February Flashbacks

I’m ter­ri­ble with blog­ging these days, aren’t I? Actu­al­ly my last few bits of writ­ing have been for Friends Jour­nal. I’m post­ing once a month for the Editor’s Desk series high­light­ing upcom­ing themes and I’m writ­ing every oth­er intro­duc­to­ry col­umn for the print mag­a­zine. For exam­ple, here’s February’s The Roots of Our Lifestyle. I chime in when a vin­tage post of mine hits Red­dit as hap­pens every so often and I often drop “hey, this would make a inter­est­ing arti­cle” com­ments in live­ly Face­book threads, along with a link to the Friends Jour­nal sub­mis­sions page.

Well, one way I’m try­ing to psych myself is to look at my his­to­ry of blog­ging every month.

1 Year Ago: February 2017

A rare juicy post of mine from the last few years and one of the few times any­one has fol­lowed my blog’s Ask Me Any­thing link.

AMA: Con­ser­v­a­tive and Lib­er­al Friends? But even these brief obser­va­tions are impre­cise and can mask sur­pris­ing­ly sim­i­lar tal­ents and stum­bling blocks. We all of us are humans, after all. The Inward Christ is always avail­able to instruct and com­fort, just as we are all bro­ken and prone to act impul­sive­ly against that advice.

5 Years Ago: February 2013

Some fun!

Sec­tar­i­an Symp­toms: Jumpers, Shak­ers, Quak­ers, and… 

10 Years Ago: February 2008

Oh look at that, I was com­ment­ing about a Friends Jour­nal arti­cle!

Look­ing at North Amer­i­can Friends and the­o­log­i­cal hotspots. Over on Friends Jour­nal site, some recent stats on Friends most­ly in the US and Cana­da. Writ­ten by Mar­garet Fras­er, the head of FWCC, a group that tries to unite the dif­fer­ent bod­ies of Friends, it’s a bit of cold water for most of us.

15 Years Ago January 2003

I was writ­ing about U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy seemed to be avoid­ing a grow­ing sit­u­a­tion in North Korea. Oh my, too time­ly still.

Tough Time to Love War(Making). Pres­i­dent Bush and his team of war mon­ger­ers have been so busy look­ing at Iraq that they’ve giv­en North Korea just spo­radic atten­tion. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb mak­ing over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admit­ting.

20 Years Ago: Early 1998

This is like one of those Face­book memes where you present a preschool­er with a piece of tech­nol­o­gy that dis­ap­peared decades ago and ask them to guess at the use. Hey kids, gath­er round: have you ever heard of the Polaroid 600 and Spec­tra series? I had them both.

Bur­nished Polaroids. This is a style of pho­tog­ra­phy I got into a few years ago. It’s appeal is sim­ple: it takes lit­tle tech­ni­cal exper­tise and the process itself is lim­it­ed in time. Every­thing boils down to basic form: a suc­cess­ful pho­to depends on set­ting up a good shot and then bring­ing it’s poten­tial out in the bur­nish­ing. 

Duck Rogers Gamma Ray Bombs

Like some­thing out of an old Looney Toons reel, the U.S. mil­i­tary is “try­ing to build a death ray bomb”:www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1018361,00.html. Part of the next gen­er­a­tion of bou­tique nuclear weapons the Pen­ta­gon craves, this one kills by send­ing nuclear gam­ma rays. The _Guardian_ arti­cle talks about how devel­op­ment of the new weapon might lead to a new arms race. This is of course quite pos­si­ble: new weapons throw off the bal­ance of pow­er and often cre­ate the per­ceived need for new defences in a con­tin­u­ing cycle.
One won­ders why the U.S. needs to be build­ing ever more sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons of mass destruc­tion. It already has enough nuclear weapons to ensure total destruc­tion of a coun­try and the two recent wars have shown that its mil­i­tary is quite effi­cient at inva­sion. A gam­ma ray weapon wouldn’t help in a sit­u­a­tion like North Korea, where there are more-conventional weapons they could strike back with that would seri­ous­ly hurt U.S. or its allies (even with­out their renewed nuclear weapon pro­gram their short-range mis­siles would dev­as­tate South Korea and Japan).

North Korean nukes and cowboy politics

Yes­ter­day North Korea claimed that it has processed enough plu­to­ni­um to make six nuclear weapons. I’ve often argued that wars don’t begin when the shoot­ing actu­al­ly begins, that we need to look at the mil­i­taris­tic deci­sions made years before to see how they plant­ed the seeds for war. After the First World War, the vic­to­ri­ous allies con­struct­ed a peace treaty designed to humil­i­ate Ger­many and keep its econ­o­my stag­nant. With the onslaught of the Great Depres­sion, the coun­try was ripe for a mad dem­a­gogue like Hitler to take over with talk of a Greater Ger­many.
In his Jan­u­ary 2002 State of the Union address, Pres­i­dent Bush’s team added North Korea to the “axis of evil” that need­ed to be chal­lenged. By all accounts it was a last minute addi­tion. The speech­writ­ing team nev­er both­ered to con­sult with the State Department’s east Asia experts. In all like­li­hood North Korea was added so that the evil three coun­tries wouldn’t all be Mus­lim (the oth­er two were Iraq and Iran) and the “War on Ter­ror” wouldn’t be seen as a war against Islam.
North Korea saw a bull­dog pres­i­dent in the White House and judged that its best chance to stay safe was to make a U.S. attack too dan­ger­ous to con­tem­plate. It’s a sound strat­e­gy, real­ly only a vari­a­tion on the Cold War’s “Mutu­al­ly Assured Destruc­tion” doc­trine. When faced with a hos­tile and militaristically-strong coun­try that wants to over­throw your gov­ern­ment, you make your­self too dan­ger­ous to take on. Let’s call it the Rat­tlesnake Defense.
Mil­i­tarism rein­forces itself when coun­tries beef up their mil­i­taries to stave off the mil­i­taries of oth­er coun­tries. With North Korea going nuclear, pres­sure will now build on South Korea, Chi­na and Japan to defend them­selves against pos­si­ble threat. We might be in for a new east Asian arms race, per­haps an east Asian Cold War. Being a paci­fist means stop­ping not only the cur­rent war but the next one and the one after that. In the 1980s activists were speak­ing out against the bru­tal régime of Sad­dam Hus­sein, an Amer­i­can friend who was gassing his own peo­ple. Now we need to speak out against the cow­boy pol­i­tics that is feed­ing insta­bil­i­ty on the Kore­an Penin­su­la, to pre­vent the hor­ror and mass death that a Sec­ond Kore­an War would unleash.

Tough Time to Love War(Making)

This just isn’t a good time to be George W. Bush. Unit­ed Nations inspec­tors comb­ing Iraq for weapons of mass destruc­tion have come up emp­ty hand­ed. Sad­dam Hus­sein has allow­ing them rel­a­tive­ly unfet­tered access but all they’ve uncov­ered is a few unused shells.

Bush is noth­ing if not per­sis­tent when it comes to per­ceived world bad guys. Just yes­ter­day he told an audi­ence in St. Louis that Hus­sein is “a dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous man with dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous weapons.” Despite the repeat­ed use dan­ger­ous, the rest of the world is uncon­vinced. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroder still talks about “peace­ful solu­tions” and Ger­many and France is putting the brakes on war in the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, wait­ing for evi­dence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruc­tion to turn up.

It must frus­trate our pres­i­dent to see that all these years of mil­i­tary sanc­tions against Iraq have been work­ing. All the evi­dence uncov­ered by the U.N. inspec­tors prove that we can “win with­out war,” as one cur­rent slo­gan goes, and that we have in fact been win­ning. We’ve kept Sad­dam Hus­sein from rebuild­ing his mil­i­tary after the Gulf War. U.S. iso­la­tion of Iraq has been suc­cess­ful despite its numer­ous flaws. Sad­dam is not a threat.

Which brings us to real threats and to North Korea. Pres­i­dent Bush and his team of war mon­ger­ers have been so busy look­ing at Iraq that they’ve giv­en North Korea just spo­radic atten­tion. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb mak­ing over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admit­ting.

The C.I.A. has known that North Korea and Pak­istan have been trad­ing nuclear secrets. Pak­istan has been show­ing its ally of con­ve­nience how to build the cen­trifuges that process weapons-grade ura­ni­um. North Korea in return has pro­vid­ed the mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy that gives Pak­istan the nuclear reach to destroy arch-rival India. Now that we know Pres­i­dent Bush knew all about this his­to­ry of what we might call “dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous” tech­nol­o­gy trade, why did he cozy up to Pak­istan fol­low­ing Sep­tem­ber 11th? He so want­ed wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that he nor­mal­ized rela­tions with a coun­try far more dan­ger­ous. If a Pak­istani or North Kore­an nuclear weapon goes off in New York City it will kill a whole lot more peo­ple than Osama bin Laden’s four hijacked air­planes. What hap­pened on Sep­tem­ber 11th was ter­ri­ble but it’s noth­ing com­pared to what a ene­my with resources could do.

There are real threats to world peace, far more “dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous” than Iraq. The Unit­ed States needs to drop its president’s obses­sions and look square­ly at the world and who we’re allied with. And when we reset our poli­cies we wqcan use Iraq as our mod­el. For as the U.N. inspec­tors have proven, we can cre­ate peace through diplo­ma­cy and we can iso­late trou­ble­mak­ers through smart sanc­tions.

What a tough les­son for U.S. lead­ers bent on war.