THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 424 July 24 - 30, 2006
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July 24, 2006
The new column installment at Chaos Manor Reviews is on line now. It is considerably revised from what went up at about 0800 this morning; that's my fault for not getting the proper version to Brian who acts as managing editor for the site.
War is Hell. Those who go to war unleash Hell. Is it ever legitimate to do this? Clearly so. We have always had a doctrine of Just War.
I am at present working on editing a series of exchanges of views on the Middle East War between me and my long time friend and colleague Joel Rosenberg. Between us I think most of what needs saying about that war was said and commented. It boils down to this: was the Israeli response to the border incident in which a few soldiers were killed and two kidnapped appropriate to the provocation?
I am persuaded of this much: if Israel can expel Hezbollah from Lebanon in a full Black September operation, then Lebanon will be far better off when this ends than when it began. Whether or not that can be done is not clear; but it is possible (what man has done, man can aspire to; Jordan managed it), and it is a legitimate goal, and that comes pretty close to the definition of Just War.
You will note the similarities to Iraq: the goal, elimination of Baathist tyranny and installation of a government of laws, was legitimate; the means were at hand; and reasonable people could argue that it was possible. I differ with Mr. Cochran and some others who say that it was obvious to all but damned fools and blind idiots that it was not possible. I didn't believe it was possible, but I know reasonable people who did believe it. Greg Cochran thinks that no one but a fool would have invaded; that the administration did less due diligence on this invasion than he did in choosing his children's school. Having had to argue with some of the White House advisors who really did believe it was going to be a cake walk, with Chalabi the Thief riding triumphally into Baghdad and assuming leadership by acclamation, I can say that I wasn't arguing with stupid people. They were great at debate. They hadn't much of a clue as to the real situation, and they tended to argue from unexamined premises, but boy were they good at winning arguments.
Clearly. They won the arguments and we went in. Let me repeat: the goal was legitimate. Those who advocated the invasion of Iraq genuinely believed that the goal was achievable at acceptable costs. Some, like the egregious Frum, refused to admit that there were counter arguments or that those opposing the war had any legitimacy. Now we have been in Iraq nearly as long as it took to defeat Japan and Germany combined.
Israel was in Southern Lebanon for many years. They did not eliminate Hezbollah.
It is a goal worth pursuing; can it be achieved? It will be costly. Hideously costly. Will Israel be willing to pay that price? If not, then the Israeli response is disproportionate and not legitimate; but if the goal is the elimination of Hezbollah, and Israel, having considered the price, is willing to see this through, then the response was appropriate.
If they are not willing to follow through, they should have confined their response to the local area of the incident.
And see also here. Do not wound the king.
I have posted an extensive exchange of letters between me and Joel Rosenberg. Do understand that these were letters. We both knew they would probably be published, but neither of us took the care that we would have taken if we expected professional publication. This was literally an exchange of views carried out over several days. I found it illuminating.
|This week:||Tuesday, July
--- Roland Dobbins
That's Phil's ship. Thanks for finding this.
No one has asserted a moral equivalence between Israel and Hizbollah (at least no one I know), but he says that any criticism of Israel is now asserting moral equivalence between "pure evil" and Western civilization. All of Rush's sympathy is for Israel; he has no tears to spare for the Lebanese Christians and the non-Hizbollah Moslems who are caught in this war. Now Rush is defending Dresden. If that's what it takes -- When his caller points out that much of Lebanon is hostage to Hizbollah, Limbaugh says 'tough patooties'. "Tell that to the Japanese. Have you ever heard of Dresden?" Etc.
And he calls it gibberish when his caller says that the Israeli response is excessive.
There is no case against Israel. There is no debate. The issue is closed. Either you are a liberal enemy of the United States or you are part of the cheering section for Israel.
I cannot believe I am listening to this. He cannot have more disdain for Hizbollah than I do; but apparently Rush Limbaugh would cheer if we did terror raids on Beirut.
"We have fed the world, Goldie, and they still try to wipe us out!" So it is all right to bomb Beirut. Turn all of Lebanon into ashes. It serves them right.
Fortunately the Israelis are smarter than that.
Niven's Law: there is no cause so noble that it will not attract fanatic fuggheads who will get all the news attention.
I have never been a ditto-head but I have usually found Limbaugh reasonable; but this appears over the top. I hope it's just a bad day.
He is now saying that anyone who doesn't agree with him is a liberal who hates the west.
Rush, a few of us have showed that we have some love for the west and this country, but we can find it in our hearts to have some compassion for the Lebanese caught in this war. Yesterday I concluded that Israel has a just cause; but no one I know asserts that a just cause justifies all means including terror bombing of civilians who are not contributing to the enemy war production (and even that kind of bombing is not universally accepted -- see Rotterdam and Nanking for examples).
Now he is calling his caller a fool. That may be a dangerous practice. Well, Mr. Limbaugh, there are some good strategic arguments against counter-terrorism, and having some sympathy for the Lebanese Christians, and being against terror bombing. Terror bombing is not always an effective means for waging war.
Rush now believes he has won this exchange, and it makes him look good. Apparently whether or not he looks good may be more important than what is happening over there.
I do not myself find it makes him look good to shout and splutter at a man who is concerned for his relatives in Lebanon caught in a war they did not choose. War is Hell.
I return to my analogy of the Crips and Bloods taking hostages of Beverly Hills police: Would BHPD be justified in bombing Bell Gardens?
Perhaps I am over reacting, but I am not alone in believing that Limbaugh has gone far too far this time.
I have a lunch engagement with Niven and Bob Gleason, our crack editor from Tor. Bob was the original editor at Pocket who bought both Inferno and Mote in God's Eye all these years ago; then Lucifer's Hammer when he was a Playboy Press; and now will be editor of the reissue of Inferno and our new book, Inferno Two: Escape from Hell.
July 26, 2006
We had lunch yesterday with the Bungie people. I had nearly forgotten MYTH which was a cross platform game I really liked. I had trouble with the interface: I could never get my troops to take the proper formation facing in the proper direction. The action just happened too fast, and there was no way to slow it down, or even to halt the action while giving orders (which was one of the best features of THIS MEANS WAR, one of the better games of that era). All that was deliberately designed, and in my judgment was a mistake, but their theory was that making it challenging would make it more fun and increase sales.
They must have done something right. Anyway they are now owned by Microsoft, and work on games for the XBOX. One of those is Halo, one reason why Niven and I were invited to lunch with them. We discussed possible games from our stories, Legacy of Heorot being one possibility.
One interesting item: I wondered why, when the Skipper gave the Master Chief his pistol, he said it was unloaded.
They pointed out that I didn't know gamers. Give the gamer a loaded pistol and he'll shoot the commander. Give the commander bodyguards, and the gamers will start with the bodyguards. It gets more and more complex; easier to simply make the hero leave the room and close the door behind him before he can find any ammunition. Interesting. But I still don't find it very realistic that the commander would carry an unloaded pistol. Ah well.
It is oppressively hot again. We got up early and took Sable on her walk -- if we don't take her out she will drive us crazy, but if we wait until it's hot she wilts as do we. We got in our two miles, and I combed her a bit, getting out enough hair to make another dog, and now I am going to Hell. More specifically I am going upstairs to the Monk's Cell to work on Inferno II.
July 27, 2006
It's hot and my sinus condition has returned, the humidity is high, and in general I could make a long list of complaints. Better to count one's blessings, but one becomes accustomed to blessings and forgets them, while being constantly reminded of afflictions.
The one thing that seems to help is the sinus irrigation pump. I used it last night and that helped a lot in getting back to sleep. I continue to recommend it:
The Lebanon War continues. The papers this morning say that the Israeli population is unhappy with the casualties -- fewer than a score of soldiers by my count -- and the government is considering aless vigorous campaign, committing fewer troops, and limiting objectives. I have no sources other than the newspapers, and it may well be incorrect; but I do urge Israel not to change goals. Is all this ends up as no more than a retaliation for incidents involving three soldiers kidnapped and seven or eight killed, then it was certainly an excessive response. Ends DO justify means: if the end can't justify the means, then what can?
And I am entirely unable to understand the political or military necessity of air strikes against a Lebanese Regular Army post thirty miles north of Beirut. There may be a military reason for that but I am insufficiently ingenious to discern it; while politically it makes enemies of the very forces that Israel will have to rely on to keep Hizbollah under control once the IDF breaks Hisbollah's back. Unless, of course, the goal is conquest of all of Lebanon? Which is absurd: even if the rest of the world would accept that extreme change in the balance of power, the cost would be horrible: a large alien population under occupation, the lost of any possible allies in the region including Turkey, and the prospect of keeping a large occupation army under arms and not engaged in civilian work for an indefinite period. Sharon would have understood that. Surely his successors do?
What Israel desperately needs is a Lebanese Army capable of sitting on Hizbollah and keeping Lebanon independent of Syria; and at the same time perhaps not friendly with Israel, but closer to neutral than to active hatred. I am not convinced that breaking things and killing people on Lebanese bases well north of the war zone is the best way to bring about that status.
Time will tell.
For those who missed it, the exchange of views between myself and my long time friend and colleague Joel Rosenberg is possibly enlightening.
I have spent the best part of the day doing errands, entering financials, and the rest. For those who subscribed and haven't been notified, I apologize; I'll catch up tonight or tomorrow.
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Depressing but true, alas. Which is why raids on the Lebanese Army make so little sense.
July 28, 2006
-- Roland Dobbins
I have asked Joel Rosenberg for his thoughts on this. I'm still going over it. Unfortunately, much of it parallels what I have said for years. (see below)
Israel has few allies in the region. They have not managed to make allies of the Christians who had every reason to dislike the Muslims under whom they have lived for nigh onto a thousand years. The treatment of Christian citizens of Israel over the years since 1948 can charitably be described as cold disdain. Their war on the Lebanese Army may make sense, but so far I have not seen why they are doing it; yet I don't see any way that Israel can suppress Hizbollah without a strong Lebanese Army under control of a Lebanese government determined to maintain a monopoly on military force inside Lebanon -- the Cedar Revolution, writ large. I haven't seen any signs that Israel acts as if it understands this.
The alternative to a Lebanese government with enough power to disarm the militias and enforce peace and order in Lebanon is occupation of Lebanon. The possible occupation powers are Israel and Syria. Israel wasn't able to pacify southern Lebanon last time. Is this a case of "this time for sure"?
I keep looking for silver linings here.
Rush Limbaugh is now trying to excuse the Republican Party's decade long spending spree and totally anti-conservative actions with "these things take time." I would have thought that if "Big Government Conservatives" had any thought to reduce the size or sphere of government in any area whatever, they would have done it. It may be that some parts of the federal government need strengthening, although with the exception of funding X program and prizes for technology developments I don't know what they are; but the Republicans, with control of the House, Senate, and White House have grown all parts of the Federal Government for purposes I don't discern.
In fact they have destroyed Federalism in education, and done it in exactly the way many of us predicted that the federal system would be destroyed once we brought in Federal Aid to Education in any way. There are no "no strings" Federal programs. None. Zero. There never have been. Those who pay the piper call the tune. Always. And given that the Washington DC school system has always been under the direct control of the Federal Government, what made anyone think they could do better with the schools in the several states? Yes, Military Base Schools are pretty good. Excellent in many cases. But those have never been the models that the educrats in Washington have used.
If you want to see how good the Federal government is at education, look at the Washington DC schools. And if you want to improve education in DC, require EVERY SINGLE FEDERAL EMPLOYEE from President, Vice President, Senators, Senatorial Staff, US Supreme Court, House of Representatives, staffs for all those -- require as a condition of employment that if they have school age children, those kids must go to school in DC public schools. Of course that will never happen. But it would do the trick.
The same requirement should be put on state employees, and particularly on the children of teachers, administrators, janitors, and all other school people: require their children to go to public schools. But again that will never happen. The education unions and bureaucracy would never stand for that, and for good reason.
So much for the Republicans in power in DC. They added to the destruction of federalism in the school systems.
They have spent money like drunken sailors, much of it on corporate welfare.
Under the Republicans earmarking defense and science appropriations went from shameful to ten time shameful, as if Congressional staffers are somehow more qualified to allocate research and development money than the National Science Foundation. The NSF has its problems, but it is still one of the better run institutions in Washington. It doesn't fund many "minority report" grant requests and relies far too heavily on the "peer review" process, but it certainly funds more successes than narrow earmarking. And no, I wouldn't remove earmarking entirely. Sometimes the Congress does a good thing by funding an unpopular project that goes counter to conventional wisdom and scores a hit. But, alas, not often. Usually earmark projects are those that can't get money by competing for grants, but get the favor of the local godfather, excuse me, Congress critter.
The only hope the Republicans have is that the Democrats are so much worse. But: is the nation better off with Republicans in control of both houses and the White House? If we had had a Democratic House over the past two years, would we be better or worse off?
Apparently the United States has no political parties that can be trusted with governing. We need, apparently, to have different parties in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House. It's sad, but it's pretty clear that the Republicans don't know how to govern any more; and frantically trying to do things to encourage social conservatives while continuing to spend ourselves broke is a pretty thin way to get past the situation.
Or am I just discouraged this morning?
I am not Taki's biggest fan, and I can't agree with all he says here, but this is worth attention:
I have heard many of Mr. Bush's advisors speaking of a new world order in the Middle East. There was more of that talk after the operations in Afghanistan and before the fall of Baghdad. It quieted down after Fallujah and got even quieter as the casualties rose with no sign of pacification, but there are still those who think that if we just eliminate all the nests of vipers -- Syria and Iran in particular -- then things will go well in Iraq.
I fear that is setting us objectives impossible of attainment.
Rush Limbaugh has taken to saying that "neocon" is code for "Jewish" and those who say "neocon" are anti-Semitic. Since that accusation ends all conversation, it's a pretty effective technique. Of course it persuades no one.
My prejudices are for civilization. If I have to choose a side in the Arab-Israeli conflict I'll take Israel. That statement would be true of nearly everyone I know and hold in high regard. It does not meant that I endorse all of Israel's actions, internal or external. Their treatment of the Christian citizens of Israel has been both unjust and unwise, driving that once powerful faction into identification of themselves as Arabs, not as Christian citizens of Israel. The Muslem citizens of Israel are generally in actual alliance with the Palestinians. It might we worth analyzing why this should be, but I have given it up since every attempt brings accusations that I am a sympathizer with terrorists.
It is never easy being a voice of reason...
Regarding Suez: My father always thought the US intervention in the Suez Crisis was a turning point in Western History, and the beginning of the end. He did not say that Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide, but he would have agreed that all the rationalizations of forcing an end to the British-French-Israeli recovery of the Canal after they had achieved military victory was an act of the suicide of the West.
I pretty well grew up with that view. The Canal was built by an Anglo-French company, it was operated in the world's interest, and there was no legitimacy of Nasser's seizure. In my judgment. But then in my judgment Jimmy Carter's giveaway of the Panama Canal was a strategic blunder of great magnitude even for that silly man. If ever there were a person consoled as the West commits suicide it has to be Jimmy Carter.
I agree with much of what Joel says: except that winning the CNN narrative seems more important to many of the "statesmen" who are making these decisions than actually winning something important. I am reminded of Pareto's Foxes and Lions and what happens when Foxes rule. And the Lions have not awakened yet, in Israel or in the United States.
Until both Israel and the United States understand what is at stake in Lebanon, I have the horrible feeling that the analysis is correct. All sides here seem to act as if the goal is to win the world opinion poll.
And I say again: if this war in Lebanon, which destroyed the Cedar Revolution, turns out to be no more than a big reprisal for the provocations of the border incidents, then Israel has not only made a disproportionate response, she has made a major strategic blunder.
Regarding allies: I say again: Israel must have an alliance with SOMEONE who can control Lebanon. There are not many candidates for that job, and there seem to be fewer at each stage of this game. And it does not look to me as if the Israeli leadership understands this.
I want to thank all those who have recently subscribed. I am catching up on enrolling all of the recent new subscriptions and renewals. Please keep those coming. And thanks again.
July 29, 2006
Lunch today with our editors and some of his other authors including George Noory.
Niven and I are still hard at work on Purgatorio, or Inferno II, or whatever...
July 30, 2006
Query to readers:
I would imagine any good digital camera capable of close enough focus would do, provided that you have a tripod and enough light. The best lighting might be that Studio in a Box that I reviewed over at Chaos Manor Reviews.
However, I am hardly an expert at photographing large numbers of old documents. Suggestions welcome.
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