April 30, 2004

How to Make Jeff Happy

Combine baseball and math. Mmmmm.....

(Of course, baseball is well-suited to statistical analysis, more so than most sports, because of the large number of games played in a season, and the large number of repeat match-ups. Still, it's nice to see someone applying statistics to learn lessons about what works and what doesn't.)

Posted by Jeff at 10:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)


Brian Dunn asks: "Sometimes I wonder if there are comparable fools in the ranks of the Islamists who argue that it is foolish to attack us since it will just make us mad and recruit more Tommy Franks to kill them all. It should only be fair. Why should we have all the idiots on our side?"

Idiots die in a state of nature, either by literally dying or by figuring out that you can't act like an idiot and live. We have a lot of idiots because we have a few brave souls willing and able to go into the heart of hell for the rest of us, so that we can remain in an oblivious state of peace while the demons howl at the gates.

Posted by Jeff at 03:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)


Dividing people into polarized groups is very human: it's a survival mechanism for distinguishing those you can trust and be safe with from those who are a threat or a potential threat. Robert Heinlein had perhaps the best division:

Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

This quote, while a billiant summation, doesn't address one key question: why do some people desire to control others? Robert Heinlein also had another quote that gives a start on resolving that question:
I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. (emphasis added)

When I was first studying Wicca, I learned that there is a difference between "power over" and "power to", "can" and "should", "desire" and "will", and "opportunity" and "duty".

Most Wiccans are of a type I call "fluffy bunny" Wicca: they were too late to be hippies or start a commune, so they looked for something that superficially resembled what they want, grafted on all kinds of New Age claptrap and called it Wicca. The obligation of personal responsibility that comes with power is overwhelming; for a moral person, the more power and understanding that is gained, the less freedom of action is available, for fear of destroying the good enough in the attempt to obtain the perfect. And frankly, most Christians I've known are "fluffy bunny" Christians - content to mouth the words, but not accept the crushing burden of living up to them. (Could you smile happily as you were torn apart by lions, because you knew you were going to a great reward when the pain was over?) I don't think this is a religious characteristic; it is a human characteristic.

But the unwillingness to accept moral responsibility must arise from somewhere, must be a result of some cause, and I believe that it arises from selfishness. While all of us are capable of selfishness, not all of us are capable of selflessness, or of being annoyed without desiring to use force to effect the removal of the annoyance.

I saw a story on Fox News the other day that shocked and outraged me: homeowners on the hills above San Francisco Bay are trying to get an ordinance on the allowable height of trees in their neighbors' yards, so as not to have their view (a false property rights claim) obstructed by their neighbors' use of their real property. If your neighbors' use of their property bothers you, morally you are in a stronger position to buy their property, cut down the tree, and sell the property again with a perpetual obligation on the title to never have a tree or structure on the property above a certain height; then people can buy the title or not, depending on their willingness to abide by its restrictions. But no, no! Instead we must use the coercive power of the government to solve the issue!

Why, though? Because in the end, a person who would go beyond annoyance at a situation that poses no threat to them, into the use of force to resolve it, simply sees other people, institutions, objects and conventions as matters of convenience to them. Why would that other property exist, except as it is convenient to you as part of the view from your balcony? Why would a political rule about when someone gets on the ballot, or how votes are counted, be valid when it is not in your favor? If someone is smoking, or gets fat from eating fast food, why should your aesthetic sense not be offended, and why should you thus not take action? After all, what they are doing affects you - however remotely - and so you should be able to control it, because those rules, those people, only exist at your whim and convenience, right?

I've been trying to find an issue where I disagree with the Leftist position, which does not come down in the end to selfishness on the part of the Left, and I haven't found one yet. And with the Right, too; I think that the reason that Pat Buchanan looks so much like a Leftist in everything he does and advocates, is because in the end he has a similar view - we're only here for his convenience - but a different set of people, policies and actions that inconvenience him.

Of course, we know where this leads, because the history of mankind is littered with its detritus: people who are incapable of selflessness inevitably either attempt to take absolute power (if control is more convenient to them than moral rectitude), or to give up all of their power to some (hopefully) benevolent overlord (if ease is more convenient to them than responsibility). In the end, selfishness in the public realm leads to corruption, decay and eventually tyranny.

Which, for some people, is better than having your view ruined.

Posted by Jeff at 02:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Getting to the Bottom of 9/11?

The next time you Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry or any of a number of other partisan Democrats or their hacks bashing the President's testimony, just remind yourself that two of the 9/11 commission's five Democrats walked out in the middle of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney's testimony. Frankly, between acts like this, and the fact that the author of one of the policies which most hindered the detection of 9/11 plot is on the panel instead of a witness, it has become apparent that the resulting report will be compromised no matter what it says.

Posted by Jeff at 10:28 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Honor and Dishonor in War and Argument

Palace of Reason is well-named, and Francis Porretto, who writes there, is one of the most useful minds on the Internet. This essay, on honor and dishonor and their consequences in war and argument, is but one example. Go read.

UPDATE: Francis Porretto has also posted a tangential commentary on the judicial confirmation mess. What really strikes me about this is how internally-inconsistent the Left is, yet they still seem to think that they'll be able to keep control. It's like building a tower of different-sized blocks, with a really small one on the bottom, and expecting the tower to stand indefinitely. Effectively, the Left relies on the stupidity of everyone else, which is perhaps why they're so committed to the thesis that everyone but them is stupid.

Posted by Jeff at 10:19 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

The Claps of Civilization

I read this article (hat tip: Steph), and once I'm done wondering why such articles no longer make me weep inside, I have three thoughts:

  1. Perhaps, Mr. O'Neill, you should look carefully at the interconnection between Leftist thought, politicization of the classroom (note, for example, your snide asides, in this article about dumb students, about how dumb the President is, and how the stupidity of students must explain why Republicans are elected - yes, some of us can actually follow your insinuations to their logical conclusion), and the loss of practical education in favor of politically-correct dogma.
  2. Our Republic continues to be doomed. Hell, what am I saying: we haven't been a Republic since the passage of the 17th Amendment and the rise of judicial activism. Our semi-constitutional representative democracy continues to be doomed.
  3. When the new Power arises, it will be my children and those like them - with a grounding in history and languages, a studied understanding of human behavior, literacy, numeracy and vision - who will be standing in the reviewing stands watching their Death Legions march below them. And I will be standing in the shadows behind, laughing, "Meh heh heh heh heh."

Sorry - seem to have strayed a bit there.

Posted by Jeff at 09:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 29, 2004

He's a President, Not a Prime Minister

In the US, the President is not selected by Congress, is not subject to Congressional whims, does not answer to Congress and does not serve at the pleasure of Congress (though he can be compelled to leave office by Congress's extreme displeasure - so extreme that it's only happened once, to Richard Nixon). Apparently, Reuters doesn't understand this:

He dismissed criticism from Democrats that he wanted to appear together with Cheney so they would not contradict each other and did not mention he had only met with the commission under pressure from victims' families.

"Look, if we had something to hide we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions. As I say, I came away good about the session because I wanted them to know how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we deal with threats," Bush said.


Bush agreed under pressure to answer questions from all panel members for as long as necessary, but only on condition he have Cheney at his side and they meet in private, with no recording of the session. They were not under oath.


The meeting, with potential election-year ramifications, took place in the very heart of presidential power, the Oval Office, rather than in a room that would have provided a traditional table-and-chair setting.


On Capitol Hill, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, criticized Bush and Cheney for demanding that they appear together.

"I think the only advantage to them doing it together is that their comments be consistent. But I really think that the whole process would have been better served if the president had gone in alone and the vice president had gone in alone."

While I'm sure Ms. Pelosi feels that way, the point of the exercise is not to give the Democrats ammunition for the election season, but to learn lessons from the events and reactions leading up to 9/11, hopefully to aid in preventing such catastrophes in the future.

Reuters, on the other hand, simply seems to think that the President is actually a Prime Minister with a different title. Well, it's not like they get much else right, so why should that surprise me?

Posted by Jeff at 07:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

A Broader Jihad

Robert Garcia Tagorda points out the new strategy al Qaeda seems to be following to gain recruits and allies: division of Europe from America by playing up secular anti-Americanism, leading romantic young Europeans to effectively join al Qaeda in search of meaning for their lives. What is so scary about this is how likely it is to succeed. Europe has long been fertile ground for romantic, autocratic visions, and it's been the young men there who fervently jump into such causes. Fascism, Naziism, Marxism, Communism and Islamism are all rooted in the same fundamental idea: the world would be better if we let a strong leader (Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, bin Laden) sweep away the failures of the past and defeat the enemies of progress (lovers of individual liberty, Jews, teachers and intellectuals, capitalists, Americans). It's only after the bodies pile up by the millions - and not always then - that we recognize the error.

What is often lost in our societal teaching of history is that freedom, individual Liberty, limited government, social equality, good education, good health and near-universal wealth (consider that American poor are still among the 5% wealthiest people on the planet!) are all historical aberrations. (I'm cynical enough to believe that this lack of education is an intentional result of the Gramscian "Long March Through the Institutions".) Even now, the Enlightenment is effectively dead in Old Europe, and is fading in much of the Anglosphere. Even in the US, the Enlightenment is under constant and determined attack.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and our progeny to counter at all points the failed ideologies of the Left at home. Otherwise, we will be too weak to counter such ideas abroad when they sweep over entire continents - continents now possessing nuclear weapons, and focused on the US and Israel as the chief devils of the world.

Posted by Jeff at 10:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

The Truth Is

When Steven Den Beste takes a week off, I get giddy with anticipation, because he always seems to follow up these periods with a world-beating rant, introducing some clarity to some situation. Like this one. Den Beste takes on a variety of positions based on misdirection, one after the other.

UPDATE (4/30): Brian Tiemann makes a similar point.

Posted by Jeff at 11:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Connor on the Aztecs

"They kept their cities very clean...except for the piles of skulls."

Posted by Jeff at 11:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Proof Positive

America is the greatest country on Earth. UPDATE: A hoax? Bummer, well, at least we have senses of humor. Guess I should have actually read the page, instead of just scanning a bit of it.

On a more serious note, Blackfive relates a story about the greatness of the American people, shown through the lens of the burial of one of our war dead.

Semper Fi.

Posted by Jeff at 10:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Somebody Else's Problem

I must admit that parts of President Bush's strategy on terrorism have me stumped. I realize that to some degree this is because President Bush acts like a businessman instead of a politician: he sets goals and then manages by exception, looking for things that are broken instead of micromanaging those things that are imperfect but working. I also realize that there are limits to what he can say, because the enemy will hear as well, and knowing your enemy's strategy is the first step in defeating him: if the Islamists know the details, they'll be prepared for them.

Still, I think I've teased out a thread that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere, and the more I think about it the more I am convinced that I am right: President Bush is turning terrorism into an Arab/Muslim, as opposed to a US/Western, problem.

Consider President Bush's early answer (and he's been consistent since) to whether more troops were needed in Iraq: "As a matter of fact, the strategy is to, is to have more troops but they would be Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, Iraqi civil defense corps, and there's about 160,000 trained Iraqis that are in charge of their own security. The truth of the matter is for Iraq to emerge as a free society, the Iraqi citizens must step up".

Or consider the current strategy around Falluja: negotiate with local leaders to do the job, rather than level the part of the city where the insurgents are holed up; or around Najaf: point out to Sistani how Sadr threatens him, and let him take care of it.

Or consider President Bush's strategy on the Palestinians: offer them a chance, and when they don't take it, get off Israel's back and at the same time tell other Arab nations that they need to permanently resettle displaced Palestinians. Or consider our actions in Afghanistan, where we are providing the heavy striking power while training up an Afghan Army which is slowly building up strength and not only chasing Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents, but also displacing local warlords' armies over time as well. Or consider our treatment of Saudi Arabia: pull out the troops and give no shield for the Saudis from the terror they have spent decades nurturing.

In the end, I believe that President Bush's strategy is to secure the US and our coalition allies (and hopefully Old Europe, though that's largely up to the Europeans), provide a safe haven for representative government in Iraq (and possibly other countries like Iran and Syria), pull nuclear weapons off the table by destroying regimes that are close to developing them, and ensure the flow of oil. The effect of such a strategy, if successfully implemented, would be to remove the West as a productive theater for attacks, while removing America's protection from despotic Arab/Muslim regimes. This would make the Islamist's most productive target those despotic Arab/Muslim regimes that birthed terrorism as State policy, and will thus force those countries to clean up the problem.

As long as we are able to transmit that strategy (assuming that is the strategy) between administrations in the same way that we transmitted containment during the Cold War, there's a chance that we can end terrorism eventually without actively occupying all of the countries that sponsor terrorism.

Posted by Jeff at 10:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Fight or Die

Porphyrogenitus nails the problem caused by the "inner enemy" - the Westerners who themselves see Western culture as a threat to humanity:

European governments express concern over things like [Islamic militants in European countries calling for Shari'a in Europe], but if you judge real concern by action, it's hard to see much. We do not expect other cultures to tolerate movements dedicated to their destruction, but there is a level of passivity throughout much of the West to not only threats, but actions, based on that desire. I have written before that I am adamantly in favor of welcoming immigrants of whatever background who want to join our society and live within our civilization. But that is not the same as welcoming a viper to your bosom.

One thing that needs to be noted is that Europeans don't actually travel much. They boast about how many countries they've been to, and deride Americans for mostly staying here, without realizing that most of their countries are smaller, less populous and less culturally diverse that American States. Not to mention, Americans actually do travel out-of-Continent more frequently than Europeans, largely due to overseas military and foreign policy committments and student study-abroad programs. (I've got to dig up the link for that, because it's an important point to have direct evidence for.) As a result, I think that Europeans are less likely to understand the cultures outside of their own, less able to put their culture in a worldwide context (and less able to put their culture in a historical context, due to the debased Marxist form of history commonly taught in Old Europe), and thus less capable of fearing what threatens to consume them. Sadly, I don't think that Old Europe will understand the threat until it's literally "fight or die".

Posted by Jeff at 09:40 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 26, 2004


For an exhibition of moral courage and ruthless intellectual honesty, note Francis Porretto's position in Duties. And in particular, if you are Catholic, I recommend that you read this; it will at least inform your thoughts.

Posted by Jeff at 01:27 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

The Philosophy of Higher Education

Tech Central Station has published a lecture by John Kekes, regarding the orthodoxy of higher education and its effect on broader public policy and debate. It's a subject depressing to me, because I value education and value the truth, and I don't think that either one has much of a place on college campuses these days, based on the evidence I've seen. Here is the thesis of the lecture:

When did you last hear of anyone defending fundamentalist Christianity or the superiority of Western civilization? Who has been allowed to express the opinion on our campuses that homosexuality is a perversion, that there exist racial differences in intelligence, that women's place is in the home, that the Holocaust is a fiction, or that America is a force for the good in a corrupt world?

You may say that such opinions are justly stifled because their expression harms others. But if you thought that, you would be well-advised to think again. For if by harm you mean, narrowly, serious injury, such as murder, torture, or battery, then neither the opinions nor their expression harms others. And if by harm you mean, broadly, injury to the interest of the people affected, then you would have to be opposed to all laws and regulations which prohibit people from doing what they want or place burden on them that they do not wish to bear. You would, then, be committed to the absurdity of having to oppose laws about taxation, social security, immigration, and health care, since they injure the interests of those who are forced to pay for them. The truth of the matter is that the opinions stifled on our campuses run counter to a prevailing orthodoxy that abuses its power and prevents the expression of opinions it opposes.

This coercive stifling of opinion permeates daily life, not just our campuses. It is very hard to think of an area of life that is free of the exhortation of intrusive moralizing. We are told what food is right or wrong to eat; how we should treat our pets; what clothing to wear; how we should spend our after-tax income; how precisely we should phrase invitations for sex; what kind of bags we should carry our groceries in; when and where we are permitted to pray or smoke; what jokes we are allowed to tell; who should pick the fruit we buy at the supermarket; how we should invest our money; what chemicals we should use in our gardens; by what method of transportation we should go to work; how we should sort our garbage; what we ought to think about cross dressing, sex change operations, teenage sex, and pot smoking; we are forbidden to inquire after the age, marital status, drug use, or alcoholism of job applicants; we are liable to be accused of sexual abuse if we spank our children or hug our neighbor's; our 19 and 20-year olds are permitted to fight our wars, but they are not permitted to buy a beer; we are not supposed to say that people are crippled, stupid, mentally defective, fat, or ignorant; and we must not use words like "mankind," "statesman," or "He" when referring to God.

What makes this coercive moralizing even worse is the hypocritical double-talk by which it is presented. For the stifling of opinions is said to be required by toleration. Its defenders advocate toleration of discrimination in favor of minorities and women (but not against them); of obscenity that offends religious believers and patriots (but not African-Americans and Jews); of unions' spending large sums in support of political causes (but not corporations' doing the same); of pot smoking (but not cigarette smoking); of abortion (but not capital punishment); of the public lies of Clinton (but not of Nixon); of hate speech against fundamentalists (but not homosexuals); of sex education in elementary schools (but not prayer); of jobs open only to union members (but not private clubs open only to males); of lies about American imperialism (but not the Holocaust); of sacrilegious of language (but not of language that uses "he" to refer to all human beings); of scientific research into just about anything (except racial differences in intelligence); and so on and on. We are awash in this ocean of hypocrisy, lies, and falsifications.

Read it all.

Posted by Jeff at 12:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 25, 2004

Why it's Bad That the Press is so Terrible

Drake at The Edge of England's Sword has a post on why it matters that the Western press is so terrible. I concur with his statements.

Posted by Jeff at 12:20 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 23, 2004

Odds of Armageddon

Demosophia has a thought-provoking post laying out the human-nature influences on the meta-conflict between Islamism and the West, and the inability of traditional social contracts to contain the inherent feud that arises from that meta-conflict. Read the whole thing, then come back.

Welcome back. While Demosophia's analysis is largely correct, it seems to me, there is one place where I believe that he has made an error. Demosophia, in arguing that time is not on our side, states:

To be sure, absent the intervention of human technology the role of nature would tend to stabilize the feudal struggle within the Middle East, and between the Middle East and the West. The Ummah and the House of War could arrange some sort of truce, even if it weren't quite as pristine as the one that Henley envisions. The natural boundaries would lower the frequency of interaction to the point that it could be managed by a modest set of contracts, and cultural evolution could catch up to the recursive loop of the feud. But nature doesn't mediate any longer, and time is therefore not on our side. There are so many routes to Trent's scenario, or to Wretchard's Three Conjectures, all developing simultaneously and with great speed, that the probability that one of those routes would be traveled within a decade approaches 1. Even if time were on our side in the long run (which it probably is not) the urgent would still bar the way to the important.

I did some back of the envelope calculations, and I figure that the odds of large-scale (ie, more than a handful of weapons) nuclear exchange occurring over the next 10 years are no greater than 0.3. Over a 25-year period the odds are closer to 0.9, assuming that we are not successful at democratizing the Middle East, or destroying the philosophical underpinnings of Islamism. The largest factors (and also the largest unknowns) are the possibility of a non-State actor acquiring nuclear weapons, and the possibility of Iran achieving sufficient nuclear materials to build a weapon and this becoming known to Israel. Other, smaller-scale, risks include conflict between India and Pakistan, proliferation in SE Asia (in response to N Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons) leading to conflict, internal collapse of N Korea leading to conflict, Brazilian acquisition of nuclear weapons capability combined with an Argentine civil collapse, and loss of control of Russian or Pakistani nuclear stockpiles.

If either of those major events occurs, the odds of a large-scale nuclear exchange approach unity. If neither of those events occurs, the odds of such an exchange are small - certainly smaller than the odds of an exchange in the mid-1960s or late-1970s were. (By contrast, acquisition of nuclear weapons by Brazil would barely change the odds of an exchange.)

The problem is, I don't really see us doing what we need to be doing to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, though it'll be late-2005 before that will be conclusive. I believe that we are working very hard - and probably will be successful - at keeping non-State actors from acquiring nuclear weapons. Given that, I figure the odds of non-State actors getting nuclear weapons are quite small, while the odds of Iran obtaining sufficient material are quite a bit larger, but still under 20% (as I assume that the US will act against Iran in the next 24 months).

Does that make me an optimist or a pessimist, figuring that there are 1 in 3 odds of a major nuclear exchange within 10 years, most likely Israel utterly destroying Iran?

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

Goodbye and Thanks

Goodbye and thanks to SPC Pat Tillman, whom Intel Dump informs me has been killed in action in Afghanistan. SPC Tillman was a professional football player, who left the game after 9/11 to serve his country in the US Army Rangers - one of the best and thus most constantly committed-to-combat light infantry units in the world.

SPC Tillman put America's interests above his own immediate self-interest, and was killed while participating in an operation to find and eliminate enemy leaders. SPC Tillman provided the kind of example to America that our athletes are supposed to provide, but too seldom do.

My condolences, and my thanks, to his family.

Posted by Jeff at 03:36 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Sources for Understanding the Terror Wars

I have gotten a couple of emails asking for source material on some of the posts I've written, and to the best of my ability have provided it. The reason I frequently don't have many links in articles laying out broad patterns and situations is that I don't think from a single incident. Instead, I tend to read a lot of material, view things on TV, talk to people and let all of that filter through my brain. Eventually, out pops a conclusion and supporting material, but without references or links. For those, I have to go back and look it up (possible, but time-consuming, especially finding the disconfirming evidence that I've discarded for one reason or another). This may be the best "one stop shopping" for pulling together a picture of actual events and trends in the Terror Wars.

While I will still be happy to answer requests for specific information about a specific post, I wanted to provide a general reading list of sources that inform my views.

The traditional news media frequently have nuggets of information buried in their stories, but you have to ignore their analysis. I read a lot of bits and pieces from different sources, rather than reading exhaustively through any given source. The traditional media is the least useful source to me overall, but the most useful sources for war and economic news among them are the Wall Street Journal, Ha'aretz, the Guardian, the BBC, al-Jazeera, and (ugh) the New York Times. Let me stress again, though, to ignore the analysis and editorializing that is in the articles; it's frequently more indicative of the reporters' biases than the actual situation. And in the case of al-Jazeera, the BBC and the NY Times, swallow a case of salt with much of the coverage.

To see what the Arabs and Muslims are saying about us to themselves in Arabic, rather than to us in English, there is no better source than MEMRI. MEMRI translates news articles, speeches, sermons, and even cartoons from Arab/Muslim sources.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs does an excellent job of culling many sources to find information about the jihadis' plans and intentions, the mood and behavior of Arab/Muslim societies, the activities of the "anti-war" groups and so on, and infrequently presents hopeful news. I used to think that this was bias against hopeful signs in the Arab world, but eventually I've come to believe that it's just that there aren't a lot of hopeful signs right now. By the way, don't read his comments; they tend to attract extremists and are a waste of time for serious observers.

Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis does a lot of work building up the structure of jihadi groups and the relationships between them.

Jihad Watch does something similar to Little Green Footballs, but with a narrower focus and more analysis.

Good filtered analysis comes from USS Clueless (mixed in with a lot of other things he analyzes), Winds of Change and above all Belmont Club.

Well, that should be enough reading material for a while.

UPDATE: Oops, almost forgot to include StrategyPage.

Posted by Jeff at 10:07 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 22, 2004

Environmentalists Aren't

Andrew Olmstead has an interesting post on environmentalism on the Right and Left. He comes close to saying something that I realized a while ago:

Environmentalism isn't about the environment.

Environmentalism is about the primacy of the State over the individual.

You see, if environmentalism were about the environment, environmentalists would support nuclear energy, because its mining is less damaging than coal mining (which supplies the majority of US electrical production), while its actual use is non-polluting, and the byproducts of electrical generation can be safely dealt with. But not only do environmentalists attempt to stop nuclear power generation, they attempt to stop safe ways of dealing with nuclear power generation's byproducts, leaving the default (storing the waste at the plants) as the only possible solution. It's also a terrible solution from every standpoint but one: it ticks off the environmentalists less than transporting the waste to a safe storage location.

Rather than go off on a long list of such examples, I'll say this instead: most of the stands taken by environmentalists result in no net gain to the environment's health. Simultaneously, every environmental proposal has at its heart a mandate for the government to do more to "handle the problem." The government must set regulations on business, home building, waste disposal, property use, employment, energy generation and use, and so forth and so on, and must acquire for itself more and more property. In every case, individual liberties are to be sacrified for "the greater good," with of course all of that power transferred to the government, which has to answer (in most environmental areas) to the environmental activists, and which in some cases (Interior Dept, for example) is effectively controlled by the environmental activists.

On top of that, it's interesting to consider the groups that march together in protest. Whether it's an "anti-war" protest, an environmental rally, a march against globalization, a rally in support of the Palestinians, the Iraqis (but only the ones fighting the US), a Democrat political convention or what-have-you, the only difference is the name of the event. The same groups show up to all of them, with the same signs and slogans: the anarchists, the unreformed Stalinists, the socialists, the environmental activists, the "peace" activists, the anti-nuclear activists, the Malthusians, the Luddites, the anti-Republicans and the anti-Americans - all come together on each of these issues, because they all have the same underlying agenda: increase the power of the State at the expense of the individual, and put them in control of the State's policy making and enforcement.

There is a term, "watermelon," used to describe environmentalists who are mainly environmentalists to promote statism: they are green on the outside and red on the inside. I believe that this is pretty much true across the board of the Leftist fringe: at the heart of all of these types of Leftist activism is the clear goal of subjugating the individual to the State. Not all of these Leftists are Communists or Socialists; some are Fascists (state control of individual behavior with a relatively market-oriented economy) and some are Anarchists (which has a brief period of mob rule followed by rule by strongmen as its natural conclusion).

The one thing you can say about environmental activists is that the environment is not their primary concern; it's just their excuse.

UPDATE: Steph just pointed out that I'm ranting about environmentalists on Earth Day. Heh!

Posted by Jeff at 10:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Someone Who Likes the UN Less Than I Do

I'm no fan of the UN, but I don't know if I could have written this:

The United Nations, tarnished crown jewel of 20th-Century moral naivety, where murderous autocrats sit at the same table as elected men; a living icon of perfidy, oligarchy, condescension, misanthropy. Tyranny's partner and father confessor; one of the last idols of bestial will to be torn down before the rise of a fellowship of democratic nations.

If you prefer the vernacular, a dirty bunch of coldhearted bums.

Not that I disagree.

Posted by Jeff at 02:33 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Expat Yank

Expat Yank is a blog I only came across recently, but it's rapidly making its way into my favorites. For example, this post on Muslims hating the us, or this one on travel in combat zones. Go read.

Posted by Jeff at 12:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

The Course of Human Expansion

Pejman links to this post which shows how anatomically modern humans expanded from Africa throughout the world. It's a really cool article.

Posted by Jeff at 11:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

It's OK to be Alone and Right

With Spain and Honduras pulling their troops from Iraq, and Thailand considering the same, with the continued criticism of the US from most nations (and even many Americans) for the act of defending itself, with the fragility of many of our allies (especially Tony Blair) and with the ease of retreating in the face of terror instead of confronting it (at least, until it's defend yourself now or die now), Americans need to prepare themselves for the possibility that we will be fighting this war nearly alone.

In a way, we are in much the same position that Great Britain was in at the start of the Napoleonic wars: the most free nation on Earth, with tyranny battering at the doors, most European nations ignoring the tyranny (until they were invaded) or actively colluding with it, and many neutrals more afraid of France than needy of British trade. This situation persisted for more than a decade. Britain was in a similar position after Germany took Europe and before the US came into the war. In both cases, it would have been easier for Britain to surrender than to fight, but in both cases they were on the right side, and they fought, and they prevailed.

Now we must be prepared to do the same. In particular, we must begin to prepare to win the long-term war even if we have no allies. There are some concrete steps to take.

First, we need to mean it when we say you're with us or with the terrorists. Those nations that want to play the middle game should be marginalized. We can do that with trade pressure, travel restrictions, and using other nations to box in those who oppose us, but not openly. In particular, we should stop giving foreign aid to any nation for any reason if they are not entirely cooperative in the Terror Wars.

We must be prepared to fight Iran, Syria/Lebanon/Hizbollah, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, N. Korea (because of their role in nuclear proliferation) and Pakistan at the very least. With luck and hard work, we won't have to fight all of them. I believe we will have to fight Iran and Syria at least, and likely Saudi Arabia.

We can fight them in sequence with the troops we have, but then we'd just have to keep fighting; to win the war in the end, we must democratize the Arab world (the only alternative is genocide, and no sane person wants to go there). As a consequence, we will have to occupy the nations we've taken - and we have to be prepared to occupy them all by ourselves - for a long time, potentially a decade or even longer. To do this, we must begin raising troop levels now; reorganization is not enough to maintain this pace. We must be prepared to focus the government on this task, even if it means sacrificing programs for Americans at home, or increasing taxes, or both.

We have to be prepared to destroy our enemies utterly, even if that means civilian casualties. It's useless to win the war without killing our enemies; Iraq should teach us this. We must be prepared to remake Islam by force, if necessary killing those who believe or who preach that it is the duty of Muslims to conquer everyone else.

We have to be prepared to face up to ugly truths about other cultures; they are not all sweetness and light. To do this, we must constantly wage the war of ideas here at home, marginalizing those who want us to lose, who refuse to see a difference between us and the terrorists, or who are more concerned with gaining political power than protecting the Constitution and the citizens. We can do this in print, at the polls, in popular culture and in conversations.

We have to be prepared to accept that there are some people who will never love freedom, never love America. We have to be prepared to accept that we cannot convince these people to change their minds, and we have to be prepared to accept that some of these people are Americans.

If we cannot conquer the idea of Islamism, Islamists will continue to attempt to destroy us. Eventually, they will get nuclear weapons; already the capability is dangerously close to ubiquitous. If the jihadis get nuclear weapons, they will use them on the US and on Israel. In the end, if we are not prepared to do these other things, then we have to be prepared to commit genocide, or to be victims of genocide.

It is possible that, within five years, we will be alone. We should be ready to win anyway: it is better to be alone and alive than popular and dead.

UPDATE: See also Winds of Change, where Trent Telenko and Armed Liberal both have interesting and related things to say.

Posted by Jeff at 10:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

The Next Campaign

For those paying attention (too few of the electorate at large, sadly), President Bush has signalled the next campaign in the Terror Wars: Iran.

esident Bush told newspaper editors in Washington yesterday that Iran "will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations" if it does not stop developing nuclear weapons and begin total cooperation with international inspectors.


"The Iranians need to feel the pressure from the world that any nuclear weapons program will be uniformly condemned -- it's essential that they hear that message," he said. "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable. . . . Otherwise, they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

Posted by Jeff at 08:07 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 20, 2004

Software Information Bleg

We use Macs. We love our Macs. You can have our Macs when you pry them from our cold, dead fingers.

But there is one problem with Macs: it's devilishly hard to find specialized software for them. In particular, my current problem is weather software. I want something like StormPredator, but I'd prefer not to run something under emulation. (We like Macs, but our Macs are not current, fast machines capable of running the Microsoft (ie, bloated and less useful than when it was Connectix) version of VirtualPC) well.

So here's the question: do any of you know of a Mac-native (preferably MacOS X native) application which can show current radar and storm tracking data, with path prediction and arrival ETAs? I'm less concerned about cost than about feature sets, since I can always save up if I have to.

Posted by Jeff at 11:25 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Some Things are Just Hard

Michael Ubaldi has an article on Andrew Sullivan's take on the philosophy underlying the Terror Wars. It's worth a read.

I've not really understood a lot of the criticism of the war and its aftermath, in that much of the criticism seems to assume that it's possible to have perfect knowledge (even in advance of events), perfect predictive ability, and perfect execution of plans - that, in other words, perfection is not only possible, but required. (I suspect many of the critics do not hold the same standard for wars started by Democrat presidents.) This is a common-sense issue: have you ever had a perfect experience getting the oil changed in your car? Even once, have all of the following happened: the oil was changed exactly on the mile mark it should have been changed, the time to get to the shop was minimal because all of the lights were green and no one else was coming to a stop sign when you were, there was no wait at the shop, the charge was zero and the oil was the best-quality oil on the market - all of these at the same time?

And if you answered yes, then why did you buy a car whose engine contaminates the oil in the first place? That is the level of criticism that the Bush administration's prosecution of the Terror Wars is getting, and it's just not congruent to how the world works: some things are just hard, and nothing is absolutely perfect.

At some point, we all either learn to live with this or we learn to live under the tyranny of those who do understand.

Posted by Jeff at 10:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 19, 2004

This May be a New Low

One odd effect of bureaucracy is that a rule once made is almost always taken too far. Somehow, I doubt the Green Party meant for this to happen.

Posted by Jeff at 11:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Woo Hoo!

So my Powerbook died due to an influx of liquid while operating. CompUSA nicely told me what was wrong with it ($140), resulting in me buying a new logic board on eBay ($125) and a Torx #8 driver (thanks, TSA, for making me throw away my previous one the sixth time I took it through security), spending an hour or so tonight to replace the logic board followed by having my Powerbook running again. I know it's somewhat psychological, but it's as if my computing possibilities have come alive again.

Posted by Jeff at 11:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 16, 2004

Development and Production

When I was involved in systems administration, the bane of my existence was people who could not seem to see the difference between development systems and production systems. For example, when you have a patch to apply to a production system, you don't just run out and do it; you test it, verify it, try to break it, then put it in at the least busy time for your system or during a scheduled outage window if you can get one. Otherwise, you are likely to cause damage and lost money.

Now that I'm an application development architect (for the moment, anyway), the bane of my existence is people who cannot seem to see the difference between development and production systems. For example, when you are halfway through a development project, and you are migrating code from your raw development environment to your first (of two) test environment, and you have a problem that arises, the correct answer is not PANIC. The correct way to behave is not to force others to panic, and cause the developers to be up until midnight and working all weekend. Because when you have a real problem, at a critical junction, you will have worn out your development team, presuming they are still working for you.

Actually, it strikes me that this kind of attitude affects a lot of areas of life. Look for instance at the situation in Iraq: how would we know if the situation were really falling apart, since any setback is billed as a catastrophe? Or how would we know if a true fascist dictator were rising in America: would we listen when he was compared to Hitler, just like President Bush has been? A constant state of panic is debilitating.

I think that there is a single underlying cause: a misplaced standard of perfection. There are cases where the standard really has to be perfection, or as close as you can get: I'd hate to see an engineering plan for safety locks on nuclear weapons that had any lesser standard. But when that truly is the standard, you prepare for it, give yourself time and iterations to achieve it. Otherwise, panic all you want to, but I don't plan on being up at midnight to coddle you.

Not that I'm bitter.

Posted by Jeff at 05:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Ignorance can be Fatal

After literacy, and even before more than a basic numeracy, the most important area of education is history. It's not just Santayana's observation, but the simple fact that you cannot make wise decisions about the future unless you know enough about the past to draw inferences. If you don't have a basis of comparison or a fund of examples from which to draw conclusions, you are likely to end up making very bad decisions. I am convinced that this is a large part of why Communism still has a following; no one who understood even a small part of the history of Communism in practice could support it.

It's still possible to stand on the shoulders of giants, but it's more likely that government-school students these days will be tied down by pygmies. In most states, there is no requirement that a teacher have any background at all in the subject area they teach.

Posted by Jeff at 12:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004

Stupid Companies

Aubrey has a post on stupid customer service practices. Here are a recent few annoyances, and a kudo:

I used to have Sprint, and couldn't remember why I hated them so much after using AT&T for a few years (they were expensive, but I never had a problem with them other than cost). Besides, AT&T didn't have the i500 Palm/cellphone. Ooh, and Sprint's plan was cheaper, too, as long as I was on the 2 year contract. OK, then, I'll sign up.

Now I remember why I hate Sprint. They have cancelled my service every single month that I've been with them. Usually, this happens about a week before my bill is actually due. Once, it happened twice in a 2-week period. (Note: I've not once been late on a bill to them, with the exception of the first month, where I didn't receive a bill at all.) Usually, dealing with them is slow and inefficient, because they can never tell me anything of use. This is especially so since their website is never current on the invoices/minutes, so I cannot even try to determine the problem myself. They have also messed up every single service change (including adding a second phone) that I've done, and in the bargain have ended up costing me more than twice what I expected.

Cool phone, though.

The other stupid customer service tactic goes out to all of the credit card companies out there. Or at least, all of mine. Note to companies: calling your customers and demanding payment for "past due" amounts when the bill was mailed the day before does not endear your customers to you. Adding in the next month's charges to what is "past due", demanding immediate payment over the phone without a chance to check records, and not keeping track of the fact that payment was made to you by phone over a week ago (sometimes it's just easier since they've already gone to the trouble of calling) is not good. Oh, not that I'm totally innocent here: starting up a new business means that I have been late one some of my credit cards - but I'm still not sure why they then think they should call me on months when I am not late. Not that I'm bitter.

And now the kudo: I recently started using ATA for flying back and forth between Dallas and Chicago. I get better prices than using Travelocity or Orbitz, and their customer service is excellent. Their planes are well-maintained and clean, and also quite comfortable. They have a lot of flights scheduled between Dallas and Chicago. Pity they don't fly more places out of Dallas. This wouldn't work for booking flights and hotels together, but it suited my present need wonderfully.

Posted by Jeff at 04:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Well, Nobody's Perfect

It's probably redundant to link to something after Glenn Reynolds, but I really have to vent here. Actually, I take it back: I am so far beyond venting as to be inchoate. Oliver Stone was interviewed by Slate's Ann Louise Bardach about his fawning portrayal of Fidel Castro. I will limit myself to one comment: anyone who believe that Fidel Castro is a benevolent dictator (admittedly, "Well, not benevolent to everybody, no.") and that he, Castro, is not so far out when he states that "Bush would have shot these people"; or that America's elections are as discredited as Cuban elections (in which one person stands to each office, and voting is required and tracked); should simply not be taken seriously in a free country: Stone obviously does not understand the difference between free and not free, and his pontification on freedom is obscene.

Posted by Jeff at 03:24 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

England's New Tourism Slogan

If you aren't breaking the law, you've got nothing to hide. If you are breaking the law, you've got nothing to fear.

(hat tip to Ravenwood's Universe for the first link)

Posted by Jeff at 12:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Talkin' 'bout my Generation

Yes, I am a child of the 80s:

(I got 132.5 points, if you're comparing.)

Posted by Jeff at 12:14 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

April 12, 2004

The New Iraqi Army Fails a Test

Phil Carter posts about a recent incident that disturbed me when I first heard about it: an Iraqi Army unit tasked to quell the uprising in Falluja took some fire, or was in some way confronted (the details are unclear) by Shi'a in Baghdad during their route march, lost unit cohesion, refused to fight and returned to barracks. It is, as Phil discusses, very difficult to get good men to kill others, and this is compounded when those others are the soldiers' fellow citizens. It's a manifestly good thing that this is difficult; I don't think we'd want to see sociopathy elevated to a cultural phenomenon among any military (and to be sure, there are some where it has been done).

That said, it's also important to have a force capable of fighting societal enemies. In the case of the Falluja battle, it's pretty clear that there are local Iraqis (lawbreakers, for want of a better word) as well as a cadre of foreign jihadis, so there is a mix of foreign and domestic enemies involved. The best way to tackle that kind of mix is to start by defeating the fighters, then send in law enforcement to arrest the enablers, and the locals who ended up not fighting (or escaping the fighting). But that only works if the Army is willing to go in and take out the armed insurgents, because the law enforcement forces would be outgunned (or equally-armed, but restricted by rules of engagement that would prevent their being more effective than those they are trying to subdue).

So in Iraq, we will likely end up falling into a model 180 degrees away from Viet Nam. Near the end of the Viet Nam war (actually after Tet offensive in 1968), the Viet Cong (local insurgents with outside reinforcement and support) were depleted to the point that the ARVN (S. Viet Namese army) was able to defend the country against both VC and the insurgent N. Viet Namese forces that did most of the fighting. The US did fight against the insurgents, but our primary role in S. Viet Nam was to prevent the North from invading with their full army, a situtation the South couldn't handle alone. With the betrayal of S. Viet Nam by the post-Watergate Democrats in Congress (who refused to support S. Viet Nam according to the terms of the Paris agreement that ended US involvement), the North Viet Namese army invaded and defeated the South.

In Iraq, it looks as if the Iraqi army might need to be deployed to protect the borders, while the Iraqi police forces clean up the insurgents, with backing from the US military anywhere the insurgency is active fighting (as opposed to recruitment and incitement). It will be interesting to see how this affects long-term strategy, and I think Phil's take is half right:

I think this is a pretty strong indicator that (1) we cannot turn over sovereignty until we have crushed the most dangerous parts of the Iraqi insurgency and (2) that we must leave some force in Iraq to continue the fight until the Iraqis can build a viable force.

Certainly, we must leave not merely some force, but significant force, in Iraq to continue the fight. However, I do not see this affecting the handover of sovereignty, at least on paper; the Iraqi government will start having to do the day to day work even if it's not ready. But we'll be there for the heavy lifting.

Posted by Jeff at 11:34 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 11, 2004

Balance the Budget Yourself

Via Betsy's Page, I came across the National Budget Simulation.

After taking out Social Security and Medicare (and associated tax breaks), and changing nothing else, I got a surplus (presumably over 10 years) of slightly over $427 billion. Holding everything else even, and eliminating military spending completely (excepting retirements already granted), I got a surplus of on $92 billion.

Odd, isn't it, how you never hear about how much money Social Security and Medicare actually cost the country.

Posted by Jeff at 02:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 10, 2004

Sending Messages

One of the problems with the way I think is that I accumulate bits of information from many different sources, and then a conclusion pops out. Reconstructing the trail of logic and inference - even reconstructing the sources of information in the first place - that got me to a particular conclusion can be difficult to near-impossible. As a result, I hope you will forgive the tendency of some posts to have no or few links when making assertions. If you want to call me on them, feel free and I'll do my best to justify my assertions with evidence. This is going to be one of those almost link-free posts, though. You might start with this recent Belmont Club post if you're interested in tracking down background for this, or with reading Regnum Crucis.

It's been pretty obvious for some time that Syria is heavily involved in Iraq, trying to hinder US efforts to liberalize the country. Iran has been an obvious actor, but its actions have been less obvious than those of Syria. Until now.

Syria is likely behind the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. If not directly involved in operations, Syria is at least the logistical provider for these operations, and is likely involved in the planning and prioritization aspects of the operations in this area. It is in addition possible that Syria has actual possession of some of Iraq's chemical stocks; there were persistent and credible reports of their movement to Syria by truck in January 2003.

Iran has been cannier to this point, and less apparently involved except in a moral sense. While Muqtada al-Sadr almost certainly is a puppet of the Iranian ayatollahs, Iran has not been providing large and open support to Sadr's organization. This has apparently changed. There is now not only an apparent influx of money (in the tens of millions of dollars per month) and war supplies, but there have also been reports that some of the forces actually fighting on Sadr's behalf are IRGC and Hezbollah troops, who are respectively Iranian religious troops and a terrorist organization funded and controlled by Iran.

It appears to me that we may now be at the point where Mountain Storm will turn out to be our major Spring offensive. While this is useful, in that there are still dangerous folks along the Afghan-Pakistani border who need to be killed, it is not as powerful a stroke as taking out Hezbollah in Lebanon would have been. But if we are now at the point that we cannot do this, there are still some things that we can do that would be effective.

One thing I would do, and right now, were I in charge would be this: bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, the IRGC HQ, any Iranian or Syrian offices related to operations or intelligence in Iraq and, for good measure, the camps in Syria and Iran near the Iraqi border which have been sheltering and training fighters coming into Iraq to battle the coalition forces there. I would simultaneously have a press conference, explaining in detail the targets that we're hitting, why we're hitting them, and laying out the intelligence in some detail to support accusations of Syrian and Iranian involvement. What are they going to do, fight us in Iraq?

The point is, there are some times that a message needs to be sent, and in the Middle East, it is often the case that the only message that is heard is the one that hurts. If Iran and Syria are truly involved as deeply in Iraq as they appear to be (and as deeply as logic dictates they should be), they need to be hurt. If we can't actively occupy them, due to lack of forces available for the job, we can at least make their day a little darker.

Yes, we'd take a drubbing in the press, but let's face it: we're going to take a drubbing in the press regardless of what we do or don't do. That at least should be clear from the 9/11 commission, with the loudest press voices against Bush stating that President Bush should have pre-empted the 9/11 attacks, while on the very next page of their papers they are after President Bush for having suspected terrorists on no-fly lists now. So another thing I'd do if I were in charge is follow Clinton's lead: take your case over the heads of the press and straight to the public. That's a message, too.

Posted by Jeff at 11:11 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Oh, How Sweet - or Something

Griffin, my 3-year old, has a very sweet way of saying "I missed you" when after I've been travelling for a week, or have been at work for the day, or walked into another room for a minute. It's really adorable and touching.

Just now, he found a Lincoln Log he's been looking for. He said, "I missed you" in exactly the same tone of voice. Well, I guess I know where I stand, at least.

Posted by Jeff at 10:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)


OPTEMPO is a term of military art, short for operational tempo and meaning the rate at which a force can engage in operations of a given size. For example, as the 1990s wore on, the government was reducing the Army from 18 active divisions to 10, cutting the Navy by something like 44% and lowering the number of active Air Force squadrons. At the same time, the military was being used for more tasks, and more of them were long-term commitments (such as Kosovo and Bosnia) instead of quick in-and-out missions. The practical upshot of this was that the OPTEMPO of the military was increasing while its resources were dramatically decreasing, and the result was that we were barely able to meet our commitments before the Terror Wars started. The shift in global strategy from "win two theater wars" to "win one/hold one" came before the terror wars, and was made not because it was a good idea so much as because we couldn't afford "win two".

It should be noted that our forces have not enlarged notably during the conduct (so far) of the Terror Wars, while our OPTEMPO has increased markedly yet again.

Our best possible OPTEMPO for operations the size of the liberation and pacification of Iraq is two years. That will only be possible if Iraq calms down significantly after the transfer of power to an interim government, or if we adopt something akin to the Roman imperial model, using mostly local forces for keeping order. (See the "More..." link below for an important digression on this.) This is an OPTEMPO that the enemy can, barely, afford to match.

When the fight was almost entirely in Afghanistan, the enemy was largely engaged there, but also had sufficient resources to expand its European and American networks, to undertake offensive operations in SE Asia (including most notably the Bali bombing), and to expand its operations in Africa.

However, once the US invaded Iraq, it was necessary for the enemy to shift a large operational force into Iraq. If Iraq becomes peaceful, more or less allied with the US (or at least not against us), and shifts to an Enlightenment-style nation with individual liberties and representative governance, it will provide a power cultural dynamic to end the conditions that allow the enemy to renew its losses over the long-term. Thus the enemy must defeat the coalition in Iraq. To that end, even while conditions in Pashtunistan are such that the Taliban could undertake large-scale operations, they have not done so. Too many of the al Qaeda forces have been moved out-of-area, and the Pakistani/US offensive along the Afghan/Pakistani border has been effective in disrupting their operations.

At the same time, our and allied operations in the Phillipines and Indonesia have been putting pressure on enemy operations there, the US and some European countries have been cracking in-country terror cells, and there is apparently a US threat to the NE African area currently being assembled. While it is likely that Europe will be a major enemy theater over the next year or more, reduced enemy operations in other areas (and their likely losses in Iraq now that they've been forced into open operations rather than hit-and-run guerilla operations) tell us, I think, that the enemy is operating near the limit of its effective OPTEMPO. If the coalition had the force levels to permit action on a yearly basis, or comfortably on a bi-yearly basis with enough reserve capability to undertake smaller operations in the off years, the enemy would be quickly torn apart as it attempted to orient against too many simultaneous threats to effectively counter. The enemy would have to start giving up some fights almost uncontested, which would further increase our OPTEMPO and thus decrease their own in a vicious (for them) spiral.

In a way, this is how the USSR was defeated, although it wasn't with actual operations, but potential operations, that we defeated the USSR. Because we were acquiring the capability to operate so much more effectively in so many more areas, the USSR had to match our capabilities growth or fold. They couldn't match us, so they folded.

Much the same needs to happen now, but this time with actual operations. But we cannot increase our OPTEMPO, because our coalition partners (even if we added in other free nations as willing partners, rather than neutrals or semi-enemies) cannot add much to our force levels, and we are stretched to almost our absolute limit in deployments. (Our only options at this point for additional deployments would be to deploy all of our land forces simultaneously, which would in a very short time (maybe two years) make many of our units much less effective in combat, due to lack of time to rest, reconstitute, reequip and retrain; or to fully mobilize the reserves and maybe even the National Guard, which would be expensive both in immediate terms and in losses to the economy.)

However, there is another option. It would take some two to three years at least to bring our forces up to the level we had at the end of the Cold War, but it could be done without unduly burdening the economy (particularly if we cared enough about it to stop expanding spending for non-defense programs, and rolled back the prescription drug benefit recently enacted). Over the time that we were ramping up, we would be gradually expanding our OPTEMPO, by adding in more mid-level operations (like cleaning Hezbollah out of Lebanon, taking out enemy operations in Africa or Indonesia and the like).

The mere threat of this expansion would be enough to pressure fence-sitting nations like Egypt to act more in our interest, as Libya recently has done. The eventual ability to employ that force fully would make it impossible for the enemy to keep up. If we maintained an occupation of Syria, Iraq and Iran simultaneously, the enemy would be so stretched as to come apart. All that is lacking is the political will to expand the forces available to us.

A lot of people have a very wrong view of imperial structures and effects. This is because imperialism, mercantilism and colonialism are very frequently combined under the term "imperialism".

Mercantilism and colonialism resulted in attempts to politically control either the economies (mercantilism) or the entire political structures (colonialism) of the imperial possession, to the economic benefit of the imperial power.

There is an older imperial model though: that of Rome. The Roman empire expanded by force when it felt threatened (or when it saw a particularly rich opportunity), but for the most part the Romans pretended to have clientele - client states which were protected by Rome from existential threats, and in return protected Rome from the barbarians outside the borders of the empire, and frequently also provided tribute or soldiers for the legions or both. The main purpose of the Roman empire, in other words, was to ensure that the core was peaceful. This worked so well that Rome was eventually brought down by a combination of the corruption and decay endemic to a society at peace for a long time (and yes, it's apparent to some degree in our own, particularly in the nihilism of the Left) and the fervent desire of neighboring barbarians to be brought into the client-state system. When some powerful tribes were refused, they responded by sacking Rome.

Posted by Jeff at 10:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 06, 2004

Inflection Point in Iraq

It is seldom the case that events describe a smooth curve. Look around you at your own life, your family, your work: does everything happen in a steady, predictable order, or do events head in one direction fitfully and spasmodically, only to zoom off in a completely different direction, or at a rate vastly faster than what you expected, only to settle down again into a somewhat different pattern? To the extent that we are taught history, and frequently in books or movies about past events, the teacher or author or filmmaker is attempting to extract some kind of steady, definitive narrative from the events. This extraction results in our thinking that the past was orderly, but the present is chaotic. The reality is that life has always been this chaotic and unpredictable.

That is not to say that life is unpatterned. One particular pattern that is frequently repeated occurs when a particular dynamic is forcing events to a certain necessary conclusion, and powerful forces are opposing that dynamic without creating a dynamic in their own preferred direction. In such a case, events move towards the logical conclusion, but do so in fits and starts, with frequent small reverses. Eventually, the one of the opposing forces sense that its strength is at its height, and they provoke a crisis. This crisis can go one of two ways: if the force provoking the crisis is opposed to the dominant dynamic and is successful, the dominant dynamic will be largely destroyed, the situation will become deeply turbulent and chaotic until a new dynamic emerges; otherwise, the situation quickly becomes very stable, as opposition melts away and the dominant dynamic becomes a fundamental assumption of the people involved.

This is roundabout language, because I am generalizing. Let me give a specific example to illustrate. In the US, the dominant dynamic created by the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Convention was towards increasing amounts of individual liberty, at the expense of the States. This created a series of escalating crises, which culminated in the Civil War, when the Confederate States had become convinced that they would lose their culture, based around slavery, if they did not separate themselves from the United States. This crisis ended with the defeat of the South, and the emancipation of the slaves.

But history is messy, and Lincoln was assassinated. His replacement bowed to the hardliners, and treated the South as a conquered territory (Lincoln intended to be much more generous). As a result, instead of true equality, the Jim Crow laws arose in a kind of rear-guard action against the tide of freedom for all. During the chaos after the Civil War, it was apparently not the dynamic that won that took long-term hold, but the practice of segregation.

Yet the dynamic towards individual liberty still existed, and slowly but surely the "first blacks" piled up. Jackie Robinson was not the first "first", just the most famous. Finally, in Selma, Alabama, a young black girl refused to play along with the prevailing system, and a large number of very charismatic and intelligent leaders in the black community used that event to start in motion what amounts to a huge guilt trip: the American ideal is freedom, so why are only some Americans actually free? This was a crisis created by the black leadership, with the aid (sometimes active, sometimes passive) of much of the white population, which finally overcame the last vestiges of States' Rights and tore down the racist laws that predominated in the South in particular. (It's often left out of the histories of the era, but the truth is that the active support for segregation was pretty thin. The prevalence of passive, ignorant racism in the South kept that thin layer in office to hold the line against the rising tide of freedom.)

In the end, it is not really FDR's policies that destroyed Federalism as a guiding principle in America; rather, it was the use of Federalism by racists as a fig-leaf that destroyed Federalism: if Federalism or Liberty had to go, it would be Federalism.

OK, that was a long digression, but the point is that these patterns of behavior result in a building of pressure in fits and starts, and when the pressure is released events move much more quickly than heretofore. This kind of change is called an inflection point or a tipping point. And right now, it is playing out in Iraq.

The coalition created a new dynamic in Iraq by invading and occupying the country. The dynamic is that, absent fundamental change, Iraq will eventually be a secular society with a large scope of individual liberties and a representative government. Opposing this dynamic are a variety of enemies: the jihadis who want the whole world to be a mirror of Afghanistan under the Taliban; the Ba'ath loyalists who want to maintain their dominance of Iraq; the regional dictators who fear that Iraq's dynamic of freedom will spread to their people, and result in their (the leaders') ouster; the (mostly European) governments which had or hoped for large political and commercial opportunities that are now denied them because they opposed the war; the UN bureaucrats who see US success in Iraq as showing them up; the militant Left which sees individual freedom as a threat to their precious, precious state (it's not that they want to live in a dictatorship, as Michael Totten pointed out, but that they want to be the dictators). Some of these are more effective in opposition, and some less so, but all of these forces oppose an Iraq living in self-ruled and stable freedom.

Absent a crisis, a free Iraq is inevitible. The two questions became, when would the crisis come, and who would initiate it. The US set the stage for a crisis some time ago, when it agreed on a tentative date for the handover of domestic sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government. Once the Iraqis signed their interim constitution, it became fairly certain that the handover of that internal sovereignty would happen on June 30, 2004. After that time, the forces of opposition would have a much harder time making their case, because they would be making it against native Iraqis, not against American occupiers. If the enemies of freedom don't win before the handover, it is a certainty that they will lose Iraq.

For that reason, it was necessary (from the point of view of those who want to stop the Iraqis from gaining their freedom) to foment a crisis earlier. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi - apparently leading the jihadi forces in Iraq - recognized his difficulties at least by February of this year, when he wrote in a letter to al Qaida leadership that "our enemy is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day". Zarqawi realized that his only hope was to foment violence that would tear Iraq apart and make a handover of power impossible; otherwise his wellspring of support - already tenuous - would disappear and he would be forced to "pack our bags and search for another land, as is the sad, recurrent story in the arenas of jihad". At the same time, after the capture of Saddam Hussein by US forces, it was necessary for the Ba'athist remnants to derail the handover of power to retain any shot at regaining power in Iraq. And for the Iranians and their sympathisers (such as Muqtada al-Sadr), it had become clear that they could not bring Ayatollah Sistani to their position, nor win enough electoral support to claim control in the elections; therefore they had to foment violence in order to seize their opportunities amidst the chaos.

So we have the elements in Iraq of a true cauldron of chaos: the upcoming power transfer, the requirement of the jihadis and Ba'athists (who are effectively bonded together, now) to prevent that handover from taking place, and the opportunity for al-Sadr to increase his power before the handover if he can hurt the Americans. al-Sadr is at the height of his strength, and feeling his oats, while the jihadis and Ba'athists are rapidly losing their ability to be effective. And so we have the last week's events, which will likely continue for a couple of weeks in some fashion.

There are two simultaneous crises in Iraq, but they overlap. The fighting in the Sunni triangle - particularly at Falluja and ar-Ramadi - is already bloody and will get worse. The jihadis and Ba'athists (previously backed by Syria, though it appears that active Syrian support has largely come to an end at this point) are throwing all of their strength into this fight, and if they lose here they are finished as a major force in Iraq. So long as we prosecute this to its full extent - and it appears that we are - it is almost certain that this enemy will be effectively destroyed, and will lose any power to influence Iraqi politics going forward.

At the same time, al-Sadr's uprising in Baghdad (the SE anchor of the Sunni Triangle) and to the South (particularly in an-Najaf) is a different kind of crisis. Here, the intent of the enemy is to cause chaos and American casualties in order to gain approval (later translated into votes and money) among the more radical Shi'a. This effort is heavily backed by Iran, which really has its hands full with its own population at the boil (bordering on an active uprising) and doesn't want added pressure from a democratic neighbor. This fighting has also been bloody for the US, but again it is an opportunity for us: with al-Sadr having given the US and Iraqi government a valid reason to use armed force against him, and with his forces in the streets, it is likely that al-Sadr's forces will succeed in killing American soldiers at the cost of being destroyed as a militarily-effective force and having al-Sadr and the other leaders of the Mehdi "army" killed or captured.

In the long-run, unless we listen to the other enemies (Leftists like Ted Kennedy and Markos Zuniga have already been at it, and it's only a matter of time until the Europeans and the UN weigh in on how much of a "disaster" and "quagmire" this is, and how much better things would be if we'd only let them have the power), this is going to have wonderful consequences. In effect, it is very likely that this series of crises will prove the death knell of the most powerful forces opposing by armed force the democratization of Iraq. Looking back, we will see the last week and the next few as the time when everything looked hopeless, then suddenly turned around and worked out well.

But it's going to be a very bloody month.

UPDATE: But why are you here when you could be reading Wretchard's analysis at Belmont Club. In fact, read his whole site: it's worth your time. Trust me on this one.

Hmmm...rereading the above post, let me be clear: I think that there is a certain swath of the Left in the US, in Europe and within the UN bureaucracy, who are active enemies of the idea of personal liberty (for anyone except themselves), and thus of America as presently constituted. I do not believe that all (or even the majority) of liberals and Europeans are enemies of personal liberty, even if they disagree (probably stridently) with most or all of what I say.

Posted by Jeff at 10:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)


Mark was called to voir dire, and dismissed for cause. Like Mark, I don't understand why people try so hard to get out of jury duty; I see it as a fundamental duty of all citizens to serve. Mark's post brings up two thoughts for me, one about the case Mark was involved in (and similar cases) and one about our justice system in general.

My one time to go through voir dire was also on a drunk driving case. The defendant had two prior drunk driving convictions, and as a result, a conviction in this case would have put him away for a much longer period than drunk driving normally would bring. The prosecutor tried to dismiss me for cause (putting a higher burden on the prosecution than "beyond a reasonable doubt") because I said I didn't think that a police officer's word, absent any other evidence, constituted compelling evidence. I think it's fair to say that I could have given the defendant an objective hearing (I was dismissed because my number was too high for it to be mathematically possible that I would be chosen).

On the other hand, had I been convinced that the defendant was, in fact, driving drunk at the time that he was arrested, I would have been perfectly willing to throw the book at him; I don't believe in lenient treatment of irresponsible behavior in adults.

This who chain of thought, though, leads me to contemplate the weakness of our criminal justice system: the division of responsibilities is wrong. The expertise of a judge is in the law, and in determining the most likely truth out of a set of conflicting theories (offered by counsel mostly) and evidence. A judge is trained (by his time on the bench, eventually, even if not previously trained as a lawyer) to determine the facts, and to apply the law to those facts to determine culpability for a given offense in toto or by degrees.

Juries, on the other hand, are not very good at determining fact from fiction, if the fiction is cleverly presented and the facts carefully concealed. Lawyers are trained to present arguments cleverly and to draw attention away from inconvenient facts. Juries are subject to a kind of emotionalism that judges are by and large able to separate themselves from. What juries are, though, is a representative slice of the community (if correctly chosen). As such, juries are uniquely qualified (and I mean that literally) to pass judgement on a member of the community. Indeed, that is why we have juries: our Constitution is laid out to prevent responsibility for punishment from being removed from the community.

If I could wave my magic wand and fix one thing about our judicial system, I would put in place a criminal justice system where judges were responsible for determining the facts of a criminal case, and the applicable law, and were required to inform juries of their right to impose any punishment, including no punishment, for any reason whatsoever, so long as it didn't exceed the limits of the law on that case. Then, juries should be able to impose any sentence they desire, so long as it does not exceed the limits of the law on that case. The judge should be unable to change the sentence decided by the jury.

Take the case of the lady in Texas who was recently acquitted (by reason of insanity) of killing her children. Well, the fact is, she murdered two of her children and attempted to murder the others. She should have been found guilty on that basis. However, the jury was perfectly within its rights to decide that she had been and would be punished enough by the loss of her children and the confinement to an asylum. In order to ensure that the jury is representative of the community, we would need to eliminate the requirement for juries to be objective, because the whole point is to get a jury representative of the community, and the community is not always objective.

I guess I get these views just by thinking about how I would like to be treated if accused of a crime. I would want the judge to dispassionately determine the facts, and whether or not (and to what degree) the law was violated. I would want the jury, though, to be in sole charge of determining whether and how I get punished (so long as they are prevented from the imposition of excessive penalties).

UPDATE (4/7): Thomas Sowell is looking at similar problems. While I don't agree with him entirely, I do think his commentary is interesting and largely correct:

The requirement for unanimous jury verdicts is long overdue for reconsideration. One pig-headed juror can cause not only a costly mistrial but also verdicts that do not reflect the seriousness of the crime.
People who commit murder should be convicted of murder, not manslaughter because one juror is too squeamish to risk the death penalty. There are too many people around who think they have "a right to my own opinion," as they put it, which translates as: "My mind is made up, so don't confuse me with the facts."
The time is also long overdue to reconsider the current practice of having jurors selected with vetoes by the lawyers in the case. When prospective jurors are given 30-page questionnaires made up by lawyers, asking intrusive questions about their personal lives and beliefs, the situation has gotten completely out of hand.
Courts do not exist for the sake of lawyers but for the sake of the public. Allowing lawyers to fish around in hopes of finding one mushhead who can save their client makes no sense.
Anonymous jurors, selected by lottery, and not restricted to unanimous verdicts, should be good enough for anyone in an inherently imperfect world. In such a system, cranks and ideologues would not have nearly the leverage they do now.
There could also be professional jurors, trained in the law, for cases involving complex legal issues. That would cost more or rather, the cost would be visible in money, rather than hidden in the corruption of the legal system, the way it is now.

Posted by Jeff at 08:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)


Lilesnet offers some interesting time comparisons (partisan, but fun):

It took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno to take the Branch Davidian compound. That was a 51-day operation.

We've been looking for evidence of chemical weapons in Iraq for less time than it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose Law Firm billing records.

It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines to destroy the Medina Republican Guard than it took Teddy Kennedy to call the police after his Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick. (All the while, Mary Jo Kopechne was not being rescued.)

It took less time to take Iraq than it took to count the votes in Florida!!!!

Posted by Jeff at 11:28 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 05, 2004

But More Importantly...

Baseball season is with us, and I'm watching the Cubs @ Cincinnati rerun from this afternoon. The Cubs took advantage of an E7 in the 8th to get two runs (they had been up by only one), and will likely win the game. <voice tone="homer simpson">Mmmmmmm, baseball</voice>.

Posted by Jeff at 09:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

Question for Kerry

Best of the Web today notes John Kerry promising to create 10 million jobs, while there are only 8.4 million unemployed in the US. The leads to a question that I would like to see the Senator answer: "Senator, do you propose to 'outsource' 1.6 million current jobs in the process1, allow 1.6 million new immigrant workers, or do you propose making up the difference by increasing taxes and regulations?"

1Hey, if a President can create jobs, he can outsource them as well.

Posted by Jeff at 09:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 02, 2004

If There's One Thing I Can't Stand, It's People Grovelling

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

GOD: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel! If
there's one thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
ARTHUR: Sorry--
GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's
"sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy". What are you
doing now!?
ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, oh Lord.
GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms-- they're so
depressing. Now knock it off!

Posted by Jeff at 09:03 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

Atrocity and Response

After the brutality of the killings in Fallujah recently, there have been many suggestions of how to handle the problem, from the harshly cold-blooded to the brutal and traditional to the calculated to the useless to the insane. Interestingly, none of them directly take on the culture of the area: it's a tribal culture.

I suggest that if we want effectively to make the point that you don't do this, while not at the same time pushing neutrals into the arms of the resistance, we can look back to how we handled the Mexican war in the 1850s. While we were marching on Mexico City, a number of attacks on the food gatherers of the Army were carried out by local "bandits". Winfield Scott pulled aside the local mayor, pointed out that law enforcement was his job and, as the "bandits" couldn't be found and fined, the fines for banditry would be charged to the mayor instead. The attacks stopped.

A similar approach could work in Fallujah and other tribal areas (and not just in Iraq):

The first attack carried out by locals in a given area, or by non-locals who were sheltered by locals, results in the destruction of the homes of the leaders of the tribes involved, and the destruction of the homes of any local inciters to violence (in Fallujah, that would be the local imams).

The second such attack results in the killing of the tribal leaders and those who incite violence.

The third such attack results in the house-by-house search of the whole area, with any houses containing arms or explosives, or sheltering fighters, destroyed.

The fourth such attack results in all the men aged, say, 15-45 in the area being imprisoned until the attacks stop. (Note: even if they're not guilty, they provide cover for the guilty. Once the men are all in custody, any men remaining in the area or just coming into it would stand out and be easy targets.)

And each step sees reductions in local control and increased presence by US troops. The idea is to make the punishment fall on those who can stop the attacks first, then on those who enable the attacks, then on those making the attacks.

If this is applied consistently, it won't take long until the local support for violence dries up - not profitable - or is eliminated. Once the local camoflage and logistics are gone, the area is no longer a threat to us. I guess that puts me in the "brutal and traditional" seat.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste notes in the comments:

The problem with your plan is that it would violate the Geneva Accords. It would violate the prohibition against what I believe was termed "collective punishment".

Well, let this be a lesson to me. I try not to post when I am angry, and this post was made about 10 minutes after I first saw the images of what happened. I was furious.

It would be tempting to argue that the fourth convention (or was it one of the additional protocols signed later) does not apply to guerillas, but the truth is my position above was directed not at the guerillas but at their local support base among the civilian population.

It would also be tempting to argue that the convention is just in the way and should be ignored, but that would be hypocritical of me: I believe that similar actions would be wrong morally in, say, taking the assets of drug dealers without trial, so I cannot condone it here. What I was advocating would punish those not directly guilty of crimes, in order to make life more difficult for those who are guilty of crimes.

Clearly, my solution was therefore morally wrong, regardless of practical effect, and should not be implemented.

Posted by Jeff at 04:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)