Jewish World Review March 28, 2011 / 22 Adar II, 5771
Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "…as always in a moment of extreme danger things can be done which had previously been thought impossible. Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas."
The world in 2011 seems much like that of the century before, and much unlike it. History doesn't repeat itself, it has been said, but it does rhyme. Not in any simple, clear way. But more like
Once I tore off dispatches from the teletype machine in a little newsroom, alone in the middle of the night when I couldn't go home, consumed as I was by curiosity, anxiety, desperation about what would happen next in the latest war in the Muddle East. One clattering BULLETIN and FLASH would follow the other as the war approached its climax or anti-climax or neither…
One by one, the dispatches would pile up on the floor while I hastily searched for a clear pattern. There wasn't one. There wouldn't be till the history was written, the pieces of the puzzle forced together, glossed over, properly falsified in a secretary of state's memoirs, the blood washed away and the medals pinned on the corpses. In medias res, in the middle of the action, the fog of war provides decent cover, like a shroud…
The random headlines of victories and disasters, triumphs and tragedies, still carry a sense of urgency years later as they speak of events past in the present tense, making a kind of out-of-time poetry. Rommel Drives on Deep into
"We are quiet, not afraid. Send the news to the world and say it should condemn the Russians. The fighting is very close now and we haven't enough guns. What is
"They bombed us with tanks, airplanes, missiles coming from every direction… We need international support, or at least a no-fly zone. Why is the world not supporting us?" --
Men still look to the skies from whence cometh their help. And in this endless chess game, the pawns still bleed…
And the statesmen still temporize. Politicians and generals prepare to explain why they were right all along, especially when they were wrong. Some play it safe by saying nothing at length, others by saying everything, covering all the bases. That way, with a little selective quoting, they can pass as prophets in the eyes of some future generation. The secret of forecasting the future is to be equivocal about it…
The complicated calculus of risk and security, advantages and disadvantages, is constantly being compiled in the think tanks and war rooms and around conference tables and in op-ed pieces for the
One headline after another comes as a surprise. Mubarak Departs. Demonstrations Spread Across Arab World. Libya Erupts. "Rebels on Run after Gadhafi Pounds Port/ Libya Dictator Will Prevail, U.S. Intelligence Chief Says … Strikes on
It's all one big swirl of past and present, expectation and disappointment, an unforeseen sirocco blowing out of the desert, coming out of nowhere and hastening to the place where it arose, covering everything with dust…
None of this was anticipated. It was not possible. So said the graphs and pie charts and PowerPoint presentations and algorithmic computer modeling maintained at the Pentagon, in the think tanks, at Foggy Bottom, in faculty conferences on the
"All our models are bad,"
What went wrong? Why were all these experts, with all their expertise, reduced to blind men trying to grasp fog, always surprised by what is unsurprising once it occurs? The dithering, the vacillation, the reflexive defensiveness of leaders who do anything but lead, it would all be amusing -- except for the usual images of protesters gunned down, desperate refugees, dead children, mothers howling in grief…
The experts were so busy weighing the probable they overlooked what was possible. Or even Field Marshal Rommel's impossible, which suddenly becomes possible when circumstances are dire. Calculating everything, the experts forget about the incalculable. Like man's determination to be free.
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