The Barbarians Within Our Gates

christians-eradicated-in-iraqThis article, which got buried in my drafts dates from last September, but little has changed, I think.

Hisham Melhem is the Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based satellite channel. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. I  find him to read like a man who knows whereof he speaks, and understands the culture far better than most of us do, and who laments the destruction of his culture.

I think it worth our time to read, and to reflect on what he says here.

With his decision to use force against the violent extremists of the Islamic State, President Obama is doing more than to knowingly enter a quagmire. He is doing more than play with the fates of two half-broken countries—Iraq and Syria—whose societies were gutted long before the Americans appeared on the horizon. Obama is stepping once again—and with understandably great reluctance—into the chaos of an entire civilization that has broken down.

Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms. With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf—which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos—and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

Is it any surprise that, like the vermin that take over a ruined city, the heirs to this self-destroyed civilization should be the nihilistic thugs of the Islamic State? And that there is no one else who can clean up the vast mess we Arabs have made of our world but the Americans and Western countries?

No one paradigm or one theory can explain what went wrong in the Arab world in the last century. There is no obvious set of reasons for the colossal failures of all the ideologies and political movements that swept the Arab region: Arab nationalism, in its Baathist and Nasserite forms; various Islamist movements; Arab socialism; the rentier state and rapacious monopolies, leaving in their wake a string of broken societies. No one theory can explain the marginalization of Egypt, once the center of political and cultural gravity in the Arab East, and its brief and tumultuous experimentation with peaceful political change before it reverted back to military rule.

Nor is the notion of “ancient sectarian hatreds” adequate to explain the frightening reality that along a front stretching from Basra at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Beirut on the Mediterranean there exists an almost continuous bloodletting between Sunni and Shia—the public manifestation of an epic geopolitical battle for power and control pitting Iran, the Shia powerhouse, against Saudi Arabia, the Sunni powerhouse, and their proxies.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/the-barbarians-within-our-gates-111116.html#ixzz3VDDOy6NN

I have little to add to what he says. But my point is that, whatever happens, in the Arab/Muslim world, we in the United States, and western Europe will find ourselves drawn in.

It behooves us to inform ourselves about the situation,, or we will undoubtedly do more harm than good. We should remember though, that we cannot fix the world, nor does all the world want to be like us, and it is up to them, not us to decide. That does not preclude us from attempting to persuade and encourage those whose goal strike us as laudable but, there are limits.

Read and reflect

Leviathan

English: Washington, D.C. (Jan. 16, 2007) - Su...

English: Washington, D.C. (Jan. 16, 2007) – Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, speaks to an audience of 300 during the official naming ceremony of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first aircraft carrier in the Ford class of carriers. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shawn P. Eklund (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Wikipedia

Leviathan:
Mythical creature
Leviathan is a sea monster referenced in the Tanakh, or the Old Testament. The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature.

From Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan

Sometimes a man desires to know the event of an action; and then he thinketh of some like action past, and the events thereof one after another, supposing like events will follow like actions. As he that foresees what will become of a criminal re-cons what he has seen follow on the like crime before, having this order of thoughts; the crime, the officer, the prison, the judge, and the gallows. Which kind of thoughts is called foresight, and prudence, or providence, and sometimes wisdom; though such conjecture, through the difficulty of observing all circumstances, be very fallacious. But this is certain: by how much one man has more experience of things past than another; by so much also he is more prudent, and his expectations the seldomer fail him. The present only has a being in nature; things past have a being in the memory only; but things to come have no being at all, the future being but a fiction of the mind, applying the sequels of actions past to the actions that are present; which with most certainty is done by him that has most experience, but not with certainty enough. And though it be called prudence when the event answereth our expectation; yet in its own nature it is but presumption. For the foresight of things to come, which is providence, belongs only to him by whose will they are to come. From him only, and supernaturally, proceeds prophecy. The best prophet naturally is the best guesser; and the best guesser, he that is most versed and studied in the matters he guesses at, for he hath most signs to guess by.

A sign is the event antecedent of the consequent; and contrarily, the consequent of the antecedent, when the like consequences have been observed before: and the oftener they have been observed, the less uncertain is the sign. And therefore he that has most experience in any kind of business has most signs whereby to guess at the future time, and consequently is the most prudent: and so much more prudent than he that is new in that kind of business, as not to be equalled by any advantage of natural and extemporary wit, though perhaps many young men think the contrary.

Two things, one a simple mythical creature, one a group of complex thoughts about experience, with no relation:

One word.

Or are they completely separate?

Or do they intersect?

Here maybe.

On 9 November 3013 the United States Navy will launch and christen CVN 78, The USS Gerald R. Ford.

This will mark the beginning of a new class of aircraft carriers that will be in service for the next 94 years. With exception of the hull, virtually everything has been redesigned to make the Ford class more capable and more powerful than in the Nimitz class. This new class of carrier will build on the legendary performance of the Nimitz class carriers and will provide 25 percent more combat capability, increased service life margins throughout the ship to handle the aircraft and weapon systems of the future including unmanned aircraft and futuristic directed energy weapons, as well as driving down the total ownership cost of the ship by $4 billion over its 50 year service.
The ship’s island is smaller and moved farther aft than on the Nimitz class and that there are no rotating antennas on atop the island. This is because CVN 78 will be the first ship to get the new dual-band radar that operates with phased array radars similar to AEGIS.
The smaller island and its location farther aft also provides for more flight deck space that combined with new weapons elevators and a NASCAR pit stop refueling concept will allow us to rearm and refuel aircraft faster to turn them around for the next mission. The net result is a 25 percent increase in sortie generation rate as compared to a Nimitz class carrier.

Continue reading CVN 78

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast;

for I intend to go in harm’s way.

Captain John Paul Jones, USN

Last Patrol for a Legend

Yesterday the USS Enterprise CVN 65 set off on its last mission. The Enterprise has been doing this since 1961 when she became the first Nuclear power aircraft carrier. She served in the Cuban Missile Crises,Vietnam, the Evacuation of Saigon, several tours in the Middle East and is now heading there again on her final mission. From CNN:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=us/2012/03/12/dnt-va-enterprise-last-voyage.wvec

Enterprise is, of course, one of the most hallowed names in the United States Navy.

The first was a sloop of war captured from the British by Benedict Arnold which fought at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain.

The 3d ship of the name served starting in the quasi war with France and in the First Tripolitan War capturing the brig Tripoli and helping USS Constitution capture the ketch Mastico which was used by Decatur to burn the Philadelphia in Tripoli Harbor. During the War of 1812 Enterprise captured 4 ships including the HMS Boxer. After the war Enterprise was on patrol in the Caribbean against slavers, pirates, and smugglers of whom she captured 13.

USS Enterprise

The 6th USS Enterprise is , of course, the most famous. This is CV6 the most decorated ship of World War 2, commissioned in 1938 and serving till 1947, the Big E served all through the Pacific campaign from before Pearl harbor and through Tokyo Bay.

Enterprise at SLC-6 at Vandenberg AFB

It probably wouldn’t hurt to note that another famous Enterprise, NCC-1701 was most probably named after CV-6. You probably remember her Captain, James Kirk. And that still another Enterprise, OV-101, the very first Space shuttle was named after NCC-1701.

And that brings us back to the Current USS Enterprise, CVN 61, which is probably the most distinctive aircraft carrier in the world. Oh, did I mention that the Enterprise also starred in Top Gun.

While this is not an exhaustive account of these ships, it is enough for you to understand why there are several active online petitions to get hull number CVN-80, the third in the Navy’s new Gerald Ford class of carriers, named the Enterprise. That ship is planned to be commissioned in 2021.

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