Immigration and other matters

View 851 Friday, November 21, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


The furor over President Obama’s executive actions – which are certainly at the edge of the President’s constitutional powers – continues, but there is precious little debate on the immigration question itself. Fortunately some of that can be done here.

Illegal Immigration

My problem with your assertions (and that of about 98% of the Republican pundocracy) that illegals crossing the border is the only illegal act committed by illegal aliens is so spectacularly wrong. Illegals spend their lives saturated in illegal acts.

1. Working (at all) is illegal.

2. Getting medical services using a false ID to avoid payment is illegal (or do illegals never see a doctor?)

3. Creating false documentation to use for employment is illegal (The 9-11 hijackers got their docs from a service created to serve illegals).

4. Filing federal forms using false ID is illegal.

5. Making false claims of income to receive EITC is illegal.

6. Filing false forms to gain access to welfare is illegal.

I could go on — and most of these violations have severe penalties — but apparently only for citizens. Simpson-Mazzoli taught the world how the system works — Get across the border, lie, cheat and steal while you are here – and be rewarded with citizenship. The push for "amnesty" will just reinforce this understanding by an order of magnitude ( or roughly the number of illegals we have to deal with now compared to Simpson-Mazzoli.) Do what you’ve done; Get what you got. In spades.

Thanks for your time.

Stephen Coyne

Presume agreement with what you have said. There remain problems. First and most obvious, most of those continuous crimes stem from their status. When Mrs. Pournelle taught in the Los Angeles County Juvenile Justice System, there were many young people in temporary detention because they were “status offenders”: they had committed no intentional criminal act, but were living in situations that sent them to detention. Most of them could not read, and had no sense of discipline: it did them no harm to learn some social skills and a bit of deference to authority and self discipline, but it was a damned expensive way for them to learn it. And of course it did them a great deal of good to learn to read, which the schools had spectacularly failed to teach them. Some counted themselves lucky to be in a place where it was relatively quiet and safe and the teachers actually tried to teach them something. But it’s hardly a plan for school reform.

Of course there were many others who were actual criminals, including a girl who had borrowed her boyfriend’s gun to kill her mother’s boyfriend as he was abusing her little sister. Others were shop lifters, prostitutes, and burglars. They shared the facilities with the status offenders because there was no money to build and staff more facilities for better segregation of the juvenile detention population.

I say all this not in answer to your summary, but as something to keep in mind.

You point out that working here as an illegal alien is itself a crime. Indeed: but it is a fact, and while finding some way to prevent their employment – no easy task – would partially prevent that crime, it would also create tens of thousands of paupers who would still be here, only now they have no income. Some might go back to their country of origin, but many would not; what happens next? If the answer is ‘deport them all,’ we will address that later.

The question of welfare abuse is important. The average person in the US living on welfare is considered in poverty here, but much of the world would consider them wealthy, and that includes the countries of origin of many of the illegal aliens here. The proportion of those coming here to get on welfare, as opposed to those coming here to work and send money back to their families is debatable, but there are at least some, and of course once here economics determines whether they try to get in on the welfare system.

Welfare reform is important, but also difficult. The simplest, require some proof of legal status before you can receive welfare or other benefits, has been tried and rejected by the courts. A federal law to this effect may well be passed by the next Congress, although it is unlikely that the President will sign it. But assuming it were passed and signed, it is certain to be challenged in the courts. California’s attempt didn’t survive. But assume that Congress directs the President to enforce the laws, and the civil service actually begins to deny welfare benefits to those who cannot prove legal status in the US.

This would be worth pursuing if for no other reason than it might well stop newcomers from receiving welfare and Medicaid and other such benefits, and that would discourage new illegal immigrants.

It would leave open the question of what happens to those formerly receiving it. They will still be here, and will still be guilty of having received welfare illegally. Shat shall be done with them? President Obama’s solution is to have them register and acquire a sort of pale green card that givens them legal status of a sort, and allows them to get on the welfare rolls again. What would be a better solution? Immediate deportation? We’ll address that later.

Creating and using false documents is a separate issue. It is already a crime for citizens and illegal residents alike, and is best enforced that way, as presumably it would be under the Obama plan. The same is true for many other fraudulent acts in your specification.


Total deportations in 2011, the latest year for which complete numbers are available, numbered 715,495 – the lowest level since 1973. The highest number of deportations on record was in 2000, under the Clinton administration, when 1,864,343 aliens were deported.

Under Clinton, about 2 million aliens were deported in one year. There are about ten million illegal aliens present in the United States. One assumes that the level of difficulty grows with each million deported. If we continued at the 2 million a year level it would take five years.

Whether we could sustain that rate is subject to debate, but it is less time and surely would cost less than our overseas operations In Iraq have cost. If that is what is intended, then it needs to be said; the question becomes then one of the will of the people. If it be that being illegal and here is sufficient grounds for deportation and the law ought to be enforced, we will have to be prepared for the resulting legal congestion in our courts as each case is contested. At present those deported are, usually rather obvious cases (many having previously been deported: there needs to be revision in the law about repeat offenses); that will be decreasingly so over time. We will need to be prepared for the endless newspaper stories with front and inside pictures of children clinging to their mothers as they are taken into custody, and American children crying because the feds took their nanny away.

One wonders if we are up to that.

If not, then what should we do? Mr. Obama has proposed a course of action. Unlike the Simpson- Mazzoli Act of 1986 signed by Reagan, it doesn’t seem to impose penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, and has no citizenship path for those covered by the amnesty. The Reagan amnesty was intended to deal with about 4 million illegal aliens then resident in the US. There are some ten million now some 28 years later. Of course some put that number as high as 40 million, and most agree that ten million is an underestimate. Whatever one’s opinion of Mr. Obama’s decree, it does not solve the problem addressed by Simpson-Mazzoli, just as that amnesty did not solve the problem it faced.

It truly is time and past time for a rational discussion of immigration policy, and of the measures it will require to regain control of the US borders. This is an opportunity for the Republicans to propose sensible measures to cope with a large and growing problem; even if they are rejected by the President (the lame duck Democratic majority in the Senate vanished in January) it is an opportunity for the Republicans to show they can govern.



I agree with nearly all of your comments about not panicking, especially as I see this as doing long-term damage mainly to the President.

But I think you have the pardon power wrong. Sure, Obama could pardon each and every illegal for having been in the country illegally, but the next day they are still here illegally. He can no more pardon them prospectively as he could pardon someone from ongoing perjury or being a felon in continued possession of a gun.

Kevin Murphy

Yes, I expect so. But he is a former lecturer on Constitutional Law…

Constitutional Crisis

Hi Jerry,

I wonder how many people who applaud Obama on the immigration executive action, will likewise applaud a pro-life president who orders the FDA to stop certifying medical devices and drugs used in abortions, or to stop reimbursing hospitals and doctors who perform them.

Executive overreach always sounds good when it’s one doing something you like, but precedents are dangerous. Eventually the other side has their turn at the plate.

I don’t disagree that we need to do something, and that that something doesn’t include deportation. But the constitutional principle is a separate, and frankly more important, long term concern for the future of the country.

He doesn’t give a darn about immigration. This was a purely political snipe to put the Republican’s into a dither and have them expend limited political capital in ways that won’t put legislation on his desk.



I’m hardly applauding him, but his encroachment in the illegal aliens case is still in the debatable range. It is not allowable in my view, but I am merely a former professor who taught constitutional law to undergraduates. I will agree that the long term implications are important and ought to be addressed, but it is not time to panic. On the other hand, the time to panic over the condition of our grade and high schools is long past, yet we seem to muddle along.


Illegals Serving In US Military For Green Card

There’s two broad classes of illegals: those who wish to be US citizens, and those who do not, and simply wish to make money here and then return to country of origin. The military scheme might work for the former, although history shows what happens when foreign mercenaries take the place of native citizens.

Probably a better solution would be to, in addition to military service being a path to a green card, allow civilian service as well, in organizations similar to FDR’s CCC and WPA, designed to repair and replace infrastructure. President Obama might think that illegals are only good for being hotel maids, but I’ll tell you from personal experience that most construction workers and skilled tradesmen these days are Hispanics. Employing them in Americorps or some similar infrastructure program with a green card incentive would only make sense.

Robert Evans

I would certainly keep a close watch on numbers, but serving in the armed forces as a path to citizenship is a pretty good indication of loyalty. I am well aware of the dangers of a Republic entrusting its safety to hirelings – as was Machiavelli, for that matter.  The Venetian Republic took Machiavelli seriously…  Adding various civilian service paths might make sense; I hadn’t thought about that before.




Apple Stores


My experiences in Apple Stores have ranged from very good to excellent; however, at this point I would hesitate to go for the resolution of a problem without a Genius Bar Appointment.

Apple Stores are currently suffering from success. It appears to me that every Apple Store I have been in in the last year has had about twice the number of customers that the store was designed to handle smoothly. Staff has been added to try and handle the customer load, but the stores are so crowded that everyone is literally tripping over each other.

I am sure that Apple is well aware of the problem and is actively working on locating and opening new stores. This will take some time. For the time being I will take my own advice and schedule a Genius Bar Appointment if I have a problem to be solved.

Bob Holmes

That squares with my observations. And I am making an appointment to take in my MacBook Air with the swollen battery before I go look at the new iPhone six. Discussion in the November column, which I am of course late in getting done.


Donald Cook systems disabled by Russians, NOT


As an engineer and former navy aviator and consultant, I don’t believe for a second the report that a Russian plane disabled systems on the Donald Cook. It may have blinded the radar when it was really close – that’s easy. It might have jammed all the radios – that’s easy too. There is no way it disabled other systems. This is pure Russian fantasy, being re-transmitted by gullible westerners. Modern weapons systems and platforms are designed to tolerate nuclear EMP and HEMP, which are far more powerful than any electronic weapon. Popular entertainment media greatly exaggerates the capabilities of these weapons and of hackers.

In a combat situation, the aircraft would not have gotten close enough to blind the systems. And, if it tried, it would have been taken out by a home-on-jam missile – that’s what they are for.

John Moore

I knew a Wizzo (Electronics Warfare Officer) in a RF4B who shut down 3/4 of Los Angeles for 15 minutes in the early 80s by accident. It ain’t unheard of, particularly in the military. In fact, we have routinely fielded aircraft to do exactly this. It’s how anti-aircraft defenses are disabled. The tragedy is that we continue to build electronics without EMP protection.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Amnesty but do not panic; Women in Combat; the Caliphate continues; A treat for all scholars.

View 851 Thursday, November 20, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


The President has announced his executive order driven amnesty program, and I have seen many people in near panic. In another conference one chap said “I watched an elected president of the United States [do something unmentionable] with the United States Constitution and the rule of law tonight. It was a tragic event that reminded me of nothing so much as of Hitler in the 30’s.”

I understand the emotional response, but I would not go that far. I answered:

As a former Reagan advisor and one time Republican Party County Chairman I’m hardly a big fan of President Obama, but is it possible you have overstated your case? One powerful reason for strong opposition to amnesty programs comes from the effects of Reagan’s amnesty: it was supposed to be accompanied by much stricter control of the borders, but the result proved to be — as predicted by some — a larger flow of illegal immigrants to the United States because they were convinced that if they could get here and remain for a while without attracting the attention of the authorities — that is, by obeying the laws and staying under the radar — they would eventually win an amnesty as their older relatives had obtained.

This resulted in several million — the estimates vary — persons who are criminal by definition — they are illegally in the United States — but not otherwise, and some portion of them — again the numbers vary — have been faithfully employed in construction, farm work, road work, and as housekeepers and nannies.  At least that’s the situation in California where there are said to be many more than a million such persons, not wanted for any crime, many valued for their services, but illegally here and subject to deportation.

As the President said, it is not realistic to project that at any time in the near future these people are going to be rounded up and deported.  We have neither the police, nor the judicial/legal resources to do this, and it would be a strain in transportation resources to do this safely.  It’s a massive job, precisely because it must be done under rule of law and not as a simple military exercise such as the internment of legal residents and citizens of Japanese ancestry in California at the beginning of World War II.

His move to "solve this" dilemma by executive action is questionable; his authority is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, but the Constitution does not specify which laws when it is literally impossible to execute every one of them,  This, at least, is his interpretation, and while I do not agree with all of it and I suspect the courts will not agree with it either, it is not an outrageous claim; no more so than some of Roosevelt’s changes in constitutional tradition which have now become part of accepted practice.  Moreover, he was pretty careful to exempt those actively engaged in crime in his amnesty decree.

I have not wisdom enough to propose a general solution to the problem of about 10^7 people illegally present in the United States, with some proportion larger than half guilty of no crime but illegal presence in this country,  It IS unrealistic to believe that they be rooted out and deported forthwith.

The constitutional crisis will be dealt with as such things have been for a hundred years. Mr. Obama has not been notable for his bargaining capabilities, but given the results of the last election there are plenty in the Minority Party to which he belongs who are good at such matters.  Meanwhile it is not a constitutional crisis with much immediately dire consequence.  It may encourage a new flood  to enter the US in the hopes of future amnesty, which will make for a sufficient border problem as to require a lot more resources and attention to be devoted to it, or even the employment of the National Guard, but even that is not truly a calamity.

If I wanted to panic over the state of affairs in these United States, I would be most concerned with the rapid and steady decline in our education system that began with the creation of a federal Department of Education and the theory that local schools can be managed from State capitals and the District of Columbia; but then we recognized that problem in 1983, tried to panic, and in fact did little but watch the situation grow worse and worse ever since, and maybe now it is time either to panic or to start encouraging a brain drain in the general direction of the United States….  Or both.

I will admit that is a bit softer than what I might have said here, but on reflection I see nothing to change. This is not a time to panic. The President has exceeded his authority, but not in a catastrophic way. He has issues a decree that states that it is reversible. Some of his legal people have asserted that he has more powers he hasn’t used yet, but for the moment he has done nothing that he could not have done, tediously, by issuing 5 million pardons. [Note to House Judicial Committee: there ought to be the Congressional equivalent of an executive decree stating that multiple pardons cannot be issued without the consent of Congress: each pardon must be individually signed by the President.]

God reigns, and the government at Washington still stands. Now, we hope, some sense will settle into the Congress and result in some realistic approach to the problem of ten to the seventh illegal aliens unlawfully present within our borders. We would deal with an invading army; surely we can deal with this?

If our colleges and universities were reliable and trustworthy one partial solution suggests itself: anyone who has managed to obtain advanced degrees in needed professions gets a green card with the diploma. That won’t take care of ten million but it will relieve some of the pressure on companies who need critical workers. Of course that must be done with care. We do not need a million community organizers or sociologists or graduates in various studies programs. Sorting all that out won’t be easy, but then politicians are paid big money to sort out difficult problems. Let them earn some of it.

Another easy partial solution is obvious: serve two four year hitches in the United States Armed Forces, and on successful re-enlistment (the military wants you back) or the receipt of an honorable discharge you get citizenship. I wouldn’t think that one very difficult to get through either party in Congress.

But after all the obvious partial measures are accomplished, there will remain millions of persons here illegally but guilty of no crime other than their status. This is not a political problem, it’s a statement of reality. Something must be done.

President Reagan thought an amnesty coupled with more vigorous control of the border would be the solution to a much smaller problem. It wasn’t, and the problem grew. Mr. Obama should think about that; certainly the Congressional leaders will.


Women in Combat Units

I dearly hope this article is seminal.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

Here’s Why Women in Combat Units is a Bad Idea

Anna Simons

November 18, 2014 · in Charlie Mike


Three problems plague the debate over whether all combat units should finally be opened to women. (Actually, there are four problems: The fourth and most important being the likelihood that there will be no real debate, something that I hope this article will help to mitigate). Most career soldiers and officers I know believe the integration of women into Special Forces teams, and into SEAL, Ranger and Marine infantry platoons, is already a forgone conclusion. From their perspective, politicians in uniform (namely, top brass) don’t have the intestinal fortitude to brook the vocal minority in Congress – and the country, really – who think mainstreaming women into ground combat units is a good idea.

As for the other three problems, the first is that every sentient adult knows what happens when you mix healthy young men and women together in small groups for extended periods of time. Just look at any workplace. Couples form. At some point, how couples interact – sexually, emotionally, happily and/or unhappily – makes life uncomfortable for those around them. Factor in intense, intimate conditions and you can forget about adults being able to stay professional 24/7. Object lesson for anyone who disagrees: General Petraeus.

Problem number two: Those who favor lifting the combat exclusion ban engage in a clever sleight of hand whenever they equate women serving in combat with women serving in combat units. Given women’s performance over the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq, who but a misogynist would doubt their capacity for courage, aggressiveness or grace under fire at this point? But battles are like exclamation points. They punctuate long stretches when there are no firefights. Spend time around soldiers when they are coming down from adrenaline highs, or are depressed or upset; they are prone to all sorts of temptations. Alternatively, under Groundhog Day-like conditions, troops invariably grow bored and frustrated. How quickly we forget Charles Graner and Lynndie England, and the dynamic between them that helped fuel the sadism at Abu Ghraib.

* * *

Or what about combat soldiers’ spouses, who already have more than enough worries? Why don’t their concerns count? This is a question that leads to a cascade of others for anyone who truly cares about equity. Whose equity should most matter? And who should get to determine this?

The irony is that combat units are ‘it’ when it comes to protecting all the other equities we Americans value. That is inconvenient truth number one. We have no other front-line/behind-the-lines first responders. Why would we want to do anything that jeopardizes their cohesiveness and integrity?

Inconvenient truth number two is that men and women have been each other’s most consistent distraction since the beginning of time. To pretend that we don’t know what will happen when men and women are thrown together for prolonged periods in emotionally intense situations defies common sense. Being overly academic and insufficiently adult about adult behavior isn’t just irresponsible but imperiling, and belies the deadly seriousness with which we should want combat units to perform.

Anna Simons is a Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School.  She is the author of  Networks of Dissolution: Somalia Undone and The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces, and is most recently the co-author of The Sovereignty Solution: A Commonsense Approach to Global Security.  The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or the Naval Postgraduate School.

Agreed. Well worth reading in its entirety. I recommend it to all my readers.


Choose the Kurds

As you say wars of this type are never easy.

I would instinctively choose the Kurds as the culturally closest to us of the combatants. Big problem would be Turkey, who could well feel threatened by a successful, well armed embryonic Kurdish state on its borders.


The Turks already have a well armed embryonic Caliphate on their border.

Airstrikes strengthening ISIS

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe you will be interested in this article, though I doubt it will give you much pleasure.

It appears that our pinprick airstrikes against ISIS, far from weakening our enemy, is strengthening them. Why? Because we’ve been bombing other rebel groups as well. Those groups, figuring they will be lumped in with ISIS anyway, are hastening to merge them. So we have subtracted pennies from their strength through airstrikes but indirectly we have added pounds by fostering their merger and alliance with other rebels.

The upshot is that ISIS is stronger now than it was before this campaign was started.

I am trying to practice more optimism so .. there’s still time for Americans to do the right thing after all the other options are exhausted. So it appears that’s one less bad option between where we are now and actually doing something right!


Brian P.

And we still have no objective in that war. As the president turns his attention to immigration, having solved the Middle East problems. At times I do fear for the Republic.


"…as turning off the TV set with the remote control."

Russian plane completely shuts down US warship’s electronics.

Scary indeed.

Utter dependence on having the superior technology forges a most brittle weapon.



: Pentagon: Military Losing Technological Superiority to China

Time for some Strategy of Technology thinking. Of course, the military is currently being used as a social petri dish, vs. a means of national defense.


Jim Riticher


Scary indeed.


Dear Sir,

I finally found something that rates inclusion in Chaos Manor.

(Assuming you haven’t already seen it.)

Have a great day!

M Henley

Home schoolers alert. And don’t forget the California Sixth Grade Reader


Before the election I wrote:

"If you are eligible and don’t register, or are registered but don’t show up to vote the politicians will see that as approval or indifference. Since neither condition poses any threat they will continue in their ways. If you really want to see change, registering and voting is the first step in that process."

Obama’s comment after the election that he "heard the 2/3 that didn’t vote" seems to bear that out. Despite the shellacking that the Democrats got it doesn’t really matter in his view.

That 2/3 of those eligible did not register or vote indicates only that they are (pick one or more) stupid, lazy, not paying attention, or are so disgusted with politics and the politicians and the conduct thereof that they refuse to participate. As for the first three, well, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to determine the course of the nation anyhow – sort of a political Darwin Award. For those disgusted I can only say if you want things to change you must participate. Remember the old observation: "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

This also means we don’t sit back and let things go. Write – e-mail doesn’t even need a stamp. Hold the Republican’s feet to the fire to keep them on track. Don’t let them wander off like they did last time they were in control. Remind them of that.

Obama’s arrogant speech managed to seriously infuriate a lot of people on both sides.

Another good thing that happened is that every candidate that Hilary campaigned for lost and that likely means her chances of getting the nomination is somewhere between poor and nil.

It’s interesting to watch the Democrats thrash about trying to downplay what is perhaps the strongest single-party sweep in U.S. history. From Obama’s inane remark that the ones that didn’t vote are more important than the ones that did, to Pelosi’s idiotic babble (the fact that the House Democrats persist in voting for her as their leader raises serious question of their judgment and any capacity to govern – and Harry Reid isn’t any better) the level of self-delusion is staggering. These are the people who think they know how everyone should live and act? They would be well-advised to consider the old saying that it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Take care,



Pournelle’s Iron Law and Apple

Dr. Pournelle:

You have, once again, proven prescient. From your description of your experience at the Apple store, it seems your Iron Law has taken hold there: bureaucratic adherence to the store’s process is more important than service to a paying customer. "Come back later at my convenience and I’ll deign to take your money."

Pete Nofel

I can hope that this was a temporary and local situation. Most readers report good experiences at the Apple store.


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.





View 851 Monday, November 17, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


I have been working on fiction.  I paid the bills and deposited checks, and I have just a little more in the bank this month than I did last month.  As Mister Micawber tells David Copperfield:

"My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and — and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!"

Fortunately I am not floored, even though I have slowed down a lot.  Authors don’t get pensions, but backlist sales are pretty good thanks to the eBook revolution, and I add to the list as I can.  The Sixth Grade Reader has a small but steady monthly sale as parents realize its value to children from fourth to tenth grade, and Starswarm does well with young adults. And thanks to the subscription drive this place brings in an income. My thanks to all of you.


I need to do a more complete coverage of the alternatives and possible disasters in the Middle East.  So far the potential for disaster grows as the President is unable to choose feasible goals and move toward achieving them.  “Get out and adopt John Quincy Adams foreign policy

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821

Would not be optimum, but at least it is a goal; it is probably what the President really wants, but there is too much pressure from others to allow him to achieve it. But without a discussion of goals that include that one, and choosing an objective and sticking to it, we face increasing possibilities of disaster.

Some preliminary thoughts:



The Caliphate has beheaded another American, in public, in an attempt to provoke blind retaliation. They invite retaliation. We have the means to do it without taking significant numbers of casualties. They want us to come break things and kill people. Every bomb that falls out of the sky killing people below has an effect.

What might they be thinking?

Suppose you were a young Sunni Moslem whose family has lived in Mesopotamia since a wandering herder named Abraham left for the West.

Might you think like this?

“Who are these Americans and what do they want? They came in and removed Saddam, who was a tyrant, but he was not intolerant of Sunni, even though his war was with Shia Iran. Iran fought like barbarians against us. We fought back. My grandfather was killed in that war, fighting with ancient weapons. We were triumphing, when the Americans intervened the first time. Then someone we do not know killed several thousand Americans and brought down their tallest buildings. Sunni men, willing to die for the Prophet, PBUH. America for no reason blamed us.

America came in with bombs and tanks and overwhelming force. They beheaded Saddam. They killed 100,000 of us, most Sunni, then set up a government of Shiites who proceeded to burn our mosques, turn our people out of office, destroy our economy, and drive Sunni into the desert as Shia took over their homes and lands. The Americans armed the Shia, trained their soldiers, and fought on their side – and then left, leaving all those weapons with the Shia.

Whereupon the Caliphate came in and invited us to join them. They came and fought like men. The Shia ran away abandoning all those weapons left by the United States. The Caliph has those weapons now, and we are invited to join his forces, may Allah grant him wisdom. The Caliphate is recognized as a government by Sweden. The Caliph tells us that he is restoring the law of the Prophet, PBUH.

What do these Americans want? They do not tell us. Why do they bomb us? We do not know. Then send spies, and drones with bombs and rockets. What do they want, and why should we prefer it to the Law of the Prophet?”


I have long felt that our nasty national habit of interfering in everybody else’s business, whether or not we were invited to or even know what’s going on, is going to reap us a doubly-nasty payback. It’s like getting stuck in in someone else’s domestic dispute—all too often, the quarreling sides hate the interferer, even when the interferer is taking their own part against their opponent.

We got into this habit during the Cold War, and it’s time we stopped. ISIS is none of our business. It’s hard luck on the religious minorities in that part of the world, but it so happens that conformity to the majority sect is part-and-parcel of patriotism there, just as speaking the national language was during the upsurge of nationalism in Europe between 1848 and 1945. And no amount of revenge will revive the dead of 9-11 or rebuild the Towers, so why keep throwing American lives and money away to no purpose?

Eric Oppen

I was opposed to the first invasion of Iraq in the Kuwaiti incident, and even more so to the conquest of Baghdad; but once we had done that, totally interfering with the correlation of forces in the Middle East, it was incumbent on us to do something useful.  The problem was that we hadn’t had any notion of what to do before we went in, and we never came up with an objective beyond wringing Saddam Hussein’s neck.  Actually we pulled his head off.  But with him gone the “nation” of Iraq vanished, only apparently no one understood that. We also watch Turkey change from a secular state to an Islamic state, just as Mustapha Kemal Ataturk feared.  We did nothing about that. It is as if no one in Washington took the Sunni/Shiite division seriously.  The Thirty Years War which ended with the Peace of Westphalia. Pope Innocent X condemned the Peace of Westphalia as “null, void, invalid, unjust, damnable, reprobate, insane, empty of meaning and effect for all time,”  but it was a peace of exhaustion, and its effects lasted.  It was the start of all international law. There have been religious conflicts but no major religious war (other than against Turkey) since 1648. 

There has been nothing like the Peace of Westphalia among Muslims, although the West has often acted as if there had been. The destruction of the Turkish Empire and the drastic change of Turkey from a Caliphate to a secular republic made it possible for the West to believe that the religious differences among Muslims were no longer of vital importance.  ISIL is making it clear to all that this was a false conclusion.

We need a careful and objective analysis of US interests in the Middle East. It is not likely that this Administration can do that.  It is not clear who can.



Victor Davis Hanson’s daughter has passed away.



Roland Dobbins

I have been an admirer of Professor Hanson for decades.





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.