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Strakon's final Matches

The editor-in-chief's Strakon Strikes a Match series consisted of short or relatively short takes on matters of current controversy. It has now been supplanted by our "Stop and think" feature on the home page, which is open to all TLD writers.

Strakon Strikes a Match
911 + 15

September 26, 2001


OK, people, let's try this one. Are "Pashtuns" the same as "Pathans," or are they two separate tribes? Anybody? Back row? Over here? Sabrina? Brad? Anyone? No one...?


Kipling could have told them. And speaking of Kipling, here's something else from him that the hapless Class of 2002 might find instructive:

... When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

— "The Young British Soldier"


Of course Kipling wrote that before the advent of spy satellites and night-vision scopes and cruise missiles and helicopter gunships. Makes all the difference. U.S. soldiers don't even carry rifles any more, do they? I think they've traded them in for computers:

Jest roll to your 'puter and stare at the screen
An' go to the Gawddess of your choice like a hacker.

Hm. Doesn't quite scan.


Apologists for the permanent empire are explaining now that the current catastrophe resulted not from excessive imperialism but from insufficient  imperialism. They're saying that after "we" armed the Afghanis and they defeated the Red Army, "we" should have stayed and carried out some ... ooops, can't say "nation building." For some reason George W. has decided that that established byword of homicidal-humanitarian empire is non-PC. But anyhow "we" should have hung in there and done something  to turn Afghanistan into a peacefully multicultural social-democratic utopia like the one we're reveling in here in America.

In the absence of a good sex scandal, it seems that we're going to have a very hard time embarrassing our Suddenly Great Leaders.


Maybe 10 or 15 years ago "we" should have bribed Catholic Charities with a few hundred million taxpayer dollars to import 5 million Afghanis into Georgia and North Dakota. What d'you think?

Whether the empire wins or loses its various wars, millions of its indigenous allies — enemies, too, for that matter — can be counted on to turn up on our shores. Give it about five years.


I hear that folks in Texas and Alabama and other places in flyover country are crowding the gun stores, and some are telling the telescreen that they no longer trust the government to protect them. The very idea!

Now, it's doubtful that a Glock or even a Remington 870 12-gauge offers any particular protection against further terrorist attacks by Third World exotics, especially in flyover country. The only terrorists Heartland folks are likely to encounter are homegrown types, especially current and former members of U.S. forces such as Ruby Ridge's Lon Horiuchi, OKC's Tim McVeigh, and Waco's Sicherheitspolizei.  But it's good to know that quite a few ordinary folks don't believe the regime's promises that it's going to make us even more completely safe in the future than we are now.


Apologies to readers who find this last part excruciatingly obvious, but I've got to get it on the record. George W.'s promises to "rid the world of evil" and "rid the world of evildoers" are characteristically American and characteristically absurd, perfect expressions of that oldest of old-time American religions: state-driven millennialism. Perfect Lincolnism, perfect Wilsonianism.

The same was true of the initial name our rulers gave to their war: Operation Infinite Justice. They changed it — to Operation Gradual Improvement or whatever — not because it was laughingly absurd or because it offended Christians who believe that only God deals in the infinite. No, they changed it because it offended Muslims.  Few of us, surely, needed to hear that explanation before starting to roll our eyes at the ruling class's sudden new reverence for Christians and Christianity.

Their Muslim-truckling aside, do you suppose George W. or any other blustering American pol has ever heard the word "hubris"?

Nicholas Strakon

Strakon Strikes a Match
Dr. Frankenstein, meet Henry Ford

September 18, 2001


A couple days ago a friend of mine was exploring some ideas about how the United State might effectively respond to the attacks of 911. Aware of my anti-statist orientation, he proceeded gingerly. He noted that George W. Bush already has a lock on untold billions of our tax money and is likely to flush most of it down the toilet no matter what happens. Given that, my friend said, it would be nice if someone could find a way to make the flushing as cheap as possible.

He thought he had found a way to save not only dollars but precious American lives as well. Why not place a bounty of $1 billion in cash — no questions asked — on the head of Bin Laden or whoever else is positively identified as the criminal mastermind? Plus a bounty of, say, $250 million on the head of his chief lieutenant Mohammed Blow; and a bounty of $100 million on his number-three man, Achmed Snow; and so on down the line. In the end, my friend said, unleashing the bounty hunters would be far cheaper in blood and treasure than waging a full-scale war, or even a desultory commando war; and if someone objected that it was illegal, then those damn laws could just be changed —

But then, bless him, he interrupted himself before I had the chance to opine. No, he said, no, that wouldn't do at all, would it? Whoever in the Levant was in a position to get close enough to Bin Laden (or whomever) to knock him off, and earn the $1 billion, would then be in a fine position to become the new  Bin Laden. And he'd have three times the wealth that the present Bin Laden is said to have.

Clearly my friend — a normal American and ordinary Hoosier, a Mr. Nobody from Nowhere — doesn't understand the sophisticated imperatives of high imperial strategy.


Norman Schwarzkopf admits that the United State originally armed Bin Laden, for raisons d'etat that were somehow quite different from the raisons d'etat that our rulers are bleating about this week. Nevertheless, the telescreen's talking heads are debating the extent to which the CIA should be permitted to hire very bad foreign men in order to capture or kill the other very bad foreign men who perpetrated the attacks of September 11. Actually, "debating" is too strong; I haven't heard any principled dissent.

Already the regime seems to be hiring unstable, unpredictable, nuclear-armed Pakistan as an ally. Some analysts speculate that Iran, prominent though she is on the West's 10 Most Wanted List of terrorist states, will be next. Even Qaddafi has condemned the attacks and stipulated that the United State has a right to strike back. Is he, too, lining up at the trough, sniffing after the billions extorted from us by the IRS?

"Experts" on terrorism, snuggling comfortably into their amoral universe of Realpolitik, are already reminding us that, after all, "we" allied "ourselves" with Stalin during World War II, and it all worked out just beautifully. In any case, they shrug and say that that's just the way the world works.

I don't know about "the world," but it is certainly the way empire  works. However, that does not make it wise, or even — Realpolitikers notwithstanding — realistic. At least not from the standpoint of ordinary people.

It's profitless to speculate about how many of our rulers are simply stupid and abysmally ignorant of history, and how many know better, much better. Just remember this: our rulers use a vocabulary that sounds like ours — they do their best to make it sound like ours — but the import of their words is different from the everyday, ordinary import of our words. When they talk of "stability" and "security," they're talking not about the stability and security of our lives but about the stability and security of their rule. For us hapless folk on the ground — or even on the 110th floor — that translates to chaos and peril.

— NS

© 2001 WTM Enterprises


Earlier installments of Strakon Strikes a Match.