THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 304 April 5 - 11, 2004
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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April 5, 2004
Note One: I have many mailing addresses, and mail gets to me under many differerent names, but if you have a choice use jerryp at jerrypournelle.com. While that one is filtered for spam by several good filters -- don't put the word viagra in a header, and there are a number of other such things sensible people won't do -- it gets to me quicker than mail to most other addresses including other names at jerrypournelle.com. Some of you know a few other tricks to get my attention, and those still work.
Setting the cat among the pigeons: Apparently the US is telegraphing its moves. This will make for interesting times. I hope those people know what they are doing.
There was a lot of mail posted over the weekend, as well as a short thought about the price of empire.
There was also some discussion of Fred's views on evolution, and his more general point about lockstep science.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
A story: The French and Germans refuse to recognize the validity of Coalition travel documents issued to Iraqi nationals. As a result the only people who can travel to Europe are those who have Saddam-era passports. These are, of course, people who had some standing in the old Saddam regime.
When those people travel with Americans many do not bother to conceal their contempt for the United States, their dislike of the occupation, and their joy when events like Fallujah take place. This is demoralizing to the Americans who are trying to help restore Iraqi institutions: both those who were enthusiastic about the Iraq operation, and those who opposed the invasion but are now sincerely trying to make the best of the situation and restore the country. It is not entirely clear what can be done about this.
Secondly: the Marines are preparing to show what occupation is. Fallujah will learn.
Earthlink keeps bouncing mail back to me with their spam filter message, but I have yet to see any evidence that mail I send using that system ever got to anyone. Since some of it was replies to urgent inquiries I wonder if they are not being protected from my answers.
April 7, 2004
I did get some returns from having sent messages to Arwen Dayton through the Earthlink spam protection system, so it looks like that works.
As I said earlier: Fallujah will learn what they have unleashed.
April 8, 2004
Plumbers are here and I remain laid low by allergies and a summer cold. Sigh.
There's mail, and I owe you an extensive analysis of Iraq, but I can't do that today.
I have written a long response to a letter from Joel Rosenberg.
AND MAC USERS TAKE HEED:
Here is the enemy:
As our troops learn who they are fighting the war will change.
Eurabia? By NIALL FERGUSON New York Times Published: April 4, 2004 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/04/magazine/04WWLN.html? pagewanted=all&position=
In the 52nd chapter of his ''Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,'' Edward Gibbon posed one of the great counterfactual questions of history. If the French had failed to defeat an invading Muslim army at the Battle of Poitiers in A.D. 732, would all of Western Europe have succumbed to Islam?
''Perhaps,'' speculated Gibbon with his inimitable irony, ''the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.''
When those words were published in 1788, the idea of a Muslim Oxford could scarcely have seemed more fanciful. The last Muslim forces had been driven from Spain in 1492; the Ottoman advance through Eastern Europe had been decisively halted at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
Today, however, the idea seems somewhat less risible. The French historian Alain Besancon is one of a number of European intellectuals who detect a significant threat to the continent's traditional Christian culture. The Egyptian-born writer Bat Yeor has for some years referred to the rise of a new ''Eurabia'' that is hostile in equal measure to the United States and Israel. Two years ago, Pat Buchanan published an apocalyptic book titled ''The Death of the West,'' prophesying that declining European fertility and immigration from Muslim countries could turn ''the cradle of Western civilization'' into ''its grave.'' <snip>
And here is a letter from the front:
April 9, 2004
After watching Dr. Rice at the hearing, I cruised around looking for reactions. Some were -- well, odd.
Which makes me wonder what he thinks a National Security Advisor does? Which ones have been effective?
The National Security Advisor is generally either a soldier or an egghead. Dick Allen and Henry Kissinger were eggheads. The National Security Advisor is one of the few people in the world with what amounts to unlimited access to the President; she can literally walk in on his meetings and interrupt him.
Her job is to use that access to bring action plans to the President. That means filtering them out of the cauldron of ideas and suggestions that assault her daily. Washington is full of people with their hair on fire who simply must put their proposition to the President this afternoon, If they all were permitted to do so the government would come to a halt. (No bad thing, perhaps, except that with the war on terror the stakes are a bit higher.)
What, precisely, did Clarke want?
He wanted meetings. He wanted Cabinet Level meetings on the threat and terror. He wanted everyone to be at battle stations and listening to him, as they had been under Clinton.
He had that under Clinton. Under Clinton not much was done. The Cole was bombed and we did nothing. Every now and then we'd spray some cruise missiles around, but they didn't have any real effect on anything. If you want to kill people you don't send a missile in a straight line from the sea to the target. Among other things, you can see them coming. But they had meetings, and everyone was at battle station. They showed they cared. Bin Ladin's agents came to the US during the Clinton Administration, got most of their training during the Clinton Administration, moved about the country and put their plans in place under the Clinton Administration. This isn't blaming Clinton or Clarke. They didn't see this coming and surely would have prevented if the had.
Clarke also wanted what amounted to war in Afghanistan. That wasn't going to happen. Even if the President really deep down wanted to throw the Taliban out of Afghanistan the President can't declare war, and the Congress wasn't about to, not until 911.
Clarke probably did not want to end the silly political correctness that made it impossible to have surveillance on young Muslim men of Arab descent, even though just about every attack on the United States and allies was carried out by people of that description. But even had he wanted that, it wasn't likely to happen. It hasn't even happened NOW. We still search grandmothers in wheel chairs as if that made air flight safer.
No, Clarke wanted meetings, at which he could be the center of attention and have the President and Cabinet in thrall; but what would come of those meetings? If he had specific proposals, he hasn't told us, and Rice never saw them.
What the United States needs is a sense of war and urgency here. The Department of Justice and the FBI want to catch criminals and prosecute them. That's not quite the same thing as protecting the nation from enemy aliens and traitors. It takes different measures, and we traditionally haven't used those means. For a while during the Cold War we did: it was called McCarthyism, persecution of those who were, or very probably were, or associated a lot with those who were disloyal to the United States. Alger Hiss. Harry Dexter White. Judith Coplon. And a very large number of Russian agents. Read the Venona documents for details. Those people were real, and were allied with a power with nuclear weapons, and still it was difficult to get the nation to take security seriously.
The wonder is that no one seems to have been killed in the US by terrorists since 911; that the other side shot its bolt in that one act, and doesn't seem to be able to do a lot more. Maybe the Company was given the go-ahead to take some preventive measures? If so, they'll be very quiet about it.
Back to the 200+ days Bush was in office before 911: what should he have done? We didn't have the military means to go into Afghanistan and capture Bin Laden. We don't have much in the way of that kind of capability now. We can assist allies on the ground -- the conquest of Afghanistan was brilliantly done and shows what we can do -- but we don't have troops who can go into those hills and take out enemies without leaving tracks. We aren't a nation of covert warriors. Maybe we shouldn't be. But it's pointless to blame Bush and Rice for not using means we didn't have and they couldn't command.
Meanwhile we now have a phony war. No rationing. Nothing to bring the American people into a sense of urgency. Let's have a war, but meanwhile you go party. The only civilians involved are the relatives of the slain. Frederick the Great kind of war, in which the peasants in the fields and the burghers in the towns would neither know nor care that the state was at war.
That is not the kind of war Americans understand. It's not the kind of war a republic undertakes.
Now: what's going to happen in Iraq now that we have our own Intifada?
Note first: He who defends everything defends nothing. There were dozens of people with pet projects who came into the White House in a frenzy to get access to the President so they could stomp on their pet bugs.
Even Clarke, who was as concerned about cyber warfare as anything else. And probably should have been. There is still an enormous potential for computer attacks against the US to take down the power grid, disrupt air traffic control, even muck up the traffic lights in cities: all measures that can cause considerable damage to the US without the necessity of accumulating fertilizer and diesel fuel.
So. What could we have done before 911?
The single most important thing we could have done would be to say: "A bunch of crazy Arabs are determined to do bad things to the United States. If you are in control of assets that could be harmed by a few Arab thugs, beware of young men of Arab citizenship and background, and pay attention to what they are doing. While not all young Arab men consider the United States a mortal enemy, enough do that we should be vigilant."
Second: issue the following instructions to pilots of commercial airplanes: "Resist hijackers. Do not open the cockpit door, and maintain control of your aircraft at all times. Do not give in to their demands, even if they are in control of the passenger cabin and are executing hostages. Announce to the passengers that the airplane is under attack and all passengers are now part of a posse to resist this. Announce also that you will destroy the airplane before you will give control of it to enemies of the United States. And call the Air Force for help."
Those two measures would have prevented the 911 disaster. At worst the enemy would have destroyed several aircraft. At best some passengers would have been killed before the other passengers subdued the enemy and pounded them senseless.
Of course we were not going to do that. We haven't issued those instructions yet.
I have a new HP Tablet, with an Intel chip. It's great. I am now accumulating Tablet software of all kinds. Suggestions welcomed.
April 10, 2004
The reason we can't plant democracy in Iraq is that the country isn't suitable for democracy. As Rousseau observed, following Aristotle and most of the classic scholars, democracy is suitable only for fairly small and uniform states. The Cantons of Switzerland come to mind.
Iraq is a "nation" in name only, created by the British as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. It is not small, it is not uniform, and its people have far more local loyalty than they have to any ruling class in Baghdad. Worse, there is so much oil revenue at stake that desperate measures will be taken by those who seek to control it. The game is very much worth the candle. And when the stakes are high, the unscrupulous often trump those with scruples. So it goes.
Our efforts in Iraq are more likely to bring about Algeria in its early days, rather than the picture we have of Iraq as a democracy like Switzerland or the United States.
But Switzerland is not a democracy, nor is the United States of America. They are federal republics. The Swiss have retained what amounts to direct democracy in some Cantons, and extensive democratic control in all of them: but they also retain power in the Cantons, and there is little federal -- read Imperial -- supervision of internal Canton affairs. In the last Swiss Civil War, after our War Between the States, the problem was solved by confessional cleansing: forced emigration of dissidents to separate one Canton into two Half-Cantons. That way each was ruled by consent of the governed, and democracy could prevail within each; but the majority didn't get to oppress the minority because the two confessions had been separated. Switzerland is a Federal Republic of small democracies which differ between Canton and Canton but are fairly uniform within each Canton.
Iraq could have become a Federal Republic with rather weak central power but strong state powers, which is, you may recall, what I advocated a year ago; but the problem is that the United States doesn't understand what a Federal Republic is. We have been too busy converting the USA into an Imperial state, winner take all in one big national election, strip real power from the States. The States retain power only so long as the ruling elites of the US allow it.
Who are the ruling elites? The governing class in Washington. Politicians come and go, but das Buros immer steht ; lobbyists remain; the eternal quest for campaign funds rules; and there is little anyone outside Washington can do about it. Change majority parties? And government growth continues. The Tax Eating Class remains. Das Buros immer steht. You can't clean out the professional governing class, not even to hire your friends and relatives; and thus the politicians can't really be held accountable.*
Iraq can be ruled from the center only by an iron hand. The subjects of Washington DC are tamer, for now, and allow their schools to be destroyed, their rights to be trampled, their dissident sects to be burned alive in Waco, and at most cluck their tongues; we have the trappings of democracy because we can change emperors, and we can change the political classes at the top; and we are, after all, reasonably happy with the system. Washington appears to give as well as take away. The destruction of our schools -- some of us saw this in our lifetimes, and many of us warned that it was happening, would happen -- is complete, so there is little chance that a later generation will even know what it was like to live in a self-governing republic with democratic components.
But we are trying to impose that system on Iraq. Iron rule from the center. Trappings of power to the provinces and cities and local sheiks, but only trappings: no real power to anyone but the central government. Baathist theory with democratic trimmings.
And the Iraqi are resisting. Astonishing. They would rather have their own brand of Fascism than what we seek to impose.
We could have established self government in cities and provinces in Iraq, giving them power over almost everything except defense and foreign policy; but that would not satisfy the exiles we wanted to put in power -- how could it? They have never known what it is like to live in a self governing society either. Nor have most of the military people we sent to Iraq. How could they? Career military people do not live in that kind of society, nor should they.
So now we have this: Fallujah is either allowed to get away with a revolt that left US citizens dead and mutilated; or it must be crushed. Neither is going to produce a self governing city with rule of law.
We will now rule with an iron hand, or we will not rule at all.
It is not too late in Kurdistan to devolve power to local authorities. It may not be too late to do so in other parts of Iraq. But the time is short, and I doubt that those in command have any notion of what I am talking about. How could they? Few in the United States will understand.
To those who command in Washington:
You will not establish democracy in Iraq. You may be able to build a federal republic there, but you must be prepared to allow the locals to do things you hate, restricting the scope of their power but not the power itself. You must give real power to local authorities, and you must do so quickly. The hour is late.
Make no mistake: this is not an indictment of our armed forces, who are doing a wonderful job under impossible conditions. It is not really an indictment of our politicians, who understand how to get political office but not much about how to execute it. It is an indictment of the neo-Jacobins who managed to have enough control to actually change things, for a short period of time; and used that to embroil us in Mesopotamia while growing the Imperial bureaucracy in ways that must take the Clintons' breath away.
And of the leaders who drank the neo-Jacobin Koolaid, and do not seem able to recover from the dose.
And yet, God save us, I see no comfort in replacing them.
A decade ago I said we were sowing the wind.
Examples of Imperial Power:
In Los Angeles, the police formed a special unit to go out and collect parole violators, of whom there are many; to visit parole violators and get them to understand that parole is parole. This makes sense: a great many parole violators are recidivists. Crime control is crime control.
Their first day they encountered a man who wrapped his arms and legs around a sign post and had to be subdued by force. The next day the entire team spent all day filling out forms and reports pursuant to Federal regulations imposed by a consent decree on the LA Police Department. The third day they disbanded the parole monitor unit.
The State of California for good or ill believes in marijuana for medical uses. The Department of Justice threatens the licenses of any physicians who prescribe it, and prison to anyone who grows or supplies it for medical purposes. The imperial will will rule; the views of the state are irrelevant.
I could continue. Examples of imperial control in the name of doing good are endless. The results have been the utter destruction of what had once been a splendid education system, increasing costs of local law enforcement, increasing imprisonment, inability to treat local problems with local remedies, and an enormous increase in the bureaucracy that oversees compliance with the will of the Imperial City (which is of course the real point to begin with; aristocracies always seeks to multiply their perks, and having subordinates is one of the most important perks).
So it goes.
Clinton in the "Travelgate" scandal tried to bring the spoils system to Washington. "We needed the slots," Hillary Clinton said. At the time I was among those who used this incident to castigate the Clintons. I apologize. In this instance they were trying to restore the spoils system in which the winner of an election has some real power to change the governing class by firing a bunch of bureaucrats and replacing them with others of their choosing, friends, relatives, political supporters, competents and incompetents, but by God at least they are changing the guard.
I should have commended the Clintons for this. They have my apologies.
(This was said in irony, which seems not to have come across; I have got more comment on this throwaway note than on the essay. Feel free to ignore this bit of whimsy which was deliberately put into a note because it is a distraction. And See next week.)
April 11, 2004
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