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April 30, 2003

The Great American Melting Pot

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Aubrey Turner posts on the growing number of immigrants, primarily hispanic, who do not end up learning English. He is worried, both because this limits their success, and because it tends to factionalize us. I would like to note two things: 1) the people who most promote the multiculturalist idiocy are the same who benefit from it (and I don't mean the immigrants themselves, but the victimization advocates), and 2) there is cause for more hope than Aubrey lets on.

The cause for hope is simply this: our nation has always been this way. The initial generation of immigrants speak only their native language. Their children are bilingual, and in the third generation only English is spoken. I share Aubrey's concerns that we are, as a nation, slowing this process, and that doing so tends to marginalize the new immigrants. I do have faith, though, in the ability of immigrants to realize that speaking English is in their own interest, all carping by those who wish to have the immigrants as a captive audience aside.

Posted by jeff at 4:55 PM | TrackBack

Deporting Immigrants

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a controversial 1996 law:

The government can imprison immigrants it is seeking to deport without first giving them a chance to show that they present neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, a divided Supreme Court ruled today.

The 5-to-4 decision upheld the mandatory-detention provisions of a 1996 immigration law as applied to a substantial category of aliens who are lawful permanent residents of the United States and who have been convicted of any of a number of drug crimes and other "aggravated" offenses.


Let's face it: this is a terrible law. Even without the stories of immigrants who have lived here since they were a few years old, and who don't speak Korean but are being deported to Korea, the law is lousy just on a surface consideration of its merits. What this law says, is that the US government can decide to hold a person under this law, and in doing so can deny him the opportunity to prove that he should not be held under the law. That's pretty offensive.

On the other hand, the Constitution does not require that a law be sensible or morally upstanding; only that it be passed by the methods given in the Constitution, and accord with powers granted the government by the Constitution. Since it is generally held that these powers include the right to control who can and cannot legally remain in the country, providing that they are not citizens, and since the law was passed in the normal manner, the Supreme Court's decision was a good one. Now that the Supreme Court has so decided, it would be a good idea to get this law amended, rather than letting such an unreasonable law stay on the books.

By the way, a citizen "owns" living in America, while a non-citizen is essentially here as a guest of the government (as Cato points out), so there is a due process argument to be made for citizens that would not apply to non-citizens.

Posted by jeff at 2:56 PM | TrackBack

Post-Modernism

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Vinod has interesting comments on post-modernism here and here. Also see Sgt. Stryker's post here and here.

Posted by jeff at 11:05 AM | TrackBack

Prospects of a Political Axis Shift

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Robin Goodfellow a an interesting article about the prospects for a political axis shift in US domestic politics, where the issues being discussed totally change, and the political parties reform into a new pair (possibly with the same names but with vastly different agendas). (Thanks to Instapundit for the link.) I think that there is a good chance that Robin is correct. After all, there are a lot of issues out there that do not break cleanly along party lines (the war on terrorism being only one) and there are a lot of people who don't feel connected to the major parties. When they become convinced they have an alternative, those voters change things. Witness Jesse Ventura's race for governorship, for instance. Robin's suggestion of where the parties might reform is certainly plausible.

What is lacking, I think, is a charismatic leader. If someone like Colin Powell or Zell Miller were to come out and say, hey, we need a third option, and here's what it should be, then I think we could see a rapid formation of a new meaningful political party. It can't be about that charismatic leader though - that's the fate that Perot suffered, because people wanted him to be something he couldn't, so the Reform Party eventually and inevitably self-destructed. Even then, though, I'm not entirely convinced that such a part could survive for long.

I think that the breaking points in future American politics will be Federal vs. State control, which includes the debates about government size, taxes, protection of individual liberties and so forth; the war against terrorism and rogue states developing nuclear weapons; and immigration. I think that if a group of well-known political figures were to form a party with the stated principles of transferring most governmental and tax authority back to the States, vigorously prosecuting the war on terrorism while otherwise pulling back from overseas commitments, and allowing much easier immigration, such a party could easily pull about 1/3 of the Democrats and a similar proportion of Republicans into its fold. A large number of independents might also fold in, and at that point, there would be the possibility of real change. It's certainly possible, too, that the opposing parties would reform into a single party pushing massive Federal control and nanny-state welfare provisions combined with very restricted immigration and even greater intrusions on individual liberties in the name of "security." Such a party would likely, as the moderates got pushed out of it, become isolationist as well.

Certainly, it will be interesting.

Posted by jeff at 10:44 AM | TrackBack

Spluttering Indignation

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I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'm going to fisk a teacher. OK, I can believe it. This article was posted online, but then deleted from the page. Poor Ms. Flynn doesn't seem to understand that on the Internet, you can't take back what you say. Because the article is no longer online where it was originally posted, I am going to quote the entire article, even the parts I don't say anything about directly.

FLINT JOURNAL COLUMN


GENESEE COUNTY

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION

Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Kelly Flynn
JOURNAL COLUMNIST

The public school system takes a lot of bashing at the hands of the media and politicians. Some of it's justified. Most of it's not. And having taught there for almost 20 years, I'm certainly aware of its strengths and weaknesses.


Apparently you're not.
But when it comes to a well-rounded education that prepares students for the world of work and for functioning in a global society, the public school system can't be beat.

It can, and you can, and I shall.
They take everyone.

For a ride...an expensive and meaningless ride.
Blind, deaf, learning disabled, mentally impaired or non-English speaking,

Yes, that describes the public school system in general.
public schools take them all and provide the services they need.

Except, say, a well-rounded and in-depth education covering such useful topics as the structure, theory and practice of our governance at the State or Federal levels, US and world history, American and European literature, math and science, creative and practical writing, economics, logic, foreign languages or for that matter the English language, or indeed any of the critical knowledge required of adults in a free society. Which is necessary, of course, to prevent those students from realizing what a bad deal government schools are.
And in my experience, that's exactly what some parents don't like about the public school system.

Yep, you nailed it. We don't like that you are incapable of educating our kids to the point that they could, by the end of 12+ years of schooling, pass the 8th grade test from Salina, KS in 1895. Part of this is the fault of mainstreaming, which puts children who are unable to learn at a given level and those who are well past that level in the same class, thus preventing the children who are more advanced from learning while assuring that those who need special attention won't get it. I suppose that it is opposition to that particular practice that you meant. If so, you've guessed wrong. If there are going to be government schools, they should accept all comers. But teachers and administrators shouldn't be stupid about how they attempt to provide an education for those kids.

And for that matter, the government schools should be tax advantaged only to the point of provision of infrastructure. The per-child costs should be given to the parents of the children (in voucher form, if you want to ensure that the parents don't use the money on new cars every year or two). They can then be given back to the public school (which would by law have to provide an education for exactly the amount given to the parents, and would use that money for teacher salaries, textbooks, classroom materials and administrators' salaries), or used to defer private tuition, or used for homeschooling supplies and educational trips. Yes, yes, I know that this would vastly reduce the number of government-employed teachers, and make it necessary for teachers to actually be able to, say, teach in order to hold down a job (otherwise, parents won't allow their students (and the associated money) anywhere near those teachers).

Still, I believe that parents should have choices when it comes to educating their children.

How nice. We are allowed to be responsible for our children...
Charter schools and parochial schools are great options.

The educational choice that confounds me, though, is home schooling.


...as long as we do it your way, that is.
Why would parents choose to isolate their children from a rich and varied learning environment?

We don't. Government schools do not necessarily provide a learning environment that is either rich or varied. Keller (TX, where I live) public schools are something like 87% white.
Why would parents choose to pull their children out of the real world and shelter them from the very society that they will ultimately have to live and work in?

School shootings, bullying, forced conformity to government norms, short attention spans and the other "real world" experiences of school my children can do without. I am happy for them to make the society better, rather than to settle for the least common denominator.
It's perplexing.

Go study history, logic, the Enlightenment. Then compare the achievement levels of homeschooled children to publically schooled childern. Then consider that Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein were all schooled at home. Then you won't be so perplexed. Or, simply realize that you are an ignorant and seriously misguided person who has no business telling me how to raise my children. Either way works for me.
In extenuating circumstances home schooling is the only viable alternative, such as in the case of a long-term illness. I'm not talking about those situations.

If it's OK in those situations, then why not as a matter of course?
But many times in my career I observed parents choosing to home school to keep their child away from a certain "element" in the public school system that they deemed to be unsavory, to isolate their kids in what seemed to me to be an unhealthy way.

Ah, but there are unsavory elements in the government schools. There are the druggies, the gangs, the bullies, the neglected kids who go on shooting rampages, the honors English teachers who put on movies for the kids so they can work on their aerobics routines (10th grade for me, thank you) and so on. And I would rather my boys not be exposed to them until they are capable of resisting the mental and emotional vampirism that such people radiate. And if that seems unhealthy to you, you can bite me.
School is more than just academics,

I would settle for academics, if government schools could provide it.
and parents do kids a disservice when they try to protect their kids from the real world.

So it's my public duty to make sure my kids are ignorant, blindly obedient and unable to resist those in authority, or even just their peers with slightly more power, in order to satisfy your vain notion that you live in the real world? Let me tell you about the real world. In the real world, I don't work with people who are all my age, or all of my same general financial class, or all of my same general background. In the real world, I have the authority to think and act for myself. In the real world, I have the ability to speak out against the injustices of arbitrarily or malevolently wielded authority, and to resist by many different means those who would take power over me. In the real world, I cannot do my job without using language, rhetoric, math, logic and a host of other skills I was barely, if at all, introduced to in the public schools. In the real world, every day is an economics lesson, and many days are hard lessons. In the real world, my actions have consequences and I have to live with them. If I screw up, my family doesn't eat, or loses our car or our house or (in extremis) me. None of this has any connection to anything I learned in the public schools I attended. So I'll be glad to talk to you about "the real world" once you've joined it.
Wouldn't it be more logical to teach them to function effectively in it?

That is the very reason why we homeschool, as it so happens.
To me, the most compelling reason for sending a child to a public school is because the public school environment reflects the real world: competition, teamwork, cooperation and simply interacting with a wide variety of people are part of the experience, as they are in society.

I have four boys, ages 1 to 7. Their friends are mostly, but not entirely, girls ages 1 1/2 to 12. My oldest son is on a baseball team. They know about competition, and teamwork, and cooperation. They interact with as wide of a variety of people as they would if they were at the government school, except that they have to suffer fewer idiots. And though they don't interact with people of different races very often (the suburb we are in is just beginning to get black and hispanic residents in any real numbers), my eldest son asked my wife, a little before our fourth son was born, if our new son was going to have brown skin or be pink like us. Skin color, for my children, is no more differentiating than hair color.
The social setting in a school is ripe with learning experiences.

But suffers a paucity of actual learning.
People from all walks of life go to public schools: rich, poor, smart, dumb, bullies, sissies, all cultures and ethnicities. And guess what? When kids grow up they are going to have to work with people from all walks of life: rich, poor, smart, dumb, bullies, sissies, and all cultures and ethnicities.

Yes, and my kids will be the rich smart ones who treat the dumb bullies with the contempt they deserve, ignore the sissies and don't understand why anyone makes a big deal of cultures and ethnicities. We don't do identity politics and victimization studies in my house.
Even with the help of home schooling organizations, home-schooled children are often shortchanged.

Evidence? Argument? Anything? Did you know that homeschooled students are banned from competing in most national spelling bees and academic tournaments? They were constantly winning, and the public schools and teachers unions got angry about that. Shortchanged? Nope, not my kids.
The worst public school has more to offer in the way of resources than most parents can offer at home, such as science labs, technology, foreign language, theater, large and varied curriculums, textbooks, a variety of multi-media lesson support, clubs and sports.

I barely know where to start! Clearly, I can only offer the examples of myself and those friends and relatives I know who have homeschooled. That is, I suspect, more than Ms. Flynn can offer.

Science doesn't come from a lab. While we will provide the equipment and facilities necessary to basic experimentation in science (more, in fact, than I was provided in government schools), the more important part of science education is learning the method, and knowing when to trust scientific claims and when not to do so. This doesn't require a lab, and in fact the lab can detract from it, by putting results from experiments with known answers before (and in most cases in place of) understanding.

OK, we don't have a Dukayne projector. We do have multiple computers (one just for the kids), videos and DVDs, and will get what we need when we need it. I am hard-pressed to think of any technology that the public schools can provide that we cannot.

I speak German, though I am woefully out of practice. My wife speaks Spanish somewhat, though she is out of practice there too. There is a smattering of Irish and Welsh between us. We are going to teach the boys Latin, and we will learn along with them. We will likely also teach them other languages, particularly Spanish, which is in wide usage in this area.

A friend's daughter was in several plays at the local children's playhouse. We'll probably do the same, if the kids are interested. All of the sets, stages, costumes, scripts and so forth are available. No government sponsorship required.

I cannot begin to go into the curriculum resources available to homeschoolers. There are hundreds of curricula, on dozens of major and many more minor subject areas. We probably have a half-dozen curricula in our house right now, and we use the bits and pieces of them that work to help us teach our boys. Admittedly, we don't have the tendency of government school teachers to stick rigidly to a curriculum regardless of its ability to convey meaning to our kids, but I think we'll be OK on that score, too.

I refuse to use textbooks which ignore the important basics while striving to offend no one and manipulate the truth in order to make political points. Since this covers most textbooks, we prefer to rely on encyclopedias, real books, and source materials. The bedtime story for my two older boys for the last couple of weeks has been Jim Lovell's Lost Moon, about the Apollo 13 mission. We have libraries around us, and our own book collection, and we are constantly buying books as well. I somehow don't think the kids will suffer for lack of textbooks.

It is true that we don't offer a wide range of "multi-media lesson support," as we prefer to rely on actual teaching rather than gimmicks. But then again, I suppose it matters how you define "multi-media lesson support." While any given lesson may not have a movie, followed by computer games, followed by reading from a textbook, followed by discussion, followed by drawing a picture of how solving for a variable makes the kids feel about the necessity of defining a numeric problem space in such a way that it makes sense to talk about "solving for a variable," the lessons are repeated over and over again in different media. Not only is Lost Moon their current bedtime story, but the kids have toys of rockets and astronauts, and they have seen both movies and documentaries covering the space program, and we have a variety of other space books around, and I'm seriously considering building an Apollo command module from plans I found online.

My oldest son is playing baseball this year. For a while he was going to chess club as well, but he kind of lost interest in that. Maybe later. In any case, there are a variety of clubs and sports available to us; probably in the end not much different than what's available to government school students - certainly not much different than what was available to me when I was in school.

The teaching staff in a public school can be colorful, too.

Yes, but colorful does not imply competent, which is far more important to me.
A variety of teaching and evaluation styles forces a student to grow as a learner.

The semantic content of this sentence is zero, so I guess I'll just skip it.
Teachers are even trained to teach to multiple intelligences.

Sniff! Sniff! I smell a fad, here. If I refuse to use terms like "word smart" and "self smart," and instead use "literate" and "sentient," am I teaching multiple intelligences? It's hard to tell, apparently, without spending a lot of money.
How many parents can say the same?

With a straight face, you mean?
Although I have a teaching certificate,

A piece of paper, signifying nothing.
I know that I couldn't come close to giving my children the education they could get in a public school.

Then what were you doing teaching in one???
I couldn't possibly offer the depth and breadth of education that I know my colleagues offer every day.

OK, I can buy that you are an incompetent teacher. Your total lack of logic, and apparent inability to do reasearch (you could have, say, called a homeschooler and asked some questions) shows that very well. Don't project, 'kay?
Sure, I could go to the home-schooling store and buy a book on say, history, and I could read the chapters and assign the accompanying assignments. I could check the answers using the answer key. We could even take a trip to Greenfield Village. But could I offer the same depth of understanding as someone who chose to teach history because of a passion for it, someone who is an expert in the field?

Let me assure you that people who teach history in government schools do not have any different coursework or requirements than people who teach math in government schools. Before you teach history, perhaps you should try understanding it, so that you won't need answer keys and such. Perhaps instead of traipsing around some site of ostensible historical importance, you could imbue your students with a sense of how history influences our lives today, and why that is, and how our knowledge of history can inform our view of the world. I know, I know; that would require effort, intelligence, patience. I realize it is hard. But if we can do it, I'm sure you can too, with a little effort. Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, forfend you should get someone passionate about history from, say, a Marxist viewpoint to "teach" your kids. You never know when they might be paying attention, and pick up on a very, very bad idea. If they were government schooled, they won't have any defenses (such as knowledge, reason, logic, skepticism or inquisitiveness) against such bad ideas.
Of course not. I would be a weak substitute, and I know it.

I know it, too.
Parents who home-school their children have their reasons, of course. But the effects of what these students are missing remain to be seen.

Well, given that we've already seen the effects of government schooling, I'll take my chances.
All in all, a public education is the best deal around. It's a great training ground for the real world and, even better, it's free.

Where "great training ground" means "babysitter at best" and "free" means "costs you thousands of dollars per year in taxes, even if you don't have children going to school," that statement makes sense. In "the real world," it's just an example of how pathetically deluded you are.
***

Kelly Flynn, a former area teacher, lives in Fenton Township. You can contact her at flynnkelly@earthlink.net.


A special thanks is owed my wife, who showed me this article as she headed off to bed, thus guaranteeing that I would be up way, way too late responding to it.

Posted by jeff at 2:48 AM | TrackBack

April 29, 2003

The Souls of Black Folk

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The Wall Street Journal has a great piece by Shelby Steele. Go, read. It's really good.

Posted by jeff at 1:12 PM | TrackBack

Prerequisites for a Stable and Free State

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

David Plotz has a good article on MSNBC (originally from Slate, with a hat tip to Porphyrogenitus for the link) about the prerequisites for a stable, free state in Iraq. I like a lot of what he said, but would like to take issue with a few of his contentions, and point out some things he didn't mention.

Mr. Plotz's sixth (of seven) pre- or co-requisites is to "[l]et the United Nations organize the political process." The intent is to show that the new government is not a puppet of the US. This is an odd way to show that. Given the UN's corruption, ineptness and beholdenness to autocrats, they are unlikely to be able to rebuild Iraq as a free nation in any sense - even as far as guaranteeing free elections. Worse, many Iraqis deeply distrust the UN, because the UN wanted Saddam to remain in power. I don't think that any real legitimacy in Iraq will flow from the UN, and history suggests that such a course would be ruinous.

Wouldn't it be better, overall, if we were to organize elections at the local level, using Iraqi poll workers, getting ballots printed in Iraqi print shops and the like, with the US just providing the organization and advice as to how to do it? The US would probably have to conduct a census first, and set up a system for voter registration. Since all of the workers doing the job would be Iraqi, the US would have no hand in choosing who would run as candidates or who would be elected; we would just provide the organization and resources (and security) to allow it to happen. We should provide bodyguards, by the way, to all of the candidates, with no option for the candidate to refuse. This would not only prevent the assassinations of pro-Western figures in the South, it would also make the radical Islamist candidates accept US military bodyguards, removing an argument they could use to make the pro-Western candidates look like puppets.

Once the local elections were held, and the local governments set up, we could move onto regional governance. The local governments would decide which of their powers were delegated upwards to the regional governments. We would probably require a few powers to be delegated up in whole or in part, but for the most part each region would decide for themselves how much power they want to remain local, and how much they want to centralize. There would be significant time requirements to set up the electoral bodies and organize the elections. This would provide the delay recommended by Mr. Plotz's first point. In addition, this would provide time for the polity to settle out, while allowing people to taste freedom slowly, rather than drinking it from a firehose. After the regional elections were held, the national government could be set up, on a similar process. In other words, the regional governments (I believe the Iraqis call them provinces) would send the delegates who would make up the constitutional convention for the national government, in the same way that local governments would send the delegates for the regional constitutional conventions.

Again, at the national level we would have certain requirements that we would compel into the Constitution (certain freedoms necessary to the maintenance of the society, some kind of federalism, separation of powers, as well as prohibitions on weapons of mass destruction - we would probably also force a 10-year or so ban on modifying the Constitution to remove those parts we required to be there). For the most part, though, at each level, it would be the Iraqis determining not only who will govern, but to what extent and in which ways they can govern. By putting a time limit into the national Constitution which would require some period to pass before necessary limitations and freedoms could be removed, we would both show that we are committed to keeping the Iraqis free, and that we don't intend to indefinitely force them into our model of governance. The time limit would allow Iraq, for example, to get rid of freedom of speech later and replace it with a more limited form (banning criticism of Mohammed, for example, by Constitutional amendment would almost certainly occur in an Islamic nation). While we may not like these choices, we are showing that we do not intend to prevent the Iraqis from making them, and we tell them when that time will come.

Mr. Plotz left out a couple of preconditions, too, that I think need to be addressed. A free market, with transparency at all levels, is a pre-requisite for democracy to succeed. Without this, the ability of individuals to act in their own best interest is at best strongly curtailed. And since it is the freedom we are hoping to establish in Iraq, we will first have to set up a banking system and financial markets (not necessarily elaborate ones) and these institutions will need to be trusted.

Freedom of travel between regions and into and out of the country are prerequisites. That way, if the South wants to impose Sharia law, they can (at least to an extent, as moderated by freedoms granted in the putative national Constitution). But they cannot prevent you from leaving the area, and so not being subject to those laws. Since you could retain your residence there, and vote absentee (I assume we'd set this up as part of the election system), those laws would not necessarily be permanent. That's life in a free country, guys.

Restriction of the vote will be necessary, but not in the way that is traditional in Islamic countries that allow any kind of voting. That is to say, we won't disqualify women, homosexuals and such from voting. We would disqualify high-ranking Baathists, torturers and the like. We would disqualify violent criminals, clearly. We would likely want to find a way to bar clerics associated with Iran. In other words, we'd seek out and prevent from voting (at least until Iraq completely controls its own destiny ten years or so down the line) those people who would work hardest to overthrow the free society and replace it with a tyranny.

Some way will have to be found of giving the Iraqis more to lose by handing control to an autocrat than they stand to gain by having a free society. One way to handle this would be to create a state oil revenue sharing program, similar to what happens in Alaska, with modifications to take local conditions into account. Anyone who was registered to vote would gain a share in the oil wealth of the nation, and the profits would be doled out periodically (quarterly is preferable to annually, since people see the money as more of a steady income) based on the shares one holds. It would be necessary to prevent the sale or transfer of those shares for some time, so that people would not take a quick, raw deal (as happened in the former USSR) rather than an uncertain future profit. They need a history of getting money from the share to realistically evaluate offers made to them to sell the shares. In addition to the economic benefit so provided, such a program would have the benefit of making it important to the Iraqi people to keep governments in charge which wouldn't expropriate the oil "for the nation" or "for the people."

Finally, I believe that it will be necessary to provide regulatory and enforcement authority to government agencies (including police, property registration, etc) before the indigenous executive agencies are formed. There's a lot to say for habit, and if we set up procedures while those agencies are reporting to American or British governors, those procedures will likely carry over once the Iraqis themselves run the executive branch of government. This would go a long way towards ensuring against the immediate erosion of the "small liberties" which are so vital to people feeling free.

Posted by jeff at 10:41 AM | TrackBack

April 28, 2003

Phrase of the Day

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Steven Den Beste has the phrase of the day: Innocent until proven American.

Posted by jeff at 1:11 PM | TrackBack

Discipline, Courage, Humility, Humanity, Morality, and...

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Victory

Posted by jeff at 8:47 AM | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Sometimes, the Parents are the Problem

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Tammy McQuoid points to this article by Tim Grobaty, which states in part:

Jenkins is working on a project researching the effects of the '33 quake on schools in the Long Beach Unified School District. If you're one of those who attended class 'neath the eucalyptus in Rec Park, or on the athletic field at Poly, or in the tent-like bungalows at Jefferson or at any of the other al fresco post-quake campuses in town, you can contact Jenkins via e-mail at pjen kins@lbusd.k12.ca.us . OUR NERVOUS, NURTURING SIDE: According to this alarming missive from the American Red Cross, "Now, more than ever before, youth are relying on the adults in their lives for reassurance and guidance.'

This is bad news for our kids, who have been raised thus far with an incredibly jumpy father. A UPS truck rumbles down our block and we're apt to scream "EARTHQUAKE!' and snatch our kids and hurl them through the living room picture window for their own safety. About the most reassuring thing we've ever uttered to our children is "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!'

This is why we're totally against home-schooling. We rely on schools not only to teach our kids about guns and sex, but also about the horrors of war, terrorism and other traumatic events. Because, after you strip away our almost transparent veneer of bravado, we're pretty much always packed and ready to bolt.


Mr. Grobaty's real problem, of course, is that he is unable to take responsibility for his kids' emotional security. If he thinks the government schools will do better, he should read this.

Posted by jeff at 9:44 PM | TrackBack

Civil Reconstruction

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Phil Carter of Intel Dump asks, Does the Army need more military police? He gives a reasoned analysis.

So many of the missions the Army has today are to do things that MPs are good at: nation-building, peacekeeping, anti-terrorism/force protection, and other police-style missions. In the Balkans, we've succeeded by hammering square infantry units into round MP holes for a long time, with significant training and institutional costs. I've thought for some time that the right answer would be to create larger, rapidly-deployable MP units that could be used for these kinds of missions. Current practice is to give peacekeeping missions to a large combat unit (e.g. an infantry brigade) with 1-3 MP companies attached in support. The MPs just get used for specialized missions, like riot control, while the infantry do the bulk of the MP-style missions like running checkpoints, patrols, etc. It might make more sense to invert this relationship, and build more MP brigades capable of managing peacekeeping missions with an infantry company as a quick-response force.

Furthermore, moving units from the reserves to the active force isn't that simple either. It costs money to do so, and it would require an adjustment in the military's end strength (or cutting of personnel from other areas). Privatizing law enforcement on military bases sounds good, but it would have a real impact on MP training. The reason MPs are so good is because they practice their peacekeeping skills every day they're doing law enforcement. Granted, there's a big difference between patrolling Fort Hood and patrolling Baghdad. But there's a lot of similarity too, especially in the abilities to work within restrictive rules of engagement and employ forceful interpersonal communication skills. So it's not clear this is the answer either.


It is clear that the UN model of civil reconstruction has failed. UN humanitarian assistance is generally welcomed, but frequently stolen or embargoed by power forces in the areas the UN is trying to serve (witness Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia). UN peacekeeping, in order to secure the humanitarian aid, only works when at least the largest of the factions fighting decide to stop fighting (witness Lebanon, Sinai, Cambodia, Congo). When the factions don't want to stop fighting, you have to make them (witness Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia). It so happens that the only nation capable of doing this anywhere in the world is the United States, though some nations are capable of doing so in their region. (Note that the examples given include both positives and negatives.)

So, when it comes time to stop the fighting, it is generally the US that is called on. This call is begun with admonitions that the US isn't doing enough to secure world peace, and ended with accusations of imperialism and "trying to be the world's policeman." The exact point of criticism on the imperialism scale is inversely proportional to how interested the US is in actually expending blood and treasure to secure an area. The more we want to be involved, the more imperialistic we are, and the less we want to be involved, the more isolationist and arrogant we are. Either way, we are to be called stupid, jingoistic and unilateralist.

When fighting is ended, the UN wants to be in charge of the aftermath (none of the blame if it went badly, all of the credit if it went well), in order to bring in aid and reconstruct a working society. The UN is generally good at providing aid, though it is massively inefficient. However, it is manifestly incompetent at constituting an efficient, responsive, representative and tolerant government (witness Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan (too early to call - and the US might step back in more), Cambodia, Rwanda, Haiti). The record, as the list of countries just given demonstrates, is uniformly pathetic. At best, the UN is no help. At worst (and usually), it actively prevents such a government forming. Here's an interesting bit about Cambodia, just as an example. (If blogspot's archives are broken, it's the article from April 25 titled DEMOLISHING THE OLD CANARD OF " MORAL EQUIVALENCE ".)

So given that the UN model depends at its base on US power, and given that the points where the UN takes over almost always result in a breakdown (are there counterexamples that don't involve the US?), and given that the UN is going to continue to actively oppose the US attempt to lift the Middle East out of its self-imposed medievalism, the question needs to be, "How will the US rebuild failed states when it intervenes?" To answer that question requires a broader answer than Phil Carter gave, and turns his assumption a little on its head.

First, it is a given, I think, that the US military will be the primary instrument creating the conditions for recreating the state, whether that be toppling a tyrannical government, or imposing order on anarchy. In the wake of that military intervention, however, we have a few viable options. Phil Carter's argument, to create company-sized units of MPs specifically for the purpose, using civilian contractors or some other means to take over current non-combat MP duties, is one of those options. I think that there is a better answer.

In the aftermath of war, in most of the situations I've ever studied, there are several situations overlayed on each other simultaneously. First, there is active combat going on in some places, frequently against small bands of guerillas. Second, there is civil anarchy in most areas that are not in the immediate zone of control of the armed forces. Third, some areas have a spontaneous arising of civil leadership, and relatively quick return to peaceful conditions, even without outside assistance. Fourth, there is massive infrastructure damage. Fifth, food, water and medical care are in short supply. Sixth, the range of reactions to the situation spans the range from joy through relief to unease to outright animosity. Seventh, there are criminals, agents of other nations, agents of the deposed faction(s) and agents of formerly-repressed factions all trying to grab as much power as they can as quickly as they can.

The military is good at the combat aspects of this. For the non-combat aspects, there are combat engineers and civil affairs and military police units, as well as the special forces, which are good at much of rest, but they are in short supply and have combat-support missions in most cases. There are generally not any units skilled in building civil governments at any levels other than the very local. I believe, given these factors and how much we will (at least for the next generation) be having to rebuild failed states, that we should create a specialist organization specifically for that purpose.

While this organization could be placed in the State Department or as a stand-alone agency, I contend that its best place to be is as part of the Defense Department, as a branch of service co-equal with the Army, Navy or Air Force. This would allow the combat commander direct control over and call on the organization, so that they would be integrated into the combat plan; would allow separate but integrated equipment acquisition, training and doctrine; and would place the organization in a position to operate as a matter of course in warzones (which would be very handy, and which the State Department for example couldn't provide). As a side benefit, it would also avoid the problems caused by career civil-service protections, particularly of ossification of ideas. Finally, it would make it easier to beef up security patrols, when needed, with soldiers or Marines, than if the organization were not part of the Defense Department.

Such an organization would need engineers of all kinds to rebuild infrastructure; security forces to impose and maintain order; huge amounts of translators to facilitate communications; administrators to quickly set up a functioning government; lawyers and courts to establish and maintain the rule of law; constitutional scholars and historians to advise the newly-liberated on how to set up an Enlightenment-based state within their local customs and traditions; doctors and nurses and medics to establish health care; and a host of other skills. Basically, what we would be creating would be the nucleus of a functioning state, which can be put rapidly in place just behind the front lines - when an area is secure but not necessarily completely in our control.

If we were to do this, I believe that the amount, severity and duration of anarchy in the wake of our military operations would be minimized. In addition, factional fighting not directed at our military would also be reduced. Because of these, the prospects for a successful state rapidly arising in the wake of our military action would be dramatically improved, and the reception we get from the local population would also be improved.

This kind of organization would have been invaluable in Kosovo, Panama and Iraq, and will be invaluable in the future. I think it's a better solution than the narrower one of increasing the amount and role of MPs, though obviously it incorporates that idea within it.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention funding. We pay $2.4billion or so to the UN every year, and billions more to other agencies that would be undertaking activities made redundant by having a US agency for civil reconstruction. The net cost would be small, really.

Posted by jeff at 8:07 PM | TrackBack

The Dangers of Media Consolidation

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Tim Blair has a great post about media consolidation. Since Tim's on blogspot, and their archives are frelled, I've copied the whole thing below.

TED TURNER, the vice chairman of AOL Time Warner CNN Sports Illustrated People Entertainment Weekly Fortune Money In Style Real Simple Time For Kids Sports Illustrated For Kids Teen People People en Espa�ol Fortune Small Business Business 2.0 Southern Living Progressive Farmer Southern Accents Sunset Cooking Light Coastal Living For the Love of Cross Stitch For the Love of Quilting Parenting Baby Talk Health In Style U.K. In Style Australia In Style Germany Time Asia Time Canada Time Atlantic Time Latin America Time South Pacific Wallpaper* Who Weekly Popular Science Outdoor Life Field & Stream Golf Magazine Yachting Motor Boating Salt Water Sportsman Ski Skiing Freeze This Old House TransWorld Stance TransWorld Surf TransWorld Skateboarding TransWorld Snowboarding TransWorld Motocross TransWorld Surf BMX Ride BMX Skiing Trade News TransWorld Skateboarding Business TransWorld Snowboarding Business TransWorld Surf Business BMX Business News Amateur Gardening Amateur Photographer Angler's Mail Cage & Aviary Birds Chat Country Life Cycling Weekly Horse & Hound NME Now Shooting Times & Country Magazine Woman Woman's Own Woman's Weekly Woman's Feelgood Series Woman's Own Lifestyle Series Woman's Weekly Home Series TV & Satellite Week TVTimes What's On TV Mizz Mizz Specials Webuser Caravan Magazine The Guitar Magazine VolksWorld World Soccer Beautiful Homes Bird Keeper Cars & Car Conversions Chat Passion Series Classic Boat Country Homes & Interiors Creating Beautiful Homes Cycle Sport Decanter Essentials Eventing Family Circle Golf Monthly Hi-Fi News Homes & Gardens Horse Ideal Home Land Rover World Livingetc Loaded Marie Claire MBR-Mountain Bike Rider MiniWorld Model Collector Motor Caravan Motor Boat & Yachting Motor Boats Monthly Muzik 19 Now Style Series 4x4 Park Home & Holiday Caravan Practical Boat Owner Practical Parenting Prediction Racecar Engineering The Railway Magazine Rugby World Ships Monthly Soaplife Sporting Gun Stamp Magazine The Field The Golf Uncut What Digital Camera Woman & Home Yachting Monthly Yachting World Aeroplane Monthly Superbike Women & Golf Shoot Monthly Hair Wedding & Home Women's Weekly Fiction Special International Boat Industry Farm Holiday Guides Jets Time Life Inc. Oxmoor House Lesiure Arts Sunset Books Media Networks, Inc. First Moments Targeted Media Inc. Time Inc, Custom Publishing Synapse Time Distribution Services Time Inc. Home Entertainment Time Customer Service Warner Publishing Services This Old House Ventures, Inc. TimePix Essence Communications Partners European Magazines Limited Avantages S.A. CompuServe ICQ MapQuest Moviefone Netscape AOL Music Little, Brown and Company Adult Trade Books Warner Books Little, Brown and Company Children's Publishing Bulfinch Press Warner Faith Time Warner AudioBooks Time Warner Books UK HBO Cinemax Comedy Central HBO Asia HBO Brasil HBO Czech HBO Hungary HBO India HBO Korea HBO Ole HBO Poland HBO Romania A&E Mundo E! Latin America SET Latin America WBTV Latin America Latin America History Channel New Line Cinema Fine Line Features Bay News 9, Tampa, FL Central Florida News 13, Orlando, FL News 8 Austin, TX NY1 News, New York, NY R/News, New York, NY News 14, Carolina Time Warner Telecom, Inc. inDemand Kansas City Cable Partners Texas Cable Partners TBS Superstation Turner Network Television Cartoon Network Turner Classic Movies Turner South Boomerang TCM Europe Cartoon Network Europe TNT Latin America Cartoon Network Latin America TCM & Cartoon Newtwork Asia Pacific CNN International CNNfn CNN en Espa�ol CNNRadio CNN Newsource CNNMoney.com CNN Student News CNNSI.com Cartoon Network Japan Court TV CETV Castle Rock Entertainment Telepictures Productions Warner Home Video Warner Bros. Consumer Products Warner Bros. International Theatre Looney Tunes Hanna-Barbera DC Comics MAD Magazine The Atlantic Recording Corporation Elektra Entertainment Group Inc. Warner Bros. Records Inc. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Alternative Distribution Alliance Giant Merchandising Rhino Entertainment WMG Soundtracks Ivy Hill Corporation, claims that too few people own too many media organisations.

"It's not healthy," Turner added.

Posted by jeff at 9:22 AM | TrackBack

April 24, 2003

Blue Angels...Bomb...Seattle???

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You just have to read it to believe it. I linked to the Natalie Solent article because it links to some other interesting ones. If her archives don't work (she's on blogspot, why should they?), the article is titled Want a little anger before you go to sleep tonight? and is from April 24.

Posted by jeff at 5:46 PM | TrackBack

The Fruits of Socialism

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This article does a good job of taking apart the "International Bill of Rights" propounded by a bunch of Berkeley academics and lawyers. This "Bill of Rights" is, basically, an attempt to impose socialism worldwide. I wish I could say it was a joke. This, in a nutshell, is the ideology that we must defeat if the Enlightenment values are to be preserved in the West.

Posted by jeff at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

April 23, 2003

His Majesty's Request

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His Majesty demands death threats. See:

I DEMAND death threats!!!

Very well, sir; your wish is my command.

Rarr! I am the Rumsfeld Strangler, and I am going to strangle you! RARR!

Posted by jeff at 9:43 PM | TrackBack

Mental Image

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What you have to do, see, is get the image in your head of this cute, blonde little two-year old watching a T-Rex ravage its prey and saying "Big giant rarr eat num-num."

I bet, though, with just a little work, I could get him to yell "Big giant rarr" whenever Rumsfeld comes on TV.

After all, isn't that what kids are for?

Posted by jeff at 9:13 PM | TrackBack

The Griffin Dictionary

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So here is the current list of words that Griffin (age 2 1/2) uses for things:

beep beep - a bird
big giant rarr - a dinosaur, rather than Don Rumsfeld
blue Stee - Blue's Clues, with Steve - NOT Joe
blue wo wo - Thomas the Tank Engine
chop - a potato or corn chip
deet dah - here I am; there it is
doey - Uncle Brian
doochee - Lachlan (younger brother)
doochee hide - I can't find whatever it is you're asking about
eat num num - any food
joo - juice
me - I want that
meow - a cat
mmmmmm, beep beep - a ride on the shoulders, while making car sounds
mmmm beep beep - a Magic Schoolbus video
mm beep beep - any vehicle
mod - generic parent; usually the father, though
moe - I would like more to drink, or eat, please. Context is everything, so don't get it wrong, 'kay?
moo - a cow
nee - I would like something to drink, or eat, please. Context is everything, so don't get it wrong, 'kay?
neek - a snake, or anything long and thin and flexible
ni' ni' - I want to go to bet
no - snow (also, no man, no ball, etc)
oh ee - OK
ree - broccoli
sheesh - sit with me
shop - a ship
shop moon - any mechanical thing that flies (apparently, all aircraft fly to the moon in Griffin's world)
show - a shoe
show me - I will show you
sky - the sun
star moon - any celestial body, except the sun or moon
tee - any dark drink ; tea, soda, etc.
up high - I want either a drink, or chocolate or berries or something else stored in the freezer
whee - spin me around
whee high - swing me from side to side as high as you can, except not too high because that can be scarey
woof - a dog
wo wo - a train

Posted by jeff at 8:59 PM | TrackBack

April 22, 2003

Think You've Seen the Worst of the Clintons?

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Not yet you haven't, but you will. Excerpt:

Brill, who defended the Clintons throughout the Monica Lewinsky impeachment scandal, said that efforts to mislead him began after the former first lady got word he was writing his 9/11 book. She actually sought him out at the Ground Zero ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the attacks. "I hear you want to talk to me about your book," he recalls her saying.

Thanks to Cold Fury for the link.

Posted by jeff at 11:23 AM | TrackBack

Moran warboy say true nots phoney what dumb

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A Small Victory has a Puce limerick contest. CLICK

Posted by jeff at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

Regulations and Space Flight

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Transterrestrial Musings linked to this MSNBC article, which talks a bit about the regulatory hurdles to space flight. Here is an interesting paragraph, bearing on the costs of certification I discussed below (in the comments).

Another savvy decision by Rutan: He won't put SpaceShipOne through the FAA certification necessary for commercial aircraft to carry passengers. That process, which can take years, has cost firms like Boeing and Airbus up to 10 times the price of development.

This is a problem, it should be noted, in civil aviation as well as in civil spacefaring. I understand the need for safety — heck, as an aspiring pilot I demand it — but I wonder how much of the aircraft certification process has to do with safety, and how much with bureaucracy.

Posted by jeff at 8:42 AM | TrackBack

Honor and Dishonor

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The Weekly Standard has an article on winners and losers in the war, and where honor is granted. It has this interesting paragraph (actually the whole article is interesting):

The funhouse of the postmodern academics was built around the two closely related themes of postmodernism and multiculturalism. Together they displaced the idea of truth and its cousin, empirical evidence, with the notion of "narrativity." All the world was simply words. There was no reality, just a series of competing stories all of which were mere social constructs and none of which was more correct than any other. In political terms, the campus postmodernists identified with the pre-modern rebels against modernity in the Arab world. But with the war in Iraq, those on campuses who, like Al Jazeera, believed "Baghdad Bob's" account of events discovered that lo and behold there is such a thing as an empirically grounded reality.

Posted by jeff at 12:06 AM | TrackBack

April 21, 2003

Libertarian with a Small 'L'

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Down below the "More..." link below is a Libertarian Party press release, which demonstrates a major reason that I cannot be a member of that party, despite my generally-libertarian political and philosophical leanings. In summary, the release is an example of the Libertarian Party belief that foreign intervention is always wrong. Certainly, they would make the exception that if we were to be attacked, the nation that attacked us could be fought overseas. However, they tend to not draw any connections between September 11 and anything else (including Afghanistan - I don't have the letter but it was somewhat like the one below in tone).

What bunk! I certainly can see a principled position which states that if the US were to withdraw to the status of minor power, we'd be in far fewer wars. This is likely true. It's even possible that, with the European addiction to social spending and the Chinese tendency to only care about power in a regional sense, rather than in a global sense, we would not be in many wars if we didn't aggressively defend our interests overseas. The problem is that this approach takes account of neither the lethality of modern weapons (one attack with nuclear weapons on an American city is unacceptable) nor of the presence of non-state actors in foreign affairs. In other words, the Libertarian Party is stuck in the 1780s. And what a shame, because libertarianism is a direct child of the Enlightenment. If only we could harness the desire for minimalist government and individual natural rights, there would be a great value in the Libertarian Party. As it is, the party is a bunch of crackpots with a few useful people involved. Here is a quote from the press release:

As the war winds down it's clear what its legacy will include: the
death of thousands of innocent people; more embittered, anti-American
Arabs in search of revenge; another frustrating foray into nation-
building; massive economic costs for the American people; and a
framework for expanded, global war.

Is that really worth celebrating?


No, the legacy of this war will include fewer innocents dead than if we had not fought. Consider that the number of civilians killed in the war itself - including those killed by the Iraqi soldiers and paramilitaries and the non-Iraqis among the Fedayeen - was smaller than died in Iraq in a normal month pre-war. The legacy will include more Arabs examining their societies to determine how they came to this. It will include successful nation-building, as in Japan and Germany after WWII. It will certainly present massive economic costs to the American people, but likely smaller costs than would have been incurred by not acting. After all, how much have we spent in containing Iraq for the last 12 years? How much more would we have spent? And if Iraq actually completed nuclear weapons, and sold or gave one to a terrorist group to attack us or Israel, how much would we pay? It is possible that this will be a global war, but it is a war of existence for us, not a war of choice. Should we fail to fight this war now, on terrain of our choosing, while we are strong and our enemy is weak and fractious; we will be choosing instead to fight this war later, on the terrain and at the time of our enemy's choosing, when they are stronger and more united and we are weaker and more divided.

Given all of this, yeah, it's really worth celebrating.

===============================
OP-ED FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037
World Wide Web: http://www.LP.org
===============================
For release: April 16, 2003
===============================
For additional information:
George Getz, Communications Director
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222
E-Mail: GeorgeGetz@hq.LP.org
===============================

What have we really won in Iraq?

By Geoffrey Neale

Iraqis have been freed from the clutches of a ruthless dictator, and
that certainly is worth celebrating.

But what else has been gained from the speedy victory over Saddam
Hussein's regime?

Thus far the main justification for the invasion -- to protect the
United States from weapons of mass destruction -- remains unfulfilled,
since no such weapons have been found.

A secondary goal of the invasion -- to bring genuine democracy to Iraq
-- appears to be a long shot at best, according to most foreign policy
analysts.

Over 100 coalition soldiers were killed, wounded or taken captive.

An uncounted, and perhaps uncountable, number of innocent Iraqi men,
women, and children were killed or maimed, and a nation of 23 million
people lies in smoldering ruins as looters pick through the rubble.

The graphic TV images of the U.S. bombing campaign broadcast on Arab
networks may yet spawn "a thousand bin Ladens," warn terrorism experts,
while no evidence suggests that the region is now more favorably
inclined toward the United States.

U.S. taxpayers will soon fork over $80 billion for a "down payment" on
the war, and the ensuing occupation and reconstruction could cost
hundreds of billions of dollars.

An expanded war -- perhaps targeting Syria or Iran -- remains a
distinct possibility.

So even as President Bush prepares to declare victory over Iraq, it
seems fair to ask: What, specifically, has the United States won?

Only one tangible benefit springs to mind: the satisfaction of knowing
that millions of repressed people can now breathe the fresh air of
freedom.

But most Americans tacitly agree that toppling a dictator is an
insufficient reason to invade another nation. Otherwise, they would be
demanding that the U.S. government overthrow equally dictatorial
regimes in Burma, North Korea, Cuba, China, Libya, Sudan, and Saudi
Arabia.

Another potential benefit -- achieving democracy -- is considered at
least five years away by most foreign policy experts, who point out
that the Middle East has no tradition of democracy and no active
democratic movements.

James Dobbins, a U.S. diplomat who helped oversee nation-building
efforts in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, says, "It
isn't like the first day of Genesis, where the secretary of defense
passes his hand over Iraq and says, 'Let there be democracy.' "

In the short term, any leader who appears to be handpicked by the
United States, as President Hamid Karzai was in Afghanistan, will be
seen as illegitimate.

Even if genuinely free elections were to occur soon, Americans might
not like the results. Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy
studies at the Cato Institute, points out that Shi'a Muslims, who
comprise over 60 percent of the Iraqi population, could elect a leader
with close ties to Iran's religious mullahs.

A second possibility, Preble notes, is that Kurds could choose leaders
demanding full-fledged independence from Iraq.

A third, chilling possibility is that the newly liberated Iraqis could
end up electing another Saddam Hussein. That scenario could unfold if
several candidates were to split the votes of Shiites and Kurds,
allowing the Sunni Muslim minority to unite behind a former Baath Party
official.

As the war draws to a close, it appears that the U.S. government has
invaded a sovereign nation to confiscate weapons that may not exist and
create a Western-style democracy that may never exist.

But it gets worse: This "victory" could end up making the entire world
a more dangerous place, thanks to Bush's shocking proclamation that a
U.S. president has a right to launch a pre-emptive strike against any
nation that he deems a potential threat.

"If" a foreign leader has weapons of mass destruction, the argument
goes, he "might" give them to terrorists. Therefore the United States
has the right to launch an offensive attack, destroy that regime and
kill thousands of innocent people in the process.

But why should such a "right" extend only to the United States? Nearly
every nation faces a threat, real or contrived, at some point.

Imagine what would happen if other nations adopted Bush's kill-first,
ask-questions-later policy.

Might nuclear-armed India launch a pre-emptive strike against its
bitter rival Pakistan, or vice versa? What if belligerent North Korean
leader Kim Jong-il, or an Iranian government that is reportedly close
to acquiring nuclear weapons, suddenly sense a threat to their national
security?

Unfortunately, the argument isn't just theoretical. On Monday,
Australian Prime Minister John Howard sparked outrage throughout
Southeast Asia when he asserted the right to launch pre-emptive anti-
terror strikes against other nations in the region.

Malaysian leaders immediately denounced Howard, and said such an attack
would be considered an act of war.

Nonetheless, the precedent has been set. The doctrine of pre-emptive
strike may soon pose a greater threat to world peace than Saddam
Hussein ever did.

As the war winds down it's clear what its legacy will include: the
death of thousands of innocent people; more embittered, anti-American
Arabs in search of revenge; another frustrating foray into nation-
building; massive economic costs for the American people; and a
framework for expanded, global war.

Is that really worth celebrating?


About the author: Geoffrey Neale is national chair of the Washington,
DC-based Libertarian Party.

Posted by jeff at 11:51 PM | TrackBack

Race Preferences

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This post includes a great letter from a professor to his students, explaining why it is that he will be deducting points from high-scoring white students, and giving them to lower-scoring black students.

Posted by jeff at 11:05 PM | TrackBack

Freedom

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The cornerstone of being free is being able to maintain that freedom against all threats. Sadly, the greatest threat to any free people is their own government. Governments, after all, have the ultimate tool of forcible coercion: the police and army. There is a way to prevent the government from taking away your freedoms, though, and Bill Whittle nails it. If I could convince every American to read one thing, it would be this: Freedom.

Posted by jeff at 10:43 AM | TrackBack

Where did all the Fascists Go?

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Jim Bennet examines what happened to the fascist movement after WWII.

European fascism was like a large river, flowing and carrying along millions of willing and enthusiastic adherents across the European continent. The question now is, where did this river disappear to in 1945? These people and their underlying sentiments were the culmination of generations of political evolution. It defies reason to believe that they simply changed their minds, all of them.

He then answers the question, in some detail. Here's the money quote, though:

Above all, fascists everywhere enshrined the role of the state as the focus of national life and the source of meaning and value. This separates fascism from other movements of political violence and racial caste conflict (like the Klan, for example) and unites it with the superficially liberal but state-exhalting European nationalist movements of the 19th century of which fascist movements are ultimately mutated descendents. This value also unites fascism with the purposive and directive state of European bureaucrats today.
Posted by jeff at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

April 20, 2003

Space Ship One

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It has long been obvious, to many people, that the government cannot establish the kind of low-cost access to space that will be necessary for mass exploitation of space. The reason for this is that all of the incentives for the government and its contractors are to make getting to space, and operating there, as expensive, difficult and time-consuming as possible, so as to preserve their jobs (in the government/NASA) or profits (in the space contracting businesses). The necessary goal, for mass exploitation to be possible, is to have flying into space be not much more rare, expensive or dangerous than flying from city to city.

This vision is still some ways off, but it has gotten perhaps a bit closer to reality. Scaled Composites, the company headed by Burt Rutan, and whose Voyager was the first aircraft to fly around the world without refueling, has developed Space Ship One. Developed entirely with private funding, this craft is designed for sub-orbital flights, but above the customary 50 mile boundary. In other words, making a trip on this spacecraft would make you officially an astronaut. This also makes the craft a contender for the $10 million X Prize, offered to the first team which gets the same 3-person vehicle to 100km altitude twice safely within two weeks.

Like Pioneer's Pathfinder, Space Ship One is attempting to solve the hardest problem, that of getting out of most of the Earth's atmosphere, by using the atmosphere, rather than fighting it. In a traditional rocket, 90% or so of its launch weight is oxidizer, and most of the rest is fuel. As the rocket's throw weight - that is, the payload weight to a given place - grows, the amount of fuel and oxidizer needed also grows, and along with that the weight of the rocket's structure grows. This means that a small increase in throw weight requires a large increase in rocket size. The Pathfinder lessens this problem by using both jets and rockets. The jets power to Pathfinder to altitude, at which point it meets up with a tanker, takes on oxidizer, then points its nose skywards and lights the rockets. This design means that for all practical purposes, Pathfinder is really a specialized aircraft. Space Ship One also uses jets to get out of the lower atmosphere, but in this case the jets are mounted on a carrier aircraft called White Knight. The spacecraft carries its fuel/oxidizer with it, but doesn't have to have the structure to fight through the lower atmosphere, so it is very small and light.

There are a number of interesting design features, including a hybrid rocket motor that burns tire rubber (HTPB) and laughing gas (NO2); tilting wingtips that "shuttlecock" the craft, for a low-speed reentry which makes reentry heating much less problematic; the development not of prototypes, but of working test articles; and the choice of viewport designs. The vehicle is designed for very low-cost operations, on the order of a Soyuz flight. With the ability to carry (externally) boosters to put microsats into orbit, the vehicle could have a built-in market ready to go (a lot of news organizations, for instance, would love to have additional capacity cheaply on call for satellite phones; and the military could probably use such a capability as well). I don't know how well this design will scale - can you use a larger version to orbit? - but I do know that if anyone can make this concept work, it's Rutan.

Since there is not any apparent attempt to actually use this spacecraft to start a space launch business, my guess is that Rutan intends to sell them to those organizations who could make use of them. In other words, he'll sell them like aircraft, albeit expensive and specialized aircraft.

More coverage here and here (read the comments).

UPDATE (4/21): More detail, for those who care about design, here

UPDATE (8/2): FlugRevue has some summary information of interest. And here is some (old) information on Proteus. You can clearly see the heritage of White Knight in the picture.

And here are the test updates.

Posted by jeff at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

April 19, 2003

Aidan Got Glasses

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Aidan got glasses:

Posted by jeff at 5:37 PM | TrackBack

April 18, 2003

Great Article on Europe

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This article, written by a French formerly-radical leftist, discusses in great detail the contemporary failings of Europe. Here's a taste to whet your appetite:

"By the evening of September 11, a majority of our citizens, despite their obvious sympathy for the victims, were telling themselves that the Americans had it coming. Make no mistake: the same argument would have been made if the terrorists had destroyed the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame."

"Europe gave birth to monsters. No doubt. But by the same token, it created the ideas that enable us to analyze and to destroy those monsters."

"Obsessive attention to past abominations has blinded us to the horrors of the present. Repentance is not a policy, and the continent of Europe cannot model its relationship to the past on that of Germany. Neither the status of victim nor that of executioner is hereditary. The duty to remember implies nothing about the purity or guilt of descendants."

"How can we command respect if we do not respect ourselves, if we constantly depict ourselves, in literature and the media, in the darkest colors?"

"When a crisis erupts, we do our utmost to delay. We temper our indignation with cynicism and treat the aggressor and his victim as equals, as though, in light of our own disenchantments, nothing made any difference."

"It is hard to tell what is most hateful in present-day anti-Americanism; the stupidity and bitterness it manifests or the willing servitude that it presupposes toward a superiority it denounces-in order not to change it."

"The "USAers" may experience moments of great solidarity or bursts of patriotism, but they are not made to rule the world like Romans because the "message" of America is self-fulfillment and love of life."

"We Europeans can challenge the dominance of the English language and the finance capitalism of Wall Street (with its extraordinary compassion for the rich), we can easily denounce the ambiguities of the melting pot and the ravages of communitarianism, and we can reject a world made in the image of American society. But then we have to offer in its place something more than mockery and reproof. We must really construct better models of social justice, economic efficiency, and ethnic coexistence. We are far from doing so. We lag far behind the Americans, out of breath. We still imitate their mistakes after they have devised remedies. Some Europeans place their hope in a theory of reverse genesis. America, the offspring of the Old World that has surpassed its progenitor, would witness the birth of a new Europe that would then put the United States in its place. For now, since geopolitics is the contemporary form of fortune telling, this is nothing but wishful thinking. The bitter truth is that Europe lags behind our transatlantic cousin in almost every area. But our possibilities are enormous if we enact a genuine intellectual revolution. Europe is today's largest contemporary political and cultural laboratory; something unprecedented is happening there without its inhabitants' even being aware of it. Europe has to recover its civilizing capacities and its pride, not in blood and battle, but primarily in spiritual conquests. Europe holds its own cards. Either it will build a counterforce endowed with credible political and military tools or it will be vassalized, willingly. In the latter case, an aging and declining Old World will reduce itself to being a luxurious vacation resort, coveted by predators, and always prepared to abdicate its freedom for a little more calm and a little more comfort."

I cannot agree with everything he says, but Bruckner has a lot of great insights into both Europe and America. Read the whole thing. (many thanks to Michael Totten for the link)

Posted by jeff at 1:34 PM | TrackBack

Weasel - Not What You Think

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This is, if true, remarkable. (hat tip: Tim Blair) The fact that we would be willing to attempt it, that so many nations and NGOs would be willing to help, and that we would be successful, all are somewhat surprising. In a good way.

Nauru has been in the news a lot lately.

UPDATE: Here is a link that works. Operation Weasel is detailed in a sidebar.

Posted by jeff at 12:43 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2003

Tolerance, to a Point

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From the comments to this post:

Every American, other than Native Americans and African-Americans, either is, or is descended from, someone who packed up and left his motherland because he'd had all the shit he could stand. This makes us one of the least tolerant peoples on Earth. Most of the time, this is a good thing. When a problem arises, we don't say "inshallah", we demand that the problem be fixed. Intolerance of inefficency and injustice has made America one of the freest and most prosperous nations on Earth.

We are taught, as children, to be tolerant of other peoples, but our tolerance is not infinite. At its limit, that tolerance is not like butter scraped over too much bread. It is more like a cable stretched too tight. When it finally snaps, the poor bastard who broke it, and anyone else in the way, will get hurt.

Posted by jeff at 10:21 PM | TrackBack

Weclome all Unite States lardy demins!

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You won't believe it until you read it. (link from A Small Victory)

Not found there, but should be:

In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.
Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb
Operator: We get signal
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on
Captain: It's You !!
Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
Cats: All your base are belong to us
Cats: You are on the way to destruction
Captain: What you say !!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time
Cats: HA HA HA HA ....
Captain: Take off every 'zig'
Captain: You know what you doing
Captain: Move 'zig'
Captain: For great justice

Posted by jeff at 9:58 PM | TrackBack

Death to Clippy

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Aubrey Turner points to a really funny collection of images.

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Advantage: Me

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In the wake of the successful war in Iraq, Israelis are rereading Basil Liddell Hart. (hat tip, Winds of Change)

Posted by jeff at 2:25 PM | TrackBack

How we Win so Easily

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A lot of people are trying to figure out how America wins its wars so easily. The most trivial reasons are technological, and they are also the most widely discussed. Consider this, though, does anyone doubt that the US military, fighting with the type of equipment Iraq was using, would not have beaten the Iraqi military, fighting with the kind of equipment we were using? Some people talk about logistics, which is of course vital. FedEx has done as much for US warfighting in the last two decades as has General Dynamics. Many, many people talk about the quality and dedication of our forces, and a few point out that this arises from their being all-volunteer. Many people also point out the quality and responsibility of our long-service NCOs. All of these are important, and together certainly would give us an advantage over most armies. There are more subtle reasons, though, which are more important as well.

Glenn Reynolds yesterday wrote a column discussing the warfighting advantages we get by having an open and free society. Victor Davis Hanson discusses a number of features of our military, and brushes up against what I believe to be a very important point:

More importantly still, the old idea of separate branches of the military is itself becoming obsolete. It is not just that there are Army, Marine, and Navy pilots or that Seals and Air Force controllers fight on land. Rather there is such instantaneous integration between land, air, and sea forces that it is hard to sort out who is doing what when enemy tanks explode out of nowhere, GPS-guided bombs go into the windows of Baathists, and special-forces hit teams take out generals before they can order counterassaults.

It is very neglected - in fact almost unknown - but the key architects of the US war machine of today were Senators Goldwater, Nichols and Nunn, whose 1986 Goldwater Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act changed US warfighting in a few key ways.

First, it was this Act that changed the status of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from arbitrator among the services to the President's primary military advisor, with operational responsibility for all branches of service. (The service chiefs retained organizational, training and equipment responsibilities.) The Act also streamlined the chain of command, with the individual services not in the chain of command at all for operational issues. Instead, the Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs) of the various joint commands were given total operational authority over all force assets assigned to them. In other words, one officer (General Franks in CENTCOM, which is responsible for the Middle East and Africa) in any given region has control over all of the combatant forces, regardless of which service they are attached to.

This has had the effect of eliminating the distinction between the services in combat. No more do we have the kind of interservice arguments that doomed the attempted 1980 rescue mission of the hostages in Iran. Instead, forces are assigned as needed to do what they do best, in pursuit of a single overall operational plan. Decisions about funding various services, and what programs proceed and which get cut, and so forth, still involve a great deal of political infighting in the Pentagon. They do not involve political infighting in the field.

This focus on joint operations has taken a long time to mature. Initial problems began to be worked out in the late 1980s, and the invasion of Panama, while successful, demonstrated some notable issues. By the Desert Storm campaign, many of these issues had been worked through, and the result was an amazing, well-coordinated campaign which overthrew the Iraqi Army with minimal coalition casualties. After Desert Storm, resistance within the military to the joint operations concepts largely disappeared, though not entirely.

Our technological advantages, troop quality advantages and so forth are critical factors that allow us to win wars. I believe, though, that the critical factor that allows us to win at low cost is the ability of our forces to work as a single entity, rather than a collection of different priorities, towards a single commander's intent. This ability comes directly from the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Posted by jeff at 12:23 PM | TrackBack

If We Needed a Deck of Cards

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I wonder if I should try to talk my wife into buying a new deck of cards. (Hat tip: Sgt. Stryker)

Posted by jeff at 12:06 PM | TrackBack

Fisking Bill Clinton

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Thanks to this pointer from Oki, I found an article about Bill Clinton's latest blather. Herewith my first Fisking:

NEW YORK (AFP) - Former US President Bill Clinton blasted US foreign policy adopted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, arguing the United States cannot kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries.

Amazing, Bill Clinton finally realized that it's possible to have a foreign policy, rather than just stumbling blindly from crisis to crisis hoping that no one notices the brunette under the desk. He's right though, that the US can't "kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries." Some individuals will need to disappear, and some soon-to-be-former leaders will need to be turned over to their soon-to-be-former slaves for the Mussolini treatment. Thanks for reminding us to use all of our options.
"Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us," said Clinton, who spoke at a seminar of governance organized by Conference Board.

Something did and it does. One would hope that Mr. Clinton would remember what happened on September 11, but since he's not specific, I'd just like to remind him that our enemies deliberately attacked us in a way which created thousands of dead and billions of dollars in economic damage. This is not a small thing. This is not something to just get over. The world should thank us for not immediately irradiating the entire Middle East. And if they don't agree on our need to destroy terrorism the way that piracy was destroyed - knock it down into a little nub of a forgotten idea - then they should be prepared to be targetted or, at best, ignored (if they are irrelevant enough to ignore). This is a feature of our foreign policy, not a bug.
"And if they don't, they can go straight to hell."

So can you, Clinton, so can you.
The Democratic former president, who preceded George W. Bush at the White House,

...requiring a change of carpet and substantial repairs to equipment before President Bush could get down to real work.
said that sooner or later the United States had to find a way to cooperate with the world at large.

No. The world at large has to find a way to cooperate with us. When the bull is lose in the China shop, the thing to do is to get the China out, not to argue with the bull.
"We can't run," Clinton pointed out. "If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."

A deal like the Balkans, where we put an unnatural end to a natural conflict, thus ensuring that not only will it not be resolved, but we'll be occupying the country for years to prevent renewed violence? Or a deal like Kosovo, where Clinton was perfectly willing to bomb Serbia into agreeing to an occupation, and to do so with the consent of neither the Congress nor the UN? Or a deal like N. Korea? Or a deal like that with the Palestinians, so they could kill as many Israeli children as they wanted, so long as they made the occasional paper concession? What kind of "deal" do you forsee, you ignorant self-involved weasel?
He said he believed Washington overreacted to German and French opposition to US plans for military action against Iraq and suggested that the current administration had trouble juggling foreign and domestic issues.

Let's see, the Germans and French attempted with every instrument of power they possess to prevent the United States from carrying out its foreign policy, which is (in case you weren't paying attention) to forever destroy the threat of terrorism as a policy by destroying terrorist groups and the regimes that assist and encourage them. They didn't use military force only, so far as their behavior suggests, because they have none worth using. The proper reaction to this is to declare that France and Germany are committing acts of war against the United States, and unless they cut it out we will add them to the target list. I'd say that, if anything, we underreacted.

The Clinton administration held its focus squarely on domestic issues, because that was what would pay off in political terms for them. There was no coherent focus on foreign policy, which is a large part of the reason we're in the mess we're in now. President Bush is pushing a domestic agenda, but mainly by making proposals and then letting Congress flesh them out or gut them. The President's focus is on making sure that we don't die tomorrow, or next week. That is the right thing to do.

"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," Clinton said. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."

Yet more proof that getting policy advice from Clinton is like getting policy advice from Carter. Sure, it's a good laugh, but it's not something to take seriously. And what's with describing "make[ing] America a better place to be as "holding [a] gun[]"? And while we're at it, let's just try and erase the image of Clinton holding his gun...
Clinton said that if he were at the White House right now he would scrap a 726-billion dollar tax cut proposal made by the president in January to stimulate the flagging economy.

Congress has since cut the proposal to 550 billion dollars in the case of the House of Representatives and 350 billion under a Senate version of the plan.


If Congress passes a 350-550 billion dollar tax cut, it is still an enormous victory for those of us who are overtaxed. Better than zero, or worse yet, a tax increase, which would have been the standard unthinking Democratic response (is there another kind?) to the economy's troubles at the end of the Clinton administration.

Posted by jeff at 10:39 AM | TrackBack

Why Free Nations Don't Fight

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There is a reason why nations with free trade, free markets, a free press and representative governments do not go to war against each other. Here is an example of why that is. Since there is relatively free trade between France and the US, the amount of trade is fairly large and makes up a good proportion of the French economy (and not an insignificant proportion of the US economy - Michelin for example is huge, and it's not alone).

When we are annoyed at the French, we switch away from their products to alternatives from other places. Because of this, the French wine growers (and soon, no doubt, tire makers and others) put pressure on the French government to shape up. Eventually, this pressure will grow to the point that the French government will change its behavior. (Rest assured, if the US starts to suffer because of French actions against us, we'll put pressure on our government, too.)

Free trade gives people a personal reason to care about the opinions of other nations. Free markets give them a way to act on their concerns against other nations. A free press gives people the information they need to know when and how to act. Representative government allows the people to change the government's behavior to correct imbalances and irritations. Thus is peace maintained.

Fascism denies all of these mechanisms, as for that matter do communism and most other kinds of dictatorship. Government interference in these mechanisms tends to dampen correcting influences, and to that extent makes wars more likely. This is one reason why France swung so dangerously away from the US, and will take a long time to swing back, and it is why it is dangerous that the EU is looking to be so unrepresentative. With the markets heavily regulated and subsidized, the feedback mechanism is slow for France. With the EU policies being subject to the bureaucrats, rather than voters, the response mechanism will be very, very weak.

Posted by jeff at 9:42 AM | TrackBack

April 16, 2003

Great Connor Quote

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Read this, and you'll have a bit of an insight to me at age 7. Connor is a great kid.

Posted by jeff at 11:54 AM | TrackBack

One Person at a Time

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Read this article from Arab News where the journalist recounts her experiences as an embed with Marines. (Hat tip: InstaPundit)

Posted by jeff at 10:19 AM | TrackBack

April 15, 2003

ACPOTI

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Not one movie has been made about the Soviet Union in [WWII]
By Allah I swear to you that there are no movies about Stalingrad, for instance. These are figments of the NAZI Hollywood propaganda machine, may Allah smite their film reels and their beards grow only into goatees.

The title, in case you don't read Right Wing News, is an acronym for Anyone Can Post on the Internet. Today's entry is from his very own comments sections.

Posted by jeff at 2:17 PM | TrackBack

More on CNN

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Part of what bothers me about the whole scandal that CNN is in is that their defense simply has no credibility. They can say that they were trying to save lives, but it is apparent that they only wanted access. They even would go so far as to read a straight summary of the Iraqi Information Minister's talking points in hopes that it would help them get an on-air interview with Saddam Hussein. I wonder what Rather did to get his?

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the links.)

Posted by jeff at 1:18 PM | TrackBack

April 14, 2003

Maybe if we Tortured Wolf Blitzer?

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OK, so CNN broadcast from Iraq for years, deliberately concealing acts of torture they knew to be occurring. This is, in their judgement, fine, though not exactly what they want. But when given a chance to broadcast freely in Iraq, and report whatever they want, they decline?

The second channel, which the White House decided to fund yesterday, also will include about two hours of Arabic-language news from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency that oversees Voice of America. The channel might show White House, State Department and Pentagon briefings, officials said.

Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of the Westwood One radio network and a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, said the new channel's mission will be to give Iraqis "an example of what a free press in the American tradition actually is."

CNN declined to have its newscasts included. "As an independent, global news organization, we did not think it was appropriate to participate in a U.S. government transmission," spokeswoman Christa Robinson said.


Wankers.

Posted by jeff at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

Turn and Face the Change

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Before 9/11, Don Rumsfeld was not well-liked in the Pentagon. Brash and self-assured, Rumsfeld tended to challenge, in blunt language, long- and deeply-held assumptions in the military bureaucracy. The questions that Rumsfeld was wanting answered - about the mission, organization, and size of the force - made a lot of people unhappy, because the answers didn't speak well of their assumptions.

For example, the question the procurement guys wanted asked was "If our mission is to fight two regional wars, why do we only barely have the forces to fight those wars, and not maintain our peacekeeping and other commitments?" This question would have led to increased procurement of weapons systems, which the procurement guys, and the gadget generals for that matter, like. Instead, Rumsfeld asked "Why is our mission to fight and win two regional wars simultaneously, when we can't even lift enough forces to fight one without a six month buildup?" This changed to focus to mission and logistics, away from toys. In other words, it was a harder question to answer, because it required a change in thinking.

On 9/11, Rumsfeld went to the scene of damage, and pitched in until dragged off by officers pointing out that he was in very grave personal danger, and there were plenty of people already there to help. This willingness to risk himself gave the desk jockeys a new respect for Rumsfeld, which bought him some time. Afghanistan, and in particular Rumsfeld's willingness to let his General Staff plan the war while he made sure they had everything they needed, increased that respect. The Iraq conflict will similarly increase Rumsfeld's respect within the military.

But Rumsfeld's mission to change the Defense Department to be relevant to the modern world did not go away. Part of the answer to Rumsfeld's challenge to the military was to make the force lighter, more deployable. This includes the new Strykers, as well as cancelling the unfortunately-named Crusader artillery piece. I suspect that it will soon include a medium tank, less well-armored than the Abrams, but much lighter and more easily-deployed. Doctrines are similarly under review, and will probably include a focus on low-intensity conflicts in distant theaters in the presence of large numbers of non-combatants. This will take a lot from the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Balkans.

Now, Rumsfeld has asked Congress for the authority to change the personnel policies of the military. These changes include giving people longer time in a particular job, especially at higher levels, and making it less likely that reservists will be called up for "routine" contingincies. There will certainly be some whisper campaigns arising from this, with stories in the media about how Rumsfeld is "alienating senior officers in the Pentagon" and such.

Taken together, it appears that Rumsfeld is attempting to change the US military from a sledgehammer to a rapier. Heavy forces are being reduced or moved to the Reserves and Guard. Lighter forces are being improved, and medium forces are being fielded for the first time since Viet Nam (the unsuccessful Sheridan light tank). At the same time, procurement cycles are being reduced, personnel policies are changing to focus on flexible thinkers and doctrine is changing to focus on rapid operations far from friendly bases of support. In other words, Rumsfeld is refocusing the Pentagon away from the Cold War, and towards the vicious little fights in the failed states of Africa and Asia.

Posted by jeff at 1:19 PM | TrackBack

Lessons to Learn

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Our enemies are quickly learning that facing our combat units is not a winning proposition. However, that is not going to make them suddenly stop being our enemies, in most cases. So the question becomes, how will they fight us. Since we've removed any possibility of combat success against our front-line units, the enemy will be forced to take up guerilla warfare, the one part of Saddam's defense that had any success at all against us.

The most vulnerable targets we have during an invasion are our supply convoys. (This has been the case for every army since at least WWII, by the way.) Because our way of fighting, as well as the necessity for most of our enemies to rely upon guerilla warfare, tends to blur or erase the concept of a front line, these convoys will become more exposed.

We will almost certainly have to devote more resources to convoy duty. This has to be a judgement call, because resource you use to guard the columns cannot be used in actions elsewhere. On the other hand, if the columns don't get through, your lead elements don't fight. The fact that some Marines were down to one chow a day for three days (during or right after the sandstorms) is pretty inconsequential militarily. The fact that units in contact in Baghdad were low on ammunition was far more worrying.

During one of the more intense operations of the war, the initial push into Baghdad along Hwy 8, then back out towards the airport, some of the heaviest fighting was by a supply convoy, trying to reach the front-line units, who were running low on ammo and fuel after 10 hours of continuous combat. The convoy was repeatedly ambushed. Here is some footage of one of these ambushes. Note the soldier hopping into the fuel truck to drive it away from the adjacent burning ammo truck.

I think that one meaningful lesson that we will draw from this war is that we need to better train and equip our rear-area troops for combat. They will never and should never be the specialists that the combat arms are, but it is a given that supply convoys and maintenance yards will be targets in the future, because the enemy has identified them as weaker than the combat units. As a result, even without convoys making wrong turns (the event that led to the capture of 6 POWs and the deaths of many more of our soldiers from the 507th), we can expect to see more fighting by rear area forces. We need to be prepared for this.

There is one other lesson, as well. A lot of our losses came from vehicles hit by RPGs. In close-quarters combat, the RPG is a fearsome weapon against buildings, helicopters, and unarmored or lightly-armored vehicles. Given that there are millions of them throughout the Third World, we can expect to see a great deal of action against them. As a result, we need to be very careful with our deployment of medium forces. The Stryker combat vehicles are certainly lighter and easier to deploy than our heavy forces, and require less load in combat. For most of the combat that occurred in the countryside, there would have been no problem using them. For the urban combat we faced, such a unit would have been torn up pretty badly, unless significantly more infantry was available to us than was the case here.

There are cases where the time savings in the deployment of troops make the risk of additional casualties worthwhile. Initial deployments into a combat zone, such as Desert Shield, could benefit from rapidly-deployed light armor, as could operations such as that conducted by the 173d AB Bgde in northern Iraq. However, when heavy forces can get in, they should get priority in shipping and should be put ashore as soon as possible. Without this, our casualty rates will rise sharply, which I don't think any reasonable American wants to see. My fear in this area is that political forces would get us to deploy medium forces in situations where they aren't a good fit, because they won't be seen as being as threatening as a heavy unit, or because they are cheaper than heavy units. We must maintain a heavy unit infrastructure, even if we shift more of the heavy units into the Reserves and Guard as we bring medium units on line in the regular force structure.

Posted by jeff at 10:58 AM | TrackBack

April 11, 2003

Ramifications II

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Porphyrogenitus, in a post which has to win the "Steven Den Beste Very Long Post Making Many Important Points and Pretty Much Settling That Issue" award, covers the State Department bureaucracy's wrangling over how the rebuilding of Iraq will come out, an issue I noted earlier, and how we should deal with those countries who opposed us. He goes into great depth on issues in Europe and how that should inform our post-war foreign policy. You should read Porphyrogenitus' article.

Posted by jeff at 1:04 PM | TrackBack

Ramifications

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Porphyrogenitus writes about rebuilding Iraq and how soon we should be holding elections. He is unconvinced by Aleksander Dardeli's argument in the Financial Times that we should first build institutions of law and order, then move towards elections. I also wrote about this earlier.

Here is the crux of Dardeli's argument:

Iraq represents an opportunity for a better approach. The initial emphasis should be on humanitarian assistance, economic reconstruction and building the rule of law. No matter how much the enthusiasts cringe at the idea, the US should delay elections until conditions improve and there is a better chance of a government operating fairly and effectively. Justifying early elections by saying that the Iraqis are a proud people, or that Iraq is not Kosovo, is silly. Iraq's institutions have been steadily battered by Saddam Hussein's regime into a state of dysfunction that will take time to mend.

I feel that we would do well to listen to Dardeli. While the immediate judgement of the international community would be that immediate elections (and pretty much only that) would produce a legitimate government, they also felt that way about Kosovo. Further, international opinion was that Saddam's government should not be removed. I'm more interested in three other judgements: the judgement of the Iraqi people, the judgement of the American people and the judgement of history.

There will doubtless be some in Iraq who will want immediate elections. Let me make a quick prediction: these will mostly be people who want to use quick elections to gain power that they would not have otherwise over institutions that will enrich them over the longer term. This has been the pattern in most places where democracy sprouted too rapidly (see Russia for instance). Legitimacy arises from the consent of the governed, but elections alone do not signify the consent of the governed. Note that Iraq and Cuba both had elections in the past year. They were meaningless because the institutions of freedom which make elections meaningful do not currently exist in either Cuba or Iraq.

For the American people, what is going to matter is not what we do now, but whether the Iraqi people are free in four or five years, or at least well on their way. If we betray the Iraqis into despotism - or even an elected shambles - the Republicans will be out on their ears for allowing it to happen, and rightly so. This issue will be minor in the run-up to the next election, unless we really fail miserably and quickly, but will be very important in the next two elections after that. We must keep our word to the Iraqi people to create a free self-governing society, and we will not be able to do that if they have self-government with no free society to govern.

The judgement of history will not rest on where Iraq is in six months, but in six decades. Note that the successes in Japan and Germany were not truly apparent until the 1960s at the earliest, and really it was only in the late 1980s that Germany showed how far it had come by reabsorbing the East without collapsing. The right-wing nationalists were there, waiting, but their opportunity never came. Look, for further example, at South Korea and Taiwan, both of which were not truly free until the 1980s, though they had elections for quite some time before that.

I believe that we will be seeing regional and local elections within a few months, for positions of limited authority over a limited region. But it will be a year at least before the basic institutions of law and order, protection of property, a free economy and a free press have really begun to be effective. It will be longer still - perhaps three or four years - before these institutions will have really taken hold in a way that makes them hard to reverse. Somewhere between that one year and those three or four years would be the right time to begin having national elections for a representative body, and once that body has taken hold, they can arrange for the election of an executive. This amount of time also gives time for what Iraq really needs: a consitutional convention to decide, based on the experiences of themselves and others whom they wish to emulate, how they want to govern themselves.

Posted by jeff at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

Solo-Ops

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Here is a site for military wives, with lots of resources and information.

Posted by jeff at 8:14 AM | TrackBack

April 10, 2003

Betrayal of Trust

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American media prides itself on its ethos. Among the ethical rules which journalists claim to abide by are:


  • Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

CNN appears incapable of or unwilling to live up to these standards. No doubt, Mr. Jordan faced difficult choices. However, the ethical response would have been to pull all of their reporters out of Baghdad, report the offenses honestly, and refuse to remain in a position where their reporting was compromised by the Hussein regime's brutality. All of the above rules were violated in CNN's conduct:

  • The voiceless remained mute in the face of their torture, because CNN refused to give them voice.
  • CNN put itself in a position of being dependent on the good graces of a thuggish despot.
  • In order to continue reporting from Iraq, and having access to Iraqi government officials, CNN compromised their ability to report the truth of what was happening.
  • Having done this, CNN then failed even to disclose that they were unable to report the truth of what was happening.
  • CNN certainly saw, by their own admission, what was happening, but their behavior was in no way courageous, and in no way sought to hold accountable those in Iraq who wielded power.

Yet through all of this behavior, for over a decade, CNN would have us believe that they did everything they could to bring us the truth? Shame! Shame on CNN. They cannot now be trusted with any news from any nation willing to brutalize its own people, because they have shown that in such a situation, they will sell out any principle for the opportunity to get stock footage and meaningless interviews. Worse yet, by not reporting these events, CNN encouraged them to continue, and thus became complicit in torture, attempted murder and suppression of the truth.

Hat tip to the Command Post for the story.

UPDATE (4/11): Sgt. Stryker has more.

UPDATE (4/11): Winds of Change is all over this as well, and has links to others who are.

Posted by jeff at 10:48 PM | TrackBack

April 9, 2003

Fault Lines

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At Winds of Change, Armed Liberal says:

Personally, I refuse to yield all the optimism to conservatives. I believe there are a number of liberals like me - who define their liberalism not by antipathy for the modern West, or more specifically for the U.S., but by a desire for more justice, more liberty, more equality, and a belief that we can have it all. I think that someone will find a way to channel our patriotism, our hope, and our energy into a political movement that can stand toe-to-toe with the conservative wave that is going to rise for the next few years in this country. Somone is going to outline a future for us, and challenge us to make it happen.

I believe that the old lines between Conservative and Liberal are blurring. In the 1990s, the Conservatives kicked out their reactionary, extremist idiots, and basically silenced the extreme right. The remainder is a moderate classical liberalism, with economic and foreign policy ideas drawn from the legacy of both Conservatives and Liberals in America.

The Liberals are beginning to find the same fault lines within their own party, between the Noam Chomsky left and the Dick Gephardt left. There is more in common between the Noam Chomsky left and the Pat Buchanan right than there is between the extreme left and the moderate left. I believe that the extreme right and the extreme left are coming together to make common cause. I belive that the moderate right and the moderate left need to do the same.

The kind of rightist that Bush represents and the kind of leftist that Armed Liberal represents have a lot in common. As Armed Liberal himself puts it:

And I'm happy to admit that it isn't for me because I am perfectly willing to stand with conservatives in believing in American exceptionalism.

I just think we got there for different reasons, and that we'll build the shining future using different tools.


I concur. I think, though, that too many on the moderate right and too many on the moderate left are blinded by the Republican and Democrat labels. The labels keep us from seeing our commonalities by emphasizing our differences. There is a thread of self-loathing and hatred of those who aren't "part of the tribe" which needs to be fought, and it will only be the combined efforts of the moderates in all parties and among independents which will be able to ward off the doomsayers and cynics enough to allow America to act, at home and abroad, optimistically.

This is a time when we need to come together - the moderate right, the moderate left, and the non-ideologically-blinded among the Libertarians and independents - in order to fashion a new polity in America, which believes and acts both at home and abroad on one simple principle:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Posted by jeff at 7:08 PM | TrackBack

Someone Tell the AMA

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One of my pet peeves is the routine genital mutilation of infant boys. Unless you are Jewish or Muslim, and thus have a religious reason for doing so, this procedure on a healthy boy is an abomination. (None of my four boys is circumcised, if you hadn't guessed.) Apparently, the BMA has figured this out. Sadly, the AMA has not:

The AMA supports the general principles of the 1999 Circumcision Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which reads as follows: Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.

They don't recommend it; that's as far as they go? And less than half of the circumcisions even used anesthesia! Grrr....

Posted by jeff at 2:18 PM | TrackBack

April 8, 2003

Europe's Core Issues

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Innocents Abroad addresses the core issues which lead to Europe's cognitive dissonance. One aside in the article really made me think:

Europeans are more Kantian than Kant, they are Nietzschean last men. This isn’t to say that they are principled pacifists. Indeed, they aren’t really principled at all. They will send their armies, such as they are, to fight, but not with any particular sense of pride.

If you are interested in the Euro-American relationship, you should read the whole thing. (If Blogspot lets you, that is. If not, go to Innocents Abroad and scroll down to Europe, Anti-Europe.)

Posted by jeff at 12:39 PM | TrackBack

Not Since the Iran-Iraq War

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Tim Blair contrasts a quote from Robert Fisk and one from Mark Colvin, who was on the same inspection trip. Fisk says that "Not since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War have I seen the Iraqi Army deployed like this."

I believe that this is the first time I've ever seen Fisk get it right:

Here is an Iraqi tank from the Iran-Iraq war.
Burning Iraqi tank from Iran-Iraq war.

Here is an Iraqi tank from the current campaign.
Burning Iraqi tank from current Iraq campaign.

Posted by jeff at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

April 7, 2003

Heading South

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We stopped to buy gas today. Across the highway from the gas station are train tracks. Since my 2 year old likes trains, I got him out of the van to watch the train go by. It was filled with heavy tank transporters, headed South. With trucks, headed South to the Army base. With command vehicles, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated. With supply trailers, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated, and waits to load them on ships. With ambulances, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated, and waits to load them on ships, and take them to war.

Posted by jeff at 3:47 PM | TrackBack

Diplomatic Notes

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The Agonist points to this Hurriyet article to the effect that if the US does not prevent the Kurds from moving on Kirkuk and Mosul, then Turkey will intervene militarily in northern Iraq.

There was an interesting incident in the late 1800s, which I sadly do not have a current reference to. This is therefore a probably-flawed account of what happened.

A dissident from Serbia, I believe, came to the United States on a speaking tour, to raise funds for the Serbs to fight their Austro-Hungarian overlords. The Austro-Hungarian ambassador, outraged, demanded that the United States extradite this "criminal" to Austria-Hungary for trial, and included some rather blustery threats against the US if we failed to comply. The Secretary of State responded with a note bluntly stating that the United States values freedom of speech, that this person had committed no crime in the United States, and that "Furthermore, compared to the United States, the domain of the Hapsburgs is but a speck on the map."

A similar note is probably in order to Turkey, something along the lines of: "Any armed forces in the territory of Iraq and not under the command of the coalition, will be considered enemies and will be attacked and destroyed." Really, nothing more needs to be said, and I have to think Turkey would believe us. (Perhaps this should be sent a few hours after a note which indicates that PKK armed groups would not be tolerated in Kurdish areas, and that the territorial integrity of Iraq will be maintained. The note on the inadvisability of Turkey's armed forces entering Iraq, though, should stand alone in a separate communique.)

Posted by jeff at 10:22 AM | TrackBack

Declaration of War

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When the Constitution was written, there was not a lot of middle ground between war and peace. The primary armed force of the United States was the militia, which consists of armed male citizens of a certain age (I think 15 to 35 years, but I haven't read the definition in a long time). The army, in fact, could only be funded for two years at a time (this is still true, but now pretty much meaningless) in order to prevent the existence (and related dangers) of a large standing army. In order to make war in anything other than local self-defense, the army would have to be mobilized. In order to mobilize the army, there had to be a Congressional declaration of war.

Beginning during the campaigns to occupy the American West, and continuing with such operations as the putting down of the Moro rebellion in the Phillipines and the occupations of several Latin-American nations during the time before WWII, this line became blurred. Viet Nam was the war that finally muddied the line to invisibility. When Kennedy committed military advisors in a non-combat role, did that require a declaration of war? When Kennedy later authorized them to shoot in self-defense, did that require a declaration of war? When those advisors went on patrol with their trainees, and fired on VC groups setting up machine guns to kill them, did that require a declaration of war? When larger formations were deployed to pacify areas behind the front lines (to the extent they could even be defined), essentially acting as well-armed police, did that require a declartion of war? When those troops were then engaged by large enemy formations, did that require a declaration of war? And so on. The frog was well and truly boiled by that point, yet there had been no declaration of war either by Congress, or via delegated authority (as through the UNSC or invokation of the North Atlantic Treaty's article V). The closest it came was a Congressional resolution, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which amounted to a declaration of war, but without giving the President clear targets or undisputed authority to prosecute the war.

Finally, America recognized that warfare had become a spectrum. Absolute war and absolute peace rarely exist in the world. Most of the time, in most places, there is some kind of in-between situation. Transportation and the falling cost of increasingly powerful weapons means that ill-clothed tribesmen living in a 12th century culture in mountain caves without a road in a 500km radius could launch rockets with ranges of 30km and large high-explosive warheads. In this kind of world, how do we decide when and how the President can deploy troops in protection of American interests, while still maintaining the Congressional authority and accountability to decide when and where we commit those forces that could result in our destruction, should we lose? The answer to this question was the War Powers act.

Setting aside whether or not the Act is Constitutional (possibly not) or should have instead been passed as a Constitutional amendment with additional details supplied by enabling laws (probably), the War Powers act defined the conditions under which the President could act without the explicit authority of Congress. There are, under the War Powers act, only three conditions under which "the President as Commander-in-Chief [may] introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances:"


  1. pursuant to a declaration of war
  2. pursuant to specific statutory authorization
  3. or in "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces"

The President must: advise Congress in advance and regularly thereafter, report specific information to the Congress every six months (more frequently if required by statute), immediately withdraw troops if Congress so requires by concurrent resolution, and "shall terminate" the combat use of the military "unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States."

Clearly, the President is authorized to make war in Iraq, by the second test established in the War Powers act. In October, 2002, the Congress passed a resolution which states in relevant part:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.


While this resolution did not immediately declare a state of war to exist between the United States and Iraq, it did authorize the President to commit acts of war at a time of his choosing, as long as certain conditions were met. I am unaware of any way to construe a difference between authorizing the President to commit acts of war that are not necessary for national self-defense, and declaring that a state of war exists, that would make any Constitutional difference. As a result, this resolution was a declaration that a state of war could be brought into existence, should the President decide that this was necessary and appropriate.

I believe that this is why the President did not ask for, and Congress did not pre-emptively make, a declaration of war. A declaration of war is a recognition that a state of war already exists. Since the President still hoped to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis, this form of resolution removed the Constitutional obstacle to war without also demanding a war, as an outright declaration of war would have done.

What this all comes down to is that the Congressional resolution of last October 2002 is Constitutionally equivalent to a declaration of war.

Posted by jeff at 12:51 AM | TrackBack

April 5, 2003

Brothers in Arms

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These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you’ll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms
Through these fields of destruction
Baptism of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms
There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones
Now the sun’s gone to hell
And the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We’re fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

- Dire Straits

Thanks to Lyrics Heaven for the lyrics.

The images came from War Photos and Free Republic.

Posted by jeff at 1:43 PM | TrackBack

The Trouble with Maps

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Iraqi Minister of Disinformation, Day 1: The evil invaders have been repulsed at the border.

Day 2: The infidel foe has been utterly defeated at Umm Qasr.

Day 3: The enemy dead litter the field around Basra. Allah is merciful.

Day 4: Our brave, courageous and loyal soldiers have repulsed the enemy at An Nasiriyah.

Day 5: Allah has given us victory at An Najaf, and the enemy plan is in tatters. Surely the kaffir will soon realize the error of his ways.

(Time passes)

Day 14: Al Kut has been the burial ground of thousands of infidels as our brave Arab nation has beaten the enemy with pickup trucks.

Day 15: The ground quakes beneath the wrath of Allah as he slaughters the sons of pigs and monkeys at the Saddam airport.

Day 16: Our brave 10-year old soldiers have repulsed the enemy from the outskirts of Baghdad.

Day 17: No press conference today.

When I become the Dark Overlord, the first thing I'm going to do is burn all of the maps, just in case I get invaded. Wouldn't want the people to lose heart that way.

Posted by jeff at 11:32 AM | TrackBack

American Soldier

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A story worth reading:

"Jessica Lynch," called out an American soldier, approaching her bed. "We are United States soldiers and we're here to protect you and take you home."

Peering from behind the sheet as he removed his helmet, she looked up and said, "I'm an American soldier, too."

Posted by jeff at 9:24 AM | TrackBack

Risky Business

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There is no nation on Earth which can win a stand-up fight against the US, even on their home territory, assuming that nuclear weapons are not used. China would make us bleed from sheer numbers. N. Korea would make us bleed from numbers and terrain. Britain or Israel would make us bleed from competence. Anyone else would be a fairly low-casualty win (at least based on the size of the task) for the US. The US enjoys an amazing superiority in doctrine, technology, numbers, and industrial base over every other nation on Earth. Some can match us in one or another of those areas, but no other nation can match us in all of them.

This asymmetry between our hard power and everyone else's has led to new concepts in warfare by everyone else, either to try to gain some measure of global power or simply to defend themselves. For the Frankenreich (as Porphyrogenitus calls the French-German-Belgian group of nations), the strategy appears to be to emphasize soft power; that is to say, culture and nuance (if you are kind) or sneering condescension (if you're not). The underlying point is to take advantage of our desire to be liked, by using alliances (NATO, for instance) and international organizations (the UN, for example) as methods of binding us via the threat of disapprobation. (Of course, they also have to pass laws forcing French TV stations to show a minimum amount of French-produced programming, or they'd show almost exclusively American fare.)

Al Qaeda, of course, and the nations which support terrorism in general, have adopted, writ large, the Palestinian strategy of making war on civilians, rather than the military. Of course, as events have shown, this strategy only works if the US military doesn't come to get you. Non-state armed groups still depend upon states to house them, fund them and provide them with cover, equipment and people. Taking out the Taliban has removed Al Qaeda's best location to plan, train and recuperate. The current war against Iraq will remove financial support, as well as a source of diplomatic cover and such necessary gear as weapons and explosives.

Other nations also provide support to Al Qaeda and related groups. These include Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I have not yet worked out Syria's strategy, though it may simply be to take advantage of the threat they pose to Israel to scare us into not attacking them. Certainly Syria is offering real support to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, and political support to Iraq. Saudi Arabia seems to be attempting to play both sides, funding and supporting terrorism while co-operating in fighting terrorism when they must, and retrenching when they can, and loosening up politically when it is expedient, and cracking down again when they can. Iran, though, seems to have developed an activist strategy: infiltration of agents after a US conquest of Iraq, to destabilize the country and make our occupation costly and long. North Korea has opted to obtain nuclear weapons, and other nations will almost certainly attempt the same thing. (Iran is apparently trying.) The most frightening thing about that strategy is that North Korea is crazy enough that they may supply nuclear weapons to others.

Canada appears to have adopted the strategy of becoming irrelevant. On the other hand, Great Britain, Australia and the Eastern European countries have adopted the strategy of being on our side, and by doing so actually do have an influence on the way we behave.

I think that Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia will provide a test for the US. How far will we allow nations to go before we get irritated enough to attack them? I suspect that if Iran does go ahead with trying to instigate guerilla warfare against us in Iraq, while continuing their efforts to keep Afghanistan unstable, we will be at war with Iran within two years. This will happen even faster if Iran appears to be making real progress on obtaining nuclear arms. Saudi Arabia will probably be successful in keeping us from attacking them directly, but in the process they will have to liberalize somewhat, and also lower their level of support for terrorism (and in the course of this, they will need to lessen their attempts to export Wahabbism).

Syria is the real mystery to me. Certainly we have reason to go after them, if only because eliminating Syria's support for terrorism in Israel would make more likely a real possibility for peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, lacking a concrete and fairly immediate threat, Congress is unlikely to authorize the use of force against Syria. Although strategically Syria would be the best next target to eliminate the threat of terrorism against the US, Iran appears to be following the more risky strategy against us, and is therefore more likely to be our next target.

UPDATE (6/20/05): I'm not sure how I omitted India, both competent and numerous, from the list.

Posted by jeff at 12:30 AM | TrackBack

April 4, 2003

Building Democracy in Iraq

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The Winds of War today has a report that the CIA and top State Department officials are profferring a nationalist named Adnan Pachachi to head the interim Iraqi government that will be installed after the war ends. The article paints him in rather ugly terms in comparison to Ahmad Chalabi, who is head of the Iraqi National Congress.

I know nothing about Mr. Pachachi, and only a little more about Mr. Chalabi. I don't think that Mr. Chalabi is the person to head up the interim Iraqi government, based on what I do know. That is beside the point, though. All of the maneuvering going on now is not about Iraq; it is about domestic political empires and vendettas. Right now, all of the organizations, and the different factions within those organizations, of the executive branch are trying to get primacy over who will be the ones to pick the new Iraqi government.

This is a mistake, and the Congress will compound it if they turn over control to the Department of State. Despite the claims made in the article, reconstruction and nation building is not "traditionally diplomatic territory." Generally, in our history, we have placed military governorships (led by governors general, who are serving military officers) in charge of this process. The reason for this is twofold. First, there is a huge security problem that has to be addressed, and the military is far better able to do this, even in non-military ways, than the diplomats, because to a diplomat everything is negotiable. Second, democracy doesn't work when it drops into your lap.

The second point is key: there are a large number of preconditions to true liberal democratic rule, which is why it doesn't happen much. There need to be institutions which give individuals power over their own lives. These include banks, for financial power (ability to borrow, pool resources, etc); a trusted police force and court system, for individual safety without resorting to individual use of force; and orderly and well-understood laws which provide safety (life), freedom of expression and action (liberty), and protection for private property (which is a cornerstone of the pursuit of happiness).

The only process which has been successful is to first build these institutions; then build elected legislatures at various levels, starting from the bottom up; then finally move the power of the state executive to an elected position. In every case I've ever come across where that path was followed, it has led to eventual liberal democracy in some form, while in every case of democracies which have failed, a different method has been attempted. Generally, you can overlap these steps quite a bit. In particular, giving local control to local officials can be done quite quickly. But even here, you have to have a strong power above the local level which can step in, so as to prevent the gangsterism seen in Russia, and the corruption seen almost everywhere outside of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia/New Zealand.

I fear that our Congress is going to put this in the hands of the State Department, which will then fritter away this vital opportunity. It should be remembered that if we fail to build at least a Turkish-style democracy, if not better, then our effort will be a failure overall. We must provide a positive example for other state sponsors of terrorism which rule despotically over their people. To do that, we have to be able to focus on what is important: building a stable democracy which won't collapse or turn into a meaningless non-entity (or worse, become a tyranny with the trappings of democracy). The State Department, by its very nature as conciliators, is unprepared to do this. Instead, the State Department's history is one of giving in to the demands of every nation and every faction which we want to make happy, regardless of the long-term impact. Stability is our goal here, but not the stability of the tyrant.

At least it appears that we aren't turning reconstruction over to the UN, which would be many orders of magnitude worse.

UPDATE (4/7): For an example of UN redestruction in Kosovo, look here. (Hat tip: Winds of Change)

Posted by jeff at 1:47 PM | TrackBack

General Franks

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

UPI notices something I pointed out over a week ago: the US has perfected the blitzkrieg.

They go on to say, talking about the upcoming battle to control Baghdad:

The U.S. commanders know what the cities of Leningrad and Stalingrad did to the blitzkrieg experts of 1940. To avoid that fate, and demonstrate the flexibility in the face of new challenges that really tests an army's mettle, the victors of Blitzkrieg 2003 have to learn some asymmetric tactics of their own.

There are two kinds of generalship needed in an army, political and battlefield. Eisenhower was a political general, who was able to bring together the staff and generate the plans and arrange the political conditions with allies and do all of the other things to set the conditions for victory. Patton, in contrast, was a battlefield general, capable of executing his commander's intent brilliantly to bring about victory even when the conditions weren't quite set correctly. Political generals wage campaigns, and battlefield generals fight them out on the ground. General Franks is the political general for the war on terror.

General Franks has planned two brilliant campaigns now in the last three years. Afghanistan was a guerilla war by special forces and proxies, with limited conventional army support and extensive air support, to bring down an entrenched government in forbidding mountainous terrain, and it succeeded quickly and at low cost. Iraq is a conventional stand-up fight, with elements of guerilla combat in the rear areas (this time with the enemy acting as guerilla), and will come to be seen as one of the most brilliant armor campaigns ever conceived. In other words, General Franks has fought and won two very different campaigns in very different circumstances in three years, both done brilliantly with great speed and low cost, and both with the end of toppling hostile regimes.

General Franks will be remembered along with Grant, Eisenhower and Creighton Abrams as among the most successful theater commanders America has ever produced. His most important accomplishment, in my opinion, has been to show our enemies that there is no safe terrain, no safe situation, in which the US military cannot fight and win quickly and at low cost. The one thing he has not yet shown is that we can do this in large-scale urban combat. I have a feeling, though, given his record, that he is about to teach our enemies quite an interesting lesson about urban combat.

UPDATE (6/20/05): I should note that I never meant political general in the sense of what Franks himself calls "Title 10 Motherfuckers", but rather those generals whose combat job necessarily involves interaction with foreign allies at the ministerial level. The Title 10 generals are just military bureaucrats, really, rather than what I tend to think of as useful general officers. The second thing that's interesting is that, in retrospect, it was not General Franks, but a few captains, majors and a colonel who reinvented urban warfare by sending in armored columns to unhinge the Baghdad defense. This should be regarded as a supreme achievement of our military: mid-level officers felt comfortable upending both doctrine and history to do what was right.

Posted by jeff at 8:50 AM | TrackBack

April 3, 2003

What France is Playing At

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

"Jane Galt" asks the question: "what were the French thinking?"

I believe that the French were influenced by four very strong forces:


  1. Philosophy
  2. Mollification of Arab Immigrants
  3. Economics
  4. European Power Politics

Philisophically, the French elites are deeply committed to transnational progressivism. They believe that the United States is dangerous, because not only are we a "nationalist" entity, who insists on doing things which are in our own interests, we are also mighty and frequently successful. The combination of our power and our lack of willingness to be ruled by our "betters" in the transnational camp means that the United States is likely to run around like a bull in a china shop, and break a lot of things in international relations. This can only be to the detriment of the transnational elites, because their philosophy derives a lot from Marxism, and we should have already collapsed from our own internal contradictions. If we are successful, and everything points to our being so, in pushing our national interests, and in the process we lift other nations to political and economic success, the elites will be (once more) discredited, and will likely lose their power.

Equally as important, France and Germany have a large Arab/Muslim immigrant community. The Algerians, Palestinians and Libyans in France, and the Turks and others in Germany, provide a large group of culturally unassimilated (thanks to multiculturalism) unemployed young men. If these Arab/Muslim immigrants were to rise up against the government, there would be a massive resurgence of nationalism in France and Germany in particular. This would result in a wave of brutality against the immigrants (who would certainly lose in the end) and a devastation of large parts of urban central Europe. This would be a disaster for western Europe. The French, Germans and Belgians have thus chosen to use a tactic which the Arab governments have successfully used for decades: turn the mob against the Americans and the Jews. The result of this is that WWI Allied cemeteries have been desecrated.

More importantly, or at least more immediately, than either of those reasons is that France has massive interests in Iraq. In addition to selling $9B worth of arms to Iraq, there are the TotalFinaElf contracts for oilfield exploitation, and numerous other large economic links. This is a significant proportion of France's economy, and that economy is struggling, and there are many groups (including the one which wrote that article) who are trying to make it worse, but not allowing any kind of employment or benefit reforms.

Probably most importantly of all of the four factors driving the French, Belgians and Germans is European power politics. Most of the Franco-German resistance to the war, beyond the limits of what sane people could consider reasonable, is driven by the need to humiliate Tony Blair. England is the single most dangerous nation to France and Germany right now, because England leans towards the US, and is strong enough militarily and politically to support and sustain the other European nations (the Vilnius 10, for example) who also lean towards the US. Since France and Germany want Europe to coalesce around a Franco-German core, in order to have some kind of political status above their intrinsic weight, the British political tendency to not cling blindly to Franco-German policies threatens the Franco-German aspirations to international power status. To the French in particular, the risk of destroying the UN is worthwhile if it provides a good chance of removing the British impediments to a European Constitution that would put France and Germany in control of virtually all of Europe.

Posted by jeff at 1:52 PM | TrackBack

April 2, 2003

Where do They Get Young Men Like This?

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

From LT Smash:


Martin Savidge of CNN, embedded with the 1st Marine battalion, was talking with 4 young Marines near his foxhole this morning live on CNN. He had been telling the story of how well the Marines had been looking out for and taking care of him since the war started. He went on to tell about the many hardships the Marines had endured since the war began and how they all look after one another.
He turned to the four and said he had cleared it with their commanders and they could use his video phone to call home.
The 19 year old Marine next to him asked Martin if he would allow his platoon sergeant to use his call to call his pregnant wife back home whom he had not been able to talk to in three months. A stunned Savidge who was visibly moved by the request shook his head and the young Marine ran off to get the sergeant.
Savidge recovered after a few seconds and turned back to the three young Marines still sitting with him and asked which one of them would like to call home first, the Marine closest to him responded with out a moments hesitation “ Sir, if is all the same to you we would like to call the parents of a buddy of ours, Lance Cpl Brian Buesing of Cedar Key, Florida who was killed on 3-23-03 near Nasiriya to see how they are doing”.
At that Martin Savidge totally broke down and was unable to speak. All he could get out before signing off was “Where do they get young men like this?”.

Posted by jeff at 12:48 PM | TrackBack

April 1, 2003

Empire Building

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Colin Powell offered this quote, as part of a long response to a question from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.

Posted by jeff at 5:30 AM | TrackBack