Sunday, July 09, 2006

"The world's fireman" and the vanishing option of the controlled burn 

One of the best things about The Belmont Club is the extraordinary quality of the comments. This post -- which asks what happens when a state adopts "asymmetrical" tactics -- generated an extraordinary comment from regular Aristides, which comment bears reproduction in whole:

The staunch environmentalist, in his quest for stability in nature, disallows the one true but messy way to save his forest: the controlled burn. His fetish for the status quo ignores the underlying reality that there is no status quo. As he pontificates on the evils of logging and the purity of nature, underbrush builds up and potential energy increases. When the fire comes, all he can do is shed a tear for the trees and the displaced, and wonder at the infertility and erosion of the soil.

One wonders how much underbrush we've accumulated unawares. Russia is resurgent and paranoid, China is impatient and hungry, Japan has awakened to nervousness, Muslims are self-aware and aggrieved, Europeans are insecure and inert, France issues nuclear threats and lets her cities burn, Britain's terrorist problem is matched only by the apathy of her people, Iran tosses the finger and rattles its saber, Chavez, behind us, recruits a posse and sharpens his knives, North Korea performs a missile expo and buyers come calling, and the one power that could solve the problem is going through a confidence crisis with citizens that no longer trust anybody but themselves and their tribe -- a people weary of being abused by those they protect, a people thinking about withdrawing from the world and relinquishing the burden of responsibility that has been so hard for them to carry.

The epithet "world's policeman" was never very accurate. We are the world's fireman. But after the perceived failure of Iraq, it's possible we no longer have the option of the controlled burn. We will defer to the status quo out of fear of opprobrium, and we will set the stage for the terrible fire to come.

We will do this, of course, under the banner of security.

The opponents of the Bush administration will be tempted to agree with this critique if for no other reason than it is perhaps the best argument for the proposition that the invasion of Iraq was folly. They will agree that Aristides is correct, right up until the moment that they consider the implications for their own imagined resumption of power. Then they will be very confused.


By Blogger beadlizard, at Sun Jul 09, 12:15:00 PM:

After much teasing and hassle because their "controlled" burns often raged out of control, the USFS changed the terminology to "proscribed" burn. Same reality, different perspective.  

By Blogger tm, at Sun Jul 09, 12:47:00 PM:

They will agree that Aristides is correct

P1: Tyrannical states should be shaken up

C: Invade! Kill!

Yeah, it's hard to disagree with that.

- The Opponents of the Bush Administration  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Jul 09, 02:26:00 PM:

Opponents of the Bush Administration: If the only way that you can denigrate and defeat your opponent's argument is to strip it of supporting ideas/facts/philosophies and reduce it to a simplistic fool's errand, perhaps you should revisit your methods of critical thinking.  

By Blogger OBloodyHell, at Sun Jul 09, 08:05:00 PM:

> His fetish for the status quo ignores the underlying reality that there is no status quo.

Indeed, this was observed many years ago by Petr Vajk, in Doomsday Has Been Cancelled long since out of print, sadly, as it is even more timely now than it back in the early 80s.

I point especially to the following quotes:

"Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California is one of my favorite places on Earth. When the glaciers, which formed its sheer vertical walls, receded some ten thousand years ago, they left a large lake in the upper half of the valley, dammed up behind the detritus of gravel and boulders deposited by the melting ice at the lower margin of the active glacier. Over a few thousand years, the lake silted up, creating the flat floor of the valley. When tourists first started visiting the valley in large numbers, less than a century ago, the valley floor was a mix of forest and meadow, with a large, clear lake at the upper end of the valley, reflecting the spectacular, granite faces which surround it- - Cloud's Rest, Half Dome, North Dome, and Washington Column. Today the forests have taken over more of the valley floor, and the siltation of Mirror Lake continues, so that even in years of normal precipitation the lake is reduced to an expanse of mud with a small stream meandering through one side during half the summer and fall.
A conservation ethic, dedicated to the preservation of the biosphere in its status quo, would be just as lethal -- both to ourselves and to the rest of the system -- as it would be to pave the entire planet with concrete and asphalt. If we were to attempt to preserve Yosemite Valley, unchanged forever, which Yosemite should be preserved: the Glacial Lake, the silted marshland of a few thousand years ago, the Yosemite our grandparents knew, or the Yosemite to come, with very little meadow space and no Mirror Lake?
How shall we use and shape the planet?"

and also

"We are the legitimate children of Gaia; we need not be ashamed that we are altering the landscapes and the ecosystems of Earth. But we do owe our mother careful attention to our handiwork and to our treatment of Gaia's other species of life."

*Highly* recommended, if you can find a used copy.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Jul 09, 08:52:00 PM:

Right On Brother! Hey man, there's a free concert in the park and everyone's gonna be there. Arlo, Seeger, the Dead, Baez...

Bring your message. People have got to know what Nixon is up to, man.  

By Blogger Deuce ☂, at Sun Jul 09, 09:38:00 PM:

rwe posted a great line as well: ...The Democrats who are saying to abandon Iraq so we can do a really
terrific job in Afghanistan are not just idiots - they are three stage idiots with strap-on boosters.

2:51 PM  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Jul 10, 01:23:00 AM:

This staunch environmentalist owns a drip torch...  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Jul 10, 07:11:00 AM:

What's a drip torch? I'm sure that reveals the breadth and depth of my ignorance, but I'm still curious.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Jul 10, 08:04:00 AM:

A drip torch is an ignition tool used to place fire in prescribed burns. It has a handle and a wick and takes a 50/50 mixture of gasoline and diesel fuel. In areas where petroleum accellerants are taboo (wetlands), one can use a 5 gallon propane tank with a torch attachment, but a drip torch is the igniter of choice in most prescribed fire situations.

I've used drip torches on prescribed burns from Albany to Maine, and especially on Cape Cod and the Massachusetts islands where the Pitchpine /scrub oak community is fire dependant. Your New Jersey Pine Barrens are a similar system.  

By Blogger tm, at Mon Jul 10, 12:55:00 PM:

If the only way that you can denigrate and defeat your opponent's argument is to strip it of supporting ideas/facts/philosophies....

There was no support. It was just sophistry and ornament. Very pretty and formally well-constructed, but empty of content. My reconstructed syllogism captured everything relevant.

Right On Brother! Hey man

That's pretty clever. Did you think of that all yourself? Cuz it had me in stitches! I mean, I've never heard anyone say crazy shit like that before, EVER!  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Mon Jul 10, 07:02:00 PM:

Neocon bedtime story:

We gave some matches to George Bush, who put on a fireman's suit and lit one up in Iraq. And that's good, 'cause if you don't periodically burn down Iraq, their underbrush would threaten our forest. But some people think the fire got out of control, so the nasty environmentalists are going to take away the government's matches. And the reason that's sad is because there are a lot more countries to light on fire. It's dangerous to have countries not lit on fire because they develop knife-wielding posses.

And that's perhaps the best argument that the Iraq war was folly.
I agree approximately to the same extent that I agree Iraq is a pine forest.  

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