To Compromise with The Sun

The Who of You

Sam sold fruit in Spanish Harlem, he would travel every day from his home in New York City to open his fruit cart and sell his fruit.  Sam could speak at least 3 languages including english and spanish.  What we know about our family is really very limited isn’t it?  Unless you are into genealogy or your family member was famous.  What we do know is that these people shared something with us that may go beyond a simple transfer of DNA.  It is our love and hate, our fears and hopes that are transferred in the hidden undertones of our upbringing.  It is more than white noise because it is thematic.  Even if you were raised by a family other than your own biological family, you will carry some familiar theme.  It is what it is.  As generations are born and raised maybe some of the themes are altered a bit and some things can change but there are still faint remains.   I expect that is what is meant when my grandmother would say to me that I remind her of my grandfather whom I never met.  I didn’t meet him physically but through my father I am given the good and maybe some of the bad as well.    We are who we are and there is no grand bargain that can change certain aspects or characteristics of our being.  If Stephen Hawking could change his condition wouldn’t he?  If he did would he be able to contribute to our world and to science as he has over and again?

To Compromise

“The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter’s stomach, is an absolute.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromise is the transmitting rubber tube.”
― Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged

A compromise is a settlement.  You have to let go of something and make a concession to compromise.  Can you compromise with your being?  In other words, we still don’t have the technology today to compromise on all things.   As a matter of fact, there are many things that we can’t compromise on because we don’t have the power to do it.

Compromise is the issue of today.   It is THE issue because so many of us are unwilling to do it when we can and others demand it when it isn’t really warranted.  There doesn’t seem to be a good balance today when it comes to compromise.   It doesn’t even seem to me that we are looking at compromise from a reasonable and rational perspective.

We can put on some very basic hats and come up with fairly intractable conflict.  Just for quick reference (IC)

Intractable conflicts are clearly different from other conflicts. The major characteristics of intractable conflicts can be summarized as follows:

  1. In terms of actors, intractable conflicts involve states or other actors with a long sense of historical grievance, and a strong desire to redress or avenge these.
  2. In terms of duration, intractable conflicts take place over a long period of time.
  3. In terms of issues, intractable conflicts involve intangible issues such as identity, sovereignty, or values and beliefs.
  4. In terms of relationships intractable conflicts involve polarized perceptions of hostility and enmity, and behavior that is violent and destructive.
  5. In terms of geopolitics, intractable conflicts usually take place where buffer states exist between major power blocks or civilizations.
  6. In terms of management, intractable conflicts resist many conflict management efforts and have a history of failed peacemaking efforts.

Here we are in 2013.  Martin Luther King had a dream of people being simply being treated fairly as people.   It started with compromise, didn’t it?

Now we have what I would call a dysfunction compromise system.   This is a system where we recognize that we need to make concessions or that we have a desire for concessions but we act in ways that are counterintuitive and counter productive concerning concessions.

For example, we should respect all religions except that SOME religion directs us towards violence.   We must make every effort to compromise.  This also is interesting because religion (at least in the past 30-40 years) is changing.   Religion is being forced to compromise with desired outcomes.   I want to state for the record that I am simply talking about this by observation.  My issue and concern isn’t about any one particular thing, it is about our sociological disconnect from reality that is becoming the new normal.  Hot topics of the past 40 years are racial, religion, women’s rights, jobs, economic and political gridlock, global trends, global warming, freedom and democracy for people of the world.

What changed?  I can pull open a newspaper from the 1900’s or the 1800’s and see similar issues if not the same exact issues.   And, so.. I go back just a few short years ago, maybe 50 or 60 years ago.  A middle aged guy named Sam, he gets up every morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time.  He kisses his wife or just yells goodbye as he heads out to sell fruit to his customers.   To sell fruit to people in Spanish Harlem, he had to learn to speak spanish (that was something he had to do) they didn’t compromise with him.    Sam and other immigrants from
“the old world” or from Italy, Ireland, Spain and other places came to America in search of something new, something different.  They had to change their behavior to become American but the interesting part is that they were unwilling or unable to stay where they were .   No one really talks about that part too often.  Why couldn’t they just stay where they were and work things out?  Why couldn’t they compromise?   There is a delicate balance in life, it is give and take but there are also factors in which we have little or no control.  No matter how much we want men to bear the burden of carrying a child, science isn’t there yet.   Should it get there, I am sure some group somewhere will stand up and demand that women have been carrying children for their families for far too long and that men have an obligation to share this extremely difficult burden.   You may read this and think that I am being unreasonable or maybe just because I am saying this that I am being sexist.  Well, that is exactly why I am writing this today.  If I say something that is true even if I don’t believe one way or the other that it is right or wrong, it creates conflict.  We can’t even talk about it because it is offensive.  It is offensive because we have compromised ourselves into dysfunction.   If people wonder why we can’t anything done in Washington DC, this is the reason.

Summary

The next time you write something on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, my blog, your website, company post, newspaper, chat and the list goes on and on, just consider for a moment that false compromise isn’t always the answer and further that if you have an honest belief stand up for it.  If you have room to truly compromise, consider that as well but be mindful of the truth and your intent, the world will be a better place for it.

Dispatches from the Front: 21 November 2012 **Thanksgiving Edition**

Dispatches from the Front: 21 November 2012

Friends,

I am sorry I have not sent any Dispatches since September.  You have no
idea how these Green of Blue incidents has affected our assessment work.
There have been many long days and nights required to bring some
understanding to this phenomena.  The answer lies is an education of
Islam.  Over whisky upon my return I will gladly tell you the
unclassified aspects of what was recognized and how it has caused such a
conundrum. 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It has always been one of my most favorite
holidays.  I associate Thanksgiving with dinner at my Grandma’s.  Often,
I would bird hunt in the morning and afternoon.  Always arriving in
plenty of time to meet up with Uncle Pike, the only Marine in my family
until I came along.  He was a WWII Marine, participated in the invasion
of Tarawa, Tinian and Okinawa.  He and I would exchange USMC stories as
he taught me how to carve the ham and turkey in the kitchen.  The food I
remember was the finest I have ever eaten.  The candied yams, yeast
rolls, vegetables, meats, desserts, all beyond anything I have had
since.  Regardless how crowed, there was always room and an abundance of
food.  All things a man had reason be very thankful.  I hope each of you
have a great Thanksgiving.  Mine will be another work day with the mess
hall preparing a meal the best they can, but knowing they will fall
short.

These are interesting times.  Regardless where you are in life, you have
got to be excited by what is going on around you every day whether you
want to recognize it or not.  The bias news reporters are masters of
propaganda and pushing their own agendas.  Have you ever noticed how
pompous and arrogant they all are?  Pundits of misinformation are a more
realistic description of their performances.  I will purposely stay away
from world events of which I know little about.  However, I do know
something about war and this current one we are now fighting, every day
and every night while you are awake as well as when you are asleep.
There are no weekend breaks and none of those involved stop to enjoy
holidays or relaxing meals.  Sleep without interruption is a pleasure
far removed as rockets and mortars fall. As of 20 Nov, I have attended
39 Fallen Hero ceremonies which consisted of 69 flag draped caskets.  I
have survived 22 rocket and mortar attacks on this compound since I have
arrived.  The Taliban are becoming better shots.  They unfortunately
have succeeded in several KIAs and WIAs as well as aircraft destruction.
The closest a round landed from me was 150 yards away.  It ruins your
sleep for that night when they explode so nearby.       

What a fine mess we find ourselves in a place called Afghanistan.
Wasn’t it written somewhere that those who do not study history are
doomed to repeat it?  I am afraid history will prove this Dispatch
correct.  Afghanistan is an easy place to invade, set up governments,
and declare victory. But to control the will of the collective Afghan
tribes has never in all recorded time been successfully accomplished. 
The current and past events of Afghanistan remind me of my reading back
at VMI from Thucydides: “the powerful exact what they can and the weak
grant what they must.”   

Alexander the Great during the winter of 329-328 B.C. realized in Balkh,
northern Afghanistan, he was in constant combat against enemies who
would not quit, and for what? He would win every skirmish against the
mountain tribal warriors, and another bare fridge mountain top would be
his but at a cost.  By the way, there is snow on the mountains again.

Genghis Khan came through in 1221 AD.  His hordes had no desire to
control these lands, only to destroy all that was in their path.  They
accomplished that remarkably well along the natural invasion routes but
never succeeded to conquering the numerous mountain tribes.  It was not
because he could not.  It was not worth the effort. 

Smaller invasions and limited conquests were recorded but nothing like
the scale of the First Anglo-Afghan War, Auckland’s Folly, of 1839 to
1842.

The English were the best examples of foolishness in these strange
bellicose and belligerent lands. To prevent the spread of Russian
imperialism into India, the glorious British Imperialist of the East
India Company, convinced the Crown to send the Grand Army of the Indus
to repel the Czar’s threat.  The British even brought with them their
own exiled Afghan king, Shah Shuja, to run the country for them.  On
April 25, 1839, the army reached Kandahar, (a miserable dusty place I do
say so myself after spending time there.) What the British did not
realize is the incredible patience of the Afghan people.  Their
occupation was much like owning a viper as a pet, you can feed the snake
the finest rats and provide it improved living conditions; but the viper
will lie in wait and when opportunity presents itself, will always
strike to kill.   In January 1842, the entire British garrison, 15,000,
(minus Capt Thomas Souter, who by wrapping the regimental colours around
himself was taken prisoner, being mistaken by the Afghans as a high
military official and Surgeon William Brydon) was lost to the “ghazis”
religious warriors who put aside tribal differences for the greater
purpose of evicting infidels from who once again threaten their lands
and the Hindu Kush mountain range.  The puppet king was assassinated
shortly thereafter.  An aside note; from the antique shops in Kabul, I
have obtained an original Khyber long knife, an original Karud dagger
and a Jezail musket used against the British of that time.  They are
wicked but efficient tools of war.

The British could not accept such a defeat and the wives and children of
the Grand Army were still captives of Akbar Khan the warlord who kicked
their royal asses and took their women and children.  From what I can
read, Akbar Khan was benevolent and did not harm his captives.  The
British returned later that fall, in force, paid off the Afghan in
charge of the British hostages, burned down a market place in Kabul, and
got the hell out to never return in force.

Years slowly passed.  Afghanistan remained tribal, segregated, did not
progress and remained in a medieval state suspended in time regardless
of intervention from either the outside or from within.  The book, The
Story of the Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill is a fascinating
read.  Although written over a hundred years ago, the book portrays the
belligerent nature of the mountainous country now infested with Taliban
fighters. Churchill’s views captured what was before, then and
frightfully, now. 

Then there was Christmas Eve, 1979.  The Russians decided it was time to
revenge the Czar (not really) and establish a strategic communist
foothold amongst this collection of ethnic tribes called Afghanistan.
Their invasion was fast, furious and successful.  They too set up their
own puppet communist president. 

Things were more sophisticated then.  The Afghan population was almost
17 million and 90% were illiterate and 85% subsisted in the countryside
as farmers, herders, or small community dwellers.  This is an important
point.  That was 33 year ago.  I was a young 1st Lieutenant stationed in
Okinawa, Japan. Even back then I was told and understood the average
Afghan paid less heed to the edicts from Kabul than to the words of his
local mullah or tribal chief.  How much do you think has changed
culturally in only 33 years?  I am convinced, based on reading of
history and personal observations, after centuries of existence as the
crossroads of Asia, the innate strength of Afghanistan is not with its
urban population along the main roads, which takes the brunt of
invasions and occupations, but with its people in the hills who have
always remained attached to individual freedom and defiant of foreign
powers.  Once again, an invasion by a foreign military force as mighty
as the USSR unified the mountain tribal leaders that cut across ethnic,
geographic, and economic lines. The mujahideen or “soldiers of God”
stood between the Soviet might and domination of Afghanistan.  By the
way, there are worlds of difference between the Mujahideen and the
Taliban.  The Mujahideen were basically “good guys” or least a group of
fighters our CIA could work with.  The Taliban are just evil bastards
that need killing.  Even as a 1st Lieutenant, I remember the mujahideen
relied on the two oldest tactics of warfare: the raid and the ambush.
General Braddock endured a similar tactics back in July 1775 during our
French and Indian War.  Ten years later, in Feb 1989, the Soviets
withdrew.  It is recorded that the Soviet 40th Army lost 13,883 dead
during the war. In Kiev, Ukraine, I visited the monument and Internal
Flame lit in honor of their losses.  As with the British, the Soviet
installed Afghan communist president was shortly assassinated. 

So from my perspective, the score card is:

325 BC: Afghans vs. Greeks
1221 AD: Afghan vs. Mongols
1842 AD: Afghan vs. British
1979 AD: Afghan vs. Soviet Union
2001 AD: Afghan vs. United States and ISAF 

Afghan: 4 – World Superpowers: 0
Current conflict continues.  I have my own predictions. 

That is enough of my ramblings just prior to Thanksgiving.  There is
turkey be consumed and precious time to be spent to loved ones.

I wish you each a very Happy Thanksgiving.  You and I have much to be
thankful.  I am thankful I will leave this place one day.  I am afraid
the Afghanistan people I have gotten to know and work with these past
months have a difficult future ahead of them. 

Semper Fidelis,
Ken