As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.
Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.
With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose.
My best guess, strange as it might sound, is that our ancestors were in the habit of punching each other on the nose. Such injuries would have resulted in copious tear production. And there is an independent line of evidence to suggest that they were common. According to recent analysis by David Carrier and Michael Morgan from Utah University, the shape of human facial bones might well have evolved to withstand the physical trauma of frequent punching. Thickly buttressed facial bones are first seen in fossils of Australopithecus, which appeared following our split with chimpanzees. Carrier and Morgan further argue that Australopithecus was our first ancestor whose hand was capable of making a tight fist. So, the reason we weep now may well be that our ancestors discussed their differences by hitting each other in the face. Some of us still do, I suppose.
“About 10 years ago I was walking down the central corridor in my lab at Princeton University when something wet smacked me from behind. I gave a most undignified squawk and ducked with my hands thrown up around my head. Turning around, I saw not one but two of my students — one with a squirt gun, the other with a video camera.”—The origin of laughter, smiles and tears – Michael Graziano – Aeon
The Taliban insurgency should stop preventing mobile polio vaccination teams from operating in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. Since as early as February 2014, the Taliban have prohibited the Afghan Public Health Ministry from deploying mobile vaccination teams in the province, increasing the vulnerability of children in the province to infection, death, or long-term disability.
“The Taliban prohibition on mobile polio vaccination teams puts children at risk, and jeopardizes a global eradication campaign, of a disease that has crippled and killed millions of people,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The Taliban should assist the operations of mobile vaccination teams rather than interfere with their lifesaving work.”
“Apolitical is a political position, yes, and a dreary one. The choice by a lot of young writers to hide out among dinky, dainty, and even trivial topics—I see it as, at its best, an attempt by young white guys to be anti-hegemonic, unimposing. It relinquishes power—but it also relinquishes the possibility of being engaged with the really interesting and urgent affairs of our time, at least as a writer. The challenge is how can you not be the moralizing, grandstanding beast of the baby boomers but not render yourself totally ineffectual and—the word that comes to mind is miniature. How can you write about the obscure things that give you pleasure with a style flexible enough to come round to look at more urgent matters? Humor matters here, and self-awareness, and the language of persuasion and inclusion rather than hectoring and sermonizing. You don’t have to be a preacher to talk about what matters, and you don’t have to drop the pleasures of style. If you can be passionate about, say, Russian dictionary entries from the early nineteenth century, can you work your way up to the reconstruction of New Orleans? And can you retain some of the elegance and some of the pleasure when you look at big, pressing topics? I think you can. It’s what I’ve tried to do. I still think the revolution is to make the world safe for poetry, meandering, for the frail and vulnerable, the rare and obscure, the impractical and local and small, and I feel that we’ve lost if we don’t practice and celebrate them now, instead of waiting for some ’60s never-neverland of after-the-revolution. And we’ve lost the revolution if we relinquish our full possibilities and powers.”—Rebecca Solnit, in The Believer (2009) Rebecca Solnit on the Political and the Trivial | Longreads Blog
“Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don’t want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They’re born that way. You know that. That’s all. I think they are. Anyway, my point is, though, when I say they’re born that way, the tendency is there. [But] my point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers. And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligent people … Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, were all homosexuals. Nero, of course, was, in a public way, in with a boy in Rome.”—President Richard Nixon, April 28, 1971Audio: Nixon’s Secret White House Tapes | Vanity Fair
“It’s the way some men say, ‘I’m not the problem’ or that they shifted the conversation from actual corpses and victims as well as perpetrators to protecting the comfort level of bystander males. An exasperated woman remarked to me, ‘What do they want — a cookie for not hitting, raping, or threatening women?’ Women are afraid of being raped and murdered all the time and sometimes that’s more important to talk about than protecting male comfort levels. Or as someone named Jenny Chiu tweeted, ‘Sure #NotAllMen are misogynists and rapists. That’s not the point. The point is that #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are.’”—Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, #YesAllWomen Changes the Story | TomDispatch
“Journalists have an important role to play in calling for reforms to the embedding system. The favorability of a journalist’s previous reporting should not be a factor. Transparency, guaranteed by a body not under the control of public affairs officials, should govern the credentialing process.”—Whistleblower Chelsea Manning from The U.S. Military’s Campaign Against Media Freedom - NYTimes.com