THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 255 April 28 -- May 4 2003
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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April 28, 2003
As usual there was a lot of mail over the weekend, much of it interesting. And Saturday we scattered Ginny Heinlein's ashes into the Pacific. She wasn't religious, but she was always convinced that she would meet Robert again. Let us hope so.
It's the standard cliché, "we won the war, now comes the hard part."
So. What do we do now? How can we build democracy in Iraq? Is there a chance for success?
Middle Class Rule
Aristotle defines democracy as rule by the middle class, the middle class being those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. There have been a lot of other definitions of democracy, but that one endures: it has been a characteristic of every working democracy that lasted long enough to make the history books. The implications are worth examining.
First, note that nothing has been said about religion, birth, military ability, family connections, or anything else but property. The ruling class is defined by an economic condition: and that condition is the possession of property, not excessive amounts of property but not zero either.
Marx said that history would end only when the proletariat -- those who had no property -- became rulers and everything was held in common or owned by the state. He made no distinction between those conditions. The end result of Marxism has been rule by the nomenklatura, Djilas's "New Class", everywhere it has been tried, and there is no reason to suppose it won't work that way every time. When the state is the sole employer, dissent means starvation, and power comes only from climbing the political ladder.
Most states that have tried democracy by enfranchising the proletariat have ended with "one man, one vote, once," after which a strong man takes charge and ends the electoral process. We then have rule by one party, such as the Baath, or maybe rule by the bogeymen as they demonstrated in Haiti. Incidentally, it may not be true that Haiti was as well off under Papa Doc, Baby Doc, and the Tonton Macout as it is under the US-imposed thugs, but I haven't seen any evidence contradicting that proposition. Our nation-building experiments in this hemisphere don't augur well for what's going to happen in the Middle East.
The task, then, is to empower middle class in Iraq. Can this be done?
Well, on the plus side, Iraq has a middle class. There are people there who own property, and many are well educated. Most are literate. They're not all proletarians and thugs. On the other hand, Iraq has never had a democracy, and the middle class in Iraq has never had any power. Ever. Empowering people who have never had any experience of governing is a tricky proposition at best.
Can You Afford To Lose?
The central question in a democracy is, can you afford to lose the election? If you try and fail, is loss total? Will you be jailed, your property confiscated, your family jailed or killed? If the consequences of loss are enormous, then you don't let the ballot box be the final decision. Nor should you.
The first thing we must do is assure the losers they can afford to lose, and that we will be there to protect them.
We all see the complexities. In some parts of Iraq fair elections will instantly result in the rule of the Mullahs and Ayatollahs and Sheiks. People will vote for the only leaders they ever knew, and since they have never had any political leaders or officials who weren't appointed by Turks, the British, the Monarchy, or a series of dictators, the notion of electing political leaders and giving them real power isn't likely to be thought of, much less popular. There's no tradition of self-government in Iraq. Politics is a career. Of course we're losing that tradition here, so perhaps Iraq doesn't need it: but then we're beginning to discover that career politicians really hate it if they lose elections since they don't have any other career, and that will be doubly true in Iraq. One of the nice things about self-government by the middle classes is that politicians can afford to lose elections, and still have something to do with their lives. Particularly in the early days of this Republic most of our political leaders couldn't wait to go back home to their farms and law practices.
The point here is that Iraq has no tradition of self-government, it has no distinction between political office and civil service, it has no tradition of standing for office, losing, and going back to work as a tent maker or leathersmith or shopkeeper, and almost zero instances of having won a political office, then losing it without losing everything: life, liberty, property, family. Once you went into politics under the old regime, you didn't have a lot of other choices. To get any kind of political job you became a Baathist, and once a Baathist, always a Baathist. Note that in Syria the current dictator was once an ophthalmologist; can you imagine him laying down political office and returning to that life?
What can we do?
If we are serious about building democracy in Iraq, we will have to stay there for a generation, and we will have to make it clear we are going to stay there for a generation; and while we are there we are going to run the country in the sense of running the national government. That means building and training its armed forces and national judiciary, and allocating the national revenues, most definitely including oil revenues. That latter is extremely important.
On the local level, though, we want to turn things over to local elected people just as soon as possible; and we want to distribute some of the national revenues to those local governments. We should, in other words, empower the local governments, give them real power and resources, and stand guard as the guarantors that the local governments can make mistakes but they won't be mired in utter corruption and one-party rule enforced by thugs whether posing as police or not. We guarantee life, liberty, and property to the participants in the political process, and we stand ready to enforce those guarantees. There will be no one man, one vote, once.
We put locals in power and let them run things, including make a lot of what we call mistakes, and "wasteful" decisions, so long as it's all done according to law and not simply under the table bribery and corruption. There's going to be a lot of that, but at least make them be discrete about it.
And when things begin to work at the local levels, we can start looking at a federal constitution for a federal state.
The Top Down Option
Going the other way -- trying to have national elections with real power going to a national parliament -- will be disastrous. There's too much at stake, and the majorities hate the minorities too much. The Shi'ites will want an Islamic state, and incidentally to get their own back from the Sunnis. The Sunni are wealthier than the Shi'ites and will want to protect what they have. The Baathists are a special case, which we'll get to in a moment. The Kurds want a Kurdistan and want the oil revenues to build an army that will help them get it.
There are also the Arab revivalists, who remember that Saladin, a Kurd, united all the Kurdish and Arabic Muslims to throw out the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and reconquer the whole Middle East, and this only a couple of generations after Robert of Normandy rode throughout the region begging anyone of courage to come out and fight him. Saddam Hussein, no Kurd, still tried to use many of the symbols of Saladin and pose as the coming Great Liberator of the Arab world. One might suppose that turning Uday loose on athletes, virgins, and wives as whim dictated wasn't a great way to win hearts and minds, but perhaps Arabs think different from Westerners. Then again, Marcus Aurelius was father of Commodus.
Throwing all these elements together and holding a winner take all national election is a prescription for utter disaster. Surely even the neo-conservatives know this?
Whose Oil Is This?
If we go the other way, building working local governments in which there is actually a chance of government through consent of the governed, and allow that to run long enough that people actually trust the institutions built, there may be a chance for Iraq as a nation. Perhaps not: there is a great deal at stake, namely the oil. Switzerland is an example of a federal government of states that retain real power; the power remained with the states because at one time the linguistic and religious differences between the various people in the Helvetian Confederation were very real indeed, as real as the differences between Sunni and Shiite, Babylonian and Kurd. But Switzerland had one great advantage: no oil. Capture of the control of the central government brought with it no great reward.
Iraq has the opposite problem: control of the central government gives control of enormous wealth, and even if you spend that money honestly some will probably stick to your fingers as you pass it along to the people. What is managing the local water plant or sewage treatment plant compared to getting control of a few oil wells?
Whose House Is This?
The other problem that even local governments will face is the simple one of restoring rule of law. Over the past 20 years a number of people have been displaced: Baathist officials simply came into town and took over shops, houses, olive groves, of people who weren't Baathists. The original owners may not have been killed but they were turned out. Some of them have documentation of their previous ownership and dispossession. Others have nothing but memories and the hopes that their neighbors will remember them.
Restoring clear title to property is important. Without it there can be no rule of law, and without rule of law there can be no democracy. You can't have rule by the middle class if the middle class has a lot of people in it who got to be middle class by acts of terror and theft. (Well, you can, but you have to let a few generations go by, or exterminate the losers, or both. We don't have a few generations, and apparently Saddam's Baathists weren't as thorough in eliminating claimants as they might have been.)
On the other hand, there has to be some finality: claims that your great grandfather owned this house, but the Brits or the Turks took it from him, can't be allowed to displace someone who bought the house in what was a perfectly legal sale. There needs to be an end to litigation. Settling these matters is more one of local custom than any general principle common to mankind -- but they have to be settled, and settled with finality.
There needs to be, in other words, a judiciary system that is reasonably trusted to hand down decisions seen as fair to the local inhabitants. One suspects this can't be national, and that the various Justices of the Peace will vary from one place to another, some being religious figures, others professionals or even local storekeepers with a reputation for honesty. But it is essential that local courts that have the confidence of the local population be set up, and that their decrees be enforced. Given that, there's a start at rule of law -- and a start at democracy.
I do not envy the proconsuls whose task is to build that judiciary.
And once again, that isn't going to happen from the top down. As long as control of the top is in contention, there won't be any real infrastructure of government built. The best people won't even try to become Justices of the Peace when there's a chance to be Deputy Assistant Oil Minister or some such.
But we need those local courts and local governments with real authority, and offices held by people of real ability. Democracy is in part a habit: the habit of submitting to a government you consented to.
Those habits have to be built from the ground up; which means the US is going to be in there for a long time, and controlling the oil revenue and allocating that money will be its most important task, if only to make it clear that it's pointless to compete in politics for control of the oil. If you want to work in Iraqi Oil you get out of politics, and you work for a salary. We are not going to build a New Class.
Which is to say, if we are going to build democracy, we have no choice but to be imperial: not in the sense of an emperor, but in the sense of retaining command. US officials with proconsular power -- with Imperium -- will be running Iraq at the top for years to come.
Can we stay that course?
In the discussion on Philosophy of Science last week, the following was said, and it deserves repeating:
Popper has provided the antidote to irrationalism but he has been so thoroughly sidelined in academic philosophy that students can only find out about his ideas by accident, apart from the garbled and misleading misconceptions of his thoughts that are perpetuated by his opponents.
It's odd, because Popper was still studied seriously when I was in graduate school, and most critiques of his view tended to be refinements, not ways to relegate him to the scrap heap. So it goes...
Also last week was an excellent letter on where to go for security information. It wasn't indexed and should have been.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
For the few who don't know how to find out the exact time,
gives it continually. Obviously http://www.time.gov will take you where you can enter your own time zone. I'm sure everyone knows this but for some reason I never needed that service until a say or so ago.
We often hear speculations about what our "real" agenda in Iraq might be. Rumsfeld and the President continue to protest that we don't have one other than the public statements the President has made.
Of course Republics don't and can't have a hidden agenda. In a Republic the goals of our policies are set in open debate and signed onto by the Congress or representative assembly. There can't be a "hidden agenda" because the mechanism for setting an agenda in the first place makes that impossible. This can be a real disadvantage for a Republic, which is one reason why Republics should have limited expectations about what diplomacy and foreign policy can accomplish. If the goal is conquest and colonization, it needs to be said right up front, and that's fair warning to the potential victim.
Now of course this describes an ideal, but it's an ideal that's not far from necessity. Give the Executive the power to keep, not just operational secrets, but secret agendas and goals, and you have gone a long way toward ending the Republic. Venice found this out, and do note that Venice was the longest lasting Republic in history, and one which the Framers had studied with some admiration.
And it's a sign of the times that many who support both the President and the war wonder if we don't have a secret agenda, and some of them fervently hope we do, and a few influential people are not only sure we have a hidden agenda but that they have helped to set it. The President denies this, of course; but then he'd have to, wouldn't he?
I am not trying to be paranoid here, and my assessment of the President is that he's pretty much what he seems to be, says what he thinks, and is pretty thoroughly on the side of a Republic: he really doesn't want to be Emperor. Of course it's said that Clau-Clau-Claudius had the same sentiments.
Now, while I don't believe President Bush to be stupid, few political figures in history have been smarter than the Emperor Claudius, who believed in the Republic but set up the civil service and other mechanisms that gave the Empire such power and endurance. Empire grew despite the reluctance of a very smart Emperor, one a lot more aware of the distinction between Republic and Empire than President Bush is likely to be, and this is not intended as an insult to the President.
Note also that Empire doesn't really require an Emperor, at least at first: Empire is rule by command, by Imperium, which can be exercised by a junta or a political class: what it is not is open covenants openly arrived at, self government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
It can be splendid, and it's often more efficient than a republic. Clearly there's a lot more to be said on this; my point here is that hidden agendas are very much the negation of what I understand by a Republic.
Facts that aren't quite Agendas
One thing that isn't being said but which surely everyone knows, is that we don't need Iraq's oil revenues to make a profit from the war. All we need is for lots of that oil to start flowing into the international market. When oil gets down to $20/bbl., the Dow will go above 10,000, US government revenues will go up, the deficit will disappear, and tax cuts will look very good.
Another thing that's not being said loudly is that the venial UN Bureaucracy will be the big winner if we continue the "Oil for Food" campaign, which in the past sold oil for bureaucratic salaries, guns for the Special Republican Guard, palaces for Saddam, and money for the various outfits that suck blood from the UN and would die without it.
We need to say it out loud: the time for sanctions is over, we don't care what the UN thinks about that, and we're going to sell Iraqi oil to the highest bidders. The money will go to building public service infrastructure in Iraq, and after the first round of emergency contracts is over, those will go up for competitive bid; but with big penalties for companies that do shoddy work or none at all, and we're going to enforce that with a vengeance.
We'll also put politically correct administrators into the source selection boards. Time for the rest of the world to learn about set-asides, minority owned companies, female-owned companies, and all the rest. (I suspect that US companies, being used to that sort of thing, ought t0 do well in fair competition here...)
The Agenda We Don't Talk About
When most people talk about a US hidden agenda, they are really referring to Israel; specifically that we're over there to bash Arabs to aid Israel. That one needs a lot more discussion than I have time for here. It's certainly not a big factor in the President's decisions (if it were there are many things we could already have done that wouldn't be obvious), but it almost certainly is the not very hidden agenda of a number of people whose advice is quite influential.
As I said, this needs more discussion than I have time for at the moment. But do note that it's the major topic of discussion among Arab sympathizers, both "the Street" (whatever that is) and the intellectuals. Acting as if no one had ever thought about this is not going to work, and indeed will raise even more suspicions.
So What Should Our Agenda Be in Iraq?
I say agenda because we have been using that word, but in fact I mean goals. What are our War Aims, and when will we have achieved them?
This is a matter for resolution by the Congress of the United States. Shouldn't the discussion be going on right now? What more important matters do they have?
Or have we come so far that we think such matters are properly restricted to the President and his advisors? There's a word for governments that set foreign policy that way; and it's not Republic.
If you want to think about the implications of joining the International Criminal Court treaty system, see
and think about it a while. I'll have more to say later. Note that the US Congress has already authorized the President to use whatever force is needed to free Americans held by this court: the "Invasion of the Hague Act".
One wonders just how much of the 3rd Infantry we'd need to do that...
Someone just mailed me to the effect that the Dogs In Elk story wasn't here any longer. Not true. It's here, and I have seen it through the web.
Warning: don't be drinking coffee when you read this.
Coming up on column time. Column will be filed from New Orleans at WinHEC.
And I have a letter over in mail about us being the world's nanny that is so insightful that it scares me.
For an embedded account...
May 1, 2003
0930: There are five helicopters surrounding my house. I have no idea why but they have been here for 10 minutes. I better go see.
0945: I have no idea what they were doing there, but my local news channels don't tell me, there's nothing on the radio, and they've all moved west toward Sherman Oaks, so it's not me they are interested in. Which is just as well.
0955: HAH. It's on the radio now. Someone tried to rob my bank, where I could have been making deposits this morning, but I was doing this. An ambulance is going to the scene. Interesting, the bank is a good half mile from my house, but the helicopters were around me, with some well up the hill into the Conservatory lands above (I live one block from a 50 square mile nature conservation area kept as a wilderness which in Southern California is mostly chaparral and scrub oak and laurel.) But it's all quiet here now.
Access to Energy ( http://www.accesstoenergy.com/view/ate/s41p945.htm )has been around a long time. I was at the AAAS meeting -- I'm pretty sure it was in Boston -- where Dr. Petr Beckmann began hawking copies of this outrageously priced monthly newsletter, and I haven't missed subscribing since, even after Dr. Beckmann died and the newsletter was continued by Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, of the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine ( http://www.oism.org/ ).
They now have put together a library of 8 DVD's on civil defense. You won't find a better collection anywhere. I presume you can get the contents on line, but you don't need to: if you have an interested in civil defense matters, send $149 for the introductory price ($199 is "reguler" but I have no idea when the price changes) to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Road, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523. That includes postage. Tell them Chaos Manor sent you.
I wrote this for another discussion forum, and I probably ought not publish it here since it's fairly intemperate; but I am still boiling mad, so forgive me if this is over the top:
This morning's LA Times had two articles of interest. One was about a bunch of Iraqi's who were saying they don't want any institutions imposed on them, they want to do things their way: that any government that arises must "reflect their society, their culture, their way of doing things." Or else.
The other article was about the pathetic conditions of about 300 inmates at the Baghdad psychiatric hospital. It seems that looters broke down the gates and stole everything, beds, toilets, the motor that ran the water filtration system, medicines, anything not nailed down. They also raped all the female patients.
I presume this is their way of doing things? And this will be the kind of institution they want to install?
Is there any other "civilized" city in the whole flipping WORLD where an invading army is seen as the opportunity to go pillage a psychiatric hospital and rape the patients? Nothing like this happened in any of the riots I have been in and around. People looted Bullocks Wilshire and some stores, but no one even thought of breaking into psychiatric hospitals and raping the patients and stealing the beds. I doubt any such thing happened in Berlin in 1945, or in Leningrad during the siege, or Stalingrad, or even in Tobruk or Behghazi. Sure, conquering armies have sacked cities in the past. The Russians certainly looted and raped in Berlin in 1945. But the Berliners and Viennese didn't see their defeat as an opportunity to loot the local hospitals and rape the patients.
Must reflect their culture, their society, their way of doing things. But I haven't heard one word of shame. Just demands that the US let them do things their way.
Maybe Iraq deserved Saddam and Uday. What kind of people are we "liberating"????
Note that "the Arab way" is to stone women who have has sexual relations with anyone other than a husband, even if they were raped. There seems to be some crazy obsession with sex over there, but it's all to the benefit of the men.
Me, I am beginning to think we had better IMPOSE some civilized rules of order on these people. Maybe we ought to restrict the vote to the women?
And see mail. For the Times article:
Thanks to Clarke Meyers for the URL
And the President is landing on the deck of a carrier as I listen. Heh. Here he comes... Navy One is aboard.
May 2, 2003
And there's a lot of interesting mail on other topics, and answering it ate up the time I had intended for an essay this morning. Another time. Go read the mail.
And it is not quite a Security Alert, but the latest Security Patch slows some systems. I have put that mail from Larry Aldridge of PC Power and Cooling on the Security page. If you don't know about that, you probably should.
And thank you to those who have recently subscribed or renewed your subscription. Without those I can't keep this place open.
And I did sort of do an essay after all:
Over in another forum this got posted:
As anyone who reads my ParaPundit blog
regularly knows, I do not think that ruling Iraq will be easy or that
conversion of the place into a liberal democracy can be done in less time
than decades. It is not like I have rose colored glasses on when I look at
the problems in Iraq. See these category archives: http://www.parapundit.com/archives/
On the other hand, I also do not have rose colored glasses on about the possibility of a safe isolationist fortress America. Technology is obsolescing Jerry Pournelle's model of a republic held separate from the rest of the world. The world is getting too small and the weapons are getting too cheap and powerful. We can not separate ourselves from the largest ideological, ethnic, and religious conflicts of the world.
That prompted me to say "I recommend to you The Strategy of Technology. With technology development here we can be considerably safer than we are likely to be with our armies far flung and committed all over the world.
But . If we are going to be imperial, we need to do it right. Defend what we want to hold. Be despots...."
Which got the reply
As soon as technology advances to the point that it can keep out smuggled drugs I'll be ready to believe that it can keep out smuggled nukes as well.
(not expecting that any time soon)
And that prompted this:
Actually, "smuggling" a nuclear weapon isn't anywhere as simple as you think. The primaries -- we don't think any terrorists have laser triggered thermonuclears, and they won't for a while -- are a couple of kilos of very dense stuff, and are by definition a neutron source. This takes shielding. While you can put a weapon, well shielded, into a ship, this is no longer one or two guys with a suitcase, and hiding the weapon takes some skill.
Also the incentive for bringing in a nuclear weapon is a bit different from the incentive for bringing in drugs. You can sell the nuke to the CIA for several million bucks no questions asked, making quite a lot of money for it; you don't get paid a lot for blowing it off, and if you do bring it in and blow it off and survive you'll never walk alone if your employer survived as well. A lot of smart people will be looking for you.
I am not sure what your point is here. It is because we are in fact vulnerable to various kinds of attacks, some serious -- 9-11 managed to kill as many people as we lose in a couple of weeks of traffic accidents -- that I have never been much in favor of imperial adventures. I prefer us to stay home and build alternative energy sources.
Is there any doubt at all about the proposition that if the US were not in the Middle East in force we would never have been attacked by al Qaeda? Or that it took considerable resources and motivation to arrange the 9/11 attack, more than anyone is likely to be able to mount against, say, Canada or Switzerland? US adventurism has a price. The likelihood that we will be attacked by a smuggled nuclear weapon is, I would say, HIGHER now than it was before we invaded Iraq. We can argue over how much higher, but surely it is higher now? If for no other reason than the madman who owns North Korea in fee simply has some incentive for what he may think is a decapitating and incapacitating first strike. Of course that won't work, but try to convince him of that.
If we are going to be an Empire, we had better work it right, which will involve real compulsory inspection of nuclear facilities everywhere, and probably a CoDominium Bureau of Security and Secret Service. I am sure the Russians will be glad to cooperate and we can build a Grand Senate to replace the UN.
My "isolationism" is merely based on the observation that being rich doesn't automatically make one a target for very complex and very expensive terror operations; it's being rich and in the faces of people who are capable of organizing such attacks. Am I wrong?
I would like to get hot pincers on the flesh of the people who keep sending some of this spam. Is there no way to stop these nuts? For heaven's sake, you can't filter it out without reading the body of the message now. How many people who want their penis enlarged have filtered out messages on that subject? Why hide the subject? But they do. Irwin S. George, please stop sending me this stuff.
These books are built around essays I wrote in the 70's and 80's, and STEP FARTHER OUT was originally published in 1978. It is astonishingly up to date, which is a bit frightening. ANOTHER STEP FARTHER OUT was edited together by John Carr and several friends from later columns. I haven't looked at it yet, but I will shortly.
I'll let you know when these books are available.
May 3, 2003
Larry Niven's birthday. 65th which is retirement, so he had a retirement party. I made some certificates, and gave him a gold watch. A good time was had by all.
There is another security bug which can cause some systems to crash. See the security page.
And tomorrow I am catching an airplane to WinHEC so don't expect much,
May 4, 2003
On American Airlines on the way to Dallas and eventually New Orleans. The US government's airport avoidance conditioning system works perfectly: what was once minor annoyance has become absurd pain, and I doubt anyone involved believes we are safer for it. Indeed I wonder: does anyone on the planet believe we are a lot safer for our "security" measures at airlines? Alex had to exit the security system to mail his dangerous nail clippers home. When he came back in he got just about strip searched. Are we safer now?
Osama bin Laden has finished ruining the airlines, by getting us to do it to ourselves. Of course we now have more civil servants to pay -- but no one wants to fly. Amusing, I suppose.
I have been doing galley slavery on A STEP FARTHER OUT on the airplane. American has more leg room, but if the guy in front of you has his seat back you sure won't do any serious typing. Alex, and then Peter Glaskowsky of Microprocessor Reports, have been reading galleys in tandem with me. This gives me about as expert and as high paid a proof reading crew as any book ever had...
Safely in New Orleans without incident. Tomorrow I get high speed connection. It's late and I am tired.
The transmeta chip isn't fast enough, and apparently has a hideous interaction with Outlook. Sigh. Outlook is beastly slow, but it does let me make complex rules to deal with spam and real mail. But the transmeta chip in Lisabetta just isn't fast enough to deal with Outlook and the result is pain. Sigh. I sure love this little computer except for that....
I just looked at this with the default set to Times New Roman. UGH. Set the font to Georgia. It looks MUCH better.
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