Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Yeah dad, this guy’s a hero"

Here's a great story:

On Aug. 3, 2003, while traveling the dangerous roads of Afghanistan, a cameraman working for Fox News risked his life to save a U.S. Marine from a vehicle engulfed in flames.

While embedded with 2nd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, cameraman Chris Jackson’s vehicle hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. The Humvee occupants escaped the flaming vehicle, all but the vehicle commander, Sgt. Courtney Rauch.

The blast severely injured Rauch and knocked him unconscious. Jackson, despite having received shrapnel wounds himself, rushed back to the vehicle, pulled Rauch out and carried him to safety. “Without Chris’ quick thinking and heroic act, I would have lost my life that day,” Rauch said. “Chris forgot about being a reporter that day and became one of our bothers and acted as one of us. Chris went above and beyond his duty.”

Jackson, who now works for CNN/Turner Broadcasting, was presented the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the second highest award given to civilians by the Navy, for his actions. Jackson received the award during a stop in Iraq en route to India. An audience of appreciative Marines was on hand during the ceremony.

Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, has a son in the very same company with which Jackson was traveling. Lefebvre, who presented the award on behalf of the Navy, asked his son if all the wonderful things being said about Jackson were true. “I asked him ‘is this the real thing’ and he said ‘yeah dad, this guy’s a hero’,” Lefebvre said. “This was not an everyday action. It came from somewhere deep inside and shows such a level of courage and commitment.”

When told in front of the crowd of digital cameras why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. “It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor,” he said. “I was told I was coming here for a briefing.”

Jackson, who has been out with service members in combat zones since 2001, said he didn’t think twice about risking his own life to save someone else’s. “I wasn’t thinking. I saw there was trouble and I didn’t even think about grabbing a camera and filming it,” Jackson said. “I just did what anyone else would do if someone was in trouble.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

"The need for liberal international order has never been greater"

Timothy Garton Ash:

For close to 500 years, modernity has come from the west. The historian Theodore von Laue called this The World Revolution of Westernisation. In 20th-century Europe, liberal democracy faced two powerful versions of modernity that were western but illiberal: fascism and communism. Part of these systems' appeal was precisely that they were modern. ("I have seen the future and it works," said one enthusiast, returning from Moscow.) Liberal democracy finally saw them both off, though not without a world war, a cold war, and a lot of help from the US.
It's also not the smartest idea to identify this vision of a concert of democracies too emphatically with the west, as in the former French prime minister Edouard Balladur's proposal for what he calls a Western Union. Historically, both modernity and liberalism have come from the west. But the future of freedom now depends on the possibility of new versions of modernity evolving - whether in India, China or the Muslim world, which are distinctly non-western yet also recognisably liberal, in the core sense of cherishing individual freedom.

Part of waging a campaign of ideas is fostering and embracing the emergence of non-Western versions of liberal modernity and creating an international order that any country can join. We need to be clear about what we are for (liberal modernity) and develop a strategic vision based upon this that can inform our persuasion operations. Anti-liberal adversaries will rise up from time to time and they will need to be dealt with, but we shouldn't allow them to distract us from pursuing the long term strategic vision. Real success in the campaign of ideas will come when the key champions of liberal modernity are countries like India, Brazil, and even Iraq.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Who writes America's script?"

It should be easy to wage a campaign to champion the idea of America, after all, American cultural products are voluntarily embraced all over the world and millions of people seek to immigrate to America and become Americans. And yet watching the Republican performance in the war of ideas over the past eight years has been like watching a no-talent American Idol contestant destroy a great song. But that era is now over and it is time to move on. Time to write a new script and put on a new show in the great cultural theatre that is America.

America and American life are the world's most reliable theater: America performs, and the world looks on.

The world, reliably, looks at America, for there is always something eye-catching in progress. The world, equally reliably, looks to America, for this country takes social and political steps that others are too timorous to take. And the world looks up to America, for there is more that is good and just here than in any other society.
The American culture of individualism (first tagged as such by Tocqueville) allows for countless private explorations of boundaries that other societies do not conduct in quite the same volume, or even allow at all. These boundaries are not merely physical; they are intellectual, judicial (although not always judicious), philanthropic, educational, spiritual or even comedic. And Americans are as adept at exploring the boundaries of antagonism as they are those of tolerance. Ultimately, as Simon Schama has written, "The big American story is the war of toleration against conformity; the war of a faith that commands obedience against a faith that promises liberty." I think we can tell which side has won those wars in America. The results are reversed in virtually every other society in the world.

The creed of American exceptionalism is distinctive because it is tied closely to the creed of American individualism. There are other societies or people that are adamant believers in their own exceptionalism: The Chinese have their conceit of the Middle Kingdom; the Jews hold that they are Chosen; Hindu Brahmins believe that they alone are born from the head of God; and the Britons have believed that they rule the waves, and that they never, never, never shall be slaves (and what is that if not exceptionalism?). But only the American brand of exceptionalism is not tribal; it allows Outsiders to become Insiders.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Driving through Gettysburg on a winter night

I had the commute from hell tonight. I left work at 5 and got home at 8:30. There was a huge accident on I-70 between Frederick and Hagerstown (northwest of DC) and they shut down the interstate. Fortunately I heard about it on the radio and so took an alternate route (40) only to find it bumper to bumper from Braddock Mountain to South Mountain. So I had to take the alternate alternate route and drove north up to Gettysburg and then west on 30. It was the first time I had been through Gettysburg at night in the snow and it was very nice: the old buildings, the street lights, the trees, the monuments and cannon covered in snow. Too bad I didn't have time to stop at the Dobbin House for a reuben. It would have been a good night to go for a walk around town or out on the battlefield where you can stand there in the silence of a snowy night listening to flakes of snow fall to the ground.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What the war of ideas is about

I was browsing through some emails from last year and came across the following which I had originally written to Cannoneer. At the time I used the term "individualism" but could easily have used other terms such as "democratic republican", "liberal modernity", "liberal democratic capitalism", "entrepreneurial liberalism", etc.

We are definitely in need of a big picture vision of
what we are trying to do. Too much of our (by our I
mean both gov't and private) thinking about
communications ops is focused on what we are against,
whereas I believe our main focus should be on what we
are for and we will be stronger for doing so. The
individualism that is at the heart of the American
Experiment is a radical social philosophy that has and
will continue to inspire opposition from collectivists
of every stripe, but in the long run it is the only
philosophy which is compatible with modernity. Which
is why we constantly need to be shoring up our
understanding of individualism. We can never take it
for granted that people will "get" it or that it will
be automatically perpetuated from one generation to
the next. We also have to be wary of falling back on
the words of the past which were fresh and creative in
their era but become cliches as time passes. The
radical Islamists are a very dangerous but ultimately
a passing threat. The only chance they have of
defeating us is by striking repeated blows at our
political will and hoping we collapse from our own
internal weaknesses. Of course after several decades
of the left's delegitimization campaign we are weaker
than we should be, but that is because there has not
been a truly viable campaign to champion
individualism. And that I believe is our task. I've
said in the past that we need to update the
individualist ideology for the 21st century. And what
I mean by that is that each era uses words, slogans,
symbols and imagery that resonate with the spirit of
its time and are designed to inspire people of that
time and so we need to be doing the same for our time.
Basically what I envision is a
social-political-cultural movement that is championing
a 21st century individualism. In my raw, uncensored
opinion, this is what the war of ideas is about and
this is what is required to fight it. This is why I've
become more interested in political movements and
activism: a sustainable, long-term victory in the war
of ideas is about running a campaign championing
individualism domestically and to various
international audiences. As Gap states modernize they
will become more individualistic and they will need
the ideological and institutional means to understand
and adapt to the changes as the older collectivist
social-political environment melts away.

Book: Winning the Peace

I've become interested in learning more about the liberal international order that was established after World War 2. I'd like to find a book that studies the institution building of that era but so far I have not been able to find one. If you have some recommendations please drop them in the comments. This week I picked up another book on the Marshall Plan:

Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower

Understanding that era will help us get the proper perspective on the kind of grand institution building that will be necessary as the global order continues to change in the 21st century.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Video: Meade on God and Gold

Conversations with History with Walter Russell Meade discussing Meade's book God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. It's about an hour long and definitely worth watching the whole hour. This is a very good introduction to the book.

A Generational Warfare Miscellany

The New Year has brought forth a variety of interesting posts on generational warfare theory:

Adam Elkus at Rethinking Security:

The Crisis of 4GW

More Thoughts on 4GW

Sam Liles at Selil Blog:

A unified generational warfare theorem: Introduction to basic argument and concepts

Generation warfare a cohesive explanatory model

Gathering dimensions of conflict into a unified model

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy:

Towards a general xGW framework

Dan at tdaxp:

Redefining 5GW, again

Call for chapters: “5GW: The Fifth Generation of War?”

Cannoneer's School of the Counterpropagandist

Cannoneer has posted in one convenient place his School of the Counterpropagandist series. Check it out and save it for future reference; it will give you a lot to think about.