November 3, 2003

"I try to become more cynical every year, but lately I just can't keep up."

Michael Ledeen's article in the National Review has been pointed to with increasing frequency over the last few days. His theme follows his title:Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for? It asks why nobody, and I mean nobody, has lost their job over the last two years in the "War on Terror?" His conclusion is summed up with:

”All of which can be briefly and sadly summarized: We don't have a war cabinet, and we are once again giving our enemies time and opportunity to figure out how to kill us.”
My colleagues in the commentary game are almost of one mind in underlining and bewailing this. But my take is somewhat different, if, I pray, utterly fantastical.

In the vein of trying to "become more cynical," I'd say that this country does not yet have it's game face on for what it really confronts. I'd say that this country is still happy to be having a busman's holiday of a "war on terror" that does not really involve 99.99% of the population in anything other than lip service, be it for or against. I'd say that we still have not, as a people, looked into the face of the monster that confronts us and taken the full measure of what defeating it may involve.

We are a simple and slap-happy people. Simple in that we think that if we just knock off a couple of distant third world totalitarian regimes, take a few dead and wounded here and there, and plant a flag and/or a hodge-podge capitalist institution, everything will turn out hunky-dory. Slap-happy in that if all that is asked of us is that we vote this or that slate of candidates in, and give a few bucks to the fund for the widows and orphans of soldiers killed overseas, we'll be able to continue in our soft, fuzzy bubble of American dreaming.

That is what, en masse, is entailed in our “War on Terror” program to date. Simply put, "We live in hope."

Well, live in hope and die in despair. Not everyone in this country sees it this way and I'm starting to think that a lot of those people are sitting about in Washington, gauging the public sentiment, and knowing, knowing in their bones, that if they are ever going to get this war off the ground at the level we need for a conclusive and world-altering victory, this country is going to have to get hit again in a manner that makes everybody, and I mean everybody, experience a "Come to Jesus' moment in the most literal meaning of that phrase.

My idealistic side says, "Please, you don't really think that the government of this country would really be so lax in its policy that it would allow another September 11th to happen?"

My cynical side says, "Given the soft and indulgent nature of this culture at this point in time, how else can the nation be polarized and energized to pursue a war at the level it takes for victory? How else can a draft be brought back? How else can we add five divisions to our armed forces? How else can we justify the destruction of the strategic and spiritual centers of our enemies? How else, other than through the sacrifice of one of our cities, can we hope to transmute the soft sensibility that has evolved in this nation over the last five decades into something approaching the resolve necessary to eliminate this last global manifestation of Totalitarianism?"

My cynical side says, "Three thousand dead on our soil was only enough to stimulate a couple of policing expeditions using the resources we had on hand. Those resources are clearly incapable of taking on a global war with several fronts. To do that, more Americans will have to die in America. Only that will wake us from the fitful sleep into which we are slowly returning."

My idealistic side says, "Surely you don't really believe that the inevitable demands of realpolitik is driving our government to go light on facing up to clear and present dangers? Surely you don’t think that they would, if not engineer such a catastrophic attack, invite it by doing little or nothing to really prevent it?”

My cynical side says, "I try to become more cynical every year, but lately I just can't keep up."

Posted by Vanderleun at November 3, 2003 9:33 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Oh, yes. You are right. Most of us have poked our heads back in the sand.

My husband and I often consider the pros and cons of losing individual cities. Which would have the biggest impact? West Coast or East Coast or Middle America? Seattle? San Francisco? Maybe Dallas. Or Indianapolis. Boston? Nashville? Which city's loss would have the biggest impact?

I suppose where the wake-up occurs doesn't matter. We will lose a city. And we will wake up.

Thank you for your post.

Posted by: AFbrat at November 3, 2003 10:31 PM

The main drift of Mr. Van Der Leun's article is that he thinks it's a clear possibility that the Bush administration, in despair over the lack of sufficient support by the American people for a real war against militant Islam, is deliberately letting down our homeland defenses so as to allow another devasting terror attack in this country which would be the only way to rouse the American people to the effort that is required for true victory. I think that this is an overwrought fantasy, and of a very familiar type. It involves a leap from one arguably true thought, "Another terrorist attack would make the American people more serious about fighting terror," to a completely absurd paranoid conspiracy theory, "The administration is therefore deliberately opening America to another attack."

This is the way conspiracy thinking always operates. The theorist notices that some party seems to have gained something from some event, e.g., Bush gained support and strength from 9/11. He therefore concludes that Bush _caused_ 9/11. Examples of the same kind of thing can be multiplied. Here's one I heard once. The rise of Nazism ultimately led to the conquest of Eastern Europe by Communist Russia. Therefore the Rothschilds (who in this scenario are both capitalists and Communists) deliberately helped Hitler come to power, knowing that that would bring a war between Germany and the Soviet Union, which the Soviet Union would win, leading to the Communist domination of Europe. The type of psyche that spins forth theories like this imagines that all history, in all its contingency and unpredictability, is actually completely controllable, and in fact, SOMEONE IS ACTUALLY CONTROLLING IT OR CAN CONTROL IT.

This type of thinking does not lead to any useful insights about the world. It is a detour from reality.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster at November 3, 2003 11:05 PM

There are many detours in the world. Some even lead back to the main road.

Posted by: Vanderleun at November 4, 2003 12:41 AM

He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.

Posted by: Allen David at December 20, 2003 10:16 PM

Help! Did you include help tags in your applications? (I'd be lost without them.) Also, be sure to take extra time to develop your other help files. The Apple Help Viewer supports HTML, QuickTime, and also AppleScript. Take advantage of it! There isn't anything I hate more than going to the Help menu and finding there isn't any help.

Posted by: Juliana at January 12, 2004 8:12 PM

This is the first thing your users see, and probably the single most important visible part of your application. It is the first chance you have at making an impression and the best chance to help establish your brand.

Posted by: Augustus at January 12, 2004 8:12 PM

User Assistance. This is helping the user with the proper "next step" when performing a task. Less guesswork for the user on what to do next makes for a better experience.

Posted by: Adlard at January 12, 2004 8:13 PM

So far in these articles, I have only dipped a toe or two into Aqua's pool. I have covered basic aspects of building an Aqua-compliant application, including the building of photo-illustrative/3D application icons. Now it's time to address other components of our Mac OS X application.

Posted by: Erasmus at January 12, 2004 8:13 PM

Due to the positioning of the Dock, remember that when you build an application, you have to be sure that new document window sizes and positions do not violate the Dock's space. Dock is temperamental and Dock loves his space. If you default to a window size that expands behind the dock, users will have a difficult time reaching the navigation and resize areas at the bottom of the screen. I can personally say that more than once I have been rather peeved that I couldn't get to an area of the window to resize because the default window settings always pop up behind the Dock. In addition, the new Dock in 10.1 will allow users to position their Dock location on either side of the screen as well.

Posted by: Christian at January 12, 2004 8:13 PM

This is the first thing your users see, and probably the single most important visible part of your application. It is the first chance you have at making an impression and the best chance to help establish your brand.

Posted by: Susanna at January 12, 2004 8:13 PM

User Assistance. This is helping the user with the proper "next step" when performing a task. Less guesswork for the user on what to do next makes for a better experience.

Posted by: Annabella at January 12, 2004 8:13 PM

Adopt Sheets. I really like the use of Sheets in OS X. The use of Sheets lets me know which window my dialogue belongs to without hijacking my system.

Posted by: Mable at January 12, 2004 8:14 PM

The simple fact is that, when all other factors are equal, where will consumers spend their money? I believe that in the long run, the best looking, easiest-to-use applications will also be the most successful. I think that's why Apple encourages developers to write programs that are 100 percent Aqua-compliant.

Posted by: Georgette at January 12, 2004 8:14 PM

At WWDC, I listened to Apple representatives make some excellent points about taking the time to build a 100%-compliant Aqua application, and I think all developers need to look beyond the code and listen to what the folks at Apple have to say

Posted by: Jasper at January 12, 2004 8:14 PM