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Mail 368 June 27 - July 3, 2005






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Monday  June 27, 2005

Subject: Welcome to Britain

The FBI and Institutional Perjury.


This is a quote from a story in The Register:-

The FBI "acted with reckless disregard for the truth" and exhibited "more than a mere failure to investigate or an innocent or negligent mistake," New York judge Denny Chin wrote. A Federal judge in St. Louis made a similar statement. The Register then went on to say:-

The willingness of FBI/DoJ personnel to lie in sworn applications for wiretap and search warrants was highlighted last year by a review court that oversees implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which lowers the bar for the Feds to investigate foreigners. The FISA court determined that at least seventy-five such applications submitted by the Reno DoJ contained false information, though warrants were issued.

This pretty damning stuff. Thank heaven for honest judges.


John Edwards

But wasn't Deep Throat a hero! Actually he exposed a campaign contributions scandal small in comparison with some later ones. And betrayed his office to do it. I am reminded of a song by Poul Anderson from long ago about John Kennedy:

The first of the brothers was Bobby, one night
He put the reporters in a terrible plight:
To reveal all their sources or else face his curse,
But Nixon, we know, was a fascist and worse.

Whangdoodle! The dawn of a brilliant new day!

Ah well.


Harry Erwin's Letter From England

It seems strange to be sending this to someone currently in England.

When you pick up your morning paper, glance at a copy of the Guardian just to see the size of the daily supplement. The subjects are media and sports on Monday, education on Tuesday, social services on Wednesday (big!), science on Thursday, and reviews on Friday. The Guardian is basically a Liberal newspaper, so the relative size of the supplement is indicative of where jobs of interest to Liberals are to be found and in what categories. The editorial stance is not especially Labour-friendly and is definitely anti-Tory.

Current stories:

Iraq rebellion could last years: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/ middle_east/4625215.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/ 0,2763,1515527,00.html

Government challenged on the Railtrack bankruptcy--left a lot of people poorer: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4624481.stm

ID cards--BBC: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4625407.stm>  Guardian: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Politics/homeaffairs/story/ 0,11026,1515460,00.html>  Times: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,2-1670783,00.html>  ($400/card, with replacement every 5-10 years and the holder paying for it) Channel 4: <http://www.channel4.com/ news/content/news-storypage.jsp?id=460666>  Independent: <http:// news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=650052

Health targets (Labour ministers seem to believe in a command economy): <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4620011.stm

 The Guardian does not love the Royals: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ Columnists/Column/0,5673,1515447,00.html

Science funding clawback: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/ story.aspx?story_id=2022867

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: Border woes on major tv network

While the government refuses to adequately defend our borders, one major news organization plans to show the truth about our porous southern border to its millions of viewers.

The network? Al-Jazeera.


I feel so much safer.

Steve Setzer







This week:


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Tuesday,  June 28, 2005

Subject: " . . . to the point of discomfort."


---- Roland Dobbins

Alas it is all True...

 = = = =

Subject: "She knew what the consequences were."


--- Roland Dobbins

So far have we come; and we are less than halfway to where we are going.


Subject: Global Warming Scorecard

Here's a scorecard you may find interesting:


Mike Flynn


Subject: Climate Change - New "little Ice Age"

Thanks for your note on Jerry's website.

I've been following http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest  waiting for the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to kick in -- it appears reluctant as this data here shows.

When the PDO dropped into the warm phase around 1976 there was an immediate step change up of about 0.8oC in Northern hemispheric temperatures as measured by NOAA Satellites. This one-time anomaly accounts for much of the global warming scare.

You may be aware that Dr. Theodore Landscheidt opined that 2007 would be the beginning of a cool spell that could bring conditions similar to the Little Ice Age in Europe. His basis was studies of the oscillating center of mass of the solar system, which would certainly be capable of over-riding the coriolis effect and effecting ocean currents.

Just for reference, one of his papers is here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1351328/posts 

"The next LPCZ in 2080 is sufficiently far away. In the next few decades the pattern shown in Figure 3 should be free of instabilities of any kind. So I expect a decadal minimum in El Niño intensity around 2007 (GPTC), a maximum around 2025 (LPTC), and further minimum around 2044 (GPTC). As can be read from Figure 3, these phases help to fix the timing, not the amplitude of the respective extremum. "

In other words, predominantly la Ninas' ie cooler weather. He also stated once that CO2 increases could easily be a rebound result from little ice age, as the solubility of CO2 goes down as the ocean bulk temperatures drop.



Subject: Global Warming and Atlantic Conveyor

Dr. Pournelle,

Here is an article in the National Geographic Online website which begins to look at the Atlantic Conveyor (Gulf Stream) and its future due to global warming. It can be found at:


Global Warming May Alter Atlantic Currents, Study Says

John Roach June 27, 2005

"In the 2004 eco-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow, Europe and North America are gripped by a deep freeze after global warming halts the circulation of a North Atlantic ocean current. The film is pure Hollywood hyperbole.

But some scientists say the current is vulnerable to rising temperatures. "


Subject: Eminent Domain and Justice Souter

Dr. Pournelle,

I don't know if this apparent exercise of eminent domain in regard to Justice Souter's home is legitimate but it certainly is interesting. http://www.freestarmedia.com/hotellostliberty2.html

Robert J.Ffox

Santa Ana, CA

Gander sauce? But it still does not make it a Federal matter. The question is the "incorporation" doctine that says the Bill of Rights is incorporated by the 14th Ammendment. I am not sure that is either valid or advisable. I understand my position is fairly lonely here.



Here is a short oped piece that I wrote a few weeks ago, and circumstances have not improved in the interim. The real problem that we face here is that we are not negotiating from a position of strength as long as we are borrowing $50 billion a month, and the Chinese are one of our major creditors.


I think that the Chinese must marvel at how short-sighted we are. Currently, they are loaning us hundreds several billion dollars per month at very low interest rates, in order to keep the yuan at a fixed exchange rate versus the dollar. And because the other Asian nations don't want to be undercut by the Chinese, they are also buying quite a lot of our debt, without which we would either have to raise taxes to reduce our deficit or pay higher interest rates in order to get others to loan us the money to cover our debts. In the short term, paying higher rates would be the only option, as cutting spending or raising taxes requires a much longer time frame to implement.

In any case, because a few manufacturers are complaining about the unfair exchange rate with China, many of our congressmen and senior members of our administration are pressuring the Chinese to let the yuan float. While in the short term this might help a few industries in the US, almost immediately we would begin paying higher interest rates for almost everything, and we can only guess how much higher. We are borrowing on the order of two billion dollars per day to finance both our federal and trade deficits, and close to half of this is coming from Asian banks. If the yuan floats, they would no longer need to loan us money in order to maintain current exchange rates, and interest rates on American debt could rise by several percent within a few days or weeks.

Even a rise of three or four percent in interest rates would have a sharply negative effect on our whole economy, and rates would almost certainly rise much higher. This is partly because these low-interest-rate loans have distorted the world economy, and when such distortions are removed suddenly, there is always an overreaction in the other direction. A spike in interest rates, even into the teens for a few days, is not inconceivable, although I would not expect them to settle that high in the longer term. Even the best-informed can only guess where this might end, but the ending doesn't look pretty.

We would very quickly find out to what degree we have a housing bubble, and a recession would be almost inevitable. Interest on the federal deficit would rise, increasing the magnitude of the deficit and requiring even more borrowing, just to pay the increase in interest on the debt we already have. Confidence in the dollar would plummet, again causing lenders to demand higher interest rates as our credit rating declined. (Can you spell "junk bonds"?)

A major recession in the US would almost certainly lead to a worldwide recession, which is one reason that the Chinese and others keep loaning us money. It is in their interest to keep the world economy afloat, and I think that it frustrates them that we seem to be oblivious to the consequences of our demands. It is certainly true that things cannot always continue as they are now, but instead of acting to avert a looming disaster, we are demanding that our creditors foreclose on us right away.


-- Gordon Foreman Los Alamos, NM


Subject: Wireheads - Larry Niven predicted this

Hi Jerry,

The BBC's Health section of their web site has an article this week entitled "Brain pacemaker lifts depression". It reads pretty much like an early verion of Niven's "wireheads" in his Ringworld series. Just thought he'd like to know . . .

Regards, Stephen Wales





This week:


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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Subject: Shelby Foote, RIP.


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Global Frequency.


---- Roland Dobbins

= = ==

Subject: Summoning Maxwell's Demon?


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: What's in a name?


-- Roland Dobbins

Feeling safer already


Dr. Pournelle,

Yet another finding to add to the climate debate:

An article on Spacedaily.com : Clue To Sudden Climate Change Found In Arctic


"The sudden deep freeze of the northern hemisphere that occurred 13,000 years ago has been traced to events originating in northern Canada, according to University of Toronto research. The findings could shed light on the future of climate change due to greenhouse gases.

The study, published in the June 2 issue of Nature, pinpoints the exact location where freshwater generated by the melting of the massive Canada-wide Laurentide ice sheet entered the global ocean and caused the Younger Dryas cold reversal, a frigid period where the planet temporarily plunged into ice age conditions."


"Peltier stresses that climate changes, such as a massive Greenland melt, are very difficult to predict as Earth's climate system is highly non-linear, involving the interactions between a number of distinct and individually complex components such as sea ice and land surface processes as well as the atmosphere and oceans.

"These systems are capable of responding in a way that is out of proportion to the stimulus," he says. "You can push them just a little bit and cause them to cross a threshold, such that the response is extremely surprising. From a physics standpoint, the climate system of the planet is a beautiful example of such non-linear systems."

Sigh, how much do we not know about all this?

Thanks for keeping up on all this and posting the sources you have.

-- Oliver Richter orichter@att.net







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, June 30, 2005

It has been short shrift all week, of course. What between working up my notes from the day, and the conferences, and getting what I can up here, there's not a lot of time...======

Subject: Neanderthal or Homo Sapiens?


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Gulf Stream

Jerry: Looks like the atlantic convyor is slowing down:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0%2C%2C2087-1602579%2C00.html <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0%2C%2C2087-1602579%2C00.html

and from Cambridge, "Greenland Sea Convection Mechanisms and their Climatic Implications"

http://rdoas-sig.amtp.cam.ac.uk/Public/Public.html <http://rdoas-sig.amtp.cam.ac.uk/Public/Public.html

Chris C

Audio, video, disco



To: All Commands

Subject: Inappropriate T-Shirts

Ref: ComMidEastFor Inst 16134//24 K

1. All commanders promulgate upon receipt.

2. The following T-shirts are no longer to be worn on or off base by any military or civilian personnel serving in the Middle East:

"Eat Pork Or Die" [both English and Arabic versions] "Shrine Busters" [Various. Show burning minarets or bomb/artillery shells impacting Islamic shrines. Some with unit logos.] "Napalm, Sticks Like Crazy" [Both English and Arabic versions] "Goat - it isn't just for breakfast any more." [Both English and Arabic versions] "The road to Paradise begins with me." [Mostly Arabic versions but some in English. Some show sniper scope cross-hairs] "Guns don't kill people. I kill people." [Both Arabic and English versions] "Pork. The other white meat.' [Arabic version] "Infidel" [English, Arabic and other coalition force languages.]

3.The above T-shirts are to be removed from Post Exchanges upon receipt of this directive.

4.The following signs are to be removed upon receipt of this message: "Islamic Religious Services Will Be Held at the Firing Range at 0800 Daily." "Do we really need 'smart bombs' to drop on these dumb bastards?"

5. All commands are instructed to implement sensitivity training upon receipt.


 "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan


Subject: Maxwell's Sprite


This is not a full analysis, but a quick review of the paper suggests that the authors completely ignored the energy dissipated by the magnet both in sustaining the magnetic field and in the (admittedly modest but still physically manifest) recoil of the magnet from the electrons.

Dr. P is in concurrence that something is rotten in the prefecture of Shanghai, but is not quite willing to step forward and say is related to the magnet (which of course may mean I'm wrong, but also may mean there are multiple issues).

Jim Woosley







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  July 1, 2005

short shrift = on airplane on the way home.

Re: Global Warming and the Gulf Stream.

I was interested to read Henry Vanderbilt's OTRPP data about the Gulf Stream. My understanding is that the thermohaline circulation is largely driven by sea-ice formation. When sea water freezes, much of the salt is expelled (the ice is almost fresh water). This increases the salinity of the water under the ice, making it denser, so it sinks. There is no doubt that much of the Arctic has been warming in recent years. It is at least plausible that reducing the annual formation of sea ice means weakening the flow southward of deep ocean water, which is the return path for the Gulf Stream.

It seems to me, however, that we have done this experiment. The climate in the northern Atlantic was much warmer in 900 AD than today. Greenland was given that name by the Vikings because it was green when they established farms in areas now covered in ice. This apparently did not cut off the Gulf Stream and produce freezing conditions in Europe. Before the idea that warmer is better became politically incorrect, climatologists called the period the Medieval Climatic Optimum (MCO) because it was warm in Europe as well, so that warm weather crops (e.g., grapes for wine) were grown in England.

It is true that the MCO was followed by the Little Ice Age, but not until the warm period had persisted for hundreds of years.

Unless someone can explain why the modest warming of recent years is more effective than the MCO at interfering with the thermohaline circulation, the prognosis must be that the Gulf Stream is safe until at least some parts of Greenland have been fertile for some centuries.

One other observation: While it is clear that the Earth has warmed since the 1880s, as we recovered from the Little Ice Age, the observed Arctic warming during the last two or three decades does not mean that global warming is continuing.

As I am sure you know, surface temperature measurements allegedly show a cooling trend from about 1940 to 1970 and warming since then, but satellite measurements since 1979 show little or no warming. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences convened a panel to explore the reasons for this discrepancy, and their results were published in a book (Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change (2000)), which you can read online at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309068916/html/35.html . The group was unable to give a convincing explanation, but I suspect that the problem was ideological differences between GW true believers and skeptics on the panel. The reason is in fact obvious from the data they present.

A map on p.34 of the online book shows surface temperature trends during the 20 years 1979 to 1998, indicating warming nearly everywhere. The map was created by dividing the planet into 5 deg X five deg (curvilinear) squares, and plotting the average of temperature measurements in each square. Where measurements were rare or non-existent (especially in the Southern Ocean), the values were assigned by interpolation from adjacednt squares -- i.e., by guesswork.

Page 43 of the online book has a map showing temperature trends during the same period, as measured by the satellite Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs). It agrees with the surface map in showing warming in Alaska and northern Canada, in northern Europe and southern Siberia -- but it shows strong cooling almost everywhere in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, and also in Arctic Siberia. These are all areas largely lacking surface measurements, where the surface map is based on guesswork,

I suggest that anybody interested in climate change go look at these two maps, at the URL cited. They show conclusively that the folks preparing the surface record simply guessed wrong about the areas where they had inadequate data. When the surface record is corrected for these mistakes, the alleged average warming trend essentially disappears.

In other words, despite all the cries of alarm and the demands that we accept draconian limitations on US industry, the overall climate was not warming significantly during the last two decades of the 20th Century. It is certainly warming in the Arctic from Alaska to Sweden, and that may have regional effects (conceivably including shutting off the Gulf Stream), but there are no grounds for believing that the Earth as a whole will warm in coming decades.

When asked to forecast what the stock market would do, J.P. Morgan famously replied, “It will fluctuate.” That is the only credible forecast about climate as well. Anybody who claims to know for sure whether the climate in a decade or two will be warmer or cooler is either a charlatan, an ideologue pursuing an ulterior agenda, a scientist more interested in grant money than in science, or a fool.

The consequences of modest warming are mostly beneficial (longer growing seasons, milder northern winters, increased arable land in Canada and Siberia, etc,), but those of cooling could include the onset of the next ice age, which would be a castrophe far beyond any disaster in recorded human history. The Precautionary Principle therefore demands that we err on the side of warming rather than cooling. Until such time as we can make real predictions about climatic trends, we should therefore encourage rather than curb anthropogenic emissions of CO2.

 Phil Chapman

There is a Theory that warming leads to Transport of more snow to arctic and thus to ice. Bayesian analysis says we are still better off with more data----spend to reduce uncertainly.

Note that Dr. Phil Chapman, Antarctic explorer and astronaut, was a distinguished member of my Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy and signed all the Council Reports. His Ph.D. in Astronautical Sciences is from MIT.


Aerosols are keeping us cool


There's lots in the news today about the "Clear skies raise global-warming estimates" article in Nature. But no-one yet seems prepared to say, assuming there are safe levels of aerosols and greenhouse gases, we should be finding that out and managing our industry world-wide to produce these pollutants in the "right" places to ameliorate the worst effects of climate change.

Instead the general theme seems to be, we will continue to reduce this aerosol pollution but that's going to make global warming worse and the future's going to be terrible.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L29121743.htm  http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg18625065.700  http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050627/full/4351142b.html 

Best wishes

Paul Dove


A Marine who's sorry...

"One marine's apology" posted on March 31st, 2005 This Letter of Apology was written by Lieutenant General Chuck Pitman, US Marine Corps, Retired:

"For good and ill, the Iraqi prisoner abuse mess will remain an issue. On the one hand, right thinking Americans will harbor the stupidity of the actions while on the other hand, political glee will take control and fashion this minor event into some modern day massacre.

I humbly offer my opinion here:

I am sorry that the last seven times we Americans took up arms and sacrificed the blood of our youth, it was in the defense of Muslims (Bosnia, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, Kuwait, etc.).

I am sorry that no such call for an apology upon the extremists came after 9/11.

I am sorry that all of the murderers on 9/11 were Islamic Arabs.

I am sorry that most Arabs and Muslims have to live in squalor under savage dictatorships.

I am sorry that their leaders squander their wealth.

I am sorry that their governments breed hate for the US in their religious schools, mosques, and government-controlled media.

I am sorry that Yassar Arafat was kicked out of every Arab country and high-jacked the Palestinian "cause."

I am sorry that no other Arab country will take in or offer more than a token amount of financial help to those same Palestinians.

I am sorry that the USA has to step in and be the biggest financial supporter of poverty stricken Arabs while the insanely wealthy Arabs blame the USA for all their problems.

I am sorry that our own left wing, our media, and our own brainwashed masses do not understand any of this (from the misleading vocal elements of our society like radical professors, CNN and the NY TIMES).

I am sorry the United Nations scammed the poor people of Iraq out of the "food for oil" money so they could get rich while the common folk suffered.

I am sorry that some Arab governments pay the families of homicide bombers upon their death.

I am sorry that those same bombers are brainwashed thinking they will receive 72 virgins in "paradise."

I am sorry that the homicide bombers think pregnant women, babies, children, the elderly and other noncombatant civilians are legitimate targets.

I am sorry that our troops die to free more Arabs from the gang rape rooms and the filling of mass graves of dissidents of their own making.

I am sorry that Muslim extremists have killed more Arabs than any other group.

I am sorry that foreign trained terrorists are trying to seize control of Iraq and return it to a terrorist state.

I am sorry we don't drop a few dozen Daisy Cutters on Fallujah.

I am sorry every time terrorists hide they find a convenient "Holy Site."

I am sorry they didn't apologize for driving a jet into the World Trade Center that collapsed and severely damaged Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church - one of our Holy Sites.

I am sorry they didn't apologize for flight 93 and 175, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings, the murders and beheadings of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, etc....etc!

We hang out our dirty laundry for the entire world to see. We move on. That's one of the reasons we are hated so much. We don't hide this stuff like all those Arab countries that are now demanding an apology. Deep down inside, when most Americans saw this reported in the news, we were like - so what? We lost hundreds and made fun of a few prisoners. Sure, it was wrong, sure, it dramatically hurts our cause, but until captured we were trying to kill these same prisoners. Now we're supposed to wring our hands because a few were humiliated? Our compassion is tempered with the vivid memories of our own people killed, mutilated and burnt amongst a joyous crowd of celebrating Fallujans. If you want an apology from this American, you're going to have a long wait! You have a better chance of finding those seventy-two virgins.

Chuck Pitman

Lieutenant General

US Marine Corps (Retired)

Semper Fi


Microsoft Gator?

Hi Jerry,

It looks like Microsoft may buy one of the original, and most notorious adware vendors - Gator aka Claria.


Talk about confusing messages: they buy Giant Antispyware, then buy Claria/Gator. What was that old line about the fox and the henhouse?




Just how bad was Saddam?

Although Saddam was certainly a bad man, an accurately parsing of those negative features renders them far less remarkable.

First, the vast majority of the Iraqis whose deaths he caused fell in battle during his long war with Iran, dying in much the same way and for much the same reason (or lack thereof) as the enormously greater WWI casualties. Now everyone would admit that WWI was an act of monstrous stupidity, but few would argue that it automatically renders Clemeneau, the Kaiser, the Czar, Lloyd George, etc. as being among the vilest human beings in history.

Among the remainder of Saddam's direct victims, it seems likely that most fell during his harsh attempts to suppress various internal uprisings, such as among the Kurds or during the Shiite rebellion. Most dictators use harsh means to suppress internal revolts and those who don't generally cease to hold power. Although he and his very nasty sons also semi-haphazardly murdered people they didn't like, these victims were generally members of their own Baathist leadership group, personal entourage, or (frequently) close family relatives. Therefore, I can't believe the numbers here were very large at all.

Now it has been claimed that even leaving aside the Iran War, Saddam and his friends murdered as many as 300,000 Iraqis, but this was over a thirty year period, and anyway all these claims came from the same pathological liars who also claimed that Saddam had WMD, etc., so should be heavily discounted. But even if we credit these doubtful numbers, we're talking about 10,000 people per year while the Hutus killed (maybe) a million people in a much smaller country in just a few weeks.

There is also much highly credible analysis that our anti-Saddam economic sanctions caused the excess deaths of something like 500,000 Iraqis over a decade and we've probably killed well over another 100,000 since we attacked a couple of years ago, so by any reasonable standards, we have a vastly greater amount of Iraqi blood on our hands than did Saddam.

Its interesting that such most ordinary Iraqis tell interviewers that while they had much less freedom under Saddam, their own personal safety was enormously greater, and that in many practical respects life was much better before the Americans came.

Now Saddam was a particularly cruel and nasty dictator, but anyone who would rank him as one of the great fiends of history presumably also still believes we're on the verge of finding all those WMDs buried in the desert somewhere.

Basically, the only real reason we attacked Iraq was because the neocons and their puppets viewed Saddam as an enemy of Israel, as further indicated by the fact that they now want us to attack all the other various regional enemies of Israel, several of which have rather mild regimes. The proper response to this silly nonsense is to put to death all the neocons behind it, thereby considerably discouraging other people from propagating similar foolish nonsense in the future.



Subject: "Just how bad was Saddam?"

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I am appalled at your deployment of this correspondence, without comment or clarification of your own view of it, at your site. I'd suggest that it represents the return of moral equivalence, except of course, that it's much harder on us than on our adversaries.

I know it is your position that we are not entitled to take any inferences from your quoting such correspondence: allow me to suggest that this is disingenuous at best. Most people don't extensively quote others, without disclaimer or comment, unless they intend their readership to infer at least broad agreement. As the ancient maxim has it, "Qui tacet consentire." ("He who is silent gives consent.")

I am not going to stoop to specific refutation of the claims made--anyone who wishes to disbelieve the documented existence of more than 300,000 Iraqi mass graves is beyond hope anyhow--but, whatever you might say about the evil neo-cons, I'm not aware they ever called for their political opponents to be put to death, as your correspondent suggests ("The proper response to this silly nonsense is to put to death all the neocons behind it, thereby considerably discouraging other people from propagating similar foolish nonsense in the future.").

Your correspondent is a moral cripple, engaged in the ravings of a clown. As for you, I'd try and respect your opinions on the subject, but it would be an insult to your intelligence.

Yours in Christ the King, David

First, if my own views are not fairly clear to those who visit here, then I must be particularly thick, since I have been writing both essays and commentaries here for years.

The discussion in point was from another conversation, and I have left off who said it precisely because it is not the kind of thing often said in public; to conclude that such things should therefore not be said at all is not demonstrable.  What my correspondent has tried to do is to put the Iraqi War in context: Saddam Hussein was certainly a nasty man (as is said) but he hardly ranks with the really great mass murderers. Mugabe was recently allowed to visit civilized territory and return home; I could name others; and their nations aren't invaded.

My views remain, we should have gone into Afghanistan, but the notion of invading Iraq with intent to occupy it was another question and I have seen little evidence that those who planned it thought it out well. Now we are there and it's a bit late to think out just what monsters we ought to go abroad to slay, but there is no lack of them, and putting the Iraqi invasion in context is worth doing. There is no lack of monsters to go abroad to slay; but even we do not have the power to slay all of them and stay in residence to instruct the survivors.

Jacobinism seeks to implant democracy throughout the world.

I find the final sentence above a bit overdone, but irony is one weapon of persuasion; I would have thought it obvious that in this case it had the opposite effect, and I would myself have thought that obvious.

As Niven put it in another conference, we have a technical term for those who believe that we share the beliefs of everyone we quote whether in fiction or otherwise.

I thank you for showing that there are those who simply cannot believe there are good cases against our being in Iraq. Tell me what you would do with moral cripples who rave like clowns?

I have another note from David suggesting that most of you will, unless I explicitly deny it, believe that I advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of neo-conservatives and others who don't agree with me. I find it amusing that anyone would think such a disclaimer necessary. Many neo-conservatives remain friends whom I think misguided. Others like the egregious Frum want to read me out of any movement that retains the name conservative. In all such cases I have not, even rhetorically, suggested indiscriminate slaughter of political opponents. On the record that is more a characteristic of Jacobins than Conservatives in any event.

Rhetorical restraint does not seem to be in the arsenal of either R or David, but I have known that for some time.

And see below for David's lengthy reply.


A Marine Who's Sorry vs How Bad was Saddam

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Both of these were posted the same day without comment and yet somehow your silence only implies consent with the latter.

I'm afraid the real lesson of this war is that our Senate has become as toothless as the Senate of Rome. Is there anyone who doesn't consider this Bush's war as opposed to one originating in Congress? The World's Most Exclusive Debating Club resolved: We aren't sure, Mr President... just do as you think best and send us the bill.

Great site. I've been enjoying your writing ever since you recommended Railroad Tycoon. Thank you.


Yes, I noted that also; and the Marine may have made one or two rhetorical excesses in his screed; odd how they were not noticed.

Thank you for the kind words.




Subject: "The real reason for the war in Iraq"

Why did we go to war with Saddam? Because the citizens who voted for Bush wanted Saddam gone.

Red staters aren't generally dumb dupes or conspiratorially pro-Israeli. When Bush came out with the arguments about WMDs and UN Resolutions, many folks just yawned and said, "Guess he's gotta go through the motions with the UN to placate the liberal media. I hope he gets on with it and gets that Saddam out of there quickly."

I repeat: many who voted for Bush, perhaps most, _do not care_ about the WMDs. They did not support the war because of the WMD issue. The US invaded Iraq because Bush's "Jacksonian"-dominated political base saw Iraq as a reasonable followup to Afghanistan, and his base also wanted to close out some unfinished business from 1991.

Now, Jacksonianism isn't necessarily good policy, but it is the simplest explanation for the Iraq War that fits the facts.

Steve Setzer

You do need to mix in the intelligence factor: Saddam did his best to convince the world that he had chemical weapons and darkly hinted of worse. He threw out the UN teams that might have dispelled the rumors, not because he had those weapons, but because he had not got them and didn't want that proven. Bush could and did make a prudential case for removing Saddam. Some accept that case, some do not, but it was arguable.

When Jackonianism becomes Jacobinism it may be time to reexamine it. The fact remains that Saddam was not the fount of Wahabi poison (which survives nicely following his removal), bin Laden probably rejoiced at his removal, and of the enemies in the Middle East Saddam was probably the most thoroughly contained and deterred. He may well have been the nastiest of the dictators in that region, but hardly in the world.

If we seek to carry democracy on the points of our bayonets we ought at least to do so with clear heads. Incidentally rational foreign policy is probably the least successful operation of direct democracy and precisely why many think a Republic preferable. Planting democracy everywhere may not be in our national interest, a point often missed in these discussions (as is the whole notion that US power ought to be used to promote US national interests).

Having said all that, I tend to agree with Mr. Setzer. The invasion of Iraq was popular. It may not have been wise. The Jacobin assumption is that there burns in all hearts a desire for liberty, freedom, and democracy, and all you have to do is allow those desires to prevail and the world will be a good place. I have never been sure of that and remain skeptical.

Finally: the original correspondent is clearly concerned that we expand the war. Is that a real danger?








This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 2, 2005

There was considerable heat over something put up last night, so I have put the discussion that came in this morning up there with it.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge (on takings)

 Subject: The Kelo Decision

Dear Jerry:

You write: "But it still does not make it a Federal matter. The question is the 'incorporation' doctine that says the Bill of Rights is incorporated by the 14th Ammendment. I am not sure that is either valid or advisable. I understand my position is fairly lonely here."

I think what enrages so many of us is the hypocrisy of this decision. If the 14th Amendment did NOT incorporate the Bill of Rights into state law, then there is, as you point out, a perfectly good state's rights argument for ruling in favor of the City of New London. But you, I believe, having articulated that principle, would apply it consistently, saying that the _federales_ had no power to overturn state laws on the basis of the Bill of Rights. That would erase a huge number of Supreme Court decisions.

But if the 14th Amendment DID incorporate the Bill of Rights, then Kelo is utterly dishonest. The "Justices" that formed the majority would use the 'Incorporation argument' in a heartbeat against, say, state search and seizure laws they didn't approve of, but they decided that in this case the outcome would be good, so they spit on the 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendments, and authorize New London to seize private property for private use, in the hope that the City will get a cut of the swag.

This is just tyranny. The five Supremes who did this lack all integrity.




You have stated my position passing well, although I will not accept the label you have put on the 5 Justices of this decision. And do understand, many State constitutions have a copy of the Federal Bill of Rights written in, just as 24 states forbade the introduction of illegally seized evidence in criminal cases (and 26 did not). Note also that somehow our protections under the Bill of Rights does not preclude stolen evidence from "whistleblowers" being used to obtain warrants, or being used in some civil cases. We do not apply the rule consistently because we can't. As a rule to control unruly executive agencies (the original appearance of the Federal Exclusion Rule: it was a rule imposed by the courts on the courts, not a "right") this may well make sense; but there was never a "right" to have your guilty knowledge of where you buried the body of the little girl excluded from your trial if you were tricked into revealing that location. Or at least there wasn't such a right for 200 years.

But yes, I would leave many matters to the states, including the composition of their senates, abortion, rules of evidence, and 14th and 15th Amendment matters not explicitly addressed by Congress.


Subject: "Democrats Immediately Attacked George Washington..."


What if???

"Anchorman: The President nominated George Washington for the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Sandra Day O'Connor. Democrats immediately attacked Washington for his environmental record of chopping down cherry trees."

<http://upordownvote.com/xp303htm/vid_ben_george_flash.htm>  Click here <http://upordownvote.com/xp303htm/vid_ben_george_flash.htm>  to see the newscast!

Some Democrats will attack any Supreme Court nominee, but past attacks have been called a "smear" and "dishonest." When there is a real nominee they deserve real consideration, instead of instant attacks.

Make sure you're ready for the liberals' attacks.

1. Read "Tar & Feather Inc., A 10 Step Guide to Judicial Character Assassination" <http://upordownvote.com/xp303htm/tar.htm

2. Forward this newscast to your friends.


Paid for by Progress for America, Inc.


I do hope that the references to tar and feathers are seen as rhetorical...


The relative merits of life under Saddam and Kim Jong II are less clear than you might think. Kim can take credit for a tragic famine and a rather large Gulag. Saddam reduced Iraq's per-capita GDP to a level well below North Korea in the early 1990s and waged all-out war on his own citizens. The depth of internal hatred for Saddam's regime was never in doubt. What the people of North Korea think of their government is very unclear. By some reports, North Korea has reached "1984" levels of total state disinformation. Under the circumstances, the government of North Korea may well be loved.

Estimates of the death toll from the NK famine range from 220K (NK government - http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/east/05/15/korea.north.starve/) to 3 million (see "North Korea's Famine: Socialism & Nature at Work" http://wakingbear.com/korea1.htm). or even 3.5 million (see http://freekorea.blogspot.com/2005/05/one-kwangju-per-day-for-six-years.html ). NK's Gulag has certainly slaughtered a vast number of people. However, I haven't found any numbers so far.

Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people at Halabja and elsewhere. This would appear to make him somewhat unique in history. The al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds was very deadly. As always, estimates of the death toll vary widely. One source, gives 182K (http://www.answers.com/topic/al-anfal-campaign). The suppression of the Shiites after Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf War was very lethal. However, it is hard to find fatality estimates. One source (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat5.htm) gives a number of 40K.

After the first Gulf War, Saddam refused to sell oil for food/medicine even though he was allowed to (see UNSCR 706). As a consequence, Iraq's per-capita GDP fell well below that of NK. For example, in 1991 Iraq's per-capita GDP appears to have been as low as $500. Actual oil sales under UNSCR 986 did not begin until 1996. The suffering of the Iraqi people in that period was intense and may have included significant malnutrition. Malnutrition has also been widely alleged after 1996. In this context it is perhaps worth noting that the population of Iraq has risen dramatically in recent decades. By contrast, the population of NK appears to be little changed from the 1980s.

By all reports, the degree of state control over daily life in North Korea has no parallel with Saddam's tyranny. Private life as we know it, may not exist for much of the population of NK. In this respect, life in NK is much worse than under Saddam.

As you can see, both countries have terrible modern histories. Which was/is worse? Assuming the high-end estimates are correct, the NK famine would appear to tip the scales in favor of Iraq as the nicer place to live. Certainly the totality of state control in NK would favor Saddam. Of course, if you were a Kurd whose family was slaughtered with poison gas, you might disagree.

However, it is still very unclear which regime was/is more hated. The degree of state control in North Korea is (apparently) so profound that North Korean's think they live in a wealthy nation and that the people of South Korea are "suffering". Given such collective hallucinations, who knows if the NK government is despised or beloved.

Thank you





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, July 3, 2005

A mixed bag and short shrift given that the column is due

Subject: Saddam or not


My response to "R's" piece is that I have seen, or heard of, many of those arguments posed, or alluded to, in serious debate of the Iraq invasion.

Hence, not having the context of the original posting, I had no indication that the author may have been speaking in intended irony.

For example, I have no precise numbers on how many peaceful Iraqi citizens died during and since the invasion, but even the much aligned "mainstream press" seems to indicate that most citizens who died and are dying have not done so as a result of American direct action, but at the hands of the Saddam Loyalists and the Al-Qaida and other insurgents who have entered Iraq to "chase America out." In other words, these deaths should more properly be viewed as a continuation of Saddam's horror and not as an American horror, and there becomes a valid debate whether the rate of death and other casualties at present is greater or less than the rate of death under Saddam (which seems to have been on the order of 10,000 people per year on average for his entire regime).

STRATFOR maintains that the invasion of Iraq was initiated because it was necessary for the Administration to do something dramatic to impress upon the Saudi's the need to clean their own house without destabilizing their regime, which (for economic more than ideological reasons) is friendlier to the US than the population at large (due to Wahabism). In other words, it was the best (and arguably the most popular) of a lot of bad options -- remove someone who has the potential to become a significant threat, while proving our resolve to pro-American regimes in the area who still required prompting to act against terrorists in their territory.

Which isn't to say (and STRATFOR doesn't claim) that no mistakes have been made.

But with the debate in Congress not over how best to resolve the situation on the ground, but between unquestioning support for the administration vs. Democrats who compare soldiers on the ground to Nazis, a situation which would be bad in any event has been made progressively worse because the insurgent forces and foreign fighters believe they can shatter American will to stay the course.

And if that happens -- there may be no way to end Islamic terrorism except what several of my friends have said would be necessary since about 10:30 AM Eastern time on 11 September 2001: a sea of green glowing glass from Mecca to Islamabad, from Abu Dabi to Kurdistan.

Jim Woosley

Fair enough. Let's add to the ground rules here: unless I make it pretty clear otherwise, I don't post stuff from idiots. I may well put up things I don't agree with, particularly if it's something I find puzzling but haven't either the time or the information to analyze; I trust the readership to comment. On the other hand, a comment that consists of "this is so stupid that I won't bother to refute it" does not get us very far.

The STRATFOR "indirect approach" argument, invading Iraq as warning to Saudi Arabia, may make sense to a certain cast of mind, but I find it very dangerous. The best way to tell someone you disapprove of them is to tell them so, not to beat the snot out of the one neighbor who might be a threat to them and their way of life. The secular Baathists are anathema to the Wahhabi  clergy, and Saddam terrified the Saudis; why removing him as a threat might be thought to make the Saudis more tractable is not obvious to me.

I suspect that the invasion of Iraq was just what it seemed to be, neo-Jacobinism fortified by the dreams of Chalabi and his people; after all, if it were all true, it would be wonderful. Never underestimate the ability of politicians to believe in theories that make no sense other than that they will bring about results the politicians want. Bush passionately wants stability in the mideast, and passionately believes that everyone in the world truly wants freedom and democracy. I wish him to be correct, but I have this set of nagging doubts about it.

On my side of the aisle there are a number of people who were not always paleo conservatives and are new to the fold, and they tend to contempt of their former neo-con colleagues.

What isn't conservative about the neo-cons, and about liberals, and Trotskyites, and a very great many people is the belief that "problems" can be "solved" and after a while all the problems are solved and history ends since people are, after all, mostly alike and want the same things and --

Well, you can continue that argument as well as I can.  Conservatives believe that left to themselves things go from bad to worse, but most human effort has a very good chance of accelerating that process. One intervenes carefully. And one approaches the defects of one's country as one approaches the wounds of a father, not with joy about the good one can do in solving problems...

But enough. I have columns to write. I put up that rather extraordinary letter to see what it might generate. It has not disappointed me.


Subject: Oh, gee whiz


Perhaps the subject should be "No 'g' wiz" instead of "Oh, gee whiz."

I think I've noted this before, but back when I taught college physics labs in grad school and everyone did the traditional old "measurement of g" experiment with the wax tape and meter stick, it always used to astond students that I could look at their result and tell them their percent error to a couple of significant figures just by lookign at their result, using the old

E = (x - 982 cm/s/s) / (982 cm/s/s) x 100% rule.

This of course works because, cancelling units and expanding the denominator,

E = (x - 982 ) / 1000 x (1 - 18/1000) x 100% + O(.018)^2

= 0.1 * (x - 982 ) - 0.0018 * (x - 982)

~ 0.1 * (x - 982) - 2% x (0.1*(x - 982) )

The point is NOT that in this case I got away with approximating g = 1000 cm/s (which only worked because I was computing an error and not a physical quantity) but that dealing with 982 is NOT a big deal, particularly when everyone has calculators.

This isn't quite as bad as the pi = 3 thing, but it's bad enough.

Jim Woosley


Statistical analysis of the cause of Global Warming:

When you actually run the numbers, it becomes obvious that pirates prevent global warming. Western Civilization as almost completely driven piracy to extinction...

The link forwarded to me is of the graph as printed on a CafePress mug. I assume that there's a page somewhere on the net explaining it. To me, the graph is self-explanatory.


Greg Goss

I love it!


a climatology blog

Jerry, thanks for the postings from England

An ice core specialist friend suggested www.realclimate.org  as a spot where the comments of other scientists offer a sort of immediate peer review of the postings.

Hope to see your Outlook resource consumption discoveries soon.

I set up a friend's HP Pavillion Media PC with equally cryptic heiroglyphic rebus writing "quickstart" pages. Never quite certain about various on-screen caveats that arose.

Joe O'Laughlin


Subject: Mangled Latin

Your correspondent "David" said (currentmail, Friday 1 July) > As the ancient maxim has it, "Qui tacet consentire." ("He who is silent > gives consent.") If he is going to throw Latin around, he should make some attempt to have it make sense. There seem to be two plausible forms of this floating about: "Qui tacet consentit" = "He who is silent gives consent" "Qui tacet consentire videtur" = "He who is silent is considered to give consent".

While on this subject, may I ask you to get Mr St.Onge to do some Latin revision too? His misquotation of Cato doesn't parse either.

Yours grumpily, FB


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: Neanderthals http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/ saintonge@hotmail.com

Dear Jerry:

On the subject of Neanderthals, http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail368.html#Thursday , the big question is, were they even a real subtype?

I saw an article in Science or Nature once, which noted that the skeletons of "Neanderthals" looked a lot like the skeletons of members of H. Sapiens with rickets. It also noted that Neanderthals had been found in Europe during an ice age, and that the tools from the time didn't show fish hooks or spears. So, Vitamin D deficiency would have been easy.

I don't know if the person is right, but it's the kind of thing I'd like to see investigated.




Students lagging in US history

Dr. P,

Not that we didn't know about the sad state of public school education, but I thought you might be interested in this Globe article (free registration req'd).



Students lagging in American history By Kaitlin Bell, Boston Globe Correspondent | July 1, 2005

"National history and civics assessments show that most fourth-graders can't identify the opening passage of the Declaration of Independence, and that most high school seniors can't explain the checks-and-balances theory behind the three branches of the US government. Testifying in favor of proposed legislation, the history specialists -- including renowned historian David McCullough -- told a Senate education subcommittee that most of the country's schoolchildren lack sufficient knowledge to become informed voters and don't understand why they enjoy rights like free speech and freedom of religion."


I watched David McCullough on Tim Russert's talk show this weekend, plugging his new book "1776" -- but also commenting on the state of history education in the US. McCullough mentioned one of my favorite Harry S. Truman quotations:

The only thing new is the history you don't know.

Best wishes for a safe and happy 4th. Cheer, -JR

My friend Greg Cochran would argue that it has always been this bad and you can't prove otherwise, but I don't recall such. I remember a different time and world. Alas, Babylon.


Northern Ireland and Iraq. A comparison of insurgencies.


In the early seventies the low-level struggle in Ulster between the IRA and the ruling Protestant majority flared up and forced the Westminster government to pay serious attention to the Province. Amongst other measures army units from the mainland were sent to help to restore order. Ironically, their initial task was to protect the Catholic population from whom the IRA drew its recruits, from attack by the IRA's Protestant counterpart.

The IRA faced grave difficulties. They were dealing with a police who knew the ground as only those who had grown up on it do. They were dealing with an army that had vast experience of dealing with insurgent groups that was gained as Britain dismantled her empire. The IRA had no ready source of arms, ammunition, and explosives. The money had to be found for these and arms had to be bought on the international market and smuggled into the country. Lastly, all the parties spoke a common language and shared a very similar culture. In spite of this it took fourty years for some sort of peace to be established.

In Iraq there are no police as we understand the term. The United States has a fighting army that is second to none but much of its technology and training is irrelevant in its current role. It lacks the cardinal advantage of the British in that the senior officers issuing the orders are the same people who twenty years before actually confronted insurgents on the ground. Iraq is awash with weapons and explosive of all kinds, (except WMD's), so the insurgents have no difficulty of supply and Iraq's borders are wholly porous which means that specialists and specialist equipment can be brought in at need without particular difficulty. The inability of most Americans to speak the local language is a grave handicap. I have a mental picture of a smiling Iraqi shaking a US soldier's hand while assuring him that his mother was a pig and his father a camel. The only glimmer of hope that I can see is that the fighting qualities of the typical Irishman have never been excelled so perhaps the opposition in Iraq will be less formidable than it was in Ulster.

None of this suggests that an early withdrawal is possible on any terms that would leave the USA better off than they are now. A possible exit strategy would be to divide the country into Kurdish, Shia and Sunni enclaves in a way that would minimize ethnic cleansing and let each rule itself as it saw fit. Even then there would still need to be a US presence to deter fighting between the three groups and to protect them from external attack. Oil revenue would have to be paid into a properly audited external account at the World Bank, not the UN or other international kleptocracy, and divided between the groups. I can see grave difficulties in adopting this course, not least with the bordering countries.

All in all I can see certain advantages for the United States in having an overwhelming military presence in the middle of the world's major source of oil. Not just to fuel that absurdity called the SUV but to produce the food that we all need. It is not always realised how much oil has to be consumed to feed a western household.


John Edwards

Thank you. Much the same things were said at the conference I recently attended. The Irish situation was much helped by the explosion of wealth in the Republic...


Another interchange from another conference:

Jim wrote:


> >As with Chris Hitchens, I too am mystified by how anyone could wish
> >Saddam Hussein was still in power.

 You are misrepresenting the anti-war position. The argument is simple: We did not derive a /net/ benefit from overthrowing Saddam. You keep trying to get away from a serious assessment of all the costs and benefits.

Here are some costs: http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m12270&l=i&size=1&hd=0 

According to Pentagon statistics, approximately 6 percent of the more than 12,000 troops wounded by bombs or bullets in Iraq or Afghanistan have required amputation--three times the rate in Vietnam. About 20 percent have head or neck injuries, and many more have suffered breathing and eating impairments, blindness or severe disfiguration. Dr. Roy Aaron of Brown Medical School in Rhode Island told the Boston Globe in December that the Veterans Affairs system "literally cannot handle the load" of amputees.

Why make a bunch of American GIs and their families pay such a high price for a bunch of ungrateful Iraqis?



Charles Krauthammer: The Neoconservative Convergence http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12001023_1

The post-cold-war era has seen a remarkable ideological experiment: over the last fifteen years, each of the three major American schools of foreign policy-realism, liberal internationalism, and neoconservatism-has taken its turn at running things. (A fourth school, isolationism, has a long pedigree, but has yet to recover from Pearl Harbor and probably never will; it remains a minor source of dissidence with no chance of becoming a governing ideology.) There is much to be learned from this unusual and unplanned experiment.

The era began with the senior George Bush and a classically realist approach. This was Kissingerism without Kissinger-although Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Lawrence Eagleburger filled in admirably. The very phrase the administration coined to describe its vision-the New World Order-captured the core idea: an orderly world with orderly rulers living in stable equilibrium.

The elder Bush had two enormous achievements to his credit: the peaceful reunification of Germany, still historically undervalued, and the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, which maintained the status quo in the Persian Gulf. Nonetheless, his administration suffered from the classic shortcoming of realism: a failure of imagination. Bush brilliantly managed the reconstitution of Germany and the restoration of the independence of the East European states, but he could not see far enough to the liberation of the Soviet peoples themselves. His notorious "chicken Kiev" speech of 1991, warning Ukrainians against "suicidal nationalism," seemed to prefer Soviet stability to the risk of fifteen free and independent states.

But we must not be retrospectively too severe. Democracy in Ukraine was hard to envision even a few years ago, let alone in the early 1990's, and Bush's hesitancy did not stop the march of liberation in the Soviet sphere. It was the failure of imagination in Bush's other area of triumph-Iraq-that had truly stark, even tragic, consequences.

Leaving Saddam in place, and declining to support the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings that followed the first Gulf war, begat more than a decade of Iraqi suffering, rancor among our war allies, diplomatic isolation for the U.S., and a crumbling regime of UN sanctions. All this led ultimately and inevitably to a second war that could have been fought far more easily-and with the enthusiastic support of Iraq's Shiites, who to this day remain suspicious of our intentions-in 1991. One recalls with dismay that the first two of Osama bin Laden's announced justifications for his declaration of war on America were the garrisoning of the holy places (i.e., Saudi Arabia) by crusader (i.e., American) soldiers and the suffering of Iraqis under sanctions. Both were a direct result of the inconclusive end to the first Gulf war.

Still, the achievements of the elder Bush far outweigh the failures. <snip>

The rest is worth reading.

Note that I am not endorsing this: I said it is worth reading. If you detect considerable mixed feelings on my part about this war, you are correct. I didn't want us in there. I do not think pouring money into the sand is a good idea; I'd rather spend that money on nuclear power plants and space resources in the US. Having said that, if the President's bold plans work to implant actual liberal democracy in Iraq the world is a different place; and if there is any chance of success, I don't want to be part of the crowd preventing that success from happening.  THEN SEE MONTY on Ideology .


The Following is a result of a number of exchanges of letters with David. It is long, but I invited that: I said that if he so greatly disagreed with the views put in the original letter, he should say why, not merely condemn. He has done so, and this is the reply, which I present unedited, as is my usual practice (I generally do ask that long letters be shortened, but I tend to rely on the writer to do that).

He has also chosen to append some remarks about this site that I do not think are true, but are still worth thinking about.

First of all, let's start with a macro point. You are committed to a view of American interests and American foreign policy (both historically and present-day) which I think is fundamentally unrepresentative both of the actual history and of our interests generally. This view is embodied in your JQA quote which you brandish more or less regularly, on the subject of monsters abroad.

Let us be clear that this POV represents only one of at least three or four strands of historical American foreign policy, and one that has gotten less and less possible to execute, inasmuch as the "monsters abroad" have developed both the intent and the capability of coming here. However, it is the default position of the American people, for better or worse: as with all of the major conflicts we have been involved with, from the Revo through the Civil War to WW1, WW2, the Cold War and now the GWOT (no, I don't like it either, but it's a name), most Americans would much prefer to be left alone and tend their own gardens, but when it becomes obvious this is no longer a viable option, they are more than willing to engage. Of course they want the engagement to be relatively quick and to the point: no one in this country enjoys the notion of wars that drag on for ages, as I assume you observed during the Cold War.

So--just at the very start--it appears somewhat disingenuous to me to act as if the JQA school of foreign policy were either the norm or even the dominant school of US foreign policy. The fact is (to borrow the quadripartite typology outlined by Walter Russell Mead in his seminal article on the subject [http://denbeste.nu/external/Mead01.html]), our foreign policy has always blended elements of Hamiltonian commercial realism, Wilsonian idealism, Jeffersonian pacifism, and Jacksonian aggressive response. Obviously, at various times, different elements have been in the ascendancy: but none of the four strands can plausibly be called normative, since they each serve their purposes, and some better than others. To argue that one strand should be privileged above the others is the equivalent of Maslow's famous line that to the man whose only tool is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

We therefore begin with substantially different assumptions about what is normative in the conduct of our foreign policy. I need hardly add that to dismiss those who disagree with epithets is hardly conducive to the sort of truth-seeking collective dialogue you imagine we are engaged in. You use the derogatory epithet "neo-con" to describe those who believe in a foreign policy in which Jacksonian and Wilsonian strands predominate, and suggest that--since many of its advocates are former Trotskyites--its advocates are somehow suspect. Apparently you have forgotten that many of President Reagan's foreign policy team--Jeane Kirkpatrick, John Lehman, indeed, Reagan himself--also held these views. You dismiss those who believe that all human beings aspire to freedom as neo-Jacobins: I find this baffling, as the argument collapses of its own weight (if the desire for freedom is unique to the West or even--as you sometimes imply--to Anglo-Americans, how did we get it in the first place? And if the sources of our aspiring to freedom are historical and cultural rather than genetic, isn't it possible that others can "get the bug" also?).

So: with this as prologue, let us then discuss your correspondent, "Mr. R". He appears to advance several propositions, none of which appear to me to be arguments, so much as assertions:

1. Sure, Saddam was a bad man, but others have been worse (um, there's nothing much we can do about Clemenceau and the Kaiser now).
2. Sure, Saddam killed a lot of people, but he wasn't the worst (still nothing we can do about those other guys, one way or t'other).
 3. Sure, Saddam killed a lot of people, but we killed as many or more during the invasion and as a result of our sanctions [a number of quantitative assertions are made here which are characterized as "highly credible", but for which no support is given: I happen to know that most of these "highly credible" numbers are in fact highly suspect and have been debunked by other studies and reports] (even if the assertions about how many were killed by us, does this mean that now we should go back and try Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay, in addition to the Kaiser, Clemenceau, /e tutti quanti/?).
4. BTW, the numbers that Saddam supposedly killed are "highly suspect" inasmuch as they were provided by the same "pathological liars" who made claims about WMD (I guess "R" denies the existence of the mass graves that have revealed over 300,000 victims of Saddam's regime so far: or perhaps he implies that we fabricated them? I've heard these arguments before from Holocaust deniers: they're just as vile here) (And as far as WMD goes, if there's anyone on the planet who could convincingly demonstrate *before the invasion*--including Saddam himself--that he didn't have WMD, let him come forward).

OK, so far we have
(1) some quantitative comparisons that--if followed literally--would have precluded us from fighting the Civil War (after all, the half-million or so dead in that conflict vastly exceeded the numbers of blacks that were killed by the slave system, or lynched, or what have you), World War Two (I think it safe to say that the civilian deaths our bombing caused in both Germany and Japan far exceeded our own casualties) (and of course, Hitler was a piker compared to Stalin: so we should probably have thrown in our lot with Hitler rather than Stalin early in the war), Korea and Vietnam (surely our attempts to shore up those governments caused many deaths that would have been avoided had they been "peacefully" taken over by their respective Northern adversaries...and besides, Syngman Rhee and Ngo Dinh Diem were pretty unsavory characters, hardly worth our sullying our hands with);
(2) some unsubstantiated and--frankly--debunked figures about how many caualties we have caused among the Iraqis, and
(3) some implications that we, the US, fabricated our data anyhow.

We then have arguments about what "ordinary Iraqis" think (again, completely unsourced and unsubstantiated) which happen to fly in the face of many other reports, including broad-based polling data conducted by independent, reputable observers. Even if the assertions made were correct, I can't help but ask: what did the average German or Japanese think about all this, in 1947? To ask the question is to reveal the meretriciousness of the argument: you can't rebuild Baghdad in a day, and to suggest that our failure to do so indicates a broader failure is...silly.

Finally, we conclude--and, yes, this is the part I took on, but in reality it's merely the straw that broke my back--by a vicious, anti-Semitic diatribe against those who might disagree with the writer, including an "ironic" suggestion--ha, ha!--that they should be taken out and shot.

I am not Jewish myself: my father was born Jewish, but converted before I was born. But I did grow up in New York, and many of my friends even now are Jewish. I knew people when I was little who had their number tattooed on their forearm. So I'm a bit sensitive--perhaps overly so--to any hint of collective killing of the Jews: you'll have to indulge me.

Now: you may argue that I should have instantly recognized this as "irony". But--perhaps you need your memory refreshed--you yourself advocated paving over the cities of those who either were responsible of 9/11 or cheered it on. Was that, also, irony? It certainly didn't seem so at the time. Anyhow, "irony" is the lazy man's way of avoiding saying he's sorry: it's tantamount to thinking you can get away with saying anything you like, and if anyone gets insulted, you just throw up your hands and say "Geez, fella, lighten up! I was only kiddin'!" Frankly, it is the sensibility that has led to the ever-greater coarsening of political dialogue in this country, and I for one would have hoped that you'd have put a brake on it, especially in light of your (seemingly authentic) commitment to the truth.

You say--quite correctly--that dismissing R's letter as stupid or monstrous serves no useful purpose. Of course, you are right. So, ask yourself this question: what purpose did putting it up in the first place serve? All I ever said to you was a paraphrase of one of Niven's Laws: "Don't stand next to a man who is throwing shit at other people." I don't like having shit thrown at me: if I respond by throwing some back, how is that wrong? Hey, I was just being ironic, right?

Here's the deal: if believing in a muscular foreign policy that sometimes involves squashing our adversaries before they have a chance to annoy us makes me a "neo-con", so be it. If believing that we should have a foreign policy that blends realism and idealism by recognizing that expanding the frontiers of freedom is good for the US makes me a neo-Jacobin, then so be it. I'll even go so far as to say that if believing that we have both a principled and a pragmatic interest in supporting Israel's continued existence in the Middle East makes me a tool of the Jews, so be it. I'm done being intimidated by epithets.

You claim that you want your web page to be a forum for truth-seeking, but the rhetoric you deploy, and--through many of the letters you print--endorse, suggests that your view of the arena in which truth may be sought is far narrower than it is in reality. The fact of the matter is, your web page has turned into an advocacy page for a particular view of foreign (and indeed domestic) policy which is decreasingly receptive to dissent. You need to try and understand this.

Now that the anti-Semitism accusation has been made, rational discourse ceases; but since both David and R are of Jewish descent it would not seem appropriate here. More let us be clear about something: opposition to policies endorsed by people some of whom are of Jewish descent is not opposition to Jews in general. Even were all neo-cons Jewish (and they certainly are not) opposition to neo-conservatism would hardly equate to opposition to all Jews; and if the writer were serious in contending that neo-cons, having got us into a war we ought not be in, were traitors and ought to be jailed or executed that is STILL not advocating "collecting killing of Jews." I don't have the statistics to hand, but it is my understanding that most Jewish precincts in the US vote Democrat, not neo-conservative.


It is not my practice to break people's thoughts into tiny segments and comment on each, and this discussion has gone on long enough anyway: but I will answer the one question, why post that letter at all? Because it put forth a rather extreme point of view that is still defensible (absent the suggestion that political opponents ought to be shot; but even if one were to take that seriously, it is an accusation of treason, not a racial accusation). I contend that we ought not be in Iraq, but now that we are there we may have no choice but to see this through and test the assumptions of the neo-conservatives and Jacobins. There are other views. They are not often put forth by articulate and intelligent people. Perhaps it is harmful to expose such views to discussion, but I do not think so. I put that letter up to see if it would generate rational replies.

As to Realism in foreign policy: were I to have chosen a source of threat in the Middle East, it would not be Saddam's Iraq which was secular and ruled by a minority and thus concerned about holding on to power. The US encouraged Saddam to oppose Iran which we did consider a real threat; but so long as Saddam did not acquire nuclear weapons he was no real threat to anyone other than his own people. He was certainly no threat to us, and while he may have chosen on occasion to cooperate with Al Qaeda, Islamic fundamentalism was his enemy, not his friend. Those who wish to establish a new Caliphate do not have Saddam in mind.

Pre-emptive war is one weapon in the arsenal of democracy; but surely it is not the only weapon, and surely pre-emptive war is not the first policy one ought to employ to neutralize a threat? Particularly if the threat is already deterred.

David refers to my early suggestion that the US ought, in the immediate wake of 9-11, to go to those cities were the news was treated as occasion for rejoicing, and build monument: rubble of the dimensions of Ground Zero in each of those cities. I suggested this be done by Marines giving the inhabitants the chance to escape with their lives; and that the monuments be maintained as memorials and reminders that attacking the US and killing our citizens will have consequences. I wasn't entirely sure I was serious, but I do note that the casualties resulting from implementing that would be smaller than the civilian casualties that have resulted from our operations in Iraq; and I am not sure to this moment that those monuments would not be as effective in deterring future attacks against us as our Iraqi experiment has been.

And that is the point: Mr. Bush hopes to implant a democratic Islamic ally in the midst of the Middle East. I wish him well of it, and I do not doubt that if that could be done it would make for an interesting world. The cost will be high; it is already higher than the Administration expected (although not higher than I predicted; I said $300 billion at the time. Alas, I may have underestimated the costs).

The alternative to building friends through thoroughgoing reforms in the Middle East is deterrence. I would have thought that is the central debate. There are those who believe that the aims of the invasion could never have been realized, and that those who induced us to go into Iraq had other agendas. Surely those views are not beyond the pale of discussion?


And that, I think, is quite enough on this subject.








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