THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 401 February 13 - 19, 2006
Highlights this week:
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February 13, 2006
Friday the 13th falls on Monday this month.
Quailgate! The news is full of the scandal. The Vice President of the United States shot a lawyer! But it has all happened before. A long time ago, of course. I think the last time a sitting Vice President shot anyone was when Vice President Aaron Burr (Colonel, USA, ret.) shot Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (Colonel, USA, ret.) in a duel.
And Burr went on to try to start an Empire in the South!
Now when I have been quail hunting, the rule is that you walk in a line, and shoot only in an arc from 45 degrees to your left to 45 degrees to your right. If someone gets ahead of the line it's his own fault. Targets pop up at unexpectedly, and you shoot by reaction. Depending on the separation of the hunters it's not all that dangerous, but you do have to obey the rules -- and that includes everyone. I haven't heard who was at fault here, but it's hardly an unusual situation for there to be minor injuries in quail hunting. Note that fly fishermen sometimes get hooked by other anglers. There ought to be Federal regulations for quail hunting and fly fishing and a new bureaucracy set up to supervise, and Federal licenses for hunting and fishing that you can get only after a mandatory safety course. We need a campaign to set that up. Will it be in Interior, or Health and Welfare or whatever that bloated Department is? We need national debates on this. I think the former Presidents ought to be put on a National Commission to discuss this. When will we take these terrible accidents seriously? How many must be killed before the Federal Government does its duty? Who is covering up the need for this legislation?
If this doesn't appeal, see IED's and the Strategy of Technology in the modern age last Saturday.
I see Mrs. Brady is using Quailgate as an opportunity to denounce ownership of handguns. As it happens, I once owned a .410 shotgun revolver, useful for defense against snakes when fishing, but I wouldn't want to go bird hunting with it. But wait, I gather that it was illegal as an ugly shotgun so no new legislation is needed.
Subject: re: when
When is "Mamelukes" coming out. You have had 65,000 words for several years yet. It has been so long that I honestly thought that you had died.
Reports are greatly exaggerated. I'll get it done when I do it.
I confess I thought he got a raw deal and was rushed into a guilty plea and a long sentence he didn't deserve. In my defense, I had no sources of information beyond the newspapers and a few comments from people who had been around but weren't involved in his case.
I now find
which tells a different story. I have no other knowledge about this web site; the link was sent to me by a friend, and since I had already read the story (sent in a letter in plaintext) I can't say I have spent much time at all at that site.
It does give an entirely different view of Lindh. I have no evidence regarding its veracity.
I do find that Kathryn Cramer is an old friend and married to David Hartwell whom I have known forever.
|This week:||Tuesday, February
Happy Valentine's Day
I suspect this was planned all along as a goodwill gesture. Cheney shot a lawyer. Not altogether bad. And it was a relatively harmless accident -- not unlike Ford falling on his face. I think he's just wooing the stand-up comic and anti-lawyer voter bases. It should serve as an adequate distraction for at least a month. Has anyone checked to see if we invaded someone last weekend?
-- Rob Maxwell rmaxwell at mindspring dot com
Having been quail hunting, I can understand how this happened. Apparently they used different rules from what I am used to: you walk in a line abreast and you can shoot only in an arc of 90 degrees in front of you. The dogs run ahead to flush the game, and the real danger is of shooting a dog because quail fly low. I'm not familiar with hunting rules that allow you to shoot behind you, but perhaps this hunt was organized with stationary hunters. I do know that quail hunting needs a lot of care for the rules, because it usually takes place in high grass, the birds fly low and fast, and they start suddenly with a fairly loud sound. It's a fairly dangerous sport. When we were teen age my friend Buck and I used to hunt quail with our dogs. We stayed close to each other so each of us knew where the other was, and our main concern was for the safety of the dogs -- and for getting through fences, because getting through a fence with a shotgun is pretty dangerous if you don't unload the gun before you go through. It's easy enough to break open a single or double barrel shotgun but unloading a pump each time you go through a fence is a pain; and handing a loaded gun through the fence can if you're not careful have a moment in which the thing is pointed at one or the other of you. You don't want to set it down in wet, muddy ground.
In any event, hunting accidents happen, although one would expect a former Secretary of Defense and sitting Vice President to have good hunting rules.
Which is probably enough on this story.
Had a nice note from Sir Arthur Clark, with a picture of his 88th birthday party. They're still recovering from the tsunami. He looks pretty good and he's got a great staff helping take care of him.
Noticed you linked to the column about Lindh that Cramer posted. I was a little surprised to read that you take is that "I have no evidence regarding it's veracity." Would I take this to mean that an eyewitness account and twenty years of being with jihadis and in warfare does not qualify as a reliable source? Do you have evidence to the contrary?
Robert Young Pelton
No, sir, it means that I do not know you, and at the time I didn't realize that I do know Kathryn, who has recently written to tell me that she does know you and that you have the experience the article claims. How would I have known that?
"I have no evidence" does not translate to "I don't believe"; it translates to "I have no experience or evidence"; it translates to "someone sent me this link, and I haven't had time to look very far into it, so when you read this, you make up your own mind, bearing in mind that Pournelle found it worth pointing to."
You may take what I said to mean what you like. And had I evidence to the contrary, I would have said so. A quick Google on your name gets me a Salon article whose opening is
"Robert Young Pelton, author of "The World's Most Dangerous Places," says the U.S. military has killed "thousands and thousands" of people in Afghanistan, al-Qaida is a myth and the WTC was brought down by a "Mickey Mouse" outfit."
I hadn't even done that when I put that up. I got it in a letter, took the trouble to find the source so I could point to it, found it, and pretty well ran out of time. I could either post something about it or not, but if I didn't do it quickly it probably would get lost in the hundreds of items I get every day.
Now I could do one of several things. One is that I can spend time looking into all this. Another is that I can ignore it all and point my readers at something else. A third is that I can put up a pointer to the article, which implies that I think it's worth my readers' time to look at it, but say that I know no more about it or the story than they do. I figure that if any reader knows more than I do, I'll get mail on that fairly quickly.
Your article changed my views, or at least cast considerable doubt on a conclusion I had come to. If you are looking for a longer comment, I could have said "I have read this; I find it interesting; given that it is a true account from an eyewitness, I find it convincing; I have no actual knowledge of the person who wrote it, or even that it was written by the person whose name is on it; I have not been to this web site before, so I don't have any familiarity with its posting policies; in other words, you're on your own when you read this, and you'll have to make up your own mind about its veracity because I don't know any more than you do."
That's likely to be rather boring, but I expect most of my readers understand that it's what I mean when I say "I have no evidence." "I have no evidence" doesn't mean "I have evidence to the contrary," and I don't usually point people at anything I think is not worth reading.
And that should be quite enough.
I will add this one:
Thanks for taking the time to respond and do a little homework. My only point is that even though you may not know of the source its always worth checking out before posting. My efforts to be an eyewitness rather than a pundit, my narrow focus and my lack of linkage to any political or media organization make my occasional stints on the soap box worth reading in my humble opinion
The Salon article was just one clear window on a confused situation and I usually only pipe up when I have something meaningful to say. Lindh's father is deliberately trying to reinvent history (like many people in the "GWOT") and so I let it fly...
As I said earlier, Pelton has caused me to rethink my position regarding Lindh.
I thought you might be interested in this.
A UK engineer has produced a prototype engine which generates a small thrust by converting stored energy directly to kinetic energy, without having to jettison a reaction mass (ie. no propellant). Small scale at the moment but with some potential for development.
Here's a link to an article which explains more about it...
and this is his own web-site...
His own web-site is pretty basic but has links to contact Roger Shawyer (the engineer/inventor) directly, if you want more detailed information.
I know this is not a new story, but I have not seen it discussed on your site previously.
Be warned - the BRITISH ARE COMING!
I have heard about this often, and my response has been the same each time: I want to see an actual demonstration of reactionless thrust. The simplest demonstration is a trapeeze: hang a trapeeze bar, attach this to it, see that it hangs vertical when the device is off; then turn it on and see if it hangs off vertical. It won't have to be by much; if it's measurable and repeatable, that's more than enough. If it does hang off vertical, start eliminating such things as air flow. Will it work in a vacuum? OK, you don't have a large enough vacuum chamber. Fine. Wrap the whole mess, trapeze and all, in a big garbage bag. Now see if it hangs off vertical.
You will need to change locations, pay attention to the possibility of static or magnetic repulsion and attraction, and the like; but if it hangs off vertical in a large room with no possibility of air flow, I'll find someone credible to look at it, and we'll take care of notifying the Nobel Commission.
I have made that answer to a number of people with reactionless drives. I have heard from some of them again and again, each time with the promise that they are doing it Real Soon Now, but in fact I have yet to hear that it was done, or see pictures. Pictures can be faked, but I can find someone I trust to go look at it and report to me, and I'll do that on the strength of a sensibly written claim and a picture.
I have looked at these web sites, and I have not seen a demonstration of the device working. I would love to see it work, and if any reader knows more I would sure like to hear about it.
I do have some history of searching for a spacedrive...
February 16, 2006
I have been in discussions with the editors of Scientific American online regarding their position on global warming, specifically SCIAM’s response to Michael Crichton, MD. I presented some of your views on the subject and received the following as a response.
From: Editors Blog [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 5:00 PM To: Taggart, Paul non Unisys Subject: Re: The Journalistic Triumph of Michael Crichton
Dear Mr. Taggart:
Thanks for your note. A few quick comments in reply.
First, much though I've enjoyed his science fiction and some of his science-fact writing over the years, Pournelle is not particularly better qualified to comment on climate change and potential responses than Crichton, as the quotation you provided demonstrates.
Second, much of Pournelle's comment is arguing with the strategy of CO2-emissions control. People can disagree perfectly reasonably about what we should do (or not do), but that is not what Crichton wrote that marks him as a nutcase. Crichton flat out misrepresents or misunderstands the evidence for anthropogenic climate change--and apparently, Pournelle isn't much better. Yes, there are dissenters, but they are very much in the minority, and their arguments do not stand up well to skeptical analysis.
For example, considerable study has gone into the question of whether solar variability could account for the measured temperature rise. The conclusion is that solar variability might be a factor in the rise seen before about 1950, but since then, there's no way that it could be affecting what we're seeing. My recollection is that any good climate model that allows solar influences to be strong enough to produce the warming since 1950 has the unintended effect of also making the climate more responsive to CO2 as well--so we should be seeing even more warming. Pournelle is either ignorant of all such study or pretending that it hasn't been done because it suits his rhetorical purpose to make the climate community look like it's rushing to conclusions.
The evidence for anthropogenic global warming is overwhelming; the intellectually responsible position is not to stick one's head in the sand and pretend otherwise. Frankly, all the arguments about the fact of global warming are distractions from better discussions we could be having on how to respond to it (but of course, some industrial interests are happy to promote stalling for that very reason).
While you are at it, let us have an objective analysis of the costs/benefits of a rise in global temperature. Take into account longer growing seasons, and turning vast areas into arable land. Also take into account the probable increases in rainfall given the increased energy available for water transport.
Is Pournelle unaware that all these analyses have been done, and that in most cases the answers suggest that humanity is not better off in a better world? That the costs of disrupting climate could also be in the trillions, so we may be in for it either way? Again, he is either being naive or disingenuous.
Pournelle also writes:
If we were serious about CO2 releases we would be working on large alternative sources of energy.... I know of two alternate sources on the scale needed: nuclear power, and space solar power. Tell me again just how much we are spending on each compared to, say, holding conferences and lobbying for Kyoto.
This is a laughably "blame the victims" kind of statement. The researchers and environmentalists concerned about climate change are, by and large, not the ones who have been opposing more investment in alternative energy. The entrenched energy interests have been. Pournelle flatly states that only nuclear and space solar power are adequate alternative energy sources, although plenty of energy experts could give him a solid argument that more could be done with conservation, wind, geothermal and ground-based solar than he seems to credit. But never mind: we're all for investing much more into all those areas, as well as nuclear. In fact, even with better greenhouse emissions controls, we will need those sources of energy to get CO2 down to desirable levels.
The problem is, Crichton and Pournelle both frame the conversation in a way antagonistic to doing anything about it. And that is exactly the opposite of what genuine thinkers on this issue should be doing.
John Rennie, editor in chief
415 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10017
Gosh. I don't know where to start.
First, yes I am aware that cost/benefit studies have been done, most of them by people who already supported the Kyoto accords and benefit greatly from the Kyoto conclusion. As Rennie says, "most" of them favor his views. Most is not all.
Second, I have never said nothing should be done: I have said that we need to understand what it is that needs to be done, and there is insufficient attention to that. As to my qualifications, I am certainly as qualified as Rennie to comment on Bayesian analysis of choices in uncertainties. I am sure Rennie believes there are no uncertainties, but there's plenty of evidence to contradict that. We really do not know what is causing global warming, nor is it all that certain that the warming trend is permanent.
But leave that. Rennie says they are all for investing in nuclear power. Of course not in building any nuclear reactors, but in investing in new designs, which will presumably be licensed some time before the end of this century. Perhaps Mr. Rennie is an exception, but those who root for Kyoto are generally for nuclear power tomorrow, but never today. If I am mistaken in this I apologize, and I will cheerfully eat crow as part of an effort to get started on nuclear reactors, to be fueled with the already enriched Uranium and Plutonium made surplus by the end of the Cold War.
As to wind and ground based solar, if Mr. Rennie had examined what I have written in the past, he would see that I've always wished those were economical, but for now, even with massive tax breaks, ground based solar makes sense only in certain locations for particular purposes; and we all know that the environmentalists will never support square kilometers of solar cells in the desert. If you drive past the experimental station at Daggett -- I've actually been there -- you can see what happened to one attempt to use ground based solar. The problem with ground based solar is that the Sun doesn't shine at night or in cloudy weather, and comes at a pretty low angle during Winter.
We have wind power in California, probably more than in any other state (I am willing to be corrected on this, but in any event certainly enough to get economic data), and while it can contribute to the general power grid, the costs are quite high.
[This is unfinished. I have errands this morning. I'll finish this later. I do point out that apparently our areas of disagreement are not as great as might appear, assuming that he means his final paragraph. But his assertion that human-caused man made warning is overwhelmingly proved is just silly: the theory is overwhelming. The evidence remains much harder to come by. Rennie seems to be saying that anyone who disagrees with this is an idiot not worth listening to, then blames me for being confrontational; and I had not noticed that Scientific American leaped to the defense of the hapless Danish statistician who questioned many of the Global Warming Coalition's conclusions, either with specific data refuting him, or at least defending his right to publish.
I fear that most of the Global Warming arguments consist of proof by repeated assertion (not assertion of data or facts, but assertion of conclusions relying on the argument that "this has been proved so often we don't need to do it again." Which is a bit like your spouse's "You know what I mean."); followed by an attack on the qualifications of those asking questions.
Global warming may be real, and human contributions may be significant, but all that remains theory, not observation. And I repeat that spending very great sums on remedies when there remains significant uncertainty as to the trend is neither good science nor good economics. ]
Back from my errands.
Make some assumptions. I am making these numbers up but they are not unreasonable.
Assume that to start "fixing" the global warming trend today will cost $2 Trillion now and will have the economic impact of $1 Trillion a year cost. Assume also that there is a 60% probability that the Global Warming Fix advocates are right both on the trend and on the appropriateness of the remedy.
Assume that in ten years the cost of "fixing" it will be $6 Trillion, but that by then we will know that the trend is real and that the remedies are appropriate.
Fill in the table with any numbers you think real: the point is that just about any reasonable analysis will show you are better off spending $200 billion a year trying to be certain of the right course of action than to start now to Do Something Even If It's Wrong. Even if you plug in a 70% probability that we know what the trend is and know what to do, and that the remedies we take will in fact "solve" the problem, we are better off spending a lot trying to reduce uncertainties. Make up your own numbers and do the calculations. It comes out about the same: you are better off spending to reduce uncertainties.
If you take into account political realities the problem gets worse. Realistically only the US and Western Europe are likely to take the drastic measures required. China, Eastern Europe, Russia, and India will continue to burn fossil fuels, and the effect on CO2 (hardly the only greenhouse gas) will not be as great as a static analysis indicates, because the fall in productivity in the West will not reduce demand, and thus the non-complying countries will redouble their output, triggering massive expansion, and it is not likely that they will do so in compliance with Mr. Rennie's wishes.
Continue with the analysis: assume that we put the money into reducing CO2 and it turns out the earth isn't warming; we will merely have wasted the money. But suppose it turns out that global warming is real, but it is caused by solar output. We will have spent a great deal of money, but not on ameliorating the effects of global warming: instead it will have been spent on crippling the economies that might generate the funds needed for a crash program to save lives as the Earth warms.
Tampering with the industrial sinews of the world will have real consequences. It may need to be done, but make no mistake, it will be costly. (Unless you believe that command economies are more efficient than markets; I presume that particular economic canard has been laid to rest?)
I could go on, but surely my point is made? The Kyoto "consensus" is in two parts. The scientific analysis is worth reading, but nowhere near as conclusive as the Summary. The Summary document and the accords were written by staff whose credentials are no better than Mr. Rennie's or mine. It's pretty certain about what is happening and what needs to be done. I know a number of scientists who signed on to the scientific report but were dismayed at the conclusions drawn from it. The Summary does not take account of the possibility -- and it is surely a non-zero probability -- that warming is real but caused by something other than CO2.
It is far from clear to me that reducing CO2 emissions in the US is the most important thing we can do about global warming.
On the other hand, reducing US dependence on imported oil is one of the most important things we can do; so much so that I would far rather make war on our energy dependence than on CO2 emissions -- but in fact the course of action is about the same. Build about 100 1000 megawatt fissions reactors, which I maintain can be built for about $1 billion each (the first one would cost more, but the average cost would be about $1 billion). Note that if I am off by a factor of two it doesn't much change the argument.
Second, put up a $10 billion prize for the first American owned company to beam down a megawatt of power from space to earth (1 megawatt as received at the rectenna on earth) for a year. Once that is demonstrated space solar power will look feasible.
Third, work on more efficient ways to use electric power for transportation. My friend and oft times antagonist Amory Lovins and his group at Snowmass have some good automobile designs. Other contributions including electrifying the railroads come to mind. Lithium battery technology was developed by an American of Chinese descent at MIT, but to the best of my knowledge we don't make any such batteries in the US, and we aren't doing anything like as much research on energy storage as we should be doing. Good energy storage at reasonable costs affects the feasibility of ground based solar energy, of course.
I tend to favor prizes over government paid programs. I very much prefer X projects -- feasibility demonstrations -- to government programs. Indeed I chaired a panel at AAAS about 1o years ago with Amory Lovins and Fred Singer among others as participants on the subject of X Programs. Lovins presented his energy-saving automobile designs there. He has always contended that sheer economics should cause his designs to be favored. I would certainly be in favor of an X-project to build some of them as feasibility demonstrations. I like X projects. A lot.
What I am not in favor of is the philosophy of "Do Something Even If It's Wrong."
I also believe in rational debate, not in comparing credentials and attempted retaliation against anyone who has a contrary opinion.
HELP! I was sent a link to an energy input/output chart, but I seem to have lost it.
I've also lost the name of the person who sent it. Grr. Apologies, and can you help? It was a very good chart on just where energy comes from and what it's used on.
I have it. From many of you. Thanks. I was in a bit of a hurry, but there's something wrong with the search engine, I guess because I couldn't find it easily.
You can see it here.
February 17, 2006
I note in the LA Times today an article about yellowcake, Wilson, Plame, and the usual Bush-baiting bushwa. It supposedly tells the story of the yellowcake rumor that would not die (and which the Brits believe to this day). It also gave information that perhaps the LA Times didn't know it was giving.
The article several times quotes CIA officials who speak on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters. Later in the article one of the CIA officers who speaks anonymously because he isn't authorized to talk to reporters tells the reporters that the Brits wouldn't give the CIA any information about their sources. The reporters don't draw any conclusions from that, but I'd say it's all pretty obvious. The CIA leaks like a sieve, starting with Wilson who publishes articles about his confidential reports. The Agency has always had a liberal world-saver bent. Don Hamilton used to have goody two-shoes Agency people in his Matt Helm stories: parodies, but a lot more realistic than many know.
Now that isn't universally true, of course, but there has always been a strong leftist streak in the CIA inherited in part from its OSS and State Department cookie pusher roots. (Recall that Adolf Berle, head of State Dept. Security, was told by Whittaker Chambers about communist infiltration of State, and dutifully filed his notes without bothering to report this to anyone or do anything about it. Years later Alger Hiss was at Yalta as a top aide to Roosevelt. If you don't know what happened at Yalta, read Churchill's accounts.)
My thanks to the LA Times for pointing out why most intelligence agencies decline to cooperate with us by sharing sources.
It's only fair to point out that the Brits had a communist agent in Washington, and we used to show him all kinds of stuff about sources inside the USSR until one day we no longer had any sources inside the USSR.
gives the LA Times story; thanks to Clark Myers for finding it.
On building a PC if you're a Mac user, see mail.
The Scientific American discussion continues over in mail.
I note that if we are serious about all this, we ought to be putting tens of billions into instrumentation and data collection. We aren't.
Thanks to Julie for sending me this link. It's delightful. It's in Danish but you'll have no trouble understanding it. [See below. I know it's Dutch, not Danish. Sigh.]
Glad you liked it. Got it via a blog called "rantings of a Sand Monkey" -- written by a "libertarian, moslem egyptian" whose "rants" are informative & amusing:
and my full name is Julie Woodman.
The site you referred to with the animated Muslim cartoon is in Dutch not Danish (.nl not .dk).
ACK! I knew that even as I typed it! I do know some Dutch (well, Low German anyway) and I do know the difference when I read them. Apologies.
From another conference.
Warning: Politically incorrect, offensive to many, etc., etc.
DO NOT SAY YOU HAVE NOT BEEN WARNED.
"Brokeback to the Future"
Roland says that this is a must read on computer security and vulnerability:
I'm reading it now.
February 18, 2006
Profiling 46,000 cities, villages, towns,
townships and podunks across America
I stumbled upon this today, and recalled the complaints about grade inflation I've seen on your site.
This is excellent. I had not seen it before, but I would recommend that every parent download this and read it monthly to any college bound kid. At least monthly. Burn it into their heads. This guy tells it straight.
February 19, 2006
Fukuyama: After Neoconservatism.
-- Roland Dobbins
A very interesting, and given who wrote it, very important essay. In reading the first part, I kept wondering, am I the only one who dares call neo-conservatism by its proper name: Jacobinism? Am I the only one who sees the Jacobin underpinnings to the neo-conservative political views? Recall that the difference between Trotsky and the Bolsheviks was that Trotsky wanted Universal World Revolution Now, not "Socialism in One Country" to build strength for a postponed world Revolution.
[As an aside: when I look for a link to a definition of Jacobinism I find that Google tells me that I can buy some Jacobinism on eBay. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.]
Suffice it to say that the Bush Doctrine that only democracies can be our allies, and that we have the right and duty to go impose democracy on every significant nation in the world lest we be threatened, coupled with a naive faith that once we impose a democracy it will turn up a government friendly to the U.S. or at least not mortally opposed to us is, in my judgment, well described by the term "Jacobin". Note also that a form of Jacobin philosophy is present in just about every University campus in America. The liberal left and its Trotskyite allies are a bit dismayed that their most powerful convert is George Bush, whom they despise as a Deviationist and running dog of Halliburton and Big Business; but they have no significant quarrel with Bush's professed intention not only of making the world safe for democracy, but of imposing democracy on everyone we can get at. We will carry Liberte! Egalite! if not Fraternite! across the world on the points of our bayonets or pouring forth from the barrels of our Abrams tanks. They all believe in Social Progress, and Social Engineering, and while they would never say that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, most of them have never argued otherwise; that's their concession to real-politick. They only wish it were President Clinton doing it, with Chief Justice Larry Tribe validating his executive power.
They also believe in an ethics of intention rather than an ethics of prudential results: that is, it is enough to demonstrate that "we meant well" and that "we didn't personally profit from the actions we advised" to justify intervention anywhere and at any time. Lest you doubt it, go look at the rhetoric used to justify the US intervention in the Balkans: the very fact that there was no discernible American interest in doing it was touted as a virtue; and the less than utopian outcome is not our fault. We meant well.
It is therefore odd that Bush, who is doing in spades with big casino what Albright believed in her heart of hearts, is so thoroughly despised by the academic Jacobins; but then politics makes for both strange bedfellows and estranged soul mates.
Fukuyama traces some of the development of Jacobin tendencies in the neo-conservatives; how a group largely concerned with the limits of what social policy could do (Wilson, Moynihan, Kristol the Elder) could breed a generation of war hawks trying to carry democracy on the points of American bayonets, convinced that our forces of liberation would be welcomed in Baghdad, aye and in Damascus and Tehran as well, with children strewing flowers in our paths (and perhaps begging for handouts from G I Joe). This account is worth reading.
Alas, neither Kristol nor Fukuyama nor any of them seem to understand the difference between the totalitarian dictatorships that dominated Nazi Germany and Communist Russia -- evil empires, the both of them -- and religiously based nationalist regimes. In the one case, as Koestler observed, a probable sufficient condition for their collapse would be the free exchange of ideas within the totalitarian state. In the other, that's probably irrelevant in the short run. In the long run the West's Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction -- blue jeans, rap, hard rock, easy sex, birth control, penicillin, and the lot -- will worm their way in to undermine fanaticism; but it will take a while, and imposing them by force is probably the best way to negate their effects. Over paid, over sexed, and over here, the Brits said of GI Joe; now they wish they had back what they thought was the American inspired decay of the 40's. But that's a story for another time. The point is that the USSR was an immediate threat, with 26,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the West. Islam threatens us with half a dozen weapons at best, along with the threat to cut off our oil and make us use our ingenuity to provide needed energy resources. Since the added cost of energy independence is certainly not enormous compared to the costs of the war, it may be time to do a new threat analysis.
This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer's recent book on Iraq, "The Assassins' Gate," the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.
Precisely. Couple to that the nearly incomprehensible believe that Chalabi the Thief would be able to keep his literally incredible promises of an Iraq allied with the US and oil pipelines through Jordan and Israel to the Mediterranean, and it looked as if we would be suckers not to invade. Note this sentence: "The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred" which is very nearly the definition of Jacobinism. Jean Jacques Rousseau, misunderstood and elevated to the status of guru.
Fukuyama also says of his best known work
"The End of History, in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."
I said Trotskyite rather than Leninist, but otherwise the paragraph is pretty close to what I wrote about Fukuyama's essay at the time he published it; with this exception, I didn't agree on the immediacy when he wrote it, and I don't agree in the inevitability now even with his new interpretation. I can easily imagine high tech "modern" societies that are not liberal democracies and don't pretend to be. I can imagine an Imperial United States as well as a 21st Century Caliphate.
"What to Do
"Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the United States needs to reconceptualize its foreign policy in several fundamental ways. In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight."
Not only do I agree with that, but it sounds almost as if I had written it -- or, except for the sentence about Iraq, something I might have written before we invaded Iraq. It reads a great deal like The Strategy of Technology, as a matter of fact, and very much like the initial aphorism Possony and I used as the introduction to our book:
"A gigantic technological race is in progress between interception and penetration and each time capacity for interception makes progress it is answered by a new advance in capacity for penetration. Thus a new form of strategy is developing in peacetime, a strategy of which the phrase ‘arms race’ used prior to the old great conflicts is hardly more than a faint reflection.
There are no battles in this strategy; each side is merely trying to outdo in performance the equipment of the other. It has been termed ‘logistic strategy’. Its tactics are industrial, technical, and financial. It is a form of indirect attrition; instead of destroying enemy resources, its object is to make them obsolete, thereby forcing on him an enormous expenditure….
A silent and apparently peaceful war is
therefore in progress, but it could well be a war which of itself could
I suppose all this sounds like blowing my own horn, and I should be more modest, and more joyful that a key member of the old neoconservative alliance has seen the light. Another time I will; but today I can't resist saying, Dammit, I told you so.
Fukuyama can't quite abandon his universalism; he still thinks that "isolationism" is a terrible threat. I can't agree. Isolationism was and will remain impossible; but there is a difference between "isolationism" and minding our own business. There is a difference between avoiding entangling alliances -- NATO for a start, now that it has moved to the very borders of the much-reduced no longer totalitarian Russia -- and isolationism. There is a difference between not becoming involved in the territorial disputes of Europe -- including the Balkans -- and isolationism. If we devote our resources to a strategy of technology, and develop our capabilities while lessening our dependence on Middle East oil, we will not have to be isolationist; but if we squander our capital in futile hopes that we will be welcome in Damascus and Tehran, we won't have so very many choices.
But do read Fukuyama's essay. With luck it will have some influence. There's more good sense in it than in most of the old neo-conservative crowd.
Just in case you haven't seen the latest; Fred makes an interesting point about class differences in America. It gets me thinking about Heinlein and his ideas about qualifications for the franchise. Who should be allowed to vote? How should they be chosen? There has to be a better way than simply everyone with a pulse who reaches age 18. Is this not what this topic is really about?http://www.fredoneverything.net/FOE_Frame_Column.htm (you are looking for column 307)
Fred says, in his inimitable way, precisely what Jose Ortega y Gasset said in his 1930 The Revolt of the Masses, one of the essential (if you want to understand the world) books of the 20th Century in my judgment. For more on Ortega see http://www.historyguide.org/europe/gasset.html for a good summary of his life and some essential excerpts from his book. The book itself is actually fairly easy reading if you get a decent translation or read Spanish, and holds up very well indeed after seventy-five years.
It is illusory to imagine that the mass-man of to-day will be able to control, by himself, the process of civilization. I say process, and not progress. The simple process of preserving our present civilization is supremely complex, and demands incalculably subtle powers. Ill-fitted to direct it is this average man who has learned to use much of the machinery of civilization, but who is characterized by root-ignorance of the very principles of that civilization.
The command over the public life exercised today by the intellectually vulgar is perhaps the factor of the present situation which is most novel, least assimilable to anything in the past. At least in European history up to the present, the vulgar had never believed itself to have "ideas" on things. It had beliefs, traditions, experiences, proverbs, mental habits, but it never imagine itself in possession of theoretical opinions on what things are or ought to be. To-day, on the other hand, the average man has the most mathematical "ideas" on all that happens or ought to happen in the universe. Hence he has lost the use of his hearing. Why should he listen if he has within him all that is necessary? There is no reason now for listening, but rather for judging, pronouncing, deciding. There is no question concerning public life, in which he does not intervene, blind and deaf as he is, imposing his "opinions."
You may also find Chris Brand's exposition on Ortega of interest: http://www.thesprout.net/010/graft/graft22.htm
Accused of advocating aristocracy, Ortega said that he was much worse than that: “Human society is always, whether it will or no, aristocratic by its very essence, to the extreme that it is a society in the measure that it is aristocratic, and ceases to be such when it ceases to be aristocratic.”
An aristocrat, Ortega says, is one who makes demands of himself; who is not satisfied with how he finds himself, and seeks constant education and improvement. This in contrast to the mass man who is quite happy as he is.
Fred uses his own idioms to say much the same things that Ortega concluded. It is politically incorrect even to think about stuff like this.
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