THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 405 March 13 - 19, 2006
Highlights this week:
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March 13, 2006
Friday the 13th falls on Monday this month
This should be read in conjunction with my previous musings, in particular the TO&E for Imperial Forces, and thoughts on Iraq and the conservative movement I did last week. One day I will pull together all my writings on this subject and do a coherent essay. Alas, this isn't it.
It's a subject that occupies more of my time than I want to give it, and I suspect that is true of everyone else in the country: and that, I think, is both the problem and the solution. The fact is that most of the country no longer cares about the war in Iraq. We went in expecting a quick victory. We got that, and most of the nation, including most of the Army, hadn't thought beyond that point. There were, I am sure, some military planners who remembered that we had started training troops in military government for occupying Germany beginning in 1943 and we weren't entirely ready when we found ourselves in control of a country that had once been the most culturally and, dare I say it, politically advanced nation on Earth; the land of Goethe and Schiller, the land that invented sovereignty with the Peace of Westphalia; that land that sent Angles and Saxons to merge with Britons and Normans to become the motherland of America. The occupation and reconstruction went well, particularly in our sectors in comparison to the Russians, and over time we forgot that it hadn't all been smooth sailing; but surely some of our planners remembered that.
Colin Powell famously warned the President that "If you break it, you own it." Deposing Saddam would not instantly bring about peace and order. The President ordered the invasion anyway. His explanations for this made no strategic sense: Saddam was as thoroughly deterred as anyone in history, and was pretty well incapable of harming us. He was desperately trying to assure the US that he had no weapons of mass destruction while continuing to bluff his neighbors and his internal enemies that he had the means to bring them all down in one insane Gotterdamerung. I don't say this was clear to the CIA at the time, but it ought to have been: many of us who are not experts on the Middle East understood that was probably the situation, and it was I think clear to anyone who thought about the situation that Saddam was deterred, and if further assurances of his deterrence were sought, he would be desperate to provide them so long as this be done with covert means that would allow him to continue his bluff.
A cowardly bully in charge of a country. A man hiding in his own nation, seldom sleeping twice in succession in the same place, cringing like an outlaw; such people are easily understood by anyone who pays the slightest attention to history.
He was vulnerable, and if Iraq could be converted into an ally of the United States in the coming cultural wars with Islam, that would be an enormously useful thing to do. And the exiles, beginning with Chalabi, were assuring everyone that it would be a snap. The neo-conservatives, of whom Francis Fukuyama was then one, were proclaiming that liberal democracy was the wave of the future and the end of history. From the left, the Jacobin sentiment that within every human heart beats a desire for democratic socialism is the prevailing secular religion of all our academics even if they don't give it the name of Jacobinism, so there was no opposition from that quarter. The only principled opposition to invasion of Iraq came from the Old Conservatives. Opposition from the left and from the Democrats came from the fact that it was Mr. Bush's war. Madeleine Albright and her cohorts would have cheered on an invasion of Iraq led by Clinton, as they cheered on our incursions in the Balkans.
So Bush invaded.
There is an analysis of possible motives by David Warren
The key passages are these:
In this view -- which I hold to be Mr Bush’s -- we are dealing with what amounts to a planetary civil war, between those who accept the state-system descended from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), and an emergent Islamist ideology that certainly does not. To Mr Bush’s mind, only legitimately-elected governments, presiding over properly-administered secular bureaucracies, can be trusted to deal locally with the kind of mischief an Osama bin Laden can perform, with his hands on contemporary weapons of mass destruction.
And the key question, which Mr. Warren goes on to ask, is the question many of us raised before all this started: What if democracy is not the wave of the future? What if the true face of Islam is precisely that of the history books, of Suleiman the Magnificent, a scholarly and refined man of high culture, who conquered most of the Balkans and was stopped at the gates of Vienna only by the Grace of God and the efforts of the Imperial landknechts (who proved to be quite as tough as the hitherto invincible Janissaries). What if the true face of Islam was seen in Jerusalem before the Crusades, when the local populations were forcibly converted except for those successful enough to pay the ruinous tribute? What if the true face of Islam was shown in the tax collectors of the Balkans who took children as tribute; children forcibly converted, placed in celibate barracks, and trained to become the fearsome Janissaries who threw their prisoners into the fire?
And what if democracy in Turkey means the end of the successors of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk and his generals who imposed separation of church and state on a nation that didn't want it, and doesn't want it now? Turkey remains a somewhat Western first world nation only because the Army periodically comes out of barracks and deposes democratically elected Islamist regimes on the grounds that separation of church and state is the fundamental constitutional principle of modern Turkey and the Army is sworn to uphold that constitution.
What if democracy in the Middle East means a choice between Sunni Wahabi and fundamentalist revolutionary Shiite preachers?
And I put it to you that all the evidence points that way: that democracy in Iraq will bring the election of people who don't like us at all, and will feel no gratitude for our having deposed Saddam?
Which leaves open the question: should we stay?
The first answer looks obvious, but it actually raises a question: given the pessimistic view that emerges from an objective look at the situation, why in the world stay longer than it takes to conduct an orderly withdrawal? And the answer to that second question is, the Army wants to stay. The Army (and I emphatically include the Marines and Special Operations Groups in that shorthand "Army") believes it has invested the blood of comrades in Iraq, and wants to stay long enough to make that meaningful. The Army believes it can win.
And so long as the Army believes that, we the people have an obligation to those we sent in harm's way to let them try.
And no: of course that is not democracy, and it is not the kind of thing that those who love the Old Republic should be thinking; but then sending the Army into Iraq, not just to topple the regime and get out, but to go in and rebuild the nation, wasn't anything the Old Republic would do. It was the act of Empire.
And Empire must listen to the Army. I don't mean that Empire turns over domestic or even foreign policy to the military (although it certainly must pay attention to the needs of the Army when it is at home; something we have sorely neglected, and which we will have to remedy soon enough if we are going to keep a large standing army); but I do mean that Empire must listen to the Army once it has been sent on a mission, has spilled the blood of comrades, and the mission is left undone.
If the people believe that the mission can be accomplished and we should stay the course, then the Army's opinion does not govern. The answer to that complaint is the answer Jimmy Carter gave Charlie Beckwith when Beckwith complained that the Iran rescue wasn't going to work and he didn't want to lead it: "Shut up and soldier." But we do not have that situation here. Here we have a military that was sent on a mission and believes it can still be accomplished.
And Empire or Republic, we owe them enough to stay the course so long as they believe they can win.
Footnote: except for the families of troops killed and wounded in Iraq, the war hardly touches the nation. We are three years into this war. Three years from Pearl Harbor the United States was engaged in Europe and the Pacific, there was rationing and travel restriction, we had domestic surveillance and much neighborly vigilance and snooping, loose lips sank ships, there were scrap drives at every school in the land, and our popular culture media were filled with patriotic plays, movies, and songs. We must be vigilant.
The war in Iraq hasn't called for much sacrifice on our part; yet we are the ones demanding that our inconveniences be ended. Discussion in mail.
Nothing is wrong with this picture as far as it goes. Education, factories, infrastructure, and technical know-how are indeed abundant in rich countries and lacking in poor ones. But the picture is incomplete, a puzzle with the most important piece missing.
The first clue that something is amiss with the traditional story is its implication that poor countries should have been catching up with rich ones for the last century or so—and that the farther behind they are, the faster the catch-up should be. In a country that has very little in the way of infrastructure or education, new investments have the biggest rewards.
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
Why are we not like Cameroun? I invite you to take that question seriously.
Then go read The Burning City by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. We tried to address some of those issues.
|This week:||Tuesday, March
Apparently the last upload yesterday didn't "take" and View was blank for a good part of the day. Apologies.
I am about to take my morning walk. Yesterday's view was important enough that I ask you to read it if you didn't, or go read it again if you did. Comments?
The Ides of March
Birthday of the late Stefan T. Possony
Late. The verdammt column is finally done, and I can get back to fiction. I've got George Noury and a guest on the radio. They're talking about "Project SERPO" and alien abductions. I looked up SERPO on the web, and one of the first of the "incredible" documents I found was an interview with an alien, who told the interviewers in perfect English that his planet had "35 hours of constant sunshine and 3 hours of darkness." This made up the 38 hour day. It may be the lateness of the hour, and I may have been struck stupid, but I am unable to understand how a planet can have unequal days and nights.
Perhaps the alien is describing life at his latitude at a particular time of year, but why he would do that in response to a question about weather and climate is not explained.
At this point I fear I gave up. If there is anyone who believes this "Project Serpo" is anything but "incredible" I'm willing to listen, but I don't expect anything to come of this. Earlier tonight Noury had Richard Hoagland, who was explaining that the new Fire and Ice discoveries of the comets confirms some theory of an exploded planet. He didn't explain how it all related to the Face on Mars, or if he did I missed that.
Late night radio is certainly interesting. I usually listen to KUSC and classical music. I am not sure how the radio got tuned to an AM station and Coast to Coast.
Now the news is telling me about Billion Dollar US Treasure bills. A treasury official says they look authentic. Of course there has never been an actual US banknote for more than $100,000, so why someone would counterfeit a one billion dollar bill isn't clear: you could hardly cash it, and I doubt any billionaire would be unaware there is no such currency. Even the Nigerian scam doesn't seem to require quite this much credulity.
The March column is done in all five parts. Now I can pay attention to something else.
I may or may not be serious about the following:
Since we have now told the Arab world that it doesn't matter how modern you try to be, or how hard you try to please the United States, we will not trust you, and we will consider you a potential enemy, should we not now start acting as if we have told them this?
We told the Arabs that we won't trust UAE to do what a Brit firm used to do. There is, apparently, nothing an Arab regime can do to be friends with the US; we will regard them as potential enemies anyway. But we are not making preparations for the result. We are not using profiling of Arabs on airplanes although we certainly are profiling when it comes to port ownership.
In a word: if you tell people they are enemies should you not then arm and prepare for them to be enemies?
I invite comments.
Subject: Tunguska Event and Global Warming.
Did an Exploding Comet Cause the "Greenhouse Effect"?
A Russian climatologist has a new idea of what might
have caused the dramatic jump in global temps over the last century-and it
has little to do with humans burning of fossil fuels. He is theorizing that
the Tunguska Event, where a large meteorite or comet exploded over the
Siberian forest in 1908 drastically altered the upper atmosphere
and the "normal" dispersion of ice crystals there.
I looked at this and the first thing I thought of was what you've been saying about more research. The simple fact that we know so little about global climate that even wild theories like this can be entertained speaks volumes.
Precisely. Precisely. We need to know more before we try fixing things.
March 16, 2006
I'm cleaning up after getting the column off and out of my hair. It was 15,000 words (to be spread out over five weeks). At least it's done.
Sable is at the dog groomers getting washed and fluffed. We walk enough that she doesn't need her toenails clipped, and although the groomers offer to do her teeth I prefer to let the Vet take care of those. She's happy enough about going to the groomer, but she just hates it when I put the muzzle on her. I have to do that because I'm the only one who can put it on her, and she tends to resent being combed for very long unless I'm doing it. Typical wolf behavior. She was watching television the other day. I don't know if she actually saw the Iditarod pictures they were showing, but she certainly was fascinated by the happy barking, and she seemed to be looking at the pictures of the dogs running. She's still the empty nest dog, and pretty well knows it.
Subject: today's wsj opinion section
As I was reading this:
The "Gods of the Copybook Headings" kept running through my mind. (thanks for that btw, my high school English class never studied Rudyard Kipling - I might have actually like poetry if they had)
Danegeld and Copybook Headings are worth reading at least annually. People seldom need educating but they often need reminding.
And the radio tells me that the 101st is breaking things and killing people in Iraq. Airborne!
March 17, 2006
St. Patrick's Day
This one is important:
Hacking Made Easy.
---- Roland Dobbins
By Brian Krebs washingtonpost.com Staff Writer Thursday, March 16, 2006; 12:22 PM
When Graeme Frost received an e-mail notice that an expensive digital camera had been charged to his credit card account, he immediately clicked on the Internet link included in the message that said it would allow him to dispute the charge. As the 29-year-old resident of southwestern England scoured the resulting Web page for the merchant's phone number, the site silently installed a password-stealing program that transmitted all of his personal and financial information.
Frost is just one of thousands of victims whose personal data has been stolen by what security experts are calling one of the more brazen and sophisticated Internet fraud rings ever uncovered. The Web-based software employed by ring members to manage large numbers of illegally commandeered computers is just as easy to use as basic commercial office programs. No knowledge of computer programming or hacking techniques is required to operate the software, which allows the user to infiltrate and steal financial information from thousands of PCs simultaneously.
The quality of the software tools cyber criminals are using to sort through the mountains of information they've stolen is a clear sign that they are seeking more efficient ways to monetize that data, experts say.
So the Army did what it is supposed to do and mounted a large operation jointly with the newly created and trained Iraqi auxiliaries, so of course it's all a political maneuver. The Army got weary of the leaks coming through web logs from imbedded reporters and cut way back on that kind of access, and of course that's a secrecy program.
Propaganda and information control are part of military operations. Surprise. But apparently the military can't do anything right now. Why is this?
I see the Congress has busted the budget and is working overtime to create new entitlements, there are stories of amnesty for 13 million illegal immigrants, and all is normal in Washington.
On entitlements: what happened to the notion of responsibility? And John Adams on each man the best judge of his own interests? I recall the furor when Lynden Johnson broke the $100 billion dollar barrier on the budget. A HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS. And now we are up to 2.7 Trillion dollars and rising. Billions for subsidies. Buy those votes! And be sure to transfer more wealth from the young to the elderly because the elderly vote and are organized. And finance it all with debt because it puts the actual payment on the next generation.
A man should work and support his children
The new motto of the New Republic. Since it's impossible to stop, we may as well get in on it. Borrow more money, spend more money.
And tax reform is probably already impossible: when you get to fewer people paying taxes than those who vote themselves largess from the public treasury, reform is impossible in a democracy.
It no longer matters which party wins the elections. They'll both spend everything they can get their hands on.
God save the Constitution. And up the empire.
For the neo-con view of How To Fix Things, see
Precautionary principle or fear?
When WiFi becomes ubiquitous, what will be the effect? Everyone will be "wearing a wire" including in classrooms. They will also have access to Ask Sam and Google...
http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=031706D gives one University's fears of WiFi, but one wonders if the real fear isn't that all the lectures can (and therefore will) be broadcast live...
March 18, 2006
March 19, 2006
I took this day off
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, 8,000 - 12,000 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. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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