View 742 Sunday, September 16, 2012
I have been a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks, and I have neglected commentary on a number of matters that I ought to have written about.
One was the safe landing of Curiosity on Mars. Fortunately, I don’t really have to write anything about that because Fred has done it very well indeed. http://www.fredoneverything.net/God_Exists.shtml
He also has commentary on funding of science projects. I used to say, back in the days when I was science editor of Galaxy, that the tax dollars spent on NSF science projects were as cost effective as any tax dollars we spent. I meant that then, and in general I guess I’d still defend the statement, but do note that it has two meanings, only one of which is positive. There may be a law lurking in there somewhere. Or perhaps Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html explains it all very well.
I have been trying to catch up over the weekend. Part of that was reading several of Fred’s columns, including what may be the most politically incorrect column anyone has ever written: http://www.fredoneverything.net/White_Demise.shtml
In that column Fred says
Yes, yes, I know. I will get stupid mail from stupider people saying that I am a white supremacist. No. I am a brain supremacist. If the entire faculty of Harvard came to consist of Jewish Koreans from Mumbai, I would be perfectly content, assuming they got there on merit. Or even if they came from New Jersey.
That’s the way Fred talks. The question is whether his observations are true, or mostly true, or nearly true. I’ll leave those conclusions as exercises for the reader. I will note, for those who don’t already know this, that when I was young and growing up in legally segregated Tennessee – indeed, when I was in high school it was still illegal to teach evolution in the state of Tennessee although Brother Fidelis managed to explain it to us anyway – when I was growing up I thought and said that the law ought to be colorblind, and thus was considered a flaming radical. After I was grown I still believed that, and over time I was assigned to the ranks of the hopeless right wing extremists largely for that view. And I don’t think I have changed that particular view since tenth grade.
The President has done his Presidential duty in a ceremony at Andrews AFB, and did it well.
The problem with the Middle East is that there is no discernable US policy in place governing our actions there. The President made his Cairo speech to the Muslim world early in his administration, and seems to have believed that it preented a new and undestandable US position, and that it would work its magic throughout the world.
That does not seem to have worked. And apparently neither the President nor the Secretary of State are detail people, concerned with matters such as security. The British decided months ago that Benghazi was not secure and that they could not safely maintain a consulate there. The US continued to operate a physically insecure establishment, but to do so without Marine guards; it was apparently a formal decision to “keep our heads down” and not to have too large and visible a presence in Benghazi. As I have observed in earlier notes on Libya, there is no such place as Libya: the “nation” didn’t exist until the Italian conquest of the Turkish provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and their combination with the Fezzan took many years and was never complete. Kaddafi “unified” Libya somewhat during his rule, but local and tribal loyalties remain much stronger than sentiments for national unity. Whoever wins an Libyan national election will have the opposition of at least one and probably several ethnic groups.
All this was known before the fall of Kaddafi, but US policy does no seem to have reflected this knowledge. There were plenty of warnings that security in Benghazi was lax, but apparently those warnings never reached a high enough level; or they did, and were ignored; or they did and after mature reflection it was thought that keeping a low visible presence in Cyrenaica was important enough to warrant taking the risk. Or – but of course I am guessing. No one who knows seems to be coming forward.
And the Arab Spring continues with riots against America in many places in the Middle East. If the US has a coherent policy on what must now be done, it is not clear to me.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.