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Mail 464 April 30 - May 6, 2007







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Monday  April 30, 2007

THERE is an enormous amount of good mail, and a great dearth of time here. I will do my best.

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Election news: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2494244.ece>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6604995.stm

The developing big brother society: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2494230.ece>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/6605107.stm

Halting BAE probe to avoid Government embarrassment: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2494232.ece>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6604629.stm

Saturday night in the UK: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/
this_britain/article2494227.ece>  The difference in trash underfoot between Spain and the UK was notable.

UK story on US student loan scandal: <http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article2494249.ece

 Mental health in the UK: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2494245.ece

Developing body parts market:
xml=/news/2007/04/29/ nstab29.xml

UK corporate manslaughter bill: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2068181,00.html

Honours probe story--the Palace warned #10 to be wary of the head investigator: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2068116,00.html

Military crisis in Turkey: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067955,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1722204.ece

NHS deficit stories: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6605249.stm>  <http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/hewitt
+defends+nhs+treatment +bans/480647>

xml=/news/2007/04/29/ ndoctors29.xml>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6601823.stm

The other side of grade inflation:
<http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036348>  <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036352>  <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036363

Local sports story: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_1/6605665.stm

My comment on all this: Harry Truman once said: "Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination."

-- 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>



I have neglected the story of the discovery of a nearby planet in the habitable zone (note: that it is habitable is Not Proven). Petronius takes me to task:

Only the biggest story in the history of the human race. Only.


WASHINGTON - For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for "life in the universe."

The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a "red dwarf," is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.


Tidally locked, undoubtedly. Not such a great prospect

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor

True. But: it shows there is more than one planetary system with a planet in the "habitability zone" that is not a gas giant. A significant data point.

Also a great setting for a human colony story. Sort of like Niven's Jinx: there is a zone of habitability, perhaps, in the twilight lands. Think of the weird creatures you could put on the hot edge and the cool edge of the Twilight Zone (and that is what the human colonists would call themselves, "Zoners" from "Twilight Zone". It would be a grave insult to whistle the "duh do duh dee" Twilight Zone theme in the presence of these people, as they grow to hate the association with an old TV show from Earth.).

Ice creatures on the dark cold edge, and fire demons on the hot, light edge.

Oh, and the storms as the atmosphere redistributes the heat from the dayside!

I've already got a plot!



Extrasolar habitable planet?

Probably tidally locked, yes. But perhaps on something other than a 1:1 resonance. What would the meteorology be with 3:2 locking, for example? Would there be a permanently habitable zone with extreme weather swings, or would everything race around the planet in the terminator (or would there be creatures in both niches)? What would growing seasons be like (probably fast-growing lichens or ferns or fungi, or plants occupying similar niches, and spoors carried by the migratory animals). No large stemmed plants -- or broad, flat tree-like plants that could survive in extreme cold. I haven't seen the length of year yet, but the habitable zone of a red dwarf mandates a short year.

This could all be very interesting. Let's get a probe out...



And so it begins.



A failure in generalship By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling May 2007 _Armed Forces Journal_ 

"You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict." - Frederick the Great

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

- Roland Dobbins

Beware the fury of the Legions


Related to that is this first response of an active duty defense scientist. I have made some alterations to ensure anonymity

I'm having a very sleepless night at this point trying to address Dr. Cochran's comments. I don't have an organized response yet -- that would take an essay, or perhaps a million word position paper. But when I can think of all the ways that our failure to persevere at this point could get ugly...

Whether you believe that invasion was justified or not (which is NOT the same as saying we should have done it; I said at the time, though perhaps not loudly and well thought out enough, that the invasion was justified but that we shouldn't attempt it without assuring that we had the will to see it through), pulling back at this time seems to me to mean nothing less than the end of the United States. Forget survival of the Republic; in fifty years there will not be a polity called the United States, and I'm not sure how many of the balkanized fragments that survive will even be independent nations not under the control of either China or some version of the Resurgent Caliphate. And if the Democrats manage to completely capture our foreign policy away from the executive and seek to appease their European and Islamic fellow travelers by following through their threats to impeach the President and VP, there is reason to doubt that the United States will survive the next five years.

I will try to get this organized by Monday (amid pressing work deadlines and the normal events of the weekend) but "dismay" does not even begin to capture my feelings. Certainly, even if some of my more paranoid assessments fall short of reality, several of COL North's statements rise above Dr. Cochran's "cost efficiency" standard. Because at this point we have at three choices: achieve a stable polity in Iraq by conventional arms under terms that assure Iran and Syria's nuclear and biological ambitions are squashed diplomatically; acknowledge that we lack the will to carry the battle to them conventionally but that we will definitely respond to any hint of WMD threat with nuclear force, or prepare to live in a country that matches the most paranoid fears of the extreme left vision of the Patriot Act,.

I'd be pleased to see Ms. Dow's response to Dr. Cochran...


In the light of day and too much time spent in further analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the worst case scenario I posted is very unlikely. I have also come to the conclusion, alas, that it is not unlikely enough. It is easy to construct a chain of events which would lead to that result by 2008 (beginning with a Bush/Cheney impeachment, followed by another major terror attack on US soil in the formative states of the resulting Pelosi administration) and to identify the persons who would act at each event in the chain. The only question is where the extra sixteen votes in the Senate would come from and what reasons persons would have for voting that way.

That was the initial response from someone whose opinions I have regard for. I can imagine Greg Cochran's responses.

You will have noted that my own views are not being put forth here. I will let the debate continue for a while.


Subject: Doesn't Look Lost To Me


Here's a guy who looks around at Anbar Province, and sees Sunni tribes protecting their own turf - with USMC backup - and shutting out insurgent activity. I've been reading summary descriptions of this kind of activity, but nothing like the detail in this piece:


A Marine officer asked him, "Could it be that we have won the war but are too dense to realize it?"

But at what cost?



Reaping the whirlwind.


-- Roland Dobbins


Dr Pournelle,

Everyone talks about learning the lessons of history but no one does (learn, I mean).

The United States only other attempt at nation building of this magnitude was the Philippines. This country was in a state of rebellion against its Spanish overlords when we went to War with Spain in 1898 and took it away from Spain. At first, the natives thought their independence was won and actually helped the US Army defeat the Spanish, but they then found out we intended to pick up where Spain had left off. What followed is known as the Philippines Insurrection. This was the war that gave us the M1911A1, the .45 automatic pistol.

The Philippine Insurrection lasted from 1899 until at least 1907 when We gave the Philippines some measure of self rule and stated they would be granted independence eventually. This finally happened in 1946.

The Filipinos were a tribal/clan structure prior to the Spanish. Spain gave them no background or experience in national self government. The Insurrection was an alliance of chiefs, war lords and strong men against the US; the enemy of my enemy. We gave them experience at national self government but it took almost 50 years; nine of them in armed revolt.

The Philippines had, for the most part, one religion (Roman Catholic), and were ethnically one people. Which factors make us think that Iraq will be easier and faster?

Patrick A. Hoage

Actually, a good part of the insurgency against the US in the Philippines came from the Sultan of the Sulu Sea, a Moslem pirate king whose descendents have yet to acknowledge the sovereignty of Manilla.

Insurgency and guerrilla warfare seldom has any real effect unless there is a sanctuary area that is politically (not militarily) invulnerable, where recruiting and training can take place. The borders of Mesopotamia are porous. Worse, we don't have real control over the areas we sort of occupy.

I make no doubt whatever that the US can prevail in Iraq if we are willing to pay the price. One of those prices is an immediate and credible declaration that we are there to stay; that we are not leaving, and we will not abandon those who collaborate with us. Another of those prices is the immediate creation of a constabulary occupation force, with US officers and non-coms, that will begin to replace the combat legions we are using for the wrong purpose. A good combat army can NEVER be a good occupation army. Soldiers are not constables.

That is the price of victory in Iraq: and I see almost no one in our political establishment who even says that, much less who advocates doing it.

I would very much like to be proven wrong.


"A Marine officer asked him, "Could it be that we have won the war but are too dense to realize it?"

But at what cost?"

This is of course precisely the situation, in my professional opinion. The US can handle the stresses put on it by this war for a limited time only, perhaps just a century or so. Yet this presumes we ignore opinion. It is ironic that the only place on Earth where Al Quada is winning is the hearts and minds of those who control American media opinions.

I'll say this: The listings so far on the site for which the Fury of the Legions have been mentioned have all been silly to me. Yet if we abandon allies to destruction again, I'll reevaluate my service, as the US will have proved it does not deserve my decades of sacrifice. It is more than a touch ironic that the people who want the US to leave Iraq are more easily found in the US than in Iraq itself. Those who are actually bearing the burden have no problem continuing to do so, while those who do nothing but wearily watch the news can't hang. Time was that Americans were expected to deal with adversity. I've always said that attempts to replace "The Star Spangled Banner" with "American the Beautiful" missed the point. Land is nothing. Ideas are everything. America is a place where people stubbornly fought the most powerful nation on Earth because of ideals of freedom.

Once we went into Iraq, most of the choices went away. If we leave, the foe will be emboldened. They won't have a convenient place to die against the rifles of our Army, we'll go back to the situation before, when we expected terrorist attacks every few months. I doubt it'll be that pacific though. Victory is a heady brew, and momentum is as important socially as it is in physics.

I suspect that a few more months of Congress will lead others to reevaluate as well.

A serving officer

Note: I use the designation "serving officer" to cover a number of people. This is not the signature of any single officer.


The guy's crazy, Jerry. I presume that he thinks that the Moslem world is a real strategic threat, and that's somehow part of his nightmare scenario, whatever it is : well, he's wrong. They're not. And for Ms. Dow, she's a fruitcake.

Just out of curiosity, what is wrong with these people? Seems to me that a big fraction of your core audience and unfortunately of the Republican party as a whole, has gone crazy. Nothing they say has any relation at all to the real strategic facts on the ground. Reminds me of a big fraction of French opinion back in the Algerian War - somehow France would lose its precious bodily fluids if they left. - crazy: it took a cold-blooded old man like De Gaulle to make the point that no sane person would _want_ Algeria to remain part of France.

it may seem that I am a being a bit cavalier about calling people crazy, but what word would you use? I am not crazy, you know that: my predictions work out better than most, and that is the acid test. Quite a bit better.

Gregory Cochran

Well, I would not say that documenting the consequences if dhimitude is crazy; and while I understand what you mean here, a lot of people think that the Moslem world is a strategic threat.

By strategic threat, you mean the ability to levy tribute on the US; to conquer some part of our country; to impose sharia on the people of the US. And clearly they have no such ability. The Fleet and the Air Force alone are more than sufficient to prevent that.

They do have the ability to impose large costs on us; but of course "large" is still small in comparison to the death and destruction we have sown in Mesopotamia. And then there are the twin nightmares: biological or nuclear attack through smuggled weapons.

Of course it is difficult to see how occupation of Baghdad prevents those attacks. Still, the CIA thought that by 2007 -- that is to say, now -- Saddam would have several nuclear weapons had we not intervened. How he would have used them is one of those real uncertainties for which I have no way to apply probabilities.


A correspondent wrote on April 30:

"Here's a guy who looks around at Anbar Province, and sees Sunni tribes protecting their own turf - with USMC backup - and shutting out insurgent activity. I've been reading summary descriptions of this kind of activity, but nothing like the detail in this piece:"

and in the cited piece US Marines are quoted as describing duty in Anbar in the pas year as being "boring", with Iraqi friendlies handling things to a large extent, the Marines just "backing them up"

Yet, according to this website that tracks "Coalition" military casualties in Iraq:


coalition casualties in Anbar province (where most Coalition forces are USMC) in 2006 were the highest in any single year yet, and the rate for the first part of 2007 is roughly comparable to that of 2006. While it is unclear if that 2007 number is through the end of March, 2007, or includes April 2007 casualties, it does appear that the tempo of operations, judging by casualty rates, has not decreased in the past year, but has actually increased and leveled off at a higher level.

I was prompted to look into these numbers by the regular appearance in headlines of "(insert number here) Marines killed in Anbar", which I see at least three or four times a week in various news sources.

There may well be progress being made in Anbar, but it's still the deadliest place in Iraq for Coalition forces. It's also the only province left with a Sunni majority.

As for Ollie: like Cochran said, no one ever claimed he was a genius. We could write off all the materiel and pull out in a week if we needed to. I don't claim to know if that is wise. I also don't believe anything in Iraq will destroy the Republic, or the nation-state known as the United States. Remember what Lincoln said in his Lyceum address (1838):

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? — Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! — All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years."

Just to hammer my point home, Lincoln again:

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure."

A trillion gone. Another tenth of a Trillion every year into the sand. A thousand troopers dead and five-thousand wounded every year. All to what end, exactly? Saddam is dead. Any capacity for any Iraqi government significantly threatening any of their immediate neighbors in the next quarter century is gone. The oil will flow whether or not we are there, and likely faster and in greater quantity.

The poorest and most primitive culture on Earth growls and we should quail at this farce of a threat? We conquered a continent and built a nation the likes of which the world had never seen, and this will be our end?

Don't Tread On Me.

The Neo-cons are now trying to tell us that we cannot have liberty AND danger. Apparently they believe we can only have liberty with Eternal War. I'll take eternal vigilance and a "Mind Our Own Business" foreign policy any day to their "It's The End Of The United States As We Know It!" hooey.








This week:


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TuesdayMay 1, 2007

Regarding Saddam's possible nukes: "How he would have used them is one of those real uncertainties for which I have no way to apply probabilities."

An excellent source of info on what is really going on in the world is The Strategy Page, www.strategypage.com

They've addressed this in their articles and their podcasts. Israel is a likely target of a Middle Eastern nuke, from Saddam's regime or the Iranians. Any first generation bomb from Iraq or Iran would be large and not easy to deliver by missile, or as a dropped bomb. They have said in the past that the Israeli nightmare scenario is a civilian plane that leaves African airspace and heads towards Israel. African airspace is essentially uncontrolled and planes suddenly appear leaving it heading in all directions. The Israeli air forces are said to be ready to shoot down such random planes before they reach Israel.

Edmund Hack


I'm with Cochran.

The fact nobody has mentioned is that there will be no stable unitary Iraq except under the same methods of government that Saddam used. Maybe if there'd been a different approach 4 years ago things would be otherwise, and maybe not. That doesn't matter now. What does matter is that no one will be in charge in Iraq until he shows that he's a more ruthlessly effective butcher than anybody else.

I'd rather not have an American officer in that role, with American soldiers carrying out his policies.



The Gods must be crazy 


Well, I knew that Dr. Cochran and I had different opinions, thought I was a bit surprised at his vehemence.

Some responses:

1. Define "Strategic Threat." I never said or implied (OK, I don't think I did, but please recall that my post consisted of my most raw and paranoid of immediate musings...) that the US was in imminent danger of being subjugated by Islamofascists; I said that (a) if conventional warfare program in Iraq fails, we will have to face the political consequences of having our foreign policy dictated by the Islamofascists, or of using the nuclear threat for triflings, since we will never again have a credible conventional response; and that (b) some parts of a balkanized US might be easy pickings for them after we tear ourselves apart.

And I would submit that a follow-on major terrorist attack, even if accomplished by non-WMD means, to which we cannot offer the chance of non-nuclear retaliation is a strategic threat by definition.

2. My immediate concern is much more for the latter. There is reasonable room for debate over the best approach in Iran, and I would be willing to listen to arguments that immediate withdrawal is the best possible response. However, there are no such arguments being posited; the congress is attempting to impose this strategy against the recommendations of the Commander in Chief and the officers in the field.

Worst are my concerns about the calls for impeachment; impeachment of a sitting President in time of war predicated on the unpopularity of the war and the repeated assertion (which I and many people believe go against the facts) that the war was forced upon us through lies and deceit in the office of the President. The Clinton impeachment was perhaps silly, but it was never a danger to the stability of the Union, perhaps because of the "snigger" factor -- "you're impeaching him for illicit sex?" People cannot deny that impeachment is in the air -- it has been since the 2004 election, and in the news recently. Many people (though perhaps I read too many of the right-wing pundits) have commented that the purpose is purely and cynically political, to pay back the far left pundits for putting the Democrats in control of Congress this term.

As I said in my second letter posted, the issue of impeachment really rests on whether Reid (and Pelosi) can swing one-third of the sitting Republican Senators (while holding their own caucus together, of course). Sixteen men. Getting that many to vote for impeachment is, perhaps, implausible. It is, however, far from impossible.

And what are the consequences of impeachment and the establishment of the current Speaker as President? With the US at war and emotions high, I can only foresee blood in the streets. Your "serving officer" notes his fears that Al-Qaida would not hesitate to kick us while we're down (and I'll repeat my comment about needing radiation protection gear to visit Bethlehem for Christmas 2008). Total domestic chaos and popularity numbers for the new Administration that make Bush's current numbers look astronomical. You can draw your own scenarios -- and assess their relative plausibility -- from there.

And I fear I must note that the wisest among us, by about 1951, had established the death date of the republic as 2012, and that date is coming fast. And the method of death -- an excess of insincere televangelism. Something that falls under my heading of "the end of the union."



Subj: Fertilizing the oceans with iron for carbon sequestration

A little Googling shows that this matter is scarcely new: it goes back to at least 1991, and there's been plenty of heat on both sides. There have been attempts to reconcile the conflicting claims; see, for example,


That one points out that how long the carbon *stays* fixed are at least as important as how fast it *gets* fixed, in determining whether dumping iron will reduce atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels. As of the time of the paper (2002), neither side apparently had usable measurements of how long the carbon would stay fixed, and each made a different assumption. Reminds me of the old "World Dynamics/Club of Rome" modeling exercises, in which the assumptions, not the data, drove the conclusions.

This piece is a bit old, but I think it sketches another of the issues:


=In one iron-fertilization experiment in warm equatorial waters, chlorophyll increased 30-fold in a week, and there was increased carbon sedimentation down through 100 meters. But the bloom shortly dissipated, the fate of the carbon in deeper waters wasn't followed, and long-term effects weren't measured.

In a more recent experiment in cold Antarctic Ocean waters the plankton bloom persisted much longer. Seven weeks after the experiment ended a distinct pattern of iron-fertilized plankton was still visible from space -- "which means the fixed carbon was still at the surface."

Bishop says that "people who want to add iron think the particulate matter will fall straight to the bottom; I have sampled natural plankton blooms, and I have not seen that happen. These guys have a potentially effective method of sequestering carbon, but as yet there is no scientific basis for their claims."=

Then there's this one:


=Another issue arises with the bloom of marine plant life and the availability of other nutrients. “The models indicate that, eventually, other macronutrients become depleted even as we add iron,” says Caldeira. “When that happens, the bloom falters, and the organisms are no longer taking up as much carbon as they did in the beginning.”=

Remember Lord Cherwell's calculations of the effectiveness of Area Bombing of workers' housing districts in German cities during WW2? He had an implicit assumption that the number of housing units destroyed would be proportional to the tonnage of bombs dropped, with *no* diminishing returns. If the calculations of the "Sure it'll work!" partisans are based on assumptions like *that* one, ... .

It doesn't surprise me that the answer to, "Will it work?" is still "We don't know." The oceans are big and the research ships are few and expensive to operate. The new "gliding" robotic-submarine data-collectors will help, but it'll be decades before there are enough of them, and more decades before they gather the decade-scale data needed to calibrate the models.

What does disappoint me is that both the "Will so!" and "Won't either!" scientist-partisans are so vehement.

Would not the appropriate attitude for *scientists* on both sides be, "Let's find out!"?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

If I have allowed the impression that using iron to catalyze marine blooms as a means of removing atmospheric carbon is new, that was unintentional. I wrote about this in the 1980's. I first heard of the notion from Russell Seitz, and there have been presentations at AAAS meetings.

There have been some tests of the theory but little research into developing techniques for its use.

Bad assumptions are hardly uncommon over the centuries. Bad models make for bad predictions. On the other hand, it seems reasonable to assume that something can be done: removing carbon from the atmosphere is certainly possible. The question is how can it be done efficiently (assuming we want it to be done at all: there are some advantages to warmer climates).

In any event, the answer to the questions is more experiments.


Please , Sir , may I have more Carbon Offsets ?

Dear Jerry :

Last year, an American Spectator essay ranked Nigeria as a liberal democracy because 52% of its literate citizens think highly of America.

Now it features Pat Michaels lambasting the executive summary of the IPCC global warming report for implicit racism in lowballing 21st century African economic prospects.


Russell Seitz


Subject: global warming throughout the solar system


I did a quick search on Google for global warming around the solar system. I found references global warming on other planets in the following places:


http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/pluto.html  http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Pluto_Is_Undergoing_Global_Warming.html 

Neptune's largest moon, Triton:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1998/triton.html  http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1998/23 

Maybe Neptune itself:


Maybe Jupiter:


And, of course, Mars:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html  http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070404203258.5klhwqs4&show_article=1  http://sciencenews.org/articles/20070407/fob7.asp 

Apparently the evils of Western civilization (what's left of it) and big SUV's are causing a solar system-wide catastrophe of global warming. Of course, changes in solar output have nothing at all to do with it. Not a thing.

Now I think I'll ask GM about visiting their Hummer dealership on Pluto.




All those Martian SUVs are hurting them worse than they are us...


Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from NASA say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.<snip>

Of course the article tries to postulate that this is happening by a mechanism that doesn't hamper the terrestrial anthropomorphic warming model. However, note that 0.5 C, "similar to Earth's" is in fact proportionally greater due to the lower blackbody temperature of Mars...on the other hand, the difference is well within the error bars.




And with energy all things are possible:

Subject: Fusion breakthrough from Sandia Labs, commercial viability only 20yrs away



Subject: Harding Story

I have trouble with the Harding story. Perhaps in Eastern Canada, but not here in the West.

I live in Calgary, Alberta. I have two teenaged sons. Lazy beggars both. They work as they feel like, which is not much, unless they want something. Their experience is that formal 'work search' in Alberta is meaningless at least at the lower end. Mailing of resumes, phone calls, polite letters: all nonsense.

Turn up in person looking like a worker and the employer will clap you in irons, put you to work and never let you go. The younger one went to Wal-Mart to apply at 10 one morning. Came home at 4 PM with a blue smock and days work done.

Credentials? Who cares. We have intelligent high school kids wiring and plumbing houses with the journeymen tradesmen barely having time to do the little bit of truly technical work required, inspect and sign off. I am not aware of any interjurisdictional dispute between Alberta and BC as to 'credentials'. All seem to be recognized. You want to work, turn up, and get at it.

If you mail a resume to an employer, they figure you're a wanker trying to con the compo or such a bureaucrat you'll never really work.

There are always credential problems between jurisdictions. Our civil servants are indeed complete idiots, because anyone competent is out making money. Even so, care, persistence and pressure work. As always.

Cheers, got to go, work to be done.

 Fred Zinkhofer


Hi Dr P.,

To give some credit where it's due, the professional bodies in Canada recognize the problem (of foreign credentials not being fully accepted in Canada) and are making some progress in trying to overcome it. But the hiring situation is a real problem. I suspect part of the issue is that it's not so easy to get RID of an employee once the person has been hired. Separation pay can be quite high, and awards in court for wrongful dismissal likewise. It leads to a culture of excess caution when it comes to hiring people. But also, management here is broadly, generally incompetent... it takes a whole culture to nurture managers, and there just isn't that culture.

As for not getting responses when sending resumes to Canadian employers -- hey, fully credentialed, experienced, *Canadians* don't get responses either. Any tiny little thing makes it almost impossible to get a job in this country. I've spent most of my working life self-employed because of a minor handicap that makes my resume immediately rejected by any prospective employer. I have friends who couldn't get a decent job because they were black, or had an accent, or had worked abroad for too many years, or had experience that was just a little bit "not right", or were overeducated, etc....

I don't have any solutions to this problem, but I can tell you that this culture of excessive caution is doing our economy no good. We have an excellent educational system, yet most of our best and brightest leave the country because you can't get a job here, and if you can, the taxes make it hardly worth it. The problem goes all the way to the top. Those companies that do succeed, immediately sell themselves out because it's easier than continuing to compete...



Subject: Despotic populism (mail)

The ruthlessness of despotism in Russia is illustrated by "suppression of peaceful demonstration". Well, the ruthlessness was demonstrated when Kasparov was detained for few hours and fined about $40. Russia is probably not an example of liberal democracy (and never was), but come on, victims of Stalin GULAG would be offended. Stalin USSR was ruthless despotism, current Russia -- not by a long stretch.

These are the people who were "peacefully" demonstrating, BTW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bolshevik_Party 

They were allowed to demonstrate, but did not like the allowed site.



Hello Dr. Pournelle,

In his recent message (View, April 28, 2007), Dr. Cochran is proposing tactics for withdrawal, which conflict with Ollie North's (and several military officers') opinion of the problems involved in a precipitate "cut-and-run" withdrawl along the lines proposed by Dr. Cochran. North is a decorated combat veteran, former LTC in the USMC and has spend many months running all over Iraq for Fox News. Dr. Cochran is a very smart guy who has (as far as I could Google) zero military experience and has never set foot in Iraq. Who is more likely to get it right?

Had North challenged Cochran on Cochran's opinion of the mass of the Higgs boson, I'd support Cochran because in that field he would the expert and North the amateur.

In a technical field, when even a highly intelligent amateur with little or no practical experience disagrees with a professional with years of experience, the amateur is wrong well over 99% of the time. This may be a handy literary device (e.g., when Doc Smith's Kimball Kinneson has the idea that births the sun beam) but it is frequently useful because it is an unexpected turn of events, i.e., a plot twist.

In topics like politics or statecraft, which deal more with fuzzy "people" issues, the technical issues (e.g., press contacts, campaign finance laws) are less important and the informed amateur is not at as great a disadvantage relative to the professional.

Two separate, but related, topics, which Democrats and other "pull out now" advocates seem to be avoiding, are

What post-retreat policies should be adopted?

What would the fallout from such a pullout be?

Specific questions under the first topic include:

Do we continue to support the IA logistically or do we give them only "20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man" (View, Feb. 15, 2005)? There are pros and cons to such support, and to the possibility of continued air support when required.

What other changes should we make? Perhaps a permanent Orange threat level would be in order.

The second, and much broader, topic would include answers to questions like "what if the folks who supported us have to flee an al Queda-ruled Iraq"? Would we accept them as refugees, as we did with the Vietnamese boat people? Al Queda would certainly try to insert their people into such a flood, to get them inside the USA for future operations. On the other hand, don't we have a moral obligation to these people? On the gripping hand, would any other state in the region accept them?

Another question under the second topic is whether we would see more Khomeini/Taliban type (extremist Islamic/Islamofascist) regimes pop up if we scuttle out quickly or if we take much longer to draw down our forces while the IA and Iraqi police forces get better at what they eventually have to take ownership of - control of their country. The Kucinich wing of the Democrats asserts that if we just withdraw from the region entirely and maybe sing a few kumbaya's, the Arab "street" will embrace us as brothers and the Age of Aquarius will be upon us. This ignores at least the last 50 years of history and, really, the basic nature of Isalmic extremism, which nurses grudges centuries old and kills people in the name of those grudges.

I am hoping that Dr. Cochran and the others who advocate the "cut and run" policy will address these very real issues. I believe that Dr. Cochran would agree that there are some bad people out there who want to destroy the US and who have demonstrated that they have the ability to at least hurt us very badly. That would seem to form a good foundation for the discussion.

Bill Hembree


Your anonymous correspondent is still being paranoid. He says "... we will never again have a credible conventional response;"

Never is a long time. And anyway, I think we pretty credibly removed Saddam, root and branch. You've already pointed out the lesson future despots will take from that. Anyone likely to be deterred by the prospect of a "conventional response" will be deterred a lot more effectively by a rested, re-equipped Army that's not squatting in Baghdad.

And what "follow-on major terrorist attack, even if accomplished by non-WMD means" would we be exposed to, that we aren't exposed to already? The President and his people like to imply that the Occupation in Iraq is preventing terrorist attacks here, but that's nonsense. If OBL and party had a usable plan for another 9/11 or worse, our being in Iraq would not stop them from using it.

I think your correspondent is scaring himself with talk of impeachment. The Republicans made such a cheap farce of the last one that I don't think it will be tried again for a long time. I think Pelosi and Reid have a different agenda anyway, one aimed at keeping the cameras on Administration officials testifying at hearings designed to expose the President's people as mental and moral flyweights. As for impeachment to pay back far-left pundits, that's just risible. The Republicans lost Congress because 1) they put a bunch of crooks in charge, some of whom got caught, and 2) people started getting sick of hearing, every three months or so, that the Occupation was going to start turning out just peachy in another three months or so.

Even though I'm a Democrat, I wasn't too upset by Kerry losing in '04, and not just because I didn't find Kerry very inspiring. Had Bush lost then, he would have completely escaped responsibility for the inevitable debacle in Iraq, and for 30 years we'd be hearing that W coulda won it, had we just kept him as President. At least we'll be spared that now.



Dr. Pournelle,

Of all the arguments that I have I have heard over what the US should do about Iraq, one issue that I have heard little about is the effect on the reputation of the United States as an ally. We eventually sold out South Vietnam for political convenience. We exited Somalia after losing a platoon of troops. We encouraged uprisings against Sadaam, then sat on our hands as they were ruthlessly put down.

If the US exits Iraq now, why would any ally ever take seriously a US "commitment" to security?

I suppose it doesn't matter to those who believe that the concept of honor is a quaint and impractical notion.

Steve Chu


Subject: Regarding your second point: a heavy cost in US credibility of commitment


When I read your second point, I found myself wondering: Who else in the world has any kind of credibility of commitment? Certainly not our former NATO allies. Leaders and citizens of those liberal, socialized democracies certainly understand the limits of commitments made by elected leaders. Communist or formerly communist countries? Authoritarian governments like those in Egypt, or Pakistan, or Syria? Mostly a treacherous lot, often ruling without much popular support, and often quite willing to compromise principle for money or personal advantage. Certainly the commitments of those countries can only last as long as the dictator that made the commitment. Any promise is one coup away from being overturned. Authoritarian Islamic regimes? They seem as treacherous and self serving as any secular authoritarian regime. So will the rest of the world really be all that surprised or disappointed to find out that we aren't any better than they are?

I suppose we all have buried in our psyche some longing for leaders cut in the mold of the mythical King Arthur: courageous, wise, and true to their word. But is this a realistic standard, or one that has been demonstrated that much in the past? The NATO alliance did seem to hold together pretty well through the cold war, but was that so much the willingness of countries to stick to commitments, or was it more the confluence of obvious self interest? Even in the big wars of our own past (US civil war, WWI, and WWII) I am of the understanding that a lot of effort went into controlling the reporting of the war so as to maintain public support for the effort. Even back then, our leaders apparently understood the limited patience of the public for prolonged war in far away places, particularly wars that weren't going all that well.

To the rest of the world, the lesson of the US involvement in Iraq may look like this: piss us off badly enough, and we will show up and break things with serious purpose. What we do after that may or may not be very sensible, but in the end we will likely choose the path that fits our own perceived short-term interest. I think that most people in the middle east already feel like the US only meddles or breaks things with a self serving objective in mind. Sticking it out in Iraq probably won't change that opinion. Neither will leaving a mess behind. Maybe all we really need going forward is credibility with regard to our willingness to show up and break things if sufficiently provoked.

CP, Connecticut

Why should we break things and kill people except in our national interest? Jacobins believe we ought to meddle in other people's affairs in order to "do good" and "help them".

Democracies historically use military force only in short campaigns, or else as all out war for survival; in which case they bring WARRE, fire bombs, nuclear weapons, death and destruction. We have a small history of small wars with little national interest in the Caribbean and Philippines. We tried Doing Good in the Balkans, with at best mixed results. We then decided to go Do Good in Iraq, with at best mixed results.

The reason one wants credibility should be obvious: deterrence is impossible without it. Had Clinton been more vigorous in response to the first World Trade Towers attacks, the Embassy bombings, the Cole, then states would have been a great deal more reluctant to harbor our enemies.

Removal of the Taliban in response to 9/11 increased our credibility. The war in Mesopotamia does not seem to have done so.



You may well be correct in pointing out that Iraq is not a nation. However, I suspect in the world as it exists today, Iraq cannot long avoid becoming a nation.

The question is, whose?

And whose (for the sake of our and everyone else's safety) do we want it to be?

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


Subject: RE A failure in generalship


Mr. Dobbins recently sent in a pointer to an article on Colonel Yingling. While many of the recommendations in Yingling's article (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2635198)  strike me as sound (more Congressional oversight of the promotion process for flag-ranking officers, including reviews by subordinates and peers in the review process), this bit of credentialism caught my attention:

"Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer's potential for senior leadership."

It makes sense to me that a solid understanding of nations and realpolitik is essential to a flag-ranked officer, so he's got a point, but the presumption that a graduate degree in the social sciences is necessary or sufficient proof of this understanding is somewhat... jarring. However, the article as a whole is worth reading.

-Max Wilson

-- Be pretty if you are, be witty if you can, But be cheerful if it kills you.

Everything in Windows is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. -Clausewitz

The notion of the officer corps being compulsorily subjected to even more of the psychobabble of the Voodoo Sciences is horrifying; and I can think of nothing that would be more effective in producing a pro-coup mentality among the warriors. It is a ghastly notion with absolutely no mitigating advantages.

General officers should be former combat leaders with the ability to get men to go up the hill.

We used to say that if you do not trust an officer with troops you put him in intelligence, and if he mucks that up entirely you give him public relations. There is some truth in that old maxim. Sending officers to sensitivity training and social science certainly does not increase his ability to handle troops.


Subject: Kurds and way

Dear Jerry:

It is the Kurds themselves who say they have no friends. A difficult people, but a practical one. If we could find a way to perpetuate the current situation, sans the suicide bombers, we might be able to base a permanent force there much as we did in Germany. Not so much as an occupation force as a presence.

The Pesmerga might form the basis of a constabulary acceptable to Sunnis and Shia alike, much like the Sikh policeman I saw when I was In Kuala Lumpur. He was not of there, but everyone respected his authority simply because he was so alien. If "Kurdistan" acquires a status much like Taiwan, as a balance point between adversaries, then peace might yet prevail. As long as Kurdish independence is not formally acknowleged, the Turks will go along. It would be up to the Kurds to accept this reality as preferable to yet another war and subsume their nationalism to real progress.


Francis Hamit

The Athenians used slave archers from the Steppes as domestic police. The Israelis used to employ the Druze as police and security forces, with considerable success, before the policies changed.

And of course Saladin the Great was a Kurd, and united the Arab world against the Third Crusade.


" a) if conventional warfare program in Iraq fails, we will have to face the political consequences of having our foreign policy dictated by the Islamofascists, or of using the nuclear threat for triflings, since we will never again have a credible conventional response; and that (b) some parts of a balkanized US might be easy pickings for them after we tear ourselves apart. "

None of this makes any sense at all. First, about that bit about our foreign policy being dictated by the Islamofascists.. Now exactly how is that supposed to happen? Let's suppose that Bin Laden smuggles a tape out of the Northwest Provinces of Pakistan tell us that we have to change our border policy, or revalue our currency, or pull troops out of Dubai.... whatever Why would we have to do what he said? I'm genuinely puzzled as to why you think this. There's aren't many people who could be described as Islamofascists - and the few that exist have hardly any power. Less power than Burkina Faso, a country you've never even heard of, and that's not just a joke. Yet they keep you from sleeping at night - why? I hate to be harsh about this, but it makes you seem like a nut.

And, for your information, there are lots of conventional responses other than long-term infantry occupation. .. although it's hardly clear what it is you think we need to respond to. We have an Air Force: maybe you didn't know that? We have absolute air superiority and JDAMS: we can blow up up about any visible above-ground target you care to mention. That doesn't solve every problem but the option is certainly available.

As for impeachment - I'm a sixth generation straight-ticket Republican - and I think it's a wonderful idea. I think there's more chance of it happening that people think - mainly because of likely side effects of various unraveling scandals. For example, there's a real chance that we'll find out who had those Niger-uranium documents forged: there's a reasonable chance that the trail will lead to Cheney, and that'd be more fun than I deserve. Bush couldn't have caused us more trouble if he were an enemy agent. Judge them by their fruits, I say. He's injured the country - casually, carelessly. That's unforgivable.

As for tearing ourselves apart - last I looked, Bush had a 28% approval rating. I would say that he has more opposition among competent national security professionals than any previous President. There is a reason that none of his own hand-picked Joint Chiefs agreed with the 'surge'. There is a _reason_ that the War College has repeatedly argued that the Iraq War was and is ridiculous.. Batiste refused the number-two job in Iraq for a _reason_. There is a _reason_ that all five retired four-star generals who were offered the War Czar position refused it - imagine, refusing a theater command.

Gregory Cochran


Smoking Gun found in Hurricane Alley

Sometimes we forget that in addition to being a thousand times denser than air, water has an equally disproportionate heat capacity. Since hurricanes are heat engines par excellence, the water temperature of their tracks is a major determinant of how their danger evolves.

A new kind of hyperspectral satellite image , graphing the composite product of water temperature and- get this-- sea surface elevation due to warm water buoyancy -- all too vividly reveals the answer to why, apart from the Doc d'Orleans dubious taste in development property, the Big Easy went went glug glug:

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/05/a_wet_affair_in.html <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/05/a_wet_affair_in.html

Russell Seitz




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Subject: The Islam discussion

You wrote:

"a lot of people think that the Moslem world is a strategic threat.

By strategic threat, you mean the ability to levy tribute on the US; to conquer some part of our country; to impose sharia on the people of the US. And clearly they have no such ability."

[That turns out not to be the case.]

Tribute: payments to Egypt, in return for which the Egyptian state-controlled media discusses how 9-11 was a Jewish plot. Payments to the Palestinians, in return for which the Palestinian Imams decree that all Americans and Jews must die. And if the payments appear to be in question, the West gets told that the money needs to keep coming or else things will really get blown up.

To conquer part of the country: Sheikh Gilani Lane, by Jamaat al-Fuqra in Charlotte County Courthouse, VA. Sheikh Gilani of course was the guy responsible for the Daniel Pearl murder. Why is an American road named after him? Because the people who live there gave in on the name out of fear. Other such places exist, this is the one that has gotten some publicity, and only because some "crazy" people live nearby and dislike it. Has anybody actually gone looking to see how many such compounds there are in this country?

To impose sharia: Jamaat al-Fuqra again, the Minneapolis cabbies, the Minneapolis cashier who wouldn't scan pork, Muslim-only prayer rooms supplied by businesses with Muslim employees while other religious views make do with nothing.

The last two points have progressed much farther in Europe, where entire neighborhoods are acknowledged to be Muslim-only zones, police no-go zones, sharia areas, with recognized sharia courts, even pools with Muslim-only hours. What is fundamentally different about the US that will prevent such things? The gun culture? It's already weakest in areas where liberalism and multiculturalism - and thus Islam - are strongest. It may preserve itself; it won't preserve the whole country.

The British and French militaries haven't been able to stop that. What foolishness possesses you to think the US military will do any better? It isn't a military question, it's a societal one - until and unless the societal one gets resolved in favor of "WARRE". But when and how the societal one is answered has a very great influence on the nature and outcome of the military one. Things may come to the point where the military DOES stop it, but at that point it'll be a vicious civil war, probably a genocidal one, against an entrenched population.

Mr. Cochran may require that the bullet have left the muzzle of the gun before he believes in a threat. Others do not agree: when someone says they want to kill me, I think it only fair to take them at their word. I only wish he and those who think like him had their own country to run his experiments on, rather than risking mine.

Actually, I bet that sentiment is mutual.

Kent Peterson urquan@rocketmail.com

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_

Your point is well made, but the tribute we pay and the other matters you mention are things we do to ourselves. They are not imposed on us by force; at least not by any force we cannot negate at will. That we do not have the will is another matter.

You are of course correct in pointing out that things have gone a great deal further in Europe.


I know exactly what I'm talking about. I read history. I even read the papers. I also know the basic geopolitical facts. I have no reason to think that any of those things are true of Ollie North. An expert whose predictions never come true is no expert: Ollie is therefore no expert. Look at what I've posted on this site (and other sites) over the past five years. What I said came to pass: you can hate it all you want, but it came to pass.

The typical _general_, which Ollie is not, reads Bassmaster Magazine rather than military history. I read a fair amount. I think that a good citizen needs to understand how such things work, since we certainly can't depend on the bloody politicians. I would guess that my _daughter_, a junior in high school, has a better background in military history than Ollie.

We had little trouble ( i.e. less than 150 KIA) invading Iraq when they still had a raggedy-ass conventional army: withdrawal today, when they don't have a tank to piss in, would be easier than that.

Gregory Cochran


Subject: Cochran on general officers

Dear Jerry:

"The typical general reads Bassmaster magazine rather than military history?" I have to disagree. There are three things you need to be a general in the US Army these days. Airborne and/or pilots badges, a Ranger tab and a Ph.D. Usually in International Relations or Strategy or similar topic. The Army pays the tuition. i.e. Tommy Franks only looked like a dumb Texas cracker. He had all of these attributes. We have the most intelligent and best educated military in the world. Officers all have to have college degrees now and most career NCOs get them at Army expense.


Francis Hamit


Joel Rosenberg on strategic progress:

 Jizya reprieve in Minneapolis

I'm finding the Gregory Cochran commentary and response interesting, and I think that Kent Peterson and you have pointed to the core of the dispute -- what is a strategic threat? In terms of being able to inflict or threaten to promptly inflict horrible physical damage on the US, there's one country in the Muslim world that has that capability now: Pakistan. And while, in one sense, threat is more a matter of capability than intention, intention is part of capability -- we don't worry about a nuclear attack from our UK or Israeli allies or our French non-allies, and deterrence seems to be working very well with our Russian and Chinese unfriends.

Your point that the jizya (a term I'm using deliberately and slightly inaccurately) we pay and don't pay here in the US is a matter of will rather than submission to force is well-taken, but . . .

. . . but submission because of a lack of will is submission nonetheless. And submission is different than accommodation.

And, on that, I've some positive news to report, on what in saner times would have been a quickly and easily handled matter, that turned into a huge controversy locally: the attempt of the loose alliance of Somali cabdrivers to impose sharia on travelers at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport has failed dramatically -- the Metropolitan Airports Commission, beginning next week, will yank a driver's airport license for 30 days for the first refusal of service, and two years for the second violation.

The importance of this, of course, is entirely symbolic (for those who want to bring a bag containing booze home with them from the airport; it's rather more important for people with guide dogs, who were also repeatedly refused service); a passenger could simply have tucked the bottle of wine in a suitcase. But what's interesting -- to me -- is how much of a consensus, outside of CAIR and similar groups, there was against the cabdrivers, even in Minneapolis (if you think of Minneapolis as Berkeley with parkas, you'll have a close approximation of the politics).

Might be a sea change. We'll see; the next symbolic controversy is over foot basins, of all things -- several Muslim groups have demanded that a local public technical school put in foot basins for the ritual washing of feet that many Muslims perform before daily prayers.

best to all,


-- Joel Rosenberg http://twincitiescarry.com  http://joel-rosenberg.com 

"Miscellaneous is always the largest category." -- Walter Slovotsky


Rosenbergs rebuttal:)

Rosenberg's Rebuttal?

Oh my! Surely Mr R can do better? If we omit the name calling we are left with very little indeed. But let us try and gather it up.

He refers us to this: http://www.jcrc.org/israel/p3l/P3L-Review.pdf  <http://www.jcrc.org/israel/p3l/P3L-Review.pdf

UNSC 242 calls for the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” It does not say the or all the territories occupied in 1967.

Well of course that means that the resolution doesn't call for Israeli withdrawal at all, doesn't it? What it really means is that Israel may give up some of the territories. If it wants to. Through negotiations. Anyone can see that.

The producers use the unremarkable interpretation of 242, it just means what it says. Mr. R prefers a rather more nuanced interpretation.

Occam's razor favors the Film's interpretation of the meaning of 242, does it not?

Then we have some name-calling; the BBC is biased. Skip that. Then something non- germaine about "Pallywood", skip that. Then a guilt by association argument about Said, skip. Well back up, there is a substantive argument: the failure of the Israeli Agitprop Machine to show a favorite video of his on US TV proves there is no Israeli Agitprop Machine. So let me get this right, all Mr. R need do is find one omission and he thinks himself to have shot down the evidence, nay, the ADMISSION by Israel that it does indeed engage in an important PR effort in the US?

Well let us move on. We were made to wait till Mr. R was nearly halfway done before we were served up the mandatory accusation of Anti-Semitism:

"As to the filmmakers finding the hands of the Elders of Zion everywhere, again, no surprise. "

Indeed not.

Well that's about it really. The rest is mostly Mr. R explaining how its all the Palestinian's fault anyway. But how does that address the argument that the film makes about the one sided, anti-Palestinian presentation of the US press? Has Mr. R succeeded in contesting even one argument made by the producers of the film? Has he even tried?

M  H

If you are trying to establish that neither side in this conflict has any devotion to the presentation of truth, I thought we all started with that assumption. Naturally Joel begins with sympathy for his relatives in Israel; just as I begin with sympathy for co-religionists in that region. I publish your letter without your name (although you signed it) because I fear it adds little to the discussion, yet serves as an example of the kind of mail I get on this subject. I do not often do this.

The information coming from over there is always clipped, biased, and spun. I have reviewed a couple of books that try to show what's going on, but no one work gets it all across.

I have no solution to the Palestinian situation, but that is not relevant to the Iraqi discussion. My point in including that link was to show what 90% and more of the non-Jewish people of the Middle East (including non-Jewish citizens of Israel) believe to be the situation. At least 80% of US  Moslems also believe it. These are factors that must be taken into account when deciding US policy.


And a reply to Dr. Cochran

Begin with this note from me:

I haven't time to show both of you what you're doing wrong.

Cochran has no notion of what happens when the thread breaks, is it would given that kind of impeachment. At that point a large number of people in the US would lose respect for the whole system -- and those people ARE in the US, and most of them are armed.

The problem is that it really is insane to worry about the Iraqi attack on our withdrawing army. If with their whole army they couldn't manage to inflict 200 casualties -- and the largest single loss was in a convoy that got lost -- how the hell does Oliver North expect us to lose many troops when we leave? That's nuts, and someone ought to say it's nuts.

It was nuts to say that Saddam was some kind of mortal threat to the US.

It isn't nuts to say that if we come running out of there it will not have a terrible and lasting effect. That may be wrong, but it's not nuts.

But Cochran's analysis is right in this respect: anyone who did as much due diligence as you and I do in buying a car our family will ride in would have realized that there was little up side to an invasion of Iraq, and Chalabi the Thief wasn't a realiable source of information about conditions in Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was pretty thoroughly nuts because we did not have any idea of what to do once we were there. No one thought it through. And if people are capable of that much error then what are they not capable of?

But -- just because we should not be in there doesn't mean that we can just get out, and there are consequences to that. You've pointed to several.

You two keep looking at different parts of the puzzle and concluding that you're right here, so therefore...

Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor


Thanks for the clarification and the comments, and I certainly don't disagree with anything you say. I don't think I ever believed Saddam to be a mortal threat, either. In the sense of being a military (rather than psychological or political) danger to the stability of the United States.

The wild card is of course still Saddam's WMD ambitions (and whether there is relevant verified intel that is still not publicly available, something I assess with high probability). That still comes back to the distinction between "clear and present" and "grave and gathering." And a non-mortal threat with the ability to kill a few tens of thousands of our citizens, as an accomplice before the fact (presuming the "sell the bomb to Al-Qaida scenario), is still a threat to be reckoned with.

Though I am not a rabid Zionist, I do believe we have moral obligations and ties of mutual interest with Tel Aviv, and would classify standing idly by and allowing an Arab entity to obtain nuclear weapons and use them against Israel a betrayal on par with the betrayal of the South Vietnamese. Of course, it's not politically correct to say that, either. (And the fact that Israel would be censured on the world stage even for retaliating against such an attack... sickens me. Were it not for that little problem, I would gleefully let them have the reigns, though events of last summer have left me some question of the wisdom of that. Of course, they were also suffering their attacks of political correctness...)

I can't buy the arguments that there were no ties between Saddam and Al-Qaida. Perhaps Saddam and bin Laden were not the best of buddies and were actually at odds on most issues (and the sectarian violence on the ground there now is certainly evidence of how intensely they might have been at odds), they also had a shared interest in destroying Israel and giving the US a black eye -- which as we know takes precedence over sectarian differences in Islamic cultures. Also, if Saddam's infamous hijackers training camp was anywhere in the chain of preparations for 9-11, I have to consider it, and him, a legitimate target on that basis.

And for the "Ah, Saddam tried to kill his daddy and the President wanted to get even" argument/criticism? A Kennedy would have ordered Saddam's assassination in return (which might have failed embarrassingly, but...). A Roosevelt (choose one) or Truman would have stomped HARD. Clinton tried to pretend it didn't happen, making it one more link in the chain that convinced Al-Qaida that the "sleeping Giant" was in a coma.

Well, if we weren't before, we shortly will be. From hitting ourselves in the head.

I also still buy Friedman's contention that the invasion was a justifiable and bold strategy to reshape a Middle East which could not be swayed by Al-Qaida and other religious-based threats to world stability without a return to colonialism and the "my strongman" vs. "his strongman" kingmaking that helped ferment this problem. And that the failure of that strategy owes equally to the Administration's blunders in how to involve the Iraqi's short term (e.g. keeping the Iraqi army intact in the short term as a unified stabilizing force) and the domestic Opposition's constant erosion of the Administrations' authority. But if the US has now snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, it has been that Opposition which has been leading that effort. Whatever the flaws of the Administration's strategy, it was focused on making a "nuclear 9-11" impossible based on the best information available at the time (with the side benefit of making a similar attach on any of our allies equally impossible). After four years of morale-eroding war and the ceaseless harping of the Opposition, that advantage will shortly be gone forever, as we have no believable moral authority and no leverage left to confront Iran.

I think I need to go into the radiation protective clothing for Christian pilgrims to the middle east business. And hope that destroying Tel Aviv will quiet the mullahs until my retirement. (In early 2009 after President Clinton pulls the plug on various defense programs, of course.) And pray my son has the chance to be buried next to his parents and six generations of ancestors in whole, and not as a few settling pieces of glowing dust, or short a head from some violation of the Dhimmi laws.

[I think perhaps in the case of this memo you should note that the last paragraph included some intentional exaggeration for effect (well, it almost started ME crying after I realized what I had typed...). I haven't drunk that much of the kool-aid that Dr. Cochran believes I've been drinking (yet).

But to the extent that I have any ability to help shape future events it gives a very precise image of what I hope to prevent, and the possibility seems far too real to completely ignore. And to the extent that I respect the material authored by St. John the divine of Patmos, I might add a line about the inevitability of bleached bones on the plain of Megiddo.]

And now I have to go write a chapter of Inferno. We are at the Bolgia of Deceivers. ========


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dr. Cochran responds.

To Frances Hamit:

Someone has misinformed you. Tommy Franks, after dropping out of the University of Texas after two years, enlisted in the Army. In 1969, he was selected to participate in the Army's "Boot Strap Degree Completion Program," and subsequently attended the University of Texas, Arlington, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1971. In 1984, He attended the Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he also completed graduate studies and received a Master of Science Degree in Public Administration at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

No Ph.D, and the degrees he did receive were not in international relations or strategy. There are generals with the sort of educational record you describe - not Tommy though. There are plenty of smart Texas crackers: I don't think many people who looked closely at his performance in Iraq think he's one of them.

Now Ricardo Sanchez was probably dumber. "Lt. Gen. Sanchez's professional education includes the Armor Officer basic and advanced courses, the Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and history from Texas A&I University and a master's degree in operations research and systems analysis engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. " Again, no Ph.D and no evidence of special training in history or international relations. And an Aggie, to boot. Even though his peers thought that he shouldn't have been promoted above battallion commander, Sanchez got the Iraq command. I'd say it was a case of affirmative action.

A lot of the current crop of generals came in at the low point of the Army in the 1970s and it shows. Is real intellectual interest in war common among them? Not according to Thomas Ricks, and I've certainly never seen any evidence of it.

As for your unnamed correspondent: still crazy. The idea that the Administration has evidence (' relevant verified intel') that would really support the notion that Saddam had an advanced weapons program - evidence too secret to release _now_ - why would be that be so? Is Bush testing our faith? There was certainly no nuclear program going on: anyone with the right technical skills could figure that out in an hour, from publicly available information. _I_ did - it was posted here back in the fall of 2002.

As for Saddam's infamous hijacker's camp - I presume you've referred to Salman Pak? It wasn't a hijacker camp, or so the CIA has concluded. They used that old fuselage to train for _anti_-hijacking efforts, as in Mogadishu back in the 90's. Anyone can hijack a plane, but retaking it with few or no collateral losses is hard, takes training: ask the SAS.

As for that purported assassination attempt against the Bushes back in 93 - funny that nothing more has ever happened on that topic even when we've occupied Iraq for years, even when anyone with knowledge of that plot could have earned himself a green card by spilling the beans. I think the Kuwaitis were trying to keep us around and mad at Iraq: I think it never even happened.

You live in a fog of misinformation. I blame the Internet: it speeds up mythmaking.

Now to you, Jerry. Thanks on most points. Note we're talking about impeaching a President who did not show due diligence when it came to war - we agree on that. Not as much due diligence as we would invest in a new car. As for the thread breaking - well, I've been monitoring public response for several years now. I think that a lot of people thought that there _must_ be a comprehensible reason for invading Iraq - so they invented various reasons. They had to, since all the official reasons disintegrated. The alternative was conceding that the government of the United States, _their_ government, staffed by their partisans, by those they for some reason thought were their kind of people, was deranged. So myths grew by popular demand - myths like the idea that there's evidence proving the Administration right that somehow can't be revealed. Myths compounded by general ignorance: most in _Congress_, including the past and current heads of the House Intelligence Committee, have no real knowledge of the situation, can't say whether Al-Qaeda is Sunni or Shi'ite. And the average voter knows even less than the average Congressman.

My position on impeachment can best be illustrated by a parable. A young sailor, on leave in Hong Kong, contracts a virulent and apparently incurable venereal disease. Navy doctors, including specialists, tell him that only amputation can save his life He begins a desperate search for some kind of alternative medicine: finally hears of a wise old Chinese herbalist that will have the answer if anyone does. After a long trek into the Oriental boonies, he finds this sage, describes his condition, and begs for help. And the sage has the answer: " Those Western doctors, dey don't know nothing. No need to amputate ! Wait two, three weeks, he fall off all by himself. "

Gregory Cochran

The usual punch line is "No, no, no chop off! Wait two weeks. Dlop off." But I suppose that is considered racist now.

When we begin to depose presidents, it's hard to stop. It certainly has been for most countries.

Certainly the incoming Chairman of the Intelligence Committee did not know the difference between Sunni and Shia, and indeed thought bin Laden was Shiite. One hopes the staff is better informed. Of course Tenent came from the Democratic staff of the Intelligence Committee.

The fact is that neither you nor I was elected President. It is one thing to question a decision of this magnitude. It is another to try to thwart the national authority even when one disagrees. I don't know what unpleasant consequences will come of staying in Iraq or of hastily pulling out. I do know that breaking threads in a republic has always led to empire, usually by way of proscriptions. We have a mechanism for replacing the President. It is called elections. Deposing presidents by other means turns the US into an entirely different kind of nation.


A few additional random thoughts . . .

In looking over my own response to the pro-Palestinian video, it appears that I avoided the major issue that you directly addressed, and repeated again in your rather restrained response to the, err, differently-clued MH: that, to paraphrase, throughout the Arab/Moslem world, the masses believe this stuff, and that US policy with regard to Iraq needs to take that into account.

I think you're correct in the sense that you would be if you were to say that the Grand Canyon appears unsmall when compared to a VW microbus.

I think the problem is much broader and deeper: I think that on balance (and while there are certainly both many individual and some group exceptions) the Arab/Moslem world is, to put it not particularly gently, crazy -- drooling, howling-at-the-moon, gibbering, capering, shaving-its-private-parts-with-a-Ginsu knife crazy -- and that the anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, and anti-US paranoia is the easiest demonstration of that, and US policy with regard to all of it has to take that into account.

Yup, the Arab/Moslem masses believe horrible, untrue things not just about Jews and Israelis, but about the US and the West, and collectively exhibit both a sense of inferiority and foiled superiority (not exactly unusual among individual paranoids), and while curing their mass insanity is neither the business nor within the capabilities of the US, the fact and nature of their insanity has very serious policy implications, and not just in terms of what to do about Iraq, in the futility of granting concessions to the kleptocratic death cult in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in pushing for democratic reform in the Saudi entity, and/or mourning the death of the ephemeral Cedar Revolution.

As to Iraq, as I've been saying for quite literally years, now, one implication is obvious: solving the problem of Kurdistan -- and the problem of Iraqi Kurdistan is, at present, largely solved -- is in the US's interests, not simply because collectively they are capable of being friendly to the US -- although they are -- but because they are a distinct ethnic group in the Muslim world that is collectively not drooling, howling-at-the-moon, gibbering, capering, shaving-its-private-parts-with-a-Ginsu knife crazy; that they actually seem to be capable of managing their own affairs responsibly and successfully, and their survival and success has its own beneficial implications, not just for them, but for the rest of us.

-- Joel Rosenberg http://twincitiescarry.com http://joel-rosenberg.com

"Miscellaneous is always the largest category." -- Walter Slovotsky

There certainly seems to be a tendency in the Muslim world to believe in magic. They don't think of it as magic, of course: it's the Will of Allah, which can bring about anything; counting airplanes and tanks hardly matters.

Also note that while Hamas appears to be a kleptocratic death cult -- and the Palestinian Authority before it certainly was such -- not everyone in Judea and Samaria subscribes to it. I know nothing of Gaza, never having been there, but I know many Christian Arabs in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and in the Galilee, and they have communications with the Muslims. Israel could have made an alliance with the Christians of both the original Israel and in Judea and Samaria after the War, but chose not to do so, and over the years Christians in the area -- those who didn't choose simply to get out -- have identified with the Muslims. It was quite a trick, driving the Christians into common cause with their former oppressors. And while I have no reliable statistics, I am personally aware of a reasonably large number of Moslem Arabs in Judea and Samaria who are not stark raving mad. Not that this matters: they aren't going to be governing anything. Most of the Muslim charity that flows into Judea and Samaria and Gaza goes through the kleptocratic death cultists. Of course the Israeli government puts many barriers in the way of charity to Israeli Christians. In some cases I am aware of it took the personal intervention of the US Secretary of State.

My point is that no one seems to be encouraging the reasonable people in the area.

You are already aware of my views on last summer's war in Lebanon: the Israeli response to the initial provocative act of terror was not merely disproportionate but a major blunder. Bombing the Lebanese infrastructure in the capital (and Lebanese Army bases) made sense as part of a campaign to expel Hezbollah from Lebanon, but not as simple retaliation. It served no strategic purpose and was counter productive to Israeli interests. If the Israelis had continued the attacks and actually cleared all or a major part of Lebanon of Hezbollah, it would have been a different story.

The real question is, what best serves the US national interest: continued involvement in Mesopotamia, or withdrawal? I do not consider this question settled.


Dear Jerry:

A most excellent discussion on Iraq and the Iraq Options available to us as a country. I applaud you for getting Dr. Cochran and Mr. Rosenberg to share such valid – if different opinions. Thank you, discussions like this make the yearly subscription fee a bargain.

(1)It appears to me that the most sane people in that part of the country are the Israeli's, who are also probably armed with nuclear weapons. Given that, it would seem a good thing to retain them as our allies and support them in any reasonable fashion against the Muslim aggression they face.

(2)Conversely, the Muslim population and especially their leadership seem to be the least sane of all peoples in the region. It makes sense to do everything possible to prevent them from obtaining or using nuclear weapons. (Or other similar types of weapons.)

In relation to Iraq then, we seem to have destabilized the country and the people quite throughly. They will not be able to present a threat to us, or to Israel for quite some number of years. I do not think it our responsibility to aid the people of Iraq in rebuilding their country, epecially so when those same people present active opposition to us.

The same is true of the Palestinians; it is not our responsibility, nor is it Israel's, to rebuild them or find them homes. Nobody owes them anything, and charity is short from their Muslim brothers.

Given all the above as true (I believe it so, but I am far from an expert) then it seems an immediate or quick withdrawal from Iraq or U.S. troops is not only the right thing to do, but the best thing to do as well. It is win/win for us and Israel, and well as our other allies in the region and Europe.

I am at a loss to understand what we could possibly loose by doing so, other than Oil revenues that we are not getting anyway. Troops? I do not think that theory credible. Prestige? I do not think that would be lost either. After all, people always try to blame the rich or successful person for their problems, and America would be in exactly that position. It looks like nations engage in that non-sane behavior as well. Anyone (non-American) who wants to make an issue of prestige can take it up with the legions.

That is, with the sole exception of the loss of political power for the neo-con alliance here in the U.S. They will suffer a blow to their agenda, financial goals, and in many cases, their personal pride or egos. (Think Frum here.) Perhaps some of the far left people would gain a measure of power and promote their non-sane agendas, but we have survived that before. In fact we have survived excesses on both the left and the right many times before in our history. We shall do so again.

-Paul Raulerson


Subject: Iron Fertilization

Dear Jerry,

I can remember the knee jerk reaction of the oceanographers in the mid 1980s to the initial proposals of iron fertilization as a possible method for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. I received a copy of the letter addressed to the members of a professional society that I belonged to at that time expressing the horror and indignation regarding this idea to "tamper" with the ocean.

I haven't tracked this issue recently (my only involvement recently has been to edit papers from colleagues in Japan related to this issue) but my understanding is that we need much more data before we can get a good handle on the cost, effectiveness and possible adverse effects.

Also, the link below is to an article by Gregg Easterbrook entitled "Global Warming: Who loses - and Who Wins? I think that his thoughts are in agreement with yours on this aspect of the issue.


I agree with the comments that you made a few weeks ago about the types of measures that we should be taking and why, 200 new nuclear power plants would go a long way towards addressing national security and addressing the global warming issue.

Best regards,



Subject: Fusion breakthrough from Sandia Labs, commercial viability only 20yrs away


Uh, not to be too much of a wet blanket, but isn't it always twenty years away?

The thing about SPS satellites: they re twenty years away in solid, predictable engineering terms (guaranteed, just "greenlight": their design and construction today and in twenty years you can close all of the oil terminals and retire the coal miners), not in "blue-sky" theory terms.

Fusion power is like the Torch Ship "Lewis and Clark" in Heinlein's "Tomorrow the Stars": when it got to it's destination after a couple of centuries of Earth time, it was greeted by a faster than light ship that left Earth the day before it arrived. I expect the first practical fusion plant to be greeted by yawns and the roar of vast herds of pundits trying to figure out what we will do with all the "extra" power now that power sat's have the entire globe lit up like a Christmas tree. If that isn't the case, we're going to be too busy trying to figure out how to make stone axes to ever have the time to bother about getting the first fusion plant up and running. We don't have time to wait ANOTHER "twenty years" for this particular slice of "pie in the sky". There's real "pie" up there, in the form of sunlight. Let's go for it, already.

Solar power Satellites: today, tomorrow and forever. Screw fusion, screw the physicists who have been playing with it for 60 years, and screw OPEC too.

Oh, and screw anyone who thinks the USA will tear itself apart over a bunch of Middle Eastern scumbags ripping each other apart. To those drunk on this particular fantasy, i recommend the sober cure of a little history reading in how these United States weathered a real crisis in the 1860s sometime.

Hell, an invading army once captured and burned our capital city to he ground, and we not only survived, it's barely a blip in our history books.

Some people have no sense of history, reality OR perspective. But they ARE entertaining..

Just don't take them as more than entertainment.

Or elect the entertaining to high office. Again.


Well, it has been twenty years away since 1960 to my certain knowledge...


Subject: Luddites or copperheads

Jerry It seems after all that there really is nothing new under the sun. I ran across this first link while looking for something else and was fascinated by the resemblance of the Peace Democrats of 1860 to the ones of today.


Then with some further digging using the subject matter from there, "copperhead democrat" I found this one that crosses the T's and dots the i's most of the way.


While GW is no Lincoln it seems that the opposition both have faced has not changed their stripes in many a long year. Even the arguments that today’s copperheads' use are almost word for word to the ones used by their ancestors of 150 years ago. It now makes me wonder if the leaders of this nation during the Revolution and the war of 1812 faced the same collaborationist with the enemy opposition Lincoln and Bush have faced.

-- James Early Long Beach, CA


Subject: 'Officers all have to have college degrees now and most career NCOs get them at Army expense.'

'Officers all have to have college degrees now and most career NCOs get them at Army expense.'

And what have we to show for it?

Yes, Gens. MacArthur, Patton, & Abrams were all West Point graduates (and Gen. MacArthur was its commandant); but the service academies were very different places in those days, concentrating upon the knowledge and skills necessary to be a leader of men, not the watered- down, politically-correct, morally lax cesspits they've become in recent decades. Gen. Puller attended VMI, but not Annapolis; Adm. Halsey attended Annapolis, but again, it was a different place in those days, with a different purpose (i.e., turning out warriors who were also leaders of men). Neither Gen. Yeager nor Maj. Murphy attended college or preparatory school at all.

Where is their like to be found in today's military? Yes, Gen. Petraeus is a smart man - but, apparently, not as smart as he is ambitious.

- Roland Dobbins

You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.

-- Leon Trotsky

I seem to recall that we got some pretty good junior officers from high school ROTC and the 90-day Wonder schools. A few went on to be senior officers. I am not at all convinced that college education is a prerequisite for the officer corps of a republic, particularly its National Guard, but it is worth debating.

If we do decide to become an empire with semi-permanent overseas forces governing without the consent of the governed, we will almost certainly have to relax the college education requirement, or cheapen the notion of college education to the point of meaninglessness (assuming it hasn't been already). We are going to need occupation forces and lots of them.


Subject: Military to investigate coal-derived diesel fuel


It looks like the military and Baard Energy could pair up to convert coal into diesel using the FP process, just like the Germans

I'm glad to see that the military is interested because it could help with first-of-a-kind costs. I would imagine that subsequent follow-on plants would cost less, and I am sure that West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Montana are all interested in developing fuel from coal!

Sincerely, Jim Laheta


Subj: Coming to iPod: Princeton University's audio archives


=Princeton University has, for the better part of a decade, made available its public lectures via streaming audio, and sometimes video, on its Web site. But in the past year, following a national trend throughout colleges and universities, the University has started releasing a major portion of its public lectures recorded over the past decade as Podcasts, or mp3 formatted audio suited for an iPod or other mp3 players.=

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


“It is a situation that is not sustainable or desirable.”


-- Roland Dobbins


Re: Rosenberg's Rebuttal

Dr. Pournelle,

If I understand your comment you object that my response to Mr. R's rebuttal is not germane to the Iraqi Question. Forgive me Sir, but neither was Mr. R's rebuttal.

Michael Hayes


Subject: A Step Further Out - Solar Powered Ocean Turbine

Dear Dr. Pournelle

I once owned (& have long since misplaced) a copy of your book “A Step Further Out” which I remember included an article about a solar-powered turbine that utilized the temperature difference between ocean surface & deep water temperatures. I think one of the main pollutants was fish, caused by currents generating algae growth. Is this still considered a viable technology & is this information still available anywhere? I ask because I have just finished reading James Lovelock’s “The revenge of Gaia” which discusses both the role of ocean algae in cloud formation & the possibility of offsetting global warming by generating increased Marine Stratus cloud cover & I would like to pass this information on to him if possible, in case he is unaware of it.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Lee

It is called Ocean Thermal, and a demonstration plant was successfully built off the Big Island in Hawaii. It works. It's not cheap, and there is the problem of turning the electricity into something that can be transported. Of course another pollutant is plankton blooms (the cold bottom water is rich in nutrients; most of the ocean is desert) which means extracting CO2 from the water and atmosphere.

As to STEP FARTHER OUT: a PDF copy is in preparation, and will be available to patron subscribers for download in about a month. Another benefit of subscription. ==========

Subject: Middle Eastern History


Here is a question to ponder.

Why, almost 60 years after the founding of Israel, are there still Arab refugees , but essentially no Jewish refugees?

It does not seem to be germane to this question whether Jews or Arabs were forced to leave their homes after 1948 or they left voluntarily.

The answer to this question may lead to a better understanding of the current situation and possible solutions.

Bob Holmes

It is a relevant question, and of course the answer is that when Israel was founded, the Moslem states forced most of the Jews out (not all did, but many did); these were resettled in Israel. Arabs who fled Israel (for whatever reason, and some of those reasons were brutal: the Stern Gang (called Lehi in some accounts) in particular used "any means necessary") were kept in camps, not given accommodation in other countries.

The Arab states held that Israel did not exist, and therefore there was no reason to assimilate Palestinian refugees. That logic seems to have been refuted by events on the ground, but it is still the official theory of many there.

It is no part of my business to come up with solutions to the Arab Israeli conflict. It is important in the Middle East, and impacts US national interests there, but it is not our job to solve that problem.


Subject: Impeachment

Gregory Cochran thinks we should impeach President Bush for not doing "due diligence" before going into Iraq. If so, we should retroactively impeach President Clinton for not doing "due diligence" before going into the Balkans. Oh, wait, I forgot: that only applies to Republicans, doesn't it?

Joe Zeff

As you well know, I didn't want us meddling in the Balkans any more than I wanted us in Iraq. I wasn't in favor of the first Gulf War, although it turned out better than I expected it to. I would rather invest in energy technology.


Subject: Impeachment and breaking the thread


I'm having a hard time understanding your comment about impeachment "breaking the thread." Could you write something explaining this a bit?

Is the concern here that impeachment might start to be used as a way to turn a majority in congress into control of the white house? Or that a bitter partisan struggle removing the president from office and ending the war would be especially destructive? Or that widespread cynicism about the fairness or goodness of the political system is somehow dangerous?

--John Kelsey

When impeachment becomes something to be considered routine as a part of government the thread of continuity breaks, and it can never be restored. The Andrew Johnson impeachment was not only extraordinary, but was taught in the schools as a dishonorable attempt by the Republican Congress to control the President (with the Tenure of Office Act). It was our one impeachment.

There were threats of impeachment of Nixon; to his great credit he spared the nation that ordeal, and Ford pardoned him; the absolutely proper thing for both of them to have done.

Then some political idiots decided to use the impeachment weapon against Clinton for trivial reasons. None of those matters were so urgent that they could not have waited until after he had left office. That precedent was a terrible one, and will haunt the republic until it comes to the end that that act hastened.

I don't have time to go into more detail.

The principle is this: good government is rare. It is to be cherished. When grubbing for political power takes precedence over that principle -- when lust for political power takes top priority -- then it threatens good government.


Subject: Hollywood's Missing Movies


"Total Eclipse is rated PG-13 for violence, particularly graphic in some of the mass murder scenes, images of starving infants from Stalin's 1932 forced famine in the Ukraine, and the torture of dissidents. Director Steven Spielberg ( Schindler's List) deftly cuts from the Moscow trials to the torture chambers of the Lubyanka. More controversial are the portrayals of American communists during the period of the Pact. They are shown here picketing the White House, calling President Roosevelt a warmonger, and demanding that America stay out of the "capitalist war" in Europe. Harvey Keitel turns in a powerful performance as American Communist boss Earl Browder, and Linda Hunt brings depth to Lillian Hellman, who, when Hitler attacks the USSR in September of 1939, actually did cry out, "The motherland has been invaded."

Painstakingly accurate and filled with historical surprises, this film is so refreshing, so remarkable, that even at 162 minutes it seems too short.

Never heard of Total Eclipse? It hasn't been produced or even written. In all likelihood, such a film has never even been contemplated, at least in Hollywood. Indeed, in the decade since the Berlin Wall fell, or even the decade before that, no Hollywood film has addressed the actual history of communism, the agony of the millions whose lives were poisoned by it, and the century of international deceit that obscured communist reality. The simple but startling truth is that the major conflict of our time, democracy versus Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism--what The New York Times recently called "the holy war of the 20th century"--is almost entirely missing from American cinema. It is as though since 1945, Hollywood had produced little or nothing about the victory of the Allies and the crimes of National Socialism. This void is all the stranger since the major conflict of our time would seem to be a natural draw for Hollywood."


Subject: And the Palestinians wonder?


"Polls show about 20% of Americans favor the Palestinians in their war against Israel, while about half the US population now expresses an unease with Muslims in general. Meanwhile a large minority of Muslims, according to polls, condones terrorist attacks on civilians, while a vast majority is vehemently anti-American. Their prejudice apparently is chalked up to our omnipresence—like saving Kuwait, feeding Somalia, stopping Muslims dying en masse in the Balkans, ridding Afghanistan of the Soviets, paying astronomical prices for their oil, and giving nearly $100 billion over the years to the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians.

Our prejudice surely could not be due to 19 Muslims slaughtering— to the delight of millions—3,000 Americans, nor to the news almost every hour of Christian-Muslim violence, Hindu-Muslim violence, Buddhist-Muslim violence, or secular-Muslim violence. And now the much circulated quote from Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council:"


I hate to nitpick, but Texas A&I Students/Alum (Now Texas A&M Kingsville) aren't Aggies, but Javelinas.

There is a BIG difference between Texas A&M College Station and Texas A&M Kingsville, especially when you're talking about the Corps of Cadets.

Thanks, J


Apparently we now know who killed JFK.


I think he killed Elvis too.

Matt Kirchner




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


FridayMay 4, 2007

Subject: Military to investigate coal-derived diesel fuel

Hi Jerry,

this is really old stuff.

> It looks like the military and Baard Energy could pair up to convert coal into diesel using the FP > process, just like the Germans >

Nearly all petrol and diesel in South Afrika is produced via CtL er actually: Fischer Tropsch Process CtL seems to be a catch all that tries to mask where the tech is derived from.


And that at least back to the 70ties.

producer in SA is SASOL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasol 



Old technology dating back to WW II, but new in that the US military is seriously looking at it.


Subject: recent mail comments on Vietnam

Hello again Dr. Pournelle,

I'm unsure of the source of these recent comments in mail:

<<A failure in generalship By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling May 2007 _Armed Forces Journal_ "You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict." - Frederick the Great For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war. - Roland Dobbins>>

Is it Dobbins or Yingling making the claim that "for the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency."

You have ably pointed out, as has Anthony James Joes in his excellent book "Resisting Rebellion: The History and Politics of Counterinsurgency" that the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam was defeated by US force of arms, as was the first conventional armored invasion by the North in 1972. In '75, after our withdrawl and subsequent dishonorable refusal to support our South Vietnamese allies with either air power or bullets for their own forces, the North mounted another conventional armored force invasion, resulting in the shameful images of April 1975.

Mr. Dobbins is a regular correspondent on your site, and should thus know this. If it is Yingling, a Lt Col in my United States Army who is so ignorant to believe that we were defeated by the Viet Cong, then no amount of advanced degrees held in any field by senior officers can help us now.

I submit the following amalgamation of Burke and (I think) Kipling for review. Any errors are my own.

It is your custom to bully, intimidate, and hamstring good men into doing nothing, in order that evil might triumph. It is our custom to shoot on sight those found engaged in the practice of your custom.

For what it's worth, I would certainly look forward to "Two Steps Farther Out." Keep on fighting the Good Fight Jerry.

All the best to you and yours,

Dave Porter --now is come the time for prayer. Prayer and rifle marksmanship training.

A quick Google of Yingling Viet Nam will show that it is the Colonel who believes we were defeated in Viet Nam. That seems to be the view of many in the US Army. When I lectured at the War College on American Victory in Viet Nam, most of my audience, all field grade officer, were shocked: no one had pointed out what actually happened over there.

In your note on customs, you credit Kipling wrongly. Burke said that for evil to prevail it is sufficient that good men do nothing. It was Napier who put that practice into action in governing India:

General Sir Charles James Napier, the British Commander-in-Chief in India from 1849 to 1851. It is said that a Hindu delegation protested against the British prohibition of sati, the practice of burning a widow to death on her husband’s funeral pyre, by telling Napier that it was part of their cultural custom. Napier famously responded:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.


Subject: Time Magazine Has Gone Stark Raving, Moon Barking Mad

George Bush is not on the top 100 most influential person list, Borat is. On their web site, click on scientists and thinkers and you get Al Gore.


But it does tell you a lot about the modern journalism, and modern philosophical thought. If you don't think about something surely it will go away. If you think hard enough about something, it will happen. This is The Secret of the Universe.

Science and Magic were born twins. Magic thrived for a while, then declined; but it is making a comeback.


Subject: what's happening to the bees?

Hello again Dr. Pournelle,

I don't think any of your correspondents have mentioned this. I take some grim amusement in recollecting that in the dispensationalist novelization of "The Late Great Planet Earth," called "The Seven Last Years," the first indication of impending doom is the widespread collapse of bee colonies.

Yours truly,

Dave Porter

But they do believe they have found the cause of the bee colony die-offs. It's a fungus. This is fixable. Fortunately bees are prolific. It doesn't take all that many to restore their numbers.


SciAm Stalks The Wild Adamantium <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/05/the_aperiodic_t.html>

Strange New Element From A Distant World Invades The Aperiodic Table

It Came From Outer Serbia-- No, wait a minute -that's just kryptonite- this stuff is really much weirder


-- Russell Seitz


re: Luddites or copperheads

Those articles linked in James Early's message in mail464 are calumnious drivel.

"Rise of the Copperheads" may be a good book, and it may well be that the Copperheads were a bigger problem than most of us know. That has nothing to do with your typical modern Democrat's desire to end the adventure in Iraq. Yes, there are a few airheads like Michael Moore who get way too much air time, and I'm sure if you look hard enough you can find some nutjob leftie blogs that compare Bush to Hitler, but they don't speak for me, and in general Democrats will say the same.

The fact of the matter is that the Administrations goals in Iraq, in so far as they've been articulated at all, amount to trying to turn an omlette back into eggs. I recall agreeing with you, four years or so ago, when you said that Bush's attempt to create a stable friendly democracy in Iraq was not likely to succeed. I agreed too with your hope of being proven wrong. I say, and I believe most Democrats would concur, that it's proven to be a fool's hope. I've reached this conclusion, not because I hate the President or the Army or America, but because I think it follows inescapably from the evidence before me. I believe I would feel the same way if a Democratic President had gotten us into this mess.

When I read slanderous tripe like "The heirs of the Copperheads in today's Democratic party are animated by the same perverted spirit with regard to the war in Iraq," I'm inclined to take it personally. Then there's this:

"But I think the analogy is inescapable--not that Democrats are unpatriotic or treasonous. But like the Copperheads, antiwar Democrats have grown in numbers as victory in the war--in Iraq now--has faded from sight. They've weakened the president's tools in combating terrorists and made that effort more difficult. And Democrats today have offered no real alternative, merely a seemingly irresistible impulse to retreat from Iraq."

Gee, thanks, I'm not a traitor. I think that's called "damning with faint praise," especially when it's followed by "weakening the president's tools..." (What tools are those? The right to torture prisoners? The authority to call anyone, even an American citizen, an "enemy combatant" and thus to arrest and imprison him indefinitely without filing charges or allowing any appeal? Bush still claims he has those "tools.")

As for victory fading from sight, well, we had victory in war. We crushed the Iraqi army, deposed their government, occupied their territory, captured their despot, and bound him over to be executed. You don't get much more victorious than that. We've lost the peace, though, and once you do that you have about as much chance of getting it back as you do of putting the smoke back in the cigar. Want "real alternatives?" The real alternatives are these:

1) Leave Iraq to the Iraqis, which will doubtless result in an humanitarian catastrophe, the abandonment of practically every Iraqi who helped us to the tender mercies of whichever faction of thugs gets to them first, and the evacuation of all of our embassy staff. The state that eventually emerges will be hostile to the US.

2) Impose a tyranny that will brook no opposition. If a neighborhood suffers terrorists to plant IEDs to attack our patrols, or harbors snipers or mortar crews, flatten the neighborhood with fuel-air bombs, stir the rubble with high explosives and seed it with anti-personnel mines. Clear pathways to patrol the rubble. If a bomber is identified, kill his father, brothers, sons, uncles and male cousins. If a village or neighborhood suffers this treatment more than twice, the third time treat it like the neighborhood that allowed terrorists to plant IEDs. Conscript auxiliaries to patrol the pipelines and power grids. If the auxiliaries allow the infrastructure they are assigned to guard to be successfully attacked, decimate their unit. Add whatever other measures of this nature you can imagine. In this way you can build a stable Iraq which will tolerate American presence and allow us to pump their oil.

3) Wishful thinking, with policies along the lines currently being pursued, eventually followed by 1) or 2).

As for me, I think option 1 is less bad than 2. I don't want my country's army to get good at that kind of thing, and I'm kind of squeamish about all the little girls who would be blown to bits or burnt alive.

You can put my name on this, if you publish it.

Wade Scholine

Which probably sets the perimeters of the debate, if you can call this sort of thing debating.

Your two alternatives are not exhaustive, but asserting that those are the only two alternatives is tantamount to choosing abandonment, with perhaps some excuses? consolation? for abandoning those who cast their lot with us. Incidentally, do you feel any obligations to ANYONE over there? Kurds? Local officials who cooperated -- collaborated -- with us? Is there anyone you would save, and if so how?

If your remedy is the only answer, then the fears of those who see us rapidly sliding to empire are well grounded.

You are convinced that we cannot build a local force of auxiliaries, possibly from the Kurds? That we are unable to build occupation forces in the region? It will not be cheap, of course. Abandoning allies and leaving the nation to degenerate into an anti-US cesspool is certainly cheaper in the short run. Whether we will regret that decision in a generation is another story.

An Iraq that hates us will eventually be restored under a dictatorship (there being no legitimate candidates). We will then be faced with the kind of alternative that we have at present with Iran (and indeed, the new Iraq may well be a part of a larger Shiite empire obedient to Tehran). That may be the best we can do, but I have not seen a real discussion of real alternatives.


Subject: Victor Davis Hanson article: "Iraq, and the Truth We Dare Not Speak"


You have had some interesting letters lately on the situation in Iraq.

I think the article below captures the feelings of of a lot of your readers. I was originally more supportive of the Iraq war than you, but my feeling that it isn't worth it (at least as its progress is described in the media) is growing. This feeling is certainly agravated by the kinds of Middle Eastern attitudes described in the article.

VDH argues that we aren't getting the full story; that creation of democracy in Iraq is both in our own best interests and that there are enough people in Iraq that are worth the trouble. I'm not convinced yet - VDH captures my feelings well without changing my mind. If it really is "worth it", someone with the right information needs to make the case. The Hamases and CAIRs are working overtime to prove otherwise.

Iraq, and the Truth We Dare Not Speak (http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson042807.html)
 We must win American hearts and minds. by Victor Davis Hanson

Not long ago I talked to a right-wing hardnosed fellow in a conservative central California town about the need to stay and finish the task of stabilizing the democracy in Iraq and rectifying the disastrous aftermath of 1991. He wasn't buying. Instead he kept ranting about the war in the 'more rubble, less trouble' vein. And his anger wasn't only over our costs in lives and treasure. So I finally asked him exactly why the venom over Iraq. He shouted, "I don't like them sons of bitches over there - any of 'em." His was a sort of echo of Bismarck's oft-quoted "The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier."


Regards, Richard Clark

I have never thought that we had any obligations to carry good government on the points of our bayonets. Perhaps we had obligations to liberate Europe; but both the Nazi's and the Communists were a real threat to the United States. The Cold War was against a power with 26,000 warheads, thousands of them deliverable.

England and France are not the countries we liberated. Neither is China. Our record on spreading happiness and joy is not great.


Subject: Reply to Petronius 

Hi Jerry,

Since Petronius and James Early ask us to all have a historical perspective, I would like to take them to task for their view of the "crisis" of the 1860s. Most American history books are written to show Lincoln as a heroic figure putting down an unjustified insurrection. Since slavery was widespread in the South, this is often used to excuse the whole situation.

The other side of the story is often forgotten, since victors write the history books. The Union is a voluntary union, and the federal government has no business preventing States from seceding. The Civil War was a war of aggression by the Northern States against the Southern ones. Slavery (like WMD in Iraq) was a transparent justification for the war, having little or nothing to do with the real (economic and political) reasons behind it.

GW is indeed another Lincoln: making aggressive war while disregarding Habeus Corpus and indeed any other parts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, domestic and international law that displease him.

Impeachment is a part of our political process, designed to remove incompetent or corrupt people from office before they can do further harm. The only problem is that impeachment proceedings against GW should have started in 2003. the day after his blatantly deceptive State of the Union address. Now is really too late, the damage is done.

My revolutionary 2 cents worth...


Brad -- - - - - - - - Dr. Brad Richards
Kraan and Richards GmbH www.kri.ch

You present the view of the Civil War that I more or less grew up with and which was pretty standard in Tennessee schools. The South was fighting a defensive war for a Cause. I do not care to get deeply involved in that argument. In my judgment, slavery would have ended well before the end of the century with far fewer problems and certainly without 600,000 Americans lying stiff in (mostly Southern) dust; and I believe that a Federal Union is far less likely to become an empire with anarcho-tyrannical than what we got after Reconstruction. I also think that debate is long over. If I were every proclaimed Emperor the first thing I would do is devolve a great many decisions, including abortion, separation of church and state, and most civil rights matters to the states; which is why I am unlikely to be proclaimed.

But we have managed, even since Hayes-Tilden, to have a pretty good country and one worth preserving. I would not like to see it collapse.

 I suppose you actually believe that impeachment is the usual mechanism for removing incompetents, but you are enormously mistaken, and you will not find that in the Constitution or in the debates of the Framers. Deposing a chief of state is an act of revolution. Impeachment has seldom been used even against incompetent judges, where it was intended to be more "normal".

The grounds for impeachment are High Crimes; not piddling offenses. There is a very good reason for this. Other nations with a parliamentary government have a Chief of State who serves a symbolic purpose, and the actual government is in the hands of a majority of the parliament. It has not worked particularly well for Italy or France or most other places.

Your partisanship is precisely the reason why impeachment should not be a normal political event. The impeachment of Clinton was a hideous mistake on the part of people who ought to have known better -- and some of them indeed DID know better.

The way to remove a president is to vote him out of office in the regular way. That has worked for us. There are very few nations where the chief of state usually stands down  at the end of a term of office. I think it has happened once in the history of most South American states.


Shorter version - strong disagreement on service academy as "cesspits"

Dr. Pournelle,

I must object in the strongest terms with Roland Dobbins' assessment that "the service academies were very different places in those days, concentrating upon the knowledge and skills necessary to be a leader of men, not the watered- down, politically-correct, morally lax cesspits they've become in recent decade."

As a USAF Academy graduate (class of 1994) and a career military officer, I feel qualified to disagree in the strongest terms possible about this broad and in my opinion completely unwarranted characterization of our service academies. In my experience based on comparing the preparation I received at USAFA against the preparation officers received from other commissioning sources, the academies STILL function exactly as intended, even though certain focus areas have changed with the times and in spite of the hyped up media reports of poor behavior.

By the time I had graduated from the academy I had real working leadership experience leading my peers and subordinates for 3 of my 4 years at the Academy, both in academic situations as well as in the field. Among other leadership tasks, I spent a year directly supervising 10 subordinate cadets and taught woodlands survival for 2 summers including one summer where I was in charge of supervising 8 other survival instructors. In my 4 years, not once was I approached by another cadet to do drugs, participate in the harassment or sexual assault of anyone, steal anything, or cheat on any tests. I do however recall a deep feeling of shame during basic training (before I was subject to the academy honor code) when I and my roommate lied to training cadre about smuggling a dinner roll back to our room after a meal. That sort of character building is not common anywhere except at our service academies and select private military schools, and those traditions of honor and leadership are still alive and well.

A visit to any Academy, and in particular a look at the memorials on academy grounds, would show that there is no shortage of fine academy graduates upholding the finest traditions of the service in combat during this decade just as in the past.



On Vietnam.

Of course I know what really happened in Vietnam - and it isn't by virtue of the fact that I'm honored to be a regular correspondent of yours, sir, heh.


I know because I can, in my own limited way, read, and think for myself, skills which seem to be in short supply in this failed age we inhabit. I attribute whatever small abilities I possess in this regard mainly to the fact that, during my formative years, I wasn't subject to the indoctrination methods of the modern university system, coupled the intellectual influence of mentors such as yourself and Mr. Niven (the importance of being well-rounded, cultivating self-reliance, and engaging in independent thinking are recurring themes in your joint and separate works; this made a strong impression on me as a young man).

For those who are interested in a well-researched, concise explanation of what really happened in Vietnam, along with a informed speculation regarding what might have been, I strongly recommend Lewis Sorley's _A Better War_.

LtCol. Yingling also seems to understand what really happened in Vietnam. From the first paragraph of his essay:


In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists.


Further on in his essay, he makes this assertion:


Unprepared for war and lacking a coherent strategy, America lost the war and the lives of more than 58,000 service members.


Which I have no quarrel with - coupled with the statement in the first paragraph of his essay, LtCol. Yingling makes it very clear that we *did in fact lose the war* because a) we abandoned the field and b) we didn't have a coherent strategy nor the political will to persevere. His comments on our failure to widely adopt an effective counterinsurgency strategy also seem quite astute. This is one of the main points of Mr. Sorley's book - there were in fact efforts which enjoyed success, but they were isolated in nature.

LtCol. Yingling also asserts that interservice rivalries, careerism, and moral cowardice on the part of the JCS and the generalocracy were key factors in our defeat there; and, even though bleeding Evil Empire in Vietnam turns out to have been a very important factor in hastening its demise, this wasn't a conscious strategy (as you yourself have pointed out), but more of an unintended consequence.

Nowhere in his essay does LtCol. Yingling assert that we were *militarily defeated* in Vietnam, nor does a Google search return any results which seem to imply that he believes were were militarily defeated in Vietnam.

That being said, I'd say that around 99% or more of Americans who've actually heard of Vietnam and who know we fought a war there (a depressingly small number) do in fact believe we were militarily defeated in that conflict, and, based upon my interactions with active-duty military personnel over the years, so do the majority of our military, which is both depressing and cause for alarm.

We *were in fact defeated* in Vietnam - but *not on the field of battle*, and *not by the North Vietnamese*. And that's the point of LtCol. Yingling's essay.

The main reason we allowed Viet Nam to fall was Watergate. The Democratic Congress smelled blood, and while they did not will the death and reeducation camps and the killing fields, they did will that Nixon not be allowed to look successful. The 72-73 victory by ARVN with US support made Nixon look successful.

The 1975 invasion could have been defeated by (1) massive US air strikes, and (2) massive aid to ARVN. The Democratic controlled Congress allowed neither.






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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Interesting viewpoint from a retired British general and ex-SAS commander:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2072171,00.html  UK and US must admit defeat and leave Iraq, says British general

> A retired British army general says Iraq's insurgents are justified in opposing the occupation, arguing that the US and its allies should "admit defeat" and leave Iraq before more soldiers are killed. General Sir Michael Rose told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "It is the soldiers who have been telling me from the frontline that the war they have been fighting is a hopeless war, that they cannot possibly win it and the sooner we start talking politics and not military solutions, the sooner they will come home and their lives will be preserved."

Asked if that meant admitting defeat, the general replied: "Of course we have to admit defeat. The British admitted defeat in north America and the catastrophes that were predicted at the time never happened.

"The catastrophes that were predicted after Vietnam never happened. The same thing will occur after we leave Iraq."

General Rose is a former SAS commander and head of UN forces in Bosnia. Last year, he called for Tony Blair to be impeached for going to war on "false pretences". He has written a book, entitled Washington's War, which compares the Iraqi rebels to George Washington's irregular forces in the American war of independence.

When he was asked if he thought the Iraqi insurgents were right to try to force the US-led coalition out, he replied: "Yes I do. As Lord Chatham [the politician William Pitt, the Elder, who, in the second half of the 18th century called for a cessation of hostilities in the colonies and favoured American resistance to the British Stamp Act] said, 'if I was an American - as I am an Englishman - as long as one Englishman remained on American native soil, I would never, never, never lay down my arms'. The Iraqi insurgents feel exactly the same way. I don't excuse them for some of the terrible things they do, but I do understand why they are resisting the Americans." >

This one is about morale, slipping belief in the laws of war, etc. An official Army survey. Not good.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6627055.stm  US Iraq troops 'condone torture'

This from Juan Cole's website. I think most of these predications are sound. I wouldn't have made some of them, but then I never talk about some obvious tactical possibly for the insurgents - don't want to give them ideas.


A canny Vietnam veteran wrote me the below but requested that it be posted without attribution. I thought it well worth sharing.

As I see it, these are some of the things we can expect in the next seven months in Iraq:

1. The last of the "surge" forces (American), will arrive by mid June;

2. About 1400 British soldiers, well trained and adept at urban conflict, will leave the South of Iraq. As one can see by reviewing icasualties.org's latest listings, 13 (at least), British and/or Polish troops stationed in the South have been killed, almost all by hostile fire. Ths is a increase in British hostile fire losses, and comes when the prospect of Iraqi or American troops entering the fray in the south would pose a dilution of the surge forces. No Americans have really ever been stationed in the south of Iraq, among predominantly Shia populations. The methodology the UK forces have used has been learned in Northern Ireland, and is much more sophisticated than any approach Americans have used. As a result, units which may have been in Iraq previously, but are now peopled by a fair number of new grunts, will cut their teeth in the southern Iraq. Because of much more heavy handed approaches, lack of sophisticated skills in urban war, and an increase in various Shia militia more radical than Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, the Americans will cause one incident of cause celébre in the South;

3. More EFP's (Explosive Formed Projectiles), manufactured and assembled by more radical Shia militia, will take a serious toll on Americans moving in behind British troops leaving;

4. The U.S. WILL have more difficulties as they step between rival Shia groups in the south, and elsewhere;

5. As was demonstrated by an entire school being wired as a complete booby trap, insurgents with good inside intelligence are anticipating American-Iraqi troops taking over abandoned schools, police stations, etc., as "outposts." Even if Americans inspect these facilities early, with sophisticated devices, there is no guarantee that stay behind explosives experts among the insurgents won't trigger these massive booby traps -- killing American and Iraqi inspection teams;

6. At least one more outpost will be attacked by al-Qaeda, or others, as we recently saw, where 9 Americans were killed and two dozen or more wounded. Al-Qaeda will try a Khobar tower attack, where they used an 18-wheeler fully loaded with tons of explosives. This will depend on whether an outpost is sufficiently distanced from the local population enough to destroy the outpost, but not killed any more Iraqis than necessary;

7. improved rocket and mortar fire will continue to hit the Green Zone with greater accuracy. As a result, we will see a "time on target" attack against the Green Zone, where multiple katyusha rockets or heavy mortars will fire, simultaneously, on a mark, on the Green Zone, with any number of rockets or mortar rounds hitting simultaneously. There is evidence that the mortar and rocket fire is becoming more accurate. That implies insiders gauging the accuracy and feeding that data back to the gunners. Multiple rockets/mortars fired from multiple azimuths on the compass will make counter battery fire more difficult;

8. Every attempt will be made in the next seven months to cause at least two dozen or more American fatalities in one event, plus many more wounded;

9. As the Army and Marine Corps troops are told that they will stay the entire 15 month tour, and the follow on forces get notified of deployments for same, it will become evident that President Bush WILL NOT reduce American numbers in Iraq in 2007. His arrogance and stubborness will cost him support by year's end among the GOP;

10. It will become increasingly clearer that Maliki, and his Shia dominated government, have no intent on handing back any substantive power to Sunnis or even Kurds;

11. As the Kurds become more disillusioned and embittered at not receiving substantive increases in their real power, they will make moves which will draw severe warnings from Turkey of intervention if Iraqi Kurds stir up Turkish Kurds;

12. If the Sunnis do not cooperate with the Kurds, they will be ejected from the Kurdish north, or at least threatened of that possibility. If so, more violence could erupt in those areas which thus far do not present a severe test for American occupiers;

13. More attempts will be made to capture Americans and hold them hostage. Additionally, in a symbol of resistance that will become a cause for rally, more Iraqis will booby trap their doors or front gates, so that the scene of Americans kicking in doors, or knocking them open with battering rams will be less prevalent as some Americans are blown up performing that task. A simple tactical response to the occupation such as that will lead to a slow down in American offensive operations as more Americans are killed or wounded, and they become more hesitant to perform such duties. This will become the counter part to Americans crawling down into tunnels in Vietnam -- a very nasty and undesirable task which had to be performed, but which was psychologically very anxiety producing;

14. At least one event will occur where Sunnis with ground-to-air missiles will take out more than two choppers in one fire fight;

15. If any additional Iranian officials are captured by Americans (like the four captured whom the Iranian Government say are Iranian diplomats), another ambush will occur where Americans are killed or captured;

16. The effects of the recent DOD study on the increasing number of mental health risks American soldiers and marines face in Iraq will be one more very serious reason for at least a few more congressmen or women to call for a real change in the level of forces maintained in Iraq;

17. Some Republicans will demand that if the "surge" is deemed to "be working," that that be used as a positive reason to lower American force presence in Iraq. Bush won't do it;

18. At least one high level intelligence failure will occur do to infiltration or manipulation by an Iraqi "agent in place" which will cause the loss of American lives;

19. Some Democrats, and certainly, many night time comedians will begin calling George Bush, Our Decider in Chief; or, "Our Commander Guy," or, His Majesty, King George II, or His Highness, when referring to our fearless leader;

20. If the "surge" does not show appreciable improvement on the ground in Iraq, Bush will ABSOLUTELY refuse to bring any troops home by Christmas. Very, very sadly, American soldiers or marines will show an increase in suicides, in Iraq, and among troops alerted for a second, third or fourth deployment. There will be at least one family killing by an American soldier or marine slated to return for a multiple tour in Iraq.

I note that Fred Thompson says that so long as the military commanders in Iraq believe they can win, we should continue to support their efforts. I said that about a year ago. I am not sure how strongly I believe that today, but I am certain that withdrawal without leaving some stability in the region would have heavy consequences.

When we first went into Iraq, I thought the goal would be to do whatever it takes to secure oil production. If need be, make a super security zone of five miles and kill every living thing that tries to cross it. Pump oil. Use the revenue to buy Iraqi mercenaries and build civic improvements in Iraq. Spend it all in Iraq, but pump a LOT of oil. The world oil price goes to $25 a barrel, the DOW hits 15,000 and all is well. The troops have a goal that should be achievable, and while we will be accused of international piracy (we won't be pirates -- we spend all the oil revenue in Iraq) we would be doing something that benefits both us and the people of Mesopotamia. A trillion dollars is a lot of bribe money. You can hire a pretty good auxiliary army for that kind of money.


Subject: unintentional offense 


I fear that I have unintentionally offended Mr. Dobbins, and since the high level of civility at Chaos Manor is something I appreciate, amends are in order.


I was not suggesting that the only place one might learn the truth about Vietnam was here, but rather that this is one of a few such places. Also, that I've found Mr. Dobbins' posts here in the past to be both articulate and accurate, making the incongruity of the remark that much more glaring, which is why I wanted to identify the source of the claim that the US was defeated by the insurgency in Vietnam.

Dobbins comments further:

<<I know because I can, in my own limited way, read, and think for myself, skills which seem to be in short supply in this failed age we inhabit. I attribute whatever small abilities I possess in this regard mainly to the fact that, during my formative years, I wasn't subject to the indoctrination methods of the modern university system, coupled the intellectual influence of mentors such as yourself and Mr. Niven (the importance of being well-rounded, cultivating self-reliance, and engaging in independent thinking are recurring themes in your joint and separate works; this made a strong impression on me as a young man). >>

I suspect that he and I have developed largely similar values, for largely similar reasons; further motivation on my part to not give offense where none is warranted.


I will obtain and read the full text of Col Yingling's essay, hopeful that the whole will make more sense than the snippets.

So then, if I have offended Mr. Dobbins, I truly apologize. Jerry, you may feel free to post this, or send it to him privately, whichever you think better.

--Dave Porter


security professionals

Hello Dr. Pournelle

TSA loses hard drive with personal info

I suspect that a number of your readers will be sending you this; but just in case they don't:, there is this.


According to the article: "The Transportation Security Administration has lost a computer hard drive containing Social Security numbers, bank data and payroll information for about 100,000 employees. ..... Authorities realized Thursday the hard drive was missing from a controlled area at TSA headquarters ..... The agency said it did not know whether the device is still within headquarters or was stolen."

The irony here is too obvious (particularly the fact that they have no idea where the drive is or what happened), for it to be worth any further comment.

Neal Pritchett



Sombrero Galaxy Across the Spectrum, infrared, visible and X-ray:




The current state of computer warfare:




Virtual rape - nonconsensual online sex:


This is weird stuff. You'd think that all on would have to do would be to log off. But then, I've never sampled online gaming, so I don't know what to make of it.


My first inclination is to say that some people have entirely too much time on their hands. I think the market will take care of this one: the Lindens certainly have the power to enforce any rules they like in Second Life. Surely the government has enough to do without having virtual sheriffs paid by taxpayers?

People who do not want to be abused can find another virtual on line community. ==========

Feeling safer already:

"We profoundly apologize for any inconvenience and concern that this incident has caused you."


-- Roland Dobbins

Your Homeland Security is On The Job


Subject: Fischer-Tropsch

Jerry, you wrote:

"Old technology dating back to WW II, but new in that the US military is seriously looking at it."

Not really new news, the US Air Force has been flying a B-52 out of Edwards for a year or so running synfuel


To see if there are ay long term affects on engine components. They have been using a B-52 because they can isolate the tanks, and should anything go wrong it's nice to have another 7 engines to fly home on.

Mark E. Horning, Physicist, L-3 Communications Night Operations Center of Excellence Air Force Research Lab; AFRL/HEA

New to me, anyway. Things new and interesting to me tend to be of interest to a fair number of my readers. Of course sometimes I'm just out of it.

It's frankly easier to post something like that than it is to chase everything down: what the heck harm was done by putting up the story? But apparently it was the wrong thing to do, since it has consumed more time and effort than the information was worth.














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