Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Canal Horse In The White House

Have a look at this:

That's a picture of a canal horse -- sadly, a modern-day canal horse, as I couldn't find a decent historical picture of one that labored many hours per day, each and every day of its life, dragging cargo ships and barges through the canals of continental New York.

A long time ago in an entirely different context, I wrote:

Way back when, boats and barges used to be towed through canals by teams of horses harnessed to the purpose. Those horses would trudge back and forth over the same route, many times each day. They knew nothing else. Indeed, if unharnessed and allowed to roam, they'd just keep walking back and forth in the grooves they'd worn into the banks of the canal.

A lot of older engineers are like that. New techniques, improved algorithms, and advances in the state of the art are opaque to them. What they learned twenty or thirty years ago is all they know, and all they trust. Persuading them out of those grooves is a job for Superman -- and when your Curmudgeon last checked, that worthy was fully booked.

The canal horse is easily known by his immediate resistance to any idea that's new to him. No matter what you propose, he'll have an infinity of reasons why he can't, shouldn't, or mustn't do it. It won't matter how old the technique is. Message queues? Opaque data sections? Communication via sockets? He'll find a way to characterize all of these, and anything else he's never done before, as a canker on the body politic. In the most extreme cases, if you lose patience with him and command him to make use of an unfamiliar technique or tool, he'll contrive to make it into the worst disaster since the Little Big Horn.

This isn't a condemnation of all older engineers. It isn't even a condemnation of the absolutely unteachable ones. It's a recognition that as they age, some persons lose their capacity to learn. In the usual case, there isn't much that can be done about it. In the engineering world this can have unfortunate effects, but no doubt the same is true in any field.

But there are several ways in which one can forfeit the capacity to learn. Some of them are involuntary...and some of them aren’t.

If anything's become crystal-clear about Barack Hussein Obama since his installation as president, it's that he's absolutely unable to accept criticism or correction. He's absolutely unable because he's absolutely unwilling. To accept criticism or correction is to admit to error, fallibility, a shortcoming in one's perceptions, knowledge, or wisdom. That's an admission a narcissist such as Obama is emotionally barred from making:

Here is what Obama told aide Patrick Gaspard in 2008: "I think that I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director."

(Mind you, Obama had just hired Gaspard as his political director. I can't imagine what he said to his campaign's imam minister...if he had one.)

This is more revealing, and about more aspects of the Obama Interregnum, than most persons would imagine. It speaks quite loudly about Obama's utterly inept handling of international relations and his laughable attempts to use America's military power.

Obama's inability to admit to his own fallibility is the key to his missteps on the world stage. If we proceed from he assumption that he is not an implacable enemy of his own country -- America, not Kenya -- we are forced to conclude that he cannot learn, even from his own mistakes.

One who cannot learn cannot change. He'll continue to walk back and forth in the groove he occupies, doing the same thing over and over, making the same mistakes in response to the same stimuli, reaping the same consequences without any increment to his comprehension.

Consider Obama's massive failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Consider his total ineptitude in dealing with Russia and the Muslim Middle East. Consider how long all of that has gone on...and consider how little Obama's approach to anything has changed.

Obama has surrounded himself with persons who are utterly under his thumb. That's consistent with the above. After all, those folks were his choices for their posts. He would never have nominated someone who might differ with him on any subject of significance...especially if there were any possibility that such a difference might become public. But there's no possibility of that, for none of them would dare to contradict him, whether publicly or privately. They all know how vindictive he is, and would rather not face the consequences.

But let's imagine a different scenario. Let's imagine Obama surrounded entirely by persons of intelligence, judgment, and personal courage: persons unafraid of the consequences of differing with "the boss." Can you imagine him learning from them -- admitting that their knowledge and insight just might, in the domains of their expertise, be superior to his own? Or is it more likely that he'd find ways to insulate himself against all contact with such insubordinate subordinates, and would contrive their downfalls when the opportunity presents itself?

Obama and his political intimates are very good at character assassination. Ask Blair Hull. Ask Jack Ryan. However inept he might be at anything else, he's mastered that particular black art.

Given the total pusillanimity of Congress -- yes, both Houses and both caucuses in each of them -- we're stuck with our canal horse president until January 20, 2017. He'll keep messing up in all the ways we've already come to know and loathe. In particular, his distaste for American international pre-eminence and military power will continue to manifest itself whenever trouble flares in some faraway land. He'll threaten. Then he'll soften the threat. Then he'll either find a way to back away from his threat's fulfillment, as he has in the Syrian matter, or he'll use American power counterproductively to our national interests.

Specifically concerning the Syrian contretemps, I find myself thinking of an exchange in Frank Yerby's wonderful novel of Saracen Spain, An Odor of Sanctity:

    "Look upon me again, and tell me, if you can or dare, that I am a lout!"
    "You threaten me, young sir?" Hasdai ben Sahl thundered."
    "Nay," Alaric said, "for to threaten is an act of incertitude, of cowardice. When there is need to strike, I strike, and the matter ends itself at once."

Words to live by...except, apparently, for Barack Hussein Obama.


Anonymous said...

Obama is neither incompetent nor disinterested. It only appears that way from expectations.

Obama was bred & trained for this position, a position he is discharging with distinction; that position of destroying this country and paving the way for his islamic master.

Michael Gersh said...

I disagree. He is a street hustler, with no identifiable ideology that I can discern. He may be on the side of Islamists, but then how do we explain the drone war? Ho goes along to get along, and follows the path of least resistance, playing golf and enjoying the emoluments of his office.

Nice part time job he has, but I can't give him the respect to see him as an ideologue with any substantive aim, other than his own aggrandizement.

russellmay said...

Obama loves the trappings of power, but has shown little aptitude in using that power.

Unless his goals are to sow confusion, weaken the perception of America, tank the dollar and hand Russia the World Super Power Championship Belt, tie the majority of American troops in foreign countries and pussify the remaining, and tie the American people's health care to Fed Government to ensure the Feds will have a almost limitless tool to use against us.

Then he's on track and doing fine!