The War Mangled [Free Verse]

I heard the dead children,
their voices lilting on the wind.

The war-torn twice born
came crawling in under the wire,
bloody and shell-shocked,
but among the living, 

but the rest floated away:
their words
becoming both milder 
& more raucous,
never fully drowned out by
bombs or crossfire chaos.

Gunsmoke [Free Verse]

the acrid smell
of 
burnt gun-smoke
dulls
in the mind,
but not 
in the air

the brain tires of smelling it,
and so it fades,
but
it has nowhere to go --
not in this violent place
of dead & heavy air

BOOK REVIEW: Military Strategy: A Very Short Introduction by Antulio J. Echevarria II

Military Strategy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions, #523)Military Strategy: A Very Short Introduction by Antulio J. Echevarria II
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This concise guide to military strategy is well-organized and can be readily understood by an amateur reader. The book provides an overview of the domain of military strategy by comparing and contrasting related pairs of strategic paradigms.

After an overview chapter (ch. 1) that broadly defines the subject and lays out the organization for the rest of the book, chapter two explores strategies of annihilation and how they are similar to and different from strategies of dislocation. Chapter three investigates attrition and exhaustion, strategies that deal in destroying warfighting resources and will to fight, respectively. Chapter four elucidates how the threat of force can be used to keep the enemy from making a move (deterrence,) or force them to make a desired move (coercion.) Chapter five looks at strategies that rely on instilling fear to change an opponent’s behavior, including aerial bombardment and terrorist tactics. Chapter six considers different approaches to using selective targeting to achieve strategic goals: i.e. decapitation and targeted killing. The penultimate chapter (ch. 7) contrasts the various approaches to cyber warfare with cyber-power, more generally.

The final chapter (ch. 8) briefly examines the determinants of success and failure of military strategy.

The book is straightforward and uses historical cases to provide clear examples of each type of strategy. It doesn’t go much beyond definition and some classic examples, but it is an excellent starting point for organizing one’s thoughts on the topic in preparation to learn more.

If you’re in need of a concise overview of (or refresher on) military strategy, this is a fine guide to consider.


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I Read the News Today, Oh Boy! [Free Verse]

I
A young man set his ex-fiancé on fire.
(Or, so the story goes.
[He claims she self-immolated.])

She succumbed to third-degree burns...
but not right away.
She lived long enough to know
the agony of third-degree burns. 

They'd met in college,
both studying to be engineers --
I mention that because
at the heart of the issue was caste.
It seems absurd enough
to murder a fiancé over
some imaginary mark of superiority,
but even more so when one considers
that they would have had the same qualification --
possibly similar jobs --
but for the boy's bigoted parents,
who insisted he call off the engagement,
and the boy, himself, 
who took things that extra murderous mile.

So, it wasn't even about who the couple were,
it was about what their grandfathers 
did for a living.

What a world.
 

II
The war is still burning. 
Among the latest questions are:

 Will Belarus be forced to join in the fighting?
&
If so, will having another set
of soldiers who are completely uninterested in the war -- 
other than as a trial to be survived, that is --
help or hurt Putin's position?

A related question is whether Putin
would rather watch the world burn 
than to lose face?

What a world.


III
The Pandemic said, "Psyche!"

This means America will roll the odometer
on COVID deaths.

We had things almost back to normal,
and then the virus caught its breath,
got it's footing,...
whatever viruses do.

What a world.

***

I think I'll check the news, again,
maybe sometime next year.

Midnight Circus [Free Verse]

The Midnight Circus
was not as it seemed.

It was bright colors:
motion-blurred.

It was the tinny monotony 
of music box-style 
tinkling tunes
&
organ tones.

One could even make
out the scent of fried foods
and cotton candy,
among the many other
[uncircus-like]
odors.

But there was also the story
a mind wrote to
dance sensory facts 
into sensory fictions;
that was where the falsity lie.

If one opened one's eyes,
letting them focus:
there'd be sparking wires,
&
 flames licking ever closer.

The shrill organ tones would 
become screams.

The summer night's 
humid heat would become 
third degree burns.

The circus smells would
become dust and death 
and acrid burnt combustibles.

So, he didn't open his eyes
to war or his impending demise,
but let his mind march
into that big musty, canvas tent,
surrendering to its irreality.

DAILY PHOTO: Gorkha Monuments

Taken in December of 2021 at the Batasia Loop Garden War Memorial
Taken in December of 2021 at the Eagle’s Crag, Kurseong

BOOK REVIEW: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to ArmsA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This novel is set in Italy during World War I. The protagonist, Frederic Henry (like Hemingway, himself) volunteered to drive an ambulance in Italy during the war. The story is informed by, if not based upon, Hemingway’s personal experiences. Central to the story is a romance between Henry and a British nurse named Catherine Barkley. Their tentative flirtations deepen when Henry is wounded and spends a considerable amount of time at the hospital while recuperating. Barkley becomes pregnant with Henry’s child in the middle of the war. Henry returns to service for only a short time before he finds himself in the midst of a chaotic retreat from the swift advance of the Austrians and Germans. This retreat continues to go sour for Henry, leading to a flight for his life as he attempts to get back to Catherine so that he can get them both (plus the unborn child) to safety.

There’s a [variously-attributed] quote about war being: “long periods of interminable boredom punctuated by sheer terror.” This book captures that feel, but even during the moments of quiet from the opening through Henry’s rehab to the weeks hiding out in the Swiss mountains, Hemingway keeps the story engaging by shining a light into the protagonist’s psychology – and, occasionally, through wit. Then there are the thrilling moments like the shelling that wounds Henry or his various narrow escapes.

I found this book to be highly engaging. It has some beautiful language, exemplified by the famously well-composed opening paragraph, mixed with the taut suspense of life in a war zone. If you’re interested in war stories or classic American literature, it’s a must-read.

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BOOK REVIEW: Power Born of Dreams by Mohammad Sabaaneh

Power Born of Dreams: My Story is PalestinePower Born of Dreams: My Story is Palestine by Mohammad Sabaaneh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Out: October 7, 2021

This graphic novel reflects upon the Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of the author’s (artist’s) time in prison. At first, I found the story to be an evocative personal account of life in prison, but as the story continued it felt progressively less personal and more propagandistic. The central theme is that Palestinians feel imprisoned by circumstance, regardless of whether they are actually in a jail or not.

Still, it’s not the kind of work that will constructively advance a dialogue. It will rub those who sympathize with Israel the wrong way because it’s far from an unbiased account of events, vilifying the Israelis while glorifying (or failing to acknowledge) the Palestinians who engage in violence. This bias is particularly notable in the back matter, which presents accounts that seem journalistic, but which selectively present information to make it appear that all fault lies exclusively on one side.

To be fair, the author spent time in jail for (as best I could learn from the internet) what sounded like consorting with unsavory characters. [Which reeks of Soviet-style “justice,” but the book doesn’t really delve into the reason for his imprisonment, and – even if it did – I’m not sure that I’d trust that it’s the complete truth – given the way the general narrative is presented. So, I couldn’t tell you whether the author is an artist wrongly imprisoned for expressing himself, or whether he did something that was truly and legitimately seditious.]

The art is linocut to create a chiaroscuro effect (i.e. white lines, black background) and is stylistically interesting.

I enjoyed the art and found this to be an interesting read, but I wouldn’t recommend readers take it at face value as a fair account of the conflict, but rather as one man’s personal message about the conflict.

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BOOK REVIEW: Dreaming Eagles by Garth Ennis

Dreaming EaglesDreaming Eagles by Garth Ennis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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New Edition Out: June 1, 2021

This graphic novel by the author of “The Boys” and “Preacher,” tells a story based on the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen, and does so as a story within a story. The framing story is set in 1960’s America and finds a World War II veteran (a pilot of the Tuskegee Airmen) trying to talk his teenaged son down from getting too entangled in the Civil Rights movement — for reasons that are only revealed as he completes the telling of his experiences at war. Through flashbacks, the protagonist depicts not only the thrilling exploits of air-to-air combat over Europe and the visceral tragedies that occur when hot lead meets with aluminum high above the world, but it also shows the unique tribulations experienced by these particular military men – such as “leaders” who wanted to see them fail and widespread discrimination.

The story-in-story approach is an excellent one because it allows for a character arc in which the protagonist grows. Without getting into spoiling details, as the protagonist revisits his story, he comes away with a new and changed perspective (which is always a valuable feature in storytelling.) The frame also breaks up the history and helps maintain reader attentiveness by showing the influence the story has on the attentive son. (Young men not being famous for being interested in the life stories of their parents.) I don’t mean to suggest that the war story is not interesting. It’s full of action, heroism, and the tension of interpersonal conflict. However, for those who aren’t history buffs and are acclimated to Ennis’s more popular fare [i.e. full of superheroes and random acts of violence and titillation,] the story may feel a bit flat only by virtue of the fact that it is constrained by actual historical events.

I found the art to be well-crafted. The chaos of air combat is conveyed without being so chaotic that one can’t tell what is happening, and the graphics offer a great sense of setting and era.

This volume is definitely worth giving a read. It tells a compelling story of the combative exploits and the political / social travails of these groundbreaking and heroic pilots, while holding a mirror to the rank societal biases of the era.


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