Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


"What do you think of Kipling?"

"I don't know, you naughty boy, I've never kippled."

As the old (early 1900s? A best-selling Donald McGill postcard, at any rate) joke has it.

Ah, but I have kippled: here's an updating of Arithmetic on the Frontier.

Economics on the Frontier

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for fifteen years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
To make us fit to face the foe--
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear "All flesh is grass."

Ten thousand bucks per annum spent
To build an educated man
Who goes with soldierly intent
To fight a war in Uruzgan,
Where Talibs think rewards in heaven
Await the stars of 9/11.

An active service situation ---
A ground patrol just moving off--
Ninety grand of education
Dropped by an old Kalashnikov-
Shot like a spotlit kangaroo
Despite that quick course in Pashtu.

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the textbooks know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow.
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One plastic bag of poppy grout
Will pay for all madrasah fees
Of any lad from Tarin Kowt
Who never learned his ABCs
But being blessed with perfect sight
Picks off our Diggers left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides boil,
The big planes bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and toil,
To slay jihadis where they run,
Although insurgents are, I fear
As cheap--alas! as we are dear.

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