31 March 2003

North Korea: just not a good neighbor
I wrote a post a week or so ago that I never published on why North Korea looks south for blackmail victims and not north, to China. One might argue that NK wouldn't try to extort from its former ally but I just have to smile in bemusement at the thought that such quotidian concerns would affect NK policy. In my view it's because South Korea and the US have been a far softer touch. But that seems to be changing. It is now reported that China has been temporarily halting oil shipments to NK. Why now? Because the US is showing that there in fact limits to its tolerance of enemies. The invasion of Iraq against the tide of world opinion, the threat to withdraw troops from South Korea (thereby giving us more freedom to act), the failure to criticize Japan's mention of acquiring nuclear weapons. So NK might be looking to broaden its extortion strategy. China, no novice in the ways of national power, would certainly be aware of this. So one suspects that China is both trying to show that it's willing to play tough and to try to push NK down below the US radar. Some in China are keenly aware of the problem for China:
“When the [Bush] administration started this war in Iraq, they sent a message to countries who have or have had conflicts with the U.S., a clear message: The U.S. is not a paper tiger, it's a real tiger. And also that as a major power, the U.S.'s voice and principles should be listened to closely,” said Zhang Liankui, a Central Party School professor. “If the U.S. quickly finishes this war successfully, the North Koreans will be more cautious in the future.”
Lest we forget
Various news agencies are reporting that relatives of the victims in Srebenica are starting to bury their dead. As we look at the future of Iraq, it is important to remember this as the wages of trust in the UN. Interestingly, the Reuters story mentions this but the Australian Broadcasting Company, cited above, makes no mention of UN involvement. The local Austin newpaper claims that
The victims had sought protection in the U.N. compound in Potocari, but the vastly outnumbered and lightly armed Dutch U.N. peacekeepers in charge of the area were no match for the Serb forces intent on purging the town of its Muslims.
True in a sense in that the Serbs were willing to fight and the UN peacekeepers weren't. But that lesson seems to have gone right by the anti-war factions.

30 March 2003

Staying the course
Pejman sent me over to an article by William Kristol on the developing schism in the Democratic Party. Instead of discussing the main point (been there, said that) I want to select out a paragraph that is peripheral to the main point but touches on something I think is more important:
Our pro–war friends who are concerned about the mainstream media's idiocy can relax. It's not really doing any damage—except to the media. Every poll shows the American people are resolute, convinced the war is necessary and just, and determined to see it through to the end. As long as the Bush administration continues to focus all its attention on winning the war, it will have the support of the American people.
I will quibble by saying that I don't think the American citizenry expects President Bush to think only of the war. But victory in the war needs to be Bush's primary focus. America is in fact willing to sacrifice much to accomplish something but it will turn viciously on a leader who asks them to sacrifice to achieve nothing.

This is a point that tends to confuse the logo-realists. Because they live in a world of words and not deeds they rarely judge their own actions based accomplishments (e.g., the welfare state). It just doesn't occur to them that the American citizenry is far more interested in actual results (or if they do realize this it is attributed to the simplismé of the unenlightened masses). The net result is that the logo-realists view the American citizenry as opposing war (or not) per se, rather than whether a particular war is achieving a desirable result.

I think Bush's response to the “setbacks” in the invasion was exactly right. He projected resolution (“it will take as long as it takes”) and doubled down on the troops in Iraq thereby showing that his words would be matched by deeds. I think that this is a big reason that the quagmire meme is not gaining any traction. The American public sees the sacrifice of our blood and treasure as worth while for a victory over a regime such as that of the Ba'ath. Americans don't like to fight, they like to win.

Pope gives up fight against evil
Pope John Paul has issued another call to end the war in Iraq. Since the only plausible outcome from ending the war at this point is a sharp increase in civilian deaths (during the post-war reprisals by the Ba'ath) and the strengthening of the forces of chaos and death, one must assume that the Pontiff is OK with that. Then we have this:
On Saturday the pope said he hoped the human tragedy of the war in Iraq would not set Christians and Muslims against each other and spark “a religious catastrophe”.
The only sparks I see that are trying to ignite a religious war are in the mosques and Al-Jazeera. This is particularly bizarre as Iraq has been a secular state during the whole of the Ba'ath reign, but no matter. It wouldn't be ... proper to distinguish right from wrong.
Splinters from the bottom of the barrel
Amnesty International, an organization that once had principles, has finally completely lost it. USS Clueless was all over the shameful AI coverage of the Iraq invasion on their website, but now AI has gone the next step: they've delivered a petition calling on forces involved in the Iraq invasion to abide by international law to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Yeah, those Brits troops in Iraq have been behaving worse than British soccer fans. Clearly they are the root of the problems with war crimes in the area. Those minor incidents of Ba'ath shooting artillery directly into civilian crowds can't compare to the horror of the Brits ... well, the petition doesn't seem very clear on that. It does single out the US for the war crime of bombing a broadcast tower and the building housing the Ba'ath propaganda apparatchiks. Here's the money quote:
Neil Durkin, spokesman for Amnesty, said: “You simply cannot target civilian resources and buildings. It's a breach of the Geneva Convention. It has to be justified.”
Apparently it's targeting the resources and buildings that's the problem — targeting civilians is presumably OK since there's no complaint about that. This certainly makes it clear how much AI really cares about the Iraqi people.
China cuts off nose to spite face
Here is an interesting little tidbit:
In addition, China's senior leader, Jiang Zemin, has undermined China's position that force is justifiable when it comes to Taiwan by repeatedly taking a pacificist position against the Iraq war. [...] Given such a stance, China's position of refusing to rule out using military force to solve the Taiwan question seems hard to justify.
That's putting it mildly. It would be nice to think that China might in some way be inhibited by the blatant hypocrisy of claiming that “military force should never be used to solve the world's problems” and invading Taiwan (and thereby causing, unlike in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties). But it hasn't stopped them from occupying Tibet while calling the US an imperialist nation.

This is particularly amusing in light of India having the same problem — ruling out war as a valid option while threatening Pakistan with nuclear weapons.

29 March 2003

Trolling for cachét
Michael Moore will be “investigating” Bush peré's ties with the Bin Laden family. Perhaps Moore ought to investigate the Academy Awards for handing out the prize for Best Documentary to a ‘fictitious’ film. In fact, it is rumoured that Moore himself might have been involved. Moore said, concerning his incoherent rant at the Oscar ceremony
I made a movie about violence – and global violence – so I felt I had to say something about that
So instead Moore ranted about the 2000 US presidential elections. Is that because he considers those synonymous? Of course, that would be in line with the rest of the anti–USwar crowd.
Loopy thinking in the Far East
From The Straits Times we have of the standard transnational progressive disease, reality dysfunction. I feel compelled to attempt an excorsism.
SEEING as how there's a war going on, here's a verbal blast from the recent past, just a week or so ago from the White House where George Walker Bush berated the United Nations Security Council for failing to live up to its responsibilities.

So America must act in its stead.

A well deserved blast. No where further in the article is a case made that the UN did, in fact, live up to its responsibilities.
Never mind that Washington didn't garner support from a majority of those on the UN Security Council, or that it was acting against the expressed wishes of a majority in the international community of nations.
Exactly right. Why should Bush or the US care if a bunch of despots and leaders of failed states don't agree? Does one worry if the local crack house crew doesn't agree with your choice of employment?
[...]

Question: US Secretary of State Colin Powell had his show-and-tell at the security council early last month, detailing what Washington said was Iraq's deception and open defiance of UN demands to disarm. And he intimated that Mr Saddam had all manner of devices.

Given the snapshots of declassified intelligence photographs and audiotapes, one wonders why there hasn't been targeting of such Iraqi assets in these opening days of the war.

If the US maintained all these months that he has the stuff, and that they've known about them, then why haven't the US and coalition forces taken them out?

Surely that would vindicate their position and bring a largely sceptical international community around to their side?

How do you know there wasn't? Given the fact that Scuds were launched at Israel last time but not this time says that the US has been doing something. What I don't get is why taking out those facilities would vindicate the US position. There is also the presumption that the US has sufficiently exact data for targeting or can target all of the sites. It's likely that if the US has that good of information it would be better served by preserving those sites as proof rather than burying the evidence. Further, one suspects just the opposite, that successfully destroying those sites and preventing the use of WMD would cause the anti–US factions to feel vindicated.
And as many have also suggested, if Iraq has them, why hasn't the dictator unleashed them?
Oh, right, there we go!
[...] despite Britain's efforts, Washington is, in any case, clearly determined to limit any role for the world body.

Nothing beyond, perhaps, a resumption of the just-suspended oil-for-food programme to stave off the inevitable humanitarian catastrophe that is already following in the dust trails churned up by advancing armour on their road to Baghdad.

Right, there was no humanitarian crisis in Iraq before the invasion. Hasn't the same group of anti-US whiners been going on about the horrors of the sanctions and the DU since the last war? But that's forgotten now since it was in fact several weeks ago.
Instead, there will be another Douglas MacArthur-type calling the shots in a bombed out and shell-shocked Iraq, just like a victorious America did as an occupying power in Japan all those years ago.
Oh no, we wouldn't want Iraq to suffer the same post-war fate as Japan! How vicious and cruel an outcome that would be!
So who's there to stop some other nation then, from using that same argument to deal with what it might consider a major irritant or threat?
The same thing that prevented them from doing so before the invasion – nothing. The same thing that stopped China in Tibet, China in Vietnam, Vietnam in Cambodia, Iraq in Kuwait, Egypt & Jordan & Syria & Iraq in the Middle East, Libya in Chad, Argentina in the Falklands ... sorry, my hands are cramping now.
Are we to accept that the UN has passed its use-by date and that we are entering an era of ad hoc coalitions of the willing: Nations large and small that share Washington's outlook, whether out of principle or expedience?
O God, smile upon us and let us be so blessed!
[...] I was drawn to the arguments that Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page made last Sunday, when he asked if the US is ready ‘to repair the world alone’.
No, but then again I'm frequently not ready to get up and go to work in the morning. But there it is. We're willing to work with other volunteers, though (like the UK and the Aussies).
[...] My belief remains that we must beat a path back to the UN, however difficult that is going to be. It has a proven record
Yes, of child prostitution (Bosnia), craven retreat from the demands of duty (Sbrenica), inaction in the face of horror (Rwanda), racism (Durban), malfeascance (almost every UN agency) and stunning cynicism (Libya and the UNHRC). Al Capone had a proven record but I wouldn't want him as mayor.

Although the author pines for a strong, relevant UN he fails to provide a single instance of where the UN helped make the world a better place. The implicit message I get is that the UN makes the world better by restricting the actions of a single nation, the US. I don't see that as a winning point in convincing the US citizenry of the rightness of the UN.

Paying for oppression
It is reasonable to argue about just how much the US should intervene militarily to promote freedom and the rule of law. However, it is much more difficult to argue that the US should actively support oppression. We did this during the Cold War, to get the support or at least neutrality of other states. Now that the USSR has fallen this is far less justifiable even to a utilitarian. But why are we giving massive amounts of money to Egypt? Egypt has been even less helpful than Turkey and one can make a not unreasonable argument that Egypt is actually an ally of the Caliphascists, which is not true of Turkey. Yet it's Egypt that's getting the bales of cash and not Turkey. And it can't be blamed on soft-headed liberals as it's straight out of a Bush Administration spending request. If we can't invade, we could at least turn off the spigot.

28 March 2003

Human Shields – time to get to work!
I was talking with BBB here about the Ba'ath killing Iraqi civilians and we realized that here was a place for the human shields. Rumsfeld should immediately offer to fly as many of them as want to go, free of charge, to Baghdad and Basra to protect those civilians from local artillery fire and to escort them out of the city if they want to leave. Surely that is precisely the kind of humanitarian gesture that the human shield movement is all about. Right? Hello? Where did you all go?
Reality dysfunction: not a pretty sight
I've heard it on the radio and in the newspapers: the Iraqis are fighting hard against our troops because of their love of their homeland. Oh yes, I'm sure that that's why their officers have to Yep, those are all classic signs of a population dedicated to fighting the invaders. I would never have realized this without the expert guidance of our perceptive Big Media.
Is faster better?
As others have commented, the fact that we've “bogged down” outside of Baghdad may actually be a feature, not a bug. It's hard on the troops but it seems like our boys are just chewing the Ba'ath up without taking many casualties themselves and I find it difficult to view that as a problem. Wouldn't a massive slaughter of the Ba'ath party do a lot to both convince the Iraqis that Saddam Hussein's regime is dying and be of great benefit to Iraq after the war? Why go in to Baghdad and finish as long as these scum are willing to engage? I'm reminded of General Sherman who believed that killing most of a core group of diehard Confederates was sufficient and necessary to winning the US Civil War. I think General Franks should hold off on Baghdad even if he could take it right now in order to prolong the extermination of the Ba'ath.
Caution! Live fire zone.
I was listening to the radio this evening and heard a report from near Najaf. A battalion of US infantry had siezed an intersection near a bridge and called out to the Ba'ath nearby to surrender. The Ba'ath replied with machine gun and RPG fire while the infantry dove for cover. I thought, “OK, that's a reasonable response to a request to surrender. But why in the world were the troops not already under cover when the request was made?" It's one thing to be taken in by a false surrender, but to not bother to take cover before demanding surrender strikes me as a bit overconfident.

27 March 2003

Policy Announcement : terminology change
I've decided to use the term “Ba'ath” instead of “Iraqi” to describe the forces opposing the invasion of Iraq because I feel it is more accurate both in describing those people and our enemy in Iraq. This war will be won not when we take Baghdad but when the Ba'ath are crushed like the scuttling beetles that they are.
Who really cares?
Tim Blair points out the blood lust of Robert Fisk, one of the anti-war opinion makers. This made me think about my recent exchange with Orrin Judd. We may argue but it is over means, not ends. Bringing down the oppressors with minimal loss of innocent life, that is the goal. But I admit that I get a warm feeling inside every time I learn that some Ba'ath thug has had a high velocity encounter with the ordnance of a US Marine. And this brings out the key difference between my view and that of Fisk. I enjoy shadenfreude at the expense of those who committed crimes. Fisk enjoys it in the suffering of the innocent. He gloats in the deaths of Iraqis because it will embarass the US. For all the accusations of President Bush and the hawks being indifferent to civilian loss of life, it's the pro-tyrant anti-war types that seem to be truly indifferent if not outright joyful when a bomb goes astray, who view the lives of others as simply fodder for their political purposes. How do people like that have the high moral ground?

Then we have the Ba'ath who are cutting off water and electricity to their own cities and then expecting the US military to endanger itself by attempting the succor of the affected citizens. Just think about that. The US is alledgedly a death crazed racist power than kills brown skinned people for cheap oil bent on exterminating the Iraqi people. Yet as part of their battle plan the Ba'ath count on Coalition forces being unwilling to stand by and watch as Iraqis suffer. Clearly the Ba'ath don't believe their own rhetoric on this, why do the Fisks of the world?

Caution: Slow Going
[source] The London Times has an article on the likely winners and losers from the invasion of Iraq. It has many interesting bits but I wanted to address a particular one because it ties in with something I've been thinking about.
The only other obvious winners from the Iraq crisis are less inspiring. They are the governments of Iran, North Korea and other rogue states. After this unexpectedly difficult war in Iraq — and the even more difficult occupation — America is most unlikely to be able to summon up the political will, the money, or the military resources to attack any of its other perceived enemies.
I think that this is accurate and I'm not sure that it is such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. The US should be reluctant to go to war. I know I'll get in trouble with OJ for saying this but if we can just intimidate Syria into behaving that's probably the best option. There are in fact disadvantages to committing up front to eliminating all of the oppressive regimes on the planet. It gives them a reason to cooperate and paints all of them into a corner at the same time. On the other hand if we give the despots a reason to behave then some of them will. We can them perform a defeat in detail. And even if not, I think it is better to do one place fully (Iraq) than many places half-way.

26 March 2003

Terminology lesson
I forgot to abuse Thomas Ricks, the author of the following statement:
“I think you need to defeat them in detail,” said the general, using the military term for destroying a unit.
Uh, no, that's the military term for ganging up on small bits of the enemy (“details”) one at a time. It's something where you don't want to be on the receiving end. Saddam Hussein, however, by dividing his forces among multiple towns and locations is setting himself up for exactly that. Because the US owns the air, we can split up and avoid that problem because we retain mobility (and this is a primary reason why modern US army doctrine puts so much emphasis on mobility). The Iraqis can't because units that move get brutalized by air strikes. We can find these groups, hit them with locally overwhelming force and move on to the next. That's classic “defeat in detail”. It sounds like the general grasps this concept even if Ricks doesn't.
The Iraqi quagmire
What? You thought I meant the invasion? No, I mean the unending cycle of euphoria and depression that seems to infect our media. They are an under-damped echo chamber that treats good news (like the rapid advance to Baghdad) like the Second Coming and bad news like the Tribulation. The lastest in this line is from the Washington Post.
The combination of wretched weather, long and insecure supply lines, and an enemy that has refused to be supine in the face of American combat power has led to a broad reassessment by some top generals of U.S. military expectations and timelines. Some of them see even the potential threat of a drawn-out fight that sucks in more and more U.S. forces.
I wouldn't say that the invasion is going wonderfully but it's not going badly. It looked like we might have gotten lucky at the start but it turns out we didn't. I think that to a large extent we are (as many have said) reaping what we have sown from 1991 where we left the Iraqis to die during their revolt against Saddam Hussein.

We have to deal with the fact that because of the events of 1991 the Iraqi threshhold for believing that we are there to stay and purge the Ba'ath is much higher. I don't think that the Iraqis will revolt just to replace Saddam Hussein with some other Ba'ath thug so the US needs to demonstrate (with deeds, not words) that the Ba'ath are going down.

What would I do? Probably about what Gen. Franks is doing. Push hard to the outskirts of Baghdad to demonstrate that we're not fooling around. Hold there to give the troops some rest and resupply. Smash any Ba'ath forces moving in or out of Baghdad. Meanwhile, secure the rest of the country. The things that are most dangerous in the short term are out there, not in Baghdad. At this point it is probably more important to secure Basra. Lock down Ba'ath forces with air power. Once we do all that I think it's very likely that the Ba'ath regime will collapse, if not before. The Ba'ath forces outside of Baghdad can be driven to the ground through attrition and lack of supply in relatively short order.

The biggest danger in my opinion is that the Ba'ath are clearly trying to put the US on the clock by disabling vital services in cities and abusing POWs. It is in hasty confrontations and urban fighting that the Ba'ath are least disadvantaged. The Ba'ath can count on the rest of the world blaming the US for any civilian casualties resulting from this, although it looks like that may no longer be true in the US itself. What to do about such actions is a hard choice that makes me glad I'm just a weblog general.

Although the original article is alarmist, I do agree basically with the concluding paragraph:

One senior general at the Pentagon listening to both sides of the argument said he thinks that in short term the pessimists will look right, but will be disproven by mid-April. “There are some tough days ahead,” he said. “I think this whole thing is at the culminating point. Within the next week to 10 days, we will find out about the mettle of the Republican Guard.” But, he concluded, “Once we smash the Medina and Baghdad divisions, it's game over, and I think Baghdad will fall.”
Despotic regimes are notoriously brittle – very strong and resistant until pushed a bit too far at which point they collapse rapidly and with little warning. That was the pattern in Afghanistan and is likely to be the same in Iraq. What we need to do is apply steady and increasing pressure until that happens.
Looking under bright lights
Here is a comment by “PG” from The Agonist. Mixed in with some very good questions about the progress of the invasion are some true loony tunes. Here's my favorite which also demonstrates a logical fallacy I see quite a bit:
If InstaPundit asks protestors to protest the actions of regimes that ignore the complaints of their own people one more time, I'll scream. I could organize a million mom march against Kim Jong Il in 4 cities tomorrow, and he won't care. Why is that so hard to understand? [...]
This completely misses the point. The author is arguing the equivalent of the old joke of looking under a street light for a lost quarter because the light is better there. In this case that people who want a better world should change US foreign policy because it is easier to do. Whether it's right or wrong or its long term effects are irrelevant. Since we can't change Saddam Hussein's view we should let him do whatever he wants and try to prevent others from stopping him because that's politically feasible. PG, I completely understand your claim that President Bush is easier to sway than Saddam Hussein but I do not understand why you would use that as a basis for deciding what is the right thing to do. You are rewarding intransigence and punishing cooperation – if President Bush thought that this was a majority opinion then he'd be a fool to be anything but completely obstinate. Is that really what you want?

UPDATE: It turns out that PG has a blog. I skimmed through it a bit and while PG doesn't seem to be a member of the lunatic fringe, he does manage some serious reality dysfunction, my favorite being a response to Prof. Volokh's Slate column:

You [Volokh] did leave out one facet of the war Bush has planned — regime change. Israel, to my knowledge, has never invaded a nation to change its government. To my knowledge, no one has done so pre-emptively.
For instance, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991 to convert it to the 19th province of Iraq (which would be changing its government) it wasn't pre-emptive because ... hmmm. I don't see why. Maybe I need a better street light.
In which certain facts are made clear to Turkey
Turkey has agreed to coordinate with the US before sending any troops into Iraq. This has been quite a worry to me which has been well covered elsewhere as it was difficult to see a non-disastrous outcome of such a decision by Turkey. I'd consider this a diplomatic success for the US.

Turkey isn't completely happy about it, however:

“I find it hard to understand that those beyond the oceans, who say they are threatened, do not believe Turkey when it says it faces the same threat from right across its border,” [Turkish military chief of staff] Ozkok said.
Dude, we do understand. We offered you guys $15 billion dollars to get on board to deal with this threat even though it was in your nation's own interests to be part of the invasion. Turkey turned it down, not the US. We figured that meant that Turkey wasn't really concerned. And of course, we don't object to Turkey defending its borders – heck we pushed on NATO to help Turkey out with that. We just want Turkey to respect other nation's borders as well.
South Korea joins Coalition
South Korea has decided to send troops to Iraq to help in the invasion.
[South Korean President] Roh promised that no war here disapproved by South Korea would occur, and said that Korea-U.S.-Japan relations must be strengthened. “Because of practical reasons like these, the government decided to send troops to the Iraq war,” he said.

Apparently the Rumsfeld style of diplomacy gets results. He makes a remark about withdrawing troops from South Korea and not only do the anti-American protests stop but now South Korea has gone way beyond verbal support for the US against Iraq but has decided to put troops in the field.

I think Roh is a bit delusional in thinking that North Korea will ask for permission before invading, but otherwise he seems to have come to the realization that North Korea is actually dangerous and South Korea needs US support to deal with that regime. He has further realized that what will put South Korea in good graces with the US isn't sympathetic statements but actual troops. Certainly this American has a very different view of those two things and I would be proud to have our South Korean allies at our side in Iraq.

25 March 2003

Respect for the American Founding Fathers
I had been pondering the subject when a recent post about the American Founding Fathers helped me see certain things.

I'm a software systems guy. That means that my job is to design (and frequently implement) thoughts into concrete form. I'll pull a Den Beste here and state that I'm exceptionally good at my job. A big part of that is understanding that no system built by humans is perfect and that one never has infinite time or resources. It only takes a mediocre systems guy to think of something wonderful. Actually building something that works and people will pay money for is something else. One of the most irritating things is to have to compare one's built and working system with some marketecture utopia that's better, faster and more full featured because it hasn't been worn down by the friction of reality.

So the greatest respect is reserved for those people who actually put working systems in the field. As in systems design, so in Constitutions. For a Constitution is really a functional specification for a government. It describes the different modules, what they do and how they should interact. And just like with systems it's easy to design some perfect utopian constitution as long as you don't let dreary reality intrude on your pristine design

The Founding Fathers didn't take the easy path, they didn't just theorize, they built and delivered a working government, one that has survived for centuries and delivered fantastic value. It's certainly done better than the new and improved version developed in France a few years later or the impossible to implement Marxian design. The Founding Fathers did it with a clean, elegant design as well. Sure, it has its problems and warts but it's there, as is said, “in the field”. A stunning achievement and one that shines with a greater glory every year.

Powell watch
Winds of Change is claiming that
Radio reports that Colin Powell has invited France to join the USA and Britain to plan Iraq's post-war future. Why don't we just surrender to Saddam now and get it over with?
Powell shouldn't go because he failed to assemble a coalition but because he's apparently willing to make any sacrifice of US interests to do so. After what France has done to us and to the Iraqis in its support of Saddam Hussein, how can any serious person consider letting Chirac and his misbegotten cronies come any near the future of Iraq? Not to mention turning the last year from a humiliation to a major victory for France for the small price of making screwing the US over the strategy of choice for the rest of the planet.

UPDATE: An AP wire story on Fox News on this – “Hopefully, France will play a helpful role”.

24 March 2003

Learning from history
I ran into another article of gloom and doom about the invasion of Iraq. I suspect that many of its worries are accurate because most of the Arab population shares this delusional view of history.

The article starts out with the predictable

To Washington and London, this week's attack against Iraq is part of a historical process to promote Arab peace, liberty and democracy. To most Arabs, it is a cruel reappearance of demons that have haunted them for centuries
What are these demons? It's not made clear but I suspect that they are not the real demons of oppression, civil strife, poverty, tyranny and corruption. The author seems to view all of those as better than a peaceful, prosperous liberal occupation by Evil Foreigners™ (but remember kids, it's the Americans who are xenophobic!). We have the obligatory “Zionist” reference:
Washington is seen as exacting the biggest of double standards: It musters, for the second time, an Anglo-American armada to enforce U.N. resolutions in Iraq, while applying no comparable political, economic or military clout to implement 50-year-old U.N. resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or others.
We'll skip the legal point that the resolutions against Iraq were of a different type than those against Israel and instead point out that the UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict require actions from both sides, actions which have not been forthcoming from Israel's enemies. That's ignored for the most part in the Arab world because it seems unacceptable for outsiders to place obligations on any Arab state.
Washington is further criticized for unilaterally determining which regimes to change, along with when, how, why and by whom. Many Arabs fear that a regime change in Iraq will lead to continuing instability and violence.
Unlike Iraq unilaterally determining to change the regime in Iran and Kuwait, or most of the Arab states doing so for Israel multiple times. Or the Saudi Entity funding Caliphascists with the goal of regime change across Europe, Africa and Asia.
For many Arabs, this revives historical ghosts from 1915-22, when British and French armies brazenly rearranged our region into strange- shaped countries with Euro-made power structures. [...] The consequences have been catastrophic: nearly a century of chronic wars and insurrections, unstable frontiers, underachieving and distorted economies, and the most persistent modern legacy of political autocracy anywhere on the planet.
Unlike, of course, the situation before the French and British showed up. Yep, Arabia was an oasis of peace and plenty before that, with no domination by an empire. Except the Ottomans. But they were peaceful – just ask the Armenians.
a hapless U.N. and its spirit of the rule of law expediently used, then discarded, by Washington
Unlike, say, Arab nations that can' discard the rule of law since they never had it. The US is abandoning the UN because of its unwillingness to follow its own rules and laws, brought on by the lawless of Iraq, an Arab regime.
This is the recurring historical horror show that most Arabs see as they watch the bombing of Baghdad. This terrible and haunting saga of Arab weakness, failure, vulnerability and chronic humiliation cumulatively has led to mass degradation and dehumanization that leaves most Arabs numb in disbelief. We desperately want change, reform, democracy, prosperity and modernity, but few of us believe that this will come through the barrels of Western guns. Those guns have been firing at us for centuries, and all we have is continuing failure, perhaps now to be repeated in Iraq.
As far as I can tell, those Arabs who actually want change, reform, democracy, prosperity and modernity are the ones happy about having Western guns help bring that about. Those against the invasion of Iraq seem to be precisely those against all of these things. Maybe you should ponder why that is and what it means for the likelihood of a repeat disaster. You might also consider that if the problem in Arabia is due to Western support for thugs like Saddam, why are you so unhappy about clearing that up?
Cakewalk?
I certainly do not wish to disregard the fact that some of our best have paid the ultimate price in defending our nation, but contrary to some commentators the invasion has, so far, been a cakewalk. We've conquered over a third of the entire country, a major port and removed tens of thousands of enemy troops from combat for a handful of casualities. It could have been much worse and there's no guarantee that it will not be worse in the future. I think that Saddam always planned to lose handily in the south and if so, he would have prepared more dangerous strategems for the siege of Baghdad. We can only hope that our troops continue to perform well and don't get pushed into rushing by the nervous nellies who are not on the battlefield.
Slow war?
We're now hearing how the war is turning into a quagmire because the invasion has been going on for over 100 hours and it's not over. That is silly even by modern standards.

The minor point is that in the previous Gulf War there was six weeks of bombing before the ground invasion. That adds up to a total of 1108 hours. We'll see where we are then for comparison.

Second, of course, is that the troops have in fact gone farther in 100 hours than we did last time even without six weeks of a massive air campaign. For those not paying attention, in the previous effort we didn't take Baghdad. We managed to have a short war by not finishing it. Let's not repeat that mistake.

Defining multilateral
Andrew Sullivan got in to a bit of a tiff with Tom Friedman about the unilateralism of the invasion of Iraq. Here's the key quote from Friedman:
It seems to me that conservatives want it both ways. They want to praise Bush for deciding not to be shackled by the U.N. and France in the end, and, at the sametime, want to insist that this is still a multilateral war.
Sullivan doesn't reply to this directly at all. But to me the problem is that Friedman is conflating “multilateral” with “UN approved”. These are not at all the same thing, but apparently Friedman believes that the UN alone is the sole legitimate multilateral organization on the planet. That's just not so and the US can easily be multilateral while still ignoring the UN and particularly France.

23 March 2003

Embedding reporters
I wonder if part of the purpose for embedding reporters in military units is to promote bonding between the reporters and the troops. In past generations most reporters far closer sociologically to the troops. Indeed, while there was a draft and before reporters became left leaning yuppies there was much more common feeling. These days reporters and our troops might as well be from different countries for the most part. The standard reporting pool wouldn't have helped much because of the rotation, each unit being just another faceless assemblage of inscrutable war mongers. But embedded reporters are with the same bunch day after day and their very survival might well depend on those same troops. This seems very likely to create at least a few reporters who come to understand that our troops are actually people who are doing an important job under very difficult conditions. Just like the human shields, getting up close and personal with the reality on the ground can be very clarifying.

22 March 2003

Reaping the whirlwind
Despite the fact that there is a war going on, this is still funny. Inside an article about the Coalition advance on Baghdad and Basra, we have the apparently non-satirical statement
Iraq denounced the attackers as criminals and appealed to the United Nations to halt the invasion “unconditionally.” [emphasis added]
So, having spent the last 12 years proving how easy it is for some decrepit third world country to make a mockery of any UN enforcement effort, Iraq is calling on the UN to stop a hot war sponsored by the dominant world power? Reap what you've sown, buddy.
I have a cunning plan
I've generally believed that the lack of comments here was due to my overwhelmingly powerful arguments that so completely summed up the issue that there was nothing left to say. But I thought, well, maybe people don't realize that it's possible to comment because the tag line is at the bottom. The Brothers Judd have no lack of comments and they have the tag on the top. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll change the color scheme...
A meeting of the minds
Andrew Sullivan brought up that the Palestinians have chosen the wrong side again (which is not, sadly, a surprise). But at the end of the article is this quote (which is archetypical)
A military statement said the destruction [of the house] was part of a deterrence policy to show militants “that they will pay the price for taking part in terrorist activity.” Palestinians and human rights groups complain that tearing down family homes punishes innocent relatives [emphasis added]
Yet these same groups have no problems with Palestinian “operations” killing random innocent Israelis. Of course, the counter–claim is that no Israeli is innocent because they are members of that society to which one easily counter–counter–claims that so are the house owners.

What's missing here is the rule of law whereby rules of behaviour apply to everyone. Instead such rules are seen as purely a tactical mechanism to use against one's opponent. What counts as power is not respect or support from others but the ability to not obey the rules. In this the Palestinians are exactly like the anti-war protestors who also have little to no concern for others and seem to view power as being synonymous with breaking the rules. I suppose then it's no wonder that they side with the forces of chaos because deep down they recognize kindred spirits.

It's the organization, stupid!
Our troops don't loot. That's something to think about as we shift from engaging peers as we did in the Cold War to asymmetrical warfare. This is something I doubt that those who view the US military as bloodthirsty barbarians can grasp but looting is quite common among the armies of the world. It's basically militaries of the West that don't. This is another reason that people like the Iraqis don't get worried when the US Army rolls in to town. I find it just amazing that we can put 250,000 people armed with guns, tanks and artillery into a foreign country to fight and die and still expect them to behave with good decorum while not engaged in battle. Just try getting 250,000 random citizens together for a “peace march” and have them behave as well as our military during war.
Dixie Chick fight
I've been following the Dixie Chicks brouhaha a bit although I'm not sure I've ever heard one of their songs. I can't help thinking about Gary Hart and his little problem during his last presidential run. Just like then much of the commentary was on the blatant stupidity of the whole thing. It's one thing for someone like Chrissy Hynde to say stupid anti-American things – it's not like she has a career left to lose or her fans are strongly patriotic. But a country music act? Just flat out dumb.

Alledgedly the comments in question are considered by some to be the influence of Maines' Hollywood husband. I wonder what is said among the Chicks these days. What if you were part of a fantastically successfully musical trio and it was all ruined by some stupid public comments brought on by the stupidity of the fancy pants husband of one of the group? Is Maines' husband the next Yoko Ono?

21 March 2003

Movie madness at Kim Jong Il's
What is the Dear Leader thinking as he watches the fall of Iraq? Let's tune in the Orbital Mind Control Lasers and listen...

Kim Jong Il imagines President Bush, putting his hand on a large white object that seems to be pointing directly at the Dear Leader as Bush makes a short speech

This here is an '03 Tomahawk, the most powerful cruise missile in the world. It will blow a despotic tyrant into little tiny pieces from 500 klicks out. Now, as you watch them fly in to Baghdad and ponder Saddam's last staff meeting, you need to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky, punk?
No good deed goes unpunished
Once upon a time, long lost to the Blogger archives, I posted a comment on the Brothers Judd concerning former President Reagan. Another commentor had said that it was incomprehensible that people didn't appreciate Reagan more for his efforts during the Cold War, that just must not undersand his contributions. I replied that on the contrary, his detractors were keenly aware of his contributions and that's why they hated him. I was reminded of this by in an editorial by Boris Johnson, a Tory MP, discussing Prime Minister Tony Blair [source]:
Of course, he will be weakened, at the end of it all. He will never be forgiven for shaming the doubters, for helping to liberate Iraq from tyranny. His antiwar backbenches will pursue him with special fury if and when he is proved right. Across Britain, in the commentariat and in the saloon bars, there are too many people who have invested too much, emotionally and intellectually, in the antiwar cause. They will, though they may not admit it, be secretly hoping for catastrophe. [emphasis added]
Just like Reagan there are too many people with too much invested in appeasement and “co-existence” to ever forgive Blair for showing what small people they really are.
Time to put the cards on the table
There are numerous statements coming out of the anti-war movement about various forms of sabotage and disruption of the economy. I say, “bring it on”. It's protests like the one that paralyzed downtown San Francisco that will do more to discredit the peaceniks than anything a responsible person could say. Clear and unamibiguous sabotage will do even more to demonstrate what a loony fringe these people are.

The psychology is interesting. Putatively, these people are concerned for the safety and well being of the Iraqis and others around the world. Yet their local attitude is captured by this quote

It's called the first amendment . Look into it.

“Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ”

Turn on the people *you* don't have the courage to be. Nice. NOTE: Not that I'm sying the protestors are couragous, but they are saying something that needs to be said. Should they do it in a nice, pretty and controlled way so it doesn't offend *your* sensibilities? ROTFLMAO. No, is the correct answer

As long as it's nonviolent, this is what war brings, dipshits. It's a WAR not a video game. W-A-R. W...A...R

Note that the only concern is sensibility. The disruption of people's lives and businesses, the potential deaths of our best over in Iraq from interference with military operations, is all reduced to sensibilities. The total lack of concern for other people is clear. One of the other commentors pointed out that if the goal is to actually accomplish anything then one might want to have protests that don't piss off the vast majority of the citizenry. I think it is clear that actually changing anything is not the goal of this movement. It's not about war, or peace, or Iraq, or even President Bush – it's all about what makes the protestors feel good about themselves.

So bring it on – put your cards on the table and show America what you're really about. Fire your scuds.

UPDATE: We get results. The police have found molotov cocktails in a backpack left by the anti-war protestors in San Francisco.

Stopping chaos before it starts
Orin Judd is reporting that the Pentagon is of the opinion that no one is in charge of Iraq at the moment. If that's true we should be pushing very hard to move troops in. Not only is the lack of organized resistance a golden opportunity (and one for which our military has assidiously worked) but also a great danger. Eventually the general citizenry will realize the lack of control and then the looting and vandalism will start. That kind of thing can be very hard to recover from especially in a nation that has depended for decades on heavy external control. We need to secure control before things get out of hand. Perhaps this report that US/UK forces may enter Baghdad within four days indicates that we'll catch the glass before it hits the floor.
A plan comes together
Apparently the students in Iran have little interest in protesting the war.
"I think only about the consequences of a war. If the war has good consequences, let it be," said another student, Mohammad. "We're not protesting like European students. We don't have a democratic government like they do. We're not acting like them because we're not in European shoes."
Yet there are those in Iran who are worried:
Politically incorrect attitudes on campus are not helping calm the nerves of the country's conservative leadership, which appears genuinely concerned at the implications of "regime change" next door.

"The regime feels encircled. There are US troops to the east in Afghanistan, to the north in Uzbekistan, to the south in the Gulf states and now Iraq."

Encircled, eh? Who could possibly have anticipated that result?

20 March 2003

Is it live or is it Memorex?
There's now speculation about whether Saddam Hussein is still alive and whether the person who gave a speech after the first bombing wave is really Saddam. I heard only fragmentary reports on NPR but two things seemed interesting.

The first is that Saddam was reported to be wearing glasses (sunglasses?) which is unusual. It's good for concealing the wrong eye color in case this is actually a double.

Second is that Saddam alledgedly took care to mention the date, 20 March 2003. That's not very conclusive. It wouldn't be that hard to pre-record a number of messages for various dates in the future. That's why visual images of newspapers are far more determinative - there is a host of other information that are much harder to predict than the date.

But I don't believe either of these and will go on record as saying I think Saddam got lucky once again and we missed him.

19 March 2003

Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war
The BBC is reporting that Ari Fliescher has announced the start of the invasion of Iraq. Our pride and love goes with our troops and our concern to the people of Iraqi. Lets us finish this for the benefit of the good people here and there and across the world.
The price of diplomatic failure
I knew that there was something rotten about the claim that President Bush (43) failed, due to his cowboy nature, to achieve the same sort of diplomatic success as the former President Bush (41). I have never believed that the current Bush could be successful at both diplomacy and safe guarding American interests. I find the idea that the other nations were honest and sincere but put off by Bush's manner laughable.

I realized what really bothered me about such claims when I read this from Damian Penny

We saw this sort of thing in 1991, when confident rebels and protestors were so callously betrayed by George Bush, Sr. (So he could avoid offending the international community, of course.)
This is the price for Bush's failure to gain the trust and support of the international community – we will be under no obligation to stand idly by while Iraqis trying to free their country are slaughtered by a bloody tyrant. Somehow that price doesn't seem so terrible to me.
Blix - more confused than ever
There has been some slamming on Hans Blix for saying that Saddam Hussein wouldn't use chemical weapons because of adverse public opinion. The main complaint is that Saddam is unlikely to be swayed by world public opinion. I think it's even worse – Saddam has used chemical weapons before and what price in world public opinion did he pay? He may well think that it won't be any different this time. As I've said repeatedly it may well be that far from being intimidated by world public opinion, Saddam believes (not unreasonably) that the use of such weapons during an invasion will be costly for the US so that Saddam is actually encouraged by world public opinion to use chemical weapons. What a wonderful result of the rampant anti-Americanism floating about these days.
Bombing civilians
I asked earlier about when bombing civilians became illegal, considering that all the major participants in WWII did it on a regular basis. Neither of the readers came through but I managed to find it anyway.

The governing international law is the Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva conventions, adopted in 1977. The US, however, is not party to this protocol although it tends to abide by it. This protocol forbids “indiscriminate attacks” by military weapons or attacks that deliberately target civilians. It's not clear that this would apply to the invasion of Iraq as Iraq is clearly violating the Conventions by placing military units in hospitals and mosques. Not that those who scream loudest about "international law" will take any notice of violations by a party other than the US.

It's not about oil, it's about pure killing fun
There's a common meme running around the anti-war factions that the primary goal of the US is to kill Iraqi civilians. This is part of the delusional mind set. In fact it's likely that Saddam Hussein is the biggest threat to the Iraqi population through either deliberate terror or collateral damage from ecological crimes (such as burning the oil fields). Apparently much of the US preparation is to avoid having massacres of Iraqi citizens on the orders of Saddam Hussein from being blamed on the US.

The interesting case currently is Basra. This is a major port and its investment will represent a significant victory for the invaders. Yet apparently it has been abandoned and left with only token forces. The best explanation for this is that chemical weapons are either pre-positioned in the city or ready to be launched at the city once it has been occupied. This would be the ideal scenario for Saddam Hussein, large military casualities to demoralize the home populations and large civilian casualties to blame on the US. The most depressing thought is that if this does happen, the international community and the local opposition will in fact blame the US. I'm beginning to really understand what it's been like for Israel all these years.

18 March 2003

Self-contradiction
It's kind of interesting to me that people have a strongly voiced opinion on some matter while at the same time taking actions with regard to that that are completely inconsistent with their stated opinion. For instance, we have the “activists” in the Middle East protesting the brutal, oppressive Nazi like regime of Israel by becoming human shields, a tactic that relies on the innate humanity and decency of one's opponent. This means that these “activists” are engaging in an effort that is guaranteed to fail if their view of the Israeli government is correct.

President Chiraq is also in this state. If he really believes that President Bush is a fanatically religious moronic cowboy, then public statements to that effect and brusque dictats (“there are no circumstances under which France would approve”) seems like a pessimal stategy if that view of Bush is correct. I would have a lot more respect for people taking these positions if they didn't so obviously demonstrate either their total cynicism or complete lack of Clue™ through this kind of contradiction.

Post invasion Iraq
I read some good news this morning on the US plans for Iraq after the invasion. Apparently the plan is to “transform the infrastructure” of Iraq within a year of the end of the invasion. This is good to hear but even better is that almost all of the money will go to private US corporations and only $50 million out of $1500 million will go to the UN and NGOs. Given the track record of the UN in fostering prostitution and child slavery rackets in UN aid programs, that's probably too much money for them to have. The NGO record, while not as bad as the UN, has been rather mixed. It was the NGOs that famously predicted mass famine in Afghanistan which indicates people who are out of touch with reality.

I read this as President Bush looking to avoid having a bunch of UN and EU parasites feast on money intended to help Iraq. Ultimately this money is for the protection of US citizens because it is in our own security interests to build a prosperous and self ordered Iraq. Such an outcome is not in the interests of the UN nor the NGOs and so I do not trust them with such a task. Perhaps rather than whining they should start trying to behave in a civilized manner.

The start of the invasion of Iraq
There has been a lot of speculation about when the invasion will start. Personally, I would go with sometime around September, 2002. I am of the faction that believes that future historians will have a very difficult time determining a particular day that marked the start of the war, just as it's hard to pick a real start date for the Pacific War of the 1940's (some date it as having started as far back as the 1895 invasion of Korea or 1905 at Tsushima). If, as is rumoured, US and UK special forces are already operating in Iraq then it's not clear that the invasion is not already underway. One might say the start of the air war would be a good point, but in fact we are already striking targets in Iraq on a regular basis and the operational tempo of that was recently stepped up. I suppose that the actual launch of Tomohawk cruise missiles is a psychological barrier that would signal the shift into “war” but it's not clear that this will be considered significant in the long term. However, I'm willing to consider that the start for now. My certainly wrong prediction is a launch on Wednesday night, local time.
Cold war victory too easy?
I think that one of the major sources of the disconnect between the European elite and reality is that WWIII (the Cold War) was won too easily. Orin Judd points out that if one tallies the global cost of WWIII it is immense. However, if one adopts the parochial view of the EUlite then the victory was quite cheap. It was especially cheap if one is a member of the French ruling class. So whether WWIII was costly or not depends on one's value system and if one does not value the lives or treasure of other nations then WWIII could be quite inexpensive. I believe that this is how it is viewed by the EUlite and this has set the expectations for future conflicts. It is the reason that Europe was so relunctant to get involved in Yugoslavia even though it was literally next door. For a distant country like Iraq, if it will eventually collapse and it will be the American and Iraqis who pay with their lives for the delay, why bother?

16 March 2003

Is sabotaging the military during war always treason?
I don't like to use the word "treason" lightly, as it is a powerful word with specific meaning. Yet I can't think of any other way to describe the attempt to sabotage a US military base during wartime. As Andrew Sullivan says “This is not legitimate dissent. It isn't free speech” I can't see what to call it except direct aid and comfort to the enemy. Perhaps like the human shields in Palestine and Iraq they've become so lost in solipsism that they can no longer envision a situation where their health and well being are not paramount concerns. That seems to be the general psychosis of much of the anti-war movement and the EUro-elite. It is just inconceivable that bad things could happen to them. If one grants that then their objections make sense.

This will also be another big strike against those who claim the anti-war movement isn't anti-American and doesn't hate our troops in the field. If these sabateours are successful, then US military personel will die. I see no evidence that the protestors consider this a problem in any way.

The most fascinating part to me, though, is that this is being plotted out in the open. This is no clandestine operation. It's in an article on a national web magazine with a name and organization attached. A quick Google search yields up the home page of this group which has the same basic claim. If any one them get smoked sneaking around in restricted military areas during war, I will nominate them for Darwin awards.

Darwin award nominee
A student from the US died in the Gaza Strip yesterday. Apparently the IDF was bulldozing a house and the student decided to step in front of the bulldozer. Oddly, this did not work out well for her. The IDF claimed it as a "regrettable accident", but it's hard to see what's accidental about running in front of a bulldozer. This is apparently the the foreign terror enablers activists that has been killed. That they've been around since the start of the Intifada and only had a single fatality shows just how restrained the IDF has been. In addition, these deluded fools activists gather where this kind of thing goes on (because the IDF warns people, unlike the Palestinians). It will be interesting to see the reaction of the other foreign sacrificial propaganda units activists to the idea that jumping in front of bull dozers is actually dangerous.

UPDATE: Little Green Footballs has a couple of related posts (here and here) with photos of the student in a paroxysm of hate burning an American flag while small children look on.

UPDATE: This story is already being spun by the terror apologists other activists. This site has alledged photos from the incident. Two things are noteworthy.

  1. Contrary to the original story cited above, even this site backs off the claim that the driver deliberately ran back over the student, saying that after the student was run over, “Then the driver backed off ”
  2. As alert posters at LGF have noted, these photos are not of the same time and place. There are serious discrepancies between the first three photos.
    • In the first photo we see a tree just to the right (facing the bulldozer). There is no such tree in either of the other photos. There is also a lot of greenery around where the student is standing in the first but not second photo. We can also see green leaves in the dirt on the bulldozer blade in the first but not second photo.
    • Apparent the student bleeds blue because between the second and third photos the bottom of the bulldozer blades gets a coat of blue pigment. The head lights also migrated up above the roof of the vehicle and the smokestack moved to the right. Some fence posts also showed up to the right of the bulldozer along with look like bushes. The horizon has a number of different features as well.
    • In the third picture, we see a large bulldozer track directly between the two people alledgedly attending the student. This has disappeared by the fourth picture. In addition, the ground looks sloped in the fourth picture while it's basically flat in the third.
Soft bigotry - multiculturalism in action
I read that a number of schools in the UK are not serving hot cross buns for Easter to avoid offending non-Christians. This follows on the banning of the Three Little Pigs from a UK school because it might offend Muslims. In both cases Muslim organizations expressed astonishment at the actions. In the latter it was pointed out that the Qur'an has pigs in it, making the case for books with pigs offending Mulsims a bit difficult to sustain. In the former, a spokeman for the Muslim Council of Britian had this to say:
Unfortunately actions like this can only create a backlash and it is not very thoughtful. I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us.
Ah, you naivé person! The very essence of the modern multi-cultural movement is the imposition of European sensitivities on the poor, benighted wogs who don't understand how they are psychologically trampled by the dominant culture. It's not for the likes of you to decide what is culturally offensive.

Here we see the heart of multi-culturalism, its self-absorbtion and complete lack fo concern for those on whose behalf it putatively labors. Like the anti-war protestors, the people involved are not really people but just convenient props. Multi-culturalism, objectifiying and dehumanizing on a grand scale.

15 March 2003

Why do people hate America?
I was at the book store with Boy One and his friend and as we were checking out I saw a book in the "fresh books" table, Why Do People Hate America?. There was the potential for an insightful book on modern anti-Americanism, but reading the back blurb was enough to discredit the auhors. The publisher claims that “the book is carefully researched and built to withstand the inevitable criticism that will be aimed at it”. Yeah. The back cover goes on about how American culture is dominant (talk to the Indians about that) while America is impervious to external influences. It seemed wrong to me, but I couldn't put my finger on the exact reason. I'll have to ponder that while after I watch my Britcoms when I relax to my wife's Beau Soleil album while reading Battle Angle Alita and snacking on some kim chee. Then I can go out to look for any foreign cultural influences...
International Law Watch 15
Buried in a story on Prime Minister Blair's trouble is this interesting comment:
Legal experts added to the doubts by saying British troops could be the first defendants to face war crimes charges if the government joined a war without UN backing. Even the accidental bombing of Iraqi civilian targets could trigger criminal prosecutions, senior lawyers warned last night
This is a little different in that the UK, a US ally, is being singled out for special treatment as opposed to the US. But the sheer double standard is the same. The only wars approved by the UN were Korea and Afghanistan. Yet no other prosecutions for bombing civilians have ever even been suggested. Again we see the folly of asking the UN at all – clearly the result of not asking (i.e. being a scofflaw to international law) is to avoid any consequences.

I presume that these “legal experts” are targeting the UK troops because it's clear that the US will simply ignore their charges whereas the UK is enmeshed in the ICC and the European Union. The result of course is that any nation with actual respect for the rule of law will avoid the ICC while the scum pits of the world will rush to join, knowing that their blatant refusal to cooperate will make them immune to any bad results. Is this really a desireable result, to punish only those willing to obey?

Rule of Law, even in War
I was listening to NPR this morning which was interviewing a military lawyer. Apparently the US military now has lawyers directly involved in tactical decisions, particularly with bombing targets (I wonder if the artillery has a similar restriction or do the rules only apply to “bombing”?). As much as I deplore this trend, I think it's probably inevitable. One of the characteristics that makes America what it is is this deep rooted respect for law. This is of course is not an unalloyed good as current problems in tort law demonstrate. What I never see explained, however, is what legal body is used to make these targetting decisions. The UCMJ? The Geneva Conventions? Some ill-defined set of "international law" that is pleasing to the CNN crowd? There are rumours that weak-bladdered lawyers prevented strikes on various Al-Qaeda leaders during the war in Afghanistan so I'm not sure that this bodes well for the invasion of Iraq.
Iraqi's calm, western media paniced on eave of war
So Iraqis are marching in support of Saddam Hussein. It's a bad sign when even the Rooters news service notes that these were state sponsored demonstrations. Even then only a few thousand showed up. It looks like more Iraqis went to the track than demonstrated. The main theme of the article was that things were calm in Baghdad on the eave of war:
But on one sunny afternoon at the track, as at many other gathering places across Baghdad, the mood was one of almost surreal calm
Perhaps it's because the Iraqis, unlike the NYT editorial board, realize that the US won't be carpet bombing in Iraq. Gosh, average citizens in a repressive dictatorship having more Clue™ than the editors of a major US newspaper. There's the story.

12 March 2003

Extraterrestial visitors
Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, demonstrates in an editorial how severe a reality dysfunction he suffers. The best one is early, in the second paragraph:
The whole international community needs to act together to curb the proliferation of these terrible weapons, wherever it may be happening
Of course, if the whole international community could act to together there wouldn't be a problem. The existence of a problem (such as we have now) can only occur if some nations are not acting in concert with others. Annan's solution pre-supposes the non-existence of a problem which makes it effective in the logocosm (the place where words change reality). It doesn't seem to do much for us here, though. A couple of paragraphs on we get
That is why the Security Council is determined to disarm Iraq of these weapons, and has passed successive resolutions since 1991 requiring Iraq to disarm.
Once again, Annan is broadcasting messages from the logocosm. We can tell that the UNSC is determined because they keep passing resolutions that are then ignored. If passing a resolution was a successful tactic, why does the UNSC have to pass successive ones?

Annan doesn't seem to have drifted completely off this plane of reality. He notes

If, on the other hand, the members of the council can come together, even at this late hour, and ensure compliance with their earlier resolutions by agreeing on a common course of action, then the council's authority will be enhanced, and the world will be a safer place.
At least there is the acknowledgement that not enforcing the earlier resolutions isn't a strategy for success. However, Annan feels compelled to say enforcing the resolutions is only really a success if it's done by the UNSC agreeing on a common course of action. Or perhaps he means that the act of agreeing on a common course of action will cause the resolutions to be enforced (that would be more consistent with the other views expressed in the article). We see an aspect of that in [emphasis added]
However this conflict is resolved, the U.N. will remain as central as it is today. We should do everything we can to maintain its unity
Unity of the UN as the most important goal. Now for some, that might be a cynical goal, something to which all else must be sacrificed. But I believe that Annan has a different view – that this unity is the driving engine of solution. That's a common delusion, that somehow if we all just agree on what to do, that course of action will be the right one. Sadly, that view is a symptom of a severe reality dysfunction.

11 March 2003

It's not always just rhetoric
An interesting letter from an Iranian woman in commemoration of the "International Women's Day" details some of the struggles of women in Iran. What this make me think of is are the anti-war protestors here in the US. One of the main groups supporting the Iranian revolution was educated, middle class women who were subsequently put into chadors. I suspect that they, like our current crop of protestors, simply couldn't believe that the mullahs would really impose full shari'ah and get away with it. This of course is the standard "common front" technique where a hard core group of revolutionaries relies on the naivité of their fellow travelers to dismiss the hard core's statements to the faithful as "playing to the masses" instead of being serious descriptions of what the hard core intends. So when people say that ANSWER is just spewing overheated rhetoric and that marching under the ANSWER banner is just a way to get organized, I think of the Iranian women. They believed that too.
Modern Letters
One of the things that's been lamented with the rise of the Internet is the loss of actual composed letters. Certainly reading the correspondence of some of our more illustrious predecessors is a source of valuable insight and knowledge. It's also true the electronic mail is too immediate to provide the same kind of depth and coherence. However, it seems to me that weblogs are evolving into a real replacement for the old letters. On many weblogs the writers strive for the same kind of coherence and logic as the old correspondents. A comments section and trackback creates the kind of back and forth that drove much of the best corresondence. The public nature of weblogs may be somewhat different, but I suspect that many of the old correspondents that we read today considered that their letters might enter the public sphere. Weblogs are also well archived (in general). They will probably be a rich source of theses for future graduate students and a good insight into our lives and times.

"But", you say, "95% of weblogs are garbage like yours". That's true. But so was 95% of the correspondence in previous times. It looks good now because we read only the very best of them. Fifty years from now people will study a few thousand posts from the tens of millions of weblogs and billions of posts. Weblogs will look amazingly good at that point and I'm sure people will bemoan the decay of the blogosphere as we bemoan the decay of correspondence.

10 March 2003

It's never worked before but maybe it will work this time
When did bombing civilians come to be considered a war crime? I've never favored direct attacks on civilians, even during WWII. But clearly at that time it was considered an acceptable practice. Now, how ever, the anti-war factions use the claim that the invasion of Iraq will involve bombing civilians as if that alone is sufficient reason to not invade. For instance, one anti-war blogger says
Acknowledge the fact that if the smart bombs and cruise missiles launched at Iraq go off-course they will not land in your backyard in say, San Diego or Knoxville
Uh, yeah. And as a return tip, fire will hurt if you stick your hand in it. The implication is that if the pro-invasion folk just understood that bombs don't always hit their targets and sometimes kill civilians, then they wouldn't support the invasion. That has never stopped anyone in the entire history of warfare, so when did people start thinking it would? Of course, part of this is certainly that if we actually did believe this then we would be prevented from engaging in war at all, kind of a passive-aggressive pacifism without the courage of its convictions.
Next stop, Beirut
What's next after Iraq? I think that Iran is very likely to fall on its own once the US is running Iraq. What I think would be fascinating from a political point of view is a campaign by the Bush administration to liberate the Occupied Territory of the Middle East — Lebanon. We'd be freeing the country from occupation by a foreign, brutal dictatorship. Who could object to that? Unlike the UN resolutions concerning Israel and the West Bank, the UN resolutions calling for Syria to pull out of Lebanon don't require any action by the Lebonese. They do require actions from Israel which it has already done and had certified by the UN. We wouldn't even have to invade Lebanon but could take care of it directly by invading Syria. The contortions that will be required to oppose that will be fascinating to observe. I believe that the Left (including the Democratic Party) will be unable to resist opposing President Bush once again, no matter how bad it looks for them. It's clear to me that most of the opposition to the invasion of Iraq is about Bush, not Iraq, and this wouldn't be any different. With the suppression of the PA and Syria, Lebanon could once again be a prosperous country. If we want to win that war against the Caliphascists creating wealthy, successful states is our best hope.

09 March 2003

But they're not making the right choice!
I was listening to Car Talk this morning on the way to work and I heard them chattering on about the NHTSA Chief, Dr. Jeffrey Runge. Apparently Runge said that he wouldn't buy his kids a SUV because of safety concerns at a car show.

Car Talk has been on a crusade abougt SUVs for years (basically I stopped listening regularly soon after they became obsessed). This time Click & Clack's major claim was that the car industry was run by evil corporate executroids who had discovered that what moves product is power and speed, not efficiency and safety. What this means is that the crime these ECEs are guilty of is building cars people want to buy. Gosh, how un–American! Why would any corporate executroid want to build products that satisfy customer desires? Pure evil in their hearts is clearly the only explanation.

But do not fear, good citizen — Click & Clack have the solution - the government will force you to buy "good" cars, ones that are safe and efficient. Of course, Click & Clack talk about this as forcing the automakers to do the government's bidding. But since the problem is the automakers building cars people want, the only thing the government can really do is force the automakers to build cars that people do not want.

Which brings us back to Runge. I think it's fine for Runge to say that he wouldn't buy his kids an SUV because of safety concerns. In his most recent appearance before Congress he said that it was up to the automakers, not the government, to make SUVs safer. But that's not correct. It's up to the consumers to make the change. If the public starts buying SUVs for safety and not power I do not doubt that the automakers will modify the vehicles in accordance with this desire. I even agree with Senator Barbara Boxer (ugh!):

“Basically, you just told the truth…. You’re saying you wouldn’t buy one for your family,” she said. “I think that the truth–tellers save lives.”
I suspect, though, that Boxer and I part company on the appropriate government response to this.

In contrast, Senator McCain doesn't come off very well in my view. He organized the hearings because of Runge's original statement. McCain said that doesn't trust the automakers to make safe SUVs. Yet that is the type of car he and his family drive (which I'm sure they need on the hard mountain roads of Washington, D.C.). So, Senator, rather than you selecting cars that are safe for your family, you want to the government to force automakers to make cars to your personal satisfaction? That's certainly a stand for personal responsiblity.

08 March 2003

Sitzkreig
It's really 1939 all over again in Europe, isn't it? I wonder how many Europeans are feeling the same way now as their predecessors did in 1939 between the end of the division of Poland and the attack on France. Of course, then they were afraid of the attack by a ruthless dictator and now they're afraid of the attack on a ruthless dictator, but we must not be distracted by the trivial differences.
Subtlety - a lost art
I don't know what to make Congressmen suing over Congressional action. Apparently unhappy with how the vote on the Iraq invasion turned out, a few US Representatives are suing to stop President Bush from acting on that Congressional resolution. While it is concievable that someone in Congress would want to overturn on Constitutional ground a law passed by Congress after doing everything he could while the bill was in session, but it would seem at least tatically astute to not involve one's self directly in the legal action.
Monopoly on evil
I'm beginning to wonder if it is not that the Left doesn't believe in evil, but that the belief is that only Republicans / Conservatives in the US are evil. I dislike piling Oliver Willis but there he is, reading a story about Iraq acquiring US and UK uniforms. Willis' only concern, apparently, is that this is disinformation put out by the Pentagon to cover up potential war crimes by the US military. It's one thing to be properly sceptical of government, but the problem here is that Willis seems to be sceptical only of one government, the US one. Over at another weblog that expresses well my issues with this post, Willis writes
I pointed out in my post "So of course, our contention is that they will wear these unis and commit some sort of atrocities and blame America", which is the Pentagon's line and most likely what Saddam would do
Of course, the part about Saddam isn't in the original post and the very thought of that is qualified with "our contention" and "the Pentagon's line" which are not usually concessions of the legitimacy of a concern. Only when pressed do we get the admission that the Pentagon's concern is not implausible.

This is the same attitude that dominates the anti-war protests and is one of the reasons that the protests are not catching on with the American street. The problem, of course, is that if one starts addressing the real moral comparison between the US and Iraq it tends to undermine the original point of the protest. It doesn't help when your protests are organized by Stalinists.

We see the same attitude in the Democratic Party with regard to Al Sharpton, or the Communists, or even Iraq — the clear refusal to confront anyone who is not a member over the VRWC. This is the view of people who are either so consumed with US partisan politics that nothing else matters or who have, despite claims of multi-culturalism, labeled one particular political view / culture as the Source of All Evil. Neither seems like a world view that's going to be good for this country or the world.

07 March 2003

Staying the course
I watched most of President Bush's press conference last night. In all seriousness I was half expecting him to announce that the invasion had started. With the rumours of Iraq destroying oil wells floating around the blogosphere I thought "if that's accurate then maybe we really can't wait anymore and Bush has told Franks to get it on". So I was a bit let down.

Overall, I didn't find it very interesting, but of course Bush didn't say anything that I haven't already heard and basically agree with. I agree that he looked and sounded very tired, although there are claims that this was deliberate and that the primary target was foreign public opinion.

My personal favorite fact was that Helen Thomas was deliberately snubbed [source]. I am sure that the usual suspects will be all in a flutter about this. I suspect that a common meme will be "he's an idiot – now she'll be pissed off and gunning for him". This would at least be intellectually consistent, because it's the same argument as the argument about not invading Iraq for fear of stirring up terrorists. In reality it's an invalid argument because there's nothing to lose if someone is already going all out to get you. Just like the Caliphascists can't do anything more because they're doing all they can now, it's difficult to see how Helen Thomas could become more openly hostile to Bush.

06 March 2003

High crimes and misdemeanors
So now the plan is apparently to try to impeach President Bush [source]. Of course, this is completely legal – the only determinant of what is valid grounds for impeachment is a vote in the House of Representatives (and what impeachable offenses deserve removal from office is purely a Senate matter). The only specifically mentioned charge is "bombing civilians". That translates to "fighting a modern war", as there hasn't been a war ever that involved bombing but not bombing civilians. It would also mean that any enemy who put his military among his civilian population would be immune to any US response. I don't think that matters, because the effort isn't about affirming some principle but punishing Bush. Here's a money quote from Professor Francis A. Boyle:
"It's under active review by several members of Congress," Boyle said. "It's going to take someone with courage, integrity and a safe seat to do this."
Now, why exactly would it take some one with a safe seat? Could it be because this impeachment would be enormously unpopular? And if so, what kind of blow back could that Representative's fellow party members expect? Let's hear it for collateral damage!
The destruction of the private sphere
One of the problems of the Left is its drive to destroy the private sphere, the space where people interact without government control. I believe in having a consent based, self ordered minarchy precisely because it provides the greatest scope for a private sphere.

The specific example for today was brought to my attention by National Propaganda Radio which had a story on lawsuits against gun manufacturers. I'll skip over the issues of bad faith, legal silliness and extortion by the plaintiffs and look at a broader issue. One notes that the primary issue for these lawsuits is to punish the gun manufacturers for not enforcing federal law on their own. In other circumstances we might call that vigilantism, which as I remember is generally frowned upon by the gun control types, but I suppose intellectual or ideological consistency is the least of their errors. We can also consider the recent mall case where there is the presumption that even though the mall is private property, the owners cannot act as would the owner of non-commerical property. At the same time mall owners are being required (via lawsuits) to directly enforce governmental law on their properties. The common element is that the private sphere is being destroyed by forcing it into explicitly convergence with the public / governmental sphere. We could look at the recent Augusta case for another example. It would seem to be a function of a fundamental fear of difference by the factions on the Left. The end point of this is of course the dull dreariness of the Communist world, which may well be why the Left doesn't find Communism a hostile political philosphy.

05 March 2003

The Chinese economic threat
A background theme that one hears it that the next big competitor to the US will be China. I personally find that implausible. I still remember the 1980' s and the threat from Japan. My father was a big believer in that and I told him at the time that it was unstainable. I quite enjoyed the gloating in the late 90's on that score. China is the same way. If the country doesn't just break up as it has many times in the past, then the current economic boom will collapse, fueled as it is by bad accounting and government spending. Just listen to Zhu Rongji, the outgoing Premier of China:
China must continue to pump massive state resources into the economy to keep it growing at 7 percent or better this year
Of course, the 7% number is very suspicious to start with (as it is well known to all the people who are reporting the figures to a ruthless Communist Party). There may be just a bit of shading going on there. Disregarding that, if the economic growth of China depends on massive government funds it's doomed. Just like cocaine, it will pump things up for a while but eventually the habit catches up with you. The come down isn't going to be pretty. If China ends up as a hot enemy of the US, it won't be because it has succeeded but because it has failed [source].

UPDATE: We get results. Jintao, dude, that's a nice start but you clearly haven't absorbed the message of this weblog. This is good:

[...] the new commission would help segregate company supervision from economic policymaking, which is expected to reduce favoritism toward the state sector. "Managing the economy and managing state assets are two different functions of government. Keeping them together was unfair to other companies" such as privately owned firms, said Luo Zhongwei, a professor at the Institute of Industrial Economics
But at the same time you're planning the expansion of the major economic planning agency:
While it is intended to focus on high-level planning, the [newly expanded State Development and Reform] commission would continue to have broad authority to approve specific investment projects and industrial policies. "As Chinese government organizations get more powerful, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with," said Apco China's Horgan
Try to stay on message ...

03 March 2003

When you just can't let go
In my opinion that biggest reason that the Left is losing the current political battle is that its proponents don't seem to be able to let go of failed ideas or people. A classic case in point is this discussion. Oliver Willis starts with the very reasonable observation that the Augusta golf club should make some effort to disown the KKK clan members protesting on behalf of Augusta. Of course, the first comment draws the analogy between this and the anti-war protestors (which is actually favorable to some extent because it implies that there exists a reasonable opposition that is being tarred by marching with Communists). This highlights the key difference between the modern Left and Right — the Right is slowly but surely dumping its fringe allies while the Left continues to embrace its ugliest members and causes. But Willis completely misses this and dismisses any accusations of Communism or fellow traveling with the claim that the Communists just aren't dangerous:
If you think that communists are worse than the Klan, you need to get out more.
There you are: an ideology that enslaves over a billion people and is the core of the most repressive regimes on the planet is not as bad as the Klan, which consists of a rag tag bunch of loonies who are objects of public ridicule and hostility. One can of course argue that the Klan used to be dangerous, but of course back in those days the Communists were even more so. Willis and his cotierie switch back and forth about whether they mean actual Communists or just "some bored, dumb-ass students". The two are used interchangeably but I can't tell if this is a slick rhetorical technique or true Lack Of Clue™.

The real question here is, why can't Willis just cut loose on the Communists? What is it about them that makes him willing to effectively defend Communism, dismissing its crimes and labeling its opponents as "people who actually bought Ronald Reagan's bull"? One of them, "Dakota", comes closer by resorting to the relabeling trick and denying that North Korea is a Communist regime, but can't quite make the leap.

Of course, I don't view this as a problem, that even articulate and intelligent supporters of the Democratic Party are unable to see that this refusal to see any enemies on the Left is what's killing them off politically. The Right has learned. It dumped Buchanan, the Klan and Lott when they went over the line. Yet the Left holds on and so discussions of this nature generally lead to the Left having to openly defend or dismiss some of the greatest atrocities of history.

The most bizarre disconnect, though, is over Iraq. One of the best attacks of the Left was the support of the Right for oppressive dictators (e.g. Saddam Hussein). I'm not going to argue the morality of this (my blog isn't big enough for that) but even the Right primarily saw it as a bad choice over a worse one, justified by the Cold War. Now that the Cold War is over that justification doesn't fly. To his credit, President Bush is starting on the long road to cleaning up some of the toxic waste we left behind during WWIII and people like Willis are objecting to this! Now those thugs are toxic waste for the Left, not the Right. The Leftists are setting it up so that having shed most of its domestic garbage, the Right is now poised to dump its foreign garbage in the lap of Left. This is on top of the fact that the Left is finally getting smeared for its support of other mass murdering regimes like the USSR or Cuba. Can we really call the Republicans the Stupid Party anymore?

02 March 2003

Movable Type Upgrade - 2.63
I have upgraded to Movable Type 2.63. Hopefully everything still works.
Convergent media releases
Orin Judd has a mention of a limited episode animation on Cartoon Network, Reign: The Conqueror. This is a fanciful re-telling of the story of Alexander the Great. An interesting facet of this is that I have already seen the DVD for this show on the shelves at Best Buy in what seems to be a general trend toward simultaneous release of content in multiple channels. For instance, Dragon Ball is released in four channels: Toonami (cable), VHS, DVD and print (manga collections). These show up at roughly the same time. The move seems to be toward more of a music style, where a band touring is in large part to drum up CD sales. Is the showing of Reign on cable designed primarily to push DVD sales? If so, that puts paid to the idea that home recording will destroy DVD / CD sales, as this strategy implies exactly the opposite. Alternatively, this is a response to home recording in that people won't bother to record if they know that, should they like the show, the DVD is already in the store.

01 March 2003

Hysterical civil libertarians?
Orin Judd has posted an article about a recent decision by Congress to oppose the "Total Information Awareness" project. To quote Mr. Judd,
When the 9-11 attacks occurred and it became clear how closely the terrorists fit a seemingly obvious profile — [...] everyone beat their chest and demanded the heads of folks at the FBI and CIA who'd failed to pick up on these signs. Now the government comes up with a daring and innovative plan to just possibly--though, this being the government, one doubts it--notice such connections next time and people demand it be stopped lest one more computer somewhere know what many other corporate computers already know about them
I disagree with this in multiple ways.

First, it's not that government computers will know more things about it, it's that government employees will. The same sort of employees who populate the DMV and INS. The same type that work in the IRS and look at people's tax returns. If a private company has employees that do that kind of thing, they can get sued or even arrested. If some government employee does it, it's not clear they'll even be fired.

Second, this is like the Democratic Party's attempt to overcome basic flaws with advanced technology. Apparently this view is that since the agencies are fundamentally flawed, we need to give them even more power to compensate for their ineffeciencies. I'd much prefer working on fixing them. But that's hard work, political contentious, involves no wizzy new gadgets or big budgets and even if you succeed it doesn't get your name in papers. Far better to put out some sparkly new facade on a broken frame.

Third is the history of the FBI's attempts at high technology. Instead of working on TIA and that Cool New Stuff™ perhaps the FBI and Congress should work on getting the FBI's information integrated. It seems to me that the FBI wants access to private data so they don't have to admit that they can't search their own data. Which leads to the next point.

I just don't accept that if new terrorists attacks are successful that those who blocked this will bear responsibility. I would place far more on those currently in power that have made no real effort to reform our current efforts (a list of people that would include President Bush). We have seen numerous reports of how the FBI or other agencies were on the trail of these people but were warned off. Or how the FBI delibarately thwarted terror investigations. When you've got a drunk driver, you don't buy him a bigger car to prevent injury, you get him sober.

International Law Watch 14
Via the Brothers Judd we have Michael Kinsley saying that
International law says [...] says, "Thou shalt not use military force without the approval of the Security Council — even if thou art the United States of America
There goes the right of self defense. Beyond that, however, we don't see Kinsley going on about France's latest invasion which not only does not have the approval of the UNSC but for which permission was not even asked. One also might note that the coming invasion of Iraq is a direct consequence of Iraq using military force without permission of the UNSC, a come-uppance to which Kinsley seems strongly opposed. This puts him in the position of arguing for no penalties for violating "International Law". But what is law if there are no consequences for violation? Kinsley provides no reason why the US should obey while no one else does. Indeed, Kinsley's phrasing implies that the US is the only violator. But Kinsley is close - just remove the word "even" from his statement and you get what he really means.
International Law Watch 13
On NPR this morning one of the commentators claimed that France might not veto the 18th UNSC resolution on Iraq because it would set a bad precedent for France's invasions of other countries. The example used was France's current actions in Ivory Coast and the claim was that future actions of that nature (France unilaterally invading another country and changing its government) would be more difficult if France vetoed the US effort to do so in Iraq. Of course, NPR did not note that France went in to Ivory Coast after the UNSC was discussing Iraq and passing various resolutions. That makes it very difficult to see the point of the comment. France has already demonstrated that the rules that prevent one nation from invading another with UN approval applies only the US. A veto of the latest UNSC resolution on Iraq will just confirm that precendent. It's hard to see how that's bad for France's foreign policy.