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Mail 227 October 14 - 20, 2002 






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Monday October 14, 2002 

Dear Dr. Pournelle, I was doing some research, reading your classic A STEP FARTHER OUT, the essay entitled "Ships for Manned Space Flight". In a footnote, you mentioned a circular slide rule from the RAND corporation called the Rocket Performance Computer.

I thought that would be a handy device to have, what a pity it is now unavailable. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't checked.

Gotta love the internet. Much to my surprise, it turns out that it is still available.
  The price went up from $3 to $10, but that's still a steal.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Winchell Chung

Thanks! Hadn't realized it was still available!  Good show. Richard says now the rocket equation is just a PERL script...

Microcode Solutions posted an update to their website... 


Power Macintosh(tm) Emulation News!

Microcode Solutions will be releasing an iMac(tm) based emulation in both hardware (G3, G4, and dual G4 PCI boards) and software versions in the near future. Stay tuned for details!==================

So, some hope is called for... I think!

Regards, Al Hartman (Macintosh Emulation List Host) (The Unofficial Executor Forum Host)

Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life. - William Blake


Subject: Another Step On The Path To Empire?

From the A.P.:

WASHINGTON - Faced with a critical shortage of native Arab speakers, the Army is considering recruiting Middle Easterners into the ranks of its elite Special Forces, defense officials say.

The proposal, which would require congressional approval, has not yet been endorsed by top Army leaders or the Pentagon. The Army's interest reflects the seriousness of a problem that looms large as it plans for a possible invasion of Iraq and in the global war on terror: the Special Forces are stretched thin, particularly in Arab linguists. 

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is fine-tuning strategies that might figure in any attack on Iraq. The defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, told the New York Times yesterday that he had ordered the military's regional commanders to update all of their war planes to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence, and speedier deployments. Such preparations would allow the United States to begin combat operations on short notice, he said. 

Placing foreigners in the Special Forces has precedent. It was done in the 1950s under the Lodge Act, designed as a mechanism for raising a ''foreign legion'' of Soviet-bloc expatriates during a time when many in Washington believed the Soviet Union would invade Western Europe. 

Although thousands of applicants under the Lodge Act were rejected, at least 230 anticommunist Eastern Europeans were brought into the first Special Forces unit, designated the 10th Special Forces Group, in 1952, according to Kenn Finlayson, a historian at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. He said the historical record is not clear on when or why the practice ended. 

Approximately 5,500 soldiers serve in the five active-duty Special Forces groups. A few hundred operated in the combat phase of the Afghan war, advising and leading anti-Taliban forces and directing US airstrikes. It is not clear how many foreigners the Army believes it needs to supplement the current Special Forces, which are only one segment of the military's special operations, or unconventional warfare, branch. Other segments include Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Special Operations troops and the Army's Night Stalker aviators. 

Army Lieutenant Colonel Rivers Johnson, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Army Special Operations Command is developing a legislative proposal similar to the Lodge Act but emphasizing areas such as the Middle East or Central Asia, where US operatives do not easily blend in. 

Details of the proposal have not been settled, said Major Gary Kolb, spokesman at Army Special Operations Command headquarters. 

This story ran on page A31 of the Boston Globe on 10/13/2002. © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company. GKF G. Fallenbeck Niceville, FL


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: Tractor beams?

Dear Jerry: 

Best, Stephen



Greg Cochran on the coming war, specifically commenting on DeLay's analysis as I presented it last week.


Come on, you take that seriously? By that argument China is harboring anti-American terrorists right now. This is all horsehit. As far as I can tell, exactly nothing new has happened in Iraq concerning nukes. Most likely they are getting steadily farther away from having a nuclear weapon.. Look, back in 1990, they surprised people with their calutrons. No normal country would have made such an effort, because calutrons - mass spectrometers - are an incredibly inefficient way of making a nuclear weapon. We know just how inefficient they are, because E. O Lawrence conned the government into blowing about a quarter of the Manhattan Project budget on a similar effort. Concentrating enough U-235 for one small fission bomb cost hundreds of millions of 1944 dollars. Probably the Japanese could have constructed new cities for less money than this approach took to blow them up. By far the cheaper way is to enrich the uranium just enough to run a reactor and then breed plutonium. The Iraqis wanted U-235, probably because it is much easier to make a device with U-235 than with plutonium. You don't have to use implosion and you don't even have to test a gun-type bomb - we didn't test the Hiroshima bomb. . I would guess that they realized their limitations - they're not exactly overflowing with good physicists and engineers - and chose an approach that they could actually have made work. Implosion is not so easy to make work. India only got their implosion bomb to work on the seventh try, back in 1974, and they have a _hell_ of a lot more technical talent than Iraq.

Anyhow, Iraq doesn't have the money to do it anymore (1). The total money going into his government is what, a fifth of what it used to be? ( Jeez, quite a bit less than that, when you look carefully) Big non-private organizations tend to gradually slide towards zero output when the money merely stays the same: cut and they fire the worker bees and keep a few Powerpoint specialists. There is no reason to think that Arabs are immune to that kind of logic of bureaucracy. On the contrary. Not only are they not making any nuclear progress, they're probably making regress.

At best, if we hadn't interrupted them back in the Gulf War, they would have eventually had a couple. I doubt if it they even would have been an effective deterrent. It's hard to make classic deterence work when you have one or two bombs and the other guy has thousands, when he can hit you and you can't hit him.

He would cause himself practical trouble by harboring anti-US terrorists. If they ever made a significant hit on the US, he'd be in deep shit. What would he get out of it? And I am supposed to think that he fears terrorist groups more than he fears a Trident boat?? He should appease _them_, rather than us? Look, if we really got mad, we could turn him and his entire nation into something that was no longer human. Kill them too, of course, but that's too easy.

This particular argument is nonsense,, even if he had a little deterrent. as are all the ones that I have seen floated by the Administration or by their hangers on and flacks. It's not as crazy as the idea that we're going to democratize Iraq, or Iraq and then the entire Arab world - that's about as crazy as a human can get - but it makes no sense. Anyone with a brain knows, for example, that the last thing Israel wants is democratic Arab states, because they"d be _more_ hostile than the existing governments, and possibly stronger. . People like Mubarak understand that they can't beat the IDF, and also understand who makes the deposits in their Swiss accounts: a new popular government might not. And a popular government might have some enthusiasm to draw on - Iran did, at first, after the fall of the Shah - whereas in places like Syria or Iraq > 70% of the population hates the government.


I know why Wolfowitz wants this, and why Bill Kristol wants this. I know that most Americans have decided that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9-11, because what else would explain the Administration's desire to attack? And so they support an attack, which would make every kind of sense if Iraq _had_ been behind 9-11 Except that everyone knows that they didn't have anything to do with it. The problem is, I don't understand, even slightly, why Bush and Cheney want this.


Gregory Cochran


Almost all the oil sales ( other than truck smuggling) go through the UN. ^8% of that revenue is available for buying _approved_ imports. Mainly food and other hings that we approve of. The Us has a veto on such purchases. The total amount available for those approved purchases was something like 7 billion last year. Saddam is getting under-the-table payments of something like 20 cents a barrel from some or for all I know all of the buyers: but how much cash is that? we're talking something like 1 or 2 %" no more than 100 million a year. Sheesh. Probably the truck smuggling accounts for more. Hmm.. That might be as much as a billion. Not much cash to run a government. . It's a little hard to for me to see how he manages to keep the show on the road at all.

I am not sure I take it seriously; I said it was the most impressive argument I had heard. It is not, I admit, terribly impressive.

But I think we will go in. I thought we would be in Baghdad by July 4 this year; I am pretty certain we will be there next July 4.  The question then becomes, what next?




This week:


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Tuesday,  October 15, 2002

This is the day I do a breakthrough on my novel. Short Shrift...

You may want to think about getting rid of the Winproxy software and looking at the software available for *nix like operating systems. Put this on a box inside your firewall and point your browser at it. On the same box put a copy of DNSCache (available at and point your Windows 2000 DNS servers at it as a forwarder. Unix boxes can use it as their resolver. A copy of Qmail and you will have an environment that is robust, but will minimize your bandwidth requirements for “overhead” tasks. I have used configurations like this a number of times for my DSL connected clients and they get great performance.

Lots of good software, all free to use.


Al Lipscomb

Senior Systems Engineer MCSE


From your recent article on   

Incidentally, you don't need a NetWinder or any other Linux box to make use of iDSL. You can feed the output of the Megapath router into any Windows XP system or a system running WinProxy. There are also plenty of fairly inexpensive hardware routers (D-Link, Linksys, and a dozen others) that offer considerable firewall protection. We use Linux and NetWinder because I have it and it was already set up; and I do think going through a Linux box gives an additional and valuable layer of security. Given the number of reported security holes in Windows and Internet Explorer, I would have some grave security concerns relying on nothing more than Windows XP for protection from Internet monsters.

I had a friend decide to get a router/firewall box because of the cost of electricity. He determined that the cost saved by using the router box would pay for itself over a very short time compared to running a linux box.

Just food for thought.


There are probably a number of reasons to use a router for this job but saving electricity on a 300 watt system doesn't seem to be one of them...


Really enjoy your column. I really miss Byte Magazine, and was pleased to find it on the web.

I'm an NT administrator, writer and machine tool designer. I found a fantastic little router that I've used for a year. I can't recommend it enough:

The BroadGuard about $80 bucks. The big deal is SPI - Stateful Packet Inspection. It looks at the IP wrapper and figures out if the packet is a response to a connect that STARTED behind the firewall, otherwise it dumps the packet. In other words, you can connect to anything in a normal fashion. But, your router is completely invisible to anyone outside the firewall. Pretty amazing stuff. Of course, it's got all the other good firewall/router/hub stuff. But SPI has saved my butt several times this year. Dump WinProxy. Get the BroadGuard router and simplify your system. Honest, you'll really like it.

More details at 

I don't have any connection of any kind with these folks. They just build a damn good product.

Thanks for the years of excellent writing...

Ken Elliott III 

Dumping WinProxy seems to be common advice. Note that it is only used when I have the satellite system up. I did that yesterday for reasons I'll have in a future column. For the most part we run with 1DSL now, see the BYTE column.   

Jerry, In response to your question at the end of Gregory Cochran's email. The current administration has realized that it is more popular when seen as protecting the citizens, not from handling the economic difficulties we are faced with. Therefore, after Iraq is conquered, Iran must be next. Aside from including Iran in the "Axis of Evil", the administration has made comments about Iran's harboring of terrorists. I can only see this as paving the way for designating Iran as the next target. Once we start down this path, it will occupy our future for years, or decades. A year after invading Afganistan and driving out the Taliban, it is no where near a peaceful country. Not when American troops have to guard their president. It will be a similar story in Iraq. How many countries can the U.S. afford to occupy? More to the point, how much of that can the American people stomach?

Respectfully, Robert Walker

Well the "how many and how long" reminds me of when someone asked H. L Hunt how long his son Lamar could afford to loose $2 million a year on the Kansas City Chiefs. The old man looked thoughtful, rocked back and forth a bit, and said "About 85 years."

We can afford it. A good empire will even make money on conquests. We can levy tribute on the Europeans. They can call it foreign aid.

It seems to me that the Europeans' main concern recently has not been fighting terror, but humbling the United States. Like China, the European Union has pretensions to world hegemony, and the US stands in the way of that.

In the case of the Europeans, they are like the Aesopean mice who faced a large cat. Their solution was to bell the cat. Their dilemma-unresolved-was to find one among their number who would bell the cat. The Europeans of today are trying to solve that by getting the cat to bell itself.

To the extent that the US engages in coalition warfare, it fights in a lowest-common-denominator fashion. This resulted in Saddam not being toppled in 1991, and in lengthy delays in target approval in the Balkans in the 90's (was this delay used to allow sympathetic persons to tip off the Serbs? Heaven forefend!).

In a way, it's like putting blinders on a horse and persuading the horse that there is no other path. Pick your metaphor, but it's clear to anyone who stands back and looks that Europe does not have the best interests of the US in mind when they traffic with the enemy (e.g.-France and Iraq, France and Germany with Iran, etc.) and engage in predatory rule-setting in the WTO (their export tax subsidies are allowed; US export tax subsidies are not).

I'm not arguing here that the US doesn't also try to slant the world to its benefit, but my point is that the emphasis on multilateralism is not necessarily to the benefit of the US.

Ed Hume

Imperialism benefits the imperialists, who are not necessarily the citizens of the empire.


The reason Mr. Cochrane is wrong (he argued that Saddam could be deterred by our nukes), and the reason people like S Hussein are so dangerous, is that the world counts on our forbearance. No one believes we would make a parking lot of places like Iraq because of the misdeeds of their rulers.

Because of this, people from Arab and Arab-like cultures do not respect us. We aren't ruthless enough for them. Note that the North Koreans have been bold enough to kidnap Japanese from Japan (our client) and then parade them back in Japan more than 20 years later while holding the kidnapees' families hostage in North Korea. They fear no wrath. These kidnapped citizens are now bargaining chips to help pry loose Japanese cash. The bad guys do not play nice.

In a way, the Europeans' strategy of getting the US cat to bell itself is not unrealistic: think about the actions and utterances of Carter, Clinton and Bush-1. Each of those three deferred US interests to the considerations of the tender sensitivities of "world" (i.e. --European) opinion. In fact, Carter's professions of meekness provoked Soviet and Iranian aggression.

Bush-2 and his team want the US to get out soon after it conquers S Hussein, and leave nation-building to the denizens therein. This is probably a good idea. It resembles your first reaction -- go everywhere people cheered the WTC attack, raze an area, erect a monument, and leave. I see your reaction as wishing to put Niven's law -- never throw feces at an armed man -- into effect. As long as people think they can throw feces at us and get away with it, they will. I have no desire to have people throwing feces at us.


It is better to be feared than admired. But I suspect that at the moment we are neither, and we will hate being feared.

If you are going to be envied, you had better be at least respected.




Mr. Pournelle First I would like to say that I enjoy your column on very much. I make it a point to read it first thing every Monday.

I have been reading about your problems with Winproxy. My wife and I have been using it for internet sharing for about four years. It does seem to want to have fits some times and then straighten it self out with no explanation. We have a 3 computers on the network with Winproxy installed on my wife's acting as the server. We also have caching turned off. The problem was that the client computer, mine, was not able to connect some web sites. The server computer would have no problem connecting to those web sites. There didn't seem to be any real pattern to the web sites that gave us trouble. Some times the clients could connect to the problem sites by dropping the www. off the address. The cure seemed to be uninstalling Winproxy and reinstalling. Just reinstalling wouldn't solve the problem. This might happen once or twice a year. The last problem we had was the server computer and the client computer would see different version of the same web site. The client would always see an older version. 

I thought it might be time to reread the help files. I found that by typing http://proxy.command/ in the address bar you can remotely control something's in Winproxy. This gives you six options: 
Flush the cached DNS list 
Display cached names 
Display connection statistics 
Browse Cached Files 
Delete All Cached Files

Clicking on Flush the cached DNS list solved the problem. I don't know if that would have solved the earlier problems but my guess is that it would.

I hope this might help a little. Thank you for your time. Daniel Brewer

That sure sounds like the solution. Thanks!






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Wednesday, October 16, 2002


Your Mars Is Still Good

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

As an antidote to a good, but depressing, author I like, I pulled "Birth of Fire" off the bookshelf. The retelling of the American Revolution in terms of Martian settlements was as good as I remembered. Interestingly, your Mars described in a novel copyrighted in 1976, stands up very well compared to current data. It shows that it pays to do your homework. In fact, your description of Mars is closer to reality than your description of gang warfare at the beginning of the novel. But, who'd expect gang warfare to devolve into spraying automatic weapons fire at houses from $50K German automobiles?

I did, however, find an error. In an earlier part of the novel, some of the freedom fighters are brought in from a chilled Mars surface excursion and given coffee and sandwiches. But, later, the protagonist is given coffee by the academic people and is grateful because he has not had the beverage since coming to Mars. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the "coffee" mentioned earlier in the novel was some ersatz brew.

It's always refreshing to be immersed in a novel that strives toward showing the triumph of the good side of human nature. I know I can depend on your works and the Heinlein "juveniles" to restore some of my faith in human nature when the world - and other fiction - looks so grim.

-- Pete

Thanks. That story did hold up well. It was written in one week flat, originally as a Laser book. And I do like it still. Maybe I'll revisit that Mars again one day.

oy. the mother load.

here's a real cool time waster.. every cover of popular mechanics for the last 100 years.. 



Mr. St. Onge takes on Greg Cochran:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: Mr. Cochran's analysis in re Iraq

Dear Jerry:

I don't agree with Mr. Cochran's reasoning. In fact, I frequently can't follow it.

For example, your summary of Sen. DeLay's argument said: "Yes, Saddam Hussein would be deterred from using his weapons, but a standoff with a nuclear armed Iraq _MIGHT_ well turn that country into a new haven for world terror." (my emphasis) Mr. Cochran replies: "By that argument China is harboring anti-American terrorists right now."' How did 'might' become 'is'?

And what is one to make of this: "E. O Lawrence conned the government into blowing about a quarter of the Manhattan Project budget on [calutrons]. Concentrating enough U-235 for one small fission bomb cost hundreds of millions of 1944 dollars. Probably the Japanese could have constructed new cities for less money than this approach took to blow them up." WWII was costing about $200 million dollars _per day_ in August 1945, and the calutrons cost about $500 million dollars, so if they shortened the war by three days, they were profitable. As for the cost or rebuilding Japanese cities, the point is . . . ???

Btw, if there'd been a layer of Lithium Deuteride in the tamper, the explosion would have been in the hundred kiloton range at least. Perhaps we should be happy Dr. Teller didn't think of that till 1947?

Turning to evidence, the State Dept. says that Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Iraq currently sponsor terrorism, and the former Soviet Union (ooh! I love to type 'former Soviet Union'! ) used to sponsor terrorism. If Mr. Cochran has an argument concluding that acquiring nukes will make Iraq stop, I'd like to see it. I'd also like to see his evidence that China _doesn't_ support anti-US terrorism.

Mr. Cochran goes on to say: "Most likely they [the Iraqis] are getting steadily farther away from having a nuclear weapon." According to a German intelligence estimate released on February 23, 2001, Iraq was about three years from a bomb (note, that was _20 months ago_), and would have an IRBM by 2005 ( Perhaps Mr. Cochran would care to explain where he got different information?

Mr. Cochran also says "I would guess that they realized their limitations . . . Implosion is not so easy to make work." Well, in the article at they don't use the word implosion, but what they describe certainly sounds like it. Said article also maintains that UN weapons inspectors were convinced, after seeing the specs, that it would work. It appeared in the NY Times magazine in _1992_.

Under the circumstances, I can't share Mr. Cochran's confidence that Iraq lacks the money required (especially when he overlooks the fact that Iraq doesn't need oil revenue for its domestic govt., just for imports), or that Saddam has fired all the weapons engineers so he could keep "a few Powerpoint specialists" employed. Nor does his facile projection that an Iraq with nukes wouldn't be able to deliver them on the United States reassure, when ship launched missiles or smuggled weapons would do the job.

Btw, if five years down the road, an a-bomb goes off in a US city, whom do we retaliate against? N. Korea which sponsors terror & already has nukes? Pakistan, which also sponsors and has? Iraq, which should have them by then? Iran, which is also working on nukes? Half the former Soviet Union, for not keeping its stockpile secure? China? Israel? France?

Mr. Cochran goes on to say Saddam: "would cause himself practical trouble by harboring anti-US terrorists. If they ever made a significant hit on the US, he'd be in deep shit. What would he get out of it?" I believe the technical term for this is 'whistling in the dark.' The ten links at the end of this letter lead to some of the evidence that Iraq _has planned or already carried_ out attacks on the United States, directly and indirectly. One might also note the rather suspicious rage of bin Laden over USAmericans in the holy Arabian Peninsula that supposedly caused him to start al Qaida's campaign against the US. There've been USAmericans in Saudi Arabia for decades. 1990 was when they were there to attack Saddam. Bin Laden's payback for the support Iraq funneled him?

As for what Saddam would get out of harboring anti-US terrorists, what did he get out of standing fast in Kuwait, after we told him to leave or be attacked? Out of blowing Kuwait's oil wells before the pullout? What would he have gotten out of assassinating Bush 41, which he attempted in 1993? What has he gotten out of his non-cooperation with weapons inspections, considering that cooperation would have resulted in the sanctions being lifted, vastly boosting his oil income? What does he get out of his continuing harassment of US/British overflights that sometimes result in the destruction of his air defense sites?

The history of the 20th century is full of dictators and political fanatics doing things no one expected, because we wouldn't have considered them rationa'. We forget that whether an action is rationa' depends on ones goals and values. We also forget that people make mistakes. It's time to admit to ourselves that everyone is not like us, and they will sometimes do things we would never do.

Saddam in particular has a history of taking large chances that turn out to be boneheaded mistakes. According to some mid-East scholars, Saddam expected to win the Gulf War, and thinks he _did win_ 'the second half of the war'!! Consider Eugene Volokh's recent scenario ( Iraq acquires nukes, smuggles some into the US, explodes one harmlessly in the desert, then tells us he'll leave us alone if we pull out of the Middle East. Success means he's the greatest Arab hero since Saladin. Failure means he only inflicts a a butcher's bill about ten to one hundred times our WWII casualties. If he makes such a mistake, killing him and a few million Iraqi civilians would be cold comfort. Of course, we could avoid that by backing down . . .

One would have hoped that by now we'd have learned that totalitarians who threaten liberal democracies should be dealt with immediately and violently. Alas, no. I understand the temptation to shrink from the burdens we'll face over the next decades. I'd like to avoid them myself. But taking refuge in comfortable delusions, because said course lets us avoid hard choices, led to the Sept. 11th attacks. Perhaps Mr. Cochran hasn't learned from that experience, but some of us have.

Best, Stephen


His point on caultrons is that if you need that technique you don't have a better one, and they ain't much good. He's right on that point.

I haven't time for a real analysis: I'm headed for a doctor's appointment. But I doubt this is the last of this discussion.

Subject: Bears discover avalanches. 

Roland Dobbins

Well they have long known about backpacks hanging from trees by ropes, and fish stringers...

Subject: Another amazing waste of time or two...

If you like the work of M.C.Escher then check out : 

On the other hand if you like Wallace and Gromit then the first of their 1-minute shorts ( called Soccamatic ) is a free download in QuickTime format at

Good luck with the doctors and hope you keep writing and being well

Douglas Smith

We will see. Looks like the kind of flu I had takes a lot longer to recover from than I had supposed. At least at my age.



Subject: This is getting silly

Dear Dr Pournelle,

This speaks for itself. Red Hat can't publish a security patch within the US because it constitutes a DMCA violation. 

Regards, TC

PS Being resident outside the US I have downloaded the appropriate patch...

-- Terry Cole System Administrator

Silly indeed. Perhaps not as silly as the next one, but then maybe the next one is serious...

Subject: What to do with Iraq

The solution of what to do with Iraq after we conquer it is remarkably simple. Simply put Ted Kennedy in charge of the occupied territories.

This rather elegantly accomplishes three things:

1. It gives the Senator a safe locality - by the time Iraq is ready to be occupied, you can be certain there will be no bridges left.

2. It insures Iraq will not have a functioning military, as long as Teddy shows half the hostility to Iraq's military that he has shown to America's.

3. Its the only way Teddy Kennedy will ever have his own Camel-lot.

With apologies, but SOMEONE had to say it, 

John Nichols
 Eugene, Oregon.

I suppose...

And I include the following for what it's worth. Ad agencies are always doing stupid things, and the bigger the company, the more likely a stupid account executive:

Subject: MS Switch?

Dr. Pournelle-

I'm guessing you already heard about this one. I first heard about it yesterday on CNNfn. Found the story this morning.

Rob Madison

And on a more serious note:


Dear Jerry,

Thanks for your interesting Disquistion on Republic vs. Empire dated Oct 9, 2002. It was quite moving as one can plainly sense your sincere concerns about how America is evolving. I share those concerns but have a few questions by way of clarification:

Do you think a “vigorous energy independence program” would succeed in allowing America to extract itself from the Middle-East in a short enough time-frame to head off the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism?

Is there not also a inherent danger in looking back too fondly at the good old days? Has the world not evolved beyond a point where it’s really possible for any state to live in “splendid isolation?”

Do you honestly think the current administration thirsts for overseas adventures and American parades in foreign capitals? Do you see Bush’s pre-emptive doctrine as code for “empire building”?

I agree overall with your concerns about the centralization of domestic power as a corollary to Empire. But what are the alternatives? I personally believe that there is no negotiation with fundamentalist Islam. I do believe they pose a real and significant danger to western civilization. I have reluctantly concluded that the threat of overwhelming force is our only option. Do you see another way?

Thanks again for your insights. It is at times like this that we need the balanced and experienced voices of men such as yourself.

Mike Quinn – Vancouver

First, never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence: or in cases like this one, don't even assume incompetence, much less malice, when honest people disagree. Your view, that the fundamentalist Muslims can never be satisfied; add to that Saddam Hussein's known analogy of himself to Saladin, the Kurdish upstart who united the Muslim empire and destroyed the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in one battle at the Horns of Hattin; and your conclusion isn't at all unreasonable; and it's likely that of the President.

I can be swayed by that argument myself. After all, we have the power; why put up with an known enemy in power in a strategic place? 

But I still have misgivings. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace does not lead us to the republic I grew up in. I am slowly coming to the view that nothing will, and that the best advice I can give is on imperial competence; but I will always mourn the republic, and lapse back into republican ways of thinking, longing for a time of self government that was small, effective, and cheap, and which didn't concern itself a lot with overseas adventures.

Yes: I do believe that a vigorous program of military and civilian research and development into space resources including energy capabilities and cheap access to space; coupled with withdrawal of the US from places where we have no outstanding interest -- which is to say most everywhere outside this hemisphere -- would avert the war, and allow the possibility of standing down to return to the republic. But I have to say that it's not likely to happen.

And alas, measures to make us a better empire move us away from being a republic, and measures to return to the republic are probably detrimental to our imperial vision. Understand that by Empire I mean precisely the vision that began the Roman adventure: To protect the weak, and make humble the arrogant.  That was Rome's vision of its role in the world. What they actually accomplished was not quite that, but that was the vision that lured them onward after the collapse of Carthage.

Delenda est Carthago.  But once the salt had be sown in North Africa...










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Thursday, October 17, 2002

Dr. Pournelle:

Orson Scott Card's "Open Letter to Europe" may be relevant to the Republic and Empire discussion: 

Mark Thompson jomath [at]

Scott is saying that in 1936 France and England ought to have opposed the German reoccupation of the Rhineland, by force. That would have settled Hitler and saved the world from the Nazis.

Of course that would have been against the wishes of the populations of both England and France; and  Hitler had convinced Paris and London that military opposition to the reclamation of the German Rhineland would be an act of war against Germany.

  In hindsight, of course, it would not have resulted in war -- the General Staff would have deposed Hitler -- and France and England  should have acted; but it wasn't clear at all at the time. Citing all the crimes of Hitler after the fact is colorful but not particularly relevant. Some saw the future clearly, but most did not.

 Without the Rhineland, Germany was in danger of economic collapse. The Rhineland was a vital interest to Germany, and didn't appear to be so to a very war-weary France and England. England, in particular, had lost most of the younger sons of the aristocracy to The Great War -- and it had not been The War To End All War. There wasn't much popular sentiment for war in England in 1936.

It's easy enough to make up scenarios that justify going to war, with Germany in 1936, with Japan in 1940, with China in 1950, with Russia in 1956 before they got the ICBM; or with Iraq in 2002.

 Storming Iraq would be bloody but most of the blood would be Iraqi, not ours. That will have two effects: we will be feared, but we will also be hated.

The question is, what do we do afterwards?  Iraq was under British tutelage for a while; it doesn't seem to have developed into a democracy. We can try sending in a proconsul in the hopes that the German and Japanese miracles will happen, but is that likely? Iraq isn't a nation: there are at least three nations there. And the majority is Shiite: installing a majority government may not be precisely the solution we think it is.

We are not likely to be welcomed in, no matter that Scott thinks it's wonderful to be occupied by American GI's. And if we begin this New Crusade, where does it end? Arabs tend to follow the strong man; if we become the new Strong Man, will they convert to pro-western ways? What of the Pakistani and Indonesians, who don't like us much now, and probably will like us less if we are the conquerors of an Arab Muslim homeland; and what happens with Saudi Arabia? Will they welcome American culture just across the border, with cultivation of a western style democracy in Baghdad?

And how do we take Baghdad? By storm with lots of casualties on both sides, or in the usual US city manner: reduce the city to rubble and "durchjeepen" through? What is the effect on us for having waged that kind of war? Or do we simply starve them out? The Republican Guard will eat even if the children don't.

In other words: is the world a safer place with an American army in (or besieging) Baghdad? 

I don't know. It's easy to make the analogy with Hitler; but Germany in 1936 was still one of the Great Powers, capable in only a couple of years of building fleets and armies that could take on half the world. I don't think Iraq is in that situation. 

If Saddam gets nukes, he won't have many. (Some argue that he has them now; others that he is just about to; others that he is years away. Take your choice.) Is Iraq more or less stable than India and Pakistan who are certainly members of the nuclear club?

As always the question is, what are the objectives of this war? I have yet to see a coherent statement of objectives for this way. The Line IN The Sand in the time of Bush the Elder was at least clear, and what we intended to do was known. We went into Somalia without clear objectives. We got out with our dead. We went into former Yugoslavia without clear objectives. We are still there.  What is it we want to accomplish in Iraq?

Saying that we want to build a stable peace-loving democracy is not a statement of objectives. Before we go to Mesopotamia to break things and kill people, I for one would like to know what we expect to gain; and what we will do once we get there.







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What? Really? I'm shocked...


Terry Cole writes: > This speaks for itself. Red Hat can't publish a security patch within the US > because it constitutes a DMCA violation. > > 


a) this is OLD and had nothing to do with Red Hat - it was the Linux Kernel 2.4.19 announcement, back in June (IIRC).

b) they can publish the patch, they just say they can't publish a *description* of the patch

A number of people have noted that this is silly and would NOT be a DMCA violation. It is obviously a political move on the part of Alan Cox (a major Linux developer who happens to be quite opinionated and works for Red Hat) to raise awareness of the DMCA. Don't get me wrong: the DMCA is a horrible law, bought by money from MPAA/RIAA and is hurting our freedoms.

In short: the Register is doing it's typically "chicken with it's head cut off" routine without doing proper research. I like the Register, but they do tend to be a bit over-the-top.

Pete Flugstad

Well, I'm shocked. But the interesting point is that we live under laws so bad that it wasn't instantly obvious that this is ridiculous. The ridiculous happens often, and because of the imperial bureaucracy, nothing can be done even when everyone knows something ought to be done. 

Case in point: years ago, a staffer in Congress, in the dead of night, sneaked a provision into copyright law that makes the default copyright for perf0rmance art go to the publisher, not the artist. Unless the contract spells it out in specifics, all rights automatically go to the publisher (in contrast to print media, for example, in which the default is that the writer retains all rights except that the publisher has a non-exclusive anthology right). No Congressman was ever found who acknowledged wanting that provision in the law or even knowing it was there; every Congresscritter interviewed said it was terrible and should be repealed. 

If it has ever been repealed no one has told me, and my last understanding is that the provision is still there despite no single member of Congress purporting to want it to be there. Incidentally, the staffer went from the Congressional staff to a high post in the RIAA a few month later. Surprise!

So when I see silly provisions in the law, or even downright evil ones that no one in his right mind would vote for, I cannot automatically assume it is a hoax. 

Welcome to imperial government.

For imperial thinking:

Dear Dr.Pournelle:

I suspect that the United States can do great good in the Middle East - but only if we think big. Small solutions solve nothing. Ultimately, the only road to a lasting peace leads through Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

Let's review the bidding. It seems to me that the goals of the United States in the region should be:

1. Maintain the flow of oil at market prices.

2. Create a non-hostile political situation. By extension, this implies the creation of stable countries with governments that have popular support.

3. Recoup our expenses to the degree possible.

Goals 1 and 3 are achievable - the most direct method is to seize and hold the oil fields. Or maybe we let the local nations retain them - but only if they are trustworthy.

Which brings us to goal #2, the hard one. Here, we have to face the fact that the British and French partitioned this part of the Ottoman Empire with only marginal success. The Treaty of Versailles created a set of states featuring ruling houses that were part of a tribal minority - that could not win a popular election if they dared hold one. This situation may have been great for creating client states of Britain and France, but also created a set of regimes that rely on repression to one degree or another to maintain power. The situation isn't helped by the fact that Middle Eastern governments have never learned to tolerate dissent, and have long taken to using the United States and Israel as whipping boys to divert the disaffections of the populace away from their own government.

The logical solution, in my view, is to take a completely blank map of the region and draw NEW borders - borders which will correspond to tribal boundaries, states under traditional tribal leaders. This will provide stable government, greatly easing the internal disputes and providing traditional avenues for resolving internal political issues. As an aside, it will also enable the United States to conveniently leave the traditionally unpopulated areas (such as parts of the oil fields) outside ANY state bounds - safely under American control (achieving goals #1 and #3)

But you can't do this with a small solution. Only the big solution will do.


Mike McDaniel

Competent imperial thinking. 

While we are at it, there are many other ills of this world we should fix, in this Year of Grace, Two Thousand and Two, and of the Independence of these United States the two hundred and twenty-sixth...

And now:

I think the Iraq campaign may not have been my highest priority in the War on Terror, but it appears to be Bush's. Fine, I can deal with that.


1) Replace Saddam. Why? For the support he gave the first al-Qaeda WTC attack in 1993 and the assassination attempt on Bush Sr. Who replaces him? Who cares, as long as they learn "Don't stand next to someone throwing excrement at an armed man." 

2) Put up a monument. In Baghdad. Something like, say, a square mile of concrete paved over salted ground, preferably where a "presidential palace" used to be. 

3) Destroy all WMD. Shoot the doctors in the biowar program. 

4) Pump millions of barrels of oil, driving the market price down to $10 a barrel and sending all the money to the Iraqi people through channels we control. Roads, power lines, schools, hospitals--lots of infrastructure.

I liked the monument idea when it originally floated around here, but Kabul was not necessarily a good place to put one. Iraq is a more impressive target. The Ba'athists, House of Saud, and Ayatollahs will get the message a lot quicker from a monument in Baghdad. So will Kim Jong-Il. The Palestinians--well, they seem incapable of learning from their own or others' mistakes, but we can still try.

"Don't stand next to someone throwing excrement at an armed man." Great thing to make sure every man, woman and child in the Middle East and parts of Asia understands in an obvious and messy way.

Steve Setzer

That is a lot closer to the way Adams and Madison might have thought. You do understand that as we pump all that oil, much of the money will stick to the fingers of the quaestors we put in charge...

And then Robin points out that we we have another use for oil money:

Hi there - I work For a tourist board in the UK and over the last 6 months, as my e mail is published on the net, I have been offered over billions of dollars through e mail scams. To start with I just binned them but as they kept on coming I started getting into a relationship with the writer whoever they might have been. I started by telling them I was interested, and that I was the eldest brother of a family firm, both my parents had been killed in a road accident in their Rolls Royce, but my brother kept tight reign on the finances. They then replied with interest but each time with a different e mail address ( I also got the feeling that they had passed my address onto others as a flood of new requests came in). 

On one occasion they sent me a picture of a trunk filled with, what looked like monopoly money. I mentioned it to a colleague at work and he contacted them to ask them to stop sending the requests as I was his unstable brother and had already cost the family company millions of pounds. He also asked them to send a photo which they did of the same trunk of money. On their next e mail they asked me not to tell my 'brother' that they were continuing to contact me.... 

All of the e mails were sent as from the wife of a general and eventually she told me about her son 'Basher' In my next e mail I asked for a picture of her son but none was forthcoming. The correspondence has now been going on for about two months (don't worry I still find time to do my work) but I figured that if I was tying them up - it would be less time for them to spend having a go at others - besides I want to try and wind them up. The latest e mail conversation that they have sent through follows and I wonder if it will be the last.

Re: what is your problem Zuma 

I apologise. I am getting so many of these requests for me to open up bank accounts I am getting confused who I am writing to. I was sure that you told me that you were the son of the deposed president of Nigeria with a son called Basher. I am getting confused because every time you send me an e mail the address is different! and then I cannot follow the conversations I am having with you. Where are you from - I m sorry I can't remember the story. Also when you write 'what is your problem' as a header to the e mail it is very rude - I know that a lot of Nigerians feel that it is OK to be blunt but we British are more polite - even over the internet - please send photo. Robin

>>> "mo_seko" <> 10/18/02 09:08am >>>'what is your problem' I do not understand you,I never told you any thinh about Nigeria,I am not a Nigerian also.

Please if you are not ready to complete this project then tell me and stop being unprofessional.


Why -- how unprofessional of you!! Are you not a professional?






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Saturday, October 19, 2002

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: The present danger

Dear Jerry:

After reading your latest call to do something that isn't war, I've come to believe that your side and mine are talking past each other. We seem to be operating from different premises. Let me try to get down to basics.

Contrary to your statement: "France and England should have acted; but it wasn't clear at all at the time," I think it was perfectly clear. Hitler's speeches and writings had made his goal of another war completely evident. People decided to believe otherwise in the teeth of the evidence. I believe you do the same on this issue.

And I think "Citing all the crimes of Hitler after the fact" is extremely relevant. Our policy towards Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union in the 1930s was 'Well, it's a shame that they are so brutal, but they aren't attacking us, so it's not our problem. Beware entangling alliances. We protect are own liberty, and let the foreigners go hang.' As a result, as 100-200 million people died, and we had to fight anyway. Ungood.

There are people all over the world that hate us. They hate us because we're rich and powerful, and we got that way doing things differently from them. Our success is an unendurable reproach.

The Islamists are such people. They have stated that they intend to conquer our country and impose sharia law on us. They have made war upon us, and stated that they will continue their attacks till our will breaks. They have said they welcome the opportunity to die in this struggle, and there is no possibility of negotiating a peaceful resolution of the issues: one side must win, the other lose. I believe them. And I have no intention of living under the kind of regime they favor. Nor do I find it acceptable to allow them to sit in sanctuaries overseas, assaulting us whenever they can. And I refuse to cross my fingers and hope for the best, which seems to be your policy.

As I see it, this leaves war as the only option. We need to go to the Middle East, kill people, and break things. The goal is simple: kill and break until we've establish three simple principles of international relations: Do not FUCK with the United States; Do not support those who fuck with the United States; do not turn a blind eye on those who fuck with the United States.

While Saddam Hussein is not one of these Islamists, he works with them to obtain his own goal expanding his Stalin-like power over as much of the Muslim world as possible. His govt. has carried out terrorist attacks on USAmericans, and he is currently harboring those who carry out attacks on USAmericans. He needs to be killed for that.

This is going to take a long time, cost a lot of money, and result in a lot of death and destruction. I DON'T CARE. I ceased caring on the morning of September 11th, 2001. We're past reason, it's blood now.

I don't think we are "likely to be welcomed in", or that "it's wonderful to be occupied by American GI's.'' (Neither does Orson Scott Card, and it's dishonest of you to characterize his position that way. While we're on the subject, the British did not attempt to foster democracy in Iraq in the 1920s, but to prevent it; the Germans were never deprived of the Rhineland, they were just forbidden to station troops in that part of their country; and the war weariness of England seems have been least among those who actually fought in the trenches, according to veteran C. S. Lewis. Did you not know this? ). I don't care what Jefferson or Madison would have done. I don't care if this makes us an "Empire" under whatever shifting definition of that term you're using today. I know that Iraq will not be the end of this. After Iraq comes Iran, Cuba, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and N. Korea, and Saudi Arabia (not necessarily in that order). Maybe Pakistan and Indonesia too. Whatever it takes, lets get on with it.

If this means we have to occupy foreign countries for years, or decades, I'm willing. We stay till we're confident that all future govts. will observe the Three Principles. If the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds can't live together in peace, they can divide themselves up as Yugoslavia did, but peacefully. Just so the successor states live by the Three Principles.

I'm past worrying about 'what kind of a people this will make us.' I once knew a heck of a nice guy who was at Hickam Field on That Day. Three years later, he was flying B-29s over Japan, dropping napalm on civilians. I used to wonder how anyone could do that. Now, I know, and I'd be glad to bomb Bagdhad, Tehran, and Riyadh if that seems the best course at the time. Without warning. Using nukes. Until the survivors fear us so much they observe the Three Principles.

That's the policy I support. I do not pretend to be omniscient. I realize this course may end in disaster, that if I knew the outcome of what I advocate I might run screaming from it. So what? The only thing we can guarantee failure. That should not stop us from acknowledging the risks and still trying to achieve success.

Since you disagree with my policy, I ask for yours. What exactly will you do about those who wish to harm us? You've mentioned things that add up, I'd say, to isolationism, autarky, and dismantling the welfare state. The theory seems to be that if we bluster a lot, then hide from the world, it will leave us alone.

I don't think there's a chance in Hell of adopting any part of your program, even the parts I enthusiastically support, but pass that by. Let's say we do it. WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK? What if, after we reverse every basic political decision of the past 70 years, they still keep attacking? What's the Pournelle plan for dealing with terrorists who attack the United States, and the govts. that support them and ignore them then?

And if the answer is "Well, then we will have to fight," do you think the balance of forces will have shifted even further in our favor?

The foreign policy you seem to be advocating was tried once, and ended in disaster. Before we try it again, I'd like to see something to support it other than slogans, biased predictions of the future, and nostalgia.

Best, Stephen


P.S. I'm sorry if the tone of this screed offends. The first two attempts were longer, and nastier, and I've run out of energy to rewrite it.

You win. I don't intend to continue this discussion any longer. But I point out:

It may have been clear to some, like Churchill, in 1936 that the West ought to kill some Germans; but no one could have won an election running on that platform, and I don't have to speculate about that because it was tried. The number of votes for a "Stop Hitler Now!" policy was pretty small. 

Does this mean that there ought to have been leaders who Knew Better? There were, Churchill among them. Does it mean that the aristocracy of the US and Britain ought to have overthrown the government to impose their correct military policy? If so, that's hardly a republic as I understand it.

The people of the US seem to think more or less as you do, and they will have their war. It seems quite popular, and I don't find it much fun to be numbered among the ranks of the squishy left; and when the war starts there won't be any choice but vigorous support of the army, including money and supplies, and if that takes rationing and price controls that is what it will take, and I will support those measures. Fortunately it should not come to that; the enemy is not well organized.

As to your fear of living under Islamist rule, if that happens it will be due to immigration and multiplication, not to invasion. There is not a single country on Earth that could by force take a drink from the Mississippi or carry off a handful of sand from Arizona. There is no country that can stand a soldier on American soil without our leave. None.

I grew up in a time when there was a real  threat, culminating in 26,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the United States. The USSR had an army capable of overrunning Europe in hours. I see no such threats today no matter how hard I look for them.

As to teaching others not to muck with the United States, if that were the objective I would cheer; but it is not the objective, and the Weekly Standard Warriors don't even pretend that is the objective. We are, despite the total failure in former Yugoslavia, going to try an experiment in nation building.

No, the Brits didn't try to impose a democracy on Iraq; but it's pretty clear that if there had been one, it would not have lasted long. And every leader in Iraq, without exception, has wanted to invade Kuwait. The fact is that there is no nation in Iraq; it is either several nations, or the parts of an empire. But it is not grounds for liberal democracy. Nor, I suspect, is much of the Middle East; and even if it were, I don't see how it is our business to try to build it there, nor do I suspect we know how to do it even if it be possible.

The proper policy for a republic is to be strong enough to defeat its enemies and otherwise to mind its own business. We can show the others how we live; if they like it they can give it a try. But imposing our system on others isn't what we were founded to do, and despite the spectacular successes of Macarthur and Lucius Clay backed with American bayonets, there's no reason to suppose we are any good at it. Our various attempts to export our system in this hemisphere have not been notably successful.

Yes, I am in favor of punitive expeditions when there is a point to them. I am in favor of making it very clear to ruling elites that it is very much in their interest to see that those under their control do not make war on the United States or harm our people. To do that means we must target the ruling elites; killing the subjects of a dictator does him little harm and may even unite his people behind him. Taking away the assets with which he controls his people is another story. Hanging hostile leaders for war crimes makes sense, but sometimes the cost of that can be high: not in our blood, but in the blood of the enemy.

Read Black Hawk Down for a very small picture of that. We lost tens of our troops, many of them because they would leave none behind. The cost to the Somalis was much higher. And that was one minor action one afternoon.

How much Iraqi blood do you want on our hands? Shall we wade in blood? How deep? We have the means to make that blood as deep as we like. And having done it, how will that make you safer from Islamist rule than you are now? I ask seriously.

Meanwhile we will use the army to help Washington and Virginia to catch the sniper. A necessary action, justified under the circumstances; but I can't help thinking that the last time we asked the military to aid us in domestic law enforcement the result was Waco. It gets easier every time. 

You ask for my policy? I have given it dozens of times. We make it clear that those responsible for acts against the United States will lose their positions. That may well include the regime in Iraq; I would like to see a little more connection between Saddam and 911 than a disputed observation in Prague of a possible meeting; I would think we could have manufactured more compelling evidence than that. But I do not ask for proof that would stand up in an American court; I do ask for plausible connection. And there is more connecting the House of Saud than Baathist Iraq to 911; as you well know.

But no: I do not thirst for the blood of random Iraqis or Saudis, and the notion that the world will be a better place if the United States uses nuclear weapons on Baghdad and Mecca and Medina and Djkarta and Rangoon and Tehran and Cairo and every place that has ever hated us does not strike me as either sane or moral.

And it is certainly not "The Pournelle Plan." I don't think incinerating the people of Baghdad and Mecca will make me and my children safer. 

Yes, we can drop atom bombs on people. And the survivors can make smallpox and mutated anthrax, and parrot fever, and rabbit fever, and plague, none of which require all that many resources. So to stop that we impose -- what? The CoDominium? BuIntelligence and licensed physicists and biologists? 

Think ahead just a little. 

And I rather resent the notion that building our own defenses and developing our own resources is "isolationism, autarky, and dismantling the welfare state. The theory seems to be that if we bluster a lot, then hide from the world, it will leave us alone."

But if you think that of me, what in the world are you doing here?

Isolationism?  Is it isolationist not to try to govern former Yugoslavia? Is it isolationist not to keep armies in foreign territories? Is it isolationist to put money into developing energy independence and building space access and strategic defenses? Is it isolationist to admit we don't know how to solve the Kurdish problem to the satisfaction of the Kurds, the Turks, the Persians, and the Babylonians? Is it isolationist to say we don't know how to govern South Africa, and we aren't going to try?

We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians only of our own. If that's isolationism and bluster, then words have lost their meaning. 

And if you are past worrying about what kind of people we will become after we have bombed Mecca and Medina and Baghdad to slag and incinerated or worse maimed from tens of thousands to millions of civilians who have done us no harm other than to wish us ill -- well, I prefer to think you cannot have meant that.

Here you are: you can build a world of happiness. All you must do is torture this one small child to death, making certain that it survives for at least 30 days in absolute misery and horror. If you will but do that, the world will be a wonderful place, and we can build a new world of happiness. Tell me, Alyosha, and tell me truly...

[Discussion of this subject continues below.]




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Sunday, October 20, 2002

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I observe that the model you postulate for our future is drawn by analogy from the Roman Republic's transition to empire, after they established dominion over most of the Mediterranean basin and its adjacent lands. My question is, why is it not equally plausible to propose Great Britain in the 19th century as analogy?

It seems to me that Britain did a fairly competent job at empire, without becoming more autocratic in the process. Indeed, there seems to have been almost an inverse correlation between the extent of the Empire and the democratization of Britain!

Of course, Britain then engaged in a disastrous war (or two, depending on whether you count 1914-1945 as a single war with a twenty-year hiatus or not) against Germany, at the conclusion of which they had lost both the capability and the will to maintain their empire. Perhaps in our case this war would be fought against China, and we would all suffer terribly in the process (I won't speculate on who might take up the slack that the US did in our history: perhaps the United States of Mars?). But in the meantime, Britain (and the rest of Europe and America) managed to have a century of (relative) peace, and Britain evolved from a moderately strong monarchy (partially restrained by a parliament elected on a very restricted franchise) to a reasonably representative constitutional monarchy (I consider the confrontation between the Commons and the Lords in 1911 as the "tipping point" after which both Crown and Lords had their wings permanently clipped).

I agree that your concerns are valid, and that we should not embark on any proto-imperial, quasi-imperial or crypto-imperial enterprise lightly or "in a fit of absent-mindedness" (fat chance of that!). Yet, it seem to me that we can overstate the relevance of any particular historical analogy. Why do you believe that we would follow Rome's path rather than London's?

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

Good question, and in fact I'll have to think on the answer. The short answer is "we should be so lucky."

And perhaps I have been unclear in the past. The Pax Romana and the Pax Britannica were two of the longer periods of peace this world has enjoyed, and for a century in the old empire the peasant in the fields and the burgers in the towns neither knew nor cared when the empire was at war. Herman Kahn always seriously thought that empire was the natural form of government. I have said all this but not recently, and perhaps it is time again.

And perhaps in that sense the charge that I am merely nostalgic about the old republic is valid. 

Empire has its attractions. Kipling expressed many of them. The Widow's Party is a wonderful example. 

"What was the end of all the show,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?"
Ask my Colonel, for ~I~ don't know,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
We broke a King and we built a road --
A court-house stands where the reg'ment goed.
And the river's clean where the raw blood flowed
    When the Widow give the party.
       (~Bugle~:  Ta--rara--ra-ra-rara!)

And more,

Walk wide of the Widow of Windsor, 
for half of creation she owns...

As Parkinson put it in his Evolution of Political Thought (alas, I can find no copy for sale now, although I used to assign it as one text in my political theory courses) the arguments for empire operate at more levels than mere rational discussion, and include uniforms and flags and drums. Nostalgia indeed! And when I was much younger, in the 50's, in a New York City second hand book store -- there used to be a lot of them down near the Library (more nostalgia!) -- I came across a book I no longer have and cannot find, and whose author (a professor with diplomatic credentials, as I recall) I have forgotten. It was entitled, I believe, "Experiment in World Order," and it was a defense of the British Empire which was then coming to an end; and a rather good defense it must have been, because while I cannot remember a single word of that book, I left it with a sense of the loss the world was experiencing.

Of course it was meddling by the United States that made the demise of the Empire certain. Churchill had in fact become First Minister in order to preside over the demise of the British Empire. (Although as Parkinson among others noted, the Welfare State pretty much made certain that it would be the Farewell Empire.) Having made certain the end of the British experiment in world order, perhaps it is incumbent on the United States to try its own hand at the New World Order.

Interestingly, you have precipitated something I had planned to do anyway: given that it is nearly inevitable that we will not return to the old republic, what would be good policy for the new American hegemony? I thought to start on that next week, since there is little left to be said on the old subject.

The Roman Experiment in World Order collapsed under the repeated weight of barbarian attacks (and the ceaseless striving of power after power, but perhaps that would not have happened without the external threats.)

The British Experiment in World Order is done, fallen to the Welfare State requiring resources needed by the Empire. Can the United States undertake a third Experiment? We have both the guns and the butter, and we have traditions of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality that Napoleon's soldiers did not have; can we carry ours on the points of our bayonets?

What should a competent American Empire do? Is it true that Free Trade makes Free Men, and exporting liberalism, democracy, and free trade, if need be at the point of the bayonet, will transform the world? And do so at a price we can not only afford but pay joyously? In a word, where do we go from here?

Understand, one part of the price is high: the end of the American experiment as understood by the Framers, the New World we proclaim on our Great Seal; a Republic, madam, if you can keep it. But perhaps that is already gone; and having paid that price, we may as well get on with imposing a different kind of New World Order, one that would not have appealed to Washington and Madison, but which yet has its attractions.

Perhaps that is our destiny.

And another letter with a related  question with direct bearing on this:

"Here you are: you can build a world of happiness. All you must do is torture this one small child to death, making certain that it survives for at least 30 days in absolute misery and horror. If you will but do that, the world will be a wonderful place, and we can build a new world of happiness. Tell me, Alyosha, and tell me truly"

This is precisely what we did in 1944 & 45 in Germany and Japan. Would you have done otherwise? No one governs innocently.

I love your web site, especially now as it gains more controversy. I grew up in Tennessee in the 1930s, fought in Europe as a rifleman, and read The Brothers Karamazov at the College of the University of Chicago. Your web mail column takes me back to the intellectual excitement of my college days. I watch in fascination as the Blood Lust builds for a war with the fundamentalist Moslems; I say this without apology, it was my generation that burned to death millions of German and Japanese women and children. Many of them I am sure survived for at least 30 days in absolute misery and horror; not just one, many. A great many of my friends lie buried in the military cemeteries of Europe and we all bear the guilt of doing what had to be done.

Pat Swaney

Thank you. First, no, I would not have done differently; and indeed no one governs innocently.

But you ask a slightly different question from the one Ivan asks and Alyosha answers. You ask about the place of collateral damage in a just war. That requires a much longer answer than I have time to give, even assuming I am qualified to do so. It requires examining St. Paul and Aquinas and Grotius and many others; but the short answer has to do with intentions as well as means and ends.

I have long questioned the Air War in Europe. Bombing civilians was thought immoral up to the time we began doing it; but did it shorten the war, and thereby bring about more good than evil?

In the Pacific War the answer is far less ambiguous: unless we took the war to the Japanese homelands the war would never be ended, and the air war was the only way we could do it. Note that Doolittle's Raid was made back when we distinguished between military and civilian targets and all his pilots were thoroughly briefed on that. That kind of bombing campaign wasn't sufficient, or was thought not to be, and the result was the Tokyo fire raids, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki; I am not one who joins the chorus of condemnation over any of that. The campaign was effective, the war was ended, and the alternatives were dreadful. An invasion of Japan would have cost more lives, Allied and Japanese, than the air war, and by a lot. 

In Europe the case isn't so clear. We had to invade anyway, and it may well be that a larger field army, with more direct air support, would have ended the war in 1944. In other words, the heavy bombers were a drain on resources that could better have gone into tanks, company commanders, direct air support craft, artillery, etc.  But the very fact that this is debatable decides the moral issue: we did what we thought we had to do with the instruments to hand.

War is Hell. Sometimes it is necessary. And Robert E. Lee made the definitive observation on our attitude toward it.

As you probably know, I grew up in Tennessee in the 1930's also, but I was too young for World War II.  Thank you for the kind words.

And finally, Mr. Thompson has more patience than I do, or a better search procedure:

*1. * *Paul McGuire* *Experiment in World Order
* New York: William Morrow & Company, 1948. Cloth Boards. Very Good +/Very Good. First Edition. Book has dust soiling on all edges; otherwise is in excellent condition inside and out. Jacket has some fading and staining from dust (also some liquid on rear jacket); wear at corners and spine extremities and edges; a 2.7cm tear at top front edge. Bookseller Inventory #001055 *Price:* US$ 15.00 (Convert Currency

 >* NY VIKING/COMPASS 1960. GOOD,SCUFFS/SPOTS COVER,CHIP. FFEP,SCUFFS EDGES,. SC, 327PP, DARKENED SPINE,. Bookseller Inventory #063138 *Price:* US$ 3.00 (Convert Currency

And continuing the discussion:

Subject: Rome versus London first cut - also does Hecht mean an inverse correlation between the extent of the Empire and the democratization of Britain? or a direct correlation?

 Very simply I suggest this argument is based on a false premise. There is glory in empire, see e.g. Mr. Heinlein's Lost Legacy which suggests some of the appeal that leads people to give up individual goals in favor of community greatness only to dismiss that appeal as well as reminding us that such has always passed - and suggests it might again. But the view of the British Empire and life in the United Kingdom Mr. Hecht suggests is incomplete and necessarily incomplete if it is to support his argument by analogy. Perhaps it was intended only as a point to ponder?

I too will use some literary references as shorthand for long paragraphs.

However much the world of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in Boat - to say nothing of the dog appeals, and it still does, as Connie Willis reminds us, I have never found anything else in Jerome's writings quite so pleasant - the interlude was not the real life of the characters. Whether it be The Admirable Crichton or Remains of the Day, or the story of Bertie Wooster we can see that class differences supported the British Empire at home in a way that I for one find disturbing - nor is it hard to find injustice described in passages of India or anywhere else in the Empire. John Masters may provide in his fact and fiction a fine description of the whole Empire for the period of the Empire's greatness and its end - and he lived to shoot his own wounded in service to that Empire and move to the United States I think - though his son served well in the Falklands to remind us the old dog still has teeth.

Whether it be the stunted physical size of the underclasses (e.g. sizing for recruits into the armed services), or the drive to disarm the workers against the threat of a general strike I can hardly be happy with a description of Britain as an idyllic empire - granted there is never such; Et in Arcadia Ego reads the marker - and Arcadia had problems of its own. For a description of life under the Empire for citizens in the home islands we can as well read The Road to Wigan Pier as anything else.

And yet I completely agree with your "we should be so lucky." Characters in your Co-Dominium series pledged and spent their lives and their fortunes and their sacred honor as well as their families to buy time - time to spread out and to make it true (in that fictional world) that for most of mankind's history the word ship meant spaceship - even if it be a Spaceship for The King.

Perhaps all we can really buy is time. Joe Foss has some chilling descriptions of his friends spending what they had to spend to buy time for the Republic - and spending is the term he uses. As Lincoln is reputed to have said first, just as I would not be a slave so I would not be a slaveholder, and I can hardly do anything but oppose any suggestion that we make the rest of the world serfs of America no matter how peaceful their lives and how happily they sing to us in the evening.

Clark Myers

But I think no one ever suggested that the British Empire was without flaws. As to aristocracy, why that is the nature of empire: it will have an aristocracy, a nobility. But then the Roman Republic had a nobility. John Adams suggested a much wider spread aristocracy for the United States. But Aristocracy there was, and is, and will be. The question is, how free is the entry to it?

Hamilton, the bastard son of a Scots peddler, would have been content to have an hereditary Senate, and primogeniture, and in general the trappings and makings of aristocracy in the United States of the Framers. And Ortega y Gasset said that a civilization is a civilization only so long as it is aristocratic. Most people find the rather mobile aristocracy of the later British Empire, especially after the reforms of Macaulay, to have been one of its more admirable points: it wasn't that they were all virtuous, in the old sense of the Four Cardinal Virtues, but that they aspired to be, and admired that kind of virtue -- and admitted that there were virtues, which our present day equalitarian society does not, lest we discover that they are not as wide spread as we like, and we have to pass judgment on someone.

Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice: if the British aristocracy that perished in the Boer war and then in The Great War did not all exhibit those virtues, they all admired them and found them desirable. Even Flashman finds himself being virtuous despite himself...

If we cannot be a republic, then the aristocratic empire of the Widow of Windsor may be what we must aspire to. What other models do we have? (Sparta, perhaps: an idealized Sparta was the founding myth of my Empire of Man in the series you mention; for those interested, The Prince  is relevant.)

But recall that my CoDominium series was intended as a warning...






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