Thursday, November 16, 2017


Anthony Bourdain would be the first to tell you that the quality of any meal starts with what it looks like on the plate.  Some meals that have 'eye appeal', off the calorie chart, can taste like wet cardboard and other meals that look like they should be in the dog's dish can be sheer delight on the tongue. The same logic as Bourdain's 'looks' is taken to ridiculous extremes when the the 'ingredients' and the 'outcomes' are far less attractive and often anything but palatable. I'm talking about international affairs and the elite among us who earn living having them. This stuff is what big business used to be.

I was watching an old Afghanistan documentary the other night, I think I've mentioned it before, but it included a 'bit' where two  US Marine 'advisors' are instructing a number of Afghan troopers in the fine points of proper hygiene.  After giving then the 'wash-up before you eat' and caution about what the bad bacteria a can do to you - they pause to let their message about sanitary wipes sink in. That tales a couple of minutes for the Afghans to figure out - no doubt as the translator puts the lesson into a language the Afghans understand.  They 'get it' quickly and, surprisingly, they're insulted. The Americans are telling them something they learned at their mother's knee - something the Americans - used to soap water, thorough cooking and decontamination procedures up the yin-yang - don't seem to realize - that Afghans, bring raised in a Moslem culture,  without the benefit of regular showers an flushing port-a-sans , decent refrigeration ,  preserved foods  and lacking the concept of  paper used  only for wiping shit - are scrupulously careful to avoid contaminating what they put in their mouth  with whatever might be 'left over from yesterday' and coming out.  I'm hoping that those two Americans were aware that the left hand, for Muslims, has a purpose that the right hand just never shares.  If they were,  they failed to mention that - other than saying they 'had no intention of offending anybody' - which put a skid mark on the rest of the presentation. If they had anything good to impart that was lost in the subsequent Afghan  round of 'these guys think we're idiots'.   The presentation - meant for the folks back home, courtesy of a front line videographer -  was lost on the Afghans and served no purpose.

When it comes to that home front and far more important things, the 'presentation' is sometimes blown out of all proportion. Sometimes the presentation is everything.

I don't know if the military has a training program in intra-unit communications,  but as in any self-respecting organization - getting the word out well is probably a leadership tool skill.  But I have a feeling that, like the briefing for General Dreeble's visit in Joe Heller's  'Catch 22' ,  those so involved might get carried away with the beauty of their 'weapons' - or rather their power point and slide making skills. There have been reports of some incredibly intricate schematics used to describe probably far-less-complicated situations - done,  I would imagine , when the presenter doesn't know his stuff and hopes bullshit will baffle brains. I remember Ben Netanyahu addressing the US with a graphic that looked like something from a Wile E Coyote cartoon and using a red marker to draw a red line on it. Ludicrous!  He did the same thing again,verbally , at a more  recent event,  when he interrupted his speech to recognize Trumps' son-in-law and fellow Hebrew, Jared Cushner. Granny Netanyahu cooed about how he remembered the lad as a baby and inquired "How long is it now that we have known you?"  The Roman emperor couldn't have done a better job talking  to little  hostage Herod in some Hollywood epic.  Americans just eat up that homemade shit but such stuff comes honestly,I guess, to them.

Pattun 2: I AM the Presentation

Look at the way they're cocked-up to be  special.  They look like the country club set with their very own caddies and, in some cases, social planners and personal 'fluffers'. A lot of 'really important' Americans play it like that. J. Paul Bremer comes to mind. I'd bet that John Negroponte never sat on a dirt floor or got fleas.  If he did it was 'for fun'.  He certainly didn't get too near the Miskitos.

Look at the photo of America's latest  military Triumvirate .  Not only are the mood lighting and camera angle enough to enhance 'the willies', the occasion is meant to portray substantial change for 'the guys' were reporting that,  after 17 years,  the Afghans were finally 'involved' - like really really involved -  with America's war in their country.

They're NOT dicking-around any more

As if in counterpoint, the Taliban attacked the Afghan  Military,  across Afghanistan, killing over a 100 of them last week alone and wrapping things up by sending another American home in a box.

There's a lot of deep thinking in train these days as the good guys try to get a wheel back on the wagon of 'democrazy' that seems to be heading into a Calvin&Hobbesian drainage ditch,  This is an interesting study - done to the Nth to impress with  'Presentation'.

The CSIS Study on how best to address Terrorist violence World-wide

Tony Blair and Leon Panetta, the original 'bullshit artist' and the latter-day 'Pagliacci' headed-up an all-star panel of, essentially, western think-tankers to come up with the best way to 'tackle' a terrorism problem that has only grown since first we noticed it in 2001. Essentially it boiled down to three things:  First - baffle them with bullshit - flood the "ideas market" with the kind of thinking about a possible heaven on earth brought to the have-nots by free markets and western business.  Second: do what good guys do best and cut off their funding. And, third: failing the first tow, go all out to kill them. The order is mine - I have a feeling that number three could be number one because it is both easier and ultimately more effective.  More of the same with glossy new packaging and brilliant photography depicting the ultimate objective (even some humanitarian white Helmets). If they don't stop - 13th century living  via  21st century bombardment.

The big weakness, aside from the obvious repetition of failed policy expecting a different outcome  here, is that it's written as an 'action-paper' for Donald Trump. And yet it doesn't mention him once.  Lightweights at work. Ergo: FAIL.

Here's another 'slick little piece', this time on the sort of distaff side that global thinkers don't bother thinking too much  about. But it's the kind of thing that probably got that old terrorism ball rolling in the first place. And the kind of thing that has probably been at the root of every evil ever done. It's about somebody 'screwing up' and, first,  nobody giving a shit. Then spending an awful lot of time and resources to cover their asses. It's the kind of thing that both Blair and Panetta have done - personally.

An Australian Tale: The Valley

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