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Mail 434 October 2 - 8, 2006
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October 2, 2006
The laughing 9/11 bombers <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2383229,00.html>
Blair and Bush <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2383230,00.html>
NHS grief <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/5396800.stm> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1885022,00.html> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1884919,00.html> <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/29/accenture_nhs_penalty/>
Be careful what you wish for... <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5396252.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2382686,00.html> <http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article1777713.ece>
And in the neighborhood <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/5396414.stm>
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Another physics department is shutting down. In the UK, 30% of university physics departments have either merged or closed in the past five years.
In the US, about one third of university nuclear engineering departments have closed since the 1970s.
Even if we decided to build 100 nuclear power plants immediately, there are not enough experienced engineers to staff them properly. This is a profession where experience is quite important. Chernobyl was caused by human error exposing the flaws in a poorly designed reactor.
The situation in the US is made even worse by the fact that foreign students often outnumber US citizens in the hard sciences and engineering, and US citizenship is required for many jobs.
I'm reminded of the old paper board game, Patrol, by SPI. One scenario was to run a twelve man squad through random machinegun & shell fire. Usual result was to get eight men off the far map edge. One day, bored, I tried running the entire countermix of fifty men, and got eight men off. My brother laughed, said putting more men in only gets them killed.
That was the Great War. What about today? I'd say any state can be defeated, but conquest is another animal entirely as shown by Somalia, Chechnya and Iraq.
I suspect we are headed towards Heinlein's starship troopers, where the attackers are small / armored / mobile / heavily armed, and can only be catch & fought by a similar force. Too bad about the urban battlegrounds such as Manhattan.
Armies are good at breaking things and killing people, and small mobile armies can do that well. Occupation and control are a different matter. You do not own anything until you can stand an 18 year old with a rifle on it. In Iraq we don't have enough young men with rifles. In order to get enough of them we may have to go to conscription. That is not a good thing.
Iraq is bringing about a crisis in our military.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
To be honest, I don't know which I find more disturbing: that the administration is doing its level best to keep this quiet or that a senior former Pentagon official would say, "They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about the high frontier." (The obvious implication there being that our guys don't believe it.)
The TSA yet one more time
The rules must be followed, at all costs.
- Roland Dobbins
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Who Are We, Who Are Our Enemies – The Cost of Historical Amnesia.
- Roland Dobbins
Any information security mechanism, process, or procedure which can be consistently defeated by the successful application of a single class of attacks must be considered fatally flawed.
-- The Lucy Van Pelt Principle of Secure Systems Design
Subject: This'll ruin your evening, Dr. Pournelle...
It began with Fred's column predicting mutiny in the army. I have been gathering comments on the subject since.
The first is from a former senior sergeant and junior officer who has been in the Middle East theater:
Subject: Iraq News
"Light at the end of the tunnel" was one of those optimistic phrases from the Vietnam War that was widely mocked, until political pressures led the U.S. to abandon Vietnam. The light became the oncoming train of another Cold War cliche, "the Domino Effect," as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos fell into decades of communist oppression, unspeakable violence and chaos.
But that's old news. Last week, there was a glimmer of hope in the news from Iraq. Al-Qaeda is on the ropes and sounding desperate, and Iraqis are gaining confidence in their own government and its forces.
A new recruiting video by the emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, brags of the loss of 4,000 foreign fighters in Iraq. He assures budding martyrs their ardent wish for death in righteous battle will be achieved.
There's more in that article.
I reached the conclusion that Fred on Everything was stuck in the 60s militarily quite some time ago. I can't recall discussing this with you or not, but his earlier mention of militaria or Iraq convinced me he doesn't really think about the difference between a draftee army and a volunteer army, or between the 70s and the oughts. People I've served with for almost 20 years have died over there, and I know only a tiny amount of soldiers who think we aren't doing more good than bad over there.
This is, however, irrelevant. Civil control is still one of our fetishes, and the government issues instruction which we will obey. Demonstrably, we've done stupid things when the government told us to, and we've done brilliant things.
I suppose it all boils down to whether you think the main stream media or the soldiers are a better source of information on what is happening. Arguably, either or both sets could be blinded by local conditions which aren't typical, or a cultural mindset. The media relies on locally hired stringers to get the news, since at any given time less than two dozen are imbedded with troops, and the rest simply don't leave the green zone. The soldiers go out, do their missions, which are successful, and presume that success in missions means success in the mission. My bias should be pretty obvious.
In any event, I will include one insight. The chatter about the number of terrorists is unimportant. Just because I hand you a rifle and tell you that you are now a Brother on a Mission From God, doesn't make you dangerous. It takes training to be more than a bullet magnet. Those who plan, who train, who build bombs, who can take a believer, put him in a car bomb and actually get him to the target undetected, those are who are important. Those who understand money, how to create it, move it, hide it and solicit it. Those who have technical skills from actually having a mortar round hit where you want to those who can stage pretty pictures for the press. The concern should be how quickly we are killing and capturing that expertise, not the total body count. The pattern and method and success rate of enemy attacks ought to tell a few things about that.
The danger has never been being defeated. It has always been politics, theirs and ours.
I can kill the armed foes of my nation. Its the unarmed foes I fear.
I have some confidence in these observations; I have known him for some years.
A couple of points on his latest essay; I have seen a bit of what Fred is talking about in our Officer Corp. When we were preparing for the invasion of Iraq I remember being the only officer I knew who had even the slightest reservation about what we were about to do. It was universally believed to be the the right move, and about time. (and many were looking forward to opportunties to get combat patches and CIBs)
Since then and having spent a lot of time in Iraq I have seen little change in this attitude. I hear talk about progress beating the insurgency and changing tactics and 4th Generation Warfare (does warfare have generations?). There is some small dissent, but it is the extreme exception and mostly among very junior officers who are getting out soon anyway.
Unlike Fred, I do not see this as Moral Cowardice, but rather as the end result of a vetting process. The Officer Corp attracts a certain type and weeds out those who do not fit the mold. Your typical officer believes what he is doing is right and good and true. He looks no deeper. This may be the nature of a professional officer corp and a large standing army, but not cowardice. The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of this. I believe that they did not intend that we have such an army.
His views on the enlisted corps I tend to disagree with a bit more. The primary difference between the Army of now and that of the Vietnam era is the draft. An Army of draftees is significantly different than a volunteer army. It is important to note that in today's all volunteer army you tend to attract certain types. Some join for financial reasons, some for college money. These types tend to do a hitch and get out. Others join as a form of social welfare. It's a way to support a family and get out of a bad area. These tend to flock to the support units. Many stay for careers.
The heart and sole of the infantry and SF units (Army, Marine, and SEAL), however, are composed of guys who are there because they like what they are doing, don't much care who they fight (as long as they can somehow justify it to themselves), and will stay as long as they enjoy what they do (or are offered more money by the private companies). This is a generalization, but exceptions are few enough. A draftee army might refuse to go up the hill again, but an Army like this? I tend to doubt it. Maybe the National Guard?
We have a professional army now. We have learned well from the mistakes of Vietnam. Then we had professional officers leading a conscript army. Today, both are professional. A professional army does not think of such things as do citizen soldiers which, perhaps, led to the troubles of Vietnam of which Fred speaks.
I do have to observe that the Iraq War is requiring more and more participation by National Guard and reserves who have not volunteered for overseas war. The old republic had a small professional army and a militia controlled mostly by the states. We nationalized the militia into the National Guard, but many of those serving in the Guard do not think of themselves as professionals and regulars.
Mutiny- Fred on Everything
I have a son who just graduated from West Point (and was prior enlisted) and another son (and daughter in law) who just finished up five years of enlisted service in military intelligence in the Army. I retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer after 21 years service.
Fred's ramblings sound like those of a former disgruntled and unhappy enlisted man. Today's enlisted personnel are different from those of yesteryear. All volunteer, for one. They know what they are doing, and what they are getting into. They're not ignorant of their mission. Nor are they ignorant of the political world in the United States. And they believe in what they are doing.
Far more than the "elite", and even the senior officers, most that I have talked to seem to understand that the war we are in is a generation war, that will involve not only my children, but my grandchildren yet to be born.
Unless, of course, the radical Islamists do something to provoke us into genocide. Talk about solving the terrorism problem by creating large glass parking lots is not uncommon...
Genocide is a solution to terrorism, albeit a last resort. But it is neither unforeseeable nor unimaginable, nor inevitable. But, Islam is going to have to radically transform itself or... I don't know the or.
The United States is currently ill-equipped to fight a war vs. a religion and ideology rather than a state. WE won't stay that way.
And from Colonel Couvillon, USMC, onetime provincial governor in Iraq
Jerry - you can certainly attribute these comments to me.
Is Iraq as bad as the media portrays? No. Is Iraq as good as the administration portrays? No. (Really, does the administration portray it as good???).
Who has more insight? Troops on the ground? Media observation? Government (US and/or Iraqi)? Who's to say. My observation, though, is that all have an element of input. Certainly one can find someone to in any situation to support the bias of any writer (even the hard sciences are succumbing to this!). Exclude or short-shrift opposition information or facts and we find spin. Too often in today's media we have to look at completely different articles, authors, pundits, opinions, etc. get a reasoned discourse from which to make a decision on a topic. In other words the masses have to do their own research! Doing your own research was available in the past, but also in the past I found that there were authors and articles that did the research FOR YOU and presented the material for your consumption, then they'd give you their opinion (supposedly, just what I was required to do in my college class papers). Appears now, everyone (well, almost everyone) starts from an opinion and gives facts to tilt to that support.
From my time in Iraq I've always said it'd take at least 5 years get things into some semblance of order there. At the time most people were talking in terms of months. I was wrong. It'll take 10 or more years. History is replete with examples of why that is true. But as an observation now, I'd say that Iraq is about as good as it can be, given past decisions and serious miscalculations. Despite all of the problems, it is amazing that progress IS being made. AND, we're fighting terrorists in Iraq and winning. Most of the cataclysm people see there now is not the terrorist fight, but internicene fighting among groups (religious, tribal, criminal, political). Not actually a civil war - no one is apparently trying to OVERTHROW the current government, but to grab their piece of it. At one time, in 2003/4, shadow governments were forming in Iraq but those have all disapated with the elections in 2005.
Terrorists, Jihadists, Islamo-facists, extremeists - whatever you want to call them (call them "mufsidoon engaged in Hiraba" to mirror the culture and religious values they continually pervert) are being beaten. Their leaders in the field are being captured and killed. Financial webs are being broken and many Muslims are being disgusted by their actions. They are throwing personnel into the fight in Iraq, but increasingly finding the Iraqis not buying into their vision (Iraqis are mostly interested in their OWN causes). This isn't a short term thing, for even in 10s recruited, terrorists can continue to cause tremendous destruction. I've heard it said that the US and President Bush have played into Osama Bin Laden's hand by 'starting' this war and thus increasing recruits to his cause. In my opinion, OBL wanted a major uprising of Islam against the west. That hasn't happened and doesn't look like it will. I can see where this could have been engineered, but OBL jumped the gun - he didn't have the political, military, or financial standing to pull it off. The emphasis there is on the 'political' - he banked on the Muslim population to join his cause. Despite the video shots of Arabs in the streets cheering the 9/11 attack, the population just didn't follow up.
Now on to Fred Reed's assertion that the US Military is inevitably going to face mutiny and degredation as exampled in the Vietnam War. I've received Fred's newsletter for a long time and have fowarded a number of them to others. Sometimes I like his observations, sometimes I don't. This one, I think is just plain wrong. Fred appears to be looking at today's current military structure and make-up through the prism of the late 60s, the 70s and early 80s. In the late 60s and early 70s you had the "shake and bake" NCOs and Lieutenants (instant 'leaders' with little training or experience). Overall leadership was average, at best, and there was a pervasive feeling that the country didn't like the military. Fraggings, disobedience, disdain for leaders, poor morale characterized the service.
I've been in the Marines since 1974 and saw my beloved organization at it's worst. Black Panther and KKK meetings in the barracks. Drugs rampant. Discipline pathetic (my bunk mate ran prostitutes in the barracks on weekends - picked 'em up in Mexico and brought 'em over to pimp them out; duty officer got a freebie). Servicemen in those days were truly the stereotypes the media would have you believe of today - down & outers, ne'er do wells, runaways, low IQs, ill educated - basically they had plenty bodies. Not all, mind you, but more than just a few.
Today's military is completely different. First, today's enlisted men are all volunteers and more educated than in the past. There is a large percentage of today's enlisted who have college degrees and an even large percentage working on a degree. Today's officers go through continuous education throughout their career. Second, the officers and enlisted in today's military have a general pride in their service and believe they are actually of service to their country - whether the country appreciates it or not! That isn't to say there aren't people with problems in the military, or that the military has no problems with it's people. But as a generalization, today's US Serviceman is the best trained, best supported and best educated in the history of the country. To intone that we're on the cusp of mutiny and anarchy in the ranks is ludicrous. Third, most of the servicemen I have spoken to who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan understand the good that is going on there - and agree with helping those countries. What they are mostly frustrated with is the shackles put on them in engaging the enemy or providing the force to maintain security. Given a greater leeway in application of security measures and a reduction in the bureaucratic oversight of the rebuilding process, many believe that the speed of rebuilding and security can be greatly increased. If we're going to use the military to handle a problem, let it be done militarily. In other words, don't use a hammer to paint a barn.
No, I don't see mutiny. I'd predict a renegade unit ignoring restraints to tackle a situation before I'd predict a mutiny. (Or, am I tilting the facts to my opinion?)
My reply was
Your view isn't far from mine, but then we haven't ever been far apart.
You may recall that before we went into Iraq I said "at least a generation" before we would realize any benefits from occupation, and even then it might not work. It's hard enough to build a nation out of tribes. It's even harder when you start with at least 3 nations in an imperial structure and try to make a single nation out of that; and when there is that much money at stake as spoils for the victor, it really gets tough. I haven't seen anything to cause a change of opinion.
The cost will continue to be 50 - 100 billion a year in addition to the cost of keeping the military ready to do other jobs. We can buy energy independence and one hell of a voluntary navy and military for that. For the $300 billion already spent we could have energy independence I think.
I said "10 years", but you're more correct - it'll be 2 generations. One of the reasons I was insistent on focusing on children and education while I was in country. It'll be that today's kids with a fond memory of a friendly Marine or Soldier who passes that on to his kids who have will have had the benefit of a freer education and better materialistic opportunities that really makes the area less of a threat to the West.
And that, I think, is what the national debate should be about: are we willing, as a nation, to commit to what it will take to win this war?
It is not an encouraging prospect. The alternatives are not very attractive either.
And Fred quite properly calls attention to the problem of conducting a long term war with conscripts; and our professional officer corps and our professional army do not, I think, quite understand the implications of sending in involuntary state militia and reservists, who are not conscripts but are not regulars either. Serious debate on this subject must take this into account.
I have said before: the right army for war and conquest is not the right army for constabulary duties.
Empire and republic have different needs; and transforming Iraq, for its own good, is not what we would have thought a goal of the republic. If it is to be a national goal of a republic it will require endorsement by a great part of the republic, a consensus that I do not believe we have.
If one accepts the premise of George Friedman's book "American's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies," that the invasion of Iraq was purposed to convince ostensibly friendly but uncooperative governments (re: Saudia Arabia) that the US had the resolve to take them on if necessary to assure its own safety, one now has to ask the question: how much of the success of the insurgency in Iraq has been due to opposition of our war plans by the so-called "loyal" opposition and the resulting aid and comfort to our enemy?
While it is impossible to predict a "what-if" with any confidence, would the insurgency have withered if the opposition had stood behind the President, or had at least opposed the invasion on matters of principle (as I believe you have) rather than launching all-out ad hominem attacks on everything related to the Administration's conduct of the war on terrorism without offering any strategy more definable (or defensible) than Chamberlain's in opposition.
It is almost certain that in the face of a united republic as we were after 911 the opposition would have been terrified; and that the ways of the opposition have encouraged the enemy.
But recall what I have said: we have a 3-way war, of Judao-Christian Civilization, Islam, and atheist humanism. It is almost certain that one of the first two will win. There are atheist humanists willing to die for their freedoms, but they are few in number. Poul Anderson was among that number, and I have other such friends; but it requires deeper commitments than I usually find in that persuasion. Those willing to die for a cause will usually win over those who will not.
Yesterday Eric Krug wrote:
There are a large number of former U.S. Navy nuclear engineering officers and enlisted operators in the population who are not currently working in the nuclear field. Many of these might return to the nuclear field for the right incentives. It wouldn't take 4 years of college education to get them up to speed.
Subject: Can the West defeat the Islamist threat? 10 reasons why not.
Jerry, I heard an interview with David Selbourne and was very impressed. I think you will agree with much of this. Maybe it has been on your site and I missed it. It seems like something that would be there.
Can the West defeat the Islamist threat? 10 reasons why not.
The following was inspired by an article by David Selbourne in The Times of London, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2349195,00.html .
1. The West lacks the will to survive. We make mountains out of trivial political issues, such as humiliating terrorists, and obsess instead about the rights of people who will cut our throats at the first opportunity. 9/11 has been relegated to historical movie status, not the wake up call it should have been. Too many Americans view the war with radical Islam as an inconvenience or a political problem and not something that concerns and threatens their very existence. A reality check is essential for survival.
2. The West is selfish and divided. Politics and party have become the priority and survival has been relegated to the closet. Politics no longer stops at the waters edge, but war has become a thing to manipulate for political advantage. The voters seem to not care that undermining the war effort for political gain is the order of the day, as long as their lifestyles aren’t compromised or discomfort brought down upon their heads. Our enemies and our politicians play that to their advantage. We have exposed to all our enemies, our soft divided underbelly and naively expect that they will but rub it for us.
3. The West is too open and too naive about war. We have lost our smarts about what a war is. War is not a made for TV movie with a pre-written script. The other side writes its own game plan, while we foolishly and openly talk of withdrawal schedules. The same people who demand such schedules would react in horror were their favorite coach to announce the play he is going to use next. Mistakes are always made in war. It is in correcting and adjusting, that victory comes about, but never without a will to survive, and that means a will to fight and die in the first place. Supporting out troops means stifling our open disagreements about details. Enough with the armchair generals, and the neutral, but biased media - we have lost our sense of the evil of treason.
4. The West is illiterate about faith and martyrdom. It is essential to know your enemy. For liberals to continue to preach multicultural moral equivalency is, but evidence that we act in ignorance of the seriousness of the enemy’s intent and will to die for his cause. Islam, as understood by these radicals, is not a religion of country club requirements and manners. Failing to comprehend what drives this enemy is a guaranteed road to defeat.
5. The West is reactive not proactive. It is failing for reasons of domestic political caution, to prepare for international war. It only looks backward such as the current fascination with who caused 9/11, Bush or Clinton, as if we’re in denial that the simple unaltered fact is that we were attacked not once on 9/11, but many times by radical Islamists. They have openly declared war on our nation and have pledged to eradicate each of us while we lack sufficient concern to prepare to fight the most difficult battle of this country’s existence. We have failed to mobilize the major elements of a society at serious war. For example, we fail, for political reasons, to reinstitute the draft and the types of things necessary to engage the enemy fully, as we go about our daily business wondering, or even actually debating, if attacking the terrorists over there is better than waiting to have them over here.
6. The West refuses to become energy independent. The fuel of radical Islam is our petrol-dollars. No war can be fought successfully when the enemy controls the energy and our economy through our own continued foolish choices - choices we make because of a paralyzing political fear of radicalized environmental worship. Russia, Venezuela, and the Mid-east oil producers can be counted on to close us off in a second should it be thought by them to be to their advantage. Undermining and bringing down super-power America is already their desire. All that is necessary is the minutest turn of events. The eminent war with radicalized Islam offers much more than minute potential, when it comes to affording them opportunity. Energy is victory and lack of sufficient energy is defeat. Our domestic eco-politics have chosen to aid the enemy.
7. Our borders are sieves and remain waiting conduits for subversive entry and terrorist activity. Moats weren’t invented because of curiosity or convention. They were created, because in an evil world, the enemy and the danger he presents needs to be kept out of people’s homes. The Trojan Horse mentality we play with our open borders is suicidal. Again, domestic politics by both parties, not security, is the priority that drives our border policy. A policy, I would predict, that history may very well write in chapter one of, How Great Nations Have Fallen (In Arabic of course).
8. The moral case for war. Though we debate about Iraq and the War on Terror, we really have not as a nation, understood and accepted the moral case to fight radical Islam on the moral level that they fight us. We have lost the concept of it being of the highest morality to defend oneself. In a day where WMDs are available and petrol dollars and sophisticated weaponry are funneled to radical regimes or Jihadists, morality requires that we either surrender or capitulate to radical Islam, or we fight. We have failed to make the case for fighting evil to the nation and we have failed to win agreement by both political parties about that core concept. Instead, we play gottcha politics with details and nuance.
9. Propaganda. We fail to use it to bolster our unity and to undermine our enemy’s unity and cohesiveness. Perhaps we need to use propaganda in Islam to question the goodness of a God that allows for a faith that is spread by the sword, and a faith that chooses such weapons of conversion as dynamite belts on innocent young Muslims. We need to drop our fear of cartoon type reactions and control our multicultural sensitivities when they interfere with our action in this vital area. We need to use propaganda to rally Americans around the need for a common loyalty over and above, lesser things such as ethnicity, class status, and party affiliation, that we may survive as a nation, not a land of competing special interest groups.
10. We lack the decency of a moral society worth fighting for. Beyond the biological urge to survive, there is a moral level that man is able to attain that needs and deserves protection and recognition. When both parties squabble about how much innocent life is moral to take or use for our pleasure, or health, when we laugh at those who believe and live in compliance with nature’s God, we lose our moral authority to fight wars. When we deliberately in the name of liberty, confuse good and evil in order to manipulate and control the minds of the masses, we invite evil and lose the sole basis for fighting any war.
A society that believes man is incapable of evil is in its death throes. A society that fails to recognize evil is already dead. A country that does battle for neither good nor evil is doomed to lose that battle.
If we fight just to protect our culture of death or our radical materialism, be it for hedonist, capitalist, or consumer, we fight for a hollow cause, for mankind chooses to die for great and noble causes. Islamists understand that. We had better learn it or live to regret it.
The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried." --G.K. Chesterton
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western civilization as it commits suicide.
October 4, 2006
Subj: Recycling Navy nuke-trained people
Not only is it possible in theory, there are people who have made a business of it.
That's why I bought stock in Exelon:
Acceptance Remarks: WNA Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Nuclear Industry
=[T]the recycling of people from the American nuclear navy into the world of civil nuclear power ... has brought us three leaders here today: Zack Pate, who heads the World Association of Nuclear Operators; Joe Colvin, who heads the Nuclear Energy Institute; and our honoree this morning, Corbin McNeill, who is leading not just Exelon but the American nuclear renaissance.=
McNeill isn't running Exelon any more, but Exelon is still nuke-heavy, and planning to build more:
=September 29, 2006 - Exelon to Begin Licensing Process for Possible New Nuclear Plant in Texas=
And former-Navy people are prominent in management:
=Mark Schiavoni, Senior Vice President, Exelon Generation; President, Exelon Power ... spent 22 years in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear program. ...=
Subject: National Guard
You make an excellent point about increased participation by the National Guard, but as you also point out, they are no longer State Militia. The States have very little control over them. While many National Guardsmen do consider themselves Citizen Soldiers, are they really? I don't know. They have little say over whether or not they deploy. Units from different states are mixed and matched to suit the national command authority's need. I cannot gauge accurately how they all feel, but the many with whom I have dealt seem to consider themselves more "part-time professional soldiers" than militiamen. Again, this is just in my own experience.
Matt Kirchner Houston, TX
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Have been reading your blog for a number of years and enjoy it.
I'm not going to address the issue of mutiny in the armed forces. The idea is preposterous and displays a real lack of understanding of today's military.
We have no choice in Iraq. We must win. It is really no different than in WWII, where it was imperative that our side won or the world would slide into perhaps centuries of death, hate, and chaos. In terms of lives and treasure, the costs when viewed in a historical light are much lighter than any skewed view brought on by the constant drum-beat of negativism of the main stream media. 3000 precious lives lost is a high cost. But, this cost has been born by willing volunteers who understand the conflict and the stakes and it has taken 5 years of the war against radical Islam to have a military toll that equals the civilian toll of just one day, the infamous 9-11. All other conflicts of significance in the history of our country have had significantly higher costs in terms of lives and cost. And, the conditions in Iraq are just going to get better and better as their fledgling government learns democracy and gets their act together. We must stay the course and give them time. After all, we still have military troops in Germany and Japan 61 years after the end of WWII.
I want to address the issue of use of reserves as well. I spent 10 years on active duty and 20 more in the reserves. Just as the active forces have been transformed by the elimination of the draft and the transition to an all volunteer force, the tranformation in the reserves has been just as dramatic. It is not fair to make a distinction between the active forces and the reserves in terms of resolve, understanding of the issues, and readiness to fight for the country. In fact, in a lot of ways, what the reserves bring to the equation is superior to the active forces. Just like the actives, the reserves are all volunteers. And, the reserves tend to be older, more experienced, better educated, more mature individuals than the active force. While the military readiness of the reserves certainly lags that of the actives...that is a function of time spent and sometimes training equipment, reserves are not put into harm's way until they have had the chance to ramp up and catch up to the competence level of the actives. We don't put troops in the field at a competitive advantage nor do we employ them when their is any perceived weaknesses as to what they can bring to the fight. For the most part, morale and readiness in the reserves is a good as the actives by the time they get to the fight.
Brent Ramsey CAPT, SC, USNR (Retired)
Armies are not navies, which is why the Constitution actually treats them differently for appropriations. Few republics ever thought their soldiers might one day refuse to fight; but it has happened a very great many times through history.
It is unlikely with volunteers. It is when the volunteer force gets thinned with those who thought they were through and were called up again. In Korea there were some incidents, and one organization that was disbanded; and Enlisted Reserves called up to fight in Korea were not happy. Nothing came of that, but after the Chinese intervention things got pretty sticky. And we know something of Viet Nam.
The United States is not so far down the road as Rome. Julius Caesar was assassinated by Optimate senators in 44 BC, having crossed the Rubicon (and began what he hoped were reforms that would restore the Republic) in 49 BC. The Republic was not restored, and the assassination ended the Republic. Caligula was killed by his own guards in 41 AD. This is a bit over ninety years. We have had neither event, and God willing we never will.
Reservists are excellent soldiers for a Republic. Calling up veterans for imperial wars may not be as successful. In Korea most believed in containment and understood the need. So far that has been true in Iraq.
You said "It's hard enough to build a nation out of tribes."
True enough, but the Alemanni, Bastarnae, Bavarii, Burgundians, Chauci, Cherusci, Cimbri, Franks, Franks - Chatti, Franks - Ripuarian, Franks - Mythological, Franks - Salian, Franks - Sicambri, Gepids, Goths, Goths - Ostrogoths, Goths - Tauric, Goths - Visigoths, Hermanduri, Heruli, Ingvaeones, Irminones, Istvaeones, Lombards, Marcomanni, Quadi, Rugians, Saxons, Sciri, Sennones, Suevi, Teutons, Thuringii, Ubii, Vandals, Vandals - Asding, Vandals - Siling, and Warni, et al. managed it.
I do not know enough history to say exactly how. Does anyone know? Is it reproducible? Can the process be shortened and can we skip the analogue of the Germanic Imperial phase please?
Generations of occupation in Gaul and in the area behind the limes with intermarriage and expansion of citizenship. Claudius was born in Gaul, and promoted Gaulish freedmen to administrative posts when he built the Imperial civil service. As to whether the process can be shortened, I don't know, but it took at least a generation in America for citizens to cease being "hyphen Americans", and with "modern" education and civil rights legislation it is not happening at all. We now have ballots in 24 languages. We value "diversity" over Americanization.
If we cannot induce those growing up here to adopt our values, why do we believe we can cause some kind of transformation in Iraq where Sunni hates Shiite, both hate Kurds, and all three despise Turkomen; where the Turks want to suppress an independent Kurdish state which is the only orderly part of Iraq; etc? Clearly nations can be built; equally clearly the Western intelligentsia despises "nationalism". If Iraq is not to inspire "national" patriotism, to just what are Babylonians, Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Persians, Turkomen, etc., to be loyal? To Islam? Which one? Shia, Sunni, Wahabi, Sufi? What, other than dislike of Israel and US intervention, unites all these people? I ask seriously.
On a multi-generation occupation:
Human nature does not change it can only be temporarily mitigated through training. The National Guard officers I know have expressed similar concerns to Fred, although in a more restrained manner (understandably).
NO one promoted the Iraqi occupation as a 2 generation endeavor. Split it into three states or make it a desert and call it peace (Tacitus I think). Maybe then we can find our own way back to a republic.
Paul D. Perry Texas
Hi: This has been an education for me. It will help me understand what we are up against more than anything else I have seen. It should be required reading for every American, but especially for those who really believe that we can avoid war with the Jihadists if we will just sit down and reason together. (If the print is too small, and you have a Mac, select "All" under "Edit" [or just hit "Command A"] and hit "Command +" as many times as necessary to make it big enough to read comfortably. You Windows guys will have to figure it out for yourselves!)
Forwarded by William Haynes (Col USAF Ret)
An interesting analysis. I agree except: there are exceptions. Some Muslims are in fact Westernized. Alas not many, and those in their leadership who have a more Western view must often act against it. Alas, much of this applies nearly universally. I have heard rhetoric as described: "This is my taxi and I will kill you for it!" from otherwise civilized people.
And our cultural weapons of Mass Destruction are destroying their civilization.
I note that Colonel Couvillon considers the above analysis very much on point.
AND DO READ Jill Carroll's story. A Western liberal meets the truth. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0814/p01s01-woiq.html =
-- Roland Dobbins
The war goes badly.
Your last input was just a little sooner than mine. My studies of warfare during my life time of seeking knowledge have taught me this one thing. Any Army not winning the wars they rage, will at sometime break and go home. It doesn’t matter if where, what or when. They will just quit and go home. I hope some of the author’s that posted this week will someday, study their history books.
And I have this from a close friend. One of his daughters is married to a Muslim. I asked him what she thought of the culture wars, particularly my view that it is 3-way, Christian, Muslim, atheist humanist.
My daughter (et al.) is in Jordan for probably the next year. I don't think she or [her husband] would buy the paradigm, though. What I gather is that there is a "civil war" going on within Islam. Because of the Aunt Edna Syndrome -- you don't talk about your crazy aunt in the attic to outsiders -- this runs partly below the radar screen in the West.
A lot of what happens, happens because of matters internal to Islamic history. [her husband] does not think there is a war between Christians and Muslims because they get along fine in Jordan. He has sometimes angered his relatives by saying only a fool would rather live under a tyranny in Jordan than under a democracy in Israel. Not that he is any big fan of Israel. He just wishes the Arab countries would be more like it. "They don't get it," he said once of the ruling elites there. He had just told me how the "other tax" works. It means a new princess was born in the royal family and needs an income. "But they take that money and put it in Switzerland instead of in Jordan. They don't get it. If you make the people rich, you can steal more from them!"
Two things he has said: once, when hearing about treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, he said, "Loud rock music? Standing in one position? That's nothing. Americans do not know what torture is!"
Recently, when they were over here before leaving for Jordan, [her husband] mentioned that after the USSR collapsed all the Party members suddenly became "muslims" -- and that's where a lot of this is coming from.
He also made an interesting comparison of the grandson of the Englishman, Glubb Pasha, and king Abdullah. The former speaks flawless Arabic; the latter speaks with an English accent.
October 5, 2006
Continuing a discussion of the nature of the threat.
Dr. Pournelle, You say armies are not navies. That may have been true in the past but those days are long gone with the advent of Goldwater-Nichols. Having served in multiple joint tours and observed Army, Air Force, Marine Corps professionals in action and in a joint force, more or less everyone nowadays is singing off the same sheet of music. If one cannot play nice with sister services, you get selected out and get to go home. I was socialized in a Navy that saw the Army, Air Force and even Marines part of the naval service as rivals. That breeding was gradually changed over a 30 year career into immense respect for my team mates who just happened to wear a different uniform. In my experience the services have a lot more similarities these days than differences.
The media coverage in Iraq has rightly so been on the ground troops. But, imbedded in those ground troops are thousands of Navy personnel, many in a direct combat or combat support role such as SEALS, Seabees, combat corpsmen, expeditionary logistics types, aviation forces, medical personnel, and military police. The latest count I saw was that there were approximately 7000 Navy "troops" in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, the various staffs are loaded with Navy personnel too. And, the current CNO plans to ramp up this presence even more.
If our society actually views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as "imperial wars" then I'd say we have a real problem. Isolationism is still part of the psyche of significant parts of the population so any war viewed as imperial will face tough opposition. Isolationism will be harder and harder to rationalize as the global economy continues to proliferate. It seems to me that most of the opposition to the war now is politics not a reaction to perceived imperialism. I would not describe the ongoing military conflicts as "imperial wars" but wars of self defense. The radical Muslims must be stopped or else they are coming for us. It might take them decades to gain the strength to actually contest with the west, but eventually it will happen unless we root them out and stop them now.
Which is one view.
You have a lot of stupid people writing to you about Iraq. And about the Islamist Threat, which barely exists.
Stupid people are boring.
Which pretty well states another view: there is no threat. I am not sure that case has been made. It is certainly true that the Muslims cannot invade the US. On the other hand, trillions of dollars are paid to that area for oil; it might be wise to pay attention to what is and can be done with that money.
Subject: A comment on David Selbourne's analysis
The underlying assumption of that piece appears to be that the "Islamist Threat" is one of the greatest dangers that the West has ever faced. Perhaps that is true, or will be some day, but the objective evidence available today hardly seems sufficient to make that conclusion a slam dunk.
9/11 was certainly a terrible event, and a horrific loss of life. But it also was a success born from our lack of attention. Looking forward, what do we see: aside from Iran, we have a terrorist enemy that doesn't have a state. The enemy has no standing army, or navy, or air force. They don't have the backing of a modern industrial economy, like the Nazi's had. They don't benefit from having a professional military, like the Wehrmacht. Even in the case of Iran, where there is an economy, and a military, neither seem all that formidable.
As you point out, the islamist don't even have unity of ideology: Shia hates Sunni hates Kurd hate Turk. Only a generation ago Iraqi and Iranian islamists were slaughtering each other in large numbers over territorial matters. The unity I see is a common hatred for the West, which does make them dangerous. But that hatred hardly seems a sufficient organizing principle around which to mount a successful military or economic challenge to the West. The Nazi's at least had nationalism and patriotism. Jill Carroll's comments makes me distrustful of the islamists, but doesn't make me fear the economic vitality of their society.
It is disturbing that this enemy is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but if they succeed, they will likely be few in number, and of a primative design. It will not be the nuclear arsenal that we faced in the Soviet Union. The Islamic zealots might not be as rational as the Soviets, but I recall that some of us thought the Soviet Communists were fanatical enough to try winning an all-out nuclear war.
As far as the the cultural war goes (i.e., the collapse from within): Do we really feel that Islamic teaching and Sharia law will have much appeal to the average American? Does Islam, particularly radical Islam, have that much to offer over alternative belief systems? Without the backing of force and the threat of violence, can it make much headway?
Leaving aside immigrants, I don't see that Islam has had all that much success establishing a sympathetic presence in the US. To the extent that Islam is trying to recruit in the US, the effort seems focused on those failed souls in the prison system. Radical Islam seems mostly the preference of the down trodden and repressed in failed states. (That said, I do find the stories about the islamification of Europe to be troubling. But isn't this mostly a case of poor immigration policy, rather than a conversion of the native population. And for all the angst we have about immigrants from Mexico, I believe most of them come from a Christian cultural heritage. I also haven't lost hope for Europe. If England is still capable of producing soccer hooligans, I have a hard time believing that they will just roll over without a fight!)
Perhaps I am being naive in all of these observations, but just as it can be a mistake to underestimate the enemy (i.e., the liberal position), it can also be a mistake to overestimate the enemy. One thing seems true about the current age: there is a tendency to hyperbolize over all matters social and political. I hope that is the case for some of the more dire assessments of the battle with Islam.
I never thought Saddam a threat, and I do not believe the Muslims a threat unless we help them become one. Paying them trillions of dollars and making our economy dependent on their oil may be helping them become one.
Just getting out of the Middle East won't be anything like a good strategy. Getting out while building up the Navy and the infrastructure for energy independence may be a good strategy. It's worth debating.
Vocational education poised for comeback
Vocational education classes, once commonplace, began to languish as standardized tests started to determine success and failure and college became a singular goal. Now called career technical education courses, they are beginning to enjoy a renaissance.
Legislators in North Carolina and Florida are reviving programs gutted years ago. The movement is also gaining momentum in California, thanks in part to a 2006 state budget that includes $100 million for program expansion.
Congress also has voted to reauthorize $1.3 billion
for career-based courses in high schools and community colleges, which
I wonder if some of those advocates are readers here, or influenced by someone who reads here?
We can only hope.
I've been thinking ("It's about time!" I hear you saying).
Check out this pic from the DOD:
It's little boats on a big bay. I've been seeing lots of these pictures. Huge cities, little ships. Reading various accounts of naval battles over the centuries, I am struck with how hard it has been for fleets to find each other so they could have a fight.
Then there was the pic of a lonely Army or marine patrol next to this huge industrial facility in Iraq. I think it was a chemical plant or something. You could probably shelter a regiment inside.
I guess it's a good thing for armies that cities can't move around, so that it is easier to attack a city that doesn't want to fight than a fleet that doesn't want to fight.
Our army attacked Baghdad in 2003. I listened to a whole book about the Thunder Run, where a tank column ripped through a piece of Baghdad. The impression I got was that if the Iraqi army had not decided to Just Go Home (TM), the city would have been devilishly hard to conquer.
We are back to WW2: we can flatten a city from the air, but can't take a nation full of cities on the ground without turning hundreds of thousands of citizens - perhaps millions of them - into soldiers and sending them at the enemy.
So we avoid going into cities, right? But what if Johnny won't come out and play? Without someone willing to fight with us, who will we fight?
(Of course, it is always easier for us to go back to being the old republic, letting our enemies come to us. But we and the Euros are being invaded by armies of civilians, so that model will need to be adjusted.)
As I see it, the populations of the world - already grown large - are now getting wealthy thanks to the proliferation of cheaply manufactured goods and inexpensive communications networks. Everywhere, humans are bulking up on stuff.
Pretty soon, sending our little professional army against a nation - any nation - will be like invading a Dyson sphere: they will get lost in the immensity. A nation of sufficient size could treat an invading army as just another riot at a parade, with police directing traffic around the disturbance. After all, our police now cope with armed gangs every day.
OK. I know I'm hyperbolizing just a little bit. But There may come a time when a conventional invasion won't seem like much of a threat to anyone. Then what?
Well, when ten million foreign nationals illegally enter the country, it's not quite invasion, but what do you call it? That has already happened. But conquest is expensive and always has been. Sometimes it pays off: Spain certainly got gold from conquest; but the effect on Spain itself was not anything like as beneficial as the Most Catholic Monarchy thought it would be. Prior to the Conquest of the New World, his Most Catholic Majesty was thought to command a great power.
Empire can be profitable and useful, but it is a long term thing.
Subject: Beam me up, Scotty
First quantum teleportation between light and matter
I am currently working as a reactor operator. THE problems facing the industry is that we have sold the the heavy industry required to build new plants. Everything Westinghouse is now Seimens or Acatel ditto for Rome cable. Even the computer harware and software venders are French. Most of the stuff that used to be Leeds & Northrupt or Victoreen is now Yokogawa or Panasonic. We bought new Lp Turbines recently Poland, Spain and Austria Alstrom made them. beat out Seimens and Hitachi for the millions. My generation of operators is starting to retire. Belatedly new ones are being hired. But it takes one year for them to be useful and four more to be trained and experienced enough to be Reactor Operators. The good news is that many of them now have Eng. and science degrees. No industry = no jobs. Of coarse Carter (TWPE) broke the fuel cycle and the Democrats continue the policy of constipation that is leaving piles of spent fuel scattered everywhere. I am wondering what Delendem est Saudi Arabia means?
Will Rogers observed that it isn't what you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that aren't true.
Delendum est Carthago was how Cato ended all his speeches in the period between Punic Wars; it means "Carthage must be destroyed."
Foley says, through his lawyer, that he never had a sexual relationship with someone underage. That may be true, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Apparently Congressional pages have been warning each other about his proclivities for a decade. Old IM's store as a default unless purged, so all anyone had to do was to look. At best Hassert was asleep at the switch, at worst complicit. Yeah, the timing is political, but this is Washington. I believe the rule is "never get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy" ? This guy wasn't just sending up red flags, but rockets. The only real question is how many people will get the book deal out of this. I'll bet five.
Actually there's no evidence that Foley was actually trying to have a consummated affair with one of the boys; it looks more like they were egging him on, teasing the geek fairy. The Speaker certainly had a duty as a party manager to ease Foley out in favor of someone more acceptable to his constituency.
I understand there is no evidence that disgraced Republican Congressman Foley had anything to do with the Amish School Murders.
October 6, 2006
Subject: Previous page scandal
In the Current View page, you wrote:
it will turn out, before this is over, that some Congressman actually did have a sexual encounter with a page. It will have been legal because the page was 16 or over. It will be interesting to see which party the Congressman belongs to, and what reactions that will generate; but mark my words, it will come out.
Actually, this happened over two decades ago. In 1983, Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA) and Congressman Dan Crane (R-ILL) were censured by the House of Representatives for actual sexual contact with 17 year old pages -- a female in Crane's case and a male in Studds'. In the case of Studds, the contact occurred both in his apartment and during a 2 1/2 week trip to Europe that he took with the page.
When the affairs were simultaneously made public by the House Ethics Committee, Crane was tearfully apologetic and contrite. Studds took a very different tack, refused to apologize and argued that the conduct was consensual and perfectly legal in Washington, D.C. where it occurred. When the censure was read, he turned his back on the House.
The reactions of their districts were also very different. Crane was defeated for re-election in the first election after he was censured. Studds returned home to a tumultuous welcome in which he received three standing ovations. He continued to be re-elected until he retired in 1996.
Subject: A billion Moslems
I think this has been said before. There are a billion Moslems. If 10% of them are violently disposed to Israel and the west, and have their co-religionists at least convinced not to intervene, they pose a formidable force of 100 million potential combatants. If they are honestly disposed towards Jihad, towards giving their own lives towards achievement of a goal, that represents a significant force multiplier (maybe not the 150:1 of 9-11 in every case, but maybe 3:1 against similarly armed opponents. (The long-range average in Iraq appears to be on the order of 0.2:1 against forces with Coalition technology and training, but probably closer to 1:1 counting their total body count including non-combative civilians in the "tribal and anti-government" element of the conflict. However, their psyops advantage against the Western opposition to the war is an order of magnitude higher than their actual bodycount).
And this core 100 million is probably NOT capable of being swayed by our "Weapons of Cultural Mass Destruction" as you call them.
My current optimistic read of the tea leaves is that the Republicrats will maintain weaker majority in the Lame Duck, will learn the lessons of the past four years, and will focus on more effective measures at home and abroad. My realistic read is that we will have two years of Speaker Pelosi which will allow the Islamicists and Islamofascists their window of opportunity to get the bomb. At that point all bets are off, and my pessimistic read is that all of the references to Babylon in the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine actually refer not to any metaphorical place, but to the literal Babylon.
(Amusingly, my spell checker gave Republic Rats for Republicrats, and sadomasochists for Islamofascists.)
I note that 1% of a billion is ten million, and .1% a million, and .01% is still a lot of Mohammed Atta's.
Subject: Should We Balkanize Dar al Islam?
I’ve followed the discussion on the Jihadi Threat with great interest (or should I say alarm?). Although I’ve no military background and have never visited a Muslim country, I am a student of history. One of your correspondents drew an example from Roman history and asked how long it would take to mold polyglot Iraq into a true nation a la Caesar and the Gauls.
If nation building in the Middle East is too onerous to be feasible, I suggest we consider another Roman practice: Divide and Conquer (or at least neutralize). The various Muslim factions are already at each other’s throats, so why not work with this? For instance, maybe the Coalition should actively favor the Shi’a in their “Freedom Struggle” against the Sunnis. By (as Virgil would say) throwing down the Sunnis, we’d be dis-empowering the one group that’s been (somewhat) effective in governing a modern nation.
Conversely, by elevating the Shi’a, we’d be installing a group that’s been thoroughly repressed and which therefore may lack the capacity to effectively manage a successful Iraq. The new Shi’a-led Iraq could then be allowed a la the late USSR to fracture along ethnic lines and devolve into separate ethnic states with varying degrees of economic and political dis-function.
Rather than forging a strong, unified Mesopotamia that might join in some Dar-al-Islam-wide Jihad, we might be better served by thusly dismembering Iraq (and other Muslim countries) and creating instead numerous semi-decrepit state-lets that would endlessly vie to leadership of the “Caliphate” and for Great Power patronage. Like the Kurds and Shi’a, various ones would turn to the Western Powers for protection from their more repressive and retrograde brethren. While in such a prolonged weakened, dependent state, the Dar-al-Islam might be more amenable to Western cultural influence, which in turn could serve to promote doctrinal moderation.
Even better: come home, develop our own resources, stop financing them, and let them drink their oil. They'll dismember themselves trying to cut oil prices.
We do not need to go abroad seeking dragons to slay.
Subject: TSA, FEMA, and Liberty
You wrote, "The purpose of TSA is to demonstrate to the people of these United States that we are no longer citizens". Well, apparently FEMA thinks it's their job too. See http://www.reason.com/rauch/081406.shtml <http://www.reason.com/rauch/081406.shtml> .
Reading this, I am reminded of Hayek's observation in "The Road to Serfdom", that those who accept government money will eventually find their dependence on such money exploited as a means of abridging their freedoms. IIRC, he was talking about Welfare, but it appears to apply more generally. Federal Aid to Education comes to mind.
Why the State of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans don't just tell FEMA to take their money & go pound sand, I'm not quite sure.
Subject: New Orleans and FEMA
Matthew Ing wrote:
Why the State of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans don't just tell FEMA to take their money & go pound sand, I'm not quite sure.
Yep, and I've wondered why junkies don't just put the needle down and go get a life.
I imagine the answer is the same in each of these cases.
Subject: call for empire
I think you will interested in (and saddened by)
Indeed. And I much miss the British experiment in world order. I also regret that there will not always be an England.
Subject: Which "stupid people" about Iraq? -
Concerning Gregory Cochran's comment [Thursday Mail, Oct. 5, 2006] about stupid people writing about Iraq: Which stupid people -- those advocating staying the course now that we've stepped in it, or those saying our troops will eventually revolt?
In your response you wrote "It is certainly true that the Muslims cannot invade the US."
I'm sure France, The Netherlands, and England thought the same thing. The trouble is that Muslims aren't invading via landing craft, they're using visas.
Resistance to integrating into society is a threat becoming more prevalent. Immigrants are dragging their third-world life and attitudes into first-world countries and we first-worlders are accepting it and calling it "diversity." Nay, we are embracing it with the attitude that our former values are somehow misguided or downright evil.
If Billy Graham were to stand in the pulpit, wave a sword, and call for the destruction of Islam, he would be pounced upon by every left-leaning organization in the US and the world. But, an imam does just that about the West, and we are told it's just a difference in cultures and we should respect them.
It would certainly be easier to defend borders and cancel visas than to democratize Iraq. Open borders plus incompetent empire is a recipe for --- I leave the answer as an exercise for the reader.
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide. The three way war is Christianity, Islam, and liberal atheist humanism.
Subject: Stirling on Islam -
Interesting debate on Islam's differences with the West.
The first thoughtful debate I remember reading on the fundamentalist Islamic risk to Western civilization was in the 'tojerry' conference on BIX. That was (sigh) nearly twenty years ago.
One quotation I captured from Steve Stirling made its way into my signature file, and it bears repeating today:
"The bane of our age is not intolerance, but a fuzzy-minded wishy-washy kind of tolerance based upon the notions that there's something good about everyone and deep down everyone is just like us. Well, there isn't, and they aren't." -- S.M. Stirling
-- Stephen Fleming
October 7, 2006
I am encouraged to hear from time to time that you are continuing to work on Mamelukes, but I note that in Mail from a real long time ago that you were going to put a couple of sample chapters up on your site. Did this ever happen?
I have been forced to re-read Janissaries I in lieu of the long-delayed and much-awaited Janissaires IV, not that that is an unpleasant task! Is there anything that could encourage you to write faster? :-)
Well you can get everyone here to go recruit one more subscriber, so I will be able to hire some things done and have more time to work on fiction...
For a sample of Mamelukes, go here.
Subject: How the rich are taxed
On the off chance you have not seen this, Dr. Pournelle... Whether it is factual or apocryphal it makes a good story. Charles Brumbelow
Reportedly on the [unnamed] news wire from an well-known economist:
Sometimes politicians, journalists and others exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" and it is just accepted to be fact. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, maybe the following will help. Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59! So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." Dinner for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to eat their meal.
So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10 !"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"
"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important.
They didn't have enough money among all of them to even pay half of the bill!
So that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. They might even start eating out overseas where the economic atmosphere may be friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D Professor of Economics University of Georgia
I think I first posted this about five years ago, but it does remain true. People seldom need educating but they sometimes need reminding.
October 8, 2006
Just when I was beginning to think that there was nothing serious new on the Mohammedan front LGF comes to the rescue. It seems Islamists are outraged over the new Swedish “Integration Minister” Nyamko Sabuni. She emigrated to Sweeden as a 12 year old from Burundi. Among the things that upset the “people” is her proposal that all compulsory checks for genital mutilation (otherwise known as female circumcision). She has the Mohammedans annoyed about a proposal to ban headscarves for girls under 15 and a specific mention of honor crimes in the Swedish criminal code. This should get juicy and fun to watch. She’s already dubbed an “Islamophobe” by local Mohammedan loud mouths.
Meanwhile Britain is having its problems with the Mohammedans. They’ve been very quiet about the riots in the Windsor area. They’ve had to pull in police from other areas to try to keep the peace. Robert Spencer’s lead-in observation about “Whites and Asians” is to the point. It’s Whites and Mohammedans, thank you. Of course, the “Whites” are not clean on this one, either. Nonetheless, it still represents the massive cultural difference between the Whites and the Mohammedans who refuse to integrate into British society.
Robert also catches Abbas telling Condi one thing and the Palestinian press another. But, hey, it’s Abbas. What do you expect from him? To Condi he said that surely the Palestinians would work for peace and recognize Israel. That’s quite different from what he told the Palestinian press. Ah well. Is anybody surprised?
The top Tory in the British government declared there is no place for Sharia law in the UK. That should go over rather nicely. Expect the usual cries of Islamophobia and racism. And all the man’s doing is note that “Extremists must respect all faiths.” (But, waitaminit, then they’d not be extremists, right?)
The big message of the day regards how to get the Mohammedans to just leave us alone. It suggests we should ask the experts. Alas, that will require history books because the modern day British have forgotten it all. H. W. Crocker, III writes about it at the American Spectator. I suspect slapping down the mad mullahs and crazed imams will be a little harder these days. But it is pretty much what’s required. Give the Mohammedans who can adapt to the modern secular world a chance. But sit there and slap down the mad mullahs as fast as they pop up, or at least as fast as we can do it. I also suspect that we’d have to be a little less fastidious about “collateral damage” and mosques. We're not that mad YET.
And as expected the fifth and last installment of Patterico's interview with the Guantanamo military psychological nurse has appeared. All five are present and can be reached from the link below. It's a good read if you haven't read it already.
One of the better things is reading this nice essay and “semi- response” to a critic by Robert Spencer. Robert was taken to task for stating that Mohammed married his daughter-in-law by a writer who claimed it never happened. Between Robert’s piece and the reply it quickly becomes obvious that if a Mohammedan says something like this about Mohammed that’s a different thing than if a Westerner says regardless of the tone used. Robert also indirectly mentions the Hadith on which the extremist Mohammedans base their hatred of all who are not Mohammedan. He does this by quoting Dr. Tawfik Hamid in the Rocky Mountain News, a Mohammedan.
More importantly Robert Spencer reveals that the attack on the US Embassy in Damascus was planned and engineered from and in Saudi Arabia by people not connected with al Qaeda. It may be time to get pursuasive with the Saudi Arabians in a physical way. “You, too, can be replaced or worse, shoved aside and cut off from water. A very small demonstration could change an attitude or two, I suspect.
I do not usually print press releases, but this one is well done by an old friend...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
AMAZON SHORTS COMPLETES "THE SHENANDOAH SPY" : ALL 14 PARTS NOW ONLINE
The Amazon Shorts program for electronic literature at Amazon.com accelerated the publication of Francis Hamit's Civil War novel about the early career of Belle Boyd, the teen aged girl from Martinsburg, Virginia, who became the best-known Confederate spy and who was the first woman in American History to be commissioned an army officer. The fact-based novel had to be divided into 14 parts to accommodate its 43 chapters and more than 500 pages.
"At 49 cents per part, this is a tremendous bargain for the readers," Hamit said, "And it also allows them to sample the novel to see if they want to read the entire thing. It turns out that they do. We had several requests to accelerate the publication schedule, so that they could finish reading it. Of course, we were happy to oblige."
"I am also very happy to be part of the Amazon Shorts program. I think it's a great deal for readers. There are over 600 titles and over 400 authors there, and they keep adding more." Hamit added, "There are also requests for a regular hardbound edition and that will happen next year. It will cost more, of course, because print publication involves materials and processes we don't have to deal with in this electronic form.
"Belle's story is one I discovered when I was working for the Encyclopaedia Britannica about 25 years ago. I always thought it would make a terrific novel. This first book in what has become a series of novels about the Confederate Secret Service and the women who worked for it covers the period between July 1861 and July 1862. Almost every character in it is based upon a real person and it follows actual events fairly closely. My research involved not just the Official Records but also the diaries and letters of some of these characters. The central event is The Battle of Front Royal, which was the kickoff for Stonewall Jackson's famous Valley Campaign. Belle did significant duty for the South that day. Her actions, which included carrying a message across the battlefield under fire and making a situation report to Jackson, are verified by more than one source. This is why she was promoted." Hamit acknowledges that Belle Boyd was a controversial figure whose deeds were later disputed. "I did a lot of research. Belle was attacked by the Northern newspapers during the war and by male historians after it. There was a fair amount of male chauvinism and just plain jealousy in what was written and said about her. Hopefully, this novel will set the record straight."
Hamit, who has a degree from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, is best known as a journalist, but for the last several years has written fiction and drama almost exclusively. He served in military intelligence during the Vietnam War. He currently lives in California.
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