Wednesday, December 20, 2006

FULL METAL STOCKING. alicublog must have been good this year, because Santa has of late bestowed upon us a lot of Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters columns. Today's is a book review:
IF a prize were awarded for the most-improved government publication of the decade, we could choose the winner now: "Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency" (MCWP 3-33.5 for the Marine Corps). Rising above abysmal earlier drafts, the Army and Marines have come through with doctrine that will truly help our troops.
What was wrong with the old drafts? "Too much 'peace, love and understanding' silliness," says the General. Hmm. Here is a pdf of one of those "early drafts"; my reading of it has not been thorough, but I can't be sure what parts Peters finds so hippie-ish. Maybe it's the references to "human rights considerations," "reconstruction efforts," etc. Maybe it's the declaration that the first military objective of counterinsurgency is to "Protect the population."

As we have seen, despite his occasional, probably tactical, professions of interest in the welfare of the wogs, Peters is nowadays less interested in democracy than in order, by any means necessary. Attend to one of his cavils with even the new, tougher manual:
The drafters cite the anomalous example of Malaya (while downplaying that campaign's violence), but ignore the same-decade example of the Mau-Mau revolt, in which the British won a complete victory -- thanks to concentration camps, hanging courts and aggressive military operations.
Where once the General was waxing sentimental about the aspirations of the fledgling Iraqi Republic ("More and more Iraqis are stepping up to build a better society"), he now speaks admiringly of the concentration camps and hanging courts installed by a dying empire. What a difference nine months, and perhaps a change in medication, makes!

Heedless cruelty is not really what makes a prize Peters peroration, though: it's teh crazy, and the General obligingly brings the batshit:
A huge gap remaining in the doctrine is that, except for a few careful mentions, it ignores the role of the media. Generals have told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue - any suggestion that the media are complicit in shaping outcomes excites punitive media outrage.

To be fair, the generals are right. Had the manual described the media's irresponsible, partisan and too-often-destructive roles, it would have ignited a firestorm. Yet, in an age when media lies and partisan spin can overturn the verdict of the battlefield, embolden our enemies and decide the outcome of an entire war, pretending the media aren't active participants in a conflict cripples any efforts that we make.

The media are now combatants -- even if we're not allowed to shoot back. Our enemies are explicit in describing the importance of winning through the media. Without factoring in media effects, any counterinsurgency plan will go forward at a limp.
This is delightful. One imagines the tone of the conversation just prior to the moment when "Generals... told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue": The MSM is the enemy! Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of news that a moment before was your best face on a bad situation -- (sharp wave of the riding crop) -- you'll know what to do.

"Too loaded," indeed. Hope your holidays are equally festive.

UPDATE. Speaking of Our Enemy The Media, Commenter MSW144 points out this corker by previously proven culture war madman Stanley Kurtz:
...Media coverage of Iraq has been biased, and that bias has indeed helped to shape events there for the worse. At the same time, conservative distrust of the media’s very real bias has inclined us to dismiss reports about problems in Iraq that are real.

In the end, I think the media bears fundamental responsibility for this.
This conclusion is a duh-huh-wha? brain-freezer on the order of "And though I may be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews," but Kurtz' explanation is ever better:
Had they been less biased–had they reported acts of heroism and the many good things we have done in Iraq–I think conservatives would actually have taken their reporting of the problems in Iraq more seriously. In effect, the media’s consistent liberal bias discredits even its valid reports.
I guess we could have observed every precaution, and equipped all of our warnings that Iraq was a mistake with a little picture of G.I. Joe giving a chocolate bar to an Arab, thus encouraging conservatives to pay attention. Maybe eventually America will resemble Quebec, with bilingual road signs -- e.g., one might say DANGER: BRIDGE OUT, while the one for conservatives might say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS BY NOTICING THAT THE BRIDGE IS OUT! SEMPER FI! It would be a nuisance, but we're liberals -- we should be kind to retards.

UPDATE II. At OpinionJournal, Joseph Rago (didn't he co-write Hair?) hates blogs but hates the cursed MSM ever worse. How to reconcile? Rago breaks it down:
Certainly the MSM, such as it is, collapsed itself. It was once utterly dominant yet made itself vulnerable by playing on its reputed accuracy and disinterest to pursue adversarial agendas. Still, as far from perfect as that system was, it was and is not wholly imperfect. The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world, it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we've allowed decay to pass for progress.
If I understand Rago correctly, rightwing blogs ought to recognize that they aren't replacing the MSM -- rightwing magazines and newspapers are! So Rago and the newsprint boys will provide the "originality, expertise and seriousness," and you punks can do the Michael Moore jokes.

Early results indicate that the blogboys are clashing with the paperboys over this, each fighting for the right to take Pinch Sulzburger's throne, just as soon as the New York Times gets a clue that all those millions in paid circulation and advertising dollars are as nothing compared to the awesome potential power held by a bunch of assholes with free websites. Someday their girlfriends who are temporarily located in another state will show up, and then you'll all see!

The crisis will last until Jeff Jarvis chimes in, at which point everyone will realize it's bullshit.

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