Robert Cringely has long held the title of most insightful commentator on the overall computer industry. He's not a master of software, he is a keen observer with abundant industry contacts. He's also experienced more than an average share of suffering -- including the loss of his son to SIDS about two years ago.
In today's column we learn that his journalistic credentials extend a bit beyond circuits and venture funds. I would like to take this gentleman to lunch someday.
... Back to the election. If the experts are correct, the 2004 election results mean we now live in a country where morality is apparently the major concern of people. Am I wrong, or is the same thing not true in Iran? And if our morality is in fundamental conflict with their morality, which side will be willing to sacrifice more to obtain what they view as their just end? I can tell you it ain't us.
Back in 1986 I talked Penthouse magazine into giving me an assignment to write the story: "How to Get a Date in Revolutionary Iran." The premise was that hormones are hormones, and those wacky kids in Tehran, most of whom could still remember the Shah, had to be finding some way to meet members of the opposite sex. So I headed off to Iran to find out the truth. If you are interested in such stuff, the only time a single man and woman not from the same family could be together in private back then was in a taxi (he being the driver), so all the teenage boys who had or could borrow cars turned them into taxis. This, of course, put all the power in the hands of the woman since she could see him but he had to take pot luck.
I eventually finished the piece and decided to go see the war since I had been in Beirut and Angola, but had never seen trench warfare, which is what I was told they had going in Iran. So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.
It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.
Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.
Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world. But of course President Bush, who may think he pulled the switch on a couple hundred Death Row inmates in Texas, has probably never seen a combat death. He doesn't get it and he'll proudly NEVER get it.
Welcome to the New Morality.
So, fighting this war the Bush way, we have a few options:
1. Kill them until we get tired of it -- or run out of bullets.
2. Miss one and be blown up.
This is the war our "moralists" voted for. Armed conflict and surveillance should be only one component of a multidimensional campaign. Instead we have incompetence at the White House.