34,000 won’t do it, or, recycling can be bad

Getting old for me has less to do with my creaky bones and rigid beliefs than it does with recycling.  Tomorrow the President unveils (poor word choice) the latest strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it already feels like recycling of a bad sort.  AfPak has been done before.  And before that.  And again before.  Juat check the speeches, and you’ll know.  You can’t help but think that while Obama has taken a good, long look at the options, there hasn’t been a real understanding of the region or of history.  Of the mindsets that accompany Pashtunwali, a country without the real idea of a country, and  faith — in this case, Islam.  Of course, there’s the challenge of politics complicating these matters, and by that I mean U.S. politics, but honestly, the Vice-President is closer to right this time around.  Jim Hoagland summed it up beautifully yesterday in WaPo.

So I find myself doing my own recycling, as if by fate. I came across this essay by the one writer who I continually seem to return to — V.S. Naipaul.  It’s worth reading and considering once again — perhaps as a way of stopping the simple recycling of bad ideas, or maybe going beyond statistics and numbers that military men provide.


Time for Real Communication

A London acquaintance of mine, John Freeman, was on the Diane Rehm Show last month discussing his new book, The Tyranny of Email.  Some of what he talks about is obvious, and the discussion occasionally veers toward a radio call-in sentimentality, but there are some nice moments in the conversation about letter writing in particular.  It reminds me that just as important (and difficult) is taking the time to consider — really consider — the people and experiences one has in life.  I only met John once in person, over coffee at Paul near the Granta offices.  He seemed hurried (and was late), but I remember enjoying the book I was reading while sipping coffee on the sidewalk that morning as much as the brief chat we had about supporting Granta’s work.  It would have been nice to have had time for a longer discussion, but in many ways that’s the point.  We’ve emailed a few times since that meeting and gone about our working lives.  Good to see he’s doing well.