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What is a gun? A means of killing game. A way to threaten, stop, and/or kill an antagonist.
A gun is a remote killing machine. It is a mechanical extension of the fist, or a club, or an arrow.
Point a gun in the direction of a living target, pull a trigger, and if everything works correctly, both mechanically and on the part of the operator, the target is engaged and terminated.
Yes, that’s right, a gun is the predecessor of the drones of today — it is a remote killing machine that dates to medieval times, and one that is still being perfected. Our fascination and horror of the flying drones of the 21st century is no greater than that felt about the rise of guns hundreds of years ago.
The wonder at the power of remote killing, with concomitant reduced risk to the killer, is a magnet for the predatory instincts of humankind.
As the world evolves its social institutions, bringing us closer and closer together through our common bonds as human beings, our predatory instincts and our arsenal of precision predatory tools remains, and even grows. It is one of the great dichotomies of the human condition.
Whether we are considering gun legislation or drawing the rules of military engagement, we must consider these critical, divergent, conflicting dimensions of our fundamental character.
In my previous observations on the drone mess, I briefly passed over the Reagan-era Star Wars bundle of laser technology that wound up at nearby Yerkes Observatory, here at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. Yerkes is the founding home of astrophysics in America, and still houses the world’s largest refracting telescope. Jim Gee, who runns Yerkes for the University of Chicago, is a friend and saw my “Droning” blog. He added some valuable detail on what lies beneath those giant telescopes at Yerkes, as a portion of what taxpayers spent a billion or so on in hopes of being able to “kill” Russian missles with a space-based laser system. Yerkes has put that tech equipment to some good peaceful use, thank the heavens! I suppose we may hear some more about drones in the State of the Union address tonight. Here’s Jim’s comments:
The equipment at Yerkes is the Star Wars declassified Wave-front Correction System (referred to as the WCE). It was awarded to the University of Chicago in 1994, it is the “adaptive optics” instrument from Star Wars, which I would describe as the “eyes” of the system. It was designed to spot incoming missile plumes and accurately direct the laser to zap the bad guys before the missile could hit the U.S. The WCE now lives ground level in the South Tower and was used through the 90’s to clarify CCD images taken with the 41” reflecting telescope. It takes the “twinkling” out of star images.
The WCE rests atop a very heavy and solid optical bench; no card tables are used.
The whole system connects to the 41” telescope (4 floors above) through an evacuated stainless steel tube which provides a stable light path. The top of the tube connects to the coude focus of the telescope, the ground level (bottom of the tube) focuses the telescope images back to the WCE via a series of strategically placed mirrors….. but I drone on………
Yes, today the Iraq War is officially over. I say, now is the time to bring back a draft.
If we had had a draft, Iraq might have ended under public pressure by 2004 or 5, saving thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now would be a good time to institute a draft, not only to help prevent unsustainable wars like Iraq, but also to give young people a chance to serve their nation, either in the military or in other forms of public service, for a few formative years of their young lives.
Not only would we eliminate the risk that only one percent of the nation would be engaged by some future political decision to enter into conflict, but we would gain the low-cost, character-forming service of millions of a diverse corps of strong, smart young people. They would gain skills, discipline and a sense of service that would build character and maturity, and serve as a pre or post-college opportunity to help build the nation.
I recently wrote a memoir about my experiences during the Vietnam War, in the late 60s, and after thinking about President Obama’s speech last night on his strategy on getting out of Afghanistan, I realize again that we didn’t learn a thing from the Vietnam debacle. Cynical political calculations by Richard Nixon scuttled the Paris Peace talks in the fall of 1968, as revealed in recently released Presidential papers of then outgoing President Johnson (see Wikipedia under Vietnam War).
Candidate Nixon, with Henry Kissinger and Anna Chennault as messenger, told the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal in the peace talks under a Republican administration than under the Democrats. Johnson found out, and wanted to expose Nixon as a traitor, but was advised that such an accusation could be socially destabilizing, so he didn’t. The result: Vietnam did not get settled under Democratic watch, and the U.S. proceeded to lose another 20,000 troops (plus a million Asians) before the Vietnam War was finally ended in 1975.
Lesson: Pulling just 33,000 U.S. troops by September, 2012, a month before the election, is another such cynical political calculation, designed to leave enough troops there (70,000) so that Afghanistan will not descend into chaos, as it likely will do, if the troops were mostly removed before the election, embarrassing the Obama administration with a lost war on its watch.
Sound like Vietnam 1968 all over again? The economic loss, and the loss in lives, will be the test.
Taking out Bin Laden is a milestone in recovering from 9/11. Now we should celebrate by accelerating getting out of Afghanistan, and continue doing so in Iraq — that would be the real “victory” for America. And by the way, have we learned our lesson? War is a very inefficient, self-destructive form of vengeance.
The world knows Picasso’s famous mural painting (he did his monumental piece beginning from 42 sketches he made at the scene) in Madrid of the anguish of the brutal and unprovoked aerial attack by the Nazi’s on the civilian population this small town in the Basque country of Northern Spain, April 26, 1937. We visited the Peace Museum there — the town is locally spelled Gernika, its Basque name, not the more recognized French spelling used by Picasso.
What many don’t recall, if they ever knew it, was that spanish dictator Franco, then an ally of Hitler, gave his friend the Führer permission to test out his new carpet bombing technique on the little town during the Spanish Civil War, because the Basque people of the north of Spain were in conflict with Franco’s regime. To this day, many Basque’s seek political independence. The bombing took place in daylight on a market day, when the townspeople were outdoor in the streets, and more than 1.600 in this little town were mercilessly cut down. Journalists and then Picasso made Gernika a symbol for the complete breakdown of civilization signified by war.
The Gernika Peace Museum is tasteful, and a strong but calm reminder of the agony and inhumanity of war, and the challenges of reconciliation. It was not until 1987 that the Germans apologized for the bombing of Gernika. Franco never even acknowledged that the bombing took place. We were very moved by the town, now more modern than many others in the area, of some 16,000, and by the museum, which is very much worth a visit if you are visiting Bilbao and the beautiful, rugged Basque mountains of the North of Spain. Modern super highways make it easy to get there. As I was just revising this, our cat Cider stretched out across the keyboard — talk about symbols of peace!