Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Petraeus for President

I want Obama to win this election. I've donated hundreds of dollars to his campaign. Not because I'm particularly impressed with his resume, but because I'm deeply shocked by the Bush II Era and want to do whatever is in my meager power to help make an authoritative political break with his "legacy." I have no idea what kind of leader Obama is going to make, but he'll be a statement to ourselves and to the world that America is turning the page on a sorry eight years.

But the fact is...I have deep doubts about whether a one-term senator with zero military/foreign-policy experience is up for the challenges ahead. Obama is a brilliant guy who gives inspiring speeches and advocates sensible policies. That's a start, I suppose. But I fear that what we really need in our next commander-in-chief is...well...a commander-in-chief.


Guerrilla wars. August was the most lethal month for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan since we first got underway in 2001. It's now almost seven years on, and while a friendly government is nominally in control of an increasingly violence-wracked Kabul, the tribal regions are dominated by the Taliban and these dudes aren't playing around. We crave soft drinks and videogames; they crave martyrdom. We're in a death struggle with these hombres, and recent history does not offer much consolation for what it takes to beat them at this game.

A nuclear Iran. It's not that I worry about Iran ever using the nuke. They won't. However, the mere fact that they have nukes means that we won't be able to fuck with them when they do things like, oh, say, conduct terror operations all over the world, or flex their muscles in dominating the Persian Gulf oil lanes. With the Bomb in hand, they will be able to turn the Gulf into their own private sphere of influence and we will be helpless to challenge them -- held entirely in check by their membership in the club of nations that can blow one of your cities to kingdom-come. Remember the Cold War? I sure do, believe me. Here we go again, only we won't be matched up against atheist bureaucrats this time -- we'll be matched up against apocalypse-obsessed Islamists. Sound like fun?

Pakistan. Little-known fact -- there's already a nuclear power shooting at U.S. troops. Right now! Pakistan's civilian government is barely in charge of its own military and (ultra-powerful, as well as ultra-fundamentalist) intelligence service. The whole government narrowly missed being blown to smithereens the other night. And this country has the bomb already. Its senior nuclear scientists sat in a cave with Osama bin Laden advising him on how to develop nuclear weapons. Swell.

A resurgent, militarist Russia. Why move on to new Cold Wars when our old nemesis Russia is still fully up to the task? Putin is still large and in charge of the Kremlin, and his recent ball-stomping of Georgia was proof that Russia still thinks of itself as a military power with muscles that need the occasional workout. With massive oil reserves on the line in the Caspian Sea region and fragile democracies on the line at Russia's borders, we're entering a whole new era of percolating conflict with the big bear.

I could go on -- Chinese cyber-warfare teams; instability and power struggles within the Saudi royal regime; the ever-looming threat of al-Qaeda "spectaculars"; and of course, this small matter of the Iraq war.

All of which brings me to David Petraeus, U.S. Army general.

Long story short: Petraeus is the best of a new breed of military intellectual -- the soldier-scholar. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton. A lifelong student of counterinsurgency. In a training exercise in 1979 he was accidentally shot in the chest by a new recruit; he was discharged from the hospital days later after doing 50 push-ups in front of his surgeon.

Most importantly, Petraeus has been one of the rare officers to leave success in his wake everywhere he's operated in the war zone of Iraq. As commander of the 101st Airborne Division he oversaw a pacified city of Mosul while the rest of the country burned in revolt against our occupation. Employing a civil-affairs approach to counterinsurgency, he won the loyalty of local tribal chiefs and forged broad local alliances against terrorist cells. Along the way, even the fiercest critics of the Iraq occupation gave Petraeus credit as the leader who "did it right."

So I'm just going to throw this out there: let's draft Petraeus for president. The framers of our Constitution envisioned the president primarily as a civilian commander-in-chief for the armed forces, who would have a secondary role to play in checking-and-balancing congressional legislation. Given the global political situation, I'm willing to set aside lesser concerns and invest the presidency in someone who can smartly handle the high volume of killing that the U.S. is going to have to conduct in the years to come. PETRAEUS IN 2008.

Wait...what's that you say? He's a conservative Republican? Shit. Never mind.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rock Band 2 -- a band review

The band: Hello, We're Bob

The lineup: Greg "The Vede" Vederman on vocals, Kristen Salvatore on drums, "Stormin" Norman Chan on guitar, and "Young" Jeremy Williams on bass.

The venue: The Pacifica home of Maximum PC editor-in-chief Will Smith, his delightful wife Gina, and their poop-eating dog Chloe Bananas. (No joke, Chloe Bananas literally ate her own poop during the party.)

The review: Hello, We're Bob are a testament to the verve of the budding Pacifica rock scene, demonstrating a keen grasp of showmanship and better-than-average Rock Band chops. I would rate their debut performance somewhere above Radiohead but somewhere below The Pixies. Since each of the band members can be traced (like me) to the editorial staff at PC Gamer magazine, you'd expect a certain level of rhythm-game ability, but dare I say that Hello, We're Bob manages to transcend the typical "college try" musicianship one normally associates with party bands.

The highs: Norman shredding the guitar on Expert while barely missing a note. Bonus points for the fact that this was our first-ever crack at Rock Band 2 and thus all-new, all-foreign songs, few of which tripped him up. Kristen, a legit drummer, acquits herself admirably on the digital skins.

The lows: Not enough Eighties hair-metal songs to take full advantage of Vederman's hilarious ability to hit the power-falsetto. Jeremy accidentally paused the set at one point.

Bottom line: Hello, We're Bob is definitely a band to keep tabs on, and by "tabs" I mean you should drink a lot of beer if you end up at a party where they're the entertainment. Oh, and Rock Band 2 is great fun, but I work for EA now, so you probably saw that coming.