Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why is Iraq Going to Hell in a Handbasket?

An interesting read here on the GWOT. It touches on the future of Iraq, which ain’t looking too good right ‘bout now.  

See HERE and HERE and HERE.

Sanka freeze dried version of points on Iraq today:

1. U.S. invasion de-stabilized the place and allowed a foothold for Islamic terror organizations.
2. Iraq and U.S. national security interests would have been better served if we never invaded.
3. Iraq may split into three states, one Sunni (ugly) one Shia Iranian puppet (also ugly), one Kurd (not so ugly).
Quick hitters:

1. It was not the case during the whole of our involvement that the place was an uncontrollable mess. The surge was a high point of relative order and security.  Had we maintained that level of involvement and presence for a longer period of time without making clear there was any proximate date of withdrawal, it might have solidified and stability might have taken to an extent that would have made hand-off to the indigenous government more likely to succeed. So, it is arguable that it was not our invasion per-se that created the mess, but the invasion PLUS the short-term of occupation and the “lite” nature of the involvement in governance and security for the nascent state.
The author actually suggests something like this as a technique going forward in the war against Islamic terror organizations, but for use in “moderate Sunni states.”

…working more closely with the more moderate Sunni states in the Middle East. Our new efforts will require more aid (and unlike with some of our Syria promises, aid that is swiftly delivered when it can make a difference). They will mean more technical assistance and training. More shared intelligence. More military support and, yes, action when it is the only and best available option.

Yes, I know Maliki is Shia, but that difference aside, if we had been doing something like this in Iraq all along, while giving no signals of imminent baggage packing, maybe, just maybe, things would have gone differently.

Which brings us to point #2.
This counterfactual is hard to assess, but would either Iraq or the U.S. have been in a better place? How long would Hussein have gone on flouting UN resolutions? What would be the consequences? Would the international community have continued on that path or flagged in its resolve? Might not Iraq have become unstable anyway? If so, is a civil war not possible? Is it not possible that Shia militia, aided by Tehran and Syria would have behaved similarly to ways they did in pre-Surge days? Is it not possible that the Kurdish north would have become refuge for civilians fleeing the fighting and barbarism? Would it not be possible that Iraq dissolve into three separate regions?  If all of this would have been the case, then we would be no better off than now.

 If, on the other hand we had taken the steps outlined in #1, we would arguably now be better off, and Iran and Syria would be having less "input."  Once again, this is all counterfactual hypothesizing, so we really do not know.
This brings up #3.

Biden Lite: If Iraq had split into three states as part of a peaceful, long term political development made possible by substantial U.S. and coalition presence and mediation, then it would be more likely to be a stable situation, in that the new order would be something that did not come about due to warfare, actions and support of Iran and Syria but mutually agreed compact between Iraqis, under an extended period of peace, civil order, and political action.
If, on the other hand, Iraq splits into three states as a result of warfare fueled by Tehran and Syrian elements, the antagonisms will be more likely to continue, things will be more likely ‘hot’ and unstable rather than 'cool' and relatively stable.



Which is He Predicting, the Demise of English Departments, Literary Tradition or Books?

Samuel T. Cogley wants to know.

That is the question concerning the main point of this article.  I think the gist of the author’s point is captured here:

Only wealthy institutions will be able to afford the luxury of faculty devoted to studying written and printed text. Communications, rhetoric/composition, and media studies will take English’s place.


Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?


Narratives currently live in many different media, and there should be nothing wrong with academics considering them alongside print narratives.


As long as literature departments remain beholden to print culture, to the study and transmission of printed texts, they will continue to fade in relevance and prestige. Period-based (print) literature courses will continue to vanish in favor of disciplines that study and instruct students in contemporary media platforms. We need only to look at how successfully film and television migrated out of literature departments and into departments and schools of their own.

Some reactions:

1. Written texts come in E-versions. These are selling like hot-cakes.

More to the point:

2. Written text offers features none of the other forms of media offer, for purposes that none of the other forms can better serve.

a. In long-form narrative: the richest capacity to take the reader into the subjective life of the authors/characters, immersion in the stream of thought, emotional life, etc., of the people portrayed. Literature is unparalleled in this capacity, even if other forms of narrative can work similarly.

b. In analytical work: Books have the strongest ability to make very complex structures of thought objective (thus freeing up brain space that would otherwise be needed to memorize or retain already accomplished complex trains of thought/analysis as the author’s project of analysis continues ) thus allowing greater progress and facility in analysis. This holds true for individual authors and books, as well as traditions.  Consider how reliant science, philosophy, mathematics, law & etc., are on this aspect of literature. Once again, it simply does not matter that this literature may be instantiated in E-books. ‘Books is books.’ They have this unique function. Film, television and video games simply cannot do this.

c. The extrapolation from recent technological history contained in the article is probably false. Radio, film, television and information technology evolved in the 20th Century, and none have completely supplanted the others as forms of communication, entertainment and information dissemination. Each has a particular strength that is recognized and made use of. This guarantees its survival.  Each has limitations. This guarantees and urges innovation in technology, as well as retention of old technology.  Literature is an older technology that has an exactly similar relationship to these technologies. It still thrives because it best does certain things. (See above, and..yes, E-books count Samuel) To project that there will be a major supplanting of books by electronic media in human culture is historically inapt, in that it ignores these facts.

d. Therefore, there will always be a place for long-form literature (books), and its various genres in educational institutions.

e.  Try to do philosophy, science or law without using ‘world 3 objects.’ I double-dog dare ya.

f. Ditto history.

g. Ditto, history of narrative.

which is..

h. study of literature.

which is..

i. what English departments do.