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Today is my 50th birthday.
Or at least by the time I upload this it will be.
It has been 3 months since I have posted anything. Slightly longer than that since I wrote anything substantive for the site. When I realized I had been this remiss and first started contemplating the structure for yet another blog where I talked about restarting, reviving, or reworking the blog I felt saddened, forlorn and a bit disappointed. I think most people hit moments like this in their lives. Moments where they felt adrift and unproductive. So, at the end of this month, this year, and this decade I find that this blog, like my life, is not in need of a revamp. It just is.
Since the 2016 United States Presidential election, the concepts of Nationalism and Populism have received a lot more attention and consideration. One of the defining characteristics of both Nationalism and Populism is not just the ideology they identify with but almost more importantly the relationship to the ideology to which they are opposed. By emphasizing the Orwellian nature of Socialist, Democratic Socialist, or any flavor of Socialist or Communist thought, Nationalists and Populists attempt to draw crudely the dissimilarities between the ideologies. The best and easiest way to invoke this Orwellian narrative is by returning to the source material. Nationalists/Populists refer back to the works of George Orwell, most specifically the novels 1984 and Animal Farm.
News outlets have been trickling out the story of a possible agreement reached between the United States government and representatives of the Taliban in Afghanistan finally to broker a peace deal in the longest war in United States history. Therefore, it is rather appropriate that I have recently finished reading Ahmed Rashid’s Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. We need to review some basic questions and assumptions. How this conflict and the occupation of Afghanistan rate in length and expense to other conflicts with which the United States has been involved. Has the blood and treasure expended by the United States and its coalition allies in this conflict truly been wasted? Is it possible that the United States and NATO forces' use of different tactics or strategic goals would have changed the situation on the ground in Afghanistan in 2019?
It was a time of great uncertainty and upheaval in America. A time of grand, expansive plans as a small part of the population enjoyed untold prosperity. It was also when the ability to survive yet another day was a small plodding measure of success. One man pierced the veil of darkness attempting to bring a modicum of hope and light to the beleaguered inhabitants of his city. He is vengeance. He is the night. He knows where to find you and what you fear. He is... the Ghost of Manhattan. Hold on for just a minute. Is it just me, or does that not sound amazingly familiar to anyone that has read a comic book in the last seventy-five years or seen a movie this millennium?
I spent a good portion of the beginning of my professional career doing business management, accounting, and finance. And yes, I can hear some of you already saying, “Well that explains a lot about why his writing style is so boring.” Ha, ha. I mention all this, not to imply I’m some sort of financial genius. Far from it. Rather, it’s to demonstrate that I have more than a passing interest in the financial system and might have a slightly better understanding of economics than the average consumer may. Which, I hope, will give you some insight when I review this book and I tell you, it’s a very difficult read.
When I was a kid, role-playing games like D&D were at the height of their popularity. Video games were still in their infancy, with only slightly better than 8-bit graphics on the best of systems. Into this target rich environment of 1988, R. Talsorian Games, Inc. introduced Cyberpunk 2013. In addition to their style, tone, and bleak outlook, there is another aspect all of these stories have in common, time. Each is set in an increasingly distant near future. I think these visionaries were too pessimistic in their estimates.
There is something supremely satisfying, and a bit nostalgic, in reading classic thriller novels. The classics seem fresh, nuanced, with rich full characters that are multifaceted and contradictory. Newer forays into the genre seem cliched or formulaic. Even the newer pieces by the classic authors fall prey to this issue. Eric Ambler’s Cause for Alarm was only the fourth novel he wrote back in 1936 - publishing it in September of 1938 - and considered remarkable for its prophetic tone. Most of us in the 21st century forget, to the average person in 1938 World War 2 wasn’t inevitable, or at least so it didn’t seem.
Terrorism and terrorism studies seem to have taken a back seat in the public consciousness of late. At least it appears to have in regards to the subject of National Security. Most governments have shifted focus back to great power confrontations and the desire to escape from the long wars we have been fighting for the last 18 years and focus instead on the more familiar aspect of state on state traditional maneuver warfare. However, terrorist and terrorist attacks still occur and we are likely to see an undercurrent of terrorism studies persist.Open Source Jihad takes a meta-analysis of the academic pursuit. Not looking at terrorism itself but attempting to quantify our attempts to study this phenomenon effectively.