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Mail 380 September 19 - 25, 2005






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Monday  September 19, 2005


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

Not much news here.

Prime minister criticizes BBC coverage of Hurricane Katrina: <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1787422,00.html

Bomb blast in Croatia at UK embassy: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ europe/4259504.stm

North Korea seems to be backing down on nuclear weapons: <http:// edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/09/19/korea.north.talks/index.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/korea/article/0,2763,1573455,00.html>

Camera spies in a million cars to trap toll cheats: <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1787001,00.html>

Pilot for a national congestion charge: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ article/0,,2-1787002,00.html

KGB history: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,3-1787657,00.html>  about the Congress Party in India. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1786802,00.html>  about Allende in Chile.

Lawyers go on strike. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,2-1787547,00.html

Extremism on campus: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/ story.aspx?story_id=2024540

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)


Subject: 2018 moon landing

Hi I have just read a CNN article online about NASA's plans to return to the moon in 2018. http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/space/09/15/nasa.moon/index.html

 Do you think their plan will work (on budget, on time or at all)? I noticed that you have written on this site that it could be alot cheaper.

Terry Mullins

No. NASA as it stands can't do it, on time, on budget, or at all. For more details see Henry Vanderbilt's Space Access Society report http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau112.html


Subject: Increase in Bagle Viruses

Dr. Pournelle:


There be reports o' new Bagle viruses makin' t' rounds. T' AntiVirus guys be releasin' updates today ahead o' schedule. T' usual advices: be careful with email and attached files. Thar be bad swashbucklers about!"


(for non-pirates: "There are reports of new Bagle viruses making the rounds. The AntiVirus guys are releasing updates today ahead of schedule. The usual advices: be careful with email and attached files. There be bad pirates about!")


Avast, Ya lily livered scurvy dog!


Rick Hellewell








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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Subject: US to incinerate British food aid,


US bureaucrats in action: the UK sends us ration packs for hurricane victims. USDA and FDA bureaucrats impound it and intend to incinerate it . . .



Your tax dollars at work. Anarcho-tyranny is the usual product of bureaucracy. Tycho executives will go to jail for 25 years because they threw big parties with corporate money. The bureaucrats involved here will get a promotion.

Subject: A new take on the Nigerian scam, 


I KNEW you would like this.


An Honest Request for Assistance from Your Most Humble Servant in the Name of God

Dearest Sir or Madame,

Good thing to write you. I am sure this comes as a surprise but I have prayed over my selection of your name due to its esteeming nature, and its similarity with the names of many who have, unfortunately, perished by the hand of God, and I hold with the hope that you can be assist me.

I am BROWN MICHAEL, from Oklahoma, USA. While serving as FEMA's Director of Relief Efforts for Hurricane Katrina I came upon the records of an appropriation from the U.S. Congress for US$51.8 billion ($51,800,000,000) in hurricane relief funds that have so far gone unclaimed.

Because of the slow government response, I have been orphaned from my job with FEMA, in which President Bush took me so special. I am now in the process of cleaning out my office, which is messier than an Arabian horse stable. Believe me, I know.

I am looking for an honest God-fearing individual who can assist me with these unclaimed fund. Please to provide me with your bank account information so that we can immediately execute this transfer. In return for your help I will provide you with 20% of the funds as your fee.

I will also need your phone number and any other personal, confidential information you can send me.

Time is of the essence. Please respond my email address immediately, which is MBrown@InflatedResume.com

Praise God, the Most High, that we shall bring righteously these funds to where they may us benefit.



And a more serious view follows. This is long and the link leads to the original in French.

Subject: FW: [IP] Katrina, view from afar (Figaro)

Whew! There is some truth here, I think.


# # #

Here is a stunning interview, published in Le Figaro (conservative), where Emmanual Todd (important commentator from the French perspective on the States, he's a French "Americanist") says amazing things about catastrophe and neo-liberalism. The counterpoint, or really the view from afar, is sage ...

Though this was sent to me as you see it, I do apologize for the sometimes spotty translation, and the poor formatting!

A view from Le Figaro:


Emmanuel Todd: The Specter of a Soviet-Style Crisis By Marie-Laure Germon and Alexis Lacroix Le Figaro Monday 12 September 2005

According to this demographer, Hurricane Katrina has revealed the decline of the American system.

Le Figaro. - What is the first moral and political lesson we can learn from the catastrophe Katrina provoked? The necessity for a "global" change in our relationship with nature?

Emmanuel Todd . - Let us be wary of over-interpretation. Let's not lose sight of the fact that we're talking about a hurricane of extraordinary scope that would have produced monstrous damage anywhere. An element that surprised a great many people - the eruption of the black population, a supermajority in this disaster - did not really surprise me personally, since I have done a great deal of work on the mechanisms of racial segregation in the United States. I have known for a long time that the map of infant mortality in the United States is always an exact copy of the map of the density of black populations. On the other hand, I was surprised that spectators to this catastrophe should appear to have suddenly discovered that Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are not particularly representative icons of the conditions of black America. What really resonates with my representation of the United States - as developed in Après l'empire - is the fact that the United States was disabled and ineffectual. The myth of the efficiency and super-dynamism of the American economy is in danger.

We were able to observe the inadequacy of the technical resources, of the engineers, of the military forces on the scene to confront the crisis. That lifted the veil on an American economy globally perceived as very dynamic, benefiting from a low unemployment rate, credited with a strong GDP growth rate. As opposed to the United States, Europe is supposed to be rather pathetic, clobbered with endemic unemployment and stricken with anemic growth. But what people have not wanted to see is that the dynamism of the United States is essentially a dynamism of consumption.

Is American household consumption artificially stimulated?

The American economy is at the heart of a globalized economic system, and the United States acts as a remarkable financial pump, importing capital to the tune of 700 to 800 billion dollars a year. These funds, after redistribution, finance the consumption of imported goods - a truly dynamic sector. What has characterized the United States for years is the tendency to swell the monstrous trade deficit, which is now close to 700 billion dollars. The great weakness of this economic system is that it does not rest on a foundation of real domestic industrial capacity. {Emphasis here and below added; JEP]

American industry has been bled dry and it's the industrial decline that above all explains the negligence of a nation confronted with a crisis situation: to manage a natural catastrophe, you don't need sophisticated financial techniques, call options that fall due on such and such a date, tax consultants, or lawyers specialized in funds extortion at a global level, but you do need materiel, engineers, and technicians, as well as a feeling of collective solidarity. A natural catastrophe on national territory confronts a country with its deepest identity, with its capacities for technical and social response. Now, if the American population can very well agree to consume together - the rate of household savings being virtually nil - in terms of material production, of long-term prevention and planning, it has proven itself to be disastrous. The storm has shown the limits of a virtual economy that identifies the world as a vast video game.

Le Figaro: Is it fair to link the American system's profit-margin orientation - that "neo-liberalism" denounced by European commentators - and the catastrophe that struck New Orleans?

Management of the catastrophe would have been much better in the United States of old. After the Second World War, the United States assured the production of half the goods produced on the planet. Today, the United States shows itself to be at loose ends, bogged down in a devastated Iraq that it doesn't manage to reconstruct. The Americans took a long time to armor their vehicles, to protect their own troops. They had to import light ammunition. What a difference from the United States of the Second World War that simultaneously crushed the Japanese Army with its fleet of aircraft carriers, organized the Normandy landing, re-equipped the Russian army in light materiel, contributed magisterially to Europe's liberations, and kept the European and German populations liberated from Hitler alive. The Americans knew how to dominate the Nazi storm with a mastery they show themselves incapable of today in just a single one of their regions. The explanation is simple: American capitalism of that era was an industrial capitalism based on the production of goods, in short, a world of engineers and technicians.

Le Figaro: Isn't it more pertinent to acknowledge that there are virtually no more purely natural disasters, rigorously defined, by virtue of the immoderation of human activities? Isn't it the case that the "American Way of Life" must reform itself? By, for example, agreeing to the constraints of the Kyoto Protocol?

The societies and ecological incorporations of Europe and the United States differ radically. Europe is part of a very ancient peasant economy, accustomed to draw its subsistence from the soil with difficulty in a relatively temperate climate, spared from natural catastrophes. The United States is a brand new society that began by working a very fertile virgin soil in the heart of a more threatening natural environment. Its continental climate, much more violent, did not constitute a problem for the United States as long as it enjoyed a real economic advantage, that is, as long as it had the technical means to master nature. At present, the hypothesis of man's dramatization of nature is not even necessary. The simple deterioration in the technical capacities of a no-longer-productive American economy created the threat of a Nature that would do no more than take back its [natural] rights.

Americans need more heating in the winter and more air- conditioning in the summer. If we are one day confronted with an absolute and no longer relative penury, Europeans will adapt to it better because their transportation system is much more concentrated and economical. The United States was conceived with regard to energy expenditures and space in a rather fanciful, not well-thought out, manner.

Let's not point our fingers at the aggravation of natural conditions, but rather at the economic deterioration of a society that must confront a much more violent nature! Europeans, like the Japanese, have proven their excellence with regard to energy economization during the preceding oil shocks. It's to be expected: European and Asian societies developed by managing scarcity and, in the end, several decades of energetic abundance will perhaps appear as a parenthesis in their history one day. The United States was constructed in abundance and doesn't know how to manage scarcity. So here it is now confronted with an unknown. The beginnings of adaptation have not shown themselves to be very promising: Europeans have gasoline stocks, Americans crude oil stocks - they haven't built a refinery since 1971.

Le Figaro: So it's not only the economic system you blame?

I'm not making a moral judgment. I focus my analysis on the rot of the whole system. Après l'empire developed theses that in aggregate were quite moderate and which I am tempted to radicalize today. I predicted the collapse of the Soviet system on the basis of the increases in the rates of infant mortality during the 1970-1974 period. Now, the latest figures published on this theme by the United States - those of 2002 - demonstrated the beginning of an upturn in the rates of infant mortality for all the so-called American "races." What is to be deduced from that? First of all, that we should avoid "over-racializing" the interpretation of the Katrina catastrophe and bringing everything back to the Black problem, in particular the disintegration of local society and the problem of looting. That would constitute an ideological game of peek-a-boo. The sacking of supermarkets is only a repetition at the lower echelons of society of the predation scheme that is at the heart of the American social system today.

Le Figaro: The predation scheme?

This social system no longer rests on the 'Founding Fathers' Calvinist work ethic and taste for saving - but, on the contrary, on a new ideal (I don't dare speak of ethics or morals): the quest for the biggest payoff for the least effort. Money speedily acquired, by speculation and why not theft. The gang of black unemployed who loot a supermarket and the group of oligarchs who try to organize the "heist" of the century of Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves have a common principle of action: predation. The dysfunctions in New Orleans reflect certain central elements of present American culture.

Le Figaro: You postulate that the management of Katrina reveals a worrying territorial fragmentation joined to the carelessness of the military apparatus. What must we then fear for the future?

The hypothesis of decline developed in Après l'empire evokes the possibility of a simple return of the United States to normal, certainly associated with a 15-20% decrease in the standard of living, but guaranteeing the population a level of consumption and power "standard" in the developed world. I was only attacking the myth of hyper-power. Today, I am afraid I was too optimistic. The United States' inability to respond to industrial competition, their heavy deficit in high-technology goods, the upturn in infant mortality rates, the military apparatus' desuetude and practical ineffectiveness, the elites' persistent negligence incite me to consider the possibility in the medium term of a real Soviet-style crisis in the United States.

Le Figaro: Would such a crisis be the consequence of Bush Administration policy, which you stigmatize for its paternalistic and social Darwinism aspects? Or would its causes be more structural?

American neo-conservatism is not alone to blame. What seems to me more striking is the way this America that incarnates the absolute opposite of the Soviet Union is on the point of producing the same catastrophe by the opposite route. Communism, in its madness, supposed that society was everything and that the individual was nothing, an ideological basis that caused its own ruin. Today, the United States assures us, with a blind faith as intense as Stalin's, that the individual is everything, that the market is enough and that the state is hateful. The intensity of the ideological fixation is altogether comparable to the Communist delirium. This individualist and inequalitarian posture disorganizes American capacity for action. The real mystery to me is situated there: how can a society renounce common sense and pragmatism to such an extent and enter into such a process of ideological self-destruction? It's a historical aporia to which I have no answer and the problem with which cannot be abstracted from the present administration's policies alone. It's all of American society that seems to be launched into a scorpion policy, a sick system that ends up injecting itself with its own venom. Such behavior is not rational, but it does not all the same contradict the logic of history. The post-war generations have lost acquaintance with the tragic and with the spectacle of self-destroying systems. But the empirical reality of human history is that it is not rational.

Emmanuel Todd reviews for Le Figaro the serious failures revealed by the storm. He is also a research engineer at the National Institute of Demographic Studies, historian, author of Après l'empire [After the Empire], published by Gallimard in 2002 - an essay in which he predicted the "breakdown" of the American system.

Liberalism is a philosophy of compensation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. The United States could return to a republic that minds its own business, grows its own crops, manufactures its own goods, and allows the benefits we inherited from the Framers to do their work. It is not likely that we will do that.

Liberalism as such will collapse; but in doing so it won't return us to the old Republic in which liberal generosity contended with other impulses, religion contended with libertine practices (hypocrisy is the tax that vice pays to virtue), order contended with the ideals of freedom. It will carry us forward to Empire. And what happens After The Empire is not entirely clear.

Comments below


Subject: Another 'Patriot' Defending America...

...from asthmatic children!


Robbie Walker

Bureaucracy in action. No surprises.


Subject: Sounds a bit like a dictatorship to me:

Wired has this article running:


Apparently the government now has the right to decide whether or not they want to pay for your services/ideas.

Ryan Brown


Subject: Delphi as the Greek Stonehenge?

Delphi as the Greek Stonehenge?


- Roland Dobbins

UNIX was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things.

-- Doug Gwyn




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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Subject: More Bagels - and World of Warcraft virtual virus

Dr. Pournelle:

Today's security warnings:

1) There's been an increase in the number of new Bagle virus variants. The infected message usually contains a ZIP file (most commonly called PRICE.ZIP); inside the ZIP is an executable that will turn your computer into a 'bot', controllable by the evil spammer. With that bot worm, the evil spammer can use the computer as a mail relay to send out spam, or harvest personal/financial information on that computer.

Corporate users should ensure that their mail system blocks any message with an executable. Anti-virus updates are being continually updated (the AV company F-Protect put out 11 updates in one day), but the number of variants ensures that the AV companies continue to play "catch-up" with their detection updates. All users should be very cautious about attachments, and never open executable attachments (set your computer to show file extensions in Explorer, Tools, View).

2) For World of Warcraft users, The Register ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/21/wow_virtual_plague  ) reports that "When Blizzard introduced the God of Blood - Hakkar to his mates - in a new World of Warcraft scenario called Zul'Gurub, little did it know it was summoning up the online equivalent of Ebola or AIDS. According to a posting on WoW fansite Shacknews, anyone who ends up in a fusticuffs-style confrontation with Hakkar will be attacked with a magic spell called Corrupted Blood. It's a nasty one. There's little the victim can do to resist it, and it should do sufficient damage to wipe them out." ... "the contagion continues to spread from non-player characters to non-player character and anyone else entering the game."

3) Finally, Firefox/Mozilla users should be updating to current versions. There is an exploit for FF 1.06 that will allow a web site to infect your computer. That exploit seems to affect only FF on Linux OS systems, but there are other 'critical' updates that affect all users. Look for the red arrow in the upper right corner of the FF window to get the update to version 1.07. (In my opinion -- that little red arrow is a very obscure indication of the need to update. Users should get a warning box when an update is available each time FF starts.)

Note that there are some reports that claim that FireFox users are becoming more of a target for viruses than before. (See here http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/21/linux_firefox_security_bug  , among other places.)

Be careful out there...in the real and virtual world.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: r.e. British Rations Condemned


Let's not be too hasty to believe everything we read. The gummint does have a good day every quarter or so. I worked with British troops a number of times throughout the 1980s. Spoiled or overage lots of British field rations were a chronic problem for them then.

I remember one occasion in particular. We had to suddenly provision an entire British battalion for three weeks at Fort Irwin because the rations they'd brought turned out to have a lot of spoilage (in the cans) and were retroactively condemned by their Quartermaster system. In fact, I had more absolute experiences with unfit British field rations than I ever did with US rations over 20 years. And can't really recall one to be honest .

This doesn't mean bad US rations never entered the supply system, and it especially doesn't mean they meet everyone's culinary standard. Although I confess to having liked the overwhelming majority of Army chow, including Cs, MREs and hot "A" rations. I only recall one meal in a dining facility so bad I couldn't eat it.

Most probably the US Army's food (veterinary in Armyese) inspection service is far more demanding in its standards.




In my opinion this whole world food aid nonsense, the Mexican Army convoys of medics and the rest is just propaganda garbage designed to pimp the UN-NGO nexis of global Mary Worths. As if Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix, Winn-Dixie and the rest couldn't do it faster and cheaper. But it allows everyone to get their moralgasms, preen in public as right minded people, spread some more lies that only globalism and 'global governance' can work and all the rest.

In such circumstances of bald political hypocrisy I can easily imagine Ministry of Defense warehousemen choosing their oldest lots of almost expired rations to fill the orders. And I have a number of direct experiences informing me that MoD's shelf life estimate for its field rations is always wildly optimistic.


But surely it's the thought that counts?

The problem here is that things have so deteriorated in our bureaucracies that we now tend to believe the worst rather than doubt such tales. When I was a lad, my first thought probably would be that the rations were spoiled.

The lad down the street who grew up with my oldest son is now a retired USAF officer studying for ordination; his wife is a veterinarian for the Air Force. She does public health service. The services are using a lot of veterinarians for public health work. Which makes a very great deal of sense if you think about it. Military organizations usually are pragmatic...



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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Subject: Seitz re TSA: 45 Degrees due south of Ground Zero

Jet Fakes Emergency for Gambia Soccer Game


Published: September 21, 2005

From Russell Seitz

From Peru,a wake-up call for the TSA:

LIMA, Peru <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/peru/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> (AP) -- Pilots of an L-1011 jet carrying 289 Gambian soccer fans faked an emergency landing in Peru Tuesday , so passengers could watch their nation's team play a key match against Qatar <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/qatar/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> in the FIFA Under-17 World Championships in Peru's northern coast city of Piura. ''It truly was a scam,'' said Peru's aviation authority, CORPAC. ''They tricked the control tower, saying they were low on fuel.''

The plane, owned by Air Rum, and chartered by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh , flew directly to Piura, entering Peruvian airspace ''without permission,'' instead of approaching Lima.The fans were allowed to watch the soccer game in Piura, which Gambia won 3-1. .

The Gambian Daily Observer reported that the fans had been delayed for a week in a hotel in the small West African nation, making them late for the game . Piura city spokesman Carlos Ordonez said the Gambians' presence caused a ''sensation'' in the city, which rolled out the red carpet, offering performances by local folk singers and dancers. The plane, passengers and crew remain in Piura while authorities determine what penalty, if any, to levy against the airline.

Clearly TSA needs lessons...


Subject: To The Chaos Manor

Dr Pournelle

May I ask you a question on what would be old "future" history to you, concerning your CoDominium themes. Was those works just a professional vehicle for good literature or were you intending political science commentary on where we might be headed. On that same path, with the diminished role Russia now plays, do you see a historical repeat of republic to empire? Which of the following three scenarios would you see as more likely?

1 US technology overshadowing all other global power centers with such process destabilizing politics to create Caesarian opportunity.

2 As preliminary to global government, world settling into three superpowers; A: Europe/Africa/Mideast/Russia B: Asia/Australia/India/Siberia & C: UK/West Hemisphere/Japan

3 Interstellar republic (star trek scenario)

To me it seems a major factor influencing what happens in our offearth future will be whether there is anyone else out there already, no?

My query here is inspired by a recent reading of your Falkenberg works.

Thank you

Tom Steininger

Certainly I intended the CoDominium series as warning, in the "if this goes on.." tradition. Your trends need more analysis than I have time to give, but if I had to choose one instantly it would be the first.


Subject: Warming Mars and "global warming" buffy willow

Dear Dr. P., I presume you've seen http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/newsroom/20050920a.html  and the MSM articles reporting year-to-year retreat of the southern ice caps on Mars.

To the extent that warming appears to be happening here on Earth, one would certainly think that simultaneous evidence of warming on Mars would lend credence to the importance of solar output on climate given that the sun is the only common factor between the two planets.

--- Richard Johnson

Instructor Computer & Information Sciences University of South Alabama

We (the Lowell Observatory) have records of the brightness of Venus and Mars from the late 19th Century, which also argue for solar variability. But the proponents of Kyoto want no evidence. They want bureaucratic jobs.


Subject: Houston reaction to the New Orleans crisis

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You met my brother once, when he had a large girl friend on each side, but would have little reason to remember him. He is as liberal as I am conservative, and we are both pragmatic. He was in Army Security Agency and Military Intelligence concurrent with the Viet Nam time period. This is a very condensed summary of his letter about Houston's reaction to the New Orleans crisis brought on by Hurricane Katrina. His letter was written before Hurricane Rita made the news.

Texas Governor Rick Perry called Harris County Judge Bob Eckels to say the horde was coming. The County Judge heads the Commissioners Court, a county law-making body, and not a court of law. Judge Eckels called Houston Mayor Bill White. The Plan was put in motion.

A meeting area was set up in a large conference room at Reliant Park, a large multi-sports facility in south Houston. Chairs and tables were provided for the leaders of all interested groups, do-gooders, protesters, churches, government agencies, charities, you name it. They met at 8 AM, seven days a week, still happening when the letter was written. Bob Eckels and Bill White presided side by side.

The mayor told the owner or manager of every sizable space in Houston, such as schools, warehouses, shopping centers, and office complexes, to provide him with a man on call and a set of keys for their areas, subject to emergency requisition, or expect a police break-in at any time. Two objecting land owners had court orders hand delivered by nightfall.

Chairs were filled by such as the head of the Star of Hope Mission and the local Coast Guard commander, not by their representatives. The FEMA flunky ran out looking for his boss after his pants were set on fire.

Republicans Barbara Bush and Tom DeLay were noted for very public insensitive statements. President Bush responded to Florida in one day and Louisiana in five days. The response was a complex issue, but complexities are meaningless to victims in emergencies. The world is watching all of this, and will form their own conclusions.


William L. Jones

wljones (at) waymark (dot) net


Subject: Preparing for Hurricane Rita, Lucifer's Hammer style!

Dr. Pournelle:

Greetings from Houston, future home (albeit temporarily) of Hurricane Rita!

Things are going remarkably well here. Admittedly, the freeways could have more lanes, but evacuation has been remarkably incident-free. Slowly but surely, people are getting out.

I will be staying put. My fiancee arrived this morning (she lives in South Houston, I live in western Houston, 30 miles northwest), so that's one less thing to worry about. You're probably wondering, "Why is this guy writing me about this?" It is because you and Mr. Niven wrote Lucifer's Hammer. I've read it several times in the past, and used it as a kind of template for disasters. We've had a few in the past, whether Hurricane Alicia or Tropical Storm Allison. Rita will be the worst, but fortune (for once) favored me. The storm turned to the east, putting us on the clean side of the hurricane (with any coriolis storm in this hemisphere, the northeast quadrant is the nastiest).

I have plenty of water, loads of canned goods, I actually do have grits (because I like them) and beef jerky (thank you, CostCo). I have a charcoal grill, and a place in my backyard to make a cookfire if power stays off more than three days (and I'll have to cook my frozen stuff by Day 5. I have a Coleman stove and bottles of propane, but will be saving that.

I also have a number of escape routes to various parts of the state that stay off main highways. All is well!

Many thanks to you and Mr. Niven for writing Lucifer's Hammer (and Footfall, too)!!

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, TX


Subject: It's bad here in Houston

I'm 30 miles from the coast and need to evacuate. The bureaucrats decided we should evacuate in stages. It's my time. I'm looking at the tv; I'm not going to get more than 5 miles from home before I hit parking lot traffic! Some people have been stuck in a traffic jam for about 24 hours. They are running out of gas. The stations along the evacuation route are out of gas. I have an almost full tank of gas; I'm not leaving until I can go someplace. It's stupid to stay but stupider to be sitting on the freeway running out of gas.

What bites me is that this was all SO predictable. I have been saying for years that we need to design freeways in coastal areas so that they can be quickly be converted to outbound. Last night, they came up with that plan. But they have to bring crews down to remove barriers. At least they can. They are rebuilding one of our freeways (610 East) with permanent dividers; you will have to jackhammer a gap in the barrier.

Greg Brewer



Subject: Five provocative ways to fix FEMA

Here is an interesting article on how to fix FEMA. I thought you might be interesting in this based upon your recent discussion concerning the mess that is currently FEMA:


Gary Rogers

Make it an insurance agency, and give emergency preparedness and response over to a proper Civil Defense organization. Restore Civil Defense, and bury Jimmy Carter's imbecile FEMA


Subject: Vets and Health Service w


As it was explained to me at the Air Force Academy, using veterinarians for food inspection started because the vets could examine a dead mule or ox and determine if it was fit for entry as the evening entree. Early surgeons may or may not have know anything at all about medicine as such. Anatomy and rapid amputation being their primary skills. And since the Army is the parent service of the Air Force, we inherited the system.

Anyway, that was the accepted wisdom in Military Training 101.

Jim Keaton USAF Retired


Subject: Ms. Noonan and Federal Spending

Ms. Noonan's column this week should cause pause for thought among those who think of themselves as conservative, Dr. Pournelle:


Some quotes:

"First and foremost Mr. Bush has abandoned all rhetorical ground. He never even speaks of high spending. He doesn't argue against it, and he doesn't make the moral case against it. When forced to spend, Reagan didn't like it, and he said so. He also tried to cut. Mr. Bush seems to like it and doesn't try to cut. He doesn't warn that endless high spending can leave a nation tapped out and future generations hemmed in. In abandoning this ground Bush has abandoned a great deal--including a primary argument of conservatism and a primary reason for voting Republican. And who will fill this rhetorical vacuum? Hillary Clinton. She knows an opening when she sees one, and knows her base won't believe her when she decries waste."


"Town spending tends to be more effective than county spending. County spending tends--tends--to be more efficacious than state spending. State spending tends to be more constructive than federal spending. This is how life works. The area closest to where the buck came from is most likely to be more careful with the buck. This is part of the reason conservatives are so disturbed by the gushing federal spigot.

Money is power. More money for the federal government and used by the federal government is more power for the federal government. Is this good? Is this what energy in the executive is--"Here's a check"? Are the philosophical differences between the two major parties coming down, in terms of spending, to "Who's your daddy? He's not your daddy, I'm your daddy." Do we want this? Do our kids? Is it safe? Is it, in its own way, a national security issue?"

And my favorite one-liner from that column:

"As Huey Long once said, "Some day Louisiana will have honest government, and they won't like it."


Charles Brumbelow

I miss Huey. A lot. A demagogue's demagogue...

And I have long been an admirer of Peggy Noonan.

First Frum reads me out of the party, then the party leaves me stranded. Big Government Conservative is an oxymoron of course. But we ALL know that.


Subject: Firefly

Your last words on Firefly were:

"I had never heard of the series. But then I don't watch a lot of TV unless it's a show my wife likes also. I have ordered the disk."


No word since on how you liked it. The movie opens on the 30th, and looks to be another (long) episode.

I enjoyed the series on DVD. I had also missed it when it was on television.

Thanks, Mark Hartwell

The DVD series was my Movie Of The Month for the column. I liked it a lot, and from what I am told I will like the movie. I certainly intend to see it.


Subject: posted Le Figero essay

Dear Dr. P,

The essay you posted from Le Figero was very well written, if not exactly concise. I do have to disagree with one of its primary assertions though. In the article, it is posited that under soviet communism that society was everything and that the individual was nothing whereas our problem is that society is nothing and individualism is nothing.

I would respond that these guys need to read any current book on managment in the 'wisdom lit' section of the local barnes and noble, or listen to what any of the fortune 500 executive crowd have to say whenever they open their mouths. The dribble that comes out sounds exactly like the old soviet party line. I would go so far as to say that the closest thing left to the soviet model is the way a good portion, ~30%, of the fortune 500 run themselves.


frank snow



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Friday,  September 23, 2005

More Cheerful News

Crime in South Africa Grows More Vicious



JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 22 - On most big-city freeways, a commuter headache is a fender-bender and a line of rubberneckers. This big city is, ah, different.

Here is a Johannesburger's driving headache: a stolen Mercedes-Benz rams an armored truck onto the freeway shoulder, four more carloads of AK-47-toting bandits screech up beside it and the 20 or so thieves encircle the immobile truck, guns trained on the ensuing gridlock.

Using tools powered by portable generators, they peel back the truck's roof and scoop out the cash inside. Then, firing wildly, they all speed away.

That was the scene on the city's M2 freeway on Aug. 22. And four weeks earlier, when a similar holdup unfolded on the same freeway, near the same exit. And three days after that, on the N3, east of downtown. And about two weeks ago, just off the M1, in Soweto.

The good news here - and it is very good news - is that [3]South Africa's once-terrifying rates of carjackings, murder and even armored-car attacks have fallen sharply since the late 1990's, when violent crime seemed almost out of control.

The South African Police Service's annual crime report, released Wednesday, states for example that the number of murders dropped another 5 percent in the year ended in April, and fell 40 percent since 1995.

The flip side, however, is that the remaining violent crime is not only ever more spectacular, but ever harder to rein in. Every time the police and security bureaucracy finds a way to thwart criminals, the criminals invent a way around it, or find an easier target.

Or they simply turn up the firepower. <snip>

Another place we can send troops to slay monsters? Not yet. Not yet.


Subject: Incompetent Empire

Dr. Pournelle,

Greetings from Baghdad. It's been a while since I've written you so I thought I would give you a few thoughts that might be worth posting. I came across this article on CNN. It highlights what is, in my opinion, the single largest problem facing our national endeavor here in Iraq;


This is an example of what is going on all over this country. Shiite officials are starting to assume greater roles in government and are using their power to challenge the coalition. I would not be surprised to learn that this whole incident was due to Iranian influence. Take 2 coalition soldiers hostage on false charges and wait for the troops to rescue their comrades. Of course this was going to happen. They were not going to let their buddies sit through a show trial and be executed. It would not even have mattered if MNF-I or London had told them to wait it out. They were going to get their men out. This is, of course, exactly what the Iranians wanted, a nice media incident to demonstrate the cruelty of the occupying powers. All of this was made possible by the ridiculously short time table on which we are handing over power. We are in such a hurry to create an Iraqi government, hand over power, and get out of here that we don't care who we give it to. In holding national elections so early all we managed to do was exactly what everyone knew would happen; we took power from the Sunnis and handed it to the Shiites.

The problem this raises is that the best organized Shia groups in the country, and thus the ones most able to take effective political action, are the ones backed by Iran. There are other Shiite groups and many of them have no love for Iran, but they are disorganized and have no backing. Predictably, groups like the Mehdi Militia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Iranian Intelligence, have moved in. Muktada Al Sadr, the same man with whom we were fighting for control of Najaf last year, inserted his cronies into at least 2 high level ministry positions (Transportation and Interior). From there he is starting to flex his muscles. There is little doubt in my mind that the whole incident with the British soldiers was a carefully planned and orchestrated event.

This has manifested itself in other ways recently. You will recall a couple of weeks ago when Global Security, the company contracted to provide security at Baghdad Airport, ceased operations and closed the airport because they were continuously not being paid by the Ministry of Transportation. This was also a calculated event. As soon as Global closed down a group of Mehdi Militia under the guise of the Ministry of Interior were ready and waiting to move in and take over. This would have been a huge prize. It would have given Al Sadr, and thus the Iranians, de facto control over the Baghdad Airport’s Civilian Terminal. MNF-I did not let it happen though. The U.S. Army was waiting to block the Interior troops and take over the Airport themselves, promptly kicking all Iraqi security staff out. Subsequently MNF-I paid off Global and put them back to work. As an aside, I wonder what happened to the money given to the Ministry of Transportation to pay Global? It’s probably in a Swiss account somewhere with so much other reconstruction money. In any event, at least we were smart enough to avert that potential disaster.

So what would be a more reasonable timeline for handing power over to the Iraqis? I am not sure if it accurately compares, but the Philippines keep coming to mind. We took over there at the turn of the Century and returned sovereignty after WWII. This seems to me to be a more reasonable timeline for allowing a country to develop institutions and gain a feeling for government. While the modern Philippine government may not be something to put on a pedestal, it is at least stable and independent and not a threat to us. If we continue on this time-table with Iraq, it will be as though we took power from Saddam and handed it over to Iran. How sad would that be? We need to learn the lessons of empire and start doing things right. I am sorry to report that your suspicions of incompetent empire are well founded. We never should have come here. The modern U.S. does not have the stomach for empire.

My apologies for the rambling, disjointed nature of this letter. I guess I got a little carried away. I hope it is useful. Thanks again for your site. Please keep it up.


Matt Kirchner
Baghdad, Iraq


Dear Doctor Jerry,

Your correspondent Matt Kirchner i Iraq writes

"So what would be a more reasonable timeline for handing power over to the Iraqis? I am not sure if it accurately compares, but the Philippines keep coming to mind. We took over there at the turn of the Century and returned sovereignty after WWII. This seems to me to be a more reasonable timeline for allowing a country to develop institutions and gain a feeling for government."

And I reply:: aegrescit medendo

I was in favor of this war. I bought into the Neo-Con position. I read their books (some of them), I ingested their arguments, followed their statements, and concluded this particular monster needed slaying.

Then I began to listen to you (and others') pointing out all the contrarian arguments against having done this. Always with the caveat that "But now that we are there, we cannot just leave."

I am finally and completely fed up. I don't want empire, competent, incompetent or pragmatic. I don't want legions in Iraq. I don't give a rat's ass if Iraq ever is anything other than a corrupt, inefficient tribal society ruled over by the "Strongman du Jour". I'ts not our problem. It's Just Not Our Fight. I want us out. Now.

Let me be clear. I voted for this president twice. Given comparable choices between him and the offal the "Compassionate Party" continually offers up, I would vote for him again today were it to be needful. But I Want Out Of Mesopotamia, NOW!

If a conservative Republican such as myself now feels this way, it may be worth noting. My gorge is full on Iraq. I don't care that the media lies. I don't care that many Iraqi provinces are tranquil and recovering. I don't care that all of the trouble is the result of foreign fighters, Iranian meddling and a few thousand die-hard Sunnis. I DO NOT CARE!

Why should I? Why should I, after all this blood and treasure, now be told that I should have to rule this wasteland for another 45 years, like the Philippines (!), before I can "give them back their independence"!? This is MADNESS. I will simply note that our involvement in the Philippines doubtless held back the political development of that benighted body politic. This is pure "White Man's Burden", and while I dearly cherish Rudyard Kipling's work and much of the thought behind it, there is No Burden here for the United States to carry.

Let us bury our sacred dead, care for our honorable wounded, pay off the bills and move forward. This is like a bad marriage where the high contracting parties are chained together and each given a bowie knife. It's time to cut the chains and end the affair.

Take the $300 billion Iraq will cost, put a third into space, a third into nuclear power and a third into the fleet and missile defense. Then dare the rest of the world to join us. As for the French and "Apres l'Empire": Catch Us If You Can!


Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

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Dr. Pournelle,

I want to make one point clear, both to Petronius and this readership. I was never in favor of this invasion. I thought it a huge mistake for reasons we are now seeing. When the war started I was a serving officer and commmanded a company in the 4th Infantry Division for the initial invasion and occupation. I got out and subsequently returned in the private sector.

My experiences both then and now have, sadly, proven this opinion to be well founded. I do however believe that now that we are here, we have little choice but to stay. To leave now would make our withdrawal from Vietnam seem tame by comparison. The consequences to our military as well as out economy would be far reaching (that topic is a book unto itself).

We also have a moral obligation to stay. Iraq had a functioning, albeit brutal political system before we got here. We removed it. If it had been some other force that had removed it, we would have no such obligation, but it was our doing. To leave now would plunge this country and possibly even the entire region into almost instantaneous chaos and possibly reduce or cut off entirely the essential flow of oil on which we and so much of the rest of the world depend (would that it were not so).

I can very well understand Mr Petronius' sentiment. There are days when I feel the same way, but we cannot let it get the better of us. For better or worse we are here and we must stay until we give back what we took from these people; namely a government that functions.

The more thought I give it, the more promise I see in the comparison with The Philippines, if only in terms of the timeline for independence. It could well be enough time to train up a cadre for both the military and civil service that puts duty before political expediency and could hold things together, either without us or with minimal U.S. involvement. There are good people in Iraq, people who, given time and resources, could form a viable government. Public opinion and social norms can be changed. Unfortunately, I do not see us trying this. We are going for political expediency ourselves. At this stage we can only hope that the current situation causes us to disolve the present farce of an Iraqi government and try something a little more long term, but hope is not a method or so the saying goes. Again, a hasty and disjointed ramble. I hope I get my point accross clearly. Thanks again.


Matt Kirchner Baghdad, Iraq

P.S. Dr. P, have you any thoughts on this matter?

I have many thoughts on these matters, but I have said them a number of times; I am letting the arguments develop here before I try to do an essay on what we ought to be doing over there.

The strongest arguments for getting out NOW are generally made by Greg Cochran, who is often sound, but whose appreciation for political nuances and consequences are underdeveloped.

"The neo-conservatives have got us into a pickle, and if we cut and run now we hand the jihadists a victory of great value and magnitude." [From a previous essay]\

Probably you're wrong. You know of course that ~5% of the people fighting us in Iraq are non-locals. The externs are mostlyly used as ammo in suicide bombing. We've caught quite a few trying to sneak in: interviews and such indicate that ~85% had never showed any particular interest in terrori or jihdaism before we invaded Iraq. We created the vast majority of them, by our policy of aggressive war. . Now if we leave, that inflow will slow to a trickle, because with the Great Satan out of the picture, it's not going to be possible to get Sudanese and Saudis all excited about internal Iraqi power struggles. Same for the people donating money. The Sunni-tribes and Baathists will not let them run things: nor does Zarqawi have the pwoer to prevail agaisnt them.

The Iraqis will fight over oil and who runs the show: someone will win, and they'll sell oil. No harm to us in that scenario.

Looking at things from this narrow realistic perspective, there's no point in staying. From a broader perspectrive, I suppose you can argue that opur leabibng will embolden country X to perform action Y: but I'd like to see what action Y is, and why we should care.

On the other hand. there might be big gains from keeping the army there as long as the French did in Algeria and the Portuguese in Angola.

Gregory Cochran

Dr. Cochran also sends me this:

Important Distinctions

by William S. Lind

Georgie Ann Geyer, who may be America's most perceptive international affairs columnist, wrote in the Saturday, September 17 Washington Times about a recent Washington conference concerning the mess in the Middle East. That could, of course, have been a conference topic back as far as the First Triumvirate, when an earlier Crassus lost his head in the Land Between the Rivers. We can only hope we are not as close to the loss of the republic itself as Rome was by that time.

In her column, Miss Geyer quoted at length the remarks of former Ambassador Charles W. Freeman, Jr., who represented the United States in Riyadh during the First Gulf War.

"The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq cost my country thousands of lives, eroded the American military and destroyed the Iraqi state . . . It has generated at least three different insurgencies and, by some estimates, multiplied our enemies 10 times. Look at the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan -- Iraq is becoming the cause of the very problems it was supposed to control . . ."

Moreover, he said, we have gotten mired down in Iraq in "fourth-generation warfare," simply warfare between wildly asymmetric forces, such as the formal and structured American military against the footloose insurgents or guerrillas. "What fourth-generation warfare has as its dominant character is its objective being to influence the mind of the leader, i.e. the U.S., and to convince the leader that his objectives are unattainable by at least reasonable amounts of force," he continued. "This kind of warfare is one that we've never won."

Ambassador Freeman is correct in his description of the consequences of America's invasion of Iraq. It is America's Syracuse Expedition. Just as Sparta was happy to see Athens waste its strength against a meaningless opponent, Syracuse, so al-Qaeda regards our war in Iraq as a gift from Allah. Far from wanting to drive us out of Iraq (or Afghanistan), it prays we stay in both places indefinitely, our military bleeding from the death of one thousand cuts. [snip]

I consider Georgie Ann Geyer -- GeeGee -- to be one of the sharpest political observers I have ever met, for what that's worth. She writes good, too.

We also have this long note from an academic. It is worth noting that academics often do not dare sign their work; such is the nature of the academy today. In this case I took the liberty of removing the name, and no such inference should be made.

Dear Jerry,

The conference paper is finished – or at least a first draft that I will tweak later – so I thought I would go into round two on why I think (even contra Buckley) that, knowing what we know now, it is still worthwhile to have gone into Iraq and why we should stay there as long as it takes to stabilize the region.

First of all, I realize that, given that I will be 40 this December maybe “young Jacobin” is a double misnomer, but having little ones and a toddler in the house does throw off one’s perspective. There is also something infantilizing about academia. ...

As for the particulars of why Iraq and why Empire. First of all, as my note of yesterday put it, it seems to me we had already accepted empire in the 40s, maybe even earlier. Even during the isolationist 20s we were deeply involved in world affairs through financial engagement (and prior to that had been quite vulnerable to all sorts of outside interference because of our pre-WW I debtor status). In short we elected to join the world economy early on and have profited from that decision. It also appears that the stock market crash and the 30s point to the wartime and postwar wisdom of our choice to become the manager of world economic affairs – a Europe without the Marshall Plan and the stabilizing presence of US troops would have all too likely reverted to fascism (and there were many in the US and Britain who had little problem envisioning De Gaulle in the role of a new Fuhrer) or gone Communist, and then we should have been in a real pickle. And the world economy on the whole is a good thing, even if we had to sacrifice our quasi-autarky (and it was at best half-autarky, to repeat, we had received a great deal of foreign investment and technology throughout the 19th century) for a world economic role.

And it seems that like 19th century Great Britain our economic power of necessity has become tied up with political and military tasks. Again, here I don’t know where you would begin to untie the Gordian knot that binds us to the world. We needed to fight World War II and the Cold War, and we were smart enough to realize that fighting it with economic power and through the further binding together of a global economy which we ultimately managed was the key to victory. Oil is the fuel of the global economy, so we couldn’t be indifferent to the Middle East. Even if we went your route and achieved energy independence, most of our trading partners and likely opponents would still need oil (I presume if we achieve energy independence we are not going to share that tech breakthrough with the Chinese). So, we would still have to be concerned about the Middle East and its stability.

This brings us into the question of how to stabilize the Middle East. Here I think a couple of what I take to be neo-con insights are key, though we were doing this long before the word neo-con became a swear word. First of all, Israel matters if only as spoiler. At the end of the day, from strategic necessity with no reference at all to moral issues, we have to support Israel if only because it is the only country that could shatter the world energy economy. Israel’s nuclear weapons could destroy the oil resources of its Muslim opponents – and my sense is that if the Arabs were about to commit a second Shoah while the world looked on, Isrealis wouldn’t hesitate to present the world with a high bill for that decision via collapsing the world economy by destroying Arab oil. This seems to me to be the fundamental strategic reality of the Middle East regardless of the rights and wrongs of the establishment of Israel, therefore, to avoid the kinds of life-and-death resource wars that would have to follow the destruction of the Middle East’s oil reserves, our support for Israel (and the ensuing hatred we receive from much of the Arab world) is the price we pay for the sins of Europe that catapulted Zionism from a fringe movement in Jewish life to the defining commitment of most of the world’s Jews. That is rather hard for the Palestinians I know, but it is difficult to imagine any arrangement in the Middle East that is going to make everybody happy anyway.

So here it is not out of any dual loyalty that some advocate US support for Israel (and by the way, just to save a troglodyte or two who might come upon this correspondence some time, I am not Jewish, though as John Paul the Great said – or was it Maritain - as a Catholic I am a spiritual Semite). At the same time, I think that the Shoah has imposed a morale burden on the West to support Israel, and I am not surprised that holocaust survivors and their children get a little rough when they hear people around them calling out “death to the Jews” publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other such dreck. My own preference for the paying of that moral burden would be either 1) clearing out Bavaria or buying Silesia from Poland and reestablishing a Jewish state there (with the rate that the German population is falling there is lots of land they are not going to be needing soon) since it was the Europeans who created the mess of Jews believing they needed a state outside of Europe in the first place) or 2) making Israel and whatever Palestinian state comes into being part of NATO and making the Germans establish garrisons to keep the peace and protect Israel from any dangers they might face with their less than defensible frontiers – and I even have a timetable for the German withdrawal date. When there are six million more Jews in Israel than there are now (sometime in the 27th century I think should be about right) then the Germans can go home.

Okay, I’m sorry to have gotten off track, but if we’re talking about American Empire we are talking about lots of interconnected problems. First of all, in one sense I agree with Sen. Kerry, Sept. 11th shouldn’t have changed that much, since a major terrorist attack was always in the cards in an age where WMDs could be had by people creative enough to obtain them. Yet, the fact that the first major attack was pulled off without such weapons points both to the initial weakness of Al Qaeda as well as to just how dangerous the status quo of a Middle East under unstable, incompetent dictatorships is for us. We simply cannot afford to allow a place as wealthy and of strategic importance to the world economy as the Middle East, capable of producing fanatics a’la Al Qaeda to fester in its own juices until it burst out. Sept. 11th pointed to the necessity to 1) go on an all-out sustained set of offensives to destroy major terrorist nests (Afghanistan) 2) changing the culture and politics of the region enough to not be such a threat to us.

In this Iraq was not so much the greatest threat (Iran and Saudi Arabia are probably bigger) but it was of the three, relatively the most easy to deal with by force of arms, and the weakest link. Also, it seems to me that those who talk of how our containment of Iraq was working are not paying attention to how corrupt, ineffective and counterproductive the sanctions regime had become. Sadaam was circumventing the sanctions, and even if he didn’t have WMDs in existence, he did have illegal programs and procurement plans. And an Iraqi nuke or two (even something low yield or dirty) on the Saudi oil fields could also cripple the world economy. Furthermore, the sanctions regime over a decade is likely as not the key player in making Iraq so hard to stitch together now – Sadaam’s government had over a decade to corrupt portions of its population via the kind of dependency upon a brutal, centralizing state that only sustained sanctions could foster. I believe that a great deal of the anti-Americanism we are encountering among Iraqis was fueled by our punishing sanctions – sanctions that harmed the whole Middle East as well as Iraqi’s innocent and not-so-innocent civilians. To say that those could have been maintained indefinitely seems unreal. Something needed to be done, and there was no way short of invasion to remove Sadaam from power.

Even though Sadaam didn’t have WMDs he would never have renounced (believably) that he would not try to acquire them (and frankly he would have been a fool to have really renounced them – if you are going to be a murderous butcher WMDs are the ultimate in insurance) and with states like North Korea having lots of reasons to sell him a nuke just to put a knife to the world’s throat, we couldn’t have afforded the kind of “stability” that everyone seems to pine for in our pre-invasion days. We might not have needed to have gone in at the exact time, but I seriously doubt that we would have had more allies (Sadaam’s corruption of other countries in the UN’s “oil for food program” assured that) and eventually we would have had to intervene, and likely on even less favorable terms, simply because it was a matter of time before Sadaam would have cobbled together a truly dangerous WMD. Also, as bad as Iraq looks now, would another 5-10 years of Sadaam’s rule have made it more capable of being integrated back into the world system, or being something other than another Somalia in a strategic location, just waiting for Iran to swallow whole or piecemeal, with the remnants a perfect Petri dish for Islamist fanatics (who, according to the U of Miami’s Adeed Dawisha, Sadaam was already encouraging to come to Iraq in the late 90s – they were there before we hit the ground).

So, I believe our presence in Iraq deterred greater evils – of Sadaam eventually acquiring WMDs, of the further fascicization or Islamicization of Iraqi society, and of Iraqi collapse –which we would have had to clean up anyway. Furthermore, our ongoing presence in Iraq puts us in a much better military position to threaten Iran, pressurize Syria and reassure/gently coerce the Saudi’s into domestic reform while killing as many of their domestic radicals as cross the border to play Jihad games. And if one of your readers accuses me of showing chicken hawk courage by believing this is worth a price that I am not personally paying, all I can say is that one of the joys of our country being in a fight with terrorists is that I and my little ones and friends are as desirable (maybe even more so of) a target for our enemies as any soldier in the field. (And I haven’t seen you make the chicken hawk insult for which I am grateful, it is just one of those things that even some conservative opponents of the war throw around and is a source of rage for me). From Iraq the British took down all of their enemies in the Middle East during WWII – it was and remains key real estate and our presence makes it more likely for us to be able to eventually over the course of decades help (and at first, maybe forcing) the people of the Middle East to build less toxic polities. It might be arrogant or even Jacobin to believe we can do this, but the alternative of disengagement doesn’t seem tenable to me.

So, the chain of causation for me is that 1) there is a world economy and we are not getting out of it – and we need to manage it since even if we could achieve energy independence we would still be tied to countries dependent upon oil 2) ergo the Middle East would be a problem for us no matter what, and our engagement there because of our ties to the world economy is necessary (and fraught with additional peril because of our necessary ties with Israel) and 3) the sanctions regime and Sadaam’s containment was untenable and Iraq was relatively speaking both the easiest target and the most economical – by occupying Iraq we are in the position to encourage liberalization in other countries without having to fight our way through harder targets like Iran or pushing dangerously unpredictable states like the Saudis.

Oh and one final thing – we have encouraged people in Iraq to believe we will stay, like we encouraged many Vietnamese, many of whom suffered horribly when we cut and run. How many tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands would die if we left? And how much worse would those who survived be under whatever would emerge. I know that our country’s interest is paramount, but part of our interest has to include keeping faith.

So that is the prudence of this neo-con. Empire we have, by choice and necessity. We tried leaving Europe alone in the 20s but couldn’t quite, because we were already tied to it. We had to go back again to confront monstrous, global threats. We faced down worse odds (but paid a much higher price to do it), and created a world that could integrate as unlikely poster-children for democratic contentment as Japan and South Korea. There are there pathologies in the Arab and Muslim world that will cause us problems as we attempt to break or at least bend into less dangerous configurations centuries’ old deformities. But this seems to me a work that we have to do – energy independence is many decades away, and our economies depend upon oil, nor do we want Muslims to rediscover the joys of Jihad and theocracy. Again, please forgive the lecturing and any rambling. If I had time I would write something shorter, but as is I’ve spent about two hours on this, so I really should be off to the next thing (correcting galley proofs for an article I’m writing . Yes, all of this writing on subjects on which I am not an expert is probably indicative of a deep superficiality but if my writing does not really inform at least it can be a hopefully solid enough a straw man to provide you a few minutes of punching pleasure and maybe even serve as a warning to myself and other neo-cons as to how foolish we have been. And if this is the equivalent of a 200 page poem of the type that badly dressed ill-smelling people at coffee shops try to get you to read, my apologies. I do bathe regularly (even if I’m known to frequent coffee shops) and I only write poetry occasionally for my wife (which she wisely keeps in a little shoebox in the basement).


"A Young Jacobin"

I have said a fair amount in private replies. Some specific points: Energy is important. Not oil; oil is a determinant of the price of energy, but if that price includes a $300 billion military bill and 1,000 troopers butcher's bill, has it become too high as opposed to developing domestic sources and building nuclear power plants?

I invite comments. (See below)


Iraqui Timelines.


After WW2 democratic governments emerged quite quickly in the Axis states. Germany and Italy were lapsed democracies anyway, and the Japanese had been comprehensively defeated both in conventional war and then in the new scientific nuclear war. The cardinal point is that peoples of all three nations felt defeated. Similarly the South Koreans knew that without Western armies shouldering most of the burden they would also have been defeated. Adopting democratic government was a small price to pay for not being slaughtered by North korea. The Iraquis do not feel defeated. Certainly they have lost a battle, but it was a battle they feel, quite correctly, that they couldn't win. So they have adopted the obvious strategy of fighting a battle that holds out some prospect of success for them.

It is notable that several of your correspondents mention 45 years as the time it took for democracy to be established in the Philippines as this is also the time it took for hostilities to end in Northern Ireland. Could this be a generational phenomena? Is it possible that insurgencies fade away when the children and grandchildren of the original insurgents begin to feel that the wrongs that were done to their parents and grandparents are part of history and not worth risking death to redress?

I put this idea forward tentatively. What do you think?

John Edwards


Subject: global warming common sense on CNN

Dr. Pournelle,

Finally, a CNN front-page article that scoffs at the idea that global warming (and Bush by proxy) directly caused the recent rash of devastating hurricanes. Is there a guest editor on duty today at CNN, or did this just sneak past the whacko filter? It sure isn't their normal serving of enviro advocacy. Then again, marine and aviation weather folks tend to be a bit more realistic than the average enviro enthusiast...


Sean Long






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Sunday, September 26, 2005

I more or less took the day off. Debates resume Monday





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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

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If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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