Macho News

Well, here we are — still locked in a struggle with … Okay, let’s not bore each other with the details.  None of us can escape Doom Scrolling these days.   Personally, I find the numbers have gotten so big I quit trying to comprehend them — back in September.  However, I’m still planning the party for when we finally strangle the life out of this wicked little virus.  And the first toast is going to go to anyone in the medical profession.

But, despite our current global predicament, apparently no invisible bug can put a stop to macho, that strange phenom that turns normally reasonable people into WWE wrestlers.  But in the real world, they’re half as comical and twice as crazy.  Here are a couple of examples from the current news feed.

1 – For some unknown reason, they’re shooting at each other in some place I can’t pronounce in Central Asia.  Call me a cynic, but when Google’s Auto-correct can’t even find the place, there can’t be that much there to fight over.  Folks, look around you!  The world has problems, and who owns which bit of real estate 100 kilometres south of Tbilisi isn’t one of them.  Mother Nature is killing enough people on her own these days.  You don’t need to add to the carnage!

2 — There are a couple of games of “You-did-not/I-did-so” going on.
The American media reported somebody (read “the Israelis”) killed Al-Qaeda’s #2 man in Tehran.  The Iranians are saying, “No, they didn’t.” But, strangely enough, Abu – uh – (I don’t actually care what his name is) hasn’t showed up for his Suicide Bomber classes since August.  (You decide!)
Meanwhile, allegedly, the Chinese military used microwaves to literally cook the Indian army out of a disputed border area in the Himalayas.  The Indian government says, “No, they didn’t.”  But, given what we’ve recently discovered about Chinese culinary traditions, I wouldn’t be too quick to poo-poo the idea.

3 — In America, they’ve whipped out the lawyers to keep fighting the presidential election that was over several Tuesdays ago.  I’m not surprised: litigation is as American as baseball.  But given the various and sundry lawsuits circling the White House, this is rapidly turning into a 21st century rendition of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”

And finally:

4 — The folks at Big Pharma are acting like a bunch of schoolboys.  First of all, last week, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective.  Right after that, Moderna said “Oh, yeah?  Well, our vaccine is 95% effective!”  Then, right after that, Pfizer and BioNTech told everybody their vaccine was 95% effective, too, with no measurable side effects.  Not to be outdone, this week, the researchers at Oxford jumped into the fray and said their vaccine was almost 100% effective for old people.

Hey!  Just stop it!  Instead of dickin’ around, playing my-vaccine-can-beat-up-your-vaccine, how about getting it on the market?   There are 7.8 billion people on this planet who’ve been holding their breath since March, waiting on you.  I mean, thanks and all that, but really!

Mali: The Next Afghanistan!

Mali is one of those places we’ve all heard of but, without Google, can’t actually find on a map.  (I tried and only got close.)  In fact, it’s not exactly a country so much as an ill-defined area with poor people in it.  Most Westerners’ knowledge of Mali starts-and-stops with Timbuktu, the proverbial name for nowhere from our childhood.  At one time, it was the centre of a great trading empire (built on slaves and ivory) but by the time the French marched their Foreign Legion there at the end of the 19th century, all they found was a mud and waddle village.  According to all reports, they were deeply disappointed.

For the last half century, since independence from France in 1960, Mali has been kept in permanent poverty by UNICEF and a number of other well-meaning humanitarian agencies.  Unfortunately, since the Malians as just soul-suckingly poor, and not actually starving, people like Bono and Geldof give them a miss, and Oprah hasn’t built them any schools.  The only real distinction Mali has in the family of nations is it’s generally listed as the poorest place on the planet.  Mostly it flies under the radar — at least until now.  You can read about it here.

Mali is rapidly becoming a future destination for Western military might, and, like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq before it, many of our young people won’t be making the return journey vertically.  This deadly adventure is going to be brought to you by the dithering diplomats of the United Nations who are practically digging the graves even as we speak.  If it sounds as though I’ve lost my girlish laughter over these relentless debacles, it’s because I have.  I’m fed up to the eyeballs with career politicos weeping crocodile tears over the honoured dead, when they are the ones doing their incompetent best to stretch the casualty lists to the breaking point.  Let me explain.

Recently, a Moslem fundamentalist group (read Al Qaeda) has taken control ofPeople who have fled fighting in Mali rest at the Banibangou refugee camp in Niger northern Mali.  That’s the deserty bit that runs from Timbuktu to the Algerian border.  They now control a patch of real estate that’s roughly the size of Afghanistan.  Hmmm?  These boys (No Girls Allowed) are working flat out, to establish a safe haven for anybody with a homicidal grudge against the 21st century.  To that end, they’re collecting tons of Libyan weapons that NATO neglected to inventory after they bombed Gaddafi out of business.  They’re loading up on food, vehicles, oil, etc., creating safe routes in and out of Algeria, and generally digging in for the duration.  Basically, because nobody’s asked them to leave (the Mali military isn’t up to the task) they’re going full throttle Taliban and telling the legitimate Mali government to take a hike.

Cut to the chase: our world doesn’t exactly need yet another band of frontline fanatics hell-bent on destroying anything that doesn’t happen to fit their 7th century view of reality.  Nor, having seen the results in Somalia and Sudan, do we need another pack of heavily armed jihadists spreading their mutant Arab Spring across the lower Sahara.  Why?  Because recent history has shown us that, once these folks get established they tend to branch out.  Argue black is white all you want, but this Mali crew (actually, many of them aren’t locals) are eventually going follow the trail of their older brothers to London, Madrid and New York mali1and bring the battle to us.  Why?  They don’t like us.  They think we’re evil.  Everything we do sets their teeth on edge.  They don’t like our consumer society, our liberal education, our divorce rate, our homosexuals or our half-naked women.  They don’t like our social structure or our crazy adherence to the notion of democracy.   Plus, and most importantly, they don’t like our live-and-let-live brand of tolerance.  In the jihadist world, it’s their way or the highway.  No amount of reasonable discussion is going to change that.  These are facts, and anybody who hasn’t come to terms with them by now is either an abject apologist or a complete dolt.

The bottom line is at some point we’re going to have to fight these people.  Our only choice is where and when.  We can dick around like we did (and are still doing) in Afghanistan.  That’s basically waiting until all hell breaks loose and then getting tangled up in an Orwellian series of never-ending counterattacks with the resulting continuum of casualties.  Or we can exercise some political will and decide to commit our military and economic resources to the novel notion of victory — minimize the casualties (on both sides) and then go back to real life.

Unfortunately, it looks like the United Nations and the Western world are, once again, going to stick with Plan A.  So, I suggest you get out the Google Maps, folks — because Bamako, Kidal and Gao are going to be as familiar to our children as Darfur, Kabul and Mogadishu are to us.  And they are going to be there for a long time.

9/11: A Glimpse into the Future

Ten years is a long time.  Many contemporary relationships don’t last that long.  In fact, we’ve been living with terror longer than it took a friend of mine to adios two of her ex-husbands.  People need anniversaries, though, even if they are of terrible events like 9/11.  They’re important.  They’re like perpetual mid-term exams; they let us know whether we’ve been paying attention to the important bits or just spacing out.  However, on anniversaries, the natural tendency is to look back into the known world rather than forward into the unknown.  Despite assurances to the contrary, very few of us like to “Boldly go where no one has gone before.”

As a result, the talk across the media on 9/11 plus 10 is mostly about how much things have changed since Al Qaeda decided to play darts with some Boeing merchandise and how much safer we aren’t now that we’ve been forced to spent billions on safety.  It’s good to reevaluate, but without looking ahead, we’re always going to be playing catch up.  Given the deadly nature of defeat in this game, that’s not a good idea.  But before cable news resets the panic button to scary and you cruise back to Frontierville to avoid all the 24/7, 9/11 going on this week, here are a few realities that may be uncomfortable but which will probably make you feel better.

The fact is the world has changed since Osama Bin Laden unleashed his minions on New York City.  Like any surprise attack, 9/11 was reasonable successful for the bad guys, simply because it was a surprise.  Terrorists have a distinct advantage over unarmed and unprepared men, women and children.  That’s why they target them.  However, they don’t fare quite so well against the heavily armed boys and girls we’ve sent out to hunt them.  Most of the original Al Qaeda crew have met the harsh realities of Western military technology, powered by some pretty dedicated and determined young people – and whether you like this scenario or not, it’s a plus.

It’s also a plus that, even though we’re only marginally safer today than we were on Monday, September 10th, 2001, we are safer.  Fanatical killers have not turned our friendly skies into an obstacle course of flying firebombs.  There’ve been other serious attacks with major loss of life, but at this point, the murderers haven’t turned our cities into charnel houses, and we aren’t yet under siege.  I still don’t completely trust our strategy, but the bottom line is success.  So far, we’ve been reasonably successful.

Of course, the major difference between then and now has nothing to do with the West’s response to 9/11.  The simple truth is the much-heralded “Arab Street” is outrunning the vision Bin Laden and his boys had for the Arab world.  Their fascist dreams of a resurgent Caliphate are, for the most part, yesterday’s news compared to the revolutions that are rocking North Africa and beyond.  For the first time in a century, there are free exchanges of ideas going on in Tunis, Cairo and now Tripoli.  The ten-year-old salvation Bin Laden had to offer doesn’t mean the same thing to people today who have popular power within their grasp.  The major sponsors of terror — Iran and Syria — are becoming more and more isolated, not only from their own people but from the rest of the Arab world.  Dreams are shifting across the sands of North Africa and throughout the Moslem world.  They’re new dreams, shaped in the last couple of years – if not months.

We in the West need to understand that Moslems are not a monolith, like the Sphinx, stuck forever in one particular pose.  Our world has changed dramatically in the last decade and most of it has nothing to do with 9/11.  So too, the Arab world has changed, and so too, 9/11 didn’t change it.  History does not halt on horrible events or follow a singular course.  No one incident dictates the rest of time.  History has a way of continuing and changing things – here and around the world.  I’m not saying Osama Bin Laden isn’t still a hero to many Moslems, nor am I saying the terrorist threat to us is over.  I’m saying things are different now, and we need to realign our priorities.

Ten years ago, the military response to terrorism was the best one.  It’s still a pretty good option today.  After all, unless your name is Gandhi, you realize that it’s impossible to negotiate with someone who’s willing to pump 50 calibre bullets into the back of a fleeing 10 year old.  We still have nothing to discuss with fanatics who see murder as a legitimate political choice, so we might as well shoot first.  However, here in 2011, we also have a far greater range of ways to deal with terrorism than we did ten years ago.  For the first time since 9/11, we have the chance to stop the bomber rather than just hope to hell we can defuse the bomb.

In the next few years, much more of Bin Laden’s old world is going to be swept away.  We in the West need to be part of that process.  Our assistance is vital to the new world that’s forming across North Africa.  We have a great opportunity to further isolate these fascists (we call them terrorists) who want to hijack not only the Moslem people, but their religion, as well.  If we do it right, 9/11 will change.  To future generations, it will become this generation’s Pearl Harbor; not a horrible beginning to a never ending war but a sad and solemn memorial to a terrible day in history.