I saw the martial arts film The Grandmaster yesterday and the sage philosophical musings of some of the different schools of Chinese fighting led me to ponder how is it that every time the American government wants to start a war with someone, they waste no time shouting it to the winds. What about the stealth, the element of surprise, the strategy? What about knowing your enemy? (If they did, they would think twice about it).
I do tai chi, which is not, as you may think, a gentle stretch for little old Chinese ladies, but a martial art. My teacher is always saying things like, you gotta have strong legs so the first thing you do when confronted by a possible attack is, run the hell out of there. The first rule of Chinese martial arts seems to be to avoid, deflect, defuse, and discourage confrontation. If that is not possible, however, then that swift, out-of-the-blue, lethal kick will come in handy. But if you let your enemy, (and the enemy of your enemy, which in the case of Syria is also your enemy) know two weeks in advance that you intend to kick his ass, it may not work out as well.
I just came back from France, where the national pastime seems to be to sit in cafés and talk. The French are obsessed with thought and discussion, and having as much paid vacation as possible. The Magnificent Arepa had an epiphany that the reason why there are so many French philosophers is that the French like to sit at cafés, smoke, drink coffee, and think. Like Sartre and Beauvoir at Les Deux Magots.
Americans however, are obsessed with action. No sitting at cafés in the middle of the day for us. We do shit without thinking.
This is the only way I can explain the surreal moment we are having right now about going to war with Syria. First, we don't do anything when it's the time to do it, if ever; we wait until the guy has killed 100,000 people and then, when he steps over "the red line" (which, as Jon Stewart points out, is a dick measuring tape), we bluster and threaten and announce our intentions to attack. Obama whips his dick out, and not to be outdone, many of the putrid vermin that populate Congress follow suit. This is the one issue in which Republicans all of a sudden stand behind a President they have stonewalled every step of the way. They strangle health, education, immigration, economic issues, but war? BRING IT!
Has there been a thoughtful conversation, analysis or debate about this latest hankering for infernal action? Can this President, who promised to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now say with a straight face that we are going into Syria as well?
The problem with Americans is that ours is a lethal combination of "gotta get things done, but first we need to brag about them". We neither do them when it is advisable, if ever, nor talk or think about them enough, which should be always. So by the time we take action, we do it thoughtlessly, unleashing even bigger messes, more enmity, and more chaos.
There must be an alternate way, a way of reason and brilliance. This takes true brains, and is therefore rarely used, but this constitutes the ideal scenario: people with great strategic thinking come up with smart, complex, unfolding solutions; not gung-ho, easy as a fart, morally abject posturing that is going to get us into a whole world of trouble. Again.