Friday, April 27, 2007

A Minor Jolt

I've been out with the flu; I'll post on things political in a few days.

While flat on my back I reread "Starship Troopers" for maybe the twentieth time. I've recommended it to others who've never read Heinlein and used it as the topic of impromptu essays at various schools over the years. I think I first read it at the age of 12. "Twentieth time" may be an undercount.

Reading it in one sitting this week, I was struck by a flaw in Heinlein's writing, or it seemed a flaw: Rico talks about Man's traits versus those of the etees, but he doesn't know whether they'll prove superior. He doesn't know the ultimate outcome of the war.

At first, I put this down to editorial error by Heinlein, as if he didn't write the ending until the very end, and so left these open-ended questions in the text by mistake.

Then I considered that Heinlein is probably the finest craftsman of science fiction ever, and asked myself how this could be a deliberate authorial decision? Easily--Rico doesn't know the outcome of the war, because Rico doesn't make it.

Reread that last chapter, with the introductory verses on sacrifice. Note how it ends with an interruption. Note that it's followed by a posthumous Medal of Honor citation. There's even some foreshadowing, where Rico maintains much earlier how much morale is helped because "the last thing in a Trooper's ears before the drop, possibly the last thing he ever hears, is the sound of a woman's voice wishing him luck."

I've read the book over twenty years and this never occurred to me. I've become convinced I'm right, because it resolves that annoying "glitch" and it gives the whole discourse a real nobility, the dignity of a last will and testament, instead of another space opera. As I write this I think on most of Heinlein's other works, and how often a major character dies nobly, and I'm sure I'm right. A minor slap in the face by a great author I've misread for years.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jeremiad

  1. The level of US military commitment is reasonable and sustainable over time given our population and economy. Whether the US military gets the appropriate level of funding isn't certain, but it's not because we don't have it.
  2. The level of violence in Iraq has been tolerable and endurable. It has not prevented the development of the Iraqi state. It has not prevented the recovery of the Iraqi economy. There are dozens of examples in Africa of more furious, destructive warfare than Iraq.
  3. "National security"--our ability to ship passengers and goods freely within our borders by air, rail, truck, or boat; our existence in open cities without curfew or checkpoint; depend on Muslim governments hunting down their own people on our behalf. Their commitment to this dangerous and difficult chore hinges on respect for American retaliation if they don't, and respect for American support if they are attacked from within while they do so.
  4. Abandoning Iraq to internal revolt funded by Iran and Al-Qaeda will end twenty years of US presence in Central Asia, as everyone from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia realizes the US government is more likely to blame internal politics for failure, than commit our awesome power on behalf of a beleaguered ally. Out of Iraq means Out of Afghanistan, Out of Pakistan, Out of Kuwait, Out of Qatar, Out of Dhubai, Out of Saudi. Iran and Saudi Arabia will forge a consensus alright--the rise of a nuclear OPEC.

  5. This is the reality and the metaphysical whine that you, or millions, or even most Americans, really don't want to face up these things is not "reality". Calling on Iran and Russia and China and Europe to save us by conferring legitimacy is not reality-- they are adamant that the USA become just another regional power and grant them their own spheres of influence, and ANY request--famine relief to Africa, antiterrorism, disarmament--is going to be filtered by their primary goal of clipping the wings of the American eagle.
  6. So long as Americans insist true wisdom comes from taking whatever comes, our country fall into steeper decline until you are forced, literally compelled for your very lives, to fight for a world that is "safe for democracy".

Monday, April 09, 2007

Well...

What can I afford to do about it?

Not much, at present.

We'll see what I can do over a month. Meanwhile, unless I keep sneaking onto the internet at work, there will be more hiatus.