Wars real (Iraq) and fictional (MASH)

Much of the first season, MASH was a standard sitcom, and a pale comparison to the film.

MASH.signpostMore of those Ask Roger Anything answers:

New York Erratic wants to know:

What should we do about Iraq? Go back, send just humanitarian aide, leave it alone or some other option?

I found it hysterical to listen to Jeb Bush, and others, thrash around trying to figure out the answer to the question, “Knowing what we know now, should we have gone to war in Iraq?” Given the fact that the REAL, CORRECT answer is that we should NOT have gone to war in Iraq, knowing what we SHOULD have known THEN, then the hypothetical question should have been a cakewalk.

I hate going to the Jon Stewart well again, but the Daily Show’s Mess O’Potamia segments have been so dead on. In particular, two segments, one from July 2014, noting that the “U.S. is like the Oprah of sending weapons to the Middle East”, and if our friends don’t use them as we intended, whatcha gonna do? Watch that HERE or HERE.

Even more on point, a segment from June 2015 that says, sarcastically, “Just arm the rebels, that never backfires,” that “learning curves” are not for folks like us. Watch HERE or HERE or HERE or HERE for this succinct description:

“We spent the ’80s giving Saddam Hussein’s Baathists weapons to fight against the Iranians. The ’90s helping Kuwait fight against Saddam’s Baathists that we armed. The 2000s heading a coalition to destroy Saddam’s Baathists, and the 2010s fighting against those very same unemployed Baathists now going by the name ISIS that we originally armed in the ’80s to fight Iran.” In fact, our ONLY success is when we armed those Afghan rebels c. 1980, and they became the Taliban.

Those unemployed Baathists, BTW, were largely the strategic blunder of Paul Bremer, our head civilian honcho in-country, who, at least last year, was pushing for US troops back into Iraq. Let’s just say that I don’t find Bremer to be a reliable expert.

I listen to Ash Carter, the current Secretary of Defense, complain that the Iraqis aren’t “standing up”. The problem is that, in many ways, there ARE no Iraqis. I didn’t hear anything about this until the summer of 2014, in anticipation of the centennial of the start of World War I, but the terrible map-drawing in the region after that conflict is part of the problem that remains to this day.

Back in 2006, Senator Joe Biden suggested allowing Iraq to be broken up into sectarian areas, i.e., Kurds, Shia, and Sunni, though he now denies it. I think he may have been right initially.

Of course, the real problem, beyond the fact that we shouldn’t have gone to war in the first place is that, after going in for the wrong reason, and us torturing people, thus undermining our credibility, has provided “terrorist groups and their supporters with yet another chance to tap into a well of anger and frustration,” essentially creating the situation where perhaps we should respond militarily.

What was the question again?

Whatever the current administration is SAYING our actions are going to be, it will almost certainly be more. War has a funny way of developing mission creep. Perhaps America needs a 12-step program to cure it of its war addiction.

Surely we need to help with humanitarian aid, for the refugees dislocated from Iraq, in particular, is our responsibility.

Beyond that, I have no idea. I’ve seen interviews with Iraqi troops, and there seems to be no consensus as to what the US role should be. The fact that we’ve been wrong for SO long suggests another strategy. I think the idea of transferring CIA drone strike capacity to the Pentagon would presumably give more legitimacy, more transparency, to whatever defensive action we’ll be forced to take.

But I’m no good at unscrambling this omelet.
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Jaquandor, living on the Byzantium Shores, asked:

If you ever liked MASH: Colonel Potter or Blake? BJ or Trapper?

I LOVED MASH, or MAS*H, if you prefer, and watched it religiously through six time slots on five different days. When it was on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, during its second season (1973-74), it became part of the best television lineup ever, preceded by All in the Family, and followed by The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Bob Newhart Show and the Carol Burnett Show.

In fact, when the series DVDs, plus the 1970 movie upon which it was based, has been on deep discount on Amazon, as it was recently, I was tempted to buy it, but the reviews of the packaging scratched some discs made me wary.

The show took a while to find its footing, its voice. Much of the first season, it was a standard sitcom and a pale comparison to the film. As most critics noted, it wasn’t until the episode Sometimes You Hear the Bullet, in which Hawkeye’s friend visits him and (40-year-old SPOILER ALERT), later dies after being wounded, that the show developed any real level of gravitas.

For me, the show should have ended when Radar (Gary Burghoff) went home, which shows up in the eighth season, but, I believe, was filmed during the seventh. I never bought Klinger (Jamie Farr) out of the dresses. I would hope, however, that they would have included that Dreams episode from season eight.

The problem was that the show started to repeat itself. The first eight seasons, I often would watch the summer rerun of episodes I’d already seen, but by season nine, the show was already in a sense of deja vu, and I only watched once per episode.

In fact, Ken Levine, who was a writer in seasons five through eight noted that he accidentally helped rewrite a previous episode, and that was back in season seven. Search his blog for more great stories.

Also problematic is that the chronology started to make no sense at all. Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) were in trouble in 1952 in season two or three, Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) was celebrating Christmas 1951 in season nine. Someone put together a timeline of all the shows.

So, picking between Trapper John and B.J. (Mike Farrell) is complicated. Trapper was great in seasons two and three. B.J. was so earnest early on that he was initially irritating, but he grew on me until the later seasons when even his storylines started to repeat. First time he falls off the fidelity wagon, it’s great, but a subsequent possibility seemed forced.

McLean Stevenson’s Colonel Henry Blake also seemed to come into his own by the time he left after season three. The last scene in Abyssinia, Henry STILL makes me cry.

I had a bit of an adjustment of Harry Morgan as Colonel Potter because I remember the actor as a crazy general on the show two seasons earlier. But it was clear they needed a different type of character in that function, and he was great. The episode with the tontine, from season eight, was possibly Potter’s finest hour.

You didn’t ask, but I thought it was odd that Major Burns (Larry Linville) never really evolved from that one-note character, while Major Houlihan (Loretta Swit) changed from being “Hot Lips” to being Margaret, making the majors’ romance less viable over time. Gaining Major Winchester was clearly an improvement.

BTW, I saw the late Larry Linville at Capital Rep several years in The Importance of Being Earnest. His performance, in drag, was way over the top, yet unconvincing.