The cost of leading from behind
You don't get to influence the direction of the world when you're leading from behind.
“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.” (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani)
"My recommendation would be that people go to the movies" (Barack Obama)
This splendid bit of late-1930s industrial artwork is the "cap" on the pilot's wheel of the B-29 Enola Gay. Looking for all the world like the horn button on an automobile of that era, it went missing in the 1950s or thereabouts, when an Air Force veteran was wandering through the "boneyard" at Davis Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Arizona. According to family legend, he spotted Enola Gay, climbed aboard, and liberated the cap as a souvenir, on the assumption that the historic bomber would soon be scrapped. (My father went to work at Davis Monthan about that time, his job to design and build the crates that would enable airplane parts to be freighted to wherever in the world they were needed.)
During the Vietnam War, hundreds if not thousands of young American men relocated to Canada to avoid the draft. Now we have the spectacle of Amazon's Jeff Bezos doing much the same thing. Britain's Guardian newspaper has revealed the site of the company's new testing ground for drones, and it's not located in the UK as we had been led to believe, but less than half a mile north of the U.S. frontier in British Columbia.
Yes, this is what we have come to -- a regulatory state that Americans must flee in order to get any productive work done. More than three thousand citizens turn in their passports every year (and pay a substantial "expatriation" tax) to free themselves from the Internal Revenue Service. And one of the country's premier businesses has been forced to establish "an airstrip-in-exile," as the Guardian phrases it.
Jeff Bezos's dream is to be able to deliver packages within half an hour. To do this, he would use drones, but the Federal Aviation Agency treats drones like aircraft, requires an operator to have a pilot's certificate, won't let the thang fly out of the operator's sight or above 500 feet, and so on and so forth. Exceptions will be granted after a lengthy review--and the FAA just recently granted Amazon such an exception. But the company had already abandoned the device in question and moved on to a more sophisticated one. To test it, Amazon decided to take advantage of the “permissive culture on the Canadian side of the border,” again in the Guardian's words.
Canada! Permissive culture!
Six years ago, Israel was America's best friend in the Middle East. (Or is it the Near East? I never can quite sort that out.) Now we have swapped Tel Aviv out for Tehran, not only promising to lift actual sanctions in favor of a promised reduction in Iran's quest for a nuclear bomb, but enlisting it as an ally against Islamic State. Israel, meanwhile, has become a pariah state, rather like South Africa in the days of apartheid.
The difference of course is that with Israel, the United States was the strong partner who provided military and diplomatic aid to a beleaguered nation. With Iran, the shoe seems to be on the other foot.
I don't know how it strikes the Israelis, but somehow the new arrangement does not make me feel more secure.
I usually have no patience with the secondguessing that follows most tragedies, from the Pearl Harbor attack to the crash of an airliner. Everybody and everything gives out signals, so there's not much point in hoo-hawing after the quirks in the man who turns out to be suicidal or the nation that attacks without warning. But to have a commercial airline pilot who was treated for suicidal tendencies! That is indeed an astonishment. What in the world was the German airline administration thinking, that neither it nor Mr Lubitz's flight surgeon (medical examiner) was able to pick up on that?
Privacy laws, I'll bet. We now privilege an individual's self-esteem more than his society's wellbeing.