30 April 2003

Posted by aog at 11:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

One step at a time

So the US is finally pulling out of the Saudi entity. Contrary to the nay sayers it looks likes President Bush is moving in his slow but deliberate way toward cutting the Saudi entity loose. I suspect that there will now be complaints that Bush is giving in to the Caliphascists by leaving, but I don't find that complaint compelling. We should do what is in our best interests regardless of whether it is an objective of the Caliphascists.

Something to think about is that, with Iraq in the US corner, any disruption of oil flow from the Saudi Entity is likely to impact Europe far more than the US. This is mitigated by the fact that oil is fungible so disruption anywhere raises the prices everywhere. However, it's not even clear how much that would be a problem since Iraq will likely be producing at an increased rate anyway. In fact, one might wonder if a disruption of the Saudi Entity isn't part of the plan. It would hurt an enemy nation while allowing Iraq (a now friendly nation) to pump out at a maximum rate without a drop in price. Otherwise there's a strong potential for an oil glut. Overall, despite the allure of low oil prices, I believe that overall we benefit most by moderate and steady oil prices.

28 April 2003

Posted by aog at 22:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The American way of conquest

I was listening to some news program in the airport today and I realized one highly emblematic aspect of American conquests vs. those of other nations, particularly in the past. When the American military conquers another nation, one of the first thoughts that occurs to Americans is “how much are my taxes going to go up to pay for this?”. The basic presumption for everyone except the Left is that any such conquest will be expensive, something that will require transfers of wealth from the US to the other nation. This is not an attitude that encourages military adventures. It also demonstrates that that American people will be happy to let Iraq go when it's time for that nation to stand on its own again. It is in fact a mark of generosity of America that we were willing to invade Iraq despite the expense in blood and treasure knowing that we will gain no riches nor territory from it.
Posted by aog at 22:04 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No more France bashing

I've decided to not bash France anymore. It's like kicking a cancer patient. Even if he's scum, there's just no point. I have become convinced over the last year or so that France is so dysfunctional that it's headed for either the dustbin of history or civil war. Caton over at Little Green Footballs Caton expressed my view:
Don't you see it? Any nuisance value France had was given to it by the U.S. The information France forwarded to Iraq was given to France by the U.S. The U.S. decided to give the U.N.S.C. a say. And so on.

By itself, France is totally irrelevant and mostly harmless.

Moreover, ignoring France is probably the worst punishment we can inflict.

Like a bad personal relationship, picking at it and being spiteful isn't good for anyone. The best thing is to remember why the relationship failed and get on with life.

27 April 2003

Posted by aog at 11:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's all about oiiiiiiiiiiillllllllll. Plus money.

Apparently Iraq may drop out of OPEC. When I saw the headline I assumed that it would be because the other members of OPEC wouldn't want a US proxy involved in OPEC meetings / decisions / etc. But it turns out that the Iraqis (as claimed by Fadhil Chalabi, a former Iraqi oil minister) want to pump large amounts of oil to help pay for rebuilding Iraq. Chalabi also said that the Iraqi industry must be privatized to attract foreign investment following the war. That's a very encouraging comment from someone who is directly involved.
Posted by aog at 11:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's all Orrin's fault

I'll be out of town again this week, business related this time. I may have internet access so posts are possible but likely to be sparse. Personally, I blame Orrin Judd. I was doing fine until he linked to me and suddenly I'm out of t0wn and not posting every other week.

26 April 2003

Posted by aog at 11:10 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Santorum Storm

The Volokh Conspiracy weighs in on the controversy concerning Sentator Santorum's remarks. I must disagree with Mr. Volokh's and the Senator's view on the simiarly of sodomy and polygamy / bigamy. What both seem to miss is that adults can commit sodomy in private but it is not possible to commit either polygamy or bigamy in private. Both of these are instrinsically public and currently in the US involve at least one government agency (which ever one issues the marriage certificate). It is a not a small difference that polygamy and bigamy require the active involvement of the State but sodomy doesn't. The relation to incest is much closer, as noted by the Brothers Judd. Even the cited article contains an error similar to Volokh's in comparing incest to cousin marriage because as above marriage is a public act involving the State where as incest can be done entirely in private. One could make a reasonable argument, though, that it's hard to judge true consent in an incestual relationship because of the prior relationships among the participants making it sufficiently problematic to forbid legally.

As for adultery, as others have commented that can be treated as a breach of contract and so presents no legal problems that are similar to those that confront anti-sodomy laws.

I therefore don't see any slippery slope in a legal sense to not outlawing sodomy while holding the legal line to the other practices that Santorum considered equivalent. As a matter of law and policy I think his argument is weak at best. However, I hardly think that Santorum's position is insane. It's clearly not very far from mainstream jurisprudence. If Santorum's view represents the loony fringe, why haven't the actual laws been repealed? Further, the very fact that it's gone all the way to the Supreme Court without any clear indication of how that Court will actually rule shows that it's not a settled question.

As a matter of policy I against regulating private sexual behaviour. As a matter of law I'm far more ambivalent. I don't believe in a "right to privacy" but on the other hand I don't consider that necessary. The citizen doesn't have to demonstrate that he has a “right” to do something; the State must show that it is empowered to forbid it. I think it's clear that the federal anti-sodomoy laws are invalid – does the penumbra of the 14th Admendment extend this to state laws? I'm not sure.

25 April 2003

Posted by aog at 22:07 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Ad nudium attack

It used to be that when you cornered a liberal, they'd start yelling and calling you names. Now they get naked. Is that an argument ad nudium? I suppose it's all fashion – Castro's out and nudity's in.

Best quote? Martine Maguire [a Dixie Chick] said “It’s not about the nakedness — It's about clothes getting in the way of labels”. This means that they wanted to get labeled, found it difficult while clothed so they got naked? If clothes get in the way of labels, I'm going to start being fully dressed while I write this weblog.

Of course, perhaps I'm being too straight. What ever else may be said, they do have well formed bodies and this may just be a ploy for publicity. Despite the claim that it wasn't about being naked, half the headlines on Google took care to emphasize the “nude” part which can hardly be unexpected. The best headline was “Dixie Chicks : Getting naked to regain market share”.

Reuters reports this as “The three women of country music band the Dixie Chicks pose nude on the cover of a weekly showbiz magazine in a defiant answer to a backlash over their opposition to the war in Iraq”. That's an answer to critics? Can I try it at my next technical review? “Yes, BBB, I know it looks like the RPC protocol doesn't have any good mechanisms for recovering from synchronization errors due to process restarts. I have a slide prepared for that criticism. As you can see, here I am fully nude with code snippets painted on my body …”. I have even less of an idea of what about it exactly is “defiant”.

I know that this is amazingly unimportant but it is such a grand display of righteous stupidity that I can't resist. My plan is not to be provocative but just to corner the market on searches for "nude Castro simulations".

Posted by aog at 21:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Mood swings

I was going through the local paper and saw this huge headline: “Crean's out of running”. I thought, “wow, the local paper is getting in to Australian politics!”. I've been following Tim Blair's gleeful political death watch for Simon Crean, leader of the Australian labor party. It was a bitter disappointment to learn that the headlining Crean was some kind of sports person who wouldn't be doing some kind of sporty thing. Ah well, back to the blogosphere.
Posted by aog at 19:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Abstraction impairment

Damian Penny has a post about Susan Sarandon calling for boycott of Dr. Laura. The boycott itself is of itself uninteresting but it does serve as a prime example of the solipsism, as explained by the Spleenmeister:
The problem isn't that Dr. Laura's opinions are good while Sarandon's are bad, or that either should not be boycotted — the problem is that Sarandon has no problem with the boycotting (that is, the freedom of companies not to hire and customers not to buy products from people that offend them) when it comes to someone whose opinions she doesn't like, but she screams "Oppression!" when she gets the boycotting treatment from someone who doesn't like her opinion. It's Sarandon's hypcrisy, not Dr. Laura's relative goodness or badness, that is the focus of the discussion.

In the comments we have Gipper and Michael defending Sarandon on the basis that Sarandon's comments are proper politics while Dr. Laura is a racist and a bigot (one wonders if “bigot” carries much sting to one already labeled “racist”). What Gipper and Micheal never address is who decides what is racist/homophobic/misogynist so that it can be held to a lower standard? As far as I can see it would be the same people (e.g. Sarandon and her supporters) who vested interest in the decision being made to favor them. Michael brings up the case of people who are objecting to Al-Jazeera broadcasting in Canada. I haven't heard any of the people doing that who are also claiming to be oppressed because their preferred causes / celebrities / products are being boycotted. It's left to the individual to make that determination, not by appeal to an amorphous and self-interested third party, which is the essence of the distinction between the two sides.

Posted by aog at 08:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

A ray of hope in South Africa?

Apparently Winnie Mandela is finally starting to get her just rewards – she has been sentenced to five years in jail and official censored by the Parliment for a wide variety fraud (43 counts) and theft (25 counts). It's about time.
Posted by aog at 08:38 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Cultural strip mining

There are constant claims that America is impervious to foreign culture. My view is that America is remarkably accepting of foreign cultural influences. We have no government agency for ensuring the purity of English not any rules about the importation of foriegn cultural works. New foods, movies, fashion styles, even language are rapidly assimilated. So why does the image of America as an impervious culture monolith perist?

I think a big part of of it is that America doesn't import cultures but cultural artifacts. In effect, we strip mine other cultures for the best parts and take those. So those outside the US rarely see their own culture reflected in the US, only bits and pieces along with bits and pieces from a hundred other cultures. In fact for a particular culture different elements may well be adopted in differerent regions or demographics of the US.

In addition, the US is in fact relatively impervious to foreign cultures in toto. It's extremely hard for immigrants to maintain their full culture here in the US. Once in the country, their culture immediately begins to be rewritten by the local culture. So to kin left behind, it looks like America is swallowing up their culture. It's hard to see the few elements that migrate from the immigrants back in to the larger US culture.

It is this whole process of exchange and assimilation that gives US culture its vibrancy and resiliency. As with so many things, protection helps in the short term but cripples in the long term. Going without means accepting that while the meta-culture may stay the same, the perceived texture will change and that one must adapt to these changes. One of the things that appeals to me in modern conservatism is that it seems to have accepted this state of affairs, to cease worrying about the specific details of the culture while concentrating on those things which are more fundamental (e.g., the exchange of ideas rather than TV vs. radio vs. the FCC vs. the Internet). Get the basic rules right and let the culture take care of itself.

Posted by aog at 08:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Out of fashion

So now the entire board of one of those friends of Cuba organizations has resigned en masse. The “Cuba Policy Foundation” has disbanded because it has finally become clear to them that Castro has no interest in any improvement of the state of the Cuban people nor in improved relations with the US if that entails the sacrifice of the smallest sliver of his power. Based on all of the other recent Castro bashing on the Left, it looks like the Castro's star is starting to dim. But why? I'd like to think that the changes since 9/11/2001 have made continued open support for a dictator like Castro unacceptable but that seems unlikely. Could it be the more cynical motive of, having been so wrong on Iraq and Saddam Hussein, they want to get ahead of the curve on Castro. Or maybe, having cried “help! help! I'm being oppressed!!” so loudly it's embarassing to hobnob with a real oppressor. But I believe that it's simply because, for unfathomable reasons, Castro has become unfashionable.

24 April 2003

Posted by aog at 13:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Game optimization

I was shopping for a birthday present for a classmate of Boy One the other day and a number of the items on the list had to do with Yu Gi Oh, a trading card game. Part of the paraphenalia were guide books that contained reams of statistics and probability analysises. I thought to myself, “this is intended for pre-teen boys?”. I certainly don't remember devoting that kind of effort to mastering the optimal strategies for my childhood games. When I was older, in high school, and playing combat simulation board games I would read that kind of thing. But that marked me as a geek, sometimes even among my fellow gamers. But now Joe Average pre-teen kid is reading about how to weigh the probabilities of multi-card combos. I find this significant, because the attitude required to appreciate that is the same as that which makes our troops so capable in the field — given a particular situation and a set of rules, how can I maximize my odds of success, both by preparing properly and adapting my strategy?

These kids are also being taught about the meta-game which is also fundamental to a 21st century military or indeed any organization. For most of these trading card games (which are very popular) one must construct a playing deck. This is very different from previous card games where everyone has the same set of potential hands. With playing decks the opponents may well have no cards in common at all. So selecting the set of cards to play with is a key part of success. The meta-game is that superior playing decks depend on the playing decks of the other players. One can win with a technically inferior deck if it exploits a weakness the dominant style of deck. Of course if such a deck starts winning the other players will adapt. This constant shifting of the “best” style of deck is the meta-game. To succeed one must

  • Be aware of what decks styles are popular
  • Be able to develop and play counter strategies to popular deck styles
  • Be willing to abandon one's preferred style if someone else develops a counter
What a very interesting set of principles to be teaching.
Posted by aog at 09:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's just a war

I've just noticed a typical Tranzi manifesto against the invasion of Iraq in my comments. Since it was, as tends to be the practice, made in the comments of many weeks old post, I thought that I would deal with it in some new posts as it is too lengthy for a single response.

Seamus writes about the invasion of Iraq

Is this a “just” war?

Let's start with an examination of what a "just war" means. I'll shameless pull a dictionary definition, as that's the easiest place to start:

  1. Honorable and fair in one's dealings and actions: a just ruler.
  2. Consistent with what is morally right; righteous: a just cause.
  3. Properly due or merited: just deserts.
  4. Law. Valid within the law; lawful: just claims.
  5. Suitable or proper in nature; fitting: a just touch of solemnity.
  6. Based on fact or sound reason; well-founded: a just appraisal.
We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn't have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they'd be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an "honourable and fair" way of doing battle - technological superiority is anything but fair). The fifth also doesn't really apply in this context.
My first response to this would be, “why should I care if the invasion is a just war?”. Certainly no other nation on the planet cares if their military activities are “just”. The use here is not from general principle but simply a rhetorical technique as no justification is provided as to why the “just war” label is relevant or why the US, alone of all nations, should care.

Seamus goes on to say

We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn't have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they'd be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an "honourable and fair" way of doing battle - technological superiority is anything but fair).
There is so much here I’m not sure where to start.

Certainly I will admit that the abandonment of the Iraqis after the first Gulf War as shameful. One might note, however, that the reason that Saddam Hussein was still around to decimate the rebels was because of pressure from the international community, particularly Old Europe and Arabia. It is hardly a coincidence that the US both lacked approval from the world community and had a rapid, successful, complete campaign. It was President Bush's diplomatic “failure” that lead to success on the battlefield.

There is also the well beaten point that the failure of the US to support the Iraqis in 1991 creates a greater, not lesser, moral imperative to finally make some atonement for that failure. But Seamus would clearly rather have a morally tainted US than one that actively strives to correct its mistakes. Better that the Iraqi people suffer in perpetuity than to have the US perform a moral act, eh, Seamus?

But the true moral bankruptcy is evident in the very choice of what to use as an example. Who was it that actually had the rebels killed? Who was the author of their misery? And who reign is Seamus defending?

As for technological superiourity being “unfair”, so what? I'd love to see what historical precendent Seamus has for that claim or for the implication that one should restrict weapons to those of the opponent. WWII is generally considered a “just war” even by those who object to the invasion of Iraq, yet a critical characteristic of that war was the never ending effort to build and deploy weapons that were not available to the opponent. This comment alone tells me that Seamus has a severe case of reality dysfunction.

The rest of the manifesto consists basically of pedantry and the application of standards that have never been followed in the entire history of warfare to the US. There are a few interesting points to bring up which I will cover in a subsequent post.

23 April 2003

Posted by aog at 21:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Piles of cash

I just heard a report over the radio that some US troops are under arrest for stealing some of the piles of cash that have been found buried in buildings in Baghdad. While I realize it's wrong, I just cannot imagine the temptation it must be to look at hundreds of millions of dollars of cash neatly packed in to boxes.

What I don't understand is why we are not hearing stories of large numbers of houses being dug up in that neighborhood.

Posted by aog at 14:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Population selection

When I look at the difference between the Iraqis and the Palestinians, I begin to wonder if we're not seeing the effects of a self-selecting populace on the West Bank. Is it possible that most of the relatively well adjusted Palestinians have left the Middle East for greener pastures? What kind of mentality would it take to stay there with the Israelis on one side and Arafat on the other? Plus neighbors like Assad and Mubarak and no real opportunity? You'd have to be crazy to stay and apparently that is what happened.
Posted by aog at 08:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Delusions of strength

The Palestinians are apparently disappointed at the lack of resistance by Iraqis to the Coalition. The Palestinians think that they have done much better in sustaining their conflict with Israel. Once again the Palestinians are living in a dream palace.

The first would be to ask why exactly maintaining armed conflict is a good thing? I have little doubt that 5 or 10 years from now, the personal situation of the Iraqis will be much improved from what it was before the invasion and vastly better than that of the Palestinians. But the Palestinians seem to view that as a failure, not a success.

As for not resisting, had not the Iraqis been beaten in to submission by Saddam Hussein already? If one is going to be disappointed by the lack of armed conflict why not do so on the basis of the Iraqis being supine before the Ba'ath? Both are equally unfair — what's the difference?

The money quote from the article is

“Our thinking and way of being is dominated by our passions. … People expected steadfastness and a willingness to stand up. How could Jenin stand up to all that bombardment, how did Arafat resist the siege in Ramallah for all these months, but Saddam couldn't stand up to the invasion of his country?”
The valiant resistance during the siege of Ramallah! As if Arafat would have done better at resisting four 2,000 lb bombs than the Ba'ath leadership did on 9 August! The Palestinian resistance continues only because Israel is unwilling to do what is necessary to end it whereas the Coalition, while trying to avoid collateral damage, was quite willing to strike without restraint in order to achieve victory. This simple fact seems to have escaped both the Palestinians and the author of this article.

14 April 2003

Posted by aog at 22:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Truly a waning star

Wow. Even The Guardian is blaming Arafat for impeding the peace process in the Middle East:
Yasser Arafat has angrily rejected his prime minister's proposed cabinet, a reaction which endangers the whole process of Palestinian reform demanded by the international community
Thats the kind of language The Guardian normally reserves for welfare reform and tax cuts.

I'm not sure I've ever seen that before, where it wasn't the fault of ZOG. Another step forward on the road that President Bush layed out all those months ago. Best of all, it's a long, slow, torturous fall for Arafat. That's just cold.

Posted by aog at 21:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Think different, not old

It has been big news lately that Apple Computer was considering a bid for Universal Music Group. I was a bit disappointed. Apple is supposed to “think different™”. Getting involved with an old style music business seems like the wrong mode for Apple. Instead, Apple could sponsor a music exchange portal / web hosting for independent musicians, breaking the current Big Media monopoly. Someone is going to do that sooner or later and who ever does it first will be in a good position. Of course, it won't be nearly as profitable as the current model which depends on cheating everyone except Big Media. However, there would be some profit and it would go to Apple instead of someone else. Now is not the time to buying in to a dieing industry. If Apple sided with the musicians insteadof Big Media they could even re-run their 1984 commercial.
Posted by aog at 16:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Outta here

I'm going offline until sometime next week. I'll be in another state without real connectivity. It will be tough, but it's worth it so that the little poopers can be shown off to their Mimi and Gramps. Be good!

UPDATE: Of course, nothing gets the creative forces flowing like publicly announcing a hiatus. I need to do this more often. But I really am heading out of town tomorrow.

12 April 2003

Posted by aog at 17:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Better correct than good

I saw some more anti-Iraq protestors as we were out promoting consumerism today. One of the big themes was “Support our troops – bring them home”. My first thought was that our troops are proud of what they are doing in Iraq and that one normally supports people by helping them in their endeavors, not preventing them. Morale in the field seems high. It's just another example of the faux-concern that is so typical of the solipsistic.

I also thought about the issue that one of the arguments about the evil of the US was our abandonment of the Iraqis in 1991 when they rose in revolt. This is actually a strong point yet it is somewhat undermined when the goal of the protestors is to do it again. But I suppose that maybe they're more clever than I give them credit for as they seem dedicated to the proposition that the US is the most evil regime in history. Adding another shameful national episode would help support this view. It may seem selfish and cynical, but what could be more important than validating their the world view?

11 April 2003

Posted by aog at 23:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Odius debts

The Brothers Judd had an interesting post on the concept of odius debt. This is argued from the analogy that as private citizens do not have to repay debts obtained fraudulently and without their permission, neither do the people of a state have to repay debts incurred by a illegitimate governments. While I think that this is an excellent idea, one of the problems, of course, is determining which governments are legitimate. Should there be a vote in the UN I suspect that the first government to be declared illegitimate would be the US.

However, there really isn't any need to get the UN involved. A state such as Iraq can be forgiven it previous debts in the US legal system. This would mean that no claim to collect such debts would be valid in any US court. The EUlite will of course whine and attempt to collect debts via European courts or the ICC. But even if a judgement were made against Iraq, how would it be collected? Wouldn't this simply mean that Iraq would trade only with the US and its close allies? This would be a way to aid Iraq, punish the EUlite and strengthen the ties between the US and Iraq.

The one downside would be that the EUlite might well attempt to sieze the $40 billion that has already been stolen from Iraq by the UN. It's possible that it would suffice for the US to veto any attempt to disperse the funds to a group other than the new Iraqi government. It might do well to stall the resolution of existing debt until that money has been secured for Iraq. On the other hand, the spectacle of France, Germany and Russia looting that account to line their own pockets would be quite the public relations coup for the Anglosphere.

But if one may indulge in a bit of fancy, one could imagine Iraq suing for the money in a US court, winning, and then demanding title to the UN headquarters if the UN refuses to pay. That would truly be a win–win scenario.

Posted by aog at 23:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (2)Ping URL

Peace crimes

I was involved in an argument about whether the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “one of the biggest war crimes in history”. What occurred to me is that all of the truly large crimes were done during “peace”. If we just look at the last century or so, we have as just an initial list the Japanese suppresion of Korean culture, the Armenian genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, the Soviet famines, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Killing Fields of Cambodia. All of these were far more horrific than both nuclear attacks put together. Yet none are “war crimes” because they were visited on populations already under the control of the perpetrators so no war was required. So when the Tranzis go on about war crimes, just remember that the “war” qualifier is designed to exclude the real crimes of the century.
Posted by aog at 19:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

With a whimper, not a bang

What I've been wondering is, where is NOW? Don't they normally get some good air time whenever something big (like the invasion of Iraq) is going on? I can't say that I've heard a single peep out of them since the invasion started and I don't recall anything in the months beforehand. Has their pandering finally discredited them sufficiently to push them out of the national media spotlight? One can only hope.
Posted by aog at 18:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

You don't know what you've got till it's gone

There are now rumours that Iraq may kick out the Palestinians living in Iraq as did Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states after the first Gulf War because of Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein. I'd like to feel bad about that but I can't. All I could think of reading that was “Gosh, that would be a bummer for the Israelis” . The reports I am reading from the West Bank indicate that the Palestinians on the whole do not understand why the Iraqis would prefer occupation by the Coalition over occupation by the Ba'ath. I understand Iraqis wanting to boot out the Palestinians who not only offered public, vocal support for Saddam Hussein but supplied many of his enforcers who terrorized the Iraqis. Since the Ba'ath are still in power in Syria, perhaps Iraq should ship them all there.
Posted by aog at 09:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Blame only America

I"ve been enjoying Oliver Willis' weblog. Willis himself is a lefty with just a mild case of reality dysfunction but he has a couple of regular commentators who have it bad. I've been jousting with them on and off and it's caused me to think about a few things because the issues I have with those commentors seem to be common across the Left and particularly the tyrannophilic Left.

As I posted over there, the primary problem with their world view is not that they find fault with America ( being a nation of humans, it has many) but that they never seem to find fault with other nations, as if America is uniquely immoral. This doesn't manifests itself just in not explicitly finding fault with other nations, such as condemning just the US for oil politics while ignoring TotalElfFina. It shows up in suggestions for alternative policies which only make sense if one presumes the basic goodness of other nations. The archetypical instance of this is the assumption the the UN would handle Iraq better than the US, despite the fact that the UN is a haven for tyrants, totalitarians and clock watching apparatchiks, despite its failure of will in Rwanda and Yugoslavia and despite its functional failure in Kosovo. The principles that are espoused are treated merely as pretexts with which to castigate the US rather than actual, universal principles. I can understand that sort of thing from Soviet agitprop agents or the Ba'ath Information Minister. How has the West created those in its own midst?

10 April 2003

Posted by aog at 21:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Hawking Iraq

Gideon Rose writes
The administration's postwar plans for Iraq are still being fought over internally, but three distinct themes appear to feature prominently: promoting democracy, limiting American involvement, and keeping the rest of the international community at arm's length. Many observers find this troika somewhat baffling, because they see no way of achieving all three objectives simultaneously.
I suspect that many observers find this baffling because they are suffering from a serious case of reality dysfunction. Rose himself seems to have either a mild case or is just getting lucky. He expresses some concerns about whether the Iraqi National Congress and Ahmad Chalabi in particular can lead Iraq out of the realm of failed states. I have some concerns in that area as well. Where we differ is that I don't believe the hawks (to use Rose's term) are attempting this out of a mistaken belief in “magical powers attributed by administration hawks to the Iraqi opposition” but out of resignation. We must try, we must do what we can, but we can only play with the cards we're dealt.

Rose's primary failure is his faith in central planning. He cannot envision anything happening unless it is planned at the top and implemented through an flock of apparatchiks. For instance,

governing a post-Saddam Iraq [... will require ... ] providing basic services to a large population while restarting a rundown and complicated economy
Some of us believe that if the government takes care of the basic services the complicated economy will take care of itself and that, in fact, attempts to restart it by the government will be counter productive. Perhaps President Bush actually believes in a minimal state and plans to demonstrate its efficacy in Iraq.

Rose gives the game away shortly after that with the statement

The determination to keep out the United Nations, Europe, and the rest of the world might also eventually fall by the wayside, because it is sustained more by ideology and petulance than by logic.
It's just petulance to look at the trail of corruption and malfeasance left by the UN over the last few decades and ideology to wonder about the bona fides of an organization that puts Libya in charge of a human rights commission. Better to abandon the Iraqis to their own devices than inflict the UN on them. I really liked this bit, though:
Negotiating the details of how to bring in others without ceding too much control over Iraq's future will be tricky, but hardly impossible—this is what the much-maligned striped-pants set over at the State Department does for a living, after all.
I think they're maligned because they're a bunch of tyranophiles who would happily sell out the Iraqi people for a favorable annual review. Earlier Rose claims that
So, while the easiest path to stability might be to turn control of Iraq over to some competent pro-American strongman, this would be both a tragedy and a mistake.
Excuse me, but isn't turning Iraq over to a pro-American strongman precisely what the State Department is advocating? Rose is suggesting that we can avoid this result by turning over control to its primary advocate in the US government? And further by involving an organization that dominated by and strongly accomodating of strongmen the world over? The very history of the argument over the invasion shows just how unworthy the US State Department and the UN are to take any responsibility for Iraq. We owe the Iraqis far too much for our failure in 1991 to do that kind of thing to them again.
Posted by aog at 13:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Leftist politics as a lottery

I've always wondered about the mind set of those who advocate totalitarian government. While it's possible for any single person to end up as The Leader, definitionally almost none of those agitating for such a government will be. It's even worse if there are multiple groups (say, Stalinists and Troskyites) because every group save one is going to end up on the wrong side of State Security. Why take the chance? What are the odds?

What I think now is that the people participating have the same mentality as poor people who play the lottery. They don't view themselves as capable of succeeding directly so the best choice is to buy a lottery ticket and hope to get lucky. I suppose if acting politically is the only thing that really matters then why not throw in your lot with other totalitarians and hope that you have the winning ticket. What have you got to lose except a sad little existence in a society that won't do what you tell it?

Posted by aog at 09:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Dream palace of Arabia

A typical article [source] on the reactions on the “Arab street” about the collapse of the Ba'ath regime in Iraq shows the reality dysfunction that is so endemic in Arabia. The key point made over and over is that America needs to “do something” about the Palestinian situation in order to regain the trust of Arabia. This is delusional in so many ways. Regain? When did Arabia ever trust America? But more importantly, why should America care if Arabia trusts us? Hasn't the invasion of Iraq shown that if necessary, America can basically do whatever it wants to Arabia? As for the Palestinian situation, as far as I can tell resolving the crisis translates to betraying an ally by extorting massive concessions out of it in exchange for the kind of friendship we've gotten from Egypt. It's not completely delusional to try for such a result — the delusion is thinking that this would seem like a good idea to the US.

I'm beginning to wonder if refering to modern Arab culture as insane isn't hyperbole. As is commonly said a good definition of insane is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Yet Arabia seems to place its trust in tyrants and their fawning media sycophants and then are surprised (surprised!) when it turns out to be a cruel illusion. Perhaps the best we can do is hope that the Iraqis, at least, have acquired a basic grip on reality.

09 April 2003

Posted by aog at 09:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Iraqi Reconstruction

One of the strongest reasons to keep the UN out of Iraq is its history in Kosovo. I was discussing this with my co-worker BBB and we agreed that one of the key differences is that malefactors are far more likely to be prosecuted by the US than the UN which tends to reduce the amount of malfeasance. I argued that Americans have a strong desire to prosecute and disparage those who do that kind of thing where as Old Europeans seem to just shrug it off. BBB pointed out that in the US, liberals tend to do the same thing for fellow liberals (e.g. Clinton) and therefore all officials appointed to Iraq should be Republicans because we know that if they do something wrong, they'll be hung out to dry.

08 April 2003

Posted by aog at 14:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Slack and self-ordered societies

I have been unable to find the original quote but Victor Eremita has responded better than I can. The entire letter is worth reading but for here the key pararaph is:
In your recent email I was troubled by the phrase, “we have felt as though our government has not listened to our pleas for peace” as a justification for choosing tactics resulting in your arrests for antagonizing people who have no direct influence on the issue at hand. I believe that embracing this widespread belief, and these tactics, are the first step toward rejecting the democratic process.
One of the reasons that I use the term ‘self-ordered’ instead of ‘democratic’ is that (as Orrin Judd comments frequently) democracy of itself is unstable. Without further societal support a democracy tends strongly to head off into either Old European welfare euthanasia or autocracy as in Venezuela. In order to continue over the long term the citizenry must, in the main, take care of itself and its business — i.e. be self-ordered. The game is over once the population looks to the government for moral direction (autocracy) or sustenance (welfare).

One of the essential characteristics of a self ordered society is, for want of a better term, “slack”. This means accepting a less than personally optimal specific outcome, i.e. cutting others some slack, in order to maintain the general order. For instance, if one supports legislation that doesn't make it in to law then one accepts that specific loss in order to maintain the general order that allows such legislation to be made in to law.

What we see in the quote in the first paragraph is the inability of the anti-war protestors to provide this kind of slack. Their view seems to be that it is reasonable for them to escalate their behaviour until they achieve their political goals. One can contrast this with the pro-life forces who in the large are willing to accept the current political outcome without the same kind of violence and disruption we see from the anti-war protestors. As Emerita says this is in fact an abandonment of democracy, a childish unwillingness to not get one's own way. Of course, since most of the protestors seem to have a strong affinity to oppressive regimes this isn't terribly surprising. The anti-war protests more and more resemble a giant tantrum rather than an actual political movement.

Part of what gives people slack in their political affairs is that, in a self ordered society, only a little of the life of the populace is caught up in politics. One of the hallmarks of non-self ordered societies is that the government is involved as a director in most aspects of life, that it's not really possible to live without being political. It is the unusual person in the US that, like the anti-war protestors, lives a life that is consumed by politics.

The US citizenry seems to have kept its self-orderedness — the anti-war protestors are on a death spiral of rejection from mainstream politics as their failure drives them to ever greater frenzies. What worries me more is whether the Iraqis can accept the personal limits inherent in self ordered society. Without that it seems certain that Iraq will descend into totalitarianism again. One of the major reasons I tend to favor a longer occupation is that slack is a bistable system. People are far more likely to accept rulings against them if they are confident that others will as well. A well organized occupation could set those expectations where as a short one would be much less likely to reach the tipping point. It is far more important to affect this change than to provide the forms of democracy, which without self-order are but hollow shells that will blow down in the first wind.

07 April 2003

Posted by aog at 08:56 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Losing it

It's sad to see a number of libertarian writers I've liked lose it over Iraq. The latest example is Wendy McElroy. As far as I can tell from her previous writings she is a hard core libertarian, but in a recent screed she says, concerning photos of caputured American soldiers, “[...] stoking accusations that private firms are censoring free speech” [emphasis added]. It's a tenet of libertarian thought that private entities can not censor — only a government can do that. Definitionally, if a private entity makes a choice to not disuss / publish / broadcast something, that's just a private decision. This may seem like a minor point to non-libertoids but it's a big deal for those who take liberatarians seriously (yes, I know, all three of us care deeply 8-)). Yet here is McElroy, throwing away that principle just to indulge in what is basically conspiracy mongering against the invasion of Iraq. Very disappointing.

UPDATE: It's worse than I thought. She's using Radio Havana as an alternative news source and fawningly citing Robert Fisk in Arab News. Radio Havana says

Although the invasion of Iraq is being fought under the name ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ it has constricted the range of expression sanctioned by media outlets within the U.S. Starting before the war began, several national and local media figures have had their work jeopardized, either explicitly or implicitly because of the critical views they expressed on the war
This while Cuba is rounding up dissidents and giving them life sentences.

06 April 2003

Posted by aog at 21:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Some of the last bastions fall...

Now even the Guardian is referring to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf as the “misinformation minister”. That's a serious bit of tide turning.
Posted by aog at 20:48 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Counting the cost

Oliver Willis posts what I consider a very cynical poster which basically shows the aftermath of a battle and is titled “Don't worry about it ... they're not American”. Let's do some numbers, shall we? In the last roughly 25 years (the reign of Saddam Hussein) the Ba'ath regime has killed something between 1 and 2 million Iraqi civilians. It seems reasonable to count those “killed by sanctions” since those regions of Iraq with the same sanctions without the Ba'ath had lower mortality rates after the Gulf War than before. Doing the math gives us a little over 100 civilians per day on average. Even the inflated totals of civilians is less than that number. It appears that the invasion has lowered the mortality rate of civilians in Iraq. This is apparently what the promoters of this poster (such as Mr. Willis) object to. Who is it really who doesn't care because they're not Americans?

05 April 2003

Posted by aog at 07:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I've read about Stalingrad, I've studied Stalingrad and Baghdad – you're no Stalingrad.

As the Coalition forces close in on Baghdad, the pundits are now comparing Baghdad to Stalingrad [source]. This is of course not because there are any similarities in the military situation but because the Battle of Stalingrad was a disaster for the attacking side. I've mentioned elsewhere two of the key differences between the upcoming Siege of Baghdad and the Battle of Stalingrad:
  1. The defenders of Stalingrad had supply lines to bring in fresh troops, weapons and ammunition
  2. The attackers were on the clock. The overall course of the war at that point was shifting toward the defenders so that the longer the battle went on, the better the situation of the defenders
Clearly our war planners have studied this battle. As I've said before it seems like an excellent plan to rush up to Baghdad and then hold back while the rest of the country is invested. With no country side under control of the Ba'ath and therefore no supplies, supply lines are irrelevant (#1). It also puts the defenders on the clock. As time marches on, the Coalition is assuming control of ever larger portions of Iraq, grinding up the Ba'ath who are outside of Baghdad (#2). This is very important because it means that the Coalition forces attacking Baghdad can be patient and wait for the right moment. If some attack looks dicey, they can just hold off because tomorrow they'll be better rested, better supplied with more troops. The defenders on the other hand will have less of all of those.

The original article makes one other major mistake. Its primary thesis is that the Republican Guard units have gone to ground and are waiting in hidden revetments to strike out at the Coalition forces in a giant pincer movement like the one that doomed the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. This ignores a fundamental fact. While the original Soviet forces weren't a match for the Germans, by the time of Stalingrad the disparity was no longer that great and the Soviets were in rough parity, close enough so that numbers could make up the difference. I see no evidence that the Ba'ath have improved at all since the invasion started. My opinion is that as long as the troops stay alert they will chew up that kind of attack. Even if the ground battle doesn't go well the Coalition forces just have to hold on long enough for the air boys to even things up. The Soviets faced a similar problem but the disparity wasn't nearly as great and they had the troops to burn. The Ba'ath don't. Once those Republican Guard units are gone, that's it for significant Ba'ath ground forces for the rest of the war.

There are serious risks involved in the Siege of Baghdad. But the idea that it will be anything like Stalingrad is just (death)wishful thinking on the part of frustrated anti-war fanatics.

04 April 2003

Posted by aog at 17:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Defining terrorism during war

I half agree with Fred Kaplan — the current suicide attacks on our troops in Iraq are not terrorism against our troops. Kaplan's main point, with which I agree, is that attacks on military targets targets, even if by irregulars or militants disguised as civilians are not terrorism. I have often seen it said that the attacks of the Palestinians would be much less loathesome if they were directed against military targets instead of civilians and orphanages. I've always agreed with that. Making attacks while hiding among civilians may be a dirty war but it's not terrorism. Even David Kopel agrees.

On the other hand, these attacks do appear to be terrorism against the Iraqi people. Forcing civilians in front of militants or forcing them to drive into checkpoints in cars full of explosives — that's terrorism. Kaplan conveintly ignores that aspect of the issue because it would detract from his bashing of the Bush administration. Although, to be fair to Kaplan he does quote Ari Fleischer as saying “We're really dealing with elements of terrorism inside Iraq that are being employed now against our troops” which can be taken by a reasonable person to indicate the the claim of terrorism is based solely on the actions taken against our troops. I think that the Bush administration could just clean up the language a bit and be fine and lay a nice little rhetorical trap.

03 April 2003

Posted by aog at 15:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Women in combat

Oliver Willis has a post calling for allowing women in combat. This is something that I am quite conflicted about. The story of Pfc Jessica Lynch provides arguments on both sides. On one is Lynch's performance under fire. It's one thing to sit in a comfortable chair and say “well of course, I'd fight until the end.” . It's quite another to actually do so under fire. That's impressive, especially for someone who was in a maintenance group and not trained for a combat role. On the other side are two unpleasant facts, the extra burden a female soldier bears and the reactions of other soldier (I'm not going to go into pregnancy or moral issues as those are not further illuminated by the Lynch case).

For the forseeable future, military opponents of the US will be failed states and societies. These will have little likelihood of following any sort of restraint or conventions in war. This means that captured female soldiers will almost certainly endure much harsher treatment than male soldiers and there is little or nothing the US can do to discourage that kind of behavior.

In addition there is the reaction of others to a woman in peril. The resuce of Lynch is apparently one of two such rescues rescues since WWII (the other a SpecOps raid in Panama in 1998 during the US invasion). It was a big operation involving a diversionary attack and a four hour gun battle at the hospital. I do not object to this — I think it's wonderful. But that is precisely the problem. If women are to accepted for combat positions we will have to, as a society, become more callous toward this kind of harm when it is inflicted on women. Given all the effort that feminists have spent trying to encourage that kind of reticence it's a bit strange that women in combat is also a goal.

In summary, I don't know what is best in this case. It's hard to say “you can't do this because you're a woman” but on the other gender is not a purely social construct and sometimes we just have to accept that.

I was discussing this with my co-worker BBB and She Who Is Perfect In All Ways. BBB suggested that perhaps we should have gender segregated combat units (say at the company level) to get around the mixed-gender problems. SWIPIAW didn't think it would work — “then who would open the jars?”

Posted by aog at 09:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Ba'ath PR missteps

The Ba'ath regime in Iraq has kicked out a journalist from al-Jazeera, alledgedly for trying to conduct an interview without a Ba'ath party hack in attendance. It would seem quite the PR error to piss off the most sympathetic foreign news service. But this may just be more evidence that Saddam Hussein is dead or incapacitated. Say what you will about his morals, he did have quite a talent for manipulating news and foreign opinion. I don't think that many of the mistakes that have been made if Saddam Hussein was fully in charge.

02 April 2003

Posted by aog at 21:40 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Turning of the tide

Orin Judd thinks that the momentum of the public view of the war has shifted. I was listening to As It Happens which is Canadian radio show that's usually reliable leftist even for Canada (although tolerable because, unlike many lefties, they don't take themselves too seriously). The host was talking to a MP of the Liberal Party about the impact of the current discord between Canada and the US and what that MP in particular was doing to try and mend fences. The primary concern was the US businesses would cut back on purchases in Canada which could be devastating to the Canadian economy. All very standard but what stunned me was the host asking the MP “So what about the things being said about Americans by your fellow legislators and even cabinet ministers?”The MP was clearly flummoxed by the question and stuttered around it for a bit before claiming that well, they were just musing, they regretted saying those things and they didn't expect them to have such an impact in America. But what could he say? “My fellow party members are idiots”? But the host was willing to drop this on him in a live interview. That's a turning of the tide.
Posted by aog at 15:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Undermining international law

In the cacaphony surrounding President Bush's alledged disdain for international law, one must ask: who shows more disdain, the one who open and honestly states his position or the one who says the words but subverts the deed? Bush gets a lot of flack for things like not obeying the Kyoto Treaty. On the other hand, his predecessor abused his office and international law by signing the treaty and then not submitting it for ratification. A commentor on the thread pointed out the Treaty of Rome which obligates its signatories to make a good faith effort to obey signed treaties even if they are not ratified until the legislature acts to either accept or reject the treaty. This doesn't strike me as fundamentally undesirable, although that treaty itself has been signed but not ratified by the US. I think that he might have meant the 1969 Vienna Convention. §14 applies to the US as any treaty signed by the President is still subject to ratification. § 18 states
A State is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when:
(a) it has signed the treaty or has exchanged instruments constituting the treaty subject to ratification, acceptance or approval, until it shall have made its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty; or
This, like so much of international law, presumes the good intentions of the participants for effectiveness. Clinton's willlingness to sign treaties with no intention of ever submitting them for ratification was clearly bad faith on his part. This of itself would not have been a crippling problem but the international communities bland acceptance of this tactic is what underlies much of the current US disdain for international law. It sets up different world views where the rest of the planet sees the US violating the treaties wile the US views the treaties as irrelevant because they were never ratified. Bush is being far more respectful of international law by expliciting rejecting these treaties rather than leaving them in limbo than the alledged master of diplomacy, Bill Clinton.

01 April 2003

Posted by aog at 18:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Maybe Powell isn't all bad

The Brothers Judd called this article an example of the trope that the Bush Administration has completely screwed up the Ba'ath War. I had read the article earlier and it actually made me feel much less concerned. As a Judd pointed out, the split is not among the actual advisors of President Bush but between those who do advise and those who don't. Perhaps there's a reason for that?

Even better, the group being shut out appears to be composed primarily of State Department staffers and has-beens from the previous Bush Administration desparately trying to cover up their mistakes in the last Gulf War by compounding with repitition.

This is the nut graf:

Powell has stressed his support for the war plan, and those operating behind the scenes said they were acting without Powell's blessing. Indeed, among this group, there is criticism of Powell for failing to combat some of the assumptions about the war with Iraq more forcefully. “Powell won't pick up the fight and won't represent State Department professionals who are appalled by what is about to happen,” a former party official said.
Bwahahaha! This is supposed to be a problem? Ignoring the appeasers and tyrannophiles in the State Department? I cannot contain my mirth. Powell gets a gold star from me for this story.