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Mail 244 February 10 - 16, 2003 






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Monday  February 10, 2003

There is a pile of mail, and I ought to pull some of the threads out and give them their own pages, and I simply haven't any spare time if I am going to finish this book.

I am dancing as fast as I can.

Dr. P:

Somebody named Brad DeLong has a web site, at which he has posted an essay or something attributed to Gregory Benford and entitled "Beyond the Shuttle." Alas, there's not really much about what ought to be beyond the shuttle. The most memorable quote is probably "The station recycles only urine; otherwise, it is camping in space, not truly living there."

Benford says "The Russians who set the endurance records in space have never fully recovered." I'd like to know more about this. Do you (or some of your readers) know of any online resources on the subject?


Oh, yes: the link is:

Wade L. Scholine 

Greg Benford is of course an old friend and colleague and he and his twin brother Jim are part of the Council. He's always worth listening to. Space Station exists to absorb money spent on Shuttle flights, and justifies the existence of Shuttle. Shuttle exists to service Space Station.

None of this has much to do with access to space. It's just NASA.

Subject: Comment on the New Yorker Article

Good intelligence officers share with good generals the ability to grasp how things work together--the systems viewpoint. Generals have to be taught this at Command and General Staff School, and they're taught from the American perspective. Good intelligence officers learn this from the perspective of our adversaries, which means their careers don't go anywhere--they think and smell 'wrong' to most fellow officers. And so we lose them, usually just as they're getting good at their jobs. We need HUMINT badly to make up for this weakness, and we also need to recruit people who understand our adversaries to jump start our intelligence analysis. They're out there--I have regular contact with good candidates in my teaching--but our homeland defense people are currently doing a good job of driving them away...

 -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <

Our current homeland defense people seem to be neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, but they are doing a hell of a job of ruining the airlines.

From Joel Rosenberg:

Subject: War to the Knife

Colin Powell's presentation at the UN seems to have changed a lot of minds, at least in the US. (The French, alas, seem more eager to be negotiating their bribe than anything else, although that's not a matter of public admission. Yet.)

While a lot of the details were new -- to me, at least -- the overall outline seems to me to be the same both before and after: Saddam, as you say, not only hates the US (hell, so do the French), but has, at a minimum, given aid and comfort to those who have been willing to act on such hate, just as the late, unlamented (well, unlamented here; there are those who lament its passing) Taliban regime in Afghanistan did, and is at the very least positioning himself to be able to do more.

The more general question of whether and when the US will stomp on nasty dictators -- or even kind, gentle dictators -- who do the same thing should, I think, be left ambiguous at the national policy level, and should be based on not the personal nastiness of the dictator, but put in context of the bigger picture of making it unsafe to act on hatred of the US.

The antis are certainly right that Saddam isn't the only such dictator in the world, and at least arguably right that he's not the worst offender in terms of giving aid and comfort to anti-US terrorists (I think the Saudis have, all in all, done much more damage to date, and it's not unlikely that whatever biological or chemical weapons Saddam provides to the various Islamofascist organizations have been paid for or will be paid for with Saudi money, just as the jihadis' plane tickets were).

So Iraq is next. And if the take on the "Arab street" is that Bush Jr is holding up the family honor after his father's unwillingness to finish with Saddam twelve years ago, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. The lesson of "don't be an enemy of the US; it's not safe" can be understood on a personal level, as well.

Who's next? And when? That's something that the US ought to think about, -- and very carefully -- but it would be a capital mistake to be clear about intentions. Let all those who support our enemies wonder if they've been given the pole position for Operation Politically Correct Name, Part III. My guess is that some dominoes will get knocked over in any case, and lots of them if -- and I admit it's a longshot, but I don't admit that an Arab democracy is an utter impossibility, despite the utter historic absence of them -- Iraq can be converted into the first Arab democracy, on the post-WWII Germany/Japan model, lots of dominoes will fall. A modern democracy riding on a huge, saleable pool of oil can quickly become an engine of modernization, and one that would, most likely, find itself uncomfortable with reactionary, expansionist regimes next door.

As to the dark of the moon, I dunno. Seems to me that dark nights are more important for the ground portion of the invasion than the initial air war. When the ground war starts, the tanks and APCs will be coming within effective range for visual targetting; the combination of altitude, ECM, and aggressive suppression of enemy radars and AAA installations seems to me to make the air war less dependent on the dark. Not that I'm at all afraid to leave such matters up to folks who know more about them than I do -- General Franks has, understandably, not called me up to ask my opinion :) -- but my guess is that, political considerations aside, the air war should launch long enough to have the ground prepped for a dark of the moon launch of the land invasion.


-- Christine Hanson will never be three, and I feel sad about that. But I did not know her, love her, cherish her; I do not feel her loss, her absence in my life. I have no reason to hold hands in a "healing circle" for her. All I can do for Christine Hanson is insist that the terrorist movement which killed her is hunted down and prevented from deliberately targeting any more two-year olds. We honour Christine Hanson's memory by righting the great wrong done to her, not by ersatz grief-mongering. -- Mark Steyn ------------------------------------------------------------ 

I have been curious for a long time about the failure of the shuttle to meet its projected cost-per-pound-to-orbit number. Earlier this evening I saw an article indicating that the actual cost was about x100 larger than originally hoped. Do you have any reference for a discussion of the how and why? I tend to doubt that it is just inefficiency at NASA. Surely the private launch companies have done analyses, although they would probably not be available and too (financially) technical for me. I'd be curious to know just why SSTO is considered the cheap way to go. (The airlines like to break my flights into lots of segments...)

Thanks, Hans Haucke

The short answer about Shuttle costs is that Shuttle was designed to employ about 20,000 Apollo people and has met that requirement. Each Shuttle flight costs about a billion, no matter what NASA claims: add up what is spent each year on the Shuttle and divide by the number of missions.

The short answer on the other question is that it isn't Single Stage that is important, it is SAVABLE and REUSABLE that is important. Routing access to space requires ships that can survive problems and get themselves, their crew, and their cargo back home safely; and that the ship not be thrown away and a new one built after each launch.

Single Stage to Orbit is the operationally simplest way of achieving that. If it turns out to be too hard to make the mass fraction with low enough drag, then there may have to be a zero stage to get the whole mess up to where exhaust velocities give us vacuum rather than sea level ISP; or something else. As I have said to the point of weariness, we don't know these things; but we do know how to find them out, and the SSX program was designed to do that.

The next step in space access research is to build a ship that can be flown incrementally, flown often, and is savable. Savable. Reusable. Fly Soon. Fly Often. Fly Higher. Fly Faster.  In more or less that order of design requirements.

From a serving officer:

IN Case You Didn't Know





Hoo hah.

Dr. Pournelle,

If I may be so bold as to give you a book recommendation, check out "Fortune's Warriors" by James R. Davis for a good look at the modern mercenary, the rise of private mercenary secutiry companies and their roles in places like Sierra Leone.

Written by a Canadian ex-soldier it is a good look at a shadowy subject. I also recommend his book on service in the Canadian military, in Bosnia, Uganda and other hotspots, called "The Sharp End". May or may not be of interest to you...

Take care,



Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

I pass Kensal Green station four days a week; I've yet to find paradise at the end of the line - only Euston Station, which seems to be intent on heading in the diametrically opposite direction!

No, Roy, not Kensal Green Station, Kensal Green Cemetery ( )



Thanks. That does make more sense...





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Tuesday,  February 11, 2003

Dr. Pournelle,

After watching last week's Nova on PBS, I wonder if there needs to be a new name for real X programs in order to differentiate them from the fake ones. The show in question was called something like "The Battle of the X Planes" and featured the competition for the Joint Strike Fighter contract. While I found the show enjoyable, I don't think the planes involved, the X-32 and the X-35, met the requirements for real X planes as you have outlined them. Rather, they are production prototypes.

It seems to me that the marketers and focus group types in the aerospace industry and the government have taken a cue from the car manufacturers and have decided to use the letter X for any project on which they need public support. If we took the real X programs and gave them a new name perhaps it would be easier to get through to people that we don't need another "X"-33. Just a thought.

I have been, and continue to be, a big fan of your work. I have read your space papers and they have given me hope that we can finally get into space for real if we can just convince the right people to listen and act. Please keep up the good work.

Sincerely, Chris Pethick

I fear you may be right, but I hate it. the X programs were wonderful; why should we let the gnurrs hijack a wonderful name and the glory of past success so that they can enrich themselves with abominations like X-33?

Paying for Space Flight.

Jerry, I've thought for years that one way to pay for the Shuttle (or any other way into space) was to have a lottery. Each Shuttle flight could have one passenger (guinea pig) chosen from a lottery. If you win you would be able to sell the ticket or use it yourself (after passing med). Of course any winner would have to accept any risks (no suing, no attorneys). Even though I wouldn't pass the med I would still buy a ticket. I look forward to View and Mail daily, keep up the good work.

Wes Laub May sanity someday prevail in our world.

We have proposed that before. Nothing happened, of course. Understand, NASA does not want any competition nor any advice.

Subject: Big Rocks has started a four-part debate on Big Rocks (asteroids and comets), running as part of their Science Tuesday series. Part one can be found

This first part sums up the known knowledge of the effects of Big Rocks thus far in Earth's development (accretion, impacts leading to extinction). Most curious in today's installment was the assertion by social anthropologist Benny Peiser that are no "positive traits in comets or asteroids." Okay, I understand that they do pose an apocalyptic threat to mankind's further existance, but he goes on to poo-poo the idea that major impacts and the mass extinction(s) they've caused. I find this a curious stance for a social anthropologist to take. I mean, if not for the K/T impact's devastating effect on the dinosaurs, mammals would not have had an ecological niche in which to evolve. No mammal evolution, no mankind. He DOES go on to further state that "we need to learn how to reshuffle the cosmic game of dice to our advantage."

Anyway, I pass this on since you've made many references to Big Rocks and future impacts. I'm hopeful (since they don't give a full listing of future topics in the debate) that they'll cover some interesting ground in regards to future impacts and possible responses.

-- Ian Carr

The gradualists taught that nothing sudden happens; and the Old Guard Darwinists fear that all of "evolution" will be in danger if they give up gradualism. The more intelligent Darwinists now realize that the theory of evolution does not need gradualism: Darwin's "natural selection" isn't the only possible mechanism, and while it will work during long periods of little change, there's no contradiction with huge extermination events that leave lots of unfilled niches and thus rapid biological change.

After all, in non-Darwinian time we have created breeds of dogs and cattle. That was "intelligent design" but in periods after massive exterminations conditions are good for rapid evolutionary changes. I think even St. Augustine had a few words on that subject...

I have been so depressed since Columbia fell apart. But, maybe it will spur this nation to take a good hard look at its space program..

Do you think the DC-X could have made it into space ?

I have encountered many people in the media recently who play-down the whole DC-X program, as though it didn't prove anything and never could have worked.. very disheartening..

A long time fan


(I met you a few years ago at Comdex - one of the Spencer Kat parties - I'm a former Ziff-Davis..

DC/X was too small to have been an orbiter. The full scale 600,000 pound SSX might or might not have got to orbit: it was at a threshold weight. Max Hunter thought we could fly it and "nickel and dime" it up by boring holes in overly strong structures and such. He did think we might end up with Propane rather than Hydrogen. But the basic design Hydrogen and all was his.

Subject: Moore's Law considered harmful?

Moore's Law considered harmful?

 Roland Dobbins


Subject: Solid-state.

 --  Roland Dobbins












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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I don't have time to reformat this. Note what happens if you send things without double spacing paragraphs. Please do not mark normal line ends, and put a double carriage return where you want a newline.

I saw your posting last night and wondered what you were reacting to in the Bin Laden tape. So I started looking for a written translation. I found lots of commentary and spin from various Western perspectives, but not what I was looking for. Trying to integrate the various reports also induced a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.

The reports of the tape contents indicate to me that bin Laden expects his followers to show extremely high morale, and that he gives his support to Iraq's godless secular government only grudgingly. Additionally, I understand bin Laden called for the overthrow of secular Arab regimes--I'm not sure whether he includes Iraq at this point. Most of the Western news reporting I have seen has emphasized low morale on the part of the Iraqis and strong connections between the Al Qaeda and the Baath Party in Iraq. Knowing a little of the history of the Baath movement (which AIR was originally a modernizing and secularizing socialist movement of the Arab intelligentsia in the pre-WWI Turkish empire), I have found that assessment unconvincing.

My take is the following: 1. Al Qaeda and bin Laden have their own agenda, with the long-term survival of the Baathist party not part of the plan. They probably want the Baathist party to become history, since the Baathists come from the most secularized and modernized elements of the population, which is not their support base. 2. Al Qaeda has already written off Iraq and is planning guerrilla operations against Western occupation forces and post-war Iraqi governmental assets. 3. The morale difference between Iraqi military forces (now and post-war) and al Qaeda will be extreme. 4. I suspect we will find the Baathists to be the most Westernized element of the Iraqi population. If we try to install a democracy based on the Shiite majority, it may align with conservative (and anti-American) Iranian elements as soon as we remove most of any Western occupation forces. 5. If the real purpose of going into Iraq is to remove al Qaeda access to NBC assets, I suspect it will be a limited success. Al Qaeda currently has more influence and access in more conservative Islamic states (like Pakistan) than it does in Iraq. Prior to 9/11 most westernized Pakistanis (and even westernized Pakistanis seem to be 'fundamentalist' in American terms) would have liked to emigrate to the USA and become American citizens. That is no longer the case, a disturbing indicator. These people are often quite intelligent and technologically skilled. 6. If the real purpose is to gain access to Iraqi oil assets (which currently go to Asian and European countries), I can't predict the outcome, except that I suspect the current US Administration can't, either. "Nations don't have friends, only interests."

The general feeling in my part of the UK about the current threat alert seems to be that it is either propaganda or it reflects cluelessness about what al Qaeda has in the pipeline. Relative to August 2001, fewer indicators suggest anything is up. My Islamic contacts seem relaxed, suggesting they've heard nothing on the grapevine. -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>


Saddam Hussein had time to denounce this tape. He didn't. This is a declaration of war.

Jerry, You've characterized Saddam as stupid, but I suspect it's too early to write his epitaph. So far he has adroitly split the consensus in the Security Council, partly by appearing just cooperative enough to provide a logic--or fig leaf--for stringing out inspections, and partly by providing attractive commercial terms to the French and Russians over the last several years. (They are the parties truly in this for Iraq's oil, based on the evidence.) Barring a last minute epiphany, a second UN resolution looks highly questionable, at the same moment NATO's cohesion is suddenly being called into question. Ultimately, everyone who has bet against him for the last 12 years has ended up wrong. Tyrannical and monomaniacal, yes, deranged, probably, but stupid? Only if he has no final ace up his sleeve with which to make the America's resolve appear foolish and petty.

Hope I'm wrong, Geoff Styles

Just because he is stupid does not mean we are wise, but I suspect that the President is determined now.






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Thursday, February 13, 2003


A friend asked me the other day if Powell's evidence would have gotten a conviction in court. I didn't answer, because I don't know--I mean, I'm the kind of lawyer who writes contracts and applies for trademarks. The only time I've been in a courtroom was when I was sworn in!

But, I put some thought in, and concluded that my friend asked the wrong question. He should have asked, "Would Powell's evidence convince a grand jury to return an indictment?"

more at 

Steve Setzer

Excellent point. And this is also to the point:

"But, I put some thought in, and concluded that my friend asked the wrong question. He should have asked, "Would Powell's evidence convince a grand jury to return an indictment?""

I respectfully submit that this is still the wrong question. More accurate would be "Would Powell's evidence convince a parole board to revoke a parole?" Given that the current restrictions were stated in the terms of a cease-fire agreement...

Andy Kent

Thank you.


Back at the end of WWII, the four basic charges at Nurenburg were Conspiracy to commit a war of aggression, Waging a war of aggression, War crimes and Crimes against Humanity. Saddam Hussein is clearly guilty of the first two. Depending on how much control he had over what happened in the field, he may or may not be liable under the third. As to the fourth, his firing of the oil fields may qualify, but I'm not sure if destruction of resources counts. It's not exactly a crime against humanity as one against the human race as a whole. Even so, there are at least two of the classic charges available, and I'd like to see the court keep to these charges, as they really cover everything needed.

Joe Zeff

Commented on in view.

Subject: Lurching towards CoDominium . . .

Roland Dobbins


Dr. Pournelle,

This is madness. An 11 year old child is now a felon for trying to change a few grades.

I remember the good old days when my teacher would tell my parents and they'd smack me in the butt and ground me for a week or two for pulling stunts like this... But no, we need to make this kid a felon. Utter madness, we've created a criminal where none existed and potentially destroyed his future because from now on, every job application he ever fills out will include felony charges against him.

I'm sure he'd have preferred getting spanked and grounded. Who honestly thinks this kid needed felony charges filed against him?

Sean Long

Clearly this land has been cursed. Liberals have worked so very hard to make things perfect and this is the result.


Just a couple quick suggestions on how to improve on the original DC\X design. Oh by the way I watched (scope) one of the test flights at white sands from the mountains above Alamogordo. I noticed that the thrust from each rocket motor was directed straight down. As the craft neared the ground the exhaust reflects back up at the bottom and sides of the DC\X scorching the paint. The exhaust nozzles should have been directed out to the sides to angle exhaust away from the craft. Centerline of the exhaust should be aligned to a point halfway between the CG and CP to retain stability should one of the four motors fail. To get to orbit replace the hydrogen with kerosene or JP-10 fuel and add one or two scramjets (see Darpa & ONR HyFly scramjet) or to provide x-tra boost up to mach 6.5 while reducing oxidizer weight. Four kerosen burning rocket motors would provide thrust the rest of the time. The Aerojet dual combustion liquid hydrocarbon scramjets are being tested now and will be flying the in the new HyFly cruise missile by 2005. NASA needs to go back and pick-up where they left-off with the X-15A3\ramjet and Dynasoar programs.Lets go for it!!!! Spaceman's Luck ------ Aurora over and out!!

I wish it were quite that simple, but the rocket equation is pretty unforgiving. Still, it can be done. But not if we don't do it.

Subject: Magic cards du jour 

Page through to the Canadian Submarine card, although the rest are all hoots.

===== -- John E. Bartley, III - K7AAY telcom admin, Portland OR, USA - Views mine. Wireless FAQ for PalmOS(r) This post is quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA. winter into spring, brightly anticipated, like Habeas SWE (tm)

Posted without comment...

Now for an interesting analysis.


RE: Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I should like to comment on Harry Erwin's letter. You cannot invade a substantially landlocked country without coming to an accommodation with its neighbors. That is simply a fact of geopolitics. Any invasion of Iraq is ultimately going to involve gratifying the ambitions of Turkey and Iran.

Turkey seems to have come to the conclusion that in case of invasion it will have to annex Kurdistan, in order to remove a focus for its own Kurdish minority. The American government seems to have agreed. One wonders whether or not George W. Bush remembers Adolph Hitler's quip: "who, today, remembers the Armenians?" Of course Turkey's approach to the Kurdish problem is nonproductive in the long run. They are being blackballed for the European Community as a result of it, and this will cost them more with each succeeding year. Eventually, they will have to go to a Quebec model. At any rate, Kurdistan has most of Iraq's oil, and practically all of its water, apart from that which flows in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from Turkey. And of course, much of that actually falls as rain in what one might call "Greater Kurdistan." The Turks are energetically diverting this water into their Central Anatolia project to grow cotton as a cash crop.

In the south, Iran would only have to push its borders a few miles west to incorporate the oil districts, and practically any disorder would create the opportunity. Bush is implicitly relying on Iraqi troops to hold off the Iranians while being invaded from the rear. Why on earth should they? If they turn around and line out for Baghdad, the Iranian army ought to be able to march in at a good solid Anschluss pace of a hundred miles a day, greeted by a cheering population, etc. Their lines of communication are so much shorter than ours that short of actually bombing them and starting a simultaneous war with Iran, it will be impossible to do much of anything.

In both cases, there would probably be ethnic cleansing, and refugees driven in the direction of Baghdad. By the time the United States Army arrives before Baghdad, the city's population will probably have swelled to ten million or so, including a million or more potential combatants. The Army will probably occupy most or all of the disputed facilities and dual-use infrastructure in short order. These will tend to be in isolated areas. I suppose these will be more or less completely dismantled, and the immovable remains methodically blown up. However, it will be a different story when they try to advance into Baghdad. The Iraqis will fire light-anti-tank weapons, etc. in ambushes from inside buildings. My guess is that the American attack will grind to a halt in the suburbs. The troops will refuse to advance without saturation bombing in front of them, and this will probably not be forthcoming for political reasons. So the Army will pull back to a safe distance, and sit there, balked.

Of course, the worst possible case is that fires ignited by ordnance during saturation bombing might get out of control at various points along the perimeter, and then burn inward, merging into the firestorm to end all firestorms. Stalingrad isn't any real precedent for this, as the combatants did not have anything comparable in sheer volume of bombardment capability to what we have now. I don't think our leaders are quite that dumb, but I may be mistaken.

What will probably happen is that the Army will eventually withdraw, followed by Saddam's taunts. Iraq will be a permanently shrunken country, without any natural resources. They probably will not be able to replace whatever facilities have been demolished, since they won't have any oil to buy things with.

Techniques have been developed for extracting oil efficiently from exhausted oilfields in the United States. If these techniques were applied to comparatively pristine middle eastern oilfields, it might well be possible to take out all the oil within five years. The middle east is underdeveloped from this standpoint, because everyone already has more oil than they can sell under the OPEC quota system. However, the Iranians might very well decide to divert all of their oil production to the Basra region for a short period of time, with a view to reducing the vulnerability of a frontier region. They would build a short pipeline connecting Basra with Abadan, and then begin refilling deposits in the neighborhood of Qom, deep in Iran's mountain heartland. After a few years of this selective operation, it would no longer matter who controlled Basra.

The Turks are probably even more fortunately situated. Unlike the oil nations, they are at the point where they really do have the ability to absorb a lot of capital in a hurry. Turkey is nearly at the same level of industrialization as Mexico, far ahead of any oil state. The Kurdish problem is an outgrowth of Turkey's modernization. A truly backwards state doesn't have to worry about language issues, because it does not expect people to be able to read and write. Turkey's GNP is about three times that of Saudi Arabia, without recourse to oil. Its per capita GNP is $6200, and its literacy is 82%. Turkey can therefore do things like building additional steel mills, providing every farmer with a tractor and combine harvester, and of course, building water projects. Turkey is not interested in long-term oil revenue. Turkey is interested in getting key capital goods this year instead of next year, and accelerating its industrialization. That makes Turkey less than committed to OPEC's agenda, even if Turkey gains possession of a large quantity of oil. The Turks can aggressively undersell oil; take over great sections of the world market; and turn the resulting proceeds into equipment. Turkey will probably wind up selling oil "on suspense," i.e.. "pay us approximately the cost of production and delivery now, but don't resell it, and pay us the rest of the price when you use it." This would make it attractive for user countries to build up meaningful multi-year strategic petroleum reserves. These are simply the economic conditions of a thieves' market. The Turks don't want to let the oil just sit in the ground waiting for the Kurds to occupy it.

Simply "unleashing" Turkey and Iran, i.e.. doing as little as possible to get them to invade, would probably be a more effective strategy than actual American invasion. Their combined forces are approximately twice those of Iraq, at the least computation, their population base, about five times, and their economic strength, more like ten times. American forces would remain in Kuwait to insure that the Iranians did not become too ambitious, of course. When the dust settled, Iraq would be in about the same position as Jordan or Syria. Most of the people in a position to develop weapons of mass destruction would find greener pastures elsewhere. This would effectively curb Saddam Hussein's actual power, but of course it would not allow Bush to pose as a glorious war emperor.

Bin Laden: Well as everyone knows, Frederick Barbarossa has been sitting at a table in a cave under the Harz mountains, with his sword across his knees, for the last eight hundred years. I think Bin Laden has entered the same category.

Andrew D. Todd 1

If Barbarossa didn't wake after Kursk, he probably won't.

Baghdad will starve if all supply lines are cut. Sieges are vicious, but the key to ending them is in the besieged city.

I suspect you will see an American pro-consul in charge of Iraq within a year. 

Good analysis of Turkey.









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Friday, February 14, 2003 

Wolves rejoice: Happy Lupercalia


Sean Long writes:

"This is madness. An 11 year old child is now a felon for trying to change a few grades"

Eventually, everyone will be a felon. When everyone's a felon, what good is asking about police records?

...........Karl Lembke



I've been thinking hard about what you said re. Saddam Hussein behaving stupidly, but it seems to me that he doesn't have much of a choice what to do next. He needs only look to see what happens to all the other dictatorial world leaders who have laid down arms, to see his life is probably forfeit one way or another. Even if he wanted to surrender for the sake of his country (and told them that's why he was doing it etc!) he can't surrender honourably; try to imagine a scenario where he could surrender only to George Bush in person for example? It won't happen. Try to think of other options that gave him the dignity he might require? They won't happen; I can't see the Bush gang letting him surrender with dignity, can you? His best bet is to stay right there, and hope this whole thing goes away again just as it did last time. What else do you suggest?

I read some articles arguing that his Arab macho honour won't let him surrender. I don't know about that. There must be some kind of precedent somewhere, where it worked. I can't think of any. History is written by the winners; the guy who surrenders is always depicted in a negative fashion. Know any different examples? You seem to know your history much better than I. If you know an example where someone did surrender with honour and did not get his head chopped, bring it to everyone's attention please...

Just some thoughts that I had this morning... hopefully of some value.


Well, for starters he could suddenly make Inspector Blix his best friend, stop shooting at US aircraft, and in general act as if he understood that he was defeated in the last century, and has enjoyed considerable freedom he didn't deserve.

And I find this letter to the point:

You know, Saddam Hussein really is similar to Hitler. What a cliché, what a crazy statement to some, those who maintain that Bush is really the new Hitler (so says Tariq Aziz and his allies in the west). Well, Ashcroft may be doing things that make me think of Goebbels (that's a separate and serious issue), but Bush is more like a new Churchill who is fortunate enough to be in a position of power at a time when much delayed but preventative measures can be taken, instead of purely reactive measures.

Those opposed will maintain that Saddam is not like the new Hitler because he has not done anything near as severe as Hitler ultimately did. Well, why has he not done so? Think about it. If left unchecked, Saddam would be in control of Kuwait. If left unchecked, Saddam would have probably exterminated many more Kurds than he did with his infamous single gas attack. If left unchecked, Saddam would have a mass arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. If left unchecked, Saddam would use these weapons to control a larger area. If left unchecked, Saddam would probably be in direct and indirect control of a large segment of the Middle East as we speak. And we, the Americans, would be longly and loudly vilified for not doing anything about it.

Ah, but those opposed will say - precisely! Saddam has been checked! Yes, he has been partially checked but continues to show himself to be a threat and somone unwilling to be contained as well outlined by Colin Powell last week in his address to the United Nations.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up brilliantly in his comments for Friday, February 14, 2003. Some cogent points of Andrew's include:

"This war is a just one. We didn't start it. Saddam did - over twelve years ago."

"After victory, we acted with a magnanimity utterly unreciprocated by the dictator we routed."

"We made a truce with the tyrant, with conditions that the entire world has witnessed him routinely violate. Our enemy, moreover, has no moral compunction whatsoever - he has violated every maxim of a just war imaginable. He has murdered opponents; he has gassed innocent and defenseless civilians; he preaches genocidal hatred and practices torture; he has laid waste to the environment; and made a mockery of religion. He has refused to disarm; and lies through his teeth. When fanatical murderers from that region developed a terrorist network and massacred thousands of Western civilians, we realized that Saddam's weapons couldn't be contained in his lair with any guarantee of security. So we made a belated attempt to live up to the truce of 1991, to finish the unfinished job. We could have destroyed him and his regime at any point. We didn't. We waited; we sent in inspectors; we were forced into sanctions. We went to the U.N. again to beg for help and support. The U.N. complied, provided a clear resolution, with the burden of proof finally on Saddam. Just as clearly, Saddam has violated it, and continues to violate it."

Imagine the world of the early 1940s if Hitler had been similarly "checked". Germany would have been within her territorial boundaries but we know German weapons research would have continued. Churchill would probably not have risen to power in time to prepare Britain for the "Gathering Storm". Neville Chamberlain (or one with like mind since this hypothetical situation would probably not reached criticality before Chamberlain's death) would have been there instead, vocally pointing out how Germany was fully contained and nothing more need be done. Does anyone truly have any doubt that Hitler would have used such weapons, once developed, as leverage to extend his power and thwart the reluctant checks that were not strenuously and forcefully applied by the League of Nations?

"My friends, they can not be allowed to get away with it again" was eloquently stated by Colin Powell to the United Nations on Febraury 14, 2003. The only answer then, in this hypothetical world of the early 1940s with a "contained" Germany as now, with a "contained" Iraq, is the removal of that country's leader.

Bruce W. Edwards

And Saddam is apparently too stupid to figure out the consequences of what he is doing. Which means that he doesn't even realize that it's now up to him to convince us he can be deterred.

On another subject

Subject: Power from waste

Interesting if it does work.


I wrote on that about 30 years ago. It wasn't an efficient enough process then. Will be great if it works now...





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Hi, Dr. P,

I lived in London for eight years, but I've been in Dublin for the last three. I've been back in London for 2 days, and the fear of terrorism and war is everywhere, playing havoc with life in general.

I arrived on Thursday, through the quiet Luton airport, with only armed police (no soldiers) in evidence, but had my bag searched at a train station later, by a "police community assistant" (not even a real police officer), who seemed to have been given the job as part of some hazing ritual. He was totally unprepared for the procession of angry people he was creating, but still had the cheek to ask for my name and address. I was carrying a hardback book (Tom Clancy's "Red Rabbit"), but he didn't even look inside it - there was space for a pound of C4 had I been so inclined.

At the time I was being searched, someone arrived at Gatwick from Venezuela with a live grenade in their luggage, having obviously not been searched at departure. ). BBC News ran an "expose" showing how a presenter could go and stand under the takeoff path at Luton and Stansted airports, within SA-7 range of departing planes, for half an hour before being challenged by armed police.

Today about half a million people are marching towards Hyde Park for an anti-war protest that has been semi-hijacked by a "Freedom for Palestine" platform. ( ) It was such fun walking out of the centre, against the mass of "day tripper" protestors in their eiderdown jackets, with Starbucks lattes and McDonalds muffins in hand, that I had to resist the temptation to go "baa!" at every corner in memory of Dolly (who died yesterday). ( )

Starting Monday, every car that enters central London will have its license plate read by computer, and the registered owner will receive a fine if they haven't paid the £5 "Congestion Charge" by the end of the day. (  ) There are unconfirmed reports that the system is (or soon will be) capable of facial recognition too. Of course, the call centre that handles payments and exceptions (for residents etc.) is hopelessly backlogged, due to poorly trained staff and badly-designed systems, and thousands of local residents can expect to get nasty letters through the post in weeks to come.

Now I'm off to Luton for my flight back to Dublin. Let's see if I can make it without Tube crashes, "peaceful protest" riots, cancelled trains, bag searches, facial profiling, disrupted flights, and a SA-7 warhead up the undercarriage as we take off. Good day...

Brian Thomson living in Dublin, Ireland

PS: After the Columbia disaster, I thought Sarah Williams' poem "The Old Astronomer to His Pupil" to be apt: the text is at 

Good luck...

And thanks

And then we have:

You write "I can't think of any other logic that would justify the mad assumption that they have the right to punish crimes committed in Lebanon by Lebanese Militia under the nominal control of an Israel general."

The logic of Nuremberg, Milosevic, and even what is going on right now vis a vis Iraq, come to that. Do you see why people like Churchill thought the legalistic approach was the wrong way to go in 1945? And WHY it is not an improvement to try to sort things out the American way in places like Iraq? It encourages this sort of thing. And it is also the ISRAELI pattern of doing things that encourages this sort of extra-territorial thinking. The Belgians have probably not forgotten what happened to Gerald Bull right on their own doorstep; if they can tie Sharon to that, they don't even need extra-territoriality (which, if you're interested, is what US courts are claiming now in some cases).

Anyhow, it is hardly odd for the Belgians to start getting the sort of wrong ideas that are already going the rounds. But it is odd for you to condemn them when you have a beam in your own eye, as it were.

And you are mistaken in thinking that the Israelis really could rescue Sharon if he were imprisoned (not "kidnapped" - that's what Israelis do). They could undoubtedly prevent his continued incarceration, but a direct assault would kill him and threats of the France-New Zealand sort might have even odder repercussions.

Oh, and the elite forces of ANY small European army average better than most in the world (including yours), for all sorts of odd reasons having to do with the paradoxical effects of defence cuts, though their median is indeed as mediocre as you make out (though not for the reasons you offer). But you did a real injustice in blaming the Belgians for misdeeds in the Congo; they actually took it from their own king to regularize the colonial presence and put a stop to those things. 



I.e., a Goods and Services Tax (or almost any other broad based production tax), with a Negative Payroll Tax, promotes employment.

  and the other items on that page for some reasons why.

Peter Lawrence (Australia)

Well, let's see. Belgium as a Great Power? The French at least once were, and in International Law, like it or not, Great Powers had a special status; this is sort of reflected in the "Permanent Members" of the Security Council. Belgium is irrelevant. And I have some direct knowledge of Belgian paratroops in Africa. We'll leave it at that.

If you care to match Belgian elites against Rangers, let me know. I'll take some of the bet. Not to mention Seals and other US Special Forces.

As to the beam in my own eye, you neglect to spell it out. I thought I had made it pretty clear that while I have little reluctance to use force to protect the people of the United States and to remove threats before they happen, I don't go looking to right wrongs and avenge crime and protect the weak and make humble the proud. That's the imperial way, and we may yet get there, but it isn't what I recommend. If you meant by "your own" the United States, then you may have a moral argument but it hardly removes the absurdity. One is reminded of the flea with forcible carnal intentions on the body of, say, a wolf when it comes to Belgium threatening Israel. Of course Belgium will scream for help. 

You need not lecture me regarding Nuremberg and Churchill's misgivings on legalistic foreign policies. I have always shared them.

As to Israel's crimes, I will be glad to hold your coat while you fight with someone better able to represent Israel than me.

Subject: Perhaps we should have loosed Saddam on Saudi Arabia

Bruce Edwards wrote:

"If left unchecked, Saddam would probably be in direct and indirect control of a large segment of the Middle East as we speak."

And perhaps would have introduced that large segment of the Middle East to a more secular way of living and looking at matters. I'm not a partisan of Saddam, but I am certainly aware that he is, in his own way, a modernizer--as compared to our allies, the Kurds, who, I have read, are much more inclined to keep their women caged, like much of the Muslim world.

As I see it, our real problem with the Middle East is with a growing fundamentalist movement, direct from the Dark Ages, and not from the scattered attempts at moderization via the quasi-socialist path.

Will one of the unintended consequences of our new Iraq war be yet another opening for a Taliban-like regime? I suspect the mullahs in Arabia are watering at the mouth at the opportunity we are creating!

Julie Woodman

I tend to agree, and I could have wished we had left things alone; or that April Glaspie had been a much better diplomat. Saddam is no worse tyrant than many we have had as allies throughout history, and Mesopotamia and surrounds could do with a bit of modernization. One would prefer the method of Mustapha Kemal, but that doesn't seem to have happened.

It was Kurdish Moslem fanaticism under Salladin that united the middle east and destroyed the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. We are indeed playing with fire.

I would prefer to see Saddam modernizing Kuwait than to see the pusillanimous royalty there in charge, and I would prefer Saddam to Wahabbi rule; that is, I would if we had not given him so many reasons to hate us. I have no great enthusiasm for this war. I reluctantly concluded that he finds us a danger, and he's too stupid or too entangled to be deterred; if that's wrong, I'd rather see him build palaces in Iraq than the Wahabbi building mosques in the US.

If we could get back to where we were in about 1988, I think we could build better outcomes than any we can build now. But we can't get back to 1988.


Eight days before his Aug. 2, 1990, invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein met with April Glaspie, then America's ambassador to Iraq. It was the last high-level contact between the two countries before Iraq went to war.

GLASPIE: In March 1991, she told a Senate committee that 'we foolishly did not realize [Saddam] was stupid.' MARCY NIGHSWANDER/AP/FILE --------------------------------------------------------

From a translation of Iraq's transcript of the meeting, released that September, press and pundits concluded that Ms. Glaspie had (in effect) given Saddam a green light to invade.

"We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts," the transcript reports Glaspie saying, "such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction ... that Kuwait is not associated with America."

The Persian Gulf War began Jan. 17, 1991. But before the official end of the war (April 11), Glaspie was called to testify informally before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

She said she was the victim of "deliberate deception on a major scale," and denounced the Iraqi transcript as "a fabrication" that distorted her position, though it contained "a great deal" that was accurate.

The veteran diplomat awaited her next assignment, later taking a low-profile job at the United Nations]

I think the whole notion of career diplomats is insane; the top job ought to be given to someone the President actually talks with, and who know the President's mind. A political donor advised by career people will do that better than a cookie pusher who has been promoted through what the State Department regards as "merit".

Harry Erwin on The Tape

A few notes: Reads like there was more than one author--some places read like Paul and some like a Pentagon spokesperson. There's an awareness of the economic and political subtexts, but religion is the main concern. Cooperation with 'socialist infidels' is permitted but is not a goal in itself. Reads like he regards Iraq as an opportunity. No prisoners will be taken and kamikaze actions are encouraged--he's preaching a Jihad.

The threat is clear. The question that occurs to me now is whether al Qaeda will be stronger or weaker after this round. They'll cut and run if they need to--I hope we can take advantage of it. -- --- 

Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

I think US occupation of Iraq will weaken al Qaeda because other governments will be reluctant to given them aid and comfort. That's the major benefit of this war: to encourage the others.

On another subject

Jerry, according to the Opinion Journal,

"Forty-one-year-old Evelyn Peralta-Tessitore had a run-in with police in the Bronx on Tuesday: Cops said they spotted Peralta-Tessitore squatting and urinating beside the open door of her 2003 Mercedes-Benz about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. Her car was stopped at a red light at 254th St. and Broadway. Peralta-Tessitore admitted she had been drinking, according to the criminal complaint. Cops said she reeked of liquor and her speech was slurred. She refused to get out of her car and started flailing her arms at officers when they tried to arrest her, police said. Peralta-Tessitore's occupation? She's the principal of a public school in Harlem."

Y'know, I know well-paid ENGINEERS and DOCTORS who can't afford a 2003 Mercedes-Benz of any persuasion. The principals of schools out here drive Geo Metros and small pickup trucks that are several years old.


Yes but you don't understand. It's for the kids.






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Sounds like they're a good deal more paranoid in London than here in the NorthEast. I'll hear more tomorrow from Diane--she went down for the day to London to watch. I spent the day updating my Macintosh PowerBook's operating system to 10.2.4. The previous release had been complaining about Opera 6.0 using an depreciated interface, but now it no longer complains--it simply blows Opera off when it tries to do what it had been doing. A shame, too, given that Opera is so much nicer than Internet Explorer at handling foreign scripts. On the other hand, the new release patches a couple of security problems. I do like Apple's proactive attitude towards security. I also put together a couple of e-commerce lectures and read Jim Dunnigan's new book, the Next War Zone. It's not as good as Schneier, Secrets and Lies, but it is interesting. I got a mailing from Schneier this morning indicating that this month's Crypto-Gram was likely to run afoul of spam filters. Since I haven't seen it yet, I suspect that has happened.

Debka indicates things in Iraq are being delayed by Turkish game-playing. Won't be too long, though. Given that bin Laden seems to be looking forward to the opportunity to challenge us in the ruins of Bagdad, this may be an opportunity to deal with al Qaeda. The Iraqis are probably not looking forward to being the arena for a knifefight between two sides who hate each others guts. -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

I watch the whole thing with a sense of inevitability. We didn't need to get into this war, but then we didn't need to get into the Balkan Wars either. Apparently we have made our choice.

And the protestors are out singing "All we are saying is give peace a chance," which takes no more thought to say now than it ever did, and answers no more questions.

I think we may come out of this with governments less ready to give help to our enemies. That's all to the good. There were other ways to accomplish that, but I think we don't have those ways now.

You were saying in 2/15/03's current view that there might be a chance of war not happening.... feh. You don't turn a carrier task force around in mid-ocean, send it thru an emergency refurb, and back to the theater, then follow that up with actually shipping the 101st Airborne and then placing Fleet Hospitals Bremerton and Jacksonville on alert... only to wuss out. Dubya's mind was made up weeks ago. Iacta ilea sunt. The die is long since cast... all that remains to be seen is whether it's seven, eleven, boxcars, or snake eyes.

I'm thinking that the outcome of this war - for war it will be - may well be the fall of both leaders. Which, given the TSA and Homeland Security's penchant for power grabs, would probably be a win-win.

-- Glenn Stone who works (currently) about 15 miles from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (and thus sees what the locals see, which doesn't get out much)

Oh I expect you're right. I haven't thought there was any chance the war wouldn't start since they began ordering up reserves and sending out the Marines. Too much of the power of the empire has been placed now. 

The President has always thought there needed to be an end to Iraqi deception. Saddam Hussein had a chance a year ago; he could still run for it, if there were a country that would shelter him.

Hi Jerry,

Well, I agree with Julie there. Saddam probably would have been a secularizing although socialist totalitarian force in the middle east.

I think my main point regarding Saddam is how it has been since the Gulf war and what should be done. If, during the 1980s things were handled better, Saddam could have probably remained an "ally" of the U.S. (at what cost is interesting speculation with his human rights abuses). I do wonder what a larger secularized area of the middle east under Saddam would be like today.

Would we still be able to be an ally of such? I can just see it now - France, Russia, Germany and the assortment of anti-war folks would be mounting protests of our alliance with a brutal dictator, suppressing human rights in the area under his control, all for big oil. Yes, they would be calling on the U.S. to dissolve any alliance and even overthrow the evil dictator. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Your preferred choice of being friends of liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own, minding our own business and developing alternative energy sources such as space based microwave transmission of solar energy would have been a saner course than either of the other alternatives, provided the world would leave us alone to pursue our interests in relative but splendid isolation. Of course, that isolation would lead us to be hated too.

What ever way we turn we will be cursed and hated. We need to have the resolve to stick clearly to a course, now that we are so far underway.


Bruce Edwards

Yes I expect so: being totally unpredictable has its advantages, but perhaps not this time.

Of all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these, 'it might have been.'

And another look at the Dell Dude:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Feb. 15, 2003 subject: the Dell dude

Dear Jerry:

Yeah, the pot bust while wearing a kilt is pretty funny. Otoh,

"You might know Eagle Scout Ben Curtis . He's that 'Dude, you're getting a Dell' guy on the TV commercials. On Sept. 11, 2001, the 21-year-old from Chattanooga, Tenn., found himself in the midst of a crisis.

"He was sleeping in his Lower Manhattan apartment when an airliner hit the first World Trade Center tower. His roommate, a photographer, ran to the disaster scene a few blocks away, but Ben went back to sleep, thinking the noise was a gas explosion. When the second tower was struck, he got up and looked out the window. Seeing the fire, he decided his roommate might need help.

"When the first tower collapsed, Ben rushed into the subway entrance nearby to escape the flying debris. Clouds of soot poured down into the tunnel. He took his shirt off and tied it around his face to breathe.

"A woman came down the stairs with a severe gash on her head. 'At first I was completely freaked out,' he said, 'but then my Scout training came back to me.' He used his shirt as a pressure bandage and helped the woman to safety." Not to shabby a performance, imao. (From Boy's Life,  via Lileks . )

Best, Stephen


Well, as many know, I am all for leaving drugs entirely to the states to begin with: I don't know what Amendment allows Congress to make marijuana a crime. And I doubt I'd be in favor of a state prohibition of possession for use.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Feb. 15, 2003 subject: France, Russia, and 'thinning blood'

Dear Jerry:

I doubt French or Russian policy has anything to do with cowardice. Certainly both countries have used their militaries in recent years to support their own perceived interests.

Instead, I believe they are playing the old game of 'tear down the strongest' (as Fletcher Pratt, in _The Battles That Changed History_, described the policy of the successor states to Alexander's empire).

Thanks to rest of the world's fatheadedness, we have become the globe's only 'hyper-power.' They can't challenge us directly, so they encourage Saddam and other supporters of terrorism to annoy and distract us. Disgusting, ungrateful, unprincipled, betraying a great misunderstanding of the United States, possibly suicidal in the long run . . . but if you were running French policy, and wanted your country to _matter_ internationally again, what would you do?

As for the Russians, well, if Saddam goes, who's going to pay those debts Iraq owes them?

The redoubtable Mark Steyn, otoh, thinks its all a French ploy to bring down Tony Blair, thus ensuring French predominance in the new European Union.
}  But Steyn goes on to say "The French have an interest in a Europe that's a counterweight to America, but none at all in a Europe that's as pro-American as Blair and the Vilnius Group are," so maybe we aren't so far apart.

Btw, on the subject of misunderstanding the United States, see , for an article I found very interesting and important.

Best, Stephen


I am rapidly becoming less interested in the whole mess. Which I suppose is a failing, but I have a novel to do. The French view of realpolitik is sometimes odd.

Now from someone who clearly hasn't been reading me very long:

Frankly, I could care a lot more than I do about Ariel Sharon's well-being. If the Alien Space Bats took him, or smashed Israel flat, I wouldn't care. Nobody has ever once explained to me why we in the US seem to feel that we have to be concerned about Israel, except that there are a lot of people who think that its existence means that the Rapture is just around the corner. As a firm non-believer in such things, I would far rather we had never become so closely identified with the Israelis and what they do. Like it or not, when Israel is the single biggest recipient of our foreign aid, people tend to feel that we share some responsibility for what they do, and that goes double, triple and with horseradish sauce on it when we refuse to condemn them for things we'd condemn anybody else for. I have always thought that George Washington's advice about "passionate attachments" to other countries was excellent.

That said, if you don't like the situation vis-a-vis Sharon and the Belgian courts, you should have raised a stink earlier when Pinochet was arrested in _Britain_ on a _Spanish_ warrant for "crimes" that had taken place in _Chile._ Whatever you think of Pinochet, this set a precedent. Today Henry Kissinger can't travel to some countries because they want to grab him for so-called "war crimes" committed during the Vietnam War, and for allegedly masterminding the coup in Chile. (Paranthetically, I could make a very good case that the "war crimes" in question---violation of the neutrality of Cambodia and Laos---were perfectly justified. Neutrality has obligations as well as benefits, and one of those obligations is not allowing your territory to be used as a sanctuary for attacks by one side in a war. If you allow your territory to be so used, you have no beef coming when the other side attacks you.) When the Pinochet arrest was allowed to stand, the seeds of future trouble were sown.

Oh, and I should mention that the Entebbe scenario almost certainly wouldn't work in Europe. Even though they aren't what they were, European militaries are quite a bit more on-the-ball than their sub-Saharan African counterparts.

Eric Oppen [oppen]

First, I certainly did protest the English action against Pinochet, which, if nothing else, was one of the major reasons why no dictator will ever lay down power again; one would think even the English House of Lords would know that. 

Secondly, I thought my opposition to passionate attachments of any kind and to anyone was also well known; why in the world are you lecturing ME on this subject? And I find Sharon someone less than likable, and I don't much care what happens to him either. He is not quite in the same league as Begin who was instrumental in the murder of Bernadotte and probably in some of the early atrocities of the Stern Gang during the first Israeli war, but not very likable either. In neither case, though, were there crimes against the Senate and People of the United States.

In the world I grew up in, a man might be required to sacrifice his honor for his country, but when he did so he retired; he didn't go on to become Prime Minister. But those are personal sentiments. 

What concerns me is that every little state now thinks it wields the Sword Of Justice For All Humanity. That can't be good. Particularly since it cuts all ways, and not all those who assert the right to enforce universal justice will base their definitions on Roman and Common Law. I can just see Bangla Desh insisting on cutting off the hands of the Enron executives.

As to Entebbe, of course that's not how a rescue would go. I never imagined that it would. But if you want to place bets on the Belgian Special Forces vs. the Israelis, I'll take your bets. Belgian forces fought well and honorably in WW I and WW II, but that was a long time ago. Leave it: if you like to stipulate that Belgium can defend itself after kidnapping an Israeli official, you may. Me, I would rather not be part of that in any event.

But it's a bad precedent. If you can persuade a dictator to retire, you ought then to keep your word and let him retire; not because he deserves anything, but to make it easier to persuade the next one that he has something to lose by fighting to the end.

Way back a long time ago, I heard Barry Goldwater, candidate for President, suggest that the United States ought to bomb any part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that carried forces and supplies to the enemies of the Republic of South Viet Nam, no matter where the trail led including in neutral Laos and Cambodia. I heard Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States, denounce Barry Goldwater's suggestion as "the most trigger happy thing" he had ever heard. I had in front of me the strike photos of our bombs falling on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos even as that exchange was being made. I happen to know (now) that both Johnson and Goldwater had copies of those photos. Goldwater of course couldn't say anything without violating the secrecy laws. Neither could the rest of us who knew that what Johnson was denouncing as a trigger suggestion was in fact US policy at the time. I wondered then from whom the secret was being kept: presumably not from the North Vietnamese, since they probably knew when the bombs fell on them. They probably told Russia and China, too. But it was still Secret.

 But no one I knew then thought that the "neutrality" of Laos or Cambodia was an important matter given that they were being used as sanctuary areas for belligerents. 

I know something of International Law on the rights and obligations of neutrals. Of course neither Laos nor Cambodia had the capability of disarming and interning the belligerents using their countries as supply lines...

Precisely what that has to do with Belgium acting as if it were the Holy Roman Empire revived, with the right to try heads of government for crimes committed against non-Belgians in lands never governed by Belgium is I fear beyond me, though.

My guess is that if Belgium, or Britain for that matter, wants to arrest Henry Kissinger on a Spanish warrant they may find out what US Special Forces are capable of. I was mildly surprised to discover that Chile, which is a rather proud country with naval traditions, didn't take more action in the Pinochet affair. Heh. This government expects Perdikardis alive or Rissouli dead...

And Joanne Dow on war and the UN:

I have come to the point of declaring that there is just cause to toss the UN out of the US and pull the US out of the UN for the simple reason that it does not and can not perform the primary function in its charter. It did not prevent Gulf War chapter 1. It did not prevent the Twin Towers event. More to the point it cannot perform these functions. And more in the point it fosters them.

Ashutos Varshney, a political scientist at the University of Michigan has looked at why wars and civil strife happen from a somewhat different perspective than usual. The usual view seems to be from the top down, leadership down to the people. Ashutos has pointed out that the leadership cannot go to war without the support of the people. Therefore the leadership, be they national leaders or charismatic rebels, attempt to inflame public opinion. We all know this cycle having seen and in many cases experienced it ourselves.

The importance I found in Ashutos' work is his study of times war or civil strife did not happen, particularly in India, his birthplace. He noted that the communities and cities that had networks of professional and labor associations that were purely secular and not aligned along religious or ethnic lines tend to prevent war. These organizations intertwine the interests of people who might not ever meet each other in other environments. This was rather dramatically demonstrated in India during periods of Hindu/Moslem rioting. One particular form of association, intermarriage, however, can foster more problems than they solve. But for the most part when the people play together and join the same trade associations the city is not as "riot prone" as when these groups are heavily segregated. I believe this is the reason the Farakahn's of the world foster segregation. it makes it easier to demonize the opponents.

Some description of this work can be found in this interview:

Now. if I look at the UN behaviors it is rightly respecting ethnic lines. It is fostering the strife it is supposed to be mitigating. It has fostered the environments in which Mugabes, Saddams. and bin Ladens can thrive. As such it needs to be eliminated as a cause of world strife.

Alas, I fear this is too late and that we may be headed for a WWIII global war, that hopefully will not go thermonuclear. As we become preoccupied with Iraq in Baghdad the neighboring countries will move in to carve out their pieces of Iraq. We'll vet Baghdad and nothing else out of the exercise. And "they" tell me it's for the oil.

Maybe we should not be preserving old "ethnics" and "ways" and instead should be creating new ones with blends of the old. Change is the road to the future, always.


Well, stability is valuable too...

I do not vouch for or deny the authenticity of the following:

Subject: Don't shoot - We're Republicans

The unfortunate history of the American destroyer William D. Porter.

It's a hoot. {^_^}

I never heard that story before.

But friends in the Pentagon more or less confirm it.

USS Porter's history on a .mil web site:

The Department of the Navy's web page is a bit less luridly written -- the five-inch guns aboard WWII destroyers aren't generally called 'heavy' weapons -- but it confirms most of what the Sacramento Bee reporter said.

Incidentally, DDG 78, a Burke Class destroyer, is also named for Commodore Porter. 

v/r, Rod McFadden


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Feb. 15, 2003

subject: possibly interesting, or, the war may already be on

Dear Jerry:

See this piece in the Washington Post:
  Apparently, this will NOT be Gulf War II operationally.

Best, Stephen


Indeed. We have been hearing these stories for a couple of weeks.

James Woolsey has some thoughts on my late night mail:


Just a few brief comments....

(a) IMHO, after thinking about the current situation, the time to have made a decision to withdraw from supporting Israel was in 1948. Having made that committment, we cannot back down, even now.

(b) If Sharon is guilty of war crimes, Arafat surely is also. Is Belgium also going to try to arrest him? I'm sure they could do so now with Israel's blessings...

(c) Sharon is caught between a rock and a hard place. The most nearly exact sociological analogy understandable to Americans would be an uprising of the Native American population which resulted in about 45,000 deaths over the past three years. (Ratio of populations x the 1000 Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers in the past three years). If that were to happen (though it's very unlikely, since the relevant Native American wars were mostly settled by the beginning of the last century), the American population would understandably be up in arms about it, bulldozing reservations and taking other actions that they otherwise would not now contemplate. Spider Robinson's fictionalized "Second Civil War" of African-American vs. Anglo-American populations ("Night of Power" and various short stories) would be a similar analogy. I thought that the last accords in Israel were supposed to make the Palestinian population self-policing for terrorists; what Israel is doing is enforcing that requirement. The mechanism is horrendous and may be making things worse -- but I personally can't think of any other possible, defensible course of action which offers a snowball's chance of success. (I presume that announcing a US sponsored relocation of one population or the other to a new location is impossible at this point, and the genocide of either populaiton to be indefensible, though that IS the stated policy of the Palestinian terrorists towards Israel. We should all be glad that Israel hasn't responded in kind.)

I don't find much to argue with there except the first sentence, and I am not even sure about that one. I have often said I am glad I am not in charge in Israel.

But I do think accepting Bernadotte's murderer as PM was a bit much.


You posted my mail as by "James Woolsey."

Please note that I'm not R. James Woolsey, former DCI.

I'm James K. Woosley (note spelling), sometime radiation physicist, chemical agent demilitarization process engineer/scientist, missile defense systems engineer, propulsion chemist/physicist, astro/particle physicist, safety/security consultant, aspiring counterterrorism consultant, aspiring optical remote chemical sensing specialist, aspiring FTL drive inventor, and aspiring SF/fantasy writer. (I could probably throw in schizophrenia with that kind of a resume for free....) In other words, I know just barely enough about everything to be dangerous ("a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.")

Thanks again,

Jim Woosley

Right, I knew that but it's well to be on the record here.









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