Failure is not an option, it’s a dead certainty

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Every problem has a solution. This is not the same as saying that everything can be fixed. Thomas Jefferson is dead. He can’t be “fixed.” It’s not a problem with a solution. It’s historical fact. Contrary to the mutton-headed fantasy the apparently regret-laden STNG writers peddle, time travel—backwards at least—is impossible.

Youtube Moon Landing

One of the reasons to have what approaches faith in human ingenuity for leveling problems is the event that spawned the single best quote encapsulating the idea.

Failure is not an option. Gene Kranz

That is power rhetoric. It’s the kind of poetry some leaders can materialize in the moment. It entered the American stable of idioms when Mission Control Director Gene Kranz reacted to the crisis and impending death of the Apollo 13 and her crew. Everyone in the house knew the mission was doomed and those astronauts were gonna die. The way to get the very best out of someone is to tell them that’s all they’ll be permitted to give. We rise to the moment.

Those men turned certain death into firm, measured chance. They were every science fiction hero from Tom Swift to Lucky Starr to Captain Kirk saving three star sailors a quarter of a million miles away from any serious amount of breathable air. There is no oar you can dip in a vacuum. There are no resources outside the confines of a spaceship barely big enough to turn around in. The void’s insistence on teaching you that apes belong planted on the dirt balanced against your genius and the dying batteries running your radio.

The flabbergasting nature of what was achieved to save Apollo 13 is wasted on most of you. Either too ignorant to understand that it was real history or too filled with superstitious misanthropy to believe that regardless of our foibles mankind contains immense greatness not represented by the childish trigonometry of the crooked stacks of rocks littering Giza.

President Bush and now Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have glommed onto the poetry of their betters. They’ve reduced it to the poetry of the proletariat, jingoism. Now Iraq is the place where failure is not an option. At least it’s not in the bullet points of the official White House Iraq Power Point presentation.

From yesterday’s War Nerd–

…when I hear that same line from Bush, about critics not offering solutions… It reminds me of a drunk driver waking up to find himself at the wheel of his friend’s new car, now wrapped around a tree. His buddies are screaming at him, every name in the book, and he says, “Oh, it’s easy to criticize, but where do we go from here?” Your Xmas War-Gift: The Mighty Finn

Is Iraq nothing but a wreck we should be grateful we can walk away from or is it a critically endangered mission in a sea of rough luck? If there were a solution to the problem that is Iraq today—as we’ve rendered it—would you even want to hear it?

The Left so eager to defend Christian women from oppression seems twice as excited to leave Muslim women to stand in Sharia courts to be killed for slights as offensive to Allah as learning to drive.

The Right claims to care about the issues which the Left abandons when it becomes politically inconvenient but doesn’t actually seem to care about anything. With no tangible, measurable goals they want nothing but to enjoy being Christian and in charge while everyone trembles and frets over integration Soviets drugs crime Satanism Liberals terrorism or whatever boogeyman it is this week that touches 0.0001% of Americans’ lives.

So the answer. The way to take failure off the table. How do we fix Iraq? What could we possibly do to stabilize the place, bring general peace and prosperity? Educate the population. Get women into the mainstream. Exclude Sharia law from the national justice system and generally separate the Islamic church from the secular state?

What to do? Essentially the answer is: Everything Saddam Hussein did—domestically anyway. In fact, we did it the first time since we were instrumental in his ascension. Hussein, like Osama bin Laden, probably never would have had a chance at the limelight without the intelligence, money, and assassination pointers of the CIA. But we just killed by proxy the only man we were able to scrape together in 60 years who could run the place and keep it secular and terrorist free.

He was a despot but he ran a tight ship. He was a bad man but we helped make him. He did awful things but nothing worse than what’s happened to Iraq since we took over. He was an occasional threat to his weakling neighbors but never for an instant to the United States.

So it seems we’re back where we started since the only way to avoid that hypothetical failure now is a time machine.

Hangman’s Noose
Iraq without me is nothing. Saddam Hussein on the way to the gallows

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was hanged earlier today. He will have followers again as other senior Baathists go to stretch in turn. It certainly won’t be an exhaustive roster of those who have made Iraq a Hell hole, nor even of those who have 100,000 or more dead Iraqis on their résumés.

If failure really weren’t an option, all of those responsible would marry the ropemaker’s daughter.

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