reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Month: November 2011

V.I. Day 2011

In 2008, blogger “Zombie” published a thoughtful, well-reasoned post discussing the conditions for victory in Iraq, and calling for November 22nd to be observed as “Victory in Iraq Day”. Continued progress and relative stability over the three years since seems to me to have vindicated that judgment, and in line with what I wrote on the occasion that year, I think we ought to carry on the tradition. The U.S. and her allies achieved what many vehemently declared was impossible, ousting one of the world’s worst dictators, liberating the Iraqi people, and planting the seeds of freedom and representative democracy in what has been one of the most politically troubled and volatile regions of the globe. Today’s Iraq has its challenges and problems, to be sure, but it is a place far more full of genuine hope than it had been under two decades of Saddam’s brutal dictatorship, and stands as a stark and unflattering counterexample to the remaining dictatorships that surround it, have acted to undermine it, and feel their grip on power threatened by its very existence. Those are all things to be grateful for and to celebrate.

Even President Obama, who as a senator vigorously opposed what he declared to be an ill-motivated, ill-conceived, and unwinnable Iraq war, and as a candidate opportunistically vilified the war and the Bush administration, promising an immediate withdrawal of our troops if elected, no matter the consequences, has had to quietly concede that the U.S. won the very war he campaigned against. Once in office, and I suspect apprised of facts and perspective that only presidents and their military advisors have access to, he scrapped his promises of immediate and unconditional retreat and defeat to embrace the same overall policies and drawdown plan of the Bush administration that he previously demonized.

The Bush administration didn’t take it upon itself to declare victory, and it was clear that neither candidate Obama nor the press were about to do any such thing. It was up to others to do so, and I’m grateful to Zombie and the participants in 2008’s V-I Day for leading the way.

Victory in Iraq Day banner

I’m not one to focus on the negative, but there is something I hope will not be forgotten about this war, that I fear history books will not amply record: the way that victory was achieved despite the most intense vilification of American conduct and motives that I have seen in my lifetime. The opposition brought their biggest rhetorical guns to bear, some among them stopping at nothing and accusing us of the most vile, malevolent intentions. We were charged by some with going to Iraq to steal their oil, to claim the land as a permanent colony of our vast, overbearing Empire, or simply for the implicit joy of killing dark-skinned people. There are people for whom it is a foregone conclusion that such actions are clearly and exactly what the United States is all about, for whom we are the exact polar opposite of all that we claim to stand for, because in order for those people to win hearts and minds it must be made to be so. The record of our actual conduct proved otherwise, casting our soldiers’ actions in start contrast with the brutality of foreign fighters who committed themselves to the failure of the Iraqi project at all costs, deliberately inflicting the kind of mass civilian casualties that the United States takes greater pains than any combatant in history to avoid. Sadly, history’s record will not prevent the same accusations from being endlessly recycled. We will fight identical smears again in future conflicts — I feel sure of it — and we had therefore best learn from this experience and be mentally prepared to battle the same calumnies again.

As I wrote on my recently added “Welcome” page, and meant it: I feel deeply, humbly grateful and indebted beyond capacity for adequate repayment to the men and women of the United States armed forces, and equally so to our truest friends in this world, the soldiers of our stalwart allied nations, who daily risk everything they have in this brief life for the liberty and safety of others, setting aside even their own. Let there be no doubt: I want them to have the full support that their risk and sacrifice merits, and I want them to be given every chance to succeed that they ask of us — precious little to expect, I think, in return. They have my sincerest admiration, and with remarkably few exceptions that serve to prove the rule, I am deeply, deeply proud of their demonstrated ethics, courage, fairness, generosity, resourcefulness, and professional conduct as our emissaries in hostile lands. The precious, fragile free society that we so often take for granted is the very thing they are risking all to preserve and defend, and they should have our heartfelt gratitude.

Marines passing out Spirit-of-America-provided school supplies in Ramadi, Iraq

To those who risked all to make Iraq’s liberation possible, and to those who lost all making it happen, may you forever have the gratitude of the freer world you left behind. You are the best of us, in my book, and we are lucky to count you as our fellow citizens.

US and UK troops make preparations in Kuwait, 2003

US marine flying colors, Kuwait, 2003

the famous toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue

For additional perspective, see Bill Whittle’s September 2011 “What We Did Right,” which, among its survey of the decade since the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks, examines the results of our intervention in Iraq.


The three weeks since Launch Day have been incredibly fun and exhilarating. I’ve been so deeply immersed, making satisfying, design-validating progress on my first project, that you’ve scarcely heard a peep from me here. OK, my solo time hasn’t quite been the blogging Renaissance I had planned for, but it’s exactly what I need to be doing, and I don’t want to risk breaking the fantastic momentum I’ve got going. It’s been delightful, amazingly productive, and an absolute rush.

At this stage, I can only reveal that I’m designing and implementing what I believe will be some truly neat and groundbreaking software for Mac OS X. Believe me, I can’t wait to be able to announce more than that — I’ll announce it with great enthusiasm, when the time is right. Meanwhile, I thought I might mention a bit about why I’m having such fun working on this.

A big part of what makes the development process so rewarding, and makes what I’m attempting even possible for a lone developer to achieve, is the superb set of system capabilities and developer technologies that are available to leverage on the Mac platform, which fall under the broad marketing-label umbrella of the “Cocoa Frameworks”. As I mentioned in a comment on Ricochet, these technologies have quietly revolutionized the economics of software development, breaking down barriers and former notions of what a single engineer or small team could aspire to accomplish. I’ve been working with these technologies for about fifteen years now, enjoyed the privilege of working on them for the past nine and a half, and now am applying and synthesizing everything I’ve learned into some great new stuff that I believe will empower users in very exciting ways. With due acknowledgment of what a thrill it was hacking Apple ][s and PCs at the assembly-language level back in the 80s, working with this stuff is probably the most fun I have ever had programming.

The best thing of all about working with the Objective-C language and Cocoa Frameworks at their full potential, is that it isn’t just cheap rapid prototyping that leaves you with a long way to go to a robust, production-quality end result. You can achieve all the benefits of quick development without having to write a lot of temporary code that you’ll just end up discarding later — analogous, perhaps, to the temporary support scaffolding that a carpenter or stone mason might have to build to get a job done. If you stick to the right path (which isn’t too hard to do), you can begin to realize a design with quick-turnaround results, while faithfully modeling the things you’re working with in uncompromising full generality, or a subset thereof driven by immediate needs, that can be readily extended to full generality without having to discard progress and backtrack. All the while you’re making progress that counts. That in itself is an exhilarating feeling.

I don’t know whether the foregoing communicates much to those who haven’t written software before. Some may be relieved to hear that it’s as technical as I’m likely to get on this blog. I just wanted to try to convey some sense of how fun and exciting this endeavor is to me — in part because this is the “distraction” that’s going to keep me off the radar for spans of time, though I will do my best to set aside some time for blogging when I reasonably can.

I leave you with an entrepreneurial song of the day: “Prime Mover” from Rush’s 1987 Hold Your Fire. I discovered this one around the time my son was born a couple years ago, and also think of it as a hard-to-beat optimistic anthem for a new life. A definite favorite of mine. Enjoy!

Prime Mover

Basic elemental instinct to survive
Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive

Alternating currents in a tidewater surge
Rational resistance to an unwise urge

Anything can happen…

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

Basic temperamental filters on our eyes
Alter our perceptions
Lenses polarize

Alternating currents force a show of hands
Rational responses force a change of plans

Anything can happen…

From a point on the compass
To magnetic north
The point of the needle moving back and forth

From the point of entry
Until the candle is burned
The point of departure is not to return

Anything can happen…

I set the wheels in motion
Turn up all the machines
Activate the programs
And run behind the scene

I set the clouds in motion
Turn up light and sound
Activate the window
And watch the world go ‘round

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

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