THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 450 January 22-28, 2007
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January 22, 2007
It's dawn in San Jose and I am headed to the airport.
About to board. T mobile works.
The entire article is worthy of your time.
|This week:||Tuesday, January
The lead post in mail yesterday is a prime example of using numbers in a bad way to make a point; and in doing that to obscure some important points that ought to be made. I admit to posting it hastily while sitting in an airport being distracted by ghastly signs; had I read it more closely I either would not have bothered or I would have had a different and more lengthy commentary.
Two of my colleagues did notice the problem and if I can edit their exchanges of views into something coherent I will. There is a lesson here, beginning with sample selection and continuing to a false inference so gross that one wonders if it were deliberate.
There are many reasons for a nation to have control of its borders. There is no need to torture logic to find more.
More later: this week is going to be busy.
I find myself with too much to do and not enough time to do it. Thanks to all who have recently subscribed, and great bunches of orchids to those who have renewed their subscriptions. Subscriptions have been the difference between scrabbling to stay alive watching savings dwindle until I finish these books, and being able to work on them at the proper pace while keeping this place up. My thanks to all of you.
We have about 140 - 165,000 "circulation" (i.e. unique visitors who look in here at least once a month but usually considerably more often). Public radio stations say they average about 2% subscribers. We're not doing quite that well, but the number of subscribers is slowly growing. We also have a very influential readership, so I expect this is all very much worth while. It is a lot of work.
Maintaining this site does not cut much into fiction writing now, even though we have both this -- I dislike the ugly word blog but I suppose since this was arguably the first blog I may as well submit to the name -- and Chaos Manor Reviews which is the successor to my 30-year column in BYTE (and continues to appear in foreign languages, notably at Nikkei Business Publications, as well as here). There is only so much creative energy in a day, and both my major fiction projects, Inferno 2 and Mamelukes (the fourth Janissaries novel) are moving along. I expect both to be done by summer, and I doubt that working full time on them would get them done a lot earlier. Some things have to be thought about. Inferno 2 is, as Niven observed the other day, a very ambitious work. Of course all my books are "ambitious" in that I hope to do more than merely entertain (but if they ain't entertaining the other stuff ain't much use). The Falkenberg series has been used in US military counter insurgency training classes, so we must have got something right there.
We don't sell many products here. The following is an endorsement. I get a small fee for each nasal pump sold through the link here. It's not a lot, and I recommended it well before they offered me a commission; I will admit that I run their advertisement more often now that they have done so than I would have otherwise:
It is allergy season here, and once again I can recommend:
I have been using it daily and that seems to be helping a lot. Some of what I thought were sinus problems were arthritis sending fake signals. That seems to be nearly over, deo gratia; now my sinus problems originate in my sinuses. This nasal pump works.
Following is a repeat from an earlier view:
I have set Paypal up to allow you to buy Strategy of Technology in PDF format. The price is $6.95, which was arbitrarily chosen. The button below "knows" what you are ordering, and automatically sends me the address you ordered it under and notification that you paid. I will then email you a copy. The file is about 1 megabyte.
My enormous thanks to several readers who converted the html files to pdf format. For those who don't know, The Strategy of Technology (1970; University Press of Cambridge, Mass.) was formally written by Stefan T. Possony and Jerry Pournelle. Francis X. Kane, Ph.D., (Colonel, USAF, Ret.) was an unacknowledged co-author; Dr. Kane was Director of Plans for USAF Systems Command at the time. The book was adopted as a text at USMA (West Point), USAFA (Colorado Springs), and both the Army and Air Force War Colleges, and was there for several years. It was also used in some courses at USNA (Annapolis) and at the Navy Post Graduate School. The book was written with general principles in mind, but the examples were chosen from the Cold War period. It was revised over time and all the revisions are incorporated into the pdf. version. The principles remain valid even though the examples are a bit dated. I don't hesitate to recommend it for anyone interested in the future of strategic doctrine.
Strategy of Technology in pdf format:
Here endeth the money grubbing commercials.
The worst possible scenario is that we begin to cut and run; Israel bombs Iran; Iran actively enters war against the United States in retaliation; and God alone knows what happens next. Iran, at the moment, is moving away from the US as Great Satan, and is probably closer to a working democracy than any other Muslim nation other than Turkey. The government and the clerisy in Iran hate us; but the middle classes don't, the students don't, and most of the upcoming generation want to be part of the West. There are not many who think the best thing that can happen in education is to sit barefoot on the floor memorizing the Koran.
Obviously a few bombs -- ours or Israeli -- can change all that. People don't like having their country bombed, and are generally not very grateful to those who do it, even if it's done in the name of some high cause. Nothing unites a country like a common enemy, and nothing will unite Iran like a war with the United States. One would think this obvious, but I see many signs that the neocons either do not know this, or don't much care; and this is frightening.
The Democrats are not going to allow us to win in Iraq. This is not treason; they just don't believe we can do it, and the best thing to do when you are in a hole is to stop digging. If victory in Iraq be possible at all, it will, I think, require levels of commitment that the Democrats will not support (and the Republicans are unlikely to ask for). Victory will also require more skillful application of those resources than the history of this war leads us to expect. I need not go through all the terrible errors, starting with the appointment of the inexperienced and incompetent Bremer (read his book: he tells you he was inexperienced and you don't have to read far to realize that only an incompetent would accept an assignment for which he was so unprepared) and continuing year after year.
Victory in Iraq will require recruitment of an occupation army. My daughter (former Captain, US Army Intelligence) tells me there is the equivalent of about 2 regiments of Gurkhas in Iraq now; they mostly work for private security firms, although some are Her Majesty's Gurkhas. I do not know what it would cost to hire the Brits to go recruit and train about 10 more regiments of Her Majesty's Gurkhas and then rent them to us, but it would be about the most effective way I know to create an occupation constabulary that had no interest in conquest yet has a history of success. This is all idle speculation. Neither a Republican nor a Democratic Congress would do such a thing, and the Brits are not likely to help to that extent anyway. Yet short of about ten regiments of occupation constabulary I do not know what can be done.
Example: middle class Sunni areas of Baghdad are neglected by the Iraqi government. Trash is not collected. Fires are not put out. Banks cannot open. Routine policing isn't done. Ordinary crime rates soar. The hope is, one presumes, that the Sunni will abandon their property which can then be taken over by Shia seeking payback for centuries of oppression. This goes on not half a mile from the Green Zone. American troops are not going to pick up the garbage and do routine policing in those districts. We need occupation constabulary who can protect contracted fire, police, and municipal service people who report to an occupation authority, not to the "democratic" government of Baghdad. It means having semi-permanent occupation government.
General Petraeus knows this; but knowing something and being able to do it are two different things. Petraeus has the right experience and the right instincts; had he been put in charge instead of the egregious Bremer we might well be on the road to victory. I think his tragedy will be to have been sent in too late with too few resources. God knows I wish him well.
I suppose victory in Iraq -- well, at least avoidance of complete disaster -- is still possible, but one wonders whether it can be achieved with the resources the new Congress will put at the disposal of an administration nearly unexcelled for both arrogance and incompetence -- worse, what C. Northcote Parkinson called tertiary injelititis:
…the tradition of British medical science is entirely opposed to any emphasis on this part of the subject [treatment]. British medical specialists are usually quite content to trace the symptoms and define the cause. It is the French, by contrast, who begin by describing the treatment and discuss the diagnosis later, if at all. We feel bound to adhere in this to the British method, which may not help the patient but which is unquestionably more scientific.C. Northcote Parkinson, "Injelititis, or Palsied Paralysis," Parkinson’s Law.
Once the cut and run begins and the inevitable happens, we will begin trying to fix the blame on who lost Iraq, etc., etc.
But before that happens, perhaps we ought to be looking at a strategy. What do we do when we find we cannot continue in Iraq and it is indeed time to withdraw? What should our strategy be then?
Subject: anarcho-tyranny and such
Don’t know if you’ve heard about this <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,246060,00.html> yet, but I thought it was pretty jaw-dropping, even among tales of incompetent and overzealous prosecutors.
A prime example. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Anarcho-tyranny is the future.
And my daughter (Dr. Jennifer Pournelle) says, regarding surges and Gurkhas:
To which I can only say, I said all that before we invaded. Presumably among the chicken hawks and neo cons who advised us to get into this war there must have been some plan? Some reason to believe we could do what the Romans, the Persians, the Ottomans, etc. didn't do? Isn't it time to come forth with that plan?
I do not know if a constabulary occupation force can rule in Iraq; I am quite certain that without that, they will just have to be allowed to fight it out. Without us. And I am quite certain that the Congress won't allow us to recruit and train an occupation constabulary.
But then I always did agree with Adams, that we are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own. Establishing democracy in the Balkans, Iraq, Somalia, and Chad may make people feel good at the prospect, but it is not the business of the people of the United States of America. We had far more interests abroad when the Seventy Years War was on, but that's over.
I hate wasting blood and treasure and I hate presenting the Army with what will be called a military defeat.
But it looks to be time to consider what happens when we realize we have to get out. What then?
January 25, 2007
I have a letter asking why I blame the Democrats for losing in Iraq. Having examined what I said I suppose that someone reading fast and determined to find that in my text could infer it, but it's not what I said. I said that we can't win without sending in more resources than the Democrats will agree to and probably more than the Republicans will ask for.
As to how we got to this desperate straight where the only way we can win is to send in massive strength (probably so much that we'll need conscripts, since the National Guard and Reserves structure can't handle the numbers needed for an occupation force), the Republicans were in charge from day one. I suppose there were Democrats who bought into the Jacobin notion that we would be welcomed as Liberators, and there were Iraqis (not Sunni, Shiite, Assyrian, Arab, Kurd, Turkomen, and most especially clans and tribes) who wanted Democracy, but it was a Republican show guided by the neocons. This is one failure you can't blame on the Democrats.
I did say the Democrats won't let us win: I also said the Republicans are unlikely to ask for what it would take to win. I thought that clear enough, but let me try again:
In my judgment, the only way we can win in Iraq is to send in massive reinforcements, essentially a new army; and then train an army of occupation to stay there and govern for quite a long time.
The Democrats aren't going to let the President send that much. (I leave unanswered the question of whether it would be worth it or not. It won't happen.) But the Republicans aren't going to ask for that much anyway. What I was trying to nail down is that Victory is Unlikely.
Given that Victory is Unlikely, what shall we do now? Is it not time to plan for that?
As to how we get here, I thought I made that clear enough too: there was a period in which we could have won, if by "win" you mean leave Iraq better governed, more stable, and with fewer out and out tyrants than before we went in. If by win you mean they would become liberal democrats and settle centuries old hatreds with ballots, the loser meekly submitting to the outcome of an election, that was never in the cards, and only those sold on Jacobinism would believe otherwise. It isn't enough that the majority favors democracy. For democracy to work, the minority must be willing to accept the results of an election. That means limited government and rule of law: but if you have limited government and rule of law, and those are well established, you don't really need democracy. Almost any rational scheme for apportioning public office will work so long as government remains limited and it is a government of laws.
I do blame the liberal academic establishment for failing to teach real history, and thus building an intellectual climate in which Jacobinism thrives and seeps into the hearts of the people including those elected to office; but that's another story.
If you want a single person most responsible for the mess (other than the President for putting us into Iraq) it would be Bremer, who ought to have known he wasn't up to the job. If you want a single idea responsible it would be the Jacobin view that democracy is somehow a natural form of government that will be embraced by people so soon as they are given the opportunity.
At one time our schools taught that America was unique; that our Revolution was unique; that attempts to copy our success were myriad, and few to none were successful. That Venezuela had a Constitution modeled on ours, yet for over a hundred years never had a peaceful change of government; that much of South America was that way; that France had the ancien regime, the Revolution of 1789, an attempt at constitutional monarchy, the Terror, the Directorate, the Consulate, the First Empire, the Restoration, revolutions of 1832 and 1848 and probably others I have left out, the Second Republic, Napoleon III, the Third Republic, Petain and Vichy, the Fourth Republic, De Gaulle --- not precisely a model of stability. And that everywhere you look, with a very few exceptions, people were not well governed, there was no rule of law, and we should daily fall on our knees to thank Divine Providence for looking after us so well and giving us the stability we have enjoyed (punctuated by the Civil War, we must not forget). None of that is taught any longer, and teachers feel free to have tenure and teach that Amerikkka stinks, etc. And that all will be well when we have reformed America into something she is not. That will make things better.
At one time we understood that good government and the rule of law is rather rare, and difficult to export (we certainly tried to do so in the Philippines). I don't think many understand that now.
So: I am hardly astonished that our Iraqi adventure ends without victory. I would be delighted if that were untrue; but I never thought things would end very well over there.
And I do believe it is time to look at reality: what do we do now?
Perhaps the egregious Frum can suggest something.
Now: what if I am wrong? What if a surge of 20,000 new troops -- about all we can scrape up without drastic changes in our military -- would in fact be enough to seize control of Baghdad and allow a new era of limited government and rule of law under an elected Shiite government that would not take this opportunity for payback against the Sunni, and the Sunni became convinced that happy days are coming and there is no need to revolt because the Shiites have given up their dreams of revenge and will now govern Iraq in the interests of all Iraq?
I've said it before: we sent the Army in. We have some obligation to see this through so long as the Army believes the war can be won.
Does the officer corps believe that 20,000 more troops and another year will make a big difference? Enough difference that it will be clear we have passed a turning point? Do the troops believe that honoring their fallen and maimed comrades requires we have another go? I would very much like to know. It's their blood.
January 26, 2007
I am down at the beach house today. I will work on fiction and also get the column done. I had trouble sleeping last night -- head cold, and alas I didn't bring my nasal pump with me, I think I need to buy another and leave it here -- and posted some mail, and there's more mail this morning. That will have to do...
Note what he is saying. We are not brighter than others through our own merits. The gifted have gifts: from God, or from Darwin, from the gene pool; our gifts are not merited. Merit comes from what we do with those gifts.
I recall the shock when Brother Fidelis, in tenth grade, told me that as I was brighter than the others in my class -- something I considered self-evident, and in which I took considerable (baseless) pride, I would be expected to do better work than the others. I would do more projects, write more essays, and read more books. This was in biology (where, despite the fact that it was then still illegal in Tennessee, we were taught the theory of evolution -- and it was pointed out that since the 4th Century there has been the theory that God created the universe in germinal causes and allowed it to work out as it would).
I thought this monstrously unfair. Oddly enough, he didn't care. I pointed out that I knew more of the subject the first day of the class than most of my classmates would know at its end. He was delighted: that meant that I could learn so much more. He also pointed out that I had in essence been raised by wolves: from fourth through 9th grades I had been pretty much on my own, growing up in rural Tennessee with both parents doing war work and thus having little time for me; and Capleville consolidated with two grades to the room and some 30 students per grade had hardly been the fount of systematic education. My preparation was better than it might have been because it had been made to learn the addition and multiplication tables to 12 * 12, and had been given some preparation in English grammar; and I cannot remember when I could not read. Our house was full of books. For all that, I had little systematic preparation to use the gifts given me.
Why are some -- essentially every one of us here -- gifted and others not? Blind chance, perhaps. Perhaps not. In creating the universe in germinal causes and allowing the unfinished creation to finish itself, God has left us work to do. This is the doctrine of co-creation, and it has long been accepted by theologians of a non-Calvinist persuasion. And of course if the universe really is but the blind dance of the atoms, then it remains true that we can and must make of the universe what we will: the only intelligent design will be what we ourselves dream and do.
just from the purely material: a nation that wastes its intellectual capital will not long sustain a First World economy.
The only way to be sure no child is left behind is to see to it that no child gets ahead. That is our school system. Welcome to the coming dark ages.
January 27, 2007
Still at the beach house, still have horrible cold interfering with sleep. Actually it's not all that horrible a cold; I often have far worse. But I foolishly came down here without the nasal pump and I can't get my nose cleared out, and that makes it very difficult to sleep. I sure miss my gizmo.
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get. Dale Carnegie
January 28, 2007
Still at the beach, grinding out the column. The mailbag and a special report on IE7 are done.
There is a convention of cormorants with a few pelican consultants out on the bay beach. I have never seen so large a flock of the big cormorants. Sometimes they split into two groups, one swimming and one standing. It's a minus tide, very low just now, and the standing group is right at water's edge. First time I have seen cormorants do that in the twenty years we have been coming here.
Take the time to watch the whole demonstration then look at your child's textbooks.
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