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Thread: Understanding the Enemy

  1. #21
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I also suggest that the final question,

    "Why are we doing this" holds the key to the other two.

    If there is no good answer to that final question in the eyes of the beholder -- not in the eyes of he, she or they who made the commitment to do 'this' whatever it was -- then the other issues become clouded and people get confused.

    For example, attacking Iraq made perfect sense to me on the basis that we had responded poorly or not at all to 22 years of provocations emanating from the ME. Having lived there for a while and thus having some small insights into the prevailing mentality there, I took it for what it was (to me and simplistically here stated); a massive response by the entire Tribe to numerous assaults on the dignity of the Tribe in the form of typical desert pin-prick raids which of themselves are not terribly effective or harmful but which do tend to erode the superior position of the Tribe. Thus, in my view, the attack was worthwhile and made a great deal of sense. I believe that my view was shared by some, particuarly in the ME (who none the less objected because they didn't like the precedent).

    A more west-centric view would discard my thought process and opt for the belief that the attack was ill advised. IF the west-centric viewer in question was sorting out TTP or solutions to use in Iraq, the probability is that some bad decisions would be made simply because the 'why' quotient was not known or was misunderstood...

    Thus, as Marc says, "most cultures do" make the same mistakes over and over because they do not do a good job of determining why they are doing what they are doing -- or of properly explaining why they are doing what they are doing. Proper understanding by all concerned of that last point is the factor that causes confusion on the answers to the other two questions.

    That's why WW II got broad popular support (on both sides), the 'why we are doing this' was quite clear and unambiguous. Most wars since then have been poorly handled in most regards because even the fighters weren't sure why they were doing what they were doing. That, I suspect will get worse before it gets better.
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-16-2009 at 04:36 PM. Reason: Typos

  2. #22
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Well...

    We're trained that if we are stuck in restricted terrain and misoriented, then we stop, take a knee, pull out the map and compass, and reorient ourselves...

    I don't see why that simple tactic should not be applied to many other issues.

    v/r

    Mike

  3. #23
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post It often is being done

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    We're trained that if we are stuck in restricted terrain and misoriented, then we stop, take a knee, pull out the map and compass, and reorient ourselves...

    I don't see why that simple tactic should not be applied to many other issues.

    v/r

    Mike
    The problem is that 24/7 media cycles, international agendas, and internal bickering never take a break so a lot of times you won't see changes until after they have actually already started.

    Kinda brings back why doing whats right is a better direction than doing things the "right" way. The former generally remains the same for everyone while the latter tends to be a reflection of prisms.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  4. #24
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Add to that the fact that Politicians and

    Generals (among others... ) do not like to admit error for obvious reasons in most cases -- to the extent of not making course corrections because that implies an earlier failing -- and you have a recipe for a screw up. Complicate that by putting in another relatively clueless person high up the food chain and it only gets worse. Until someone comes along and unsticks it..

    Plenty of historical examples. Some hysterical ones also -- unfortunately, when the occur in conjunction with geopolitics and this trade, they're rarely funny.

  5. #25
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    Some of this goes back to the classic thread most of us posted on concerning the issuance of a single narrative. When you are trying to state the facts only and do so in a manner that outcycles the bad guys, the single narrative is critical.

    I absolutely agree that the azimuth check is important beyond words. Simply blundering forward without any deliberation on what is working (and why) dooms not only you to failure down the road, but also others who cover down on your TTPs.

    Sometimes we are faced with the single narrative, as addressed in the initial part of this thread, that is so strong that we cannot hope to ever outcycle or overcome its power, emotional draw, and mobilization effect. We can make the cost of acting on beliefs very high, but as the COIN fight drags out, I think history bears out that the phases of the campaign shift and become more convoluted. The masses might not be mobilized to action, but their implicit support for the insurgent remains...almost like the mother who cannot turn her thug son away from the door when he comes knocking, bleeding from a gang war gunfight.

  6. #26
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Current Narrative

    The current narrative is best defined by Abu Bakr Naji's The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage through which the Umma will Pass.

    It is the evolution of radical Islamic thought deriving from Sayyid Qutb's work long ago in an Egyptian cell. For some fringe movements, it lays out a methodical, rational explanation of the corruption and disenfranchisement and grievances provoked of western democracy and capitalism.

    For Americans, this text is difficult to comprehend. Marc- please let me know if I'm off base with this. I believe it is simply how we think and actually process our thoughts.

    For example, Americans think and read in terms of left to right, and our thought centers around I. I walked to school today. I visited small wars journal.

    For Germans, thought and words are the direct opposite. It is how the world affects them not vice versa.

    For Chinese, one-hundred and eleven is translated one, one, one.

    I'm not sure how the Arab mind works besides understanding they read right to left, and they tend to think more romantically in verse rather than prose.

    I think this insight is the distinction in our lack of communication. I'd enjoy y'alls feedback particularly if I'm off base.

    v/r

    Mike

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I don't think you're off base at all. Only thing I'd say

    in response to your post is: Yes, it's complex -- and we have to insure that in an effort to understand, we do not over simplify.

    Some time ago in a thread not worth regurgitating; Wilf and 120mm contended that cultural differences were not significant, that people were, in effect, people. While there is a great deal of truth in that belief, as there is in your stated theories, I said then that I think the truth is far more nuanced. Still think that.

    I lived and operated on the local economy (everything from where I lived, to all food, people I hung out with and to how I traveled throughout the country and indeed, the entire region -- with a couple of exceptions...) in Iran for a couple of years. That allowed me to arrive at some insights on Middle Eastern thought processes, particularly about military or combat things -- but I absolutely, positively did not become an 'expert.' So be skeptical.

    I also have several years each in North and Southeast Asia but not that much time on the local economy. However I did learn a little about operating modes and local cultures. Less time in Europe and Latin America but I was struck in those two by far more similarities than differences. Anyway, I'm well traveled but am emphatically not a know-it-all. So with respect to what I say on the topic of cultural knowledge, be skeptical.

    Since then and particularly in the last few years, I've read a great deal written by purported ME experts and I'll tell anyone this: The western 'experts' often get it really wrong for various reasons. Be skeptical.

    The Middle Easterners who write in the west (in English) often tell it wrong and rarely tell all they know. Those of the ME in the ME will frequently write or say one thing in English (or any western tongue) and quite another in Arabic or Farsi. Everyone in the ME has an agenda and it will usually be concealed as it supposed to be (Zaher versus Batin). Be skeptical.

    I do not believe it is possible for one raised in the west to really understand either Asian or ME thought processes other than superficially -- and I suspect the reverse is true. One can obtain some knowledge and use that knowledge. What I do not think can be done, other than in very few quite rare individuals of all races, is to truly understand another, very different culture.

    The entire ME, for example spent many years under the domination of one or another Persian Empires (and the Iraniha recall this, yes, they do...) and thus many mores and attitudes are derived from the Persian ( to include Zaher and Batin and, very importantly, the concept of Class and a pecking order, Ta'arof). Other than Iran, they were later dominated by the Desert Arab tribes and acquired some added ideas (not least of escalating small raids as an economy of force measure). Then they were ruled by the Turks accumulating still more and different ideas (including personal bravery and manipulating reports). That was followed by western intrusion (introducing greed and selfishness as well as geopolitical manipulation) and the City dwellers took over from the rural Tribes (bringing deviousness and haggling to new heights). Oh and don't forget the Greeks and the Romans also puttered around, dropping seed and whatever -- unless one has all those sometimes complimentary (but different) ideas and competing ideas inculcated from birth, one is highly likely to get the cultural milieu wrong if one tries too hard.

    Pay attention to the big things and try to get them right while accepting that you're unlikely to ever fully understand the finer things. That usually will be okay. Above all and always -- be skeptical.
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-17-2009 at 09:02 PM. Reason: Forgot a word

  8. #28
    Council Member CPT Foley's Avatar
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    Default Strive to understand the culture that produces the enemy

    We do need to better understand the Muslim world to win the IO battle. It's less about understanding the enemy than understanding the complex culture that produces the enemy.

    We don't need to turn Soldiers into Fouad Ajami, but we need an Officer & NCO Corps committed to learning Arab culture/history & Islam just as well as they learned Air-Land Battle. Lots of our Soldiers are, but it still needs more focus. Soldiers interested in pursuing Middle Eastern Study degrees should get exponentially greater tuition assistance incentives, etc.

    There are no guarantees that we will ever gain 'understanding', but we will be better equipped to.

  9. #29
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    Default Great link, Mike ...

    I've managed to read through it up to p.107.

    Here are some initial thoughts.

    Some background on "Abu Bakr Naji" - apparently a covert and clandestine personality.

    Sayyeed Abdul A'la Maududi, "Jihad in Islam"; Sayyid Qutb, "Milestones"; Abdullah Azzam, "Defense of the Muslim Lands"; Ayman al-Zawahiri, "Knights Under the Prophet's Banner"; and the AQ statements in the Al Qaeda Reader, are useful background.

    Modern Western readers will find several features foreign to modern "Western Constructs" governing political action and military action:

    1. Belief in the real presence of God and Satin, with religious principles governing all aspects of the Umma's life and its relationahip to others (a theonomy; last seen in Western polity in the Middle Ages). This construct was not foreign to Westerners of the past, even after the Middle Ages (e.g., the Jesuit Relations); but today, secularism and the concept of church-state separation make it seem quite foreign.

    2. Non-acceptance of Western constructs, such as the UN and the GCs. That is not to say that rules similar to the GCs will not be applied in specific situations; but, in other sitauations, rules contrary to the GCs will be applied (I've touched on that elsewhere). These folks have their own JAG officers !

    3. Political action and military action are not intersections of two coins, or the flip sides of the same coin; but are the face of the same coin:

    (p.85, 86-87 .pdf)
    We urge that most of the leaders of the Islamic movement be military leaders or have the ability to fight in the ranks, at the very least. Likewise, we also urge that those leaders work to master political science just as they would work to master military science.
    ....
    The interest in understanding the rules of the political game and the political reality of the enemies and their fellow travelers and then mastering disciplined political action through sharia politics and opposing this reality is not less than the importance of military action, especially if we consider that the moment of gathering the fruit—a moment which is considered the recompense for the sacrifices offered by the mujahids during long decades—is a moment resulting from a political strike and a decisive political decision. Of course, military strikes preceded and even accompanied it; but the final moment and the fate (of the movement) depends on skillful political management. Even the whole course of fighting requires good political managment so that the best results will be achieved. Additionally, there is a very important point: The meaning of every reference in this paragraph to political management is that the political decision issues from the military leader, but the entire political administration or most of it should be made up of warriors from among the assistants of the military leaders and their troops. Those are the people who should take an interest in studying the political dimension. The battle is their battle before it is the battle of others, so one should emphasize the danger of leaving the political decision in the hands of those who do not engage in military battles for any reason.
    The concept is that war is too important to be left to the politicians - I'm getting close to being too cute by half; but that is what it boils down to.

    A corollary is that any operation involving violence (small, medium or large) is considered part of the military wing - in short, the operators are deemed to be soldiers, regardless of whether we accept or reject that definition.

    Naji's construct involves three stages; but they seem to be somewhat different from those of Mao, etc. More of that in the rest of the book, which I have to finish reading.

  10. #30
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default One Creative Alternative...

    Excellent posts by all. Thanks for the input. Here is a cross-post from Goesh that seems to fit inside this thread. Give it some thought.

    By no means am I a scholar or academic despite having a Masters Degree and one (1) year of postgraduate work under my belt. Having never been in Iraq, my opinions are simply that. My involvement in a 3rd world war, Viet Nam and direct living experience with two (2) other groups of 3rd worlders, one of which was Muslim, gives me pause to suggest that "the wicked problem" is by no means unique and distinctive to Iraq. We are collectively the wicked problem and always have been and each generation views their predicament as the most intense and difficult ever. I would suggest that our Western linear thinking heightens our sensitivity, at times to the point of compulsive thinking but this is not to deny that a 'mess' exists in Iraq, or for that matter East Lost Angeles or South side Chicago or rural Appalachia or the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - talk about disparate culture clashes and wicked problems, they are with us everywhere, vibrant, transgenerational and immune to any fix our logic and rationality can come up with.

    After hanging around here for a couple of years or so and being exposed to so many professional and experienced people, I believe COIN's existence centers on four (4) principles: understanding the cultures, respecting the cultures, adopting the cultures and generating meaningful employment for those capable of bearing arms against us. We have failed with the latter two principles hence we remain in a twilight zone of being neither the occupier nor the enabler.

    The most successful COIN operatives in our history were the free trappers, the mountain men operating in a 14 year period of time from 1820-1834, the rise and fall of the beaver trade. They went in small numbers hundreds of miles into uknown territory and at times lethal territory without any logistics and Intel. They successfully implemented the 4 COIN principles and survived and it can be argued they even thrived. The analogy applicable for our current dilemma would be if at the time of the invasion, separate squads of grunts dispersed from Basra and walked to Fallujah and up to Kurd land, passing through Baghdad, all done with no communication and no backup, just their packs and rifles. 60% of them would have returned south alive in 14 years using Arabic as often as English, half their attire would be Iraqi style clothing, they would have fathered some children, they would prefer a lot of Iraqi type food over American fare and they would feel a bit of a connection to Allah.

    That is the core of the wicked problem, an inability to mingle and adopt. The only real shot we had at adopting was language but how many boots on the ground have basic communication skills and see any merit to speaking Arabic other than using it as a tactical tool? Secondly, and to resort to the mountain man analogy, we haven't traded for beaver pelts with young men capable of bearing arms against us. Sure, jobs have been created; Green Zone type jobs, camp followers abound but not so at the grass roots level. We could have and should have given temporary economic fixes/employment using the principles developed in our own great economic crisis, the Great Depression of the 1930s, namely the Public Works programs and Civilian Conservation Corps. Some people quickly realized back then that idle young men can easily become very discontented. How many unemployed young Iraqi males have been in at least one fire fight or provided services to those thus engaged? We will never know. Very early on, I noted via TV thousands of young Iraqi males standing idle and tens of thousands of tons of rubble - it was work waiting to be done and I presume the rubble still abounds. I'm not suggesting this was/is the solution but it was/is a most viable option for developing relationships and enabling/nurturing. What unemployed family man would have turned down good wages for 8-10-14-20 months of steady labor? 1 truck, 6 men with leather gloves, water, the noon MRE meal and cash at the end of the day and you don't have 6 enemies or potential enemies. If the reader can't envision this, then he is locked into glitches and obstacles and thinking linear while being involved in a circular environment.

    Our forces and leadership are to be commended for the understanding and respect of Iraqi cultures that has been fostered and grown with remarkable speed and this at least is keeping us in the ball game. A big tip of the hat to General P. and his crew. I recall in Viet Nam a guy building a house and I inquired as to when he thought he might have it completed. He responded that his sons or grandkids would finish the job and so it is with the world's wicked problems that will require our blood and resources.

  11. #31
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Converse and Confluence....

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Concur with all. Exactly right in my experience. No evidence you ever produce will convince most (not all) anti-western Arabs that the Israeli's didn't commit 911, and that the British SIS didn't murder Princess Diana.

    Try and tell folks who believe in UFOs that they don't exist.

    ...and I don't think it is the job of any Army to alter beliefs. It's to make the cost of acting on those beliefs too high, for most people to risk.
    With Wilf's valid insight and Goesh's suggestion, where do we go?

    Here's how I describe it...

    If everything is interconnected and intertwined, all we have to do is connect the dots to comprehend.

    Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism expresses the crux of American Intervention mirrored in the self-denial conflicted with an internal desire to evangelize. Democracy works for us. Freedom isn’t free. Thus, we must free others with democracy. As good Christians, it is our duty to fix everyone else. One plus one equals three. The ghost of scarlet letters resounds in the western version of Wahabists Shar’iah law, yet we pretend it is not religious. Parables of Pharisees provoked thou screamest loudest as if you know truth. Jesus wept. John joins in joint justification.

    In Vietnam, we propped up an artificial government in the hopes that they
    would conform. Unfortunately, they only conformed to the corruption. Corrosion of conformity, our opportunity to assist a Vietnam in transition failed when we discarded Ho Chi Minh to salvage our relationship with France.

    In Iraq, we tried Maliki.

    Today, we strive to save Afghanistan. What are we attempting to save it from? Itself? To what effect? Is Hamid Karzai our friend? We assume that because he dresses well in tailored suits and speaks the Queen’s English that he shares our values, beliefs, and norms. In truth, he may be using us as a comparative advantage to unbalance the balanced opposition much as the Taliban uses al Qaeda.

    Twenty years ago, we allied with the Taliban to defeat the Soviets in a marriage of convenience. After the Bear fell, we left. The Taliban did not forget. Kipling echoed for naught, yet we rationalize in the hopes of a natural gas pipeline emerging from the ashes. Phoenix is in Arizona not Kabul. A tendency of good war is oxymoron.

    No doubt I weep for the deprived women of Afghanistan, but I must accept that I did not cause their suffering. It existed long before my birth. All I can control is the parameters of my family and closest friends. All I can help are those that first inquire to help themselves. I am neither an isolationist nor anti-war. That reasoning is as foolish as pretending that I am not man. I am simply taking a moment to consider our passion in some form of analysis lest we continue along the foreboding path that shadows and conforms.

    Maybe it is time to leave well enough alone.

    I am by no means trying to make policy statements. In all actuality, as Schmedlap voices in other threads, I'm sorting through my own personal decision matrix....I would be the first to volunteer for Goesh's expedition....

    Ok, with that said, and all the politics aside, what do you think?

    There is much validity in Wilf's crushing the enemy as there is in Mortenson's building schools. Where is the intersection point?

    All I submit that it is better to discuss the issue rather than remaining stuck. Or rather, as Ken suggest, I'm skeptical of any translation.

    Let me know if I've simplified matters too far.

    In true detail to other cultures, I'd submit that we must add music...this seems appropriate

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhtcaRRngcw

    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 04-18-2009 at 03:57 AM.

  12. #32
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Once again I'd caution -- do not over simplify

    Or even try to do so.

    Viet Nam wasn't that simple. Of course Karzai is using us -- anyone in the west who thinks he is our -- Generic western collective our -- friend is a fool. Afghanistan 20 years ago was also not that simple.

    I can't say you've simplified it too far though I do believe that in trying to understand things, many use the technique of trying to identify component bits, an effort that IMO generally leads to excessive fragmentation. Micro views do not solve or lead to solutions for macro problems. I offer the US Army's Tasks, condition and standards approach as an excellent example of how not to do it.

    Is the task at issue your definition of that task, the other guys definition or that of a third (or greater) party? Or are there three or more different tasks being worked by many people, some known and some unknown with respect to the same time, location and issue?

    Are the conditions you unilaterally impose universal or context dependent; if the latter, who or what determines the context -- you, the enemy, the weather, the terrain all of the preceding. Or does someone or something else determine the condition...

    I won't even discuss the vagaries of a standard -- suffice to say that Hamid Karzai in his role does not operate with the understanding that I would were I in that role, thus his standard -- and that of most Afghan males -- of treatment of females differs considerably from mine. Since he is nominally a leader of Afghans, his standard is probably more pragmatically correct than mine would be. That means, whether I like it or not, that in that regard, on that topic, he's a better man for that job than I would be.

    That's okay with me. He does not have to like or agree with me nor I with him for us to work together for mutual benefit. Either or both of us should back off if it's determined that the benefits are skewed or not mutual. We do not have to be friends. Probably could not be for many reasons. That's okay as well. It's okay because it has to be, that's reality.

    I have spent a fair amount of time trying to export US missionary zeal in various climes and terrains on three continents -- most of those times, the entire operation was fouled up partly due to said zeal overriding common sense, partly because we did not understand the major defining facets of the culture we were operating in, partly as a generic result of inadequate training and education precipitating strategic, operational and really dumb tactical errors -- and once we were there partly because people expended a lot of angst over the minutia of cultural differences that they were never going to really understand -- and did not need to...

    Occasionally, though it all worked -- and every time that was the case, it did so because of the right Commander, sheer professional competence of most involved and adequate as opposed to excessive and unnecessary cultural knowledge. Those successful efforts, by the way ran the full spectrum of combat from simple SFA to COIN to HIC.

    Adequate cultural knowledge is not simple but it is easy, just recall everything learned in Kindergarten and apply common sense, read a bit, ask sensible questions and learn and heed the big issues -- realizing that one cannot ever answer some questions and does not need to do so.

    Long way of answering your question; "With Wilf's valid insight and Goesh's suggestion, where do we go?"

    Can't say. People are too different to provide an answer to that question, though it can certainly be asked. There are probably almost as many answers as there are people and that should be acceptable. Ideally, anyway -- because that degree of complexity of the human condition is unlikely to change.

    To get to the root of this Thread --I believe it is futile to try to understand an enemy from a different culture; the more different, the more futile. You can learn his operating modes and define his TTP -- and you must do that. If it's assistance to another nation, you must learn the major cultural factors and must heed the local rules with local people. There is absolutely no need to try to get inside their heads and I believe that attempting to do so will only lead to great frustration and due to excessive simplification and / or inability to completely understand all the nuances of very complex human emotions and imperatives can actually cause harm.
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-18-2009 at 04:48 AM.

  13. #33
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Me either

    I'm no expert; I'm just trying to provoke conversation...

    Direction and azimuth as I look on the map I suppose....

    We've discussed this in private- people are people and you cannot control hearts and minds...

    As always, I'll take it to an extreme so everyone else can realize that the sky is not falling down...Lest we presume that our straights are more dire than our parents...


    If I had the answers, then we wouldn't have to run around in circles

    And BTW Ken, well said...Bottom line is that we will employ the policy that our civilian's master.

    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 04-18-2009 at 04:58 AM.

  14. #34
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well...

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    As always, I'll take it to an extreme so everyone else can realize that the sky is not falling down...Lest we presume that our straights are more dire than our parents...
    I'm not sure that everyone else thinks that. In fact, I don't think they do. Nor am I at all sure what that has to do with Understanding the Enemy -- but then I'm old and slow...
    If I had the answers, then we wouldn't have to run around in circles
    I'm not running around in circles, nor do I think many are -- but then, I could've missed something. I do that a lot.

  15. #35
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Touche...

    And that's why I had to turn off my TV.

    Eight years after 9/11, I simply started questioning...I don't have any answers...I'll lead point- just tell me where you want to go.

    v/r

    Mike

  16. #36
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Nah, no touche -- just trying to say

    that we all do things in our own way and that I'm pretty sure that there's no way to gain the depth of understanding you appear to be seeking, though I certainly hope you succeed. I don't think I've done that very well -- proving yet again that one mans answers may miss another question...

    All I can tell you is that 68 years after 07/12/41 I have far more questions than answers. My defining moment precedes yours by a bit, my wife's younger than I am and hers was the Kennedy assassination. To both of us 9/11 was a minor incident but we understand it was defining for many -- including our daughter who missed earlier traumas. Each generation -- in each nation -- gets its own defining issues. Consider there are people who do not even today know what 9/11 even refers to. Life is complicated that way.

    Having acknowledged I have questions and few answers, I obviously am not one to tell anyone where to go -- but that does remind me of the old saw; "My get up and go has got up and went but I sure can grin when I recall where my get up got up and went."

    On that note, I can tell I have nothing worthwhile to contribute here. But then you probably already knew that.

  17. #37
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Nor do I...

    I just jest with you b/c it's fun and you have a lot of knowledge to share...with that said, others read what we say...

    I think Emerson sums it up best

    In truth, undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

  18. #38
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Talking C'mon, Mike -- Sheesh. The guy's middle name was Waldo...

    That's it -- You Left Coast folks can stay up a bit longer but us senile old east coast coots are off to the sack. Mo' later...

    Take care.

  19. #39
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default West Coast a dreaming...

    Yeah, I know... What else can I do? The Army decided to send me to school.

    Coming of Age

    When the storms come along, most people run inside the comfort and security of their homes. As a child, I thought like a child. I stepped outside and gazed. I never knew why, but I loved the storms. I simply allowed the cold rain to penetrate my soul. As a man, I think like a man, and I’m starting to understand. The true beauty of nature is contrasted in the messy, wicked, dynamic and hostile nature of the storm. The marvelous breath of God flows along. I cannot run away. I am drawn. I step outside.

    When the winds brew over the Monterey Bay, everything unravels. The quiet tranquillest spins out of control. Sands spews across the beach, seagulls fight to maintain their form, sailboats sputter back and forth, and the waves crash along the shore. Zooming deep inside the periphery of the surface is another never-ending chaos. As the wave crests and slams back into the ocean, thousands of sea-creatures, plants, and organisms absorb the shock. It is neither right nor wrong; it is neither good nor bad. While most run to the safety of shelter, I am magnetically drawn to the sea. I have to stand in the chaos and absorb the Messiah’s wonder. It is who I am. In the midst of the turmoil, I am centered. For a moment, everything makes sense.

    It is part of the cycle of life- the yen and yang that ebbs and flows.

    Sometimes, the storm rages with Allah’s fury; sometimes, tsunamis and hurricanes form ravishing the land and consuming life. Yet, eventually they dissipate. The sun will rise the next morning, the damage assessed, recovery in process, and life moves on.

    It is what it is.

    I was never supposed to go into the Army. I was early acceptance to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke considered me to wrestle for them. Although I was merely a product of the North Carolina public education system, I thought that one only went into the Army if one could not get accepted into college. It was the1990’s: the Clinton years, the boom of Microsoft, and the Peace Dividend in the wake of the Cold War. I was supposed to go to study business, join the fraternity, marry the sorority girl, earn an MBA, join the country club, and work my way through the social network of the good ole boy’s club until I was living on the eighteenth hole. This path was all too taken; it was all too calm.

    Instead, I moved to the storm. I did not know it at the time, but I was being drawn to Zaganiyah. “I chose the path less taken. It made all the difference” (Frost). This misnomer is common about those that serve. We are not deprived; most of my boys had more degrees than me. We choose to serve, and we have no regrets. We are proud. For a moment, we become the man in the arena.

    As with the natural condition of mankind, over time we swell with the pride of nationalism, disdain for our neighbors, or coveting of another’s property. In those times, we make war. From the secret jealousy of Cain to the collective madness of Hitler’s Germany, we murder one or millions. This decision is reached regardless of the state of modernity, industrialization, democracy, or rationalization- it is part of the cycle of life. John Locke’s social contract becomes void.

    We enter a state of compartmentalized psychosis, and it can only be resolved by the sword.

    It is what it is.

    Zaganiyah reached this Break Point. After years of suffering diminished their humanity, the Sunnis of Zaganiyah turned on their brothers, the neighbors, and themselves. They banished some, occupied their homes, stole their belongings, and farmed their farms sending the produce across Iraq and into Jordan for profit. With others, they brought their children to the town square and cheered as the severed heads were displayed. They gave thanks to Allah for their victory. They gloated in their moment.

    Once again, I stepped outside into the storm. I would not run away from the sound of a gun. My boys would follow. As with the witch doctors of old, I recognized this diagnosis was fatal. I would bleed it out. It nearly cost me my soul.

  20. #40
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
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    Default Searching, thriving for nature

    Katy wrote this...

    Round I walk, only questions to bide time
    Searching, longing- but for naught
    Sweet whispers of her breath call for me
    I cannot reach her. Grasping, clutching,
    Naught but hope. And so I wait,
    Aching, bleeding.
    Keep strength and rise sweet moon
    Rouse dreams of quieted passion,
    Kiss them sweetly and dance
    Let not sun send them to bed.
    Fly sweet loves, breathe her breath
    Be filled with her, she is precious.
    I will find her. By chance of quest
    I shall learn her secrets. But now
    For now, sweet whispers, sing me to sleep,
    And rise sweet moon, rouse my dreams.

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