islamic State as the "Bad Guys", reflecting the general consensus of United State's government and military leaders. So this is what the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) has devolved to -- getting bad guys.

You know what Ranger is going to say: in what code book, Hague Convention or United Nation guidelines is "bad guys" defined? When did being a Bad Guy earn you a death sentence?

"Since August, 2014, the United States has invested more than eleven million dollars a day in military operations, including almost nine thousand airstrikes on Iraq and more than five thousand on Syria" (How the Curse of Sykes-Picot Still Haunts the Middle East). The U.S. is dropping bombs faster than they can make 'em, hoping that we will hit a bad guy in the bursting radius.

The problem with "Bad Guys" is that the descriptor depends on which side of the fence you house your goats. To some people, President George W. Bush is a very Bad Guy -- war crime sort of bad. To others, he is a hero. Go figure.

How do you define Bad Guy? Is he a fundamentalist who likes terrorism? Is he a guy who will torture someone whom his government calls a Bad Guy, with nary a qualm of conscience? Do they trade in oil and deceit? Are they the arms dealers represented by U.S. interests?

Know this: the fundies and terrorists of ISIS would not exist without a U.S. foreign policy that affects oil and arms in the region. 

What color is your bad? 

When the objectives of war are the killing of bad guys, we have entered a vague moral ground and left a legal, political or military one. Bad guys is a concept a religious person can utter with certainty: "bad" or "evil" is something which is not them. Moreover, it must be destroyed. The problem is, only gods do battle with amorphous concepts like evil. 

When secular states like the U.S. kill on the basis of eradicating "badness" or "evil", we should recognize the futility of the mission. All of the evil in the world cannot be bombed into submission or non-existence. 

Know this, too: we are playing the devil's game, and there will be hell to pay.

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Anonymous David Vogt said...

The nice thing about a war on "bad guys" is that you can expand or shrink your list of enemies at will, I suppose.

What do you see as the endgame here? I guess a lot depends on what happens this fall but it seems to me that the U.S. is gradually backing itself into three options that the government will see as unpalatable: (a) continue bombing ineffectually forever, (b) occupy Syria and attempt to build a new regime there, or (c) simply leave.

C is probably not a bad option but will be seen as admitting defeat. B will be seen as politically impossible. That leaves A which seems pointless.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 7:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I have no answers, only observations.
When something, anything starts out bad it cannot end up good.
That's as simple as a Ranger can state the obvious.
Ask yourself- why do we bomb the ISIS dudes?
How many Americans have they killed?
Haven't we killed, or claimed to kill 26,000 of them?
For what militarily defined purpose?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 7:55:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David Vogt said...

In answer to your questions -

I'm probably preaching to the choir here as they say, but in my opinion this was never about militarily defined purposes, the political objectives were stupid, and the measures taken to date are counterproductive to the political objectives anyways. I'm Canadian; other than the air campaign, my country's contribution is special forces trainers for the Kurds. But thinking that a strong, armed Kurdish militia will stabilize Syria is asinine -- the Kurds probably don't even WANT a strong, stable Syria. Not to mention that they are considered a terrorist group by our supposed ally, Turkey. Now you can say that Turkey is a dubious regime that is only in NATO for obsolete Cold War reasons, but really, what's the point of NATO if we're going to funnel arms or training to groups that will use them against NATO members?

But even given all that the Western coalition is going to have to leave Syria eventually. My original question was how that was going to happen. It seems like we're risking Vietnam-style escalation here - first an air mission, then advisors, and eventually a lot of infantry, for no real reason, because even if nation-building was a valid political objective, we still haven't figured out how to do it effectively.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 11:21:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think ISIS and Al Nusra and some other "bad guys" were, originally, useful tools to the extent that some were even called "good guys". This is when we hoped they would overthrow the Syrian govt. and maybe even threaten Iran's power play in the so called "Shia Crescent". But then the good little attack dog threatened to turn on its handlers (Israel, Saudi and US) and proudly did horrible things that became public and an embarrassment. Now a bad doggie, the Israelis and Saudis sought to have it muzzled.

So the US flew some ineffective sorties and hit some machinegun carrying pickup trucks once in a while. The US still hoped that some bad dogs could get back on the leash and follow commands. There were no good dogs to be found. Some did some tricks when commanded, but then gave their reward bone and biscuits to the bad dogs. So the US decided that the opportunity to muzzle the beasts had passed, if it ever existed and began the effort to put them down. Yet still there was lingering hope that maybe, just maybe, they would fatally bite Al Assad before they all died.

Enter Russia, which dashed (pun) all hope and increased the dog handlers embarrassment. Now the dogs will die. But how? How to put them down without expending too much on dog catchers?

That, IMO, is the story of this little chapter in US foreign policy ingenuity.

So it might be even stupider than a simple cartoon about bad guys.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 2:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Thank you, avedis, for introducing the apt canine metaphor. (And I like your "da(e)shed".)

We often do find nursery rhymes or pop culture to nicely summate a world historical event, so we will let the Baha Man and their "Who Let the Dogs Out" to simplify it even further:

Who let the dogs out?
When the party was nice, the party was bumpin' [Hey, Yippie, Yi, Yo]
And everybody havin' a ball

but now it's all,

"Get back Ruffy", and, after all, "a doggy ain't nuttin' if he don't have a bone", no?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 9:54:00 PM GMT-5  

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